We were going to leave Givet on Friday (7th July) but discovered a good weekly market, watched lots of tennis (Andy Murray played sooo well) and took a trip to the supermarket – we had been warned to stock up with french wine before going into Belgium where things are, allegedly, more expensive.
So we finally left bright and early on Saturday morning & went through our last french lock. The eclusier was chatty and friendly – I always feel so pleased when they reply to my call in on the VHF radio – he wished us well for our trip into Belgium.
The border was fast approaching so I changed the courtesy flag from French to Belgian and we kept our eyes peeled for the magic ‘line’. We saw a sign on the bank saying ‘Douane’ (why do I always feel guilty when I see a customs sign or a speed cop????) but nowt else to mark this historic occasion!!! So onto our first Belgian lock where me book said we would need to show documents – all present & correct & ready in the wheelhouse – and we would be given a paper ‘permis’.
What an anticlimax! The eclusier leant out of his window, asked where we were going & closed said window. I called out as we were leaving the lock to ask if we needed a ‘permis’ – ‘non’ came the reply! Later we discovered that Bella Fortuna had been given one, which made me quite cross (might have been something to do with amount of wine consumed), so why not Piedaleau?!? Reminded me of my sister getting cross that Greg (who is Australian) got a little train stamp in his passport when using Eurostar but she didn’t…
Just one more lock and we stopped at Waulsort. Only a couple of hours cruising but a gorgeous spot. Obviously Waulsort had seen better days – the Grand Hotel was built in 1904 but went into disuse in about 1998 and looks extremely sad. Adrian saw on Google that someone is buying up properties along the river here and converting them into posh apartments. And it is such a beautiful place. It has the last hand pulled chain ferry across the river to get from the port to the village. All around are stunning walks in the wooded hills. We set off on a gentle ramble and ended up playing mountain goats up the hillside with a little help from a Belgian couple we met.
We couldn’t get any TV reception because of the hills around so our tennis viewing was put on hold but, quite honestly, we were both just blown away by the place and didn’t mind at all.
We met Chris (Laura Marie) and Jo & Tim (Marian of Zaandam) both of whom will also be overwintering in Bruges. Chris is also looking after Bella Fortuna and the cats while Voirrey and Andy return to the Uk for son’s wedding next week. So it was good to meet them all and to be able to pick Tim and Jo’s brains regarding our planned route – lots of tips and information transcribed into our book – like deep locks, narrow channels where 11m wide commercial barges may approach and ……. the pancake barge!
As we left Waulsort we paid a visit to Chateau Freyr. A nicely sized chateau, it has wonderful gardens and a collection of around 300 orange trees which were very fashionable in the 18th century. The fishermen assembled on the pontoon moved so that we could moor and later pushed us off when we left!