We arrived in Dinant at lunchtime on Sunday 9th July – the pontoon looked full but there was Bella Fortuna so we were able to raft up to her. Voirrey and Andy weren’t home so we took it very very gently! The cats looked up at us as we went on board to tie up but then resumed their naps unperturbed. So much for ‘guard cats’.
I had seen that there is ‘itinerant jazz’ on Sunday afternoons in July, so we went off in search and eventually caught the last set in a little square, with a beer. Great people watching opportunity…..
Dinant is the birth place of Monsieur Sax – the guy who invented the saxophone – so there are references to him, & models of saxophones, throughout the town.
As we were returning to the boat Voirrey and Andy caught us up and so another ‘shared mess’ was arranged on the poop deck of Bella Fortuna. Notice the use of naval type language? Two of our favourite newly learnt expressions are: ‘a snake’s wedding’ & ‘a bunch of bastards’ both of which can be aptly applied to poorly organised ropes! as if! They are returning to the UK for Andy’s son’s wedding next weekend so we had Champagne from Cummières & rose biscuits from Rheims to toast the happy couple.
Next morning we were up early to move Piedaleau onto the pontoon as soon as the boat in front moved off. Andy didn’t even wake up when we untied our ropes, disconnected the electricity and thrustered off from their boat. Once again we received a fleeting, but rather supercilious, look from one of the cats. We waved them off a little later and then set about some serious tourist activity.
A walk to the mediaeval village of Bouvignes-sur-Meuse was suggested by the lady at the Tourist Info Centre. Apparently Bouvignes and Dinan were rival towns in years gone by – Dinant ceratinly won out. Can’t say we were all that impressed, especially as it wasn’t the 20 minute walk she said. However, we found a super Auberge on our way back that had a most impressive beer list. Not really that surprising since Belgium is famous for beer, ice cream, chocolate and gauffres (waffles). But certainly a long list for such a small place and the bartender offered Adrian advice re which ambrée beer to try with his sandwich purchased across the way. He enjoyed it very much!
We then went to visit the Dinant cave, La Merveilleuse, discovered in 1904. Lots of stalagtites (tomber; come down) and stalagmites (monter; go up) and various rock formations.
On Tuesday we had quite a few things we wanted to see …..
started off with some history – the Citadelle above the town with a long term strategic role to protect the town and the bridge across the Meuse (only one for about 30kms)….
then into the Cathedral for a little spiritual comfort…..
before crossing the river and going up to the old monastery to see a Chagal exhibition in the basement of the Maison de Leffe.
Lastly we visited the Maison de Leffe to learn all about the production of beer by the monks over several centuries, how it was restarted in the 1950s and has grown and grown ever since. We learnt about the process, which hasn’t basically changed, the different beers made by Leffe, the foods with which they can be enjoyed and the importance of correct pouring! Did you know that a draft beer can be poured into a wet glass but a bottled beer needs a dry glass in order to achieve a 2cm head? At the end of the tour there was a degustation (a beer) and a pressie (a Leffe glass). Happy punters were we! So much so that as we walked back towards the boat we decided to stop for another Belgian speciality (gauffre with ice cream and fruit) and a second glass of Leffe – one to compliment our desert, of course!
I had planned frequent stops since we have never been in Belgium before so we are only cruising few kms / hours each day, stopping early and then enjoying a wander around the locality. This also means that we arrive in time to secure a mooring as we now seem to be meeting many more boats.
From Dinant we went up to the Ile d’Yvoir, arriving Weds lunchtime. This is ceratinly popular place we only just managed to moor on the river side of the this little island. Basically its a little island with boats, kiddies play area, café and lots & lots of geese! Canada geese, white geese and Egyptian geese. And boy do they make a mess! Some settled down for the night close to Piedaleau and I could hear funny little noises throughout the night. Do geese snore I wondered? We laughed next morning when we met the official goose-shit-clearer-upper with his welly boots and long handled dustpan and brush! He told me that last year the geese population was over 600 and required somewhat drastic action. I did not enquire further.
We had a late lunch at the café, they were knocking off early because the weather wasn’t great so not many punters, to mark my birthday and retired to watch the tennis with an ice cream. Later we had a walk around the town via the little electrically operated chain ferry.
Thursday started with a misty morning and we set off to Namur. We had quite a long wait at the first lock and were joined by 5 other boats! The locks are big so that was not a problem but several decided to jump in front of us but then all had to wait as we entered each lock slowly and surely and made sure our ropes were right so as to avoid swinging round onto anyone!
We passed some really lovely countryside, places and houses. Stunning river which seems to be appreciated by many both on the water – rowing, sailing, water skiing and water boarding – and beside it – in the cafés and restaurants along the way.
We arrived in Namur and decided to moor along the wall in front of the Casino – the port on the other side is really for smaller craft – so we have moored up for a few days.