Some thoughts as we cruise through the Belgian network……..
We are both really enjoying seeing Belgium from the waterways but find some real differences to France, which we have obviously come to know quite well.
It is really strange for us not to be able to understand people when they talk to us! We are now in the Flemish part of Belgium, neither of us speak Flemish and many people do not like to hear French being spoken. Certainly odd for us, we both really enjoy speaking French! Particularly difficult when using the VHF radio at locks or lifting bridges – I can call up but if the operator replies in Flemish we have no idea what’s going on! Luckily for us, most people speak pretty good English and are happy to try and help.
The waterways seem to be quite quiet. Maybe its because we are now into September but it is nice to aim for a particular place and find there is space for us! Not always so in France. And there don’t seem to be many English boats about. In fact a couple of people we have met have commented as much.
There are certainly big differences on the waterways because the countryside is pretty flat, so there are not many locks. We can go whole days without a single lock. Yesterday we went through 10 locks but many more lifting bridges! All the locks and bridges so far have been in good condition and efficiently operated. Sometimes we have been told to enter locks even if the light is still on red – not allowed to do that in France. Obviously we have to wait around sometimes for commercial traffic but on the whole its good.
We have become aficionados of Lidl and Aldi – stores seem much better than those around where we live. The French Carrefour chain has stores around here but not too big.
The beer (may have already mentioned it) is really good – and so many different varieties! Often take the waiter’s recommendation as its hard to chose from such a long list on the menu. Wine is easier – often the choice is ‘red, white or rosé’!
We are enjoying the bread (often quite dark & rustic), the occasional cake, gauffre, chocolate and ice cream.
And then there are the BIKES! Literally thousands of them! It really is a means of transport for one and all. We sat looking out this morning while we were having breakfast and watched people heading off to work, parents taking little ones to nursery, whole groups of kids off to school. And there are a plethora of types of bikes with all sorts of adaptations to carry kids, help the disabled etc. And, of course, the towns are set up for it with cycle ways everywhere and all road users ‘bike aware’. Have to get used to moving out of the way when you hear a bike tinging its bell behind you!