20 boats and nearly 100 people congregated in Ghent for the Dutch Barge Association 2018 European rally. Boats of different sizes, types, old & new. People from Belgium, UK, Australia, USA, Holland, France, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. Quite a mixture! There was a planned series of events and informal get togethers and much talking about boats and boating (or should I say barges and barging!)
We were one of the smaller craft – in fact only one little narrow boat smaller than us!- and one of the newer style of boat/barge. Not really sure if Piedaleau counts as a boat or a barge! Some of the old, renovated dutch barges were superb but there were some very interesting new build ‘replica barges’ too. Definite case of boat envy and some boat snobbery to boot! Some people come without boats and are hosted by others, which is an excellent way of finding out about living on a barge and deciding about what it is you want / need if you are considering buying a barge.
We were rafted right out ie had to go over 3 other boats to get to the quay. Fine if people were in and their wheelhouses were open & clear for others to go through; but a little more problematic if you had to go around the bows because of ropes, cables and sometimes a hose! On the Friday, returning with shopping, I managed to ‘miss’ a step on the bow of first barge and came down rather heavily on my knee, narrowly missing ending up in the drink between the boats – would not have been good! A young couple on the quay, enjoying the sunshine, literally leapt on board to my assistance! Luckily no lasting damage, just a very sore knee for a few days and some loverly bruises. The barge owners didn’t even realise this had happened as they were lunching inside!
My niece, Rachel, and her partner, Jonathan, joined us for a few days and thoroughly enjoyed meeting people and visiting Ghent. As they were not ‘official’ visitors to the rally they couldn’t come to everything with us but were welcomed by many. Stan and Sharron from California were particularly welcoming – had a great afternoon drinking champagne together! They were also able to join the brewery tour (2 people had to return home) and to listen in at the Forum – both of which they enjoyed immensely.
Adrian and I also went on a guided walk – learnt more about the history of Ghent -around the city and to the Saturday evening Rally dinner at de Witte Leeuw restaurant on the Graslei. Unfortunately it was stiflingly hot in the restaurant but we had a good time on our table. Enjoyable evening and nice to walk back through Ghent, which is such a vibrant city, as it was cooling off.
On Sunday we visited the flower market which is always a wonderful sight and Nicki and I bought a huge bunch of tulips to share – so many we even distributed one to each of the other boats!
Flowers were followed by beer! and a visit to the Gentse Gruut brewery. A micro brewery with a special approach – replacing hops with herbs – to create a mild but tasty ale. Allegedly ‘increases your energy and libido and your morale!’
On Monday Rachel and Jonathan had to leave for home and back to work next day! So we went to the Holy Food Hall with Tim and Jo – never managed to eat there before but it is great. An old Church that has been converted into a food hall where there are a variety of stalls selling varied cuisine – you choose what you each want and it is delivered to you at a central table…… we had thai, Tim had a pizza & then some of our thai!