Frankie and Greg (my sister & bro in-law) have been trying to come to the boat for some time but things & life kept getting in the way! They arrived on 4th Aug by Eurostar to Lille and we went to pick them up by car, so as to reduce their use of public transport as much as possible. Eurostar was well organised, pretty empty & they kept their masks on throughout, so no worries. Haven’t seen them for yonks so it was really great to get together. We all thoroughly enjoyed our few days together.
After a bit of difficulty getting out of our mooring, we went for a short cruise to Antoing and back. Being amongst the big boyos & in the big locks was a new experience for them!
We moored in the little harbour at Antoing for the night – just in front of our neighbours from Valenciennes! There was quite a bit of cabaret whilst we were moored there, what with cranes lifting heavy stuff right over our heads onto a building site ….
and then watching a guy on a commercial barge across the river load his car from the side into the hold.
We had a pleasant walk around the town and discovered that Antoing was the first town in Belgium to be liberated by the allies in 1944. But, like everywhere else, there’s no getting away from Covid and masks are obligatory throughout the town centre.
The Chateau towers you see from the river and above the town are really gorgeous!
And then, as we cruised back to Valenciennes we saw another first – camels on the river bank!!! Whatever next, I hear you ask……..
Raclette for dinner on the top deck back in Valenciennes, that’s what was next…….
We were all suffering from the heat and the temperature was still climbing (saw 40C outside a couple of times) and so we decided we needed a nice dose of air conditioned culture on the Friday. We went to the Louvre at Lens and it was bliss! Needless to say Frankie and I were particularly enamoured of the Egyptian artefacts and she tried to read the hieroglyphics having been doing an on line hieroglyphs course throughout lockdown!
Frankie had jokingly said that we needed to find a nice big space in the air con to sit and rest and have a little doze. And that’s exactly what we found – complete with deckchairs – and exactly what we did for an hour or so! Liam commented that Adrian looked the ‘epitome of culture’!
Then on Saturday 8th Aug we drove them back to Lille for their return home on Eurostar. On our way back to the boat we decided to return home ourselves – heat was too much and we had heard that quarantine might be introduced for travellers from France any day. Eurotunnel was already very booked up so we had to take a booking on Sunday 9th Aug. We returned to find some new, nice quiet neighbours….
Not sure when we will get back to the boat but we would very much like to get some final bits and pieces done and we would like to do some cruising. But we cannot say where or when. Everyone is having to change plans both because of Covid and because of the weather. Many french canals are now closed due to lack of water. Being on the Grand Gabarit network means these waterways remain open at least.
We’ve cruised for 6 days so far this year and we have got Piedaleau to her new mooring. If that is all we manage this year then so be it. Many of our friends from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the States can’t get to their boats at all this year.
There probably won’t be many more Piedaleau blogs from me in 2020……
We just have to wait and see how things progress……
We returned to Piedaleau in Valenciennes on 25th July having really enjoyed the couple of days visiting Grainne and Andy & Jo and Tim. We stayed put and wandered around and about the town as the temperature increased! Looked at buildings, Churches and statues.
And then, when it really became unbearably hot we went to visit the air conditioned Musee des Beaux Arts. Covid precautions were in place – masks, sanitiser and a one way system. We were informed more than once not to miss going downstairs to see the archaeological exhibits and the toilet! We preferred the statues & paintings ….
One bust of the gentleman of a certain age, with a rather special moustache, reminded me of my dear old dad!
I have been making bread throughout lock down in my trusty bread machine and had to order yeast and flour online when I couldn’t find any in the supermarkets. I was now running out of flour and so we took ourselves off for a delightful drive through the countryside to visit the Moulin de Sebourg, a working flour mill, I had spotted in a local guidebook. What a find! Absolutely beautiful village and mill. We were able to buy 5kgs of superb wholemeal flour. And the resultant bread extremely tasty! Result!!!
We reached Valenciennes on 17th July and, luckily for us, the flow of water beside the moorings was not too strong. There is a weir at the end of the moorings so if the water is high and the wind is up it can be a difficult approach. We had been warned; but we were lucky and Philippe, Capitaine, was on hand to help us. The boat beside us has cameras set up and the next day we were surprised to learn that the owner of that boat had contacted the Port to express concern at the speed at which we entered our mooring. We haven’t seen the video but we certainly didn’t come in fast so we presume it must be something to do with the camera shot. Pasqueline (from the capitainerie) keeps warning me that anything I do might be ‘on camera!’
We’ve been here a few days and are taking things pretty easy even though there are always more jobs to do on a boat.
We walked along to the Etang des Vignobles on Sunday which was lovely and we saw some lovely wild flowers.
The centre of town is pretty busy with lots of people in the shops, bars and cafes but we have decided to keep a ‘low profile’ (as me dear old mum used to say!)
On Wednesday we went into town to get photocopies of a map book and to visit the weekly market. As ever we thoroughly enjoyed the market and the banter with the stallholders!
Then on Thursday Andy drove over from Bruges to pick us up so we could collect our car. We had a delightful overnight stay with Grainne and Andy and the dogs and went to the Brewery for dinner – complete with live music.
On Friday we drove over to see Jo & Tim in Veurne and spent another delightful evening with them before returning to the boat on Saturday for a well earned rest!
After our fun filled, gastronomic extravaganza of a weekend we took a day to recover and to prepare before finally leaving Flandria and Bruges. We are really sad to leave both the city and all the wonderful friends we have made there over the last 3 winters.
But….. we hope new adventures await us in northern France…..
We left on Tuesday 14th July and headed off in the pouring rain en route to Valenciennes. First night we stayed in Merelbeke boathaven before heading up the Bovenschelde. We were making good time until we got to Oudenaarde lock where there was a problem and a bit of a traffic jam. We moored up on the halte nautic just before the lock to have some lunch but when things seemed to be taking a long time we decided to stay there for the night. Good decision apart from the wash from passing commercials – one was particularly vicious and caused one of our ropes to break when all 30 tonnes of Piedaleau were thrown about. Not pleasant.
Onwards the next day to the little harbour at Antoing, a place we haven’t stopped before. It looks quite an interesting place to visit again with the Chateau des Princes de Ligne & a Chinese restaurant recommended by Grainne & Andy. There is a stone plaque to commemorate Charles de Gaulle spending a year at school there which was proudly pointed out to us by one of the locals at the nearby Bar des Remparts! Most interesting sunset that evening.
We finally reached Valenciennes on Friday 17th July in conjunction with a German couple, Hans and Heidi, on their yacht, Sy Undine (Mermaid). They are en route to the South of France, the Med, Spain and the Greek Isles. Their departure from the Netherlands was delayed by Covid. They keep having to change their carefully planned route & are now hurrying through France because of diminishing water levels – being a yacht they have a greater water draft. Thoroughly enjoyed talking with them – Hans was a Centrifugal separator specialist for the brewing industry. He has his own micro brewery at home in what was the garage complete with external tap so that their neighbours can share his produce!
Still we took time to all have a beer in the Capitainerie and for Hans & Heidi to join us for a glass of champagne to celebrate our arrival in Valenciennes.
Adrian finally finished adapting the panelling over the new tanks. It took ages as each support strut had to be adapted individually. The air turned a little blue a few times – particularly when he had just finished and discovered the torch was left inside!!!!
We decided to stay in Bruges until after my birthday and to do a little sightseeing whilst there were few tourists because of Covid. It got gradually busier and busier and the tourist sightseeing boats & horse drawn carriages started plying their trade again by the time we left.
We enjoyed wandering through the streets, visiting San Salvator’s Cathedral….
walking through the peaceful grounds of the Begijnhof …..
and generally ambling through the almost empty streets & squares.
Weekend 10 to 13th July
This was to have been a big family celebratory weekend for us in Norfolk. Adrian & I planned to get married on Sat 11th July and then to celebrate my 70th birthday on the 12th. We had rented a large converted barn for us all for the weekend. Covid put a stop to that!
Rather than downsize our plans we decided to postpone our wedding until Christmas time when we hope we can get the family together again. But we couldn’t stop my birthday so we planned a weekend of alternative fun in Bruges! It became quite a gastronomic feast!!
On Friday we walked around Bruges in the sunshine and had lunch in Den Gouden Karpel fish bar. I had been a couple of times but Adrian hadn’t and we’d promised ourselves we would do it at some point. Lovely! And we bought a range of salads from the delicatessen for supper!
On Saturday we took ourselves off to the seaside at De Haan and walked along the golden sand & watched the kite surfers speeding along. So lovely to breathe the sea air, stretch our legs & paddle.
We returned to Bruges for dinner at the Gouden Harynck (Michelin 1 star restaurant) to celebrate our non-wedding.
On Sunday morning we had a family zoom meeting with balloons & banners (their end) & cards and flowers decorating the boat at our end! Patrick, the harbormeester had been kept busy delivering post and parcels all weekend.
Then back into the centre of Bruges to the Hotel Orangerie for afternoon tea courtesy of my niece Rachel. Excellent.
And finally in the evening Graine, Andy, Chris, Janette & Ian joined us for champagne on the poop deck followed by dinner in the clubhouse. Janette made me a birthday cake and the young waitresses, Lindy & Maite, led the singing of Happy Birthday.
A thoroughly indulgent and superb weekend! With lots of cards, pressies, flowers, phone calls and messages from family and friends all over the world.
Along with many other boaters, we have been eagerly awaiting our return Piedaleau…..
As the lockdown strictures began to ease we were able to visit Lisa and Freddie a couple of times to sit in her garden…..
Then we visited David Almond (Carmen) in Frinton on Sea. Lovely to see him, to walk along the beach, breathe the sea air and have an ice cream! (Can’t not have an ice cream at the seaside!)
Then, as soon as we were able to ‘bubble’ with someone living alone we went to visit Mary (alias scary-Mary-from-the-dairy but she moved!) in Shrewsbury. I had managed to leave my camera at her house just before the lockdown so wanted to retrieve it before heading back to Belgium. Both Mary and I were missing our hairdressers and so decided a little mutual assistance was required. Mary, however, got a little carried away behind me!
As soon as we were sure we could get through the tunnel, across France & into Belgium we were off. Chris Hanley was coming with us in order to complete the plumbing of the tanks which was so rudely interrupted by Covid! Unfortunately we had to go in separate cars or he couldn’t get home (no foot passengers on ferries) or we might get involved in quarantine in UK (if we drove him home!). We all set off really early and both cars arrived in Bruges by 10 am. Chris immediately set to work – took him 2 long days due to a dastardly leak in one inlet pipe. You know the one ….. the most awkward, inaccessible pipe in the whole installation. After various contortions (he’s over 6ft), he managed …. and now all is good!
I cannot believe how excited I got about our new plastic TANKS!
At the bar Graine and I decided a little decoration was required…….
Adrian is now fighting hard with the woodwork ……… changes to the plumbing mean that nothing just goes back into place. He is having to do a lot of jiggery pokery! But hopefully the rear cabin will soon be back to normal and ready for visitors.
We hope to set off in a few days but in the meantime we are enjoying Bruges as we have not previously seen it ie without the millions of tourists. And being able to sit outside for a beer or go to a restaurant for dinner again. The restrictions are less than at home, which feels a little strange, but seem to be working well.
I am writing this in the hope that with the easing of the lockdown in the UK that we can rejoin the boat very soon.
As for many people the last 3 months have been a rather surreal experience! We have been fortunate in that we live outside of any town or village, have personal open space and extensive rural walks accessible from our front door. We have found some really good walks, watched the crops change and exchanged greetings with lots of other walkers. We’ve averaged about 3 miles a day …… we’ve also developed a liking for youtube pilates sessions. Adrian replaced his bike that was stolen from the bike shed here and got back into the swing of it, ready for the boat.
I have even taken up sewing again and made up palazzo pants and a kaftan from lengths of material that I have had for many many years!
We have avoided supermarkets as much as possible (worn our home sewn masks when we’ve had to venture there) & found various alternative shopping options ….. deliveries of veg boxes, frozen fish and local micro brewery beer! So not all bad!
We have kept well and luckily so have all our family members ……. for this we are very grateful. We loved going up to Lincoln for pizza in Lisa’s garden once things started to ease. Freddy has certainly grown (soon be 13!) but won’t be back at school until September.
There have been some interesting and amusing things thrown up through this lock down period and I thought I’d end this short post with a few pictures from a local house – they have displayed a daily Bear scenario over 58 days! Such creativity and dedication! Loved ’em! And hope they produce a calendar for 2021…….
Having returned home from Belgium & the boat on 14th Oct we repacked our bags and headed off to Egypt for a short trip (25th – 30th Oct 2019).
My sister had told us that Aida was to be performed in front of the Queen Hatshetpsut Temple on the Nile. And that Jules Verne were doing a 5 day trip for it, including a 3 day cruise on the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Adrian had never been to Egypt and so we thought we would just do it! Frankie was due to be in Luxor (on another Egyptology course) and so we booked the Jules Verne trip and arranged to meet her at the Winter Garden Palace Hotel in Luxor at the end of the cruise. How special to arrive at this splendid hotel to see my sis waiting on the steps to meet us!
The Winter Garden Palace Hotel Luxor from the Nile
We arrived at the Movenpick MS Hermes in Aswan late at night & the cruise started early the next morning, so we really didn’t see anything of Aswan. A pity because it is lovely town on the Nile in front of the famous dam that was built to form lake Nasser in the 50’s. Back in 2007 I did a cruise on lake Nasser with Frankie and Greg. Cruising into Abul Simbal at night and then queuing at the temple in the early hours in order to see the sunrise on the winter equinox ……… memorable – but I digress!
The cruise from Aswan to Luxor only really took a couple of days. We visited a couple of sites – temple at Kom Ombo – along the way and we both enjoyed cruising along the Nile. There were few tourist boats – our boat was only half full – although Egypt was working hard to rekindle their tourist industry.
It was lovely to return to Luxor – I’d only been there a year previously – and to visit the temples of Luxor and Karnak. The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes (Waset, in ancient Egyptian), the City of a Hundred Gates. It was the capital of Egypt from the twelfth dynasty on (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom.
Avenue of the Sphinxes
An avenue of human headed sphinxes of over one and a half miles (3 km) once connected the temples of Karnak and Luxor. This road was used once a year during the Opet festival when the Egyptians paraded along it carrying the statues of Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of their marriage.
Approx 1,350 sphinx statues are thought to have lined this road together with barque chapels stocked with offerings. The Avenue is being excavated and exposed but is not yet open to tourists. It is very impressive & it will be wonderful to be able to walk between the 2 temples.
As with many sites in Egypt, the area had been covered by sand and then built on top over many thousands of years. Whole neighbourhoods have had to be relocated & demolished in order to excavate the sphinxes beneath. Everywhere we went you can see that excavations are ongoing and that more and more of the sites are becoming visible.
The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples, the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls.
The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet (16,459 meters) and featuring 134 columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake. The sacred barges of the Theban Triad once floated on the lake during the annual Opet festival.
Although the mud-brick houses and palaces of Thebes have disappeared, its stone temples have survived. The most beautiful of these is the temple of Luxor. It is close to the Nile and laid out parallel to the riverbank.
The temple was built by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and then added to by Rameses II (1279-13 BC).
The temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. During the Christian era, the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west. Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was carefully preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today.
Before the building works by Rameses II the northern end of the court was originally the entrance to the temple. It was an enclosed colonnade of seven pairs of 52-foot (16m) high open-flower papyrus columns. It was begun by Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamun and still support its huge architrave blocks.
The Colossi of Memnon stand in front of what was the Temple of Amenophis which is now being excavated. More and more is being exposed from what was fields for hundreds of years.
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, “Holy of Holies”, was built for the pharaoh Hatshepsut, who died in 1458 BC. It is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings & is dedicated to Amun and Hatshepsut & is considered one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.”
The approach to the temple is stunning.
The temple with the sheer stark cliffs of Deir el-Bahari behind formed an amazing backdrop for the opera. The lighting effects were superb. The wind added sound and costume movement effects. A bit spooky at times…..
Tomb of Seti I
There are over 60 tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They vary from small tombs that are little more than a large hole in the ground to very large tombs with over 100 underground chambers. We decided to visit the most amazing tomb – Seti I – and concentrate on that rather than rush around trying to see several in a relatively short visit. It was very well worth it! Absolutely amazing.
On our last day in Luxor we went out in a felucca which was great fun! We even saw a tourist boat named the Titanic!!!
I thought I’d best update you all about the leak……. I am aware that many have been losing sleep wondering about our tank ……… rather late I know but hey ho!
We left the boat on 14th October having drained absolutely all the water we possibly could out of the tank. The intention was to return with Chris Langley asap to remove and replace the tank. Much discussion to work out the best way to get the stuff to Bruges & to do the job. We agreed that using Tek-tanks plastic tanks in series would be the best option. One large tank could not get into the boat so 6 smaller tanks were the answer. Chris was drawing up the spec, getting a quote from Tek-tanks & deciding what extra help he would need. Things were moving and we were off to Egypt to meet my sister and to see Aida on the Nile (more on this to come).
First Chris & Helen had to get back to Ipswich (still in Calais on their boat at this point) and then get the gear & organise to go out to Bruges as soon as poss. All seemed to be going swimmingly! Then at the end of Oct we learnt that Chris had had an argument with the winch on his boat when preparing to leave Calais and had injured his hand …….. he’d had to call out the coastguard to take him off the boat & to hospital where he needed a couple of operations! Ouch!!
Needless to say they ended up staying in Calais a lot longer ……they finally managed to get back to Ipswich in December. We went to visit them at their berth at Pin Mill in January to review where the job was at and to plan the rest. Pin Mill is an interesting place to moor. It’s really odd to go to sleep with the boat resting on the mud and to wake to find her floating as the tide had come in overnight! There are lovely coastal walks and the greatest fish and chips at the pub.
We had a plan, but, as always, things happened and Chris had other work to do & we were going away for whole of Feb (more of this to come) ……… so when we returned home at the beginning of March it was back to the planning calls. By this time we were hearing more and more about Coronavirus. Tek-tanks delivered the tanks to Bruges by courier and Chris and Adrian drove out to Bruges on 11th March. Chris worked hard to cut up & remove the old tank. He thought he might use the base of the old tank as a platform for the new tanks. However, this turned out to be impractical and so they had to source a suitable ply base. Not easy as things were beginning to shut down. By the Saturday it was obvious that they needed some extra plumbing bits (height change by use of board) from UK.
Concerned that they might get locked in in Belgium if they hung about waiting for the parts, they made a dash for home on the Sunday! The plan being to get said parts and then do a quick nip back to Bruges for the extra day’s work to complete the installation. It soon became obvious that this was unrealistic / impossible if not downright foolhardy!
So, Piedaleau remains in Bruges with the water tanks incomplete!
In the grand scheme of things, given what’s going on throughout the world, it’s no big deal! At some point, when we can return to the boat we will get the water tanks operational again. We aren’t there, can’t be there so have no need of water tanks at present. This saga certainly seems to be dragging on and on……….
In the meantime we are at home in UK, staying home and doing all we can to remain well and safe. I shall try and catch up with a couple of extra blogs about our recent, and potentially final travels (certainly changed our view of long distance travel) during this time so you may well hear more from me in the next few ‘lock down’ weeks.
Wishing all our friends, both near and far, & your families and friends, lots of love & virtual hugs at this time. Keep well and safe. Jenny & Adrian xxx