We chartered a canal boat in Belgium from Le Boat. France is supposed to be the best place to do this, but when we made the reservations it was too late to get one in France, so we went for Belgium. As you can see below, it's a dumpy power vessel that goes slowly down the canals, through locks and under bridges, all of which are adventures. The boat has a galley but it's not really set up for having meals, so one eats out every night. That was a problem one evening when we discovered that everything is closed on one particular day of the week in Belgium -- I think it was Monday -- and we had a heck of a time finding a restaurant that was open. We biked on the little bikes you can see below on the bow for miles before we finally found the one place in the town that was open. This was actually a village, as were many of the places we stopped -- although we did get to larger cities like Brugge and Gent.
We happened on some sort of festival in one place that involved home-made rafts,
as shown below, made of very limited materials, mostly wood. There are a
lot of them and there were lots of costumes and beer. At various places
they had challenges they had to meet, like climbing the rope ladder onto the
bridge and picking something up. Seemed a bit like Hahing to me, but it
was also a big festival with lots of people on the side of the canal watching.
Most places we backed the vessel into the dock, but for some reason below some
of them seem to be bow-first, although I don't think that we came in that way.
Backing the thing into a space is not and easy task because they don't steer
going backwards (because the prop is moving the water away from the rudder).
So you have to line it up really well and back in straight -- but if there is
any crosswind there's a real problem. Mercifully there were always people
around the docks more than happy to help us.
Sometimes we ended up parallel parking on the dock, which had its own issues.
We were not really very skillful at this, but again we always got friendly help
-- like the two guys below who helped us get to where we were and tie up with a
nice spring line. The blue jacket Debby wears comes from an earlier
advernture. The airline left our luggage in Houston and we didn't get it
for five days! This was particularly unpleasant because Debby had packed
her waterproof jacket in her checked luggage and a lot of the time there it was
cold and raining. So we bought a waterproof jacket in a little stall on
the beach (the beach shown in the very first picture above), and it turned out
to be a great jacket. The airline eventually reimbursed us for the
purchase, even though all we had was a hand-written, cryptic receipt.
This is approaching a typical lock. You have to tie up temporarily on the side of the canal and wait for them to open the lock, then go in, tie up again, and so on.
Most bridges were sort of normal draw bridges, but this one worked differently. It's in the up position below, and it sort of rocks on the long counterbalanced arms.
In the lock below we were joined by huge barges. Sometimes instead of tying up you just hold onto something.
Belgian artwork in Brugge, which is a small, medieval city. The tapestray has speech baloons something like a comic, and I believe that the inscriptions, which are in old French, are somewhat bawdy. Here is a translation of parts of it from Colette Ferran, who can read Old French:
This was part of a rich person's house which was right next to the church, and
he had a private room that looked out into the church so he could attend
This is in Gent, a much larger city than Brugge. Much more spread out, so
without transportation we were limited in what we could get to.
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