Monday, 28 August 2017

Brussels it is then!

At the end of my last post, 12th August, we were in Cambrai in northern France. There we were able to get the dogs' rabies boosters done so that they can get back into the UK! Quite an annoying anomaly was that this particular vet uses a vaccine that is only valid for one year. The last one, done in a different part of France, was valid for 3 years. In the UK the standard gap between vaccines is 2 years! However I did not have the inclination or fluent enough French to trudge around trying to find another option, so they are done. 92€ please...kerching!!


The atomium, Brussels



Arcade of the Quantaniere Park entrance


Next stop was a very wet cruise and an overnight stop in Valenciennes. We didn't look around this town and the next hop was from there back into Belgium along a quiet and peaceful Escaut canal with just 3 big locks which we had all to ourselves. At Antoing we were able to refuel at the Bunker Barge Neptunia and stock up with some shopping. We had hurried back to visit the chateau there which is only open to the public on Sundays but we were disappointed to find it was closed. Later we found out the very sad reason.....a few days earlier some unspeakable person had thrown poisoned meat over the wall and the chateau's dog had died a very painful death. The Chateau was closed until September whilst investigations are undergone and health and safety checks made.

After Antoing we paid a visit to Mons, as the mooring was quite a distance from town, just Nigel visited the centre on his bike. I pottered about with the dogs, there was a lot of activity from jet skis and water skiers and it was quite a bouncy mooring! The following few photos are in and around Mons.








The next highlight was at Thieu where we had to wait till the weekend to go up the 4 ancient Asenceurs which date from 1888. 



Approaching the lock at Thieu,
first sight of the asenceurs

Night time illumination

Duck weed issues!

We just had to drive right in!

Many campervans use this
 car park too


Gate about to open on
right hand caisson


Waiting for lift number 2


There is a modern ship lift here too, the Strepy/Thieu lift finished in 2002 but we wanted to use the original ones. The four lifts bridge a height difference of 96 metres over a distance of 7 kilometres. Now listed as a world heritage site by Unesco they are quite ugly and look like giant meccano sets but are amazing feats of engineering, especially for the time they were built. We expected a big queue as these are only in use on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months but no other boats were waiting. Amazingly we saw the crew who looked after us pouring ash into the leaky gate chambers, most disconcerting! Our lives in your hands and a bucket of ash! Between the four lifts were several lifting and swinging bridges, really felt like turning the clock back in time. At the last lift, one operative was apologising for the amount of weed in the caissons, they had been trying and had failed to find a way to control it. Indeed on the next leg of our journey Nigel had to do a swift floor up and empty the raw water filter which was clogged.

The following eight photographs show our view of the Strepy lift, ascending and descending over the course of a few days.















We then had a choice of several routes back to Leopoldsburg and we decided to take the longer and more scenic one through Namur, Liege and Maastricht down the Meuse and then the Albert Canal back to base. However when we got to within a day of Namur we found out that three locks are closed for work for a week and we would be unable to get there. We weren't in a particularly pleasant place to wait and also it would mean that if we waited a week until the locks were open again, we would not have enough time to visit those three places but would have to dash back and not do them justice.

So plan 73b again came into action and we found ourselves back at the mooring we were at a few days ago before the lifts! This allowed us to descend in the new Strepy lift, just because we could! Then we went up it again next day and turned turn left towards Brussels which was our alternative and in theory more direct route back. This also gave us the opportunity to experience the Ronquières Inclined Plane, another type of boat lift which took us clunking down a height of 70 metres over a distance of 1.5k. 

The following 11 photos show us in the inclined plane and the view from the top of the tower the day after.



Our Dutch neighbours in the caisson

Looking back up from near the bottom


Going down!

Up come the counterweights

Even further down


Views from the tower






A few days ago in Ittre we were boarded by the Belgian transport authority who spent a good hour asking questions and checking paperwork and equipment. We've had a return of summer, it's been cracking the flags for the last week or so.
Nice mooring in Ittre

Ittre lock, at 14 metres the deepest in
Belgium but very gentle!

We've now had three nights in Brussels at the Royal Yacht club and have been exploring the city (as much as you can in three days!) by tram and open topped bus. The next tranche of photos show some views in and around Brussels. We went to the Atomium last night on the tram after dark as we heard it was quite spectacular when illuminated. We intended to go back during the day but decided we were too tired thismorning to do the repeat journey as it was very hot, so we have moved on.Next time maybe!



Peregrines have nested here for
many years,apparently.
We didn't see them

Not sure what this statue is doing!
Whatever it is, it's green!


The stained glass windows in the Cathedral
were particularly fine



Innovative use of an oar at Brussels Royal Yacht club

Sunday Flea market







Brussels skyline



Nigel visited the autoworld museum




Atomium

Sadly we missed Hattie's 5th birthday a couple of weeks ago but it won't be long before we see the family again as we have booked our return ferry for 9th September.




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