Today the weather was much more promising as we motored up the Meuse without incident to Namur. Not yet hot but very pleasant. This town, in the centre of Wallonia is overlooked by a huge citadel and we are fortunate to have a mooring next to the old town below. Frites with mayonnaise (definitely better in Belgium) on the back deck looking out on the Meuse and we can’t complain.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Actually, Huy is pronounced Oui so it should be say Oui to Huy as that is where we are today, after a short trip and two more locks from Liege.
The weather is awful, like winter in California: about 58F, low grey cloud, occasional showers and wind. I hate the wind when we are motoring. Fortunately the locks were sheltered and we didn’t have much trouble. The sun is trying to stay out this afternoon so maybe tomorrow will be better.
As the hills close in on the Meuse river the steel mills and power stations are getting squeezed out and it is getting greener and feeling a little more rural. After the main canal leaves the river at Namur tomorrow the river will take over and we will wind our way into the Ardennes forest.
Terry was happy to leave Liege as it was a grubby dirty city after Holland and dominated by, what someone described best as “brutalist”architecture from the 60’s and 70s’. I actually quite liked it because it is the first French city we have been to with all that entails, it is set in amongst hills and it can still surprise with cozy hidden squares, exquisite buildings where you don’t expect them and quaint little shops. It could certainly do with some sprucing up though – it is a little like Pittsburgh before they transformed it.
Because the province of Limburg in Holland reaches so far down into Belgium we have bypassed the Flemish (more Dutch) part of the country and come straight into the home of the Walloons, the French part of Belgium. This means we can now indulge ourselves with good cheeses, pate, wine and fresh bread every hour – and we have.
Now if only the weather would improve.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Friday morning. In about five minutes we leave for the lock that takes us into Belgium. Noodle and Rosie are truly at home on the boat and are now taking their morning siesta on the large apple green doggie bed under the steps. That is a good sign. They no longer feel any anxiety or follow our every step. This is home.
Last night we left them alone for the first time while we went out to dinner. Trip Advisor rated a nearby Thai restaurant number one over an expensive two star Michelin. Finally an excellent meal! The food was amazingly good and we ordered additional dishes for lunch and dinner today. I kid you not, it was the best Thai food we’ve had outside Thailand. Only 56 Euros for wine, beer and generous helpings for two days! Small things make us happy.
We’ve loved Maastricht anyway. It’s our second visit and a total of six days. I call it little Paris. Being within eight miles of both the German and Belgian borders it has a real European flavor different to the other cities in The Netherlands. It’s known for its arts, music, history (oldest city in the country), fine food and little specialty $$$ shops of clothing, hats, shoes, pastries, cheeses and a world famous chocolate maker who has served both The Regans and The Clintons while in office. They proudly display photos of their visits in the window.
We’re rather sad to leave after more than three months in The Netherlands. It’s been such a positive experience being new boat owners. Any questions, supplies or services have been done or answered by experts and in perfect English. France may have all the charm, good food and wine, but efficiency is not one of their attributes. OH, we are off…….
Liege, Belgium – Later that evening.
With English speakers behind us we approached the border. Rob contacted the authorities on our radio and replied in what sounded to me, fine French. I asked him what he said. He said, “I don’t know but they seemed to understand me.” He’s cute. They instructed us to tie up and report to the office with the boat paperwork. Rob walked across the bridge, up three long flights of stairs to the top of the huge locks. We got our permit for boating in Belgium, no charge. We were in high spirits and Rob replaced the Dutch flag on the mast with the Belgian flag. Then the six story high doors opened and we see that we are at the bottom of a lock that seemed at least 100 feet deep. We were in the narrow lock for “pleasure boats”, not big barges, and felt that we were in a deep crevasse with the high stone walls that were covered in thick muddy slime. Very spooky. By the time we’d risen to the top we’d had to move the ropes six times to the dirty bollards embedded in the walls, collected slime all over the boat, the bumpers, ropes and our clothes. It was the lock from Hell – here’s what my lovely leather boat gloves look like afterwards.
Once out and on our way, we were hit by a huge storm with black skies, heavy rain and wind. An hour an a half later we were finally safely moored in Liege. We took a deep breath, cleaned the boat, stripped off our clothes, showered and ate our nice Thai lunch.
All is well again although with the storm came a cold change. We have to dig under the V-birth for our winter clothing again. At least for the next two days they forecast temperatures around 60F and rain. Great. At least we have power and can run the electric heater and stay nice and cozy. Let’s hope we haven’t missed the summer.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Fortunately our holidays aren’t over, but the Dutch ones are. This means that the waterways are back to “normal” and moorings are easy to find. It helps that the weather is not that great either. We have had thunder and lightning, heavy rain and strong winds, as well as just some sun and grey skies. Not to cold but not hot either. Yesterday we finally left Roermond, it was beginning to feel like home – the birds were starting to get names.
This family was a regular visitor and yes, they are black swans. Apparently one pair showed up about 5 years ago (someone brought them from Australia) and now there are about 50 pairs in the Roermond area.
Our trip to Maastricht was somewhat dull, along the Julianakanal that bypasses the Maas and is full of big barges and includes two large locks. It was very windy which always makes me nervous but we had no mishaps. We chose to stay in the marina in town instead of the free moorings between the bridges as it’s easier for the dogs and nice for us looking out at the cafes and old warehouses. Terry just got back from shopping saying it is like a little Paris, and it is…. and a lot easier to get around.
The Driessens drove down from Roermond and we had a fun dinner together at an eclectic placed call Cafe Sjieke, all types of people and good food too. More strong wind forecast for tomorrow so we may head off Friday for Liege.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
We now have a new bright blue bimini for the back deck to protect us from the hot sun. It also means we can take down the white canopy in the warm weather and motor along “al fresco”. It is on rails so it can slide forward to cover the steering position. Along with the new small outdoor sofa we bought, the back deck now feels like an outdoor room. It is especially good for our new crewmembers:
Rosie and Noodle are not yet sure what this boating life is all about and still give us that “are we going home yet” look but they are getting fed and walked so they will get used to it all pretty quick.
The Dreissens, who own the boatyard and marina where we have been staying very generously took us out to dinner to the best meal we have had in Holland, at a local Italian restaurant (Il Forno) with no menu! You tell them how many courses you want, what you like and don't like and they do the rest – wonderful. The owner came and sat with us afterwards and gave me the coolest bottle of wine ever. The company was great too – a wonderful evening.
We are enjoying getting the boat reorganized and are not in a hurry to leave Roermond. This is partly because the weather has been grey and raining and also because one of the big locks on the Maas/Meuse River in Belgium is closed until the 24th so we couldn’t get through any faster. So we will probably leave in a couple of days and stop in Maastricht (again) and then on to Liege in Belgium.