Final leg of our 2009 journey - France

 

Endellion Home Page

 

Our aim

To travel through the Ardennes to our winter mooring spot back at Nieuwpoort in Belgium. This section covers the French leg from Attigny to Givet. We are currently on the Canal des Ardennes (having just left Rethel) and join the River Meuse just past Pont a Bar.

 

The Journey

This is one of the most exciting stretches coming up. Highlights include amazing scenery and

·         The Semoy to Montgon flight of 27 locks that raises the barge slowly between the towns of Attigny and Le Chesne.

·         A brilliant lock-side restaurant called Sans Souci.

·         More tunnels... and one not marked in our guide.

·         Bastille Day .. and many festivals and events along the Ardennes river banks.

·         Steering failure .. and black water pump failure!

 

Dates: 2nd to 20th July, 2009

 

Distance: 159 kilometres

 

Locks: 60

 

Swing Bridges and other ‘actions’: 3

Contents

Final leg of our 2009 journey - France. 1

From 2nd July at Attigny to 7th July at Pont a Bar 1

From 7th July at Pont a Bar to 13th July at Monthermé. 4

From 14th July at Monthermé to 20th July at Givet 9

From 20th July at Givet 14

 

Previous waterway section: Lille to Pont a Bar 15th June to 5th July

Next waterway section: Givet to Nieuwpoort 23rd July to 21st August

Route map Rethel to Nieuwpoort web.png

Map from PC Navigo

From 2nd July at Attigny to 7th July at Pont a Bar

 

After a few entertaining days in Attigny, picking wild cherries, joining in the festivities of their annual fair, sharing a few glasses of wine and beer with Peter and Brigitte from our Chauny days.. we finally departed for what we expect to be a very interesting trip through the Semoy to Montgon flight of 27 consecutive locks.

 

To make the full run our guide book tells us it will take up to seven hours to cover what is little more than nine kilometres in distance.

 

The good news is we could break the trip at lock number 20 but we need to check with the lock keeper at Rilly (no. 27) that this will be OK. Yes, he says, but you will need to leave at 9.00am the following day to synchronise with the flight of locks and other boats coming up or down. Good news for us .. we liked the idea of taking a rest part-way through this massive run especially in this heat .. and we liked the sound of the restaurant, Sans Souci, mentioned in our guide book.

 

Endellion at Attigney.jpg

Sans Souci at Neuville Day.jpg

The peaceful Attigny Halt Nautique .. swelteringly hot and no electricity for air con.

The fabulous Sans Souci restaurant at Neuville Day, a total delight of the senses!

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Moored above lock no. 20 at Neuville Day

The brand new (not yet open) lock keepers control room with tiled roof, and the rusting old one in front. Also note the large loud speakers (of a bygone time I think).

 

The food and charm of the Sans Souci exceeded expectation – we’re so pleased we stopped here, highly recommended. On again at 9.00am the following day as instructed to make sure we get into sync with the automated lock system .. arriving at the first of our run, lock no. 19, we find the light is red so we have to wait .. and wait. Just as we worried we may have been forgotten we get the green/red lights to get ready and see the lock keeper in the old rusty operation room nearby. They have built very smart new buildings to house their equipment for the automatic lock operation at all of these locks but they’re not yet in operation. This section of 19 locks one after the other, but only six kilometres or so, was very beautiful surrounded by farmland and gorgeous lock keepers houses... or derelict ones .. and cute village churches peering over the hills. As the locks are automated it's very easy going, slow and with only a few passing boats along the way.

 

We’re arrive in Le Chesne by 1.00pm but as expected we can’t moor at the Port de Plaisance (which has water and electricity) as we are too big .. so move a little beyond it to the concrete jetty with good bollards to moor on.

 

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Port de Plaisance at Le Chesne, with electricity but no room for us.

We’re the first here and moor safely and we could even get off with a ramp and tour town.

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St Aignan lock just before the tunnel.

Tunnel St  Aignan

 

Leaving Le Chesne after one night we headed into Pont a Bar, only 28kms to go and five locks .. a cinch in theory. But with one short and very narrow tunnel it was more of a challenge than anticipated. Plus lots of tight bends .. but actually all handled extremely well by Stewart. A lock was just before the tunnel .. all very tight and you have to be on watch to know what’s coming up next! Sometimes, in many stretches, we find it difficult to spot signs.. mostly because they are so overgrown... sometimes because they are so faded.

 

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Tight fit at Pont a Bar lock.jpg

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There are commercial barges around here – this one had to dismantle it’s wheelhouse to get under the bridge at Pont a Bar.

He only just fits into this lock ... but he’s done it before so knows exactly what he’s doing.

Lock Keeper’s house

 

Arrived at Pont a Bar on schedule, just after 1.00pm, and pulled up at the Port de Plaisance, marked on our guide and very clearly inviting us in. It had bollards, electricity and water points right on the jetty and a good space was free... and it looked very nicely accessible. We pulled in and tied off and were very quickly approached by a young man telling us we couldn’t moor here. One reason was there will be a large péniche (working barge) coming through and there won’t be room with us moored here. Another reason, it turns out, this was not an overnight mooring spot (no signs). We had to go through the lock and find a mooring below, although it was very tricky getting off from this mooring .. we were stuck on some sort of ledge which was out of sight.. but finally with massive engine assistance and a lot of fuss, people looking at us but not helping, we finally made it. Below the lock there is no power or water point .. and more importantly virtually no sensible bollards – mostly they are high up and very widely spaced for the commercial vessels. I called out to a Dutch barge moored in a good place.. beside them looked feasible but “is it shallow in there?” I asked. No was the reply .. let my husband come and help you moor. Which he did .. this was Dorothe and husband Joeke from Holland. They were wonderful. However it turned out that the water level in the canal was dropping and we were again starting to sit on the bottom. We finally tied off one side to the ‘ice breaker’ barge behind us (photo below) to keep us away from the bank.

 

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Hunze.jpg

Our mooring below the lock at Pont a Bar.

Hunze – her hull was made in Truro (Cornwall) – owned by Dorothe and Joeke from Holland.

 

Finally settled we enjoyed touring the very small village .. one tiny Tabac where you can order your baguette for the following day.. and a great atmosphere with some rather ancient locals who looked like real characters. We’d also hoped be able to fuel up here but getting back up through the lock and turning to reach the diesel pump was way too difficult .. had we known, we would have fuelled up on our way in to Pont a Bar. That’s been one of our challenges.. finding fuel, electricity points, water and even decent moorings. The best solution was to take the 20 litre drums and fill them up manually .. not a nice job.

 

 From 7th July at Pont a Bar to 13th July at Monthermé

 

We had to move Endellion a little further along the bank at Pont a Bar as the canal water continued to drop and we were in danger of being stranded here .. further along we lost accessibility for Stewart but at least it was now safe. The journey tomorrow is a ‘side trip’, ie, we will go up the Meuse river into Sedan before we turn around for the run back down the Meuse as far as Namur in Belgium.

 

Halt de Nautique at Sedan.jpg

Fortified castle 6.jpg

Port de Plaisance at Sedan .. we have a nice safe mooring at the end of the pontoon.

The impressive Sedan fortress .. but not a lot to see if you have a wheelchair!

 

Sedan is an interesting old city .. although it’s a good thing we toured the town with small ramp on the back of the wheelchair as there are not many ramps up to and off the pavements. In fact it was frustrating not being able to see much of the fabulous looking fortress because there was so little access. These days a large part of it is a hotel and restaurant .. and of course they have the essential tourist shop.

 

Our next stop is another very interesting looking city, from reading our guide book, Charleville-Mezieres .. in fact two cities of old more recently combined to form one big city! After our mammoth trips of 40 kilometres a day with umpteen locks, La Meuse is wonderful.. shortish trips and not many ‘events' along the way, just stunning views and great towns.

 

Arrived in Charleville-Mezieres by lunchtime and soon after we are joined directly behind us by our ‘friends’ from several stops along the way, in particular Neuville Day.

 

Fishermans paradise 4.jpg

Mooring at Lumes.jpg

Leaving Meziers lock.jpg

Very quaint fishing shack .. and fishermen.

An impressive mooring facility with electric and water.

Last stretch in through the city of Charleville-Mezieres.

Mooring at Charleville Meziers.jpg

Entrance to deserted Harbour at Charleville.jpg

Endellion moored at Charleville-Mezieres – note the satellite dish up for cricket!

This is the Charleville Port de Plaisance but no-one using it, we all prefer the area by the caravan site, a little further up. The height limit for the port bridge is three metres.

Place Ducale.jpg

Hotel de Ville Meziers.jpg

Restaurant at Charleville Mezier.jpg

Place Ducale, leaving out the Ferris wheel!

One classic building in Mezieres, the Hotel de Ville.

A excellent little restaurant.

 

This is a really gorgeous city .. walked within five minutes to the Place Ducale which is stunning. A coffee and then trip down to Mezieres (the older part of this combination of towns) a 9th century district apparently. Sadly this end of town (over the bridge) is very neglected. These twin towns form the largest urban area on the Meuse and they spread across the meandering river and the canal cuts that certainly make the journey into town very interesting (deep lock and tight turns).

 

At the Tourist Office we learn it is the last night of the ‘Le Jazz Est La’ festival – it’s accessible and starts at 8.30pm at only €5 each. And it was a totally brilliant night, probably because of the unexpected standard of music and the style of the club. Lovely friendly, English (little bit) speaking .. suggesting we come inside before the crowd (waiting on the pavement outside) and get a good place which we did, right in front of the stage – well one row back behind the big comfy lounge seats. There is a very warm and friendly atmosphere .. the main act the Pierre Durand Quartet was original and creative with drums, bass, sax and the amazing guitarist Pierre who had six or so foot controlled switch boxes creating some wonderful sound effects. All four very creative. They stayed on with what seemed to be the jazz club amateurs, all good but it appeared they were mentored by the professionals .. lots of fun with the simpler tunes and many instruments.

 

We made the Jazz and it was brilliant but we didn’t learn about the Marionette Festival, also in its last day, until too late .. and the town is famous for its history in puppetry and has an excellent museum but not accessible.  

And talking of such things (access) .. it was an interesting challenge getting on and off our boat here, with the steep ramp up from the pontoon and huge steps off the top. Needed a bit of lateral thinking, from Stewart, where we placed the medium ramp (folded) to bridge the step down and enable the mighty big ramp to run from the grass to the top of the fixed pontoon without projecting over the top!

 

On again now heading for Monthermé which we’re greatly looking forward to having seen some fabulous photos of this area.  

 

Leaving Charleville.jpg

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Quatre Fils Aymon.jpg

Leaving Charleville-Mezieres.. beautiful countryside, perfect weather.

A very enjoyable sight along the towpath, we often see these hire vehicles.. propelled only by peddle power.

High up on the ridge, my zoom lens picks up the fairy horse Bayard – a great legend of the region.

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Montherme from Roche a Sept Heures.jpg

Coming in to Monthermé

Looking down onto Monthermé – we can see La Bohem (tourist boat) moored to the best spot!

 

We were looking forward to the “excellent mooring” we’d read about in our guide. Well .. excellent moorings, my foot, they didn’t have anything more than a few yellow bollards placed high up on a bank where it would not have been accessible for Stewart (or without extreme difficulty) and where the boat was touching the stony sides way before the bank. We went on by assessing the situation, tried to reverse in without success and wallowed around for some time before turning to face the river flow and again attempting to moor on the ramps we could see. A man on the bank waved his hands, no. We realised anyway that this was likely for a commercial boat, loading people for sure.. but we thought we could at least try to moor and get past the ramps. No, we gave up and turned again to leave Monthermé and headed for Revin if nothing else could be found. Just as we passed under the bridge we saw two hidden péniche-spaced bollards (very wide apart) but we were already past them and attempting to moor at the ‘picnic spot’ marked .. but again the stony bottom and extreme difficulty for access was too much. Yet again we turned and headed back up river to the spot under the bridge .. and moored at last. As we looked under the bridge, we could see La Bohem (the commercial tourist barge met at the lock) was moored at the ramps we were attempting to moor near!

 

Endellion moored at Montherme.jpg

Endellion moored at Montherme.jpg

That’s us moored under the bridge.

Closer view .. nice neighbours, mostly only fishermen and locals.

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Bastille Day at Montherme.jpg

Something’s brewing tonight .. the bridge ahead of us at sunset.

And the bridge ahead of us later .. fireworks for the festival.

Bastille Day.. we hadn’t realised until we saw the ceremony.

 

As it turns out .. tonight is the last day of the Monthermé festival. The town is gorgeous although no decent pub we could get into .. no matter. The tourist office didn’t tell us about the festival or the fireworks, but gave us a photocopy of a map and highlighted the best route to the viewing spot considering we were going with the power wheelchair – there is a very good route from our boat but mostly via steps. Off we set for climbing and climbing .. and finally arrived at La Roche a Sept Heures .. sadly, no access for Stewart from the highest viewing rocks (with rails) but just below, at a picnic spot, we could both see the amazing serpentine of La Meuse as it circled the old town with its meanders.

 

We didn’t realise we were now witnessing Bastille Day celebrations until we heard the big band sound and marching through the town.

 

From 14th July at Monthermé to 20th July at Givet

 

On then to our next stop a very short run down river, only two locks and a few hours away. It is another delightful place by all accounts (in particular as described in French Waterways, but also Dorothe and Jeuke recommended it) this being Laifour. And it certainly looked a brilliant spot as we glided by .. but the boats were two abreast all the way along the mooring facility.  It’s a relatively small place with excellent bollards and a large grassy bank which looked beautifully accessible but today it was ‘packed’ with perhaps 10 boats.

 

Leaving Montherme.jpg

Endellion moored below Laifour.jpg

Leaving the gorgeous Monthermé .. we love the Ardennes.

Our next stop .. stunning! Tried for Laifour but settled down river at this little no-name spot.

Laifour moorings before the Germans.jpg

Grocery van calls at Laifour.jpg

Fogging start to the morning.jpg

The fabulous Laifour Halt Nautique – today there are no boats here .. yet. It has water, electricity and is accessible.

Travelling fruit and vegetable van at Laifour.

On again down river to Revin.

 

So on again. I hoped, from our map, that the quay/picnic spot marked, would be of some use or we had to go on into Revin. It looked OK but just as we nudged, gently and beautifully driven by Stewart, into the bollard position and I hopped off .. I heard “ the steering’s gone, the steering’s gone” called through my radio. This is very strange since we’ve had huge problems but we thought all resolved with our excellent Ship Support team at Nieuwpoort. We now have two systems and no computer board involved! Stewart temporarily forgot about the manual, wheel, system but the joy stick had definitely stopped operating. We safely moor, very little river flow here, and admired our wonderfully isolated surroundings. Inspecting the steering .. not much we can do until tomorrow.

 

If it wasn’t for the worry yet again about a steering problem (pretty big being that it will only turn the rudder one way!) this would be a special place... well it is anyway.  There is a brilliant 80 km cycle trail from Charleville-Mezieres to Givet on the Belgium border so we see a few cyclists, occasional walkers, and even rarer, but definitely to be counted, roller bladers. On this excellent path I cycled the 9kms into Revin to check the mooring situation .. in fact a really gorgeous spot but not all are accessible and not a lot of space. If we arrive at this time, 9.10am tomorrow, we will have a perfect spot! But tomorrow could be different. I met with Catherine, another totally delightful French woman (although this Catherine couldn’t speak English, she said) and extremely helpful. Told me she would know someone who could help with electrical problems (steering) but didn’t have contact details, it is someone on one of the boats, or a local boating person. Also, she gave me her home address in case we needed a part to be mailed for the repair.

 

Back at the boat, with absolutely no satellite reception (very high hills all around us, gorgeous but not good for communication!) Stewart pondered the test cricket.. and how to fix the steering. We have decided to ‘limp’ our way into Revin tomorrow, slowly under the manual wheel system – very tricky for Stewart as it’s not at the right height or angle for him.

 

Meanwhile we headed off for a closer look at Laifour, a few kilometres back up river. Yesterday we couldn’t find a mooring and yet today it is completely vacant, not a single boat here. It is a really gorgeous spot .. but no pub, just a small local Tabac (not accessible) full of character with a group of four men sipping their beer under murals of mermaids! In the little shop to the side I bought half a baguette, a packet of ham and two cold beers for lunch at the empty mooring spot where there are tables and benches. We know next time.. try to get here early and avoid holidays like Bastille Day! Just as we were leaving several boats rounded the bend and headed for the mooring .. by end of day it will most likely be full.

 

Overnight I heard the very spooky screeching noise again .. we discovered through my binoculars it was a black goat (with horns) scrambling around on the cliff side across the water. In the morning we quietly made our way down river to Revin.

 

Pont d'Anchamps.jpg

Coming into Revin.jpg

Another glorious day .. and not too hot. Coming under Pont d'Anchamps

Coming into Revin – quite tricky with shallow water around us, rare to see port and starboard markers.

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The very picturesque Revin Port de Plaisance .. you just have to make sure you can get a place.

This Tourist Office building is a great example of the Spanish era in this part of the country. We didn’t stage the donkey to be there.. it was a very nice coincidence. We don’t know anything about its boss.

Capitainerie at Revin.jpg

Endellion at Revin.jpg

Endellion at Revin 2.jpg

This is the Capitainerie, ie, the Harbour Masters office.

One of the most cared for ‘marinas’ we have come across.

Endellion is very happy here .. and so are we!

 

An easy run into Revin, only 9km and two locks, despite the steering problem. We arrived soon after 9.00am (same time as I cycled in yesterday when I found lots of spaces and one perfect place for us).. however, despite several boats leaving as we arrived, there was no space. We could see every spot taken as we trawled past at almost 0 knots, everyone looking at us and seeming to exchange words. Perhaps, as I thought, they were saying to each other, “we’re going so can make room”. This is what I suggested to Stewart. Sure enough, by the time we turned, a very nice man in excellent English said “I’m leaving” and advised us that we were in water that was probably less than .8 of a meter and that closer to the bank was even worse.. just as we were hovering in that area. All OK however, and Stewart brought Endellion in beautifully between the two boats where our friend was inching out and away. The man in the boat at the end was fishing and I apologised for disturbing him, his line out, just as Endellion started to run over his line! I suggested he help us in with the stern end which was going to VERY close to his stern end! Our helpful departed boat said that he was just over 13 metres and fitted, but we are 17! Our new neighbour (Raymond and his wife Christina) helped bring us in and we fitted exactly. However, when we got our ramps out we realised (as I’d regrettably said to Stewart) this is the one part of the marina that is not really accessible.

 

Raymond rushed down to talk to the other boats about us and that we needed an accessible spot .. can they help. Next thing we knew, as we brought Endellion down to a bigger space where we could drop the ramp out, WWIII had just about broken out. A Dutchman on his cruiser, along with his wife, was all grumpy.. I innocently said Merci Bien and got a very rude response. “Vous avez un problem” I asked in my terrible French. In English he replied that we had made everyone move and be inconvenienced and he was now leaving but wasn’t happy. Well.. we didn’t know. But Raymond did say to me as he walked back “Ego ..” and other words in French which I didn’t understand. Another lovely helpful Englishman, Paul, came along and said “Bloody Dutch” within his hearing as he and his wife harrumphed away. Well that was an entertaining spell. It really hasn’t happened like this before.. a lovely Belgian (Raymond) goes maybe a bit over the top to help us unprompted, just because he is a lovely caring person, and another ‘egocentric’ rude person creates distaste in everyone’s mouth. Good riddance we all say as they roared off in their boat!

 

Now into town (actually just on the edge of the marina) to buy the electric current measuring device .. volt meter. We can now measure, as requested by Daan who fitted this steering system, the amount of current flowing from the relay system driving the pump which directs the rudder (I think). And, oddly after seeing no ‘current’ from the starboard direction it confirms perhaps there is a fault there. Then swapping over the positive and negative, we somehow now find it’s working again. What is going on? We don’t know, but the steering is now back to normal with the joystick.

 

We found Revin a little dull compared with other towns, it feels very dead but it has a great history and many interesting buildings – we will be departing tomorrow.

 

We quietly headed off down river and were not really surprised to find another tunnel just before the Revin lock, although it wasn’t mentioned or shown in our essential guide, but I had cycled around here and spotted it .. mmm (I thought at the time) there’s a tunnel here but I can’t see it in our guide.

 

Now, to keep us on our toes no doubt, the black water tank won’t pump out! It’s showing in the red, ie, full. Of course Stewart can’t use the cassette loo (not at all accessible) and with virtually no accessible public loos around it’s getting a bit desperate, so to speak. We therefore stopped before the lock into Fumay, moored behind a huge péniche, and inspected the pumping system in detail! Doesn’t help .. we can confirm it doesn’t work. There’s nothing we can do until we can find a marine plumber .. that will be at Givet.

 

Luckily we found a good mooring at Fumay (I was a bit exhausted after playing with sewage systems) with good access. Several boats we are familiar with .. our German couple and the rude man from Sedan days! We seem to bump into them frequently! This is a lovely town .. definitely worth visiting again.

 

Endellion moored at Fumay.jpg

Mooring at Fumay.jpg

A good mooring at Fumay (we’re on the left of the photo) and a lovely town.

Our ramp will connect easily from this height from stern deck to jetty.

Hotel de Ville Fumay.jpg

Les Rochettes our cafe.jpg

Capitainerie at Fume.jpg

Fumay Hotel de Ville .. wedding party.

Delightful little restaurant, and great food.

Fumay Harbourmasters Office

 

It’s only a short trip down river to our next stop at Vireux-Wallerand (around 12kms and only three locks) – an easy trip although the river is wide here and we have to be on our guard for the canal sections which we must take to leave the river bypassing the weirs.

 

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Moorings at Haybes not accessible.jpg

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This is slate mining country .. reminds me of Cornwall.

Haybes Halt Nautique, down river from Fumay, smart and new but not accessible.

Wide stretches of river, small signs point to the canal section to bypass the weir.

 

As we came in to the Port de Plaisance at Vireux-Wallerand an extremely strong wind blew up and made mooring difficult .. at the same time we could hear thumping music .. looks like a big event here tonight. Safely moored .. this is another excellent facility.

 

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Festival band.jpg

Moored at Vireux-Wallerand.. excellent facilities.

On the road to Roman ruins .. they said we couldn’t get there with the wheelchair .. but no stopping Stewart!

A big night out .. right beside our boat again.

 

We sit in the sunshine late evening and listen to the big, loud, electric band in the park next to us .. the grounds of the run-down chateau (sad to see). Two péniches are moored alongside each other on the opposite bank facing upstream (as most of us do in this windy area) .. two men in their ‘swimmers’ dive in, rub shampoo in their hair and dive again! Are they here for the concert I wonder.

 

Left Vireux early (8.45am) for such a short run, around 10kms to Givet and only three locks.. but in between the second two locks is a tunnel, half a kilometre long. Our fellow boater who came along for a chat yesterday said, “and you know about the tunnel coming up, not nice”. It was his first tunnel he added, when we said, innocently in a calm way that yes we knew about it but have done many before (well four to be precise). He has a Tjalk (the traditional Dutch barge).

 

We hoped to travel through the locks on our own as we find other boats leave little room for us and the placement of the bollards mean my ropes have to stretch too far or are very difficult to handle. My best method is one rope from the centre ring on Endellion's 'roof' to a central bollard on land.. with another boat in I have to tie off at the bow, to hold the boat from going forward, and then attach a stern rope and hold the two in the centre .. if the bollards are too far apart the ropes won’t reach once the lock drops. So, it was a bit worrying that we saw a big cruiser chase us into the first lock .. all was OK but we emphasised, as they raced off overtaking us once we were through this lock, “don’t wait for us”. He seemed relieved as we are very slow compared to these cruisers who fly around with a big wash.

 

We came through the tunnel and locks safely to see how different the world is .. this is often the case once passing tunnels or even locks. This time we enter a far more industrial looking countryside .. the beauty of the Ardennes is changing.

 

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Fortress of Charlemont above Givet.jpg

The statues above a ‘Les dames de Meuse’ at Aubrives

Canal sections bypass the river and weir.

Coming in to Givet, the citadel stretches along the river banks.

From 20th July at Givet

 

Then into Givet .. a big wind and strong current but Stewart did a great job at turning and bringing Endellion into the long side of the floating pontoon.

 

The Capitaine (Roman) was helping out .. later he did the leg work in finding a plumber for us .. somehow communicated between us in broken French and the occasional word in English.  Just before 5.00pm, when we started to worry whether we would see him, our plumber arrived, led by Roman and accompanied by his apprentice perhaps. They are all lovely people, Roman and Apprentice helping with the French translation .. all interested in solving our problem. Turns out the membrane (“mombran” or similar in French) is broken which means either a new ‘mombran’ or a new pump. How do we get one? They have no idea other than “Dinant” or “Sedan” maybe .. internet says Stewart. Our dear plumber says yes he will come and fit it when we get it and NO, there is no ‘l’addition’. I asked but he insisted no charge for the half-an-hour here, driving and finding us at such short notice and studying our manual on the pump, dismantling it to find out what the problem was. Very special.

 

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Hotel de Ville.jpg

Another delightful mooring .. we are on the left using the full length of the pontoon.

Hotel de Ville in the heart of town, across the river from our mooring.

 

A real stinker of a day, over 30 degrees. Despite this Stewart wants to get off the boat and so we do the Givet ‘Balade’ (the translation is not a ballad but an amble) with our little English translation pamphlet in hand. Translation such as “The Meuse valley is easily remarkable on  a map.”  We can’t visit the fortress of Charlemont which is vast and stands high up protecting the town .. it’s closed for tours today (when is anywhere open we ask ourselves?) and not accessible, “many, many steps”. So we start off at the Victory tower which is on the waterside on the left bank (opposite side to our mooring).. it dates from 14th century (the blue stone on the lowest part, we love that stone) and 15th century, the brick section higher up.

 

In this section of town there are many restaurants lining the river, all hot and not accessible (barely accessible with big rounded slabs of concrete curb for Stewart to negotiate). On again to the ‘Manege’ which was a huge riding school built in the 19th century also of blue stone and provided “the opportunity to discover inside the impressive wooden framework made with wood chestnut”. This building is now a cultural centre (cinema, auditorium etc.) but closed today. The ‘amble’ continued around to the centre of town which is very quaint .. the St Hilaire church (dating from 1682) has the most awful ‘stained glass’ (or plastic or something) contemporary windows but the bell tower is interesting. As the guide says:  “You will observe the bell tower... Victor Hugo described in 1838.. the architect stacked varied utensils which finally gave it this unusual form.” The guide asks “Let’s put to the test your imagination – what can you imagine when you observe the bell tower?” And invites us to the tourist information office for the answer! Photo below right.

 

Victory Tower.jpg

 

 

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St Hilaire church belltower.jpg

The ancient Victory Tower on the left bank of town.

Above are houses and below the church of Notre-Dame on the right bank of the town, the side we are moored on.

Givet bell tower.

 

That’s pretty good organisation, from knowing we need a pump to getting the exact pump, little more than 24hours! And that’s from Britain to France, via the internet of course.

Our plumber arrived this evening as promised, with skinny young ‘apprentice’ and our Argentina-heritage mate from Monday wearing an Italian soccer t-shirt which sparked a bit of cheeky exchange between him and Stewart .. in broken English/French accompanied by lots of hand and body expression! The two young chaps hovered as our plumber rolled up his sleeves and climbed into the engine hold, dismantled the old pump and installed the new one. Now the test. Yes.. all good again – another problem fixed.

 

Now we can travel on again .. heading for Dinant which is only about 25 kilometres and 4 locks but we are now going back into Belgium, the French speaking part, ie, Wallonia. I change national flags on the bow just after the first lock.

 

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