Bonjour, we are back in France after an interesting and generally enjoyable trip through southern Belgium. The last time I wrote we were in Seneffe and planning our trip down the historical century old but recently renovated four boat lifts on the Canal du Centre.
Seneffe is a great marina with a lovely English Capitain and a small book swap bookcase! We replenished our library, making us very happy readers after having to re-read old books from last year.
So onto the UNESCO world heritage historical boat lifts and what fun we had. The trip takes a few hours with staff operating them just for us as no other boats were around. There are two tanks or caissons which counterbalance each other, one going up and the other down. Between each lift there is a pretty canal to cruise down, very green with lifting bridges the following staff operated for us. After lift number three we stopped for lunch, attaching ourselves to an old commercial barge for an hour then onto the last lift, a total of 66.2 meters. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun.
Finishing about 3pm we moored at Thieu boat harbour. The next day we biked up to the new boat lift, Strépy-Thieu, built to replace the historic four and it’s very busy with commercial boating and massive! It climbs 73m in one go, that’s over 20 stories! We spent an interesting hour in the newly opened visitors centre, learning how the lifts work and the massive job building them. We also bought 200litres of fuel off a tanker delivering fuel to the marina, at service station prices. Very handy.
The next day we decided to try out the Strépy-Thieu lift for ourselves. There is one on each side, operating independently of each other but only one was in operation while we were there. We lined up behind a few very large commercial barges and waited for a green light. We duly headed into the pound behind a commercial and tied up. A staff member came to take our papers and once we were at the top she brought them back with our official permis de circulation. This was the only time we needed it although we had heard we would be asked for them
Once up to the top we cruised out, along the aqueduct then turned around and lined up for the trip back down. Great fun and so interesting. A couple of commercials even waved us on in front of them which was so nice!
After all that excitement we carried on along the canal through two deep locks (with useful floating bollards) and arrived in Mons, finding a mooring by the boat ramp. We stayed for a few days, biking into town unfortunately on a Monday when pretty much everything is closed but did enjoy a coffee in the Place and the bike ride was fun, if very hot, the temperature rising to 37°. During the next week or so this rose to 43°. Very uncomfortable in a steel boat without aircon!
After Mons we headed off early one morning through commercial locks and in incredible heat to find a lovely mooring in Péronnes, on the edge of the Grand Large lake area. Lots of yachts and windsurfers to watch and we enjoyed the breeze. The yacht club has a restaurant so we tried the moule frites (mussels and fries) and meat plate plus the drink of the day, sangria
Finally it was time to head back into France and our winter mooring of Valenciennes near the border. We have booked for a year and figure we’ll do another trip before we go home but come back here. The marina is new, has security with locked gates and a Capitainerie to keep an eye on things. The city has been rebuilt after the world wars and a lot of the buildings are red brick, not something we’ve seen before. There is a tram line near the port and also a TGV train station only a 10 minute walk away. Very handy.
Next week we’ve booked a rental car for a week and plan on visiting Le Quesnoy, a 17th century fortified town which was liberated from four years of German occupation by 14,400 New Zealand soldiers without loss of civilians but at a cost of 142 NZers. It seems to be a place for Kiwis to visit. Also on our travels we’ll be heading north back into Belgium and the city of Brugge for a couple of days. I’ve never been so we’re looking forward to that.
Luckily the weather has cooled down into the 20s so life is a lot more pleasurable! Long may it continue as the French waterways are getting very dry!
Here are the stats since I last wrote:
Seneffe to Thieu
Engine Hours: 3.3
Locks : 0
Boat Lifts : 4 (66.2m total climb)
Lifting or swing bridges: 4
Thieu – Mons
Hours : 4.1
Kms : 17
Locks : 3
Boat lifts : 2 (Strépy-Thieu x2, a climb of 73.15m)
Mons – Peronnes Yacht Club
Hours : 4.9
Kms : 38
Lock : 1 (12.5m deep)
Peronnes (Belgium) – Valenciennes (France)
Hours : 4.7
Kms : 30
Locks : 4
Total year to date
Engine hours – 84.3
Kms – 503.7
Locks – 98
Tunnels – 3
Boat lifts – 6
Lifting Bridges – 4