Friday, September 22, 2017

Barge Date:  09/09/2017


As seen in a pastry shop.
As Bruce has several days before his train ride back to the UK, he and I begin to walk the streets of Namur. As with most European cities, it has a good number of cafés and restaurants. As we look further, we think that Namur may be more interesting than we had believed. So many shops and interesting streets, churches, and places for refreshments. One evening we have to share our outdoor meal with a number of the city people nearby who would be classified in the US as homeless. We also see a good number of people panhandling throughout the city and we are told that they are busted in the morning and picked up in the evening, and they must collect money so they can pay someone for their upkeep. Perhaps a sad story.

Marianne has returned from Brussels to be on the boat until her departure back to America. The three of us decide to take the boat up the river to explore and so Bruce can do some training with Marianne at the front of the boat. Unfortunately, these locks on the Meuse River have the most stupid arrangement for bollards that I have seen thus far. You want to be able to place or throw a loop of rope around the bollard and be able to retrieve it when it is needed. So to make the process more difficult, these bollards have metal pins coming out opposite sides from each other. This may not interfere with getting your loop on the bollard but it sure makes it near impossible to flip your loop off the bollard when you need to. Added to this, there is a railing system immediately behind the bollards. So if you want to throw your rope around the bollard, it inevitably hits the railing and falls off the bollard to be retrieved so you can try again. As I have said, just a stupid arrangement. From this training, we have determined that we will get a lighter rope next year for attaching to lock bollards and use the existing ropes just for mooring. This should make the front end rope work easier for whoever is doing it.

We passed through three locks and see some evidence of a place to eat so we inch our way to a dock in a small town (Rouillon). We have seen a phone number and Marianne calls but they do not offer lunch. However we are given some information about a nice garden a short walk away that has a small restaurant. So we strike off up the hill and in 15 minutes we are at a lovely setting with manicured grounds with lots of fountains (the gardens of Annevoie) and the small restaurant we were told about.

There is not enough time to tour the gardens as we must get the boat back through the three locks before they are closed for the evening. But I am thinking this might be a good trip for when the kids are here for the wedding.

The return trip back to Namur is uneventful but of course the front deck crew must deal with the stupid bollards.

The following day, Bruce must depart by train and we thank him again for helping us out. We met some interesting people and I learned a good deal from him. We hope he finds the barge of his dream.

Now it is time for Marianne and me to discover Namur. One of the first stops is a museum dedicated to Felicien Rops. Rops was an illustrator in the 18th century and somewhat of a trouble maker. He produced some pamphlets and papers with his writing and art work but soon settled in to illustrating books for other authors. It is these pictures that we see in the small museum. Link:

Marianne hears about a super large garage sale (the largest "brocante" in Belgium). Actually, it is an event that has been going on for many years and while you will see some Barbie dolls being sold, the great number of vendors are antique sellers. This event takes place in a town outside of Namur (Temploux, 8 kilometers away). We must take a bus to this location and when we arrive, the crowd is already quite large. The sales take place on the village streets which are now closed to all traffic and they extend into the countryside. Literally, there is just too much to see in one day. From soup to nuts you can find almost anything. Of course, being on a boat means that we do not want for much. But Marianne has found two small oriental rugs and a few other items. This is a two-day event and draws people from Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, and Holland, both buyers and sellers.

You can't be in Namur without climbing to the citadel. This fortress sits high on a rock bluff at the intersection of the Sambre and the Meuse rivers. While there are roads that you could take to the top, we must take the steps and path that lead to the fortress. There are many fine views of the area that can be had from this vantage point. 

By walking the streets of the town, you see things that you might not ordinarily seek to find. One is the sculpture of Bayard, the horse of Renaud de Montauban and his three brothers (the four sons of Duke Aymon). Bayard is a mythological horse and plays a role in literature of the Middle Ages. It is said that Bayard was given to Charlemagne and hence the link to Marianne’s family tree.

If it is Thursday, then you must be in Brussels. We go back for two things. First, my residence permit is now ready for me. This is great. I only have five more weeks in the country to use it. But we visit the City Hall once again to collect the document. Several weeks later, I will receive a letter from the mayor inviting me to a small soiree so I can get to know my new town.

No, that is not a beard.

I was expecting to return to the boat the next morning but I am talked into staying so that Marianne and I and the Brussels family can visit more museums in town. We travel to a museum dedicated to war paraphernalia and equipment. We had a nice lunch downtown and headed back to the in-laws home. They have just recently installed a modular chicken coop in their backyard and we are able to visit with the three hens that are now in residence. For our last meal, we are taken to a very nice Chinese restaurant where I have duck and enjoy it very much.

In the 2 books by the previous owner of our boat, Hart Massey, he talks about trying to get a good duck meal in France and never gets it until he eats at a Chinese restaurant.  The chef tells him that the French want a large duck, which is not good. The key is a younger duck. Bon appétit.

In the morning we go to the airport to launch Marianne on her return. Because of a strike of the baggage handlers there is some question about when Marianne will depart and when her bags might arrive in the US. Luck was with her and the flight was only slightly delayed (Note from Marianne: I would not call sitting in the plane on the tarmac for over three hours — after delayed boarding — and losing my connection "slightly delayed") and her bags traveled with her.

I am escorted by my brother-in-law to the basement to catch a train back to Namur. Again, thanks to our Belgian family for all the help provided this summer.

I am back on the boat and alone; there will be some time before the next crew joins me so I try to stay busy and this is not difficult given that I am on a boat. I have been dealing with a pump problem and have ordered a part that may solve the problem. I also must begin the cleanup of the oil spill made during the last oil change. I also get to do some electrical work as I have shorted out the pump and need to find how to reset it. For this, I re-read remarks made by Hart Massey when he sold the boat. He identifies which fuse or breaker controls which part of the boat. To make it easy for the next time something blows, I print out labels for all the fuses and breakers.

I have found a nice restaurant close by, run by a Croatian Albanian man. He speaks very good English and runs a very nice place. He usually begins the meal by offering something unexpected. Once it was a corn chowder. Once a new drink he was trying to create, another time fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. I return several times. It is the Le Ponti 2 Restaurant run by Gazmend.

Laundry is always on the list of something to do and even though we have a small washing machine on board, it's nice to go to a laundry to get the job done. They have instructions in English as I suspect they have a good following from the marina. Guests are coming so clean laundry is a must. Wedding bells begin.

Coming up, I will soon have family guests on board again. My Brussels niece is to be married this coming weekend and my two older children will arrive for the wedding with their significant other. So the boat must look shipshape and ready to go. I spend a good amount of time polishing and cleaning.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to chat with Lisette, I can't recall her having any complaints about the Meuse locks and their bollards - and we went all the way up to, and back from, Givet.