Friday, 26 July 2013

This is a difficult blog to write.  It is just picures and the odd placename.  If you prefer then skip it, there are few other words...

St. Laurent Blangy near Arras

Cumnor, Oxford
St Laurent Blangy

Burdock's imprint in the grass, behind where we sat reading, still there the next day:

Burdock is history, our history, so I try to write the 2 months of his story here in France 


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Douai, setting the record straight, here goes...

Belfry is not just a belfroi, it is a huge church come castle and balcony and well, here it is:

I could make a splendid dictator, sorry, il duce from that balcony.  Oh, the castly bit:

The weather, oh didn't I say.  When we set off from A to cycle the long way to here, it began to mizzle, then it began to pour, so we turned back.  It stopped.  We waited a bit, and a little mizzle but that's all.  We set offf, it rained harder.  We were wet.  We carried on, and it carried on.  So, not so good, but not too bad.  Some nice pastries, and as in most of France so far it seems one way streets are two way for bikes, cycles rule, yeah!  Well, try telling that to the drivers!
Well, after this morning expedition we had a date with a VNF (Voies National de France) person who we hoped would open up the locks so we could go to Arras.  There's a lot of stuff around that, tried after trip to Douai, very narrow canal up to Arras with huge boats making it too narrow to pass another, rushing water from wier right by lock, not opening for us, hard to turn around, call them up, go back out to get remote control, they've run out, but anyway, next morning at 10 am a man will help.  So we moored up at an strange spot in the main canal, ready to go, and called up as I didn't trust the little note left by the lock man the day before, but he said it'd be fine.  We turned off:

I realise this doesn't look that interesting, but the sign on the right says La Scarpe, the river from Arras, and that entry is already narrow.  So up we go, and Nik hangs the rope on the only and high bollard, catches it first time like an expert.  Time passes.  10.15 now,  then a white van.  Later some white trousers.  What?  Eventually a nice man comes over to explain, well said something to which we nodded like experts.  It seems they were going to repair this lock this morning.  But it doesn't matter, they'll let us thru'.

Personally I think they were right, repair it, it leaks like a sieve.  Now this is a nice sweet little lock, compared with what we're used to, but you'd be amazed how big a boat they fit into it, well, it fills it!  So now we're going upstream to Arras, a place we once stayed, in Hotel des Arcades, or something like that, very romantic memories.  Should we be doing this?  Is it just some crazy whim?  Well the locks are like we trained on, but have forgotten about, you lift this great big, heavy pole, to operate a switch at the top like a fairground test your strength pad:

I keep a right hand Marigold glove for lifting these, they're, well, not very nice down there.  But the canal is a pleasant change from the dull, flat, open or industrially littered routes we've had for much of the time:

But there is a lot of weed, and our bow thruster doesn't like it, in fact I don't think our main prop enjoys it much;  the last few locks are run locally, by Arras (VEOLIA) and they are working hard to remove the weed with a little yellow platform with attitude, or two wire conveyors to be precise, leading to:

Which means the upper reaches of the Superior Scarpe are, superior, clean, clear, wonderful!  Then we reach our destination, well sort of, more of that another time, it looks like this:

And that's where we are now, and have been for weeks, well not we, but the boat anyway;  more of that another time...

Douai itself. We were told it was not worth a visit - not true. They had the Straights (ex Dire)...

Mooring at Douai was tricky.  It had a "garage", which was only good for a few small boats like us, or with great big poles for great big barges.  Not appealing or practical.  I was thinking of giving up, but Nik had patience and we found a really nice place, well, apart from discarded beer cans & other detritus:

Yes, it was a long cycle into the centre of town, and yes, it had another Belfroi (belfry) that sounded rather like the one in Bethune, but it had a lot of good things about it.  Sadly it didn't seem to welcome boats, despite a huge canal right thru' the middle.  Too big to care I think, just had the waterway as decoration.  Don't need nasty real boats, with real people.  Well, tricky, but there is a general aversion by the Authorities, and by that I mean Residents (Riverains) to converted old commercials, generally referred to as gypsies, although from hippies to low cost housing better covers it.  They like our nice new, touristy boats, who go out for meals, wait a minute, I'm soapboxing, no, here's a picture to take the nasty taste away:

Isn't that yucky!  Imagine having to put your nice clean rope onto it, with nice clean hands, and then getting it off again and onto the next one above it, and another.  Well, it's not easy, but luckily these sort are rare.  I'm going to publish as I need to find the pictures of Douai to set the record straight.  I think they're on Nik's ipad, and she's playing with that!

Bethune mooring on to Douai

Here is a strange photo:

Yes, it's yours truly doing something that looks truly unreal and indescribable, well it should be !  This was the "water supply" at our most indifferent mooring location at Bethune, supposedly upgraded.  Heaven knows what it was like before!  The lovely town made up for it, but I was determined to get some water, using the myriad of adaptors I'd bought and brought.  There was a hose here, it seemed to contain all he sedimentary substances of a marsh at one end, and a complete ants nest at the other, plus the minor matter that it didn't even reach the bank, by several metres!  Add to that the fitment used, which was a wierd bayonet fitment in galvanised or zinc moulding, so I had to use a hose nozzle, rammed into the rubber seal, with all my might because water pressure was very high!  Nik had a go, and accidentally moved the valve pointing back towards where she was sitting, and I compounded the problem by trying to shut it off, but went the wrong way.  Nasty!  Don't try this, unless you are very, very thirsty.  Needless to say, we found a proper tap about a mile later!  Gosh, too much, a pic of the upgraded mooring for the record:

We did moor there, but the recently added 'steps' (that bank is steep, so it's an upgrade) was made of wire mesh unsuited to paws, and was very steep for anyone, let alone a Burdock!  We found someone later who'd been charged Euro 13/night for that!  Enough moaning, here's a quite big boat:
We had these and double ones, going past when we were moored on the main canal, which we had to quite a bit.  The sucked the boat about long before arriving, and buffet you long after they've gone. 
Mooring bollards were big, secure (tho's some had fallen nearly or totally into the canal under the loads applied!) and infrequent (meant for 35 metre barges) so we had to take special measures:

Our bollard was way back, and this one was being used by the next, large boat, who suggested this means to stop the bow, well, bowing out!  It worked, but most bollards were further apart.  I know ....
Next entry will be much cleaner.

Watten, no, very nice

This is how we get around now, well not really as we've hired 3 cars since arriving!  But in theory, the above was at the Watten Windmill site, and in the spirit of fairness here's me:

This was in Aire sur la Lys, where we had a really neat ride from boat to town, avoiding most roads, and just running the risk of entering various stretches of water.  This had the lovely building I mentioned this morning, now the Toursit Office:

Sorry, in the interest of speed, I'm not doing any mods to these pix, just as they went into the camera.  Aire was very nice, but oddly it had very little in the way of pavement bars, tho' the square really demanded it.
And there we are sitting at it, with a coke and a coffee I hope you note! It also had one of the narrowest churches I've seen:

It was actually used as a home for the elderly, slim elderly of course, so no room for us yet.  I'm going to call "Bank!" and try to publish, as this is being flakey again!

Hello again! It was Bethune by the way. Okay, it seems Blogspot or blogger is not working, it says "errors on page" and has taken me more time than I care to think to even get in. What a shambles!

Now I am writing in the page, at last, but I doubt this will work.  So here's a picture:

This is a picture of us moored up at Aire sur la Lyse, which is a lovely town with some fantastic old buildings, probably the most beautiful used on the ground floor by the Tourist Office - to whom I recommend a refresher in customer service!  Also the most expensive place to buy post cards.  Before that we spent two nights at Watten, which is small but has 3 baker/patisseriers and 2 butchers, and a lovely old windmill we climbed to.  I'll give you a picture of it.