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...

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