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Back in Belgium

We already missing France but it's nice to be back in Belgium; the French speaking part. Wallonia is delightful and we have cruised here before.  A chance to get up to date with Esme's exterior paintwork is too good to miss, ideal conditions and location plus a great weather forecast.  We both get stuck in and at times it is very dirty and unpleasant.  The result, however, is very satisfying indeed.  Later in the week we were joined by our Dutch friends Michel and Rebecca on their barge 't Majeur.  We all had a few jobs to do and had planned a couple of weeks cruising together up the Blaton Ath Canal and the River Dender.  This route would take Esme back to Brugge and 't Majeur back to Holland.  But the summer wasn't over yet - two weeks of glorious hot dry weather, a real bonus at this time of year.  After all that hard work painting we rewarded ourselves with a day out on the bikes and a picnic to explore the French side of the Canal Pommeroeul a Conde.  Well, it was pretty obvious why the canal is closed........at the French border the wide canal suddenly disappears into marsh and barely a trickle of water. Even the towpath becomes almost impassible.  Anyway, we nipped back into France just to say we had been there.  On the way Chris got a puncture but he and Michel soon put that right and we had a nice picnic with ice cold cider.


Painting at Pommeroeul and more painting

Painting at Pommeroeul                         and more painting


Fixing a puncture where did the canal go?

Fixing a puncture                              So where did that canal go?  


Into France - the border with t'Majeure

The Belgian French border                       Moored with 't Majeur

The Blaton Ath Canal and the River Dender

This route bisects Belgium north/south and eventually joins the River Schelde at Dendermonde. It crosses the heart of Belgium, lovely wild agricultural areas, pretty towns and villages. The waterway has in recent years been impossible for ships like ours to navigate due to siltation. However, last year's dredging operations and the promotion of the canal as a tourist attraction made it a chance not to miss.  A friendly mobile team takes you through the manually operated locks and lift bridges, providing a great personal service, all for no charge!  Our appreciation and a cold beer at the end of the day made it a happy arrangement for all.  In some places the canal is very narrow but the depth is now fine. The village of Ladeuze was a delight, a super new mooring with water and electricity, a great deli / farm shop and an amazing pub "Chez Gina" where we met the friendly locals and the beer was cheaper than water.  The town of Ath was a nice surprise.  In August the local tradition is to process the streets with giants (folklore characters). Men climb under the skirts to propel them along, twirling and dancing as they go. It is hot, thirsty work under there and they need to take turns. This pageant is celebrated in towns all along this stretch of canal. Our weekend in Ath coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the society of the giants.  When cars and trailers arrived and unloaded enormous basket like packages, we soon realised there was to be a procession.  We followed them to the Grand Place and enjoyed drinks in one of the pavement cafes while taking in the atmosphere and fun.


Into the Blaton Ath canal Blaton lock 1

Into the Blaton Ath canal                      Blaton lock 1


Lunch in a lock while the team mange Ladenze - super mooring

Lunch-in-a-lock while the team take a break    Ladeuze - a super new mooring, water and power


Welcome to Ath Can you guess what it is?

Welcome to Ath                                 Can you guess what it is?


The first giant being dressedFolklore characters being lined up

The first giant being dressed      and Chris thought he was tall


And a couple more and Chris thought he was tall

And a couple more folklore characters........  being lined up for the big procession


Great band Round the Grand Place

Great band                                     Round the Grand Place


Our trusty team opening Ath lock New hats for Rebecca and Michel

Our trusty team opening Ath lock               New hats for Rebecca and Michel

The last leg back to Brugge

In the last week of September we arrived at Geraardsbergen.   Here we met up with our New Zealand cousin Margie who had flown in to Brussels to join us for a week's cruising before accompanying us back to England.  Luckily the weather was kind and we had a lovely week with plenty of variety, not just the gentle River Dender but also the big River Schelde back to Merelbeke, Gent and eventually Brugge. Now Margie knows what barging is all about and hopes to join us again next year to cruise in France.  Now Esme is settled in her winter berth at the Coupure Harbour, Brugge and it is nice to be "home".  Lots planned for the winter and the time will fly by. More news in the spring.


Rainbow at Geraardsbergen Lovely river Dender

Rainbow at Geraardsbergen                      Lovely river Dender


Entering Gent Gent on a sunny Sunday

Entering Gent                                  Gent on a sunny Sunday


Sharing a private joke Back home

Sharing a private joke                         Back home

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