Wild mooring

Yesterday we upped and left Ypres and headed for Diksmuide. We moored midway overnight where I spotted this beautiful cottage.

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We managed to find a grassy area where we could walk the dogs without upsetting anyone although they did have a quick scamoer through a corn field. I love the way they jump and bounce so thet can see where they’re heading.

So today we reached Diksmuide. The harbour master looked surprised as we chugged past the official (and costly) town moorings … we snuck around the corner and wild moored against the river bank.  Shh don’t tell anyone!  As Belgium has very steep river banks you do need to be a bit cunning.  We borrowed Graham and Jill’s scythe to chop out a path and fix a climbing rope on the road barrier to aid a smooth climb.

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The dogs seem to cope with the challenge with ease.

We all popped into the town to buy some bread and sample the beer (fast becoming a regular habit)

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and we made friends with a local lady

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Kevin got very friendly as you can see!

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In Flanders Field Museum and a spot of retail therapy

As most of the shops in Ypres don’t open on Mondays until 2pm we decided to visit the Flanders Museum which proved to be extremely informative and interesting.  I thoroughly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area.

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Now, my Facebook friends will have heard the story about me stupidly donating my nearly new Tommy Hilfiger white jeans to the British Heart Foundation (in error). I had previously spotted the Tommy logo outside a shop so my mission for the rest of the afternoon was to replace them. After 2pm I found the shop was open and hooray my jeans were there … but not in my size. I managed to get the sales assistant to understand me and she went away and reappeared with my precious jeans! Me being me I wasn’t satisfied with this so bought them in a beautiful bright coral too. Well, I haven’t been shopping for a while!

While in Belgium I felt it necessary to buy some chocolate … as presents you understand. I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered the very same chocolates that a friend used to bring me back on his yearly visit with the school we both worked for.  These chocolates are the most delicious I have ever tasted and I bought, ahem, 4 boxes. Okay one box was for me, and it was only a small box.

While in town Kevin managed to find a locksmith who removed the now defunked lock from the electric bike and replaced it. The key is now firmly attached to its float in case it heads water wards again.

A quick beer and croque madam later and we headed back to the boat, making a small detour to go to Kevin and Graham’s favourite shop, Delva, for some DIY essentials.  A very successful outing all in all but my feet are now a bit sore!

Tomorrow we are heading towards Diksmuide for a few days.

Remembering

We visited the Menin Gate last night to listen to the last post. This happens every day at 8pm.  I was amazed at how many people were there. I would say at least 2000.  It was a beautiful thing to witness though sadly we couldn’t get near enough to see the band.

Afterwards several pieces were played including a rendition of Danny Boy which gave me goose bumps.

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It rained until near the end when the sun began to shine and a rainbow appeared. This added to the emotion of the event.

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We ended the evening with a few beers at a local cafe (and a cheeky crepe).

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Today we went back to look at the wreathes that are laid everywhere.

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Then we went back to the boat to prepare the Sunday roast which we shared with Graham and Jill who supplied a superb dessert and then left me with the washing up.

At about 6.30pm we noticed that the canoeists had finished their fun and games so we returned to our wild mooring spot to enjoy the evening.

Oh I nearly forgot … here’s the pic of the turtle/terrapin from yesterday

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Wildlife and stuff

A busy couple of days. We pulled pins and headed off to Ypres yesterday going through two very deep locks. Thankfully all locks are attended and operated by a lock keeper which means I don’t need to leave the boat and stand shivering operating the gates myself. The water rushing through was loud enough to stop my brain thinking and I was a little concerned at first but all was fine.  By the second lock it seems our lock keeper had taken a liking to us and gave Jill and I a posy of lilac each . Not usual to British lock keepers I can assure you!

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An unusual site was a small turtle or large terrapin sitting on a log in the water, there is a photo but it will follow later. I also thought I saw a Platypus but we won’t talk about that (I think I got a bit carried away).

We moored just outside the expensive marina and went into Ypres to explore (and buy me some shorts as I wasn’t expecting such warm weather!).  The dogs came too and were much admired, especially by a group of schoolchildren who were walking by.

Sadly we were forced into the mariner because it turned out we had moored in the local canoe polo goal area so had to move for tomorrow’s match.  How were we to know! 

We went shopping to re-stock our supplies which involved a bit of a trek with trollies and rucksacks and I  returned resembling a homeless woman carrying her worldly goods about with her! All good fun even in the rain.

Kevin managed to drop the keys to the electric bike into the water on our return. Graham attempted to find them with his super-strong magnet-on-a-string.  Sadly no luck but good on you Graham for trying plus it was still raining.

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Kevin will have to pedal in future.  The exercise will do him good.

Tonight we are visiting the Menin Gate to watch the Last Post. Hopefully there will be photos tomorrow. 

The stowaway

As you know, the only residents of Avalon are me, Kevin, Teddy and Herbie.  Well that’s what I thought until I spotted this little chap who is still with us after about a year.

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This spider has been staying (rent free I might add) in the bathroom for so long I don’t even notice him now.

I have no idea what he lives on although he is close to the window so maybe things fly in occasionally. 

As you’ve probably guessed today has been a bit slow,  taken up mainly with crew duties (cleaning) feeding the Captain and exercising the younger crew (dogs).  No more cattle rustling I’m pleased to say.  There’s been a bit of rain just to remind us that we’re not that far from England.

Herbie and I did managed to sneak in a quick snooze after all the hard work …

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That’s about it … moving on tomorrow to Ypres which should be a bit more interesting. 

New experiences

The day started with a very pleasant stroll along the waterside with Jill and Mutley. Herbie and Mutley are great pals and soon indulged in a good game of ‘bitey face’ before trotting off with Teddy to investigate the bushes.

Teddy has seen most things many times before and doesn’t bat an eyelid at most other creatures.  Herbie has only really seen other animals on TV which he believes is a window into the next room, going back and forth to catch them.  Today he met sheep and lambs who looked as curious as he was. I’m glad Kevin was holding his lead because he wanted to go and investigate! 

We finished the walk with no incidents and went back to the boat where we decided to move off and head towards Ypres.  Its been such a beautiful sunny and warm day and we all decided to wild moor half way, ending up alongside a cycle path with fields surrounding.

Thankfully Graham of Matilda Rose had a scythe which proved invaluable for hacking away the overgrowth of the riverbank and we made a rough pathway through to the cycle path to walk the dogs.

Now you’d think a barbed wire fence would deter a dog wouldn’t you? Not when there’s cows in the field it would seem.  In the blink of an eye Herbie disappeared and was spotted at the far end of the field chasing a herd of cows at break neck speed!  In England he is scared of cows but here he wants to play with them!  Thankfully Kevin used his very stern and serious voice and Herbie came back pdq.  

Both dogs are now snoozing soundly.  My nerves may never recover …

An English tradition

I nearly forgot to say, Graham and Jill very kindly invited us to Jon them on board Matilda Rose for Sunday lunch, the only proviso being we had to provide dessert.  Not a problem, I thought, I can pick up a cheesecake or something from the local Spar.  Ha! Nothing resembling a dessert could be found.  Kevin suggested I make a fruit salad which I agreed sounded like a good idea.  The Spar fortunately had an amazing green grocer section and I managed to find some cream so all was well.  

The roast pork (with all the trimmings) was delicious as was the fruit salad. A great success all round.  I only hope we can achieve the same standards when returning the favour this Sunday!

 

Continue reading “An English tradition”

Learning from the locals

We quickly moved on to Veurne which is a delightful little town with a pretty town square containing lots of bars and restaurants. We managed to moor quite close so we could walk everywhere.

As pretty as it all appeared there is very little grass so Teddy and Herbie were a bit miffed to say the least.  Plus we discovered that dogs are not allowed off lead anywhere.  Now, Teddy has a bit of a problem here … he just cannot ‘do his business’ on the lead so I resorted to looking around to make sure no one was looking before unclipping his lead briefly,  while poor Teddy quickly saw to his needs! How very undignified for a boy of his age ha ha!

As you can imagine, you make a fair amount of rubbish while living aboard and over the past few days we had accumulated two bags. Now where to get rid of them?  On the advice of Jill from Matilda Rose I decanted the rubbish into little bags then set off for a wander disposing of them in the local bins surreptitiously on my way.  Well, if Jill hadn’t got their first with her rubbish! A bit like Benny Hill in the Italian Job!  A bit of a pain but needs must.  I have since learned that you simply hand your rubbish over to the lock keeper as you pass through any lock. How dignified and convenient! 

A lady I spoke to in the past (who has boated through Belgium and France) told me that water filling points were few and far between which did worry me, but I learned something else – lock keepers are obliged to provide water if requested. Who knew?! So that’s one ‘worry’ not to do.

We stayed at Veurne for several days, sorting out shopping and internet deals etc before finally moving on this morning to Fintele. Here we are moored outside a restaurant (how handy) with plenty of grass … can you hear Teddy and Herbie cheering?! 

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The bridges lift for you to pass under.  Its all very civilised so far.

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Our mooring in Veurne

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Its very relaxing you know!

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A passing windmill

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Teddy meeting one of the locals

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And Herbie too

Starting the adventure

14th April 2014 and its all systems go.  Everything (and I mean everything) is packed into the motorhome.  Oh wait, I might need this … or this … shall I pack this or not?  For me, this is always the worst part of any journey.  Finally stopped packing and bundled our two dogs, Teddy (11 years old) and Herbie (14 months) into the motorhome and husband driving and we are off to Dover!

We took the ferry across to Dunkirk then, after a quick wee break for the dogs, headed on to Nieuwpoort where we spent the night in the marina parked next to our friends narrow boat, Matilda Rose, which had arrived earlier.

When Avalon finally arrived the next morning we were in a state of anticipation and full of butterflies.  Then she appeared and our adventure properly began.  Having missed the moving of Matilda Rose into the water I had no idea what to expect so when Avalon appeared dangling and moving along the road, I had my heart in my mouth.  Husband on board, she was gracefully lowered safely into the water and I could breath again.

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Belgium – we have arrived!