– part 1 From Belgium into France
7th – 13th May 2022
We didn’t start at the bottom, or the mouth, of the Meuse; we joined at Namur, so this account does not do full justice to the river. It was a rather overcast day when we left the Sambre and found turning upstream to head South a somehow counter-intuitive experience, but at least we were heading towards the sun!
The first lock on the Meuse looked quite small, despite the width of the river, after the bigger ones we had been through on the Sambre. Probably there is not a lot of difference
We shared the first lock, at Namur, with a pretty little passenger boat, seemingly out for an afternoon of female fun!
We didn’t stop in Namur this time but carried on to Profondeville, on the way passing some of the many many grand houses that border the river.
Here is a taste of a few!
And when we were not looking at mansions and chateaux we were looking at increasingly wonderful hills, trees, and rocks – often with people, like ants, climbing up.
Once there we spent a little bit of time working out which was the official 40m mooring place. Luckily the 30 meter barge ‘Cinclus’ that was already moored there offered to budge up a bit so that we could fit on too. Ecco and Sasha from Cinclus were to become good friends as we all motored on up the river.
It’s a nice spot on the edge of the little town and we were able to use the small supermarket and excellent boulangerie to top up for a few days. Apart from the view of wooded cliffs there is not a lot to see, but I enjoyed the giant ‘coq gauloise’, the street art, and the ability to exercise while sitting down!
Despite the beautifully lit cliffs, we had something of a disturbed night with water levels going up and down by at least 18 inches because of a great deluge up-river the previous day necessitating frequent adjustment of the ropes. Even this great effort did not avoid one of the ropes ending up so taut and tight that we could not undo it and it had to be cut. That’s the first time in eight years we’ve had to do that.
Onwards the next day through Dinant, firstly past the Leffe brewery, just spotted by the towers and steeples of its Abbey, and the gaping black rectangle where the Leffe river joins the Meuse.
Then on past more tall graceful buildings and churches, and under the bridge celebrating the famous Mr Saxe, native of Dinant.
Leaving Dinant the scenery became even more dramatic, with colourful little houses crowding onto strips along the river, below the mountains.
Our destination was Waulsort where we were due to meet up with friends. As we moved slowly up river the cliffs became craggier (and the people climbing them braver); the houses more fascinating.
We had no idea what to expect at Waulsort and we therefore delighted to find the long pontoons set out from the riverbank in a glorious part of the valley.
Acquaintances were very soon re-made, especially with TinTin who ran down the pontoon to greet Stewart whenever he appeared!
By evening the Captain was taking on a saintly appearance under the setting sun – all perfect!
There began a perfect four days of working on the boat; Stewart did useful things like painting, but I am dangerous with a paintbrush so got to catch up on the washing.
Our views were this ….
……… and this ……
…… and this ……..
……. and this.
What is not to like?
There were walks in the woods (one longer than expected), trips across the (free) man-hauled ferry – and yes, I asked if I could have a go – meals shared with friends and such a good time that our four booked nights flew by.
Part way through we moved to there opposite side of the pontoon to give Stu a chance to touch up the rubbing strake on the port side – in the process of which a fender escaped and we had to take a short trip downstream to retrieve it with a boathook!
Such is the life of the sailor.
The best and most exhausting walk was when we offered to take Tin Tin (ship’s dog on Pavot) out and in trying to follow our own instincts got lost at the top of a hill which then required descending into and scrambling out of a series of ravines. All good fun, but not what we had signed up for!
The views and the flowers more than compensated for the energy expended.
The whole experience – only 8 kms, but rough up and down terrain for two pairs of 70 year old legs – led to a relaxed evening on the back deck, as far as I can remember …..
The fifth night was guaranteed by friend Sally calling the captain ‘Honey’ and inviting him to a curry on the pontoon. This has to be one of the most wonderful evenings of my life – except that poor Sally came a very painful cropper onto a bollard, badly bruising her ribs.
While there we also walked along the river, past the weir, to the next village, Hastière, for bread. The church there is rather lovely, sitting next to the water by the bridge.
Actually the 2 km walk on old legs already tired from the hill top excursion made us decide to buy ready-made sandwiches instead and sit by the weir to eat them on the way back! Well we all deserve a treat from time to time.
It was sad to be leaving our Pavot friends, especially after Sally had fallen and hurt herself on our final evening. Still, off we went, waving goodbye, and heading upstream to Givet, just across the French border.
In no time we were crossing the border – goodbye Belgium, for now. We have loved being with you for the past three years. And hello France; thanks you for being the country who would offer us a 6 month visa.
Although it is a town mooring with a quite noisy bridge nearby, it is also okay for shopping, good for boulangeries, and great for bars!
The long quay is divided into commercial and ‘pleasure boat’ use; I think we got ourselves into the right place! 😁
Many of the towns and cities along the Meuse have huge forts (citadels) perched on hills way above the river – the Meuse has been a frontier in many wars. Givet is no exception with its Fort de Charlemont, and also the ancient old watch tower, named after St Grégoire’s chapel that once was nearby. I have added the simple old church opposite the mooring too as it glowed in the setting sun.
Givet is a town of towers! The Victoire Tour is just along the quay and was originally a corner tower of the seigneurial manor that occupied the south west corner of the old fortified town. It has been utilised both as a toll house, for river traffic, and as a prison over its long life. For sone reason I did not get a good photo of this tower, but it can be partially seen from our table at the local bar.
As twilight fell the town across the water looked more and more attractive, with the full moon shining down from the sky and up from the river.
With all that history the town probably deserves a longer visit, but we wanted to get into the countryside upstream so we were off next morning, but not until a good French baguette was found for our first morning back in France .
Sorry I’m a bit bleary – must have been the wine from the night before!
Next on the agenda was Vireux-Wallerand, a complete unknown to us. All is to be revealed in the next chapter – The Magnificent Meuse part 2!