Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Criss-Crossing into Belgium

Much as we loved St Vernant, it was time to move on into Belgium. I've always been a fan on Belgium, but Stephen was viewing it as "a place to go through on the way the The Netherlands, with good beer".

True, but it's much more than that, beautiful scenery, great waterways, lovely chips. And good beer.

The route was mainly being used by commercial boats (called peniche) and we spotted one called "Emma"!

A peniche called Emma, carrying scrap metal

The border between France and Belgium follows the River Leis for quite a long time, but it actually follows the route of the old river, which has been canalised (straightened, widened and dredged), so you now end up criss-crossing the border several times before you get into Belgium "proper".

Our first stop in Belgium rather proves this point, as the marina was actually in Halluin, France. Walk across the bridge and you are in Belgium. Emma loved it there, mainly because the marina had a playground.

Due to high winds we stayed in Menen/Halluin for a couple of nights, visited the town and were able to get the washing done (such is the glamour of our new life - one of the first questions in any new town is always "I wonder if there is a launderette?").

We'd both been practicing our French as much as possible, but Menen, despite being on the French border, is in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium, which really threw me and rather fried my brain.

There was a free music festival on in town which we had thought about going to, but Stephen heard some of the bands from the laundrette and decided there was a good reason neither of us had heard of any great Flemish pop/rock acts. Plus it was raining. Again.

Once the winds had dropped, it was on to Kortrijk where we were able to moor right in the city centre for only E8 per night!

The weather was good, so we hopped of the boat and headed into town.

Kortrijk is really beautiful, but the people are all so glamorous I felt woefully under-dressed, in my standard boat-clothes of jeans and a tee-shirt. Despite the cobbles all the women seemed to be wearing high heels (and staying upright) and everyone had beautifully coiffured hair. I felt a total scruff!

It did, however, have three free bouncy castles in the city centre, so Emma was happy.

It also has a very impressive belfry in the town square

And there was an international food market taking place, we were particularly drawn to the Italian sweet stand, below.

Emma also sampled a nutella-filled pancake. She loved it, even though she ended up wearing most of it!

Once back on the boat we meet our new neighbours, Barrie and Ruth Morse. As with everyone we've met on this trip, they were delightful and an absolute mine of information about boating in The Netherlands; I just hope I can remember everything they told us!

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