Thursday, 20 October 2016

One Minute it’s home – the next it’s Brussels!


We had a very busy few days while we’ve been at home but an important, and long standing engagement, was to meet up with friends Kim and Alan at their home in the next village along the coast. Doug, Kim and Alan are very well matched but …..


…… James is not! For him it’s rather like being in Lilliput! Thank you Kim and Alan for a wonderful lunch and great company.


Another event, which sadly we usually miss these days, is the annual Selsey Firework display. A charity event, it’s very typical of the sort of thing which takes place in the village. Organised with an enormous amount of effort and pride by many local volunteers we had a huge bonfire, a fun fair and fireworks set to music. The fireworks were put on by our very own award winning firework company.



This year’s music genre was ‘Disco Beat’ and, with great music,  we had a fabulous display. The evening continued for us when we went to see a show at the nearby holiday camp where a friend was performing. However, unbeknown to us, the evening’s entertainment included Jimmy James and the Vagabonds! - in our village no less!


On Sunday (16th Oct) we headed to London by train. An overnight stay allowed us to catch up with a few friends during Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning, bright and early, we headed for King’s Cross (and the reason for our journey) to meet up with friends Andrew and Frances. We were taking up their delightful and generous invitation to join them for a trip to Brussels. Firstly, aboard their splendiferous ‘camper’ (known as the “Death Star” for it’s daunting 4x4 presence!) for the journey to the Cross Channel freight terminal to board the train.


It was Doug’s first trip through the Channel Tunnel and it was quite an exciting ride being cocooned inside the huge carriages for the very smooth, high speed, 35 minute journey to Calais.


A very comfortable, two hour ride, in the “Death Star” - through northern France and into Belgium, saw us arriving at the Brussels Royal Yacht Club where Frances and Andrew’s continental “home” – the motor yacht “Hafren” has it’s mooring.


After and enjoyable (short) day’s travel, and settling into our temporary lodgings for the next few days, we all enjoyed a few stiff G&T’s followed by cheese and wine in the wheel house (or Grand Salon as we think it should be called!) before retiring for an early’ish night.


On Tuesday morning we set off down the Zeekanaal Brussel – Schelde, through one amazing bridge after another – all dutifully, and politely, raised for us by the operators.   


Continental canals are busy waterways, with some very large and swiftly moving cargo vessels. It’s best to move aside and let them on their way unhindered!


Along the way, waiting for the enormous Sluis Zemst lock to become available for us, we saw the unusual sight of some fishermen with a stork next to them, waiting patiently for some fish to be caught - a proportion of which, it hoped, might well be thrown his way!


The elegant 3 foot high bird eyed us suspiciously as we walked past on our way to view the lock before we entered by boat.


The lock was gigantic and, being last in the queue (who’s going to argue with vessels some tens of times larger than ourselves!), we followed up behind.


The full lock looks like this, and after an 8 metre drop ……..


……… it looks like this! - and you have to be careful of the prop-wash from these big boys as it can push a small boat around like a cork.


After all the big boys had gone on their way it was our turn to vacate the cavernous space of the lock.


The canals are wide and often lined with rows of very interesting and pretty houses.


On a number of occasions we felt it prudent to move aside and not to argue!


At Sluis Klien Willebroek, at the end of the Oude Kanalarm (not difficult to translate!), we had to wait for the lock (and the tide) before we could get onto the River Rupel.


Here’s motor yacht “Hafren” tied up at SKW and waiting for the tide.


At the appointed time we were allowed to enter the much smaller lock ………


……which, when the gate slid open, allowed us out onto the River Rupel.


The river was a very different, and wider, experience than the canal. Half an hour’s travel along the River Rupel, with the tide in our favour, is a turning onto the River Dyle ……..


….. which took us, after another half hour hop, almost at our destination. The massive tower of Mechelen. The Cathedral stood proudly aloft and pinpointed our final resting place for the night.


Another lock (the Benedensluis Mechelen), again very different from the rest, took us from the river and back onto the canal.


Frances takes charge of tasks at the bow as we moor up for the slight rise in water level in the Benendensluis ……..


….. before being released into the delightful ambience of the tiny city of Mechelen.


The yacht haven was full of the most delicious craft (very posh!) and we ventured to the far (dead) end for a quick, and skilful, about turn by Andrew …….


…. before heading back to a vacant mooring.


To our astonishment our jetty space was scrubbed and cleaned by the “harbourmaster” before we tied up!


A walk around the charming little city of Mechelen was real delight.


The enormous tower of the equally enormous cathedral dominates the buildings around ………


……….. and the city is very reminiscent of Bruges without doubt



Stunning architecture …….


…… wherever we looked!


After a walk down the side of the town hall we found a very nice hostelry where we could enjoy some tradition Belgian beer and good food.


And here we are – comfortable in the “t’ Groot Liecht” (the Bright Spark?) where we were made extremely welcome by the landlord.


His sense of humour was obvious when we visited the toilet if not before!


Later in the evening and returning to the boat, darkness had fallen and the city took on a whole different, and extremely enchanting, atmosphere.


What a perfect delight it all was and what a perfect end to a perfect day.

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