Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Namur, August 15-21

There are three places for pleasure boats to tie up in the city of Namur. Port d’Amèe is a set of pontoons just south of town, Jambes, across the river from the citadel with pontoons perpendicular to the river and the river wall across from Jambes just below the casino. On our stop in Namur in 2008 we stayed for a week in Jambes after an overnight on the wall. This year we spent two nights in Amèe (it’s closer to the grocery store) and then moved to the casino wall. Since we were here last they’ve made electricity and water available on the wall and it’s set up for bigger boats. This is a big river with the resulting big boats going by at speed so it can be a little bouncy but it wasn’t intolerable.

Because of its strategic location of the Meuse and Sambre Rivers, Namur's history goes way back, even for these parts.  It was originally settled by the Celts then by the Romans.  The Counts of Namur built a castle overlooking the confluence that was taken over by the French.  Later the Dutch moved in and razed and rebuilt the fort.  In WWI the theoretically impregnable fortress was taken in three days by the Germans and the town suffered major damage during WWII.  Now, even though it's not Wallonia's largest city, it is home to the regional government. The citadel still looms over the city.

One view of the citadel from the river.

The Meuse looking upriver to the south from the citadel. That’s the Jambes marina. The casino wall is under the trees on this side of the river and the Port d’Amèe is on the other side of that barrage that looks like a bridge on the right.

Looking north from the citadel with the Sambre joining the Meuse from the lower left. 

We paid a couple of euros for the city tour provided by the tourist office and learned a couple fast facts. Not very many people live in the center city because in the old days property was taxed by the amount of street frontage, resulting in very tall, narrow buildings. Now, since most of the street fronts are retail, nobody can live above them because there’s no room for stairs to reach the upper floors. We also saw another great example of adaptive reuse. These old cities have an abundance of churches but not enough people (or money) to support them. One had been turned into a very fancy men’s clothing store. The store was built free-standing inside the church, leaving the old altars, paintings and statuary intact. A stipulation of the sale was that the store had to allow visitors to the old church.

Looking up at the citadel from the river. Notice that sculpture there in the center?

“Searching for Utopia,” a giant bronze sculpture by Jan Fabre (that’s him on the turtle’s back) was supposed to be just a one year deal but when the time came to take it down a public subscription raised the funds to keep it and a new place is being prepared for it’s permanent exhibit.

After 5 days we felt it was time to move on further north. We’ve driven (by car) up and down this river it seems like a hundred times traveling between France and Holland, taking the ring road around Liege, Belgium. We’ve also never talked to anyone who had spent any time in the city. They have a Port de Yachts marked on the chart so on Sunday morning we headed out for the two day trip down the river.

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