Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Sunday, April 30, 2017

In Stevensweert Pt. 2

There is always an endless list of chores that “need” to get done before departure but sometimes you just have to go. Since we had paid for the slip in the Stevensweert marina until May 1, that was going to be the date.
Over the winter a local boat mechanic had taken care of the leaky steering gremlin and checked out the gearbox and generator to make sure they were operating properly. We settled up a very reasonable bill from Jac Mofers. After the shopping trip to France we kept pretty close to the boat gathering supplies and checking items off the list. (Memo to those who have joined us before. The shower drain is fixed!) The car was going to have to go back to the Dusseldorf airport on Friday. It’s only an hours drive there but it was going to take three trains and a bus to get back to the boat so that day would be filled.

Thursday was “Koningsdag”, or Kingsday, a holiday in Holland. In the cities there are big parties and celebrations but in the smaller villages it means most stores are closed at least part of the day and there’s usually some sort of kid-focused activity. Since we planned a Monday departure and Friday was take-back-the-car day we took advantage of the half-day the grocery stores were open to do our last stocking up. We finished just in time to catch the kids parade through Maasbracht’s shopping district. Kids on bicycles, of course. 

 Orange is the color. The ruling family is the “House of Orange.”

Friday morning at 10 we were off to Dusseldorf, arriving at the rental car office about an hour later. First was the 15 minute train ride from the airport to the central railroad station then a half hour wait for the one hour train ride to Venlo in the Netherlands. Another train took us from from Venlo to Roermond and then an hour long bus ride to Stevensweert. We were back to the boat shortly after 4 pm feeling pretty proud of ourselves for making all the connections correctly. No getting on trains heading in the wrong direction like last year!

Saturday was finally a better weather day, a little warmer, at least, and the mast was finished, flags hung and the garden planted.  

It looked like we would get off on Monday as planned.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

In Stevensweert, Pt.1

The Monday April 17 overnight flight from Houston to Paris was a little bumpier than usual although the meals didn’t end up in our laps. After a four hour layover the 50 minute Tuesday afternoon flight to Dusseldorf was also a little bumpy but it was smooth sailing through the rental car desk and on the the A road for the hour long drive across the German/Netherlands border to Stevensweert and Oldtimer.
The boat was in remarkably good shape after it’s 7 month hibernation and we were very pleased to see the new windows installed!

All of the windows in the galley now open as do three of the formerly fixed windows in the wheelhouse. Yvo and the folks at Omru Scheepsramen did a great job, even replacing the wood trim around the inside. We just needed to do a little caulking and extra  trimming to finish them off.
The solar panels had kept the batteries fully charged and we just needed to fill the water tank and prime the pump to make everything homey. 
That and turn on the boiler. Southern California it was not! The radiators and the wood stove were going to get a workout for the next several days. High temps in the lower 50’s and overnight lows near freezing meant the long sleeves, jackets and heavy duvets were going to be well used.
The grocery situation was a little dire, however, and Wednesday we made the 10 minute trip into Maasbracht to restock the larder. The road follows the Julianna Kanaal and the pear trees were in full bloom.

We timed our arrival just right as just a couple of days later the bloom was pretty much over and there was some concern that the cold snap was going to prevent the fruit from setting. Time will tell.

Leaving Stevensweert turning one way leads to Maasbracht, the other to the village of Echt. The chandleries and good boat shopping is in Maasbracht, along with the Lidl and a small grocery store. The hardware store (Gamma), the good garden supply store and another grocery are the other way in the village of Echt, which also sports a very fine church and civic offices.

Saturday was Cathy Jo’s birthday. What better way to celebrate but to drive to France (with a brief stop in a nearby Ikea) for a little shopping. When we were in Givet, the town right on the French/Belgian border last year, we visited the giant Intermarche and decided we would have to make a run south from Holland to stock up on cases of wine and other French delicacies (paté, giant bags of industrial pastries, etc) unavailable in the north. It’s only a couple of hours on the A road.
On the way we stopped in the Wallonian (the French speaking part of Belgium) village of Cupet for a delicious lunch at the Relais Saint-Antoine; specialty, trout many ways.

The birthday girl and the lunch spot

After our hunting and gathering it was back to work. The list is endless before we leave for Belgium May 1.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Getting Ready

We begin again...

We arrived in Houston from Los Angeles on Tuesday. We're spending a week with Cathy Jo's dad. Her mother passed away this past February from complications of  bypass surgery performed in September shortly after we returned from the Netherlands. There is alot of sorting and organizing to do so we're lending a hand.
On Monday Air France will whisk us off to Paris and on to Dusseldorf, Germany. From there it's only a little over an hour's drive to Oldtimer.

The pic is from Google Earth. At the bottom of the middle finger
on the right side is Oldtimer in her winter home!

Plans for this year (I know, I know. Remember last year....) have us heading into the wilds of Belgium, revisiting Ghent and Brugges along with other highlights from our 2008 trip through the country as well as some new areas, like the Dender River . We'll be reentering France near Dunkirk and then travel south to the Somme River, then head east. All of this, of course, subject to change or whim. And (cough, Debbie, cough) you can follow along on the excellent map of the Belgian canals over there-->.

Follow along virtually or, better yet, come visit!