Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Douai, July 2-5

“Turn left off the river under the bridge, follow the water to your right past the marina, under another bridge and into the trees. Don’t worry. Keep going and the channel will open up into halte nautic.”

Two different people had given us nearly identical direction to the halte in Douai (DOO way) so we pushed our way through the trees and voila!, there was the tie up. Luckily the channel is about 18 meters wide so we were able to turn around and didn’t have to back out. There was water and power available with a special key (which we didn’t have. Thanks, VNF!) but we really didn’t need services anyway; we were only planning to spend a couple of days.
The halte is actually on the Scarpe River section called the Scarpe Moyenne (middle Scarpe) that runs through town but is blocked by low bridges on each end. The main canal runs along the western side of town. One disadvantage is that the tie up is about a 20 minute walk from the center of town and surrounded by apartments. Not the parklike setting we would prefer.

Douai traces it’s roots back to a settlement in the 7th century and like many towns in the area, received a charter from the Count of Flanders. Early prosperity was from the cloth trade and as the administrative capital of the region. After World War 2, Douai became a center of coal mining but with the closure of the mine, hard times hit. The town is now slowly making a recovery with alot of government help.

Since it was the first Sunday of the month, we hustled over the the Chartreuse Museum, housed in the old Charterhouse, free entry that day, and wandered about their very nice collection of 17th and 18th century Flemish, Dutch and Italian paintings. Unfortunately the recently restored chapel with it’s sculpture exhibit is undergoing some work and wasn’t open.

As with all towns in this area, the most prominent landmark is the belfry, built around 1400, in this case topped by a 62 bell carillon that is a marvelous musical instrument. One evening while we were in town we were treated to a carillon/piano concert in the square in from of the town hall. It sounded great!

There are guided tours up into the belfry. 
We had one all to ourselves and the guide spoke passable English. 
Unfortunately, the views from the top are out window slits so no pictures.

The concert took place just as the sun was going down, glinting off the 54 brass “d” flags of Douai.

Also on our visit list was Saint Peter’s Collegiate Church, the largest church in Douai. The main tower was built in the 1500’s although most of the main church was rebuilt in the early 1700’s.

Along with some really monumental artwork, it features a beautiful organ case from the 18th century, originally carved for the Anchin Abbey.

One advantage of the halte in Douai is that it’s a five minute bike ride from one of those giant grocery stores that are scattered about France. We were able to find several items we’ve been pining for, like the dark chocolate pot du crème that makes a dinner complete.

Wednesday morning we headed back out through the trees onto the main canal. After two big river locks we’d be entering the 23 km long Scarpe Supèrieure (Upper Scarpe) headed for Arras.

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