Friday, June 02, 2006


Last Thursday we left Cambrai via Aachen, Germany thinking that the stores would be open. It was Ascension Day, and in France, everything was closed. There is an Apple Computer Center there, and I needed take my computer to have something done to it. Well, all the stores were closed as well, so we decided to relax and have a hearty German lunch. It was great, as usual, and after eating, we decided to walk around for a while. It was cold and rainy, but this is such a charming city that it did not matter. There was a festival of Aachen sister cities behind the Cathedral, built by Charlomagne, and one of the prettiest in Europe. Tents had been set up with food and spirits from the different places, and a fabulous band was playing. As we were checking it all out, a man very elegantly dressed donning a solid gold chain with a beautiful pendant, approached us and invited us in to check his tent. He was the mayor of Halifax, England, who was there for the occasion. He offered us tea sandwiches, a delicious cup of tea, and talked to us for a while. We would have liked to stay longer, but had to get going. We were due to be at our friends' boat in the early evening.

From Aachen we took a small road into Maastricht, and saw some beautiful countryside. This part of Holland is hilly, full of manors and beautiful farms. Our friends were moored just outside the city, on the Flemish side of Belgium. As we got to their boat we saw a marker at the port marking the limit between Flemish-Speaking Belgium and French-Speaking Belgium.

It was great to see Jamie and Anne again. We found out Anne was recovering from a colon operation, but she looked great. Their boat is a 32 mts. Dutch barge, beautifully done. They are still working on the forward cabin. The boat is being turned into a hotel with 3 cabins, 3 bathrooms, a kitchen and a salon.

Our friends are charming hosts, and Anne a great cook. We had a very good time with them. On Saturday we took the boat to Liege navigating on the Albert Canal with no locks. The canal joins the Maas River at the entrance of the city. It is a very wide canal with a lot of commercial boats carrying from sand powder to grain and coal. The boats can be 100 mts. long, and they travel rather fast. We moored by the old town where the market would be set up for Sunday. As soon as we arrived, we set off to explore the Old Town and its charming narrow streets with clusters of small houses and gardens. There is a Citadelle up on a high hill. To climb it, there are 373 steps! Jamie and Anne new a way around the steps trhough a gorgeous convent. The view of the city is quite impressive from there. To get down was a true adventure. It was a true labyrinth with tunnels and spiral staircases. We came out into the Artists' Distract where they were setting up for a Music Festival. At this time, it started to rain. We found refuge in a cafe, had a beer and watched the world go by. We then walked across the river to Restaurant Row, a tiny street full of restaurants on both sides. Jamie and Anne have been there many times, and have never eaten in the same place. We chose a lovely place with warm atmosphere, small and charming. The food was delicious, the wine, superb, but he service was slow. We were so animated and busy talking, that it really did not matter. As we left the restaurant, it started to rain very hard. We ran for about two blocks and arrived at a club called Les Olivettes. It is a bohemian type bar where people go to sing. They have a piano ad a saxophone player, and it is a most unique place. There were some very talented people as well as some not so talented. They sang Piaf, Sinatra, Elvis and all kinds of songs. We felt transported to the early fifties.

Sunday we woke up to the hustle and bustle of the merchants setting up their market along
The river banks. It is the largest market in Europe, and it a true experience. They sell farm animals, exotic birds, clothing, flowers, and of course incredible food. Liege is a very ethnically diverse city, so each nationality had its deli, meat and dairy market. It took us over 3 hours to walk the length of it, and it did not rain!

We left Liege around 500 PM, under a sunny blue sky. The ride back was beautiful with only a couple of boats in front of us. Back in port, we had a lovely dinner cooked by Anne, and a great night sleep. Monday we took our car to Aachen to show them the town and to have my computer looked at. We showed them the town, which they loved, had a great lunch, walked around, and on the way back stopped in a big store where the guys found lots of things for the boats. Tuesday we said our good-byes and drove to Maasbracht and Dordrecht in Holland where we looked for a new wheel for the boat. We arrived back in Cambrai around 10:00 PM. Today, Tuesday, June 2nd, is the first sunny day in the last two weeks. We cannot wait for the summer!

No comments: