There aren't many washing machines at the marinas in Belgium but luckily they seem to have laveries (laundromats) which is maybe why they don't need to provide washers. We struggled to figure out how to use them as the instructions were in French and Flemish. While we were trying to translate the instructions into English, a bloke came in, saw we were battling and kindly explained the procedure to us in perfect English. We had three huge loads of washing to do. And then the bikers surfaced. The noise started all over again. These people roared past the street cafes and the quayside in a never ending procession of bikes roaring, thumping motors, hooting and revving. One would think they would move on and actually ride their bikes but if I didn't know better they had one purpose and that was to disturb the peace. They went round and round the small town. It seemed such a pointless thing to do. I rather wished ill on them after a while.
The next day we set out to explore Dinant. It was Monday and the bikers had gone. We went up the Citadel where the view was amazing. They incorporate the history of Belgium and the area in the museum visit. A person can't help but feel sorry for Belgium sandwiched between the Netherlands, France and Germany. The Belgians have tried to be a neutral country but they have been invaded right, left and centre and at one stage were ruled by Austria. A visit to the Citadel is well worth €8 per person. After that we walked along the quay in both directions of the town. We wanted to do the Leffe beer tour but that was closed on Mondays. Not far away were the Grotte La Merveilleuse caves. Also closed. Our plans for Tuesday would include those two attractions. We ended up doing a nice shop-up for provisions at Del Haize. They probably had the best selection of meat-free and dairy-free foods of all the supermarkets in Belgium.
View from the Citadel
We decided to go right into the Tourist Info office the following morning and try the free wi-fi once more but inside. It worked. My other half had business negotiations he needed to keep abreast of and both my parents weren't well. It wasn't good news for either of us but at least we knew what was going on in our lives. We walked up the hill to do the Leffe beer tour. It was €7 per person and included a walk around a church where they had a selection of video presentations about the history of the monks, the Leffe abbey, the region, how they made their beers as well as a beer tasting and a complimentary Leffe beer glass. I really enjoyed learning more about beer brewing however a good few of the information screens were broken so we only got half the information. We had three mini glasses of beer to taste - a rose, a blonde and a brown beer. All good. Have I mentioned how much we love Belgian beer?
Leffe beer tour
Sadly we never got to see the caves. My husband had ordered boat spares via the Tourist Info office. The bloke who was meant to come and see which spares at 14.00pm only arrived at 16.00pm. My husband ended up having to go back to their workshop to collect his goods. They charged a call-out fee of €40 which we thought was a bit cheeky. I have to confess I was sort of pleased to miss the caves. Much as I wanted to see them - I'm a claustrophobe.
At the Citadel
We sat that evening planning the passage to Givet - our first stop in France. A person can never know what a place will be like. More than once we've been surprised in a good way. We've also been surprised in a bad way. The Imray waterway books have been an immensely valuable guide for us. I noticed the French one had much less info on the towns than either the Belgian or Netherlands guides. The Netherlands waterways have a series of individual maps for each of their waterway regions while Belgium has one single large map with the entire canal and river network on it. The French maps are just the business. They're actually in a book format with maps and a guide combined. The books include history, tourist info, places of interest, mooring spots, local restaurants and more of that kind of info.
Free Leffe beers from Tourism office in Dinant
The trip from Dinant to Givet was 23 kilometres and four locks, three in Belgium and one in France. We locked up 10 metres in total. A group of us travelled in convoy. One couple on a hire boat. No idea where they were from. I couldn't recognise the language they were speaking. A German couple. A lone American from Hawaii on a big Dutch barge. And us. At the last lock, the lock keeper (eclusiere) made sure we all went up to his office to buy a vignet, a waterway license to travel in France. Vignets cost €400 per year or €133 per month or part thereof. Almost double what the Imray guide had suggested which is a steep increase in only 4 years.
The Gallery in Shangri La. We were able to make plant cheeze and veganaise
We needed two vignets for two months. You stick these on your boat window so they can see that you've paid. They also load all your boat information into their computer system to keep check when you pass through the locks. And one more thing - they lend you a remote control to manage the locks yourself. With an instruction manual. On reading that I felt a whole lot better about my poor French. The English instructions were most definitely not done by an English person. We realised how easy it is to get translations wrong and wondered what we must sound like trying to speak French.
I crossed into France with no immigration, passport control, no questions - no nothing. Since I hold a South African passport I'm used to the European immigration people at the airports making a big fuss and asking a zillion quesions. Clearly on the waterways in Europe none of that stuff happens. I just hoped that when the time came to leave France there wouldn't be an issue.