Ghent to Bruges via Deinze
The next major tourist destination was to be Bruges, only a short cruise by the direct route, but having some time to spare, we elected to detour on the way there.
A pretty river cruise
We had been told that there was a very pleasant, winding stretch of the river Leie between Ghent and Deinze, travelling southwards. A short day cruise, so we cast off early in the morning and headed out of Ghent through the suburbs.
Soon we were on the Leie, which is a favourite home for the well to do of Ghent. The houses are large, there is the occasional helipad, the gardens often present with interesting sculptures and the lawns are scrupulously manicured – by robot mower occasionally! All this along a meandering and sometimes very tightly winding river course which made the helming fun.
While we were travelling, an Aussie boat passed us by, Kendra Erin belonging to Kevin and Michele Bond of Perth, the first fellow countrymen we have seen. Only had time for a quick snap:
Close to our destination of Deinze, we came to a sign we hadn’t seen before:
Not a complete surprise, we had been warned there was a bridge that needed to be raised and the bridge controller worked in the bar adjacent to the bridge. A toot of the horn meant he left his customers to let us through – with a cheery wave!
A short time later we were at the excellent quay in Deinze. While we did not hook up to power, it was available. The mooring bollards were well designed and spaced for barges; the wide wooden walkway was sheathed in thick protective rubber; above us was a magnificent church; behind us a great bar; and in front a large supermarket. All in all, perhaps our best mooring yet. And all free!
We later found out that Hein, the owner of a lovely old barge moored just near the bridge, was not only a friend of our mentors on ‘t Majeur (who had warned him we were coming) but had been very active in getting the funding and designing the mooring in this town. Having a larger barge, he appreciated the features that made a quay attractive to both barges and cruisers.
Hopefully, the town of Deinze will recoup its investment as this great mooring becomes well known. Unbeknownst to us, Hein had been alerted to the fact that we were travelling from Ghent, and indeed, watched us cruise past his house earlier in the day. He later came to introduce himself to us and was most informative.
Luckily we had checked Tripadvisor for ‘what’s on in Deinze’ something we don’t always bother with. In this case, it paid off big time, it was perhaps our best ‘find’ for the entire trip.
On our way in, Ian had seen an interesting building a little away from the river, mostly hidden by trees. It turned out this was Kasteel Ooidonk, a private castle only open on Sunday afternoons and this particular Sunday was the last opening of the season.
As it was only a few km away, out came the bikes and off we went.
The gatehouse was pretty impressive for a start.
They had a special offer for a box of Kasteel beer glasses. These had Ooidonk castle on them and as we were already familiar with this particular brand of Belgian beer – the 12% quadrupel variety – we were happy to fork out ten euros, in the hope the glasses would always be full.
The grounds of the castle were superb – beautifully tended shrubs, flowers and lawns with deftly placed trees.
The original castle on this site was built in 1230 and successive building and destruction and rebuilding occurred until the current castle was built after the last fire in 1579. The current owners and residents of the castle are the 6th Count and Countess t’Kint de Roodenbeke and their three children, who occupy the two towers at the rear. The rest of the castle is preserved and filled with opulent furnishings – easily as good as you will see in any French chateau.
Tours (in English) take you through many of these rooms although you are not allowed to take photos. Ian sneaked a couple (Why am I not surprised? ‘No’ is simply not in Ian’s vocabulary!), including one of the private chapel.
The tours were informative and very well delivered. Highly recommended if you are ever within cooee on a day when the castle is open.
Back outside we could see where the Count and his family live and that they took very good care of their children’s play activities.
It was time to leave but just as we were crossing the drawbridge we were treated to a stream of vintage Rolls Royce and Bentley cars – about 25 of them – arriving at the castle. Lovely to watch as they all circled around in front of the drawbridge and then lined up, nose to tail, all the way back to the gatehouse.
What a great afternoon. We then took a leisurely cycle back to Catherina through the fields and along the towpath, ready for a relaxing evening, with a beer in one of our new glasses.
We stayed a further two days, catching up on maintenance, painting, blogs, hanging out at the bar and also having chats with fellow DBA’er Colin Stone whose barge Kei is a wonder of custom building, and with Hein who lives in Deinze now, but stores his barge over winter in the Netherlands. He was a fount of knowledge about many practical aspects of maintenance – something we still have to get settled.
We were entertained and somewhat amazed by a procession of commercial barges that came back and forth, firstly laden then emptying their holds into a factory just astern of us. They were so deft with their handling of these large barges. Very envious.
We finished off the last day with our second meal from our cans of duck confit, using the recipe we described earlier – using some of the plums from our soup lunch in Ghent a few days earlier.
All in all, a nice relaxing time, in a well-provisioned spot – one we hope to return to next year.
Off to Bruges
The route to Bruges took us along a wide canal up to the main canal connecting Ghent and Bruges. This was a little more scenic and had a narrow section where we had to take care that no commercial craft were oncoming – a task well handled by our AIS receiver. On a whim, we decided to moor for the night a Moerbrugge, a little outside Bruges, next to a small wildlife preserve, at a commercial quay near a bridge.
Next morning we had a walk through the preserve, which was provided with a couple of ‘hides’ overlooking a pond to allow wildlife photographers to sit and watch, concealed, to then take their photos without disturbing the birds.
We cast off and managed to get a little grounded in the shallows as we left, but a bit of reversing got us off – just bad planning on helm’s part (to be fair, there was nothing to say the canal was so shallow at the edges) short cutting over to the main channel. We were faced by a pretty, quiet stretch of the canal leading into Bruges.
We had a very strong lesson just outside Bruges, of the necessity to be well tied up when laden commercials past by, when Ian, in a misplaced effort to speed up our passage, dropped the stern line while a commercial passed us heading in the other direction while we were waiting at a bridge. We were nearly sucked into the rear and stern of the commercial as she past, and only ‘pedal to the metal’ and hard rudder kept us from being dragged out. Common sense really, but of course, sometimes we get distracted. There’s a lesson to be learnt every day.
After this, we cruised uneventfully into the easily accessible Brugge Flandria harbour on the southern side of Bruges and moored stern to stern against Silk Purse, a tjalk owned by Scottish/Canadians, Barry and Carole Grant.
Now for some serious touristing…