Plans in Jelly 2016

Duck Drought

Last night we had our daughter Kathryn and husband Marcus up for dinner for their turn to sample the delights of duck confit. Regrettably, that has left us devoid of cans of confit. Two others had already perished, the first to our twin daughters Fiona and Laura, the second to our son Christopher and his wife Akiko.

A great meal, but now the cupboard is empty of confit duck 8-(

A great meal, but now the cupboard is empty of confit duck 8-(

Our only recourse is to return to our emergency store, on Catharina. There are three cans awaiting us back there in the bilges if our calculations are correct.

Nine cans of duck confit - should keep us  going for a while!

Nine cans of duck confit – should keep us going for a while!

So we are off to restock with confit – leaving Melbourne on the 1st of July and back on board Catharina on the 2nd, all going well. Only a few days to go. We’re back in Australia on the 28th of September. Lucky us!

So briefly, this is what we hope will happen (“plans in jelly”).

 Hergé’s Adventures of Catharina

That will be the title of this year’s travels. We’ve had ‘Finding Neo Vita’ for 2014, ‘Returning Catharina’ for 2015 and this year, it is all about Belgium.

As a tourist in Belgium there the top three features are chocolate, lace and Tintin.Tintin

Tintin, of course, is the young heroic cartoon detective and adventurer created by Georges Prosper Remi, known by his pen name Hergé, a Belgian cartoonist. Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin is famous worldwide and almost revered in Belgium. We both well remember Tintin from our childhood – borrowing the books from the library, and, after buying Catharina Elisabeth, we bought one of the stories, in French of course. The recent animated movie is, we think, technically one of the greatest animations ever made (directed by Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson – it ought to be!). The characters are so true to the original comic albums and very true to the spirit of Hergé’s character – highly recommended.

In consequence, one of our must-visit places will be the Tintin museum, a little south of Brussels.

The Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, south of Brussels

The Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, south of Brussels

 The Route

After we arrive, we’ll spend about two weeks on chores, some refurbishment and a quick trip to France for the DBA Rally in Briare. In the remaining 11 weeks we ‘plan’ to follow this route.

It'll be interesting to see what the actual route looks like in three month's time!

It’ll be interesting to see what the actual route looks like in three month’s time!

It’s a challenge because it is about as long as last year’s trip and travel in Belgium is slower than the Netherlands as there are many more locks, which is not a problem at all, simply a different style of cruising. We don’t want to rush as that defeats the purpose of this lifestyle. So we’ll see how far we get and be prepared to travel less if it means more enjoyment in the exotic or bucolic places we discover along the way.

Briefly then, we intend to leave Veurne and go past Brugge and Ghent and then travel down the River Scheldt to the River Dender. We’ll head upstream/south on this pretty river and then turn westwards along a number of waterways. We are planning visits to some wonderful examples of canal engineering on this section of the journey, but will continue on to eventually arrive at Namur on the River Meuse. From this point, we plan to head upriver to the border of France but reverse our direction at Givet before we enter.

After returning to Namur we will then head east again on the River Sambre. This we will take us southwards into France for a short distance. Cruising in France usually requires a fee/licence to use their waterways, except this short stretch, because it is blocked off upstream. We will then retrace our steps before heading westwards to visit several WW1 sites. Eventually, we will head north towards Ghent and onto to Brugge where we can spend a little more time discovering each city. Lastly, we will head back towards the coast and pretty much where we start this season, with a side trip out to Ieper (Ypres) for some more WW1 touring and to show our respects where at dusk, every night of the year, the Last Post is sounded, a tradition that started 88 years ago. And finally back to Diksmuide where Catharina will spend the winter.

There will be a lot to cover and heaps to see and do. Along the way, we are sure we will once again meet lots of interesting people with whom we can share experiences (and likely a glass of wine, or Belgian beer).

We find it hard to believe we are looking forward to this year even more than the previous two, but that is The Great Delight – it just keeps getting better!

We also promise to try really hard to keep up to date with our blog this year!