Douai - Cambrai

Last week was, to put it mildly, rainy. So we decided to stay where we were, being Douai. Nice spot, shops nearby, free electricity – the circumstances did not feed our motivation to leave, on the contrary! On Wednesday the 8th of July there the rainfall was horrendous again and la capitaine discovered a couple, apparently on a biking holiday and hiding from the rain at the entrance of an apartment building. Samaritan-like as she is she suggested to the couple to step inside our cosy ship, attracting their attention by moving a coffee-mug up and down. They, being from Brittany, got the message and had a cup of coffee with us. Here they go on their way again, after the rain had stopped pouring down.

At long last we left Douai on Friday the 11th of July at 9:45AM, after having been Douai-citizens for a period of 9 nights. The weather was still not much summer-like, as this picture inside the first lock (‘Douai’) shows, but it was not wise to stay put for much longer as we are supposed to be before the 25th of July at L'Isle-Adam, river Oise, where we’ll meet good friends to travel together towards and across Paris.

The second lock we had to climb that day -‘Courchelettes’, 4,95 meters (16,5 feet) deep, still very close to Doaui- obviously was cleaned and painted not very long ago which gives the opportunity to explain something about the way some locks are to be handled. When a lock is fairly deep, like this one, there are different ways to keep a ship in position. The first one is to use a long rope and attach it to a bollard on the edge of the lock wall, as just visible on the right upper side of the picture. That might work when descending. Even when ascending, although the rope-handler has to climb out of the lock first, put the rope around the bollard and climb back onto the ship. Time-consuming and dangerous. Then there are the bollards inside the lock’s wall, offering the opportunity to raise or lower the position of a rope of normal length – and, when needed, use two ropes of normal length to execute a ‘leapfrog-system’. The third and most easy system is offered by the presence of floating bollards, like inside this lock. Only one normal rope can be used and the bollard goes up and down with the level of the water. Pure luxury! When ascending a deep lock equipped with only bollards on top of it, most of the time a lock keeper picks up the (long) rope with a hook. That helps a lot, obviously. We use one rope as a spring and keep the ship in position on the engine, unless a strict lock keeper tells us to use two ropes and switch off the engine. This happened only two times since we arrived in France in September 2012. So ‘our’ system works 99,9% out of a 100.

On earlier occasions we have made remarks about the derelict state of a lot of houses in France, often abandoned. Alongside the Canal de La Sensée (La Sensée canalisé), part of Le Grand Gabarit Dunkerque-Escault, we saw this house that is still inhabited, although clearly sagging. We know what it feels like when walking inside a ship that is tilting for some reason and wonder how the inhabitants of this house cope with the circumstances. Perhaps the floors are adjusted every 10 years or so!

After eight hours of cruising, only interrupted by 8 locks, we moored at Cambrai – thus having tackled two legs in one day. There were reasons to make some progress, being (1) meeting our friends as agreed and (2) being in a decent harbour/town because of the festivities related to the 14th of July. Apart from this, when proceeding we’d reach the Souterrain de Riqueval (or Macquincourt) on a Sunday when the tunnel is closed. Even 'worse': also closed coming Monday, being ‘Quatorze-Juillet’. Our ship is pictured here – no water, no electricity!

After finding out about the possibilities in Cambrai-harbour we persuaded the harbour-master to not oppose against breasting up with a barge on the opposite side, making it possible to connect to the main electricity system. That is a major improvement, as we planned to stay at Cambrai for four nights – from Friday afternoon until Tuesday-morning. Tomorrow we’ll experience Quatorze-Juillet in Cambrai (last year it was Nancy), including a fly-by by ‘Le Patrouille de France’ -France’s counterpart of Britain’s ‘Red Arrows’- on their way to Paris as part of the parade on L’avenue des Champs-Élysées. (Champs-Élysées is French for Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed dead in Greek mythology.)

Cambrai has got a pleasant centre, like many of France’s medium sized towns. It’s always nice to visit towns like this. Having said that, it’s not often that we encounter something completely different from similar towns. Well, an exception this time: a covered pavement café with a little chandelier! It was too tempting: we had a drink underneath it.

While enjoying our drinks (vin blanc sec and a Heineken(!)) a hen-party approached. The bride-to-be is pictured here, ‘hoot and I dance!!!’…

…and dancing she did. Some of the automobilists did not hoot. Just spoilsports! Most of them did. We hope she’ll be happy forever and a day.

Saturday evening, the 12th of July, was the evening of the football-match between The Netherlands and Brazil for the 3rd place of the world-championship. In Brazil, notably, reason why we had our doubts about the outcome. Our fellow countrymen, however, beat the Brazilians 3-0, thus grabbing bronze. The picture shows the start-up line. Three of them were replaced during the match, the last one because by doing this the coach used every single player of the 23-person squad during the tournament.

The best player of The Netherlands, and perhaps of the tournament, Arjen Robben. Sometimes a bit theatrical, but an inspiration for the entire squad.

Robin van Persie, the captain. He seemed to underperform slightly. Come on RvP, don’t allow PvH to get under your skin and go on with your (fabulous football-)life!

The indestructible Dirk Kuijt. At almost 34 years of age it’s still unbelievable what he is capable of doing. Originally from ‘our’ team FC Utrecht.

Michel Vorm, goalkeeper. Only used for a few minutes at the end of the tournament. A recognized penalty-killer at FC Utrecht (yes, another one) in the past and now at Swansea City in the Premier League. However, magician Van Gaal choose his colleague Tim Krul for the penalties and proved to be right.

The coach, Louis van Gaal to end with. He was outstanding. Good luck at Manchester United!