Kortrijk (B) - Douai (F)

On Monday the 30th of June 2014 we finally left Kortrijk (Courtrai), Belgium, at 09:00AM. Our aim was to return to France, Lille (Rijsel) to be precise. We cruised the river Leie (Lys) for another 28,3 kilometers over 18,5 miles), on the way negotiating a first lock with a Dutch/Flemish speaking lock keeper, followed by a second lock with a French speaking lock keeper, before reaching the river La Deule – the latter leading towards Lille. The river Leie acts as the Belgian/French border for 22,5 kilometers (14 miles) between Menen and Armantieres. Because of the canalization one sometimes cruises in Belgium; the next moment in France. The water is equally wet in both countries, we have established. After negotiating a third lock on La Deule we stopped at Wambrechies around 3:45PM. Wambrechies is a sort of Lille-suburb – pretty close to it anyway. This picture shows our ship inside Wambrechies’ harbour, well enough protected against the sometimes violent movement of the water, caused by the passing commercials.

We decided to moor at Wambrechies not only because of its harbour and the lack of decent mooring spots within Lille itself. Other reasons were (1) information, given by a fellow boater and (2) the presence of a distillery, producing ‘Genièvre’ (in The Netherlands and Flanders formerly known as ‘Genever’, nowadays called ‘Jenever’). It’s a traditional Dutch/Belgian spirit; in France there are three distilleries left, Wambrechies being one of them. According to the Oxford Dictionary the English word ‘Gin’ derives from the Dutch word ‘Genever’. The entrance to the distillery, and their shop, is shown here. The shop gives the same feeling as a toy shop when we were under 10 years of age.

Of course we had to buy a traditional earthenware jar of genièvre, so we visited the shop. As already pointed out the level of excitement prevented us from making a photograph of the interior – which is a real pity on hindsight. There was a lot more on sale, all more or less related to alcohol, of course. We discovered they even produce whisky. So we bought that too. Our new acquisitions are accompanied here by a postcard of the inner yard as visible from the outside on the former picture. The plastic bottle on the roof was placed there obviously more recently.

Tuesday the 1st of July we hopped on the bus towards Lille. It is a very nice city with an attractive old centre. This picture shows one of the most picturesque streets, Rue de Monnaie. It’s a lot of cobbled stones in the old centre there, so wear adequate footwear!


We left Wambrechies on Wednesday the 2nd of July around 9:30AM for a rather boring cruise towards Douai – where we still are at present. There’s really not much to report to y’all, all the more since we have been here before. So we made a little video on the way, close to a town called Courrières, where TGV-railway and motorway A1 cross the canal close to each other. We hoped for a TGV at full speed, were lucky one crossed in front of us but unfortunately not at full speed. The movie, though, illustrates the difference between our way of life and the way of life in the fast lanes. Especially the A1-traffic astonishes the onlooker, traveling solo at an average speed of some 6,5 kilometer (4 miles – 3,6 knots) per hour.

That day we moored at Douai around 6:00PM. Pfff, 8,5 hours of cruising without too much excitement, two locks –when still finishing La Deule- included. We have been moored here before, see week 21, Saint-Quentin – Douai, the last picture. Because turning is difficult when full of boats we first walked to this spot to see what it looks like. We were the only one when arriving, today (Sunday) there are seven boats (one hidden behind the one on the right hand side). Because someone, when leaving, forgot to switch off the electricity-supply with his/her electronic key we’re already for over four days on free (well, free for us) electricity. (And the Dutch football team yesterday night beat Costa Rica. Phew!)

This ancient building, next to the river La Scarpe, was the seat of ‘Le parlement de Flandres’ in the 17th/18th century. It was not a parliament as we know it nowadays, but a Sovereign Court with powers related to law, legislation, politics and administration. Douai is still the seat of a court of appeal.

Douai’s city hall and belfry. Apart from the deteriorating weather the parked cars rather spoil the picture. Sorry, it's the best we could do.

To our surprise we discovered a memorial tablet, commemorating the first ‘flight’ (‘s’éleva’) with a ‘gyroplane’ in 1907. In Douai! All of it realized by Louis Charles Breguet (not to be mixed up with the physician Louis François Clément Breguet). So, if you are ever in a tv-quiz and get a question about this subject you’ll just know and confiscate the jackpot easily!

One last picture of the Scarpe. The river is unnavigable here and, as you can see, rather wild at times. We think it might have to do with the commercials passing on ‘the ‘dérivation de la Scarpe autour de Douai’ and/or the use of the locks there. Whatever reason, the river Scarpe sometimes has a strong current and sometimes hardly any. Today (Sunday) there was some serious rain and the river rose by 20 centimeters (2/3 of a foot) in a few hours.

Historically this area has always been pro-Flemish. (Douai/Dowaai became French in 1667 during Louis XIV’s reign.) It is been said that a victory over King Louis XI of France is the basis (or renewed reason) of the yearly tradition of the tour of the giants in Douai, starting at the beginning of July, more accurate: today in 2014. There’s ‘Monsieur Gayant’ (no further name) and ‘Madame Gayant’ aka Marie Cagenon. He is 8,50 meters (28 feet) tall, weighs 370 kg (58,27 stones) and is carried around by six men. She is only 6,25 meters (21 feet), weighs 250 kilograms (39,37 stones) and is carried around by six men too.

The first Gayant-child is a boy, called Jacquot. Tall: 3,40 meters (11 feet). Weight: 80 kilograms (12,60 stones). Carried by one man.

Then the second, a girl named Fillon. Tall: 3,15 meters (10,5 feet). Weight: 70 kilograms (11,02 stones). Carried by one man.

The third and last, a boy again, Binbin. Tall: 2,40 meters (8 feet). Weight: 45 kilograms (7,09 stones). Carried by one man. Binbin is a boy with a squint. He’s young enough to repair that we’d say.

The entire family to end with. The plan was to go out to the centre of the city for making our own pictures. It rained cats and dogs, unfortunately. This forced us to borrow the last 5 pictures from the Internet. À bientôt!