Even more locks, and still no bagels (continuation)

We continued our journey, stopping in Epernay, Tours sur Marne, Chalons-en-Champagne, then Vitry-le-Francois. There are 15 locks over a distance of 70 km on this part of the journey.

Epernay is at the heart of Champagne country, in good measure because it sits on the Marne. As we exited the Canal Lateral de la Marne we saw the muddy river flying past. Turning into it we immediately felt the strong current. We chugged the 4 kilometers to the marina to find the harbor master waiting for us at the dock to help us in. As we approached we could see why – there wasn’t much room left for the river to rise before we’d float onto the dock, meaning the fenders would easily come in above the dock so the boat itself would hit. Later that day we were told we had to leave in the morning. The regional authorities, who exercise control over the water level, were going to release more water from the reservoir.

Before the news arrived we took our guest to a Champagne house. The nearby house, Champagne de Castellane, no longer provides tours, so we found another.  Last time we were here the harbor master hosted a generous Champagne happy hour, provided by Castellane.  This is no longer possible as Castellane no longer provides the product free to the marina. 

We departed early the next morning to beat the additional release from the reservoir. Our 7 kph speed against the current became 14 kph with it. Fortunately the comparatively small number of floating logs were swept to the outside of the curves, where the current is strongest, while we remained on the inside as much as possible. For some reason the current slowed just as we reached the lock returning us to the safe waters of the canal. Its activating mechanism is a bit down river so you have to move to it and then turn around. With the reduced current we were able to complete the maneuver.

Tours-sur-Marne came after that nail-biter on the river, offering a gorgeous setting with vineyards set behind the reflective still waters. It’s a tiny village with a single Champagne merchant. The church is from 1851. The grapes they grow were once classified as Grand Cru, the highest rating, used to set prices after a long period of price instability. The classification has long been abandoned.

Tours sur Marne
View of Tours-sur-Marne from our mooring

The Canal Lateral de la Marne is lined with endless great scenery. Rolling hills and fields green with crops, potatoes, beets and more, as well as wheat. We grabbed a few plants from the fields, boiled them a bit and enjoyed some mighty fine greens along with the young and still white beets.

Chalons-en-Champagne is our next stop; we are no longer amidst the fields of grapes. The Cathedral of Saint Ettiene dates from the 12th century. Its origins are Romanesque, meaning thick walls and small windows, but it was rebuilt in the Gothic style with thin walls and large windows. Then they added a Baroque section in the 17th century. Its soaring ceiling and beautiful stained glass flood the huge chamber in light. Some of the stained glass was made in the 12th century, as seen in the photo below. You can’t help but feel a time travel sensation bringing you into the medieval mind where fantasy rules, fantasy’s limitless reach unrestricted by the limits of factuality, instead only by the rhetoric of theologians and the discipline imposed by the Church.

12th century glass

Notre Dame en Vaux is another great old church, a UNESCO World Heritage one to boot. It was built between 1157 and 1217. It had a cloister, now a garden, faced by a small museum. There are a number of other worthwhile visits in the town of just 45,000. It is on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

Tours sur Marne
Soaring ceilings and beautiful light

notre dame vaux drawing
Drawing in Notre Dame en Vaux, Chalons sur Champagne

Vitry-le-Francois has the tiniest harbor, maybe a half dozen slots with barely room for us in the narrow canal leading to the moorings, where we had to make a difficult 90 degree turn to slide into the perpendicular slot. There is a harbor master, a woman who proved to be highly attentive. The electrical outlet with a proper modern boat type connection wasn’t working. The other outlets were house types, not used in a marine environment. I had to make an adapter from an old house plug.

Nearby is the beautiful city hall, in French called either the Maire (Mayor) or Hotel d’ Ville. It’s oversized for this tiny village.

Maire at Vitry-le-Francois
The Maire in Vitry-le-Francois

Lots of locks, but no bagels

Leaving Reims we went back the way we came, then making a two week long circuit, tranquil except for four kilometers on the raging Marne in Epernay. The route took us to many historic and charming small towns who some 110 years ago found themselves in the midst of WWI. We visited large, well kept cemeteries filled with mostly French soldiers. Stops included the towns of small and generally charming villages: Cormicy, Bourg et Comin, Pinon, Longuiel-Annel, Compiegne, Attichy, Vic sur Aisne, Soisson, Courmelois, Epernay, Tours sur Marne, Chalons-en-Champagne, then Vitry-le-Francois.

Most of the locks on this route, totaling 26 in a space of 85 kilometers, are controlled by the ships’ crew, using either a remote control or a twist rod that hangs over the water. Locks take an average of about 15 minutes to traverse, by the time you maneuver the boat in, secure it and wait for the lock to fill or empty and the gates open or close. From time to time you have to wait for someone to come to open the lock manually. Mostly we spent nights at a ‘hault nautique,” docks provided by the French waterway authority, the VNF. VNF was there quickly the time or two we needed assistance with the locks.

Many of these towns have interesting old churches. Cormicy’s is blocky, with stumpy flying buttresses. Pretty it’s not, but you can readily imagine the frightened or hopeful parishioners shivering while seated on the hard wooden benches, a seriously abused man hanging over them, as they imagined a worse fate if they did not proclaim the faith.

Bourg et Comin: the town is a short bike ride up a steep hill from the halt. There you find a very good bakery and a small grocery store. The hault nautique has water and electricity. One space at the dock was occupied by someone using this location of as a permanent mooring, not permitted by the VNF but they are lax about enforcement. This is a common problem.

At Pinon the dock was full but the Americans on a barge let us moor up while we went to the ‘gran surface’ Carrefour grocery store just a two minute walk away. Before we had even gathered our shopping bags the other barge there, a Dutch flagged commercial, headed out. We moved to the just freed space, then resumed our shopping trip after driving a stake or two into the ground, as here there are no bollards. After we left the next morning we never saw the Americans again, as they were heading north.

Compiegne has lovely Tudor houses (half-timber structures dating from the 15thc), the magnificent Joan of Arc statue facing the famous Hotel d’ Ville (City Hall). See my article at Compiegne for photos and commentary. By the bridge there is a fuel station and a boat shop well provisioned with boating items. Their mechanic helped me replace the throttle/shifting mechanism, a critical device approaching its 30th birthday.

Vic sur Aisne has a neat old castle and a hault nautique with water and electricity. The Roman road to Calais passed through here. A mile marker was found near the bridge erected by Marcus Aurelius. The first castle was built in 900. The current dates to the 17th century. It was built by Cardinal de Bernis, friend of Voltaire and Madame de Pompadour. The structure was sold as national property during the Revolution. It was rebuilt after bombing in 1918.

Vic sur Aisne castle

Soisson was founded in pre-Roman times by the Suessiones, a Gallic (aka Celtic) tribe. It assumed some importance under the Romans, then fell to Clovis I in 486 CE. After Clovis divided his kingdom among his four sons, Soisson became one of the capitals. Soisson remained important through the Merovingians, whose reign ended in 751 CE

During the Hundred Years’ War, French forces massacred English archers, while killing and raping French residents. The English retaliated by winning the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Joan of Arc liberated the town on July 23, 1429. Girl got around!

Soisson was heavily bombed in WWI. There is a memorial behind the mayor’s office.

The late 12th century cathedral is Gothic in style with some Romanesque elements. The 13th century tower duplicates that of Notre Dame in Paris.

The famous Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes, once one of the most wealthy in France, was founded in the 1076 as an Augustinian monastery. The first structures were Romanesque, but were replaced by Gothic buildings in the 12th-16th centuries. Unfortunately the church was largely destroyed under Napoleon.

Its two towers are quite different. The taller is 70m/230′ in height, visible from afar. Other parts of the abbey still standing include remains of two cloisters and a 13th-century refectory. There are vestiges of structures from the middle of the 6th century.

Church at Courmelois
Cathedral of Soissons
Cathedral of Soisson
Sisson abbey
Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes

To be continued

Reims, a small city with a big past

Reims is pronounced Rance, the ‘a’ is a sound we do not have in English but it’s similar the the ‘a’ in ‘band with a rather nasal pronunciation. The city boasts a Roman era triumphal arch, the Port of Mars, the only remaining of four. The port was once a part of a castle destroyed in 1595. It was then integrated into the city walls, the openings filled in, and not revealed until the mid 1800’s. It now stands by itself, nicely restored.

The Port of Mars is just one of many architectural and historical delights in this city.  The most notable is the Cathedral.  I posted a video of the superb laser light show they perform every Thursday-Saturday night. See Light show

The Cathedral is built upon the site of the 5th century church, in its turn erected on top of the Roman baths. I would not be surprised if one day we find all were built over some important structure built by the Gauls, the city’s founders. The Cathedral is the site of the coronation of many French kings, beginning with Louis the Debonnaire in 816 , presided over by Pope Stephen IV. Pope Leo met with Charlemagne here.

Aside from the Cathedral there is another church worth visiting. The Basilica of St Remi was officially opened in 1049, before the advent of Gothic architecture, thus its heavy walls and small windows. Construction continued for centuries. As a result the nave and transept are Gothic. Charlemagne’s brother and two early kings are buried here.

The city was founded by the Remi tribe, whence the city’s name. The Remi allied with the Romans during Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. After the Roman victory the Remi’s received favorable treatment. This did not keep the Vandals out. They captured the city in 406, executing the bishop. Atila the Hun sacked the city in 451. Paris is not all that far away, today less than an hour by train. A bit more success and Atila controls today’s capital.

Reims was part of England starting in 1420, following a failed seige in 1360. The English were then expelled by the French, led by a young woman called Joan d’Arc.

Germany occupied the city and made it the seat of the governor during the Franco Prussian war of 1870-71. The Germans were back in WWI. The city and its cathedral suffered significant damage during this armed conflict, eclipsed by the massive casualties reflected in field upon field of cemeteries.

The armistice ending WWII was signed in Reims. The building remains as a museum. It was closed the day we were there, unfortunately.

The area lies on the northern edge of the Champagne production zone. The grapes used are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunie and Chardonnay almost exclusively. Other regions of France and elsewhere produce this naturally carbonated beverage but the term ‘champagne’ in Europe can only be used for wine produced here. In Burgandy it is called a ‘Crémant de Bourgogne, in Alsace it is called ‘Crémant de Alsace.’ In all there are 24 sparkling wine areas in France. Spain uses the same method. Prosecco uses vat fermentation as opposed to the bottle fermentation used here. The Champagne method was developed by a monk named Dom Perignon. Old Dom still makes champagne, although these days there are machines that turn the bottles. Many Champagne houses are located here, allowing for visits to the cellars where they explain the process.

Reims is not all Champagne and great old structures. It has a lively pedestrian shopping zone with eateries up the Oise. Petite Sale is a traditional dish, lentils with salted pork, although on my wanderings I did not see it on a menu.

Chaource is from this region. It is a soft cheese. If you can get a good one it’s richly flavored and creamy. Truffles are a big deal, as is a pink biscuit. There is a regional mustard and a smoked ham as well. Boudin blanc, a white sausage, is a traditional product. Andouillettes de Troyes is made from the large intestine and stomach, onions, salt and pepper. I wish I hadn’t known.

Port of Mars
Reims Cathedral
reims cath ww1
Interior of St Remi, photo by Ludvig14
In the central pedestrian zone, Reims

Reims Cathedral and its Fabulous Light Show #regalia

Notre Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is an ancient church done up in High Gothic Style. From Thursday to Sunday they project a superbly produced free light show after dark. Last night it started at 2245h.

The Cathedral is the traditional location for the coronation of the French kings. In its previous incarnation as a Romanesque building it was the site of the baptism of Clovis I in the early 6th century. Construction of the current church began in the 13th century after the destruction by fire of the previous structure. It features flying buttresses like the ones at Notre Dame in Paris, allowing for a well light interior. It is owned by the government of France, which pays for its care. The Roman Catholic Church is allowed use.

After the severe bombing damage of WWI, when it was used as a hospital, the building was restored, with three windows by the Russian born Chagal. The Rockefeller Foundation donated to the project. In the 1990’s they found the 5th century baptistry along with parts of the original church, itself built upon the site of the baths.

In 816 Louis the Pious was crowned by Pope Stephen IV. From Henry I in 1027 most French kings were crowned here. It was held by the English but returned to the French by none other than the 20 year old Joan of Arc in 1429.

Reams have been written about Reims (actually pronounced something like ‘Rance,’ no ‘M.”) There’s a PhD thesis around every corner. Just looking at its main facade is more than an eyeful, even though the main entrance is currently covered. There are more statues than I can count without a large photo print.

Garybob says check it out! Get there from Paris on the TGV. It does not take long.

Stepping our way through the Canal des Ardennes

There was no rain.

Thus began our early morning journey through the 26 step locks of the Canal des Ardennes. We are extra thankful. Since there are many low bridges we must lower our rain hood. We could have been steering in the rain for the next seven or so hours. Instead we enjoyed more sunshine than we have seen we started this year’s boat travels.

la chesne viking
We started from La Chesne. Great steak au poivre across the street at the Odyssey (French, not Greek).

The locks are remote controlled. We only had to wait for help at one lock that would not open. A VNF employee was there within minutes. Another lock closed and emptied while we waited, then filled and let us in. Otherwise the system worked well.

The locks were not turbulent. We are descending. When you are ascending you are much more likely to experience turbulence.

We made the journey in just five hours, instead of the typical seven hours. Stopping at Attigny, we spoke to the Danish couple also moored there. The day before it took them 9 hours, having lots of problems with the locks. At one point they had to wait an hour for assistance. We saw VNF employees everywhere. Many were mowing or doing other maintenance chores near the locks or along the way, or driving back and forth along the canal. We lucked out.

step lock fills Stern waiting
In one of the locks
cows on the hill
Rolling hills and lots of cattle and farmed land
small village
One of the small villages along the way

After the last lock on the Canal you enter the River Aisne after passing through a lock, then into its canal. As you approach Attigny things get rather narrow.

things get narrow
Squeezing through narrow portions of the Aisne Canal

Finding our Meuse

Winding our way down the Sambre from Manage to the river Meuse at Namur, we turned into the current of the swollen waterway. For the next 143 kilometers we would be pushing against the run off from the extraordinary rainfall in the northeast parts of France and the southeast parts of Belgium. We skipped by both Namur and Dinant, having been there previously, but also so we could more quickly arrive at the Canal des Ardennes in France. Once there we’d be out of the current. It’s 46 kilometers to the French border, then 97 kilometers in France. We must traverse some 40 locks, each of which takes at least 20 minutes.

WhatsApp Image 2024-05-29 at 18.15.03

Rain followed us much of the way. Combined with the strong, sometimes intimidating current, it created a darkened mood over the journey. When the rain lifted and the current fell off or disappeared when we were in the short canals after locks, the mood turned around, even if briefly. Getting to the Ardennes promised a more pleasant experience.

The Meuse cuts a path through a hilly region

After a grinding week we entered the Canal des Ardennes. We were greeted by a friendly woman at the fuel dock. We topped up our fuel and water tanks, then docked in front of the lock per her instructions as it is a no mooring zone. Then we went straight for the one bar in this tiny collection of businesses, houses, rent boats and private small craft. A few people live on their boat, in addition to perhaps a few dozen residents. Bigger towns lie ahead, through dozens of locks, including 21 locks in the space of just seven kilometers as we climb the hills.

Mansions along the way
Approaching the first lock
It’s a one bar town.

So Inclined- Belgium’s lift technology

From Tournai we made our way easterly, stopping for the night on a dock equipped for large barges just outside Ascenseur 4 – on the old Canal du Centre. There are four elevator locks on the old canal, replaced by the new canal and the Strepy-Thieu lock that bypasses the four locks, raising boats 73 meters/240 feet straight up in a single motion. This saves hours compared to the four old elevators.

Nearby our mooring there’s a store called Bella Sicilia. No choice, we just had to go there, even with rain threatening. The recommended route took us through a closed-off underpass along a muddy unused dirt road for a few hundred meters. Then it was a wooded country lane into town.

When we arrived there was a sign saying Bella Sicilia was permanently closed. Disappointed and about to leave, we saw that behind us stood Bella Sicilia reborn, open and doing business in a much bigger space. Inside it’s an instant journey to Palermo. Almost everything is Italian branded. There’s a huge deli counter, five employees serving the locals. You can choose among a huge variety of stuffed breads, and several arancini, the rice balls that are THE street food of Palermo. All this and more in a tiny country town in a very small country far from Italy.

I learned that almost all the employees speak Italian. I spoke with a woman who wanted to know where we were from and the like.

After two daysat the dock by the elevator lock we went to the Strépy-Thieu Boat Life. We were about to rise 73 meters straight up.

thieu lock in distance
The lift’s tower rises in the mist

Four hours later at the Viesville lock the lock keeper said it was closed for a week due to objects that had damaged the mechanism. Fortunately our batteries were full and there was plenty of water in the tank. We sailed back two hours to Menage, a tiny village with a brand new barge dock, directly across from Le Nautic Lodge, a restaurant we enjoyed several years back.

Manage has grocery stores, bars and bakeries, as well as a train station. The train to Brussels takes just a bit over an hour with one change. We visited the Victor Horta Museum, a house designed and lived in by the architect Victor Horta (1861-1949), before taking a self-guided walking tour to see a half dozen turn of the century Art Nouveau houses, some designed by him.

horta 1

After four days near Manage we again sailed away from our destination for about two hours to the WSV (abbreviation for a marina owned and run by members) at Ittre. We’d been there before and found the location to be pleasant even if barely adequate for a boat of our size. The people were very friendly and helpful on our last visit. Getting to town to make purchases requires ascending a long and very steep hill. A member drove us there to get a few things that time.

On the way to Ittre we passed through the Plan Incliné de Ronquières, the Inclined Plane, a lock that moves boats from one level to the next in a large basin that is moved along rails.

Plan Inclinee in Belgium
Plan Incliné de Ronquières
cheeese bella sicilia
Cheeses at Bella Sicilia
One of the first two arancini we tried. I biked back for 2 more.
thieu lock tower
After entering the lock the gate drops down, then the tub rises
One of the planks at the Nautic Lodge.

ittre club
Some of the friendly members in the club house

After sidling up to the visitors dock we helped a couple dock their boat. In turn they bought us a beer. There’s Chouffe on tap, one of Belgium’s best that is available nation-wide, exported as well. We spent the next few hours talking. Our story is unusual in many respects, being Americans deep in the Belgium countryside on our own boat after starting far away in Haarlem. In boat terms that is a good distance. Many boaters are confined to local travel due to time and budget constraints so are interested to learn more.

Afterwards we saw an email from Wallonie notifications. The blocked lock had been cleared. Tomorrow we have several hours to go before we get back on course, including another trip through the Plan Inclinee and several locks with 7 meter drops.

Our friendly neighbors for the night left at 9:30 the next morning. When we arrived at the lock at 11:30, they were still waiting. The backlog of commercial vessels was just clearing.


Tournai is an ancient city sitting on the banks of the river Schelde, which terminates in Antwerp and there subject to some mighty tides. Recently a large barge capsized, killing the captain. Here there is just a gentle current.

Dating to Roman times, fortified in the 3rd century. It was the capital of the empire of the Franks in the 5th century. The next capital was Paris.

I am in awe of Notre Dame de Tournai. What a magnificent structure and so old – construction began in the 12th century. Its five towers stun the observer with their beauty, soaring high, dominating the skyline. The square towers rise to 83 meters/272 ft. It is a World Heritage Site.

The building was hit by a strong tornado in August 1999, revealing underlying structural issues. Repairs and and archaeological work continue.

Tournai main square
The Gran Place

We revisited our favorite restaurant here. L’Imperatrice (The Empress) is traditional Belgian cuisine, heavy on the meats, also featuring rabbit and duck. Sauces and gravies are a big deal in the cuisine, and these they do superbly, as with the fries. The same waitress served us. She’s a pro, making sure we understood what was on offer this day. Peg did, and loved the duck with its rich dark sauce. I did not quite get it. They served a substantial amount of smoked salmon on my plate, with two stuffed tomatoes, their version of the diet plate. I liked it but it was not what I came here for, which in this case I believed was a sauteed salmon. I also failed to order one or more of their many Belgian beers on tap and in the bottle, opting for wine, good but not Belgium. But beer with fish? Maybe with deep fried, on the menu as Fish and Chips, but not salmon in any configuration.

L’Imperatrice in Tournai

Previous visit to Tournai

cathedral tournai
Notre Dame de Tournai from the Grand Place
mons jesus sculpt
Jesus giving the keys to Peter. The most effeminate Jesus I have ever seen.

Tippy canoe

We entered the Oster (east) Schelde after a night in Willemstadt. The Oster Schelde leads to the North Sea. This means we are in a tidal zone, with significant tidal current at times. If the wind is against the current, or simply if it’s very windy, the water can get pretty rough. This can make us passengers pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately we did not have this issue despite the wind. However upon entering the harbor for the night we had to turn to face the wind to control the boat, otherwise the wind can push the back end of the boat away from the dock when you want the opposite to occur, of course.

Some friendly boaters helped with the lines, showed us where we were supposed to go, as we had first moored in order to find our assigned spot rather than taking the boat into more narrow spaces. Then they helped us moor at our assigned space, the one given to us by phone earlier in the day.

The next day at 6:45 a.m. we left for Terneuzen. We did not get far. Just outside the harbor the water was too rough for comfort so we returned to our mooring, having to pay the big bucks for the night. This zone is more expensive than most areas of the Netherlands. The next day promised to be sunny and calm and indeed it was. It is a route said to be traversed by many big ships. It was that as well. The small craft lock was closed for maintenance or repair, so after some confusion we found ourselves going into the huge lock with the big boys.

On the canal going south we were in some dense fog from time to time. It lifted by the time we arrived at the next lock, at Haanswert. After that huge lock you enter the Wester Schelde. Following it in the southeasterly direction takes you into Antwerp. As we head in the opposite direction, to Terneuzen, we were running with the low tide. We cruised at 7km per hour over our normal cruising speed of 10 kph. Going against the current would mean 7km under our cruising speed, about 3km per hour, so there’s a huge difference. had we gone to Antwerp at this time it would have been very slow going. Here you must pay attention to the tide tables, which we had not required to do since we took the U.S. Power Squadron course in the early 1990’s.

The last time we entered Belgium we went through Antwerp, going south from the Haaswert lock rather than angling to Terneuzen as we did today. By this route you enter the port of Antwerp, the largest or second in Europe. However AIS (Automatic Identification System) is now required. Something approaching $1000 is what you need to lay out for the purchase and installation of the equipment. This is the first time we have found it to be a requirement, so the expense is not justified.

So we were off to Terneuzen. We weren’t alone. We were with huge inland barges and gigantic seagoing vessels, but this is a large body of water so we were not at all concerned. For safety and to avoid the sometimes significant wakes, the harbor master told us to stay between the green and yellow markers, the small craft lane. The route is well marked so you avoid the shallow areas exposed by the tide. In fact we passed by several visible sand banks along the way. Most large vessels stayed out of the zone marked by the green and yellow buoys. Using it reduces the distance you need to travel. We were bounced around by wakes from time to time, but nothing above about .5 meters.

There is not one but two huge locks at Terneuzen. The lock “meester” directed us to the one to starboard, and to go in behind a particular huge ship, one with lots of pipes and things on it making it look like a floating oil refinery. We were tied to the huge ship splinter-laden moorings for over an hour as more lumbering giants entered. Finally about a half dozen monster commercial ships emerged from the open door. Then in went the big boys waiting with us, followed by us and one other small boat, once the lock meester told us it was our turn. It took over an hour to this point and we still had the lock to go. Huge ships struggle to get going, so once the door was open it was at least another 20 minutes before we were out and into the canal, the concerns about the crossing behind us.

Giant lock at Haanswert, two huge barges at the front.
One of the huge ships staying in their lane
In the lock at Terneuzen
The gigantic gates at the Terneuzen lock- I am holding the boat in place while shooting this thus the shakiness.

Ships pass in the night

With good weather upon us we sidled into a mooring on the Gouwe River in Waddinxveen next to the lifting bridge. Along the way we passed a huge lot filled with containers used to transfer goods on container ships. The barges that load and unload there passed by our mooring over the next few days, day and night, as we snuggled behind the huge pylons.

After completing the chores we had been unable to complete due to the weather, we moved down the river to Gouda. Gouda is an ancient town, founded by the Goude family circa 11th century, near where the city hall is now, in what was then a peat zone. Peat was harvested for fuel for centuries.

The 13th century castle was destroyed in the 16th century. In the 19th century the city walls were removed. However the city is still divided by many canals.

As we were coming into the central harbor we had to wait for a bridge to open. We blinked our eyes trying to interpret what we were seeing. A large barge was backing up through a narrow bridge.

After passing the lock and the next bridge, and had been moored for a few minutes, the friendly havenmeister (harbor master) came by, recommending we move to the other side where there was electricity and water. The price was the same where we were, while lacking those amenities.

We walked through old neighborhoods to the old harbor. There are a dozen or so turn of the century barges converted for their live-aboard occupants. There’s a very charming small restaurant by the lock with its what I half jokingly call guillotine style gates, as I cower beneath their sharp looking down facing blade when we enter.

Gouda’s city hall is world famous, for good reason. Today the huge plaza is filled with the Thursday cheese market

Gouda cheese market
Photo by Peg

Gouda is indeed the home of the cheese of the same name, in case you were wondering. It is the world’s oldest cheese produced with the same recipe, first mentioned in 1184. It is wrapped in wax to retain moisture. Here, unlike in most countries, there are many versions of the cheese, varying by the degree of aging, from one to twenty months. The latter is termed ‘oude Gouda.” I have tried some that are as hard as a well aged Parmesan.

Traditional barge in the old harbor in Gouda
Turn of the century barge in the old harbor