Boating in Belgium
Chez Gina and the Blaton-Ath Canal
The Blaton-Ath Canal has a long series of locks, some 18 in all, that takes you from Blanton to Ath at which point you are back on the Scheldt River. These are old locks. The Wallonie waterways authority sends you through with a team of lock keepers in a small truck or car. You go part of the way with one team before another takes over. It took us two days to do the approximately 25km. The scenery is lovely along the way. There are some attractive houses, including the old lock keepers’. The locks are easy to handle so it is a relaxing experience.
We stayed one night in each direction at Ladeuze, a scenic setting with a small village nearby, and several days in Geraadsbergen, back in Flanders at that point. The latter has a small town square up the hill, but otherwise there is not much to see. The people are especially friendly in these small towns. We tried some local beers at the marina’s bar. The owner received a package for us, a replacement for our failed marine radio, texting us when it arrived.
I noticed a sandwich press behind the bar. I asked if she could make a croque messieurs. Yes, but for those who had too much to drink. She was not about to offer to make me one just because it was lunchtime. When you drink beer, you drink beer. You do not eat. I keep forgetting.
Our lovely journey on this canal began with a night near a bridge outside the first lock, as a barge had just entered the lock, leaving no room for us. He said he was bringing a load of hops to the brewery up the canal. So we drove some stakes into the ground, I charcoal grilled a few few chicken thighs, and spent a quiet night there. On the way back we’d picked up a guest, Peg’s sister, but we sailed past that quiet spot, one of few free ones we’ve found in Belgium. It wasn’t pretty though, unlike the one in Ladeuze, and unlike Ladeiuze, there is no Chez Gina.
Chez Gina is a bar just off the canal. Gina is 80 and still runs the place. She has one tap of Jupiler, the crap from the national vat, or Maes it could be, I’ve forgotten. She has a half dozen bottled beers, fortunately. I ordered a St Feuillen (approximate spelling) Reserve, another good blonde. She does a magnificent job of delivering a small bag of ‘ships’ (chips, crisps for you Brits). Lays – they are everywhere in Europe. Quite a few locals stopped in for a chat and a beer. And maybe eat an entire ounce of ships.
Peg lured another child onto the boat for a ride between a few locks as we made our way back south. We are headed to the amazing boat lift at Thieu followed by the Ronquieres elevator lock. However there is a lock between us and them, and as it turned out, the lock had broken so we were forced to spend the night in Mons. Mons was not on the itinerary but it was certainly worth the visit. See https://garyjkirkpatrick.com/mons-by-chance/ for my account.