Kerr Barging Blogs
Back into France
We had a very smooth trip back from Belgium into France and stopped as before just over the border at the Customs Post. We had not previously mentioned that the border area is crammed with shops selling tobacco and alcohol- probably due to lower duties in Belgium
In general we were retracing our steps, but we had a couple of items to tick off.
The first was to visit Zuydcoote, a beach a little north of Dunkirk where low tide exposes the remains of several vessels wrecked during the Dunkirk Evacuation. We were able to examine the skeleton of the HMS Crested Eagle, a Thames paddle wheel steamer, part of the evacuation fleet, which had embarked 600 soldiers at Dunkirk but was bombed by German Stuka dive-bombers after it had left the wharf. It burst into flames and the Captain ran it onto the beach, at Zuydcoote. There were 300 fatalities. What was left after the Germans broke it up for their own use remains today, a popular spot for collectors of the shellfish growing on it, as well as those like us interested in its history.
The next item on our to do list was a visit to the Louvre- in Northern France. The Museum of Louvre-Lens opened in 2012 as a satellite of the Louvre and a chance to bring a sample of its rich collection to people outside Paris. Since 1792, the city of Lens had been a coal mining town, but when the last of the mines closed in 1986 it experienced a severe downturn. At the same time the closure of the mines left a great deal of land unused. It is well placed geographically to meet the needs of people in Northern France easily accessible from the main population centres such as Lille, Arras and Dunkirk, and convenient also for those coming from Britain through the Channel Tunnel to Calais. And so the decision was made to locate the Louvre satellite in Lens and a modern gallery was designed and built.
There is a canal leading to Lens, previously used to transport coal. We had frequently used a pontoon near the Canal entrance but the water was very shallow just past that point. This year the channel was deeper, presumably following some dredging of the waterway, so this was our chance to visit Lens and the Louvre there. The Canal now stops short of Lens but there is a good mooring about 4 kilometres out of town. We had thought of cycling the extra distance but faced with an expected temperature of 35 degrees plus busy city streets, we decided to travel by bus instead. The Museum occupies a huge area on the outskirts of the city, previously a mine site. The main gallery is open plan with over 200 works from the main Louvre collection displayed chronologically, starting at 3500BC and ending in the 19th Century, including art and artefacts from many cultures. We were also able to enjoy a temporary exhibition of the works of Charles le Brun, Louis XIV's painter and chief of decoration for over 30 years. It was a very different experience from a visit to the Louvre in Paris, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. The Brun exhibition was particularly good and had attracted his works from the Louvre and also other collections.
Anja continues to attract attention. On the Lens Canal we were moored near a large park and many families came for a closer look at the "Bateau". At the next stop, we were next to a Mairie, venue for a Saturday afternoon wedding. Our boat provided the back drop for a photo of the flower girls.
Over the past few days we had become aware of extra vibration and could not go as fast as usual, so when we stopped next, in the Scarpe River, David donned his swimming gear to check out the propeller. He found the shaft wrapped around with black plastic, nylon fishing net and several pieces of thick fabric. No wonder it vibrated! In all he filled a large bucket with what he removed. We believe we probably started picking this up in Ypres where the Port was at the end of the Canal and seemed to be the final destination of a great deal of rubbish. Getting it off has made a great difference to our engine efficiency and smooth progress.
Penny and Dave