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Published: October 10th 2017
The best office in Valenciennes
Just across the road from Elodie
We must be in the Irish region of France as Murphy has been everywhere today. We awoke to find that French public servants had pulled a lightening strike and the lock operators had not turned up for work. Uncertain as to when the strike would be lifted Henry decided that we should head off for our bike ride and check in with Chiel later in the day to see whether we should return to Valenciennes or continue on to Tournai.
We were berthed right in the middle of Valenciennes but were just resting against three pillars so poor old Chiel had to manoeuvre the boat to align the offload point with the jetty. This was an exacting task which involved much friendly banter (in Dutch) between Chiel and Jantien (forward deck hand aka chef). After completing the manoeuvre we offloaded the bikes. A few hundred metres along the river bank we encountered works on the path which required us to backtrack. Traffic getting out of Valenciennes was a little daunting but eventually we found ourselves on bike paths alongside the road.
We rode through an old disused coal mining town with rows and rows of identical houses for the
miners, all apparently vacant now as the mine closed in 1989. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site (alongside the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Barrier Reef!!). Valenciennes' economy collapsed with the coal industry but an industrious and foresighted Mayor has worked hard to reinvigorate the town and it appears to be paying dividends.
Not far from the mine site was the cobbled forest track which forms a key part of the Paris to Roubaix cycle race. This particular track is 2.4km long. We tried to ride it for about 100m and that was enough!!
By this time, the rain had started to fall (in direct contravention of Chiel's forecast of sunny and 18C - and I always thought Captains were never wrong). The latest news was that the strike wouldn't lift before 2.00pm, the rain was causing morale to falter so we did the only sensible thing - we convinced Henry to turn for home. He read the symptoms very clearly and, before you know it we were sitting in a café, out of the rain, sipping coffee. There were some birds in cages in the café - a good old Aussie galah and a couple
of African parrots. The proprietor told us he bought the galah from the local pet shop for 1,500Euros!!! It makes you realize why bird smuggling is so rife.
After coffee, it was about 7km back to Elodie in Valenciennes. Murphy struck again when we were just a couple of hundred metres from home when Jonathan, forever attentive for Maureen and others, got caught on a kerb and came a cropper. Fortunately, we are well served in our group with a GP and a dentist (Ingrid and Tim) and, after a quick examination onboard, the ambulance was called and it was off to hospital for stitches. We pray for painless treatment and a quick recovery.
At almost the exact time that Jonathan had his accident, the lock operators went back to work but we will need to stay put until those ashore return. (Murphy's idea of a joke). It may be a late arrival in Tournai tonight.
The irony of the strike is that today is the last day we will be in France. By this evening we should be in Belgium.
Post Script: We didn't quite make it to Belgium. After negotiating one lock with a
little bit of brazen action on the part of Chiel, we got a further 2km downstream only to be blocked at the next lock. so here we sit, some way short of Tournai. Hopefully, things will be back to normal tomorrow and we'll make an early start through the locks. We will have a little extra bike riding to do to catch up the program but Henry assures us it is all canal tow paths and very flat. If all goes well we will be at a beer tsting by late tomorrow afternoon in Oudenarrde, well clear of French Unions.
Tot: 0.531s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 10; qc: 54; dbt: 0.0272s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb