Liège, Belgium

On our way back to France, the city of Liège is our first stop in Belgium. So we planned to stay a day or two and to be back in France a few days later, where freshly baked baguettes and croissants (which nobody can bake like the French), would be waiting for us!  - Or so we thought!  

But first we had to get our “Permis de Circulation” from the Public Office of Wallonia allowing us to travel through this area of Belgium. This goes for every boat entering the lock in Holland prior to entering Belgium. In our case it didn’t take long at all as I was very well prepared and delivered the necessary information in almost perfect French!

Soon we entered the harbour of Liège and just started to relax when we received an email from a concerned boating friend telling us that due to lack of water in the Meuse, things didn’t look so well for our onwards journey to France. 

We first couldn’t believe that so early in the year the French waterways authorities had already to shut down sections of the canal to navigation. The only other option, the Canal des Ardennes, had not been navigable since a lock wall collapsed last year. (see stolen pic on right) Still in disbelief we checked all available web sites and comments of travellers, considering to take a long way around through the Champagne area, which didn’t sound like too much “hardship” to us. But even that way was blocked off to Toul due to critically low water levels at the Mauvage Tunnel! 

It took us most of the day and a couple of Aperol Spritz' to be able to say “C’est la vie!” and start to re-adjust our plans. 

First we decided to stay a little longer in Liège, because now we had to organise a new winter mooring for our boat. We also had to think of what to do and where to go for the next 7 weeks and where best to meet up with our friend Eva from Munich.

To cool our brains we needed some distraction. So we finally did what friends many times recommended to us and visited the Guillemins train station of Liège. Wow! What an amazing structure is this creation of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava! The beams of the curved glass roof reflect in ever changing patterns with the shifting sunlight and shade. From the top level all platforms can be viewed at once and everything looks so perfectly clean and tidy.

Unfortunately this can’t be said for the rest of the town. Many buildings and streets looked quite neglected and dirty. Admittedly having spent the last 2 years in Holland, where everything is so well maintained and cared for, might have skewed my judgement. Most of the old abbeys and churches with their blackened walls were clad in scaffolding which, I suppose, is a sign that work is being done to improve things. We liked Saint Paul Cathedral, it’s old choir and beautiful sculptures and the carved altar piece in the Saint- Denis Church.

For something different we visited the weekly flea market on Boulevard De La Constitution, a 1km long accumulation of stalls with an array of old treasures, jewellery and paraphernalia you otherwise only get to see on the brocantes in Paris.

Walking back through the old town and past the university we discovered an interesting student pub and, unfortunately for our figures, a street with the most alluring patisseries.

We are still discussing where to go from here - thinking of places with no pubs or patisseries.-  Nope, just kidding!

© Austin Robinson 2019