Rally is up to start.
Machine is doing the instructions.
Teams are preparing themselves.
Bärchen is really excited.
Arrived at the start!
We stayed just 5km from the Belgian border and felt up for a cycle ride so we took the tandem and headed for the little bridge over the stream that turned out to be the border.
The photo of Vicky facing forward is taken from France while she is in Belgium and visa versa for the photo she is turning round in.
It is a real pleasure to be able to move so freely between the countries over here.Read more
We are amongst 20 or so other vans in Tournai's official stellplatz, a substantial, slightly run down, concrete car park that also acts as a truck stop. It is once again a return visit, having stayed here for one night in late November. Despite being well away from the road the background thrum of traffic is constant because Tournai is a large urban settlement. Behind us are the extensive, green, playing fields for a big, red brick secondary school. Every now and then a whistle blows or kids yell encouragement to their team mates.
We arrived after a drive of 215km, broken up by a lunch stop at motorway services, where Vicky shooed yet more ants from the van. Fingers crossed, their numbers do seem to be diminishing. Tournai isn't the most scenic of spots but it does have a good number of vets and Poppy needs her checkup and echinococcus (worming) tablets before our ferry crossing on Friday, to satisfy the terms of the Pet Passport scheme. A vet needs to examine her and ensure she has recieved a treatment for worms between 120 hours and 24 hours prior to crossing. We'd previously had a very successful consultation with a veterinarian here, but when calling ahead to book, had learned that she was on holiday. A quick search of google maps told us there were lots of other clinics close by and we chose one outside the ringroad for easy access, making an appointment for 11am.
Nearing the stopover we visited an Intermarché supermarket and picked up some more low fibre foods for Will's pre-hospital diet. We then found a spot at the stopover and holed up for the evening. Come morning we left with the drinking water at 100% and empty waste tanks. Arriving at the vets in plenty of time we parked on the street and had a quick look around the small Wednesday market up the road. Vicky guided Will past the colourful fruit and veg stalls (he isn't allowed any at the moment) and on to the cheese trailer. Its produce looked mouthwateringly good and it even had a decent range of bio (organic) choices. We bought a couple of small wedges then fetched Poppy for her consultation.
The clinic comprised the ground floor of a terraced house and we rang the bell to gain entry, only for it to be answered by an extremely flustered young vet exclaiming that it was impossible to see us now or even in half an hour. She already had two patients waiting and it was only her. We tried explaining that we had an appointment but she already knew this and was trying to turn us away! We didn't back down and she finally said we could return at midday. More than a little put out and worried, we returned a confused Poppy to the van and went for another look around the market to mull over our options. We could drive 70km to another vets we knew and attend an afternoon drop-in session, we could call round other vets in Tournai and see if they had any last minute appointments or we could wait and see if this vet was able to fit us in. Poppy didn't need treatment as such, just a check, some worming tablets and a stamp in her passport, so we decided to wait around for our noon appointment.
At 12 o'clock we rang the bell once again and to our great relief the waiting room was empty and the vet beckoned us in. Once she had finished on the phone she apologised sincerely. She looked as if she had just graduated vet school and it turned out the other practitioner was on holiday, leaving her to be vet, veterinary nurse, receptionist and secretary all in one. No wonder she had seemed frazzled! She got on with checking the passport and Poppy, asking us lots of questions about her health and when we were travelling. Luckily Vicky speaks a reasonable amount of French so was able to answer most queries. At the end of the session Poppy ate her tablets (cleverly disguised as bone shaped treats) and the passport was handed back to us with the necessary sections complete. It cost a total of €38, which was less than we usually pay. It was only once we were driving away that Will realised she hadn't checked Poppy's microchip. She has two because a previous one stopped functioning. We just hope this one does its job at the port on Friday!Read more
Tournai is a large and busy town. It offered us a free aire to one side of a spacious, crater pocked car park used by lorries. A few hundred meters away was a football pitch and in the opposite direction ran a fast and noisy road. The hum of engines wasn't too bad, but we drowned it out completely by listening to a Belgian music station on the radio. We like to hear foreign languages spoken, even if we can't understand what is being said. All of the countries we've visited so far have played English language songs and most have interspersed their commentary with the odd English phrase.
In contrast to the fine bright day we'd had yesterday, today delivered grey skies and sheet rain. Will suprised Vicky by volunteering to go out and get bread and when we'd finished eating, Vicky called a nearby vets to get Poppy's passport sorted. We were still in a French speaking area and Vicky got a real kick out of being able to arrange the whole thing in French. It was a bit nerve wracking because it is so much more difficult over the phone when there are no contextual clues, gestures or facial expressions to help.
At 11:30am we drove Poppy to the clinic. Now she is old she becomes very nervous around other dogs and she has never enjoyed people being too close to her, unless it is on her terms. We were therefore keeping our fingers crossed that it would be a good experience for her. Fortunately there were no other animals to be seen and we'd hardly sat down in the waiting area when the vet called us in. After Poppy had gone on the scales, Vicky stealthily fed her the worming tablet between two treats and the vet gave her a checkup. Within 10 minutes of entering, the passport was stamped, we had paid and were out of the door with a very relieved Poppy! Success!
N.B. For anyone intersted the vet we used was Dr Claudine Peeters at: http://www.veterinairepeeters.be/Read more
It was Sunday and after a chilly night, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. We have been doing short hops and one night stays on a route Will has programmed in to the sat nav, ending at Calais ferry port! Soon after setting off we spotted a car wash with an extra high bay. We'd been looking out for one of these since Sweden as the van had become filthy. When getting our Euros ready, we found the previous user had left €4 worth of tokens in the slot! It worked very well and we proudly drove a glistening Martha Motorhome away.
It wasn't just the sun making today's spot look very attractive. The medium sized car park was by the side of the slow moving River Sambre. It had a picnic table, a launch ramp and a good area of grass for Poppy to get her nose stuck in to. Fishers cast their lines, people cycled and someone even came and took their boat for a trip. There were only a couple of cars whose occupants were drinking, littering and generally being loud and lairy. We were grateful they didn't stay for too long. The only other noisy neighbours were a gaggle of domesticated geese, two of which we found out to be Chinese Geese, with a distinctive basal knob (bumpy thing) above their bill and a wattle hanging down from their throat.
We spent a bit of time catching up with friends and family on Skype and the phone. Vicky packed Will off in the canoe while she transferred some clothes and equipment to new storage boxes we'd bought for the boot, the old ones having become cracked and unusable. She then got stuck in to making Christmas cards, meaning we both had a very enjoyable afternoon.Read more
Noch knapp 15 Minuten bis zum Start... die Spannung steigt und unsere heutige Challenge ist eine offizielle Rittertaufe zu vollziehen... 😂🙈 Wie das geht? Den Kopf ins Wasser stecken und das natürlich nicht irgendwo, sondern neben einem bedeutsamen Gebäude. Welches es wird? Wir werden berichten...Mal schauen, was das Roadbook sonst so für die nächsten Tage bereithält.Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
Province du Hainaut, Provinz Hennegau, Hainaut Province, Hainaut, Henegouwen