Port de Plaisance d'Halluin, FranceMay 2 in France ⋅ 🌧 12 °C
Jackdaws are poking around amongst the carpet of daisies growing through the grass in front of the van. Beyond them a mix of pleasure craft are moored in the small marina, their rubber fenders swinging gently in the breeze. The Old Leie channel breaks away from the River Lys and curls round the tongue of land we are parked on, acting as the border line between France and Belgium. Every so often an angry buzzing penetrates the air, as lessons finish at the Belgian college over the water and students escape on low powered mopeds.
Before setting off this morning, Vicky called the company we had ordered the new door handle from. Communicating with a Spanish telephonist through the medium of French was a little difficult but we were told the part would be ready in 4 days (better than the possible 2 weeks but we'll have to wait and see how things turn out).
Our journey here took us on a wild goose chase through Belgium. Vicky is in need of a specialist yarn to finish a knitting project and had used the internet to hunt down a Belgian distributor, only to find the address was that of a private home, not a wool shop. We consoled ourselves with a trip to a frituur for lunch. They were friendly, spoke good English and even had a choice of vegetarian fare, so we walked away happy with a couple of burgers and piping hot frites in a perforated bag to stop them getting soggy.
Will had a successful afternoon fishing, catching some decent sized carp, while Vicky tried in vain to find somewhere that sold the yarn she needed, either online or at a shop we were likely to be passing. As the sun broke through the clouds she cleared her head with a walk. Our little peninsula seens to be a 'green lung', set within an industrial, urban environment. It was good to walk amongst the trees and spot the birdlife, including a Grey Heron, Tufted Duck, Widgeon and Great Crested Grebes. She even took a short trip over the pedestrian bridge to Belgium and back. We really do love the freedom of movement within the Schengen Area!
A chilly wind blew on the second day but we wrapped up and took a stroll into the towns, yes, towns. The urban area here spans the border line. The Belgian side, where we began, is known as Menen and the French section that we walked to is known as Halluin. Menen's main street is a busy place, crammed with businesses selling tobacco, alcohol, chocolate and a few seedy sex stores. The border at Place Jacques Delors Plein was subtle, with a small granite plinth marking the spot. We were surprised to find that Menen spoke Dutch and Halluin spoke French. Our previous impression had been that Belgian areas close to the French border had adopted this language, but it obviously wasn't the case here.
Will had successfully fitted the new chain and gear changer to the tandem so in the afternoon we took it out for a test run, following the grassy walking track up one side of the River Lys, through a corridor of Cow Parsley, then returning on the smooth tarmac cycle track on the other. Will indulged Vicky by stopping at a field where two foals were finding their feet. We spent five minutes watching as one reared up and grabbed hold of its mother's mane, hanging on and tugging like a dog would with a rope toy!
Although it wasn't an official aire, Halluin was a good spot to stay for a couple of days, providing opportunities for fishing, walking, birdwatching, and cycling. It was quiet enough as well as having easy access to a town (or two)!Read more