The end of a chapter in my journey.
I left France today, and entered Belgium. France has been wonderful, exciting, interesting, enjoyable, and altogether a good experience- but it is time to move along. The St. Quentin canal has been a very gentle route north, and a very much better choice than the industrial Canal du Nord. Lots more locks, but much less commercial traffic, and I got to do the tunnels (see previous posts). Even so, in France, there were not many commercial ships (2-5 per day) and very little other traffic as well, so I was often in locks by myself. All that changed as soon as I got to the first place in Belgium (Antoing). At the junction for the canal Nimy-Blaton-Perrones, Antoing is by far the busiest inland port I have encountered, and I met or had pass me, more than 25 commercial ships just today. A very different scenario than in France. Antoing is a major industrial center, and has been for more than 100 years. They have made lime (the bottle kilns and massive roasting kilns) and continue with the processing of aggregates, lime, cement and other building materials today. There are almost no pleasure boats moving at all, and Covid is certainly a reason for that. I had hoped to stop in Tournai, reportedly a beautiful place to visit, but the moorings are out of service as that city does a complete makeover of the waterway, removing major restrictions in width and maneuvering around ancient structures. So, onward I have gone and am readying myself for Gent.