2015 Barging Belgium

Den Bosch: 23/9

Back with our best barging Buddies

We have been in frequent contact with our barging mentors and friends, Rebecca and Michel, aboard ‘t Majeur, throughout our cruise. We had taken our first barge cruise with them and they were instrumental in us buying Catharina.

Lisette and Panache lead 't Majeur along the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne
Lisette and Panache lead ‘t Majeur along the Canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne
Michel checks out the anchor winch on Neo Vita in mid-winter
Michel checks out the anchor winch on Neo Vita in mid-winter

Whenever we were about to try something tricky: needed some advice on routes; wanted to query what the weather meant; were seeking apps to check the wind and weather; confused about some aspect of Dutch culture, and so forth – we were on the phone to ‘t Majeur. Always, Michel and Rebecca delivered wonderful advice, freely and carefully, so that we were much better prepared for whatever challenge had prompted the call. We also had good chats about the weather, food, drink and other bargees via Facetime. But it’s never as good as being there in person.

Graciously, they had asked us to stay with them for a night aboard ‘t Majeur on our way back from Veurne to Amsterdam. At the time, they were moored in the scenic (well they all are…) Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch – almost always referred to as Den Bosch.

't Majeur from from the top of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre.
‘t Majeur from the top of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre.

Den Bosch

We sauntered out after we had said hello to Panache, who as always, was thrilled to have visitors. First stop was Sint-Janskathedraal (Cathedral of St John’s) one of the largest in the Netherlands and with a strikingly gothic architecture.

Saint John's Cathedral, on of the largest and tallest in the Netherlands
Saint John’s Cathedral, one of the largest and tallest in the Netherlands

It has been renovated several times over the last century and on the last occasion, 25 new angels were provided as part of the restoration. One of them has a mobile phone.

Saint John's Cathedral with the phone angel
Saint John’s Cathedral with the phone angel
 "The phone has just one button", says the artist. "It dials directly to God"
“The phone has just one button”, says the artist. “It dials directly to God”

As most of us lack such a phone, the Cathedral’s fathers have thoughtfully provided a mobile number so you can call the angel, who can pass on your request.


It was then time for a chocolate break – hot chocolate and a local treat, the famous ‘Bossche Bol”. This is a tennis ball-sized profiterole filled with cream and covered with chocolate. You have to be hungry to consume one on your own.

Michel is half-way through his Bossche Bol and beginning to wilt!
Michel is half-way through his Bossche Bol and beginning to wilt!

After a little more sightseeing:

The Dutch do love their manequins
The Dutch do love their mannequins

and finding out we were too late for some education:


we returned to ‘t Majeur and Panache to partake in a lovely dinner and a relaxing evening with good friends.

Hieronymus Bosch

Next morning, after breakfast, we had about half the day free for a little more sightseeing. We decided to go and visit the Jheronimous Bosch (English know him as Hieronymus Bosch) gallery. The art of Jheronimous is instantly recognisable and his style was never taken up by any artists who followed him. He is however, considered an influence on Salvador Dali and other modern surrealists. He painted his striking, bizarre, confronting, surreal and imaginative works during the period from late 15th to early 16th Century. He spent almost all his life in Den Bosch and the town celebrates his art widely and often.

One of the most spectacular celebrations is the yearly Bosch Parade. Unfortunately, as this festival is held in June, we weren’t able to experience this fascinating combination of art, engineering and watercraft – but it is high on the list of events we wish to attend sometime in the future. Artist/engineers throughout the Netherlands create wonderous watercraft, inspired by Bosch’s art, and these parade along the River Drommel. Accompanying the parade, the town has a music, craft and food festival.

An example of the fantastic creations that ply the waterways of Den Bosch during the Festival.

However, the there was an excellent exhibition of reproductions and interpretations of his work at ####.

Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony
Triptych of Temptation of St Anthony – the 3D representations below are all from this painting

The exhibition was wonderful! It was a mixture of reproductions of his art and some three-dimensional sculptures produced from his visualisations. Incredibly detailed artwork along with a striking imagination.

Left panel, at the bottom
Left panel, at the bottom
Left panel, middle
Centre panel, bottom left side

It was hard to drag ourselves away from the gallery but time was getting on and we had to go back to ‘t Majeur, collect our luggage and get to the train station for the final leg of our journey to Amsterdam.

One more important place to visit was the Frites Restaurant (yes, the Flemish and Dutch have restaurants devoted to fries – what wonderful countries!) ‘De Finproever’ for a last serve of Belgian Frites before leaving. As this restaurant won the award for the best frites in the Netherlands in 2013, we expected and received a delicious, large serve of fries, covered in Frite Sauce.

Just getting a small serve gave us far too much to eat ourselves!
Just getting a small serve gave us far too much to eat ourselves!

Well, we thought we were entitled to a big dash of carbs, having lost about five kilos each over the holiday. Just have to hope it isn’t a harbinger of the weight gain to come. Anyhow, if it is, it just gives us one more reason to come back.

The flight back was uneventful, just very striking how a large city like Abu Dhabi is surrounded by the most desolate and sandy desert imaginable.

Abu Dhabi carved out of the desert.
Abu Dhabi carved out of the desert.

Closing thoughts on 2015

While we felt that we still learnt something new every day that we cruised, the box of skills was growing and our ability to use them was becoming more refined. Apart from the great places we visited and great experiences we had with the friends and family who cruised with us, another highlight of this year was how we met many more fellow cruisers and the wonderful time we had in meeting them and quickly adding them to our list of good friends.

Most memorable of all, with out a doubt, was meeting the Verwers. The connection with the family history of Catharina Elisabeth and with the Dutch tradition of barges is something we will treasure forever.

Next year it is the centenary of Catharina’s launching – so the celebrations continue!

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    11 Responses

  1. ☺️ look forward to see you again soon XR

  2. Lovely – the ‘Masterclass’ had us in stitches!
    Very jealous of your visit to the HB gallery. I’m a big admirer of his (macabre?) work.

  3. If I’d known this praise was coming my way, I’d have unsubscribed ☺️.

    1. Credit given where credit due!

  4. Well done, getting 2015 written up before the 2016 cruising starts.
    We’ve been having lovely weather up here in Groningen but the lower half of NL, Belgium and France has been having terrible weather. No need to hurry.
    Look forward to hearing more from this year when both of our barges celebrate 100 years.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Yes, the weather has been pretty bad – they almost cancelled the DBA Rally at Briare (btw – remember I asked if Willem would let us know where his place is, so we can just have a quick look?) but it’s still on I gather. We’re driving down from Veurne. Yes, great to celebrate 100 years since launch – mind you, we celebrated 100 years since commissioning last year, so we’re making a two-year celebration out of it!

      1. Willem and Janet drove the horses down this week. Their watermill is half an hour from Briare, so they tell us, so the DBA rally and a visit should be a good combination. We haven’t had an official new address from them yet but how many watermills can there be in Saint Privé? If we hear more we’ll let you know. A

        1. Great clues – I also don’t imagine there are too many dutch folk who own property, especially a mill in St Privé so we might be able to ferret them (or at least their new address) out from the natives.

        2. Thanks Andrew, that’s a great start – as you say, there can’t be too many Dutch watermill owners in a small town like St Privé, so perhaps the locals can point us toward them, or at least the mill.

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