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The weekend of the Barge Warming Celebrations, Harmonie looked as though she could do with some warming! Our guests arrived by air from South Petherton and Edinburgh to Brussels, by car from South Petherton via Euro Tunnel and from London by Eurostar. We collected Mike and Pat Palmer from Brussels early on Friday 26th November without incident. David Parry and the Cliffords arrived about tea time by the BMW Parrymobile, Murdo McCleod and Susan arrived in hired car via Brussels airport a little later and we collected Anna Hossack and Tim at 9pm from Mol Station in a raging blizzard. The Ports and the Gilroys arrived from Petherton via Brussels airport in a huge Mercedes people carrier about 11pm, at one point having to push Les Port out of the car to wipe the snow off the road signs to find out where they were! Chris and Carol Hockey unfortunately had to cancel their trip due to a family crisis.
Harmonie was suitably "dressed" for the occasion with blue strip lights from stem to stern, thoughtfully provided by Chris Hockey. Everyone was provided with supper of chilli-con-carne with fresh crusty bread and lashings of beer and wine then retired to bed in the Lommel Broek Hotel across the road, apart from Anna and Tim who were in our guest cabin. The next morning saw everyone on board except the Gilroys who stayed in bed late and missed the boat! We cruised up to Leopoldsberg to turn around ready for an extended cruise on Sunday.
This took a couple of hours then it was all aboard the fleet of three cars to Valkenberg in Holland. Here we indulged in some excellent food, beer and wine for lunch, the girls and boys separating onto different tables hoping to score with some local talent! Having failed, we then visited the Christmas Market which is held in the local stone mines which provided the stone from which the town is built.
Saturday evening we assembled on board Harmonie for pre-prandial shampoo then off to the Hotel for dinner. Here we really missed Chris Hockey who always feels impelled to make a speech on these occasions. I had even prepared a little reply when I intended to present him with a CD of Vivaldis Four Seasons which he came to love over the many months when he was forced to listen to it whilst waiting for Scottish Life to sort out my pension! Hugo and Monica from the motor cruiser Moby Dick represented the locals and a good time was had by all as can be seen from the photographs below.
Rather a large amount of alchohol was consumed during the evening, the last revellers being ejected at 2am. Everyone was on board by a little after 10am the next morning and we cast off to cruise down the canal to Lommel and the waterside taverne of De Lossing. Here we were fed right royally with prodigous quantities of spare ribs that some could not manage. Fortunately Jeremy was on hand to consume the left overs!
Everyone stumbled back aboard Harmonie and we cruised back to Leopoldsberg to turn around then back down to Kerkhoven at 7.30pm, the last two hours in complete darkness, navigating by searchlight, all good practice but a bit hairy turning in confined spaces and finding the channel through narrow bridges.
Most of us were ready for an early night, the Ports and Gilroys planning a 5am start the next morning so we all said our goodbyes promising a repeat weekend sometime in the future.
It is warmer today as I write and the snow has disappeared but yesterday was bright and bitterly cold with a film of ice formed on the canal surface.
We might need our ice skates this winter!!