Thursday, 6 December 2012

Encore France: Day 8 - Amiens to Long

From the journal:


What is there to say? This was a really lovely day’s cruise, with superb scenery all the way. We just had to ignore the smells emanating from the potato alcohol factory and the sewerage plant.

Oh, and a bit of excitement: as we cruised slowly along enjoying the colours and the beautiful autumn sunshine, we came across an inflatable vessel belonging to the fire department, and they were practising diving into that dark, silent water, I guess training for emergencies. They all called out “Bonjour” and waved as we passed.

Amazing hydro-electric plant by the canal, over 100 years old
and in use for many years.

Another thing I should mention here is the sounds of gunfire. Yes, that’s right: gunfire, the noise of men who need to show their superiority by firing weapons at unarmed creatures. While last Sunday was the worst for it – after all, what could there possibly be better to do on God’s day that kill some of his loveliest animals – this was a really popular day for hunting obviously, and the sounds of gunfire, I guess mainly from shotguns, echoed all around us. Those decoy ducks looked so phoney to us, sort of like an avian version of a blow-up dolly, that you really have to wonder how dumb ducks would be to sashay on down for a chat when they see a few of them lined up in perfect formation on a lake. But obviously it works, because the hunters were out in full force. Do I need to add that we beat a hasty retreat to the interior of the boat? Hm, no desire to become the victim of a stray bullet.

Beautiful scenes coming into Long, grounds of the
chateau on the right.

Bertrand had stressed upon us, when chatting in Cappy, the necessity of visiting Long to glimpse its chateau. Well, coming into Long with the chateau’s grounds on the right is indeed really beautiful and definitely not to be missed.

The roof of Long's hotel de ville visible through the trees.

The grounds, on the greenest of green rolling hillsides, look just like a movie set with lakes and fountains and follies and statuary dotted here there and everywhere. And wandering in amongst all this are the most dazzling white geese, geese of such a size that from a distance we took them to be sheep. Oh, and just to add to the idyllic scene: pure white horses contributing their own elegance to it all. And the chateau? Well, could it look anything other than splendid? Of course it couldn’t.

Bummer, we're shut out of the chateau.

Fascinating as well to discover that when the chateau was being built, the owner had the river/canal re-aligned so that it flowed right by his property, just for aesthetic purposes. Ah, the power of money, and, ah, how wise of him to do so.

And I think this is the stables! Life is good for a horse
in such an estate.

It all boded so well for a lovely place to stay, didn’t it, with such beautiful countryside, the magnificent chateau, an hotel de ville to rival those found in large cities, and an awesome cathedral overlooking everything? Wrong!

Very speccy looking hotel de ville overlooking
the canal.

The tie-up point, which is just before the lock and very close to the Somme Canal authority’s premises, is by an abandoned building and opposite a couple of very creepy derelict houses, one of which had a huge and rather scary dummy in the window. This was right out of the sort of movie which ends up with numbers in the name, you know, “If You Go Down to the Canal Today 8”. Added to this, while most of the windows in the building you tie up next to were already smashed, this didn’t stop a bunch of local kids – one of whom was carrying a boomerang, for goodness’ sake – from coming along and throwing stones in an attempt to break those still remaining. Even knowing that we were on deck watching them, only a few feet away, didn’t deter them in the slightest.  Thankfully, we soon heard the sound of mothers’ voices calling their sweet little darlings home for dinner and so they wandered off. Amazing!

Now, despite our misgivings, despite the derelict building, the horrible kids, the creepy houses, I have to say that it was the loveliest, quietest night and we slept like logs. 

 Catch you tomorrow when we visit a town of unforgettable houses.

PS. I have to say, that tie-up point at Long is probably quite, quite different now. I am sure the derelict building has either been renovated or demolished. The actual services were excellent, and the location could certainly be fantastic.  

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