Living large on a living barge – 11

A six month per year barge tour of Europe, in installments

By Tom Miller

Tom and family are touring Europe by barge. This is the eleventh in his series of reports on what is to be six months per year of cruising the waterways there.

Editor’s Note: Last week Tom bid farewell to The Netherlands and visited the town of Liege, Belgium.

Ten years ago while on our last barge, Tigre Rose, Lisa and I passed by the most beautiful chateau.  It wasn’t one of the grandiose structures we saw in the Lorie Valley, but much more modest in size. The setting, gardens, architecture and overall balance were what made it so special.  Its beautiful reflection on the mirror smooth water didn’t hurt either. While we never forgot our favorite chateau we couldn’t remember exactly where it was. Imagine our delight as we rounded a bend in the river, and our old friend came into view.

Our favorite chateau comes into view.

Our favorite Chateau.


Tying Rabelo to a 20 ft. dock

Lisa, Ilana, and Steve grabbed their cameras and started snapping pictures. I was driving and asked Wilco if he would take the helm.  I wanted to get my camera.  As we

Chateau Dave.

Chateau Dave.

were clicking away Wilco pointed to a dock directly opposite the chateau and said, “We can tie up right there.” The spot he was pointing was a decrepit little dock.  I looked at Wilco as if he had lost his mind.  You can’t tie up a 130ft. boat on that dock.  Wilco just shrugged his shoulders and said, “No problem.”  I didn’t believe he could do it, but then I forgot he’s a stubborn Dutchman.  We ended up spending the night just across the river from our favorite chateau.

We’ve always wondered who lived in this beautiful home, and the following morning we set out to find the answer.  We walked a mile to the closest bridge that crossed the river and then another mile back to the village where the chateau was.  The name of the village was Dave.  Of course the sign on the wall surrounding the chateau said, Chateau de Dave.  Now we knew it was Dave’s place.  The grounds were so extensive, and the surrounding rock wall so high we couldn’t get any pictures.


Our new friend with her granddaughter and a few more friends.


Lunch on the Meuse River.

Fortunately we met this delightful Belgium woman caring for her granddaughter that spoke a smattering of English. The nice lady said Queen Fabiola owned the castle.  She was married to King Baudoin of Belgium who died in the 1990’s. The Queen was still alive although in her 90’s and lived in Spain.  She had not been seen at the chateau in years.  We were so excited to find out who the owner was, and thanked our new friend profusely.  That’s when she did the most amazing thing.  She walked up to this tiny wooden  door in the rock wall and pushed it open.  She waved for us to follow.  As we slowly walked towards the main residence we were told to stay close. We shouldn’t be on the property.  I wasn’t reassured when she said we probably would not get caught.  The good news was that even with my worn hips and knees I figured I could still out run a 90-year-old queen, so off we went.  Needless to say, the experience was incredible and one that we easily survived.

To say our friend Steve has a sweet tooth would be an understatement.  Every morning he would get up early, and go on a scouting trip to find the best boulangerie in town.  When Steve came back from his scouting trip we were surprised to find out that less than a 100 yards from where we were parked was a giant supermarket.  We thought we were on a pristine river, and yet right behind us was a good size town.


Steve said this was just so we could have a little taste.

Come back next week for more living large on a living barge.


THEWAVE_sig11Tom Miller is an adventure writer from Thousand Oaks. His novel The Wave, about a tsunami destroying Honolulu was published in 2010. Tom has a degree in geology, has been a contractor and developer, prolific diver, pilot, sailor, and barge captain. When he’s not chasing adrenalin overseas, he hikes with the local “Heartbreak Hiking Fools.” LIVING BARGE is his memory of his recent six month journey through the canals of Europe with his wife Lisa.





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Greg Muller

Need any crew, Tom?