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The Canal du Centre and its associated structures are one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium. They make part of the industrial history of Europe and constituted a remarkable achievement in the field of engineering. This part of Wallonia became one of the major European industrial poles in the 19th century. Today, however, most of the big industries have collapsed, leaving behind a somewhat desolate landscape, but also an interesting legacy in terms of industrial archaeology.
The most outstanding features are the five remaining hydraulic boat-lifts that save the differences in height of the Canal, in particular in the stretch between Mons and La Louvière. The first of the lifts was built in 1888 by an English company.
Of the original eight lifts, only four of the are still working, plus a new one which was built at Strépy-Thieu. The latter is still the tallest boat lift in the world, although a bigger one will be built once the Three-Gorges-Dam boat-lift in china is finished. The boat lift was meant to stimulate this economically depressed area, but has so far failed to be cost-effective, as the canal is not deep enough for large ships, and cannot seriously compete with rail. From the tourist point of view, it is, however, a great place to complement the visit of the historical lifts and to witness some of the principles of elementary physics.
You can visit the lifts by road (follow sings to the ascenseurs from motorway E-19) or by taking a cruise from Brussels or La Louvière (much more fun, but only available in the warmer months).
Updated Jun 10, 2009
Beloeil owes its position in the Belgian tourism world to itss famous chateau, which surrounded by an artificial lake and a beautiful park. This chateau has been the residence of the Ligne family for many centuries and has suffered a lot of modifications to accomodate it to the evolving taste of its inhabitants or to repair it from the inclemences of time and the fires.
Visits are allowed during the warmer months of the year and they allow for the discovery of a richly decorated interior which, rather than a museum, looks like a livable place.
Written Sep 4, 2006
Mons is one of Wallonia's most interesting cities. Do not be fooled by its name (hills), as there are no really steep streets here. On the contrary, Mons (Bergen in Flemish) is suitable for all ages and physical conditions.
Mons's Grand' Place is indeed grand and the true center of the town. Other musts in Mons include the Saint Waudru collegiate and the belfry, as well as a stroll in its cobbled *hilly* lanes.
You can see more pictures in my Mons page.
Updated Sep 4, 2006
Near the French border, Tournai is, with almost 70.000 inhabitants, the largest city in Western Hainaut. Known by the Romans as Tornacum, Tournai claims to be Belgium's oldest city (together with the Limburgean city of Tongeren). Its most outstanding architectural jewel has been included in the UNESCO world heritage list: the fantastic five towered Romanesque cathedral. In addition, its belfry has also the privilege to be included in this exclusive list, as are all the other Belgian and French belfries.
Crossed by the -here- small river Schelde (Escaut in the vernacular language of the region), Tournai has also many other points of interest, like its famous Grand' Place, where the Cloth Hall stands out for itself, and the Bridge of the Holes, which formerly made part of the city fortifications.
You can see more pictures in my Tournai pages.
Updated Aug 29, 2006
Hotel d'Alcantara Tournai
1 Review and 12 Opinions If I had to chose a hotel in Tournai and could afford it, I would probably stay in "Hotel...