|BELGIUM TRIP REPORT||Photos >>>>|
6 weeks since we got home from our wonderful trip to the
Far East and we were off again.
Have Motorhome must travel.
Suspect that the M.van was sulking when we brought it home from storage where it had been for the past 6 months - certainly it showed its disapproval initially with a very flat battery. Now fully charged again and raring to go.
Garden all looking very neat, tidy and springlike when we left - my poor aching wrists bearing witness to the hard digging of the past few weeks. Lots of summer plants now starting to come up while the daffs and tulips still beautifully in bloom after several days of gorgeous spring sunshine. This year we have been home to see the lovelyl cherry trees, magnolias and camellia in full bloom - though regrettably, despite daily encouragement, the fragrant miniature lilac did not make it out in time. Now left everything to the tender care of nature and the elements plus of course Gwyn next door who acts as official gardener. Expect the greenhouse to be overflowing with geraniums when we get back as have been perhaps over successful with taking cuttings. Left the said geraniums sulking a little when I cut all their just-flowering heads off in the hope this would slow down their growth rate for a few more weeks. Just hoped that I managed to exterminate all the evil little vine-weevil grubs which had taken up residence in my garden pots. Birds will be well cared for when we are away as leave stocks of bird food for Nigel and Lynne to distribute as we have so many regular visitors plus several birds nesting round the garden - including a pair of wrens in the ivy on the chimney breast.
Collected the M.van from storage and prepared it for the trip including setting up a modified version of the scooter rack dont want the scooter to fall off again as it did in the Pyrenees last year. All packed up and gone by 2pm Wednesday 28th April, heading for Dover where we found a free overnight spot on Marine Parade on the seafront. Nasty, weather all the way down lovely spring weather took a turn for the worse but M.van is always nice and cosy so not a problem.
We used Norfolk Line ferry, which we havent tried before, as the cheapest and most convenient for our route up to Belgium. A good smooth crossing got us into Dunkerque in just two hours. From there it was an easy drive, through the rain, to our campsite on the outskirts of Bruges.
Found Bruges to be a lovely very well-preserved little city and well worth a visit. The entire historic centre has been recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site. Between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries this was a thriving port linked to the sea by a canal. It was famous for its Flemish cloth and as a result attracted a class of rich merchants. The entire centre of the city is filled with lovely buildings covering a wide range of eras. Many are typical old Flemish of 4 to 6 stories and ornate frontage. There is a cathedral, museums, clock towers and all together they present a beautiful skyline. We wandered quite a way round the city and found more lovely buildings in each direction we took. There is a canal round the inner city and a larger one round the edge. These give Venice style viewpoints all of which were a delight to the camera (now using the new Nikon we bought in Singapore). There are lots of gift shops selling in particular yummy Chocolate (bought a small bag as irresistible) and lace. The sun came out for a while but later it clouded over again and started to rain. Had to shelter in a café off the main square where we enjoyed good but expensive coffee/tea until we decided to brave the drizzle and head back to the campsite on the scooter. Light until 9pm but nowhere near warm enough to sit outside.
Next stop Brussels, only just over 60 miles along the motorway. Everywhere very flat and green. We found a campsite in the small town of Grim Bergen a few miles out of Brussels itself. Here we discovered that the ground was very wet as having just parked the M.van we wanted to move it over a little and found we couldn't. Totally stuck on soft wet grassy ground. Had to be pushed off by other campers so we then moved to a hard-standing pitch. The weather that night gave us a taste of what was to come in the next few weeks. Chilly, heavy rain and a violent thunderstorm.
Next morning we set off on the scooter for Brussels. We parked right in the centre and found ourselves next to the Manneken Pis statue which was surrounded by the usual group of Japanese taking photos of each other. Headed straight for the GrandPlace (Grote Markt Market Square) which we found very impressive wonderfully ornate buildings surround it the Town Hall and the Guild Houses. The view was spoilt somewhat by a concert stage which was in the process of being set up (part of May Day / Expansion of Europe celebrations) but this was balanced by the colourful flower market at the other side of the square. The Square is the main attraction of Brussels and at the heart of the tourist area. From there we took a stroll through the impressive St Hubert Gallery which is filled with exclusive and expensive looking shops and cafes. The shop window displays in this area of the city are all beautifully done. I found the chocolate shops particularly tempting. Next stop the Cathedral which has some of the best stained glass windows we have seen. Back to the square for a drink after passing along several narrow streets which were filled with restaurants tables which made us wonder how anyone could possibly find room to walk down them once the tables are filled with customers. Managed to find our way to where we had parked the scooter (on the kerb outside a café now filled with chairs and customers oops !) and declared Brussels done.
Next stop was lunch with niece Melissa and family on the East side of the city and armed with the Autoroute maps Bob had printed off at home we set off to find the house. Managed to take in the rest of Brussels attractions on the way passing the Royal Palace, the Government Buildings, the EU Parliament Buildings and the Triumphal Arch as we headed out of the city centre. We found the road we needed but couldnt take it as it was closed off for the May 1st celebrations. Instead we found ourselves in a mile-long tunnel which brought us out well past where we wanted to be and had to ask a French-speaking taxi driver for directions. Had a lovely visit and lunch with Melissa, Robert and Imogen before setting off back to the campsite. Found our way quite well most of the way but accidentally took in the other Brussels sight the Heysel Exhibition Park and the Atomium when we got onto a road which was too far to the West. Had to use the sun to navigate so have decided that in future we will always keep a compass with the scooter.
Must mention that Belgium was, at that time, covered in Pink being the blossom from the many cherry trees. The Belgiums do seem to like their gardens and there are lots of garden centres and flower shops.
Weather improved next day - no rain and positively sunny. Left campsite and headed for Waterloo which we found easily but but then couldnt find the historical site (Butte de Lion) though we saw it in the distance as we came towards the town. Drove around for a while and about to give up when we spotted a sign to it and there it was rising out of the ground like a big green pimple !
Had an excellent visit. This is the battlefield of Waterloo where Napoleon got his comeuppance from the rest of his European neighbours. Just think if Wellington and his mates had not defeated him there would be no European parliament in Brussels and no Euro ! We paid to visit a Panorama which was a 360-degree sound and visual depiction of the battlefield. Extremely well done including the sound effects of the moans of the dying horses and the cavalry charges. Didnt see the sign for no photos until it was too late ! After this we climbed up the 100 or so (or was it 1000 ?) steps to the top of the Butte de Lion 'pimple' a monument to the memory of the battle. Trembly knees later we made it to the top where there is a perfect view across the plains and from where we were undoubtedly seeing across into France. Almost decided to stop up there for the day as it was really lovely and warm in the sun.
From Waterloo we made our way towards Liege but managed to not see much of Liege at all as we lost our way due to roadwork diversions. Instead went straight to our campsite in Eupen after climbing up and down some pretty steep bits of road (1 in 10) as this is the edge of the Ardennes. This is quite a pretty area of Belgium. Very green and lots and lots of cows.
|more ...Reports...||>>> GERMANY (1)||AUSTRIA||SLOVENIA||HUNGARY|
|SLOVAKIA||CZECH||GERMANY (2)||HOLLAND and HOME||HOME AGAIN|
|more .. Photos ...||BELGIUM||>>> GERMANY (1a) (1b)||AUSTRIA||SLOVENIA||HUNGARY (1) (2)|
|SLOVAKIA||CZECH (1) (2)||GERMANY (2a) (2b)||HOLLAND to HOME||HOME and GARDEN|