Bruges 2 (West Flanders), Belgium June 2022 (Tour 6)

So, a pleasant evening eating and drinking at Punta Est on Predikherenrei finished with Vanya and I going for a short stroll around some of the more attractive tourist haunts in the centre of the city and, there’s no doubt about it, Bruges is a very picturesque place especially at night.

Entering the city from the east along the N9, we’d already seen the Kruispoort (indeed, we walked through the Kruispoort) together with two of Bruges’ remaining four mills (the Bonne-Chieremolen and the Sint-Janshuismolen) and we’d passed numerous old and wonderfully elegant buildings (many of them now transformed into boutique hotels) but most striking were some of the views that we took in while walking alongside the city’s canals to the Punta Est restaurant. Bruges has been referred to as the Venice of the North (although nowadays many other cities including England’s own Birmingham make that same claim) but my money is squarely on Bruges.

We wandered Bruges late into the night taking in most of the tourist sites in the area immediately around the Grote Markt including The Belfry, the Provincial Palace and the Provost House. This large square is home to various museums (the Historium, the Salvador Dali Musuem and the Beer Museum to name but a few) but it was late and a long walk lay ahead of us back to the Van.

I was back in Bruges shortly after 5 am the next morning – a mosquito buzzing around in the Van had kept me awake most of the night and by the time I had tracked it down and squashed it I was wide awake. I left Vanya sleeping in the Van and set off back to the city for a better look.

There were very few people up and about during the first hour or so of my return into the town. I made my way back to the Markt Square, a large open square surrounded by guildhalls, cafes and restaurants teeming with people the night before but, now deserted. The Belfort Tower dominates the square and it is possible for a small fee to ascend it’s narrow stairway to the top of the 83 metre tower but; not at 11 o’clock at night and not at 6 o’clock in the morning.

Bruges’ Markt Square figures prominently in the film thriller “In Bruges” starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fienes. I’m told the local tourist office hold leaflets showing where the various sets were filmed but, needless to say, the tourist office wasn’t open during my visit so again I missed out but, no matter, over the ensuing four hours I saw pretty much everything worth seeing.

Talking of the Markt Square, not all of the buildings on the Square are original but, the Craenenburg Cafe (minus it’s brick facade which was added in 1956) lays claim to being the building from which Margaret of York (another of the Plantagenents) watched a jousting pageant at her wedding to Charles the Bold in 1468.

One place well worth visiting and not too far from the Markt Square (nothing in Bruges is too far from Markt Square) is the 13th century Church of Our Lady which is home (now) to the aforesaid Charles the Bold and, perhaps more important, a Michaelangelo statue of the Madonna and Child. This small statue dates back to 1503 and was gifted to the church by a local businessman.

Bruges appears a very pretty and a fairly peaceful city but it does get more than it’s fair share of tourists. We were fortunate during our brief 2 day stay in that the number of tourists in the city was low and we were therefore able to pick and choose where we ate. That’s important in a place where frites, waffles, beer and chocolate appear very much to be the order of the day. We each enjoyed our meals in two different restaurants we tried on the Predikherenrei and while we paid tourist prices, they were not silly prices and the service was excellent.

Just 30 miles from Bruges is Ghent (spelt Gent in the local language), my favourite city in Belgium. That’s our next destination.

Bruges (West Flanders), Belgium June 2022 (Tour 6)

Earlier today we began our 6th European Tour in the Van. It is 29 June 2022. It is late at night and we are back in the Van (at Camping Memling) on the outskirts of Bruges having enjoyed a very pleasant evening wandering the town and sampling the local beers. Well, I tried the local beers while Vanya stuck to a couple of French wines.

The events of the day prior to our arriving at Camping Memling are best forgotten but, regardless, I am going to summarise them here. That way there is always a chance I might at the start of our next tour look back on the events of this morning and not repeat them. I wish.

Our first mistake was to take the coast road from Brighton to Folkestone. We left at 08.45 and arrived at the Eurotunnel Check-In point at 12.50. The more circuitous route via the M23, M25 and M20 would have been at least an hour quicker. Our second mistake was to assume that the dog’s Spanish Pet Passports (absent the Rabies jabs) would be read in conjunction with their old UK Pet Passports (which confirms that the dogs current Rabies jabs are valid until the Summer of 2023). Silly mistake. The authorities politely but firmly informed us that they are not interested in the contents of the old UK Passport unless the passport is accompanied by one of the new Animal Health Certificates and that the Spanish Passport could not be considered valid until such time as the Spanish Passport contains a record of the rabies jabs having been administered within mainland Europe. With our scheduled train due to depart for France within the next hour we were told that we could not travel without first getting a local Vet to issue Animal Health Certificates! Okay, so we got them but, it did entail some considerable phoning around before we found a vet in Folkestone willing to issue the required certificates and; it cost us two hundred and thirty quid for the vet to copy the certificates we had bought last February (and that were out of date by just 7 days) and; the delay led to us missing our scheduled train at 12.50 and not getting another until well past 17.00. Next time, we will be phoning Eurotunnel and checking these matters out well in advance of travelling. As it is, we arrived in Bruges some time after 20.00 hrs (19.00 hrs GMT) to find all the local supermarkets closed but, hey, we got here and it all could have been so much worse.

We’ve decided to stay on in Bruges for another day and I will therefore continue this blog and tell you something about Bruges tomorrow. In the meantime, it will suffice to say that the local beer is jolly nice.

Day 11+ (cont.) – Ypres, Belgium

What’s to say about Ypres except that it is a lovely City (and of course, almost totally rebuilt since WW1). There’s much to see (the Menin Gate, the Ypres Cloth Hall, St Maarten’s Cathedral, etc) but after walking my legs stiff I most enjoyed just sitting and people watching outside the very popular St Arnoldus Bar while drinking a selection of local beers – and very nice the beers were too.

The Menin Gate (lists the names of 50,000+ British & Commonwealth servicemen who fell at Ypres and whose bodies have not been recovered. A further 30,000+ are listed at Tyne Cot)
…… as opposed to at the end of the war

Before I continue, thanks to Will for setting up a trip advisor in my name. I will comment on the St Arnoldus Bar & Restaurant once I learn how to use trip advisor.
Meanwhile I attach photos of the bar together and some of the beers I tried. They serve them 4 at a time and these were all between 8% and 10%. Now that is a pub!

Towards the end of the evening I decided to return to the Van via a circuit of the city walls. I got lost but stumbled, quite literally, across another British cemetery (Ramparts Cemetery; they are everywhere) and, on an altogether brighter note, a road sign showing the way to my next stop, Lille.

Ramparts Cemetery
I recognise that gate – the Van is somewhere near here
That’ll do for tomorrow

Lille next…

Days 11+ – Ypres, Belgium

Leaving Kortrijk I set the sat-nav back to the town of Ypres, around which I had detoured on my way from Calais. However, signposts to the Australian Cemetery at Polygon Wood and the British Cemetery at Tyne Cot soon saw me divert from my planned route – and glad I was too.

This small part of Flanders has many, many cemeteries (large and small) which are the final resting places of tens of thousands of WW1 servicemen who fought three major battles and countless skirmishes in the area between 1914 and 1918 (Tyne Cot Cemetery alone holds the remains of 12,000 plus soldiers of which two thirds are unidentified) and a visit here could very easily be upsetting except that I found the attitude of the locals to be very uplifting.

Memorial Cross, Polygon Wood Cemetery
Entrance to Tyne Cot
Tyne Cot

I met two Belgians near the Polygon Wood Cemetery. The first has a smallholding in the area and he spent some time explaining to me how grateful the locals are towards the soldiers resting in the many cemeteries. Thereafter he insisted I meet his pet donkey “Little Tommy” and then, best of all, he introduced me to a second local, Johan Vandewalle who owns the “De Dreve” Bar.

In addition to running a very pleasant bar Johan Vandewalle has, with items collected from the local battlefields, turned the “De Dreve” into a mini museum commemorating Australia 5th Division activities in the area during the war. Moreover, he is almost single handedly driving what he calls the Brothers In Arms Memorial Project and it is a fascinating story which came to light after he unearthed the bodies of 5 WW1 soldiers in 2006 in the nearby hamlet of Westhoek. One of the soldiers was an Australian Private 3504 John Hunter but… I’ll not go into detail here. You can look it up on his website ( if you are so inclined.

The Dreve
Johan’s Vision and Labour of Love
Johan at work
Another reason to visit De Dreve

One final picture before I set off to the town of Ypres…

Little Tommy (Tommekke in Flemish)

Ypres, here I come…

Day 10 – Kortrijk, Belgium

Yesterday went like a whirl. Any apprehension I felt about this Tour was replaced by excitement the moment I reached France. The journey from Calais to Kortrijk went well and I crossed the border into Belgium (at L’Abeele) more smoothly than Napoleon Bonaparte did in 1815 – there was no border presence at all and if it weren’t for the road signs changing from French to Flemish I wouldn’t have known I had entered Belgium.
Kortrijk appeared almost empty as I arrived early on the Sunday afternoon and I was able to park the Van in the centre of the town (N50,83120 E3,26818) without any difficulty and enjoy a quick stroll before dinner. There’s a significant amount of regeneration going on in the centre (especially by the River Lys – that’s the River Leie in Flemish) but the balance between old and new appears to be working.

The town became even quieter as it got dark but the next morning was totally different. I was up early, looking for an early start towards Ypres but a local market was being set up in Kortrijk’s two major squares and I sat for a full hour with hot coffee and croissants watching while the locals noisily set out their stalls with local produce. Freshly baked bread, cheese, cold meats & fresh fish seemed the order of the day. I sampled a few cheeses before driving back down the road I came in on towards Ypres.

… and you can tell from the photo that I was up early