Dunkirk France and Brugge Belgium 5 Nov 2013

Published: November 7th 2013
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Dunkirk France and Brugge Belgium 5 Nov 2013

We have learnt from the locals in Belgium that we need to “expect wet weather’. They get lots of rain! And they are right! As we drove through rural Belgium, we saw lots of water-logged paddocks. I reckon if the farmers didn’t till their land by a particular time of the year, they would “miss the boat”. The land is very flat so there is nowhere for the water to run off. It is the ‘low country’ after all!

Time was on our side when we left Ipres so we decided to duck down to Dunkirk just over the border into France. The Dunes of Dunkirk were an important site for the Alliance in the 2nd WW. It was only 20 km further south. So of we went….in the rain!!!!!

We went straight to the Information Centre which was on the ground floor of the Dunkirk Belfry. A lovely African, French-speaking lady was very helpful in giving us a map of the area as well as advice on where to visit and what to see. She also gave us some advice which will be useful for next year when we visit Normandy (which we missed this year).

Dunkirk has a major port which is incredibly long and of course, is a major link to the UK which is a significant trading partner for Dunkirk and Belgium. The locals use it as a mooring for the many private boats and yachts we saw. There is also the vessel, Princess Elizabeth that is permanently moored in one of the fingers of land that makes up the Port.

We walked around the town as well as the Dunkirk Dunes, trying to imagine what it was really like for the soldiers that battled on the site.

Before we got completely freezing and blown away, we left Dunkirk and headed back up the freeway, back into Belgium and to Brugge (Bruges in English).

With good reason, Brugge is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belgium. The city owns its pre-eminent position to the beauty of its historic centre, whose winding lanes and picturesque canals lines with fantastic medieval buildings. These are mostly the legacy of the town’s hayday as the centre of the international cloth trade, which flourished for 200 years from the 13th century. During this time the merchants lavished their fortunes on fine mansions, churches, and a set of civic buildings of such extravagance that they were the wonder of Europe.

We were really impressed by the town of 120,000 people that the streets are well maintained, there are rises, and there are no billboards or high rises and the traffic is very well managed.

It is a walled city and only 20,000 people live inside the walls. There is a canal, almost completely around the CBD. There are also multiple canals throughout the city. It is almost a mini-Utrecht in Holland.

There are 2 main squares; Markt and Burg Squares. The 13th century Markt square is lines with medieval gabled bouses. Apparently they still hold a market each Saturday in this square. There is also the 13th century Belfry which is an octagonal tower where the city’s medieval charter of rights is held. The Post Office and Gothic Hall is also on this square. There are many restaurants 2 of which we visited to have coffee etc. They were so warm inside.

As it was start to rain again, we decided to catch a City Tour bus which went for 50 minutes. That took us to the Sint-Jan-Hospital Museum building by one of the canals, the old Fish Market and past many of the churches and along the canals. I couldn’t take any photos through the rain-drenched windows, but it showed us what a lovely little city Bruges is. Again, it is another city that would be worth spending more time in.

However, friends who we met in Santorini, Greece, were wanted to meet us in Bruges but couldn’t….fortunately as the weather was not nice…..although sitting in several restaurants could have whiled away the hours very easily!!!! Bruges is that sort of place.

We had booked into the camp site before we looked around the city so we knew where to go. It was only 3 kms from the CBD. After looking around the city, we decided to walk back to our camper which we parked near one of the canals. As we were walking back, it started to rain again. Good timing once again. By the time we got back to the camp site, it was pouring with rain. On the way, we saw a long barge carrying material and it was going under 2 bridges which had to be raised for it to go through. This held the traffic up considerably but the locals seemed to be used to being delayed by raised bridges.

All in all, we highly recommend Brugge as a destination.

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