Missing the train. 

Our last morning and we woke to no rain, a bit of sun and a small patch of blue sky, marvellous. We had a few things to see before we headed home so we did our usual morning things, packed up the van and parked it in the campsite car park.

Our first port of call was lidls for breakfast, 2 pain au chocolat’s each, they went down fairly sharpish and we made our way to town. We parked up our bikes by the stadhuis and headed in there to have a look at the gothic hall.


It’s a pretty impressive hall and also the only place you can get married in Bruges, I can think of worse places to tie the knot!

There is a kind of display of coins and notes but understandably, none of it is in English so we had a brief look and then made our way to the Belfry if Bruges.

The belfry is not for the faint hearted, it’s a 366 step climb to the top with a few stops on the way, the stairs are thin and windy and there is two way traffic.

I did take some pictures of the top but they are on my other camera, i’ll add them when I get home.

The highlight for me was being in the bell tower when all the bells started going off, what an amazing sound!

We still had some shopping to do, I was also trying find somewhere that sold a cool little hat I’d seen, food was also required.

After trying various beer shops i’d pretty much given up on finding my hat so we stopped off for some food at a bar we went to the day before, it’s was heaving that day so we’d given it a swerve but today it was ok, we sat at the bar and just out of curiosity I asked if they had any of the Christmas chouffes in stock and the hat you get if you drink three, they only had two left but they also had a hat, they said I could have it for drinking two, result!


We had one each and that was all I could have as I had to drive later, they’re 10% each. Lolly ordered a bush Noel with her food and I had some water. Our food was pretty good, I had Trappist cheese croquet to start followed by rabbit in prune stew with potato croquet, Lauren had scallops in a cheese sauce followed by a Flemish stew, all were lovely.

Time was against us, we still had some beer to buy, a 10 min ride to the van and then at least an hours drive to Calais.

We got the beer, made the van in ten minutes, arsed about with the sat nav and eventually got off to Calais, we missed our train despite my best efforts, no dramas though, we got put on the next one for free.

We had a great time in Bruges, the Christmas market was rubbish but the food, beer, historical stuff and atmosphere of the town was great, when I get home I will update this post with all the places we visited, meanwhile, here’s some pictures of us with beers.


This was near the end of the beer and food night, the beers are starting to take their toll !

On Lollys birthday night I had to order the weakest beer they had as I was half cut when we got there, this beer was cheaper than water….

Proper tourists. 

After a slightly less cold night in the van we got up and had our first shower of the trip, it felt amazing,  after suitable amounts of tea had been drunk we chipped off into town to see some sights and stop by lidls for some breakfast. We forgot it was Sunday and lidls was closed, no breakfast then.

First stop on our adventure was a brewery tour, the brewery is called the half moon or De Halve Maan if you are a local.  From outside the brewery look like any other old building but when you get inside you begin to realise it’s really quite a complex place.


At one time there were 300 brewery’s in Bruges and now there is only one, what’s nice about this one is they have kept mostly all of the old brewing equipment so you get an idea of old vs modern techniques, you also end up on the roof of the brewery looking out across Bruges. At the end of the tour you get a free beer, a blonde called the fool of Bruges, it’s really quite nice and easy to drink.


They’ve turned the old filling hall into a brasserie, the food looked amazing, all that remains of the past here was an old filling machine.


Stop two of the day was the chocolate museum, on arrival you pay your money for the tour and are given a bar of chocolate and invited to help yourself to some giant chocolate buttons, great start!

As you walk in the first thing you are greeted with is an epic chocolate fountain.


You then spend the next hour or so walking between floors learning about the Mayan origins of chocolate, how it fell in and out of fashion over the years and how it was mainly served as a drink before being sold in the form we’re most familiar with today. At the end of the tour there is a quick demonstration of how they make their praline chocolates and you get to eat one of those too. The museum was interesting but we both agreed there was way too much reading to do.

We’d had a late start to the day so by the time we got out of the museum and with nothing in our stomachs other than a cheeky chocolate waffle our thoughts turned to food. Our options led us to a little place that’s more like a museum than a restaurant, it was shut and not opening for 20 mins so we headed over the road to another little place for a drink.

We grabbed a drink and then noticed how they cooked the food here.


All the tables were reserved bar one, a table for two, we abandoned the other restaurant and settled in for some fire cooked grub.

Our table was as close to the fire as we could be!


There is a 3 course meat or fish menu you can have with or without beer for each course, we had one of each with beer!

The food was exceptional, in my opinion the best food we’d had so far and about 100 euros for the two of us..

The only downside to this beer with every meal idea is you end up getting smashed, even more when the couple you are chatting to buy a round, you buy them a round and then the owner buys everyone a round, we were deffo a little on the wobbly side…

For the third night running I have no real memory of the ride home, lolly got us back safely as she always does, we went to bed with full stomachs and fuzzy heads…

Sorted. 

Camping at VW was a cold affair, we had no 240 supply so couldn’t plug our heater in. I hope I win the VW heritage comp as in my wish list is a heater that runs off camping gas!

We made some tea, handed the keys to the van over and rose into Bruges for breakfast. We had breakfast at an Indian restaurant that does either full English or continental breakfast, we choose one of each and they were both lovely, halfway through munching the garage called to say the van was done and we should come and get it, a short trip back and we were in the van headed to our campsite.


Finally we are where we’re supposed to be, camping memling, nice little campsite with brand new shower and toilet block, they also said we can have the day we didn’t make it here as a credit to use any time in 2016 which was a nice thing for them to do.

The most important thing about today is its Lollys birthday so our schedule is in her hands.

Our first stop was to have a gander at some windmills, there are only four left, one still works and they sit on the bank of the canal.


From there we went to a museum called Olv ter potterie, a historical hospital complex with its own baroque church and the body of Islebad that after being exhumed after 400 years still smelt sweet, there are lots of historical relics and the church is stunning.


The hospital was run by seven brothers and seven sisters, that changed to just sisters and to this day there are always seven sister resident.

Next stop was my least excited about place which actually turned out to be really cool, the lace museum. Lace was a way the very poor could make a little money, one quote went something like “I’d rather work my fingers to the bone making lace than ask the church for a handout”.

I’d never considered just how difficult lace making is, especially bobbin lace, we watched a video about the history of lace making, how important it was to Bruges and how modern methods can’t copy some of the more intricate designs, there are then examples of different types of lace and the final leg of the tour involves watching some ladies making lace using the traditional bobbin method. The ladies up there most have had a collective age of about 500 but in the corner was one of the ladies from the video, I was going to ask for her an autograph but she looked quite busy.

The last destination was the Jerusalem chapel, it’s next door to the lace museum and is owned still by descendants of the the family that built it in the 15th century. It’s an interesting story of how it came to be, the life and death of Anselm who completed the chapel and why his body is buried in Scotland but his heart is buried here in the chapel, there is also a slightly weird effigy of Jesus tucked away at the back of the chapel, the whole thing is based on jerusalems holy church of the sepulchre which is allegedly built above the tomb of Jesus.

We stayed there till it shut and then went for beers.


This was at a bar called ‘t poatergast, which means monks hole in the local dialect, it’s like a vaulted cellar with 150 beers to try and in this occasion an awesome 80’s soundtrack. We had at least 3 beers and unexpectedly picked up a present for one of our friends back home.


Belgian beer is quite strong, the last one we had was 10%, the Christmas chouff, it was lovely but by the time we left the 10% was working its magic and we both felt a bit sideways, should make riding the bikes interesting!

Our last stop was a restaurant lolly had read about which was part of a hostel called gran kaffe de passage, she wanted to visit as they cooked food in beer, it was heaving when we arrived, we were hungry, we didn’t get to eat anything till about an hour and half after we arrived and the food when it did come was ok. Lolly tried another beer but didn’t really like it, I’d drunk so much beer I couldn’t finish it for her and if I had it would have finished me off.


As you can see by my eyes in this last picture I was well on the way.


We rode back to the van without incident and turned in, one thing I have learnt this trip is lolly is awesome at reading maps, I’m not.

Lolly also assures me she had a great birthday, mission accomplished.

Exclusive camping!

Getting off the motorway past the accident was a bit of a bodge, there was no way through so we all had to turn around and go up the emergency lane the wrong way and then leave via the slip road that comes onto the motorway from a local village, we had to wait a while but eventually we got going. 

We were so lucky not to have been involved in that crash, it must have just happened as we pulled up behind it. 

Our course had been diverted from Bruges to the garage  in Oostkamp and we arrived about 30 minutes after we got off the motorway. Long story short, 300 euros to fix then van and the part wouldn’t arrive the following day, after much discussion and possible scenarios it was decided we’d be staying with VW for the night! 

  
We’ve stayed in worse places and to be honest, what else could we do? 

It was chucking it down with rain so we got our waterproofs on, grabbed the bikes and rode into Bruges, here’s a picture of lolly looking a lot bigger than she actually is!

  
The ride wasn’t long and we joked that staying at the VW garage was a result really as it was closer to Bruges than our campsite! 

There is an old fish market in a square, we parked our bikes there and went for a wander, the first place we came across was the ice rink and a load of food and drink stalls, smelled lovely but were probably tourist prices, we carried on wandering about in the rain and eventually came to the conclusion we should drink some beers, we found an empty bar with a window seat and plotted up, here we are with a leffe each. 

  
Something has happened to my wife, when we met she didn’t do booze and certainly not beer, that has all changed now and we spent the next couple of hours drinking leffe, chouff and jupiler, the last being out least favourite. 

Before we came I bought lolly a guide book for Bruges and in it she read about a restaurant that came with a beer to suit each course, Den Dyver it’s called, we agreed that is where we would eat and set about finding it, I was given directions which I was confident I understood, turns out I didn’t and after lolly took control of our course we eventually found the restaurant which was right by where we parked our bikes.

We came across this guy en route, he’s made out of old tyres. 

  
The restaurant was pleasantly empty and they no longer did the beer with each course, the guide book was three years old and they stopped the beer thing a couple of years earlier. The food still looked awesome even though none of the menu was in English, it’s in Dutch or French and I suprised myself as I worked out most of what was on there using French.  

My starter was amazing, it has a name that I cant remember but it’s a traditional dish and it’s brown shrimps, mash potato, poached egg and hollandaise sauce, lolly had carpaccio scallops, they were nice but I preferred mine. Main course was chataubriand to share, epic is about the best way to describe it, we ate all of it and couldn’t possibly eat anything else when we’d finished. 

The meal wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t massively expensive either, London prices really which we’re used to on occasion, well worth it and if you’re ever over here pay it a visit. 

We grabbed our bikes and rode back to the van, the rain had stopped and this time we had rememberd lights for both of us so less tricky than our previous night riding in France. 

We setup the bed and crashed, tomorrow is another day, Lollys birthday in fact! 

Bad times. 

It was all goin so well until we tried to get off the Eurostar, starter motor decided to just spin until it burnt out, joy, can’t start the van. 

We got towed off, bump started and were on our way again, we can’t turn the van off as we won’t be able to start it again without a bump start, feels like we’re in that movie speed!

It was all looking better, then this happened on the A16. 

  
Hopefully nobody is hurt, we’re not. 

  
It at least gave me a chance to call ahead to a vw garage in Bruges to get the van fixed, hope they can fix it today, we need to sleep in it tonight. 

Where did the sun go ?

So here in the UK summer is no more and we are heading into autumn. I like autumn, it’s a great time to walk and admire the changing scenery, especially from a photography perspective. It’s also at this time of year we light the fire in our front room, start making Sunday roasts and put the garden furniture away for the coming winter.

The weather doesn’t however stop us heading out in the van, one of the things we love doing is driving to a National Trust site, having a wander about and coming back to the van for a brew, our off road bikes usually get an outing or three as well, Peaslake is great in the Autumn.

Since we got back from France our weekends have been pretty full on with van adventures at a minimum, we did a bike ride round Bewl Water and that’s about it.

Nothing much has changed on the van either, it’s running just fine which is great, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke….

Our next adventure on foreign shores however has been booked.

We are off to Bruges for the Christmas markets and Lollys birthday (picture borrowed from google).

Eurpope_christmas_market

It’s quicker to drive from Croydon to Bruges than it is to drive from Croydon to Manchester so we will be heading and staying there in Bumblebee.

The only concessions I have made for sleeping in the van in lower temperatures are a couple of hot water bottles and a onsie each, oh, and an electric heater that runs off the hook up, can’t be any worse than the Scotland trip.

We will be staying at  site called Camping Memling a short distance out of town, it has favourable reviews on trip advisor and is well priced, we’ll use the bikes to get about and we’ll pack our skates too as there’s a massive ice rink in the town square, I’m proper excited (especially about the beer)and so is Lolly who loves everything Christmas, December can’t come soon enough!