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Sur le Continent

I'm in Brugges, in Belgium, for a few days. [[And wrote this on Monday ...]]

A busy weekend at the hotel. A quick conversion of BR4 from twin to double on Saturday, followed by sporadic checkins and we had every bed taken that night. And a sporadic (or, rather, spread) breakfast on Sunday left us tight for time with our planned midday departure for the 4 p.m. ferry out of Dover. In the end, we were over 30 late away from Melksham, but the roads were clear of major problems and we made Dover in a little under 3 hours.

I'll fly when I have to. But give me a choice, and I'll choose another mode - by rail or boat if that's an option, otherwise by car. So "near Continent" trips like this one to Brugges - less that an hour's drive from Dunkerque and only a few miles inland - are a real pleasure. Once past the London area, and on to the M26 and M20 the pleasure / holiday feeling starts. The rolling Kentish countryside with the North Downs off to the left, with great gaps cut by the Darenth and Medway rivers, down to Ashford and Folkestone where the Downs collide with the English Channel and the road soars up through a brief tunnel to the green and windswept hilltops.

Dover always strikes me as a strange town. Faded and downright derelict Victorian buildings, building sites, and that great Ferry port ("Europe's busiest") within the breakwatered harbour. Sweeping in off the Downs, it's all laid out in a circle below with a couple of Cruise Liners moored up at the West end vacated by Dover Marine station, and the huge paraphinalia of the car ferry post at the Eastern End.

The coming of the Channel Tunnel did bring some changes here - the passenger services from "Marine", the Hovercraft, the Hydrofoil, services to Zeebrugge and Oostende are gone. But there's still a P and O / Sea France / Norfolk Line choice. And we chose Norfolk Line; they were the one I have never used until now, and it seemed logical as Dunkerque is nearer to Brugges than is Calais.

 

The boat loaded well, left on time. Friendly staff, typical (but verging on the better than typical) ferry food, and a smooth crossing. And, thank goodness, a chance to take a break from driving and almost anything else; yes, there *were* people working on their laptops but we took the calculated opportunity to relax. Sunlight at Dover gave way to murky weather on the way over and a grey arrival in Dunkerque. Well - they call it "Dunkerque" but really it's at a remote spot some 10km out at flat and bleak area called Loon Plage. Rather reminded me of catching the boat from Gothenberg which was also pretty darned remote!

Have you ever tried to buy Petrol in Belgium on a Sunday? Our tank was neardrained by the time we reached Dover, and the brief section of road to (and along) the Motorway in France didn't take in any services. There was an petrol station coming up in a few miles, but when we got there, what a queue! There must have been a dozen or more cars lined up for the few pumps, and the line wasn't moving either. Never mind - we're not far from Oostende; I'm sure there's fuel we can get there. How wrong can you be. We found a petrol station that had clearly been shut down for many years, another that was probably just closed for Sunday, and who more with automated machines to buy on "plastic". But alas not the regular plastic - one seemed to exclusively use a Belgian Bank card, and I could swear that the other was a fuel club with their own cards ... ONLY. A big chart showing no Visa, no Mastercard, no Maestro ...

You'll see that we DID make it to Brugges. A calculated gamble of going back on to the Motorway, and we did happen upon another filling station in a few miles, and in time. We would have queued - we would have queued for hours - had we had to. But, as if by some miracle, there were plenty of pumps and few cars. I'm beginning to wonder if the Belgians have solved the fossil fuel problem and are able to run their cars on water or air.

Many is the time that I've travelled the road from Calais, past Brussels and Leige and Aachen to drive to German destinations. But until last night, I had never actually stopped more than a very short while at any of them, let alone ventured a few miles off to places like Brugges. But what a gem - a town that's centuries old and of great character. Lovely canals, magnificent buildings. After sunset is not the bet time to try to capture a place on photos, but I had a go; I hope to show you some of those, and other pictures taken earlier in the long evenings, in the next few days. Daytime pictures? Sorry - as ever, I'm here to give a course as you've probably guessed!
(written 2007-06-13)

 
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  [3345] Cruising - (2011-07-04)
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  [3306] Photogenic Place - (2011-05-28)
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  [3300] Wildlife and other pictures from holiday - (2011-05-24)
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  [2796] Sunday - waiting for the ferry. - (2010-06-06)
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  [2306] Melksham to Mexico for the week - (2009-07-27)
  [2269] Sipping at York - (2009-07-05)
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  [2200] England, Scotland, Northern Ireland - (2009-05-26)
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  [368] Vacation Week - (2005-07-04)
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  [65] Ireland - (2004-09-27)


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