Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 1

Wednesday 1st June 2011 - Louth to Bruges

We set off from Louth in England at 7.30 am in the morning ready to embark on our journey around Europe. We did not finish packing the car until 3am so already my eyelids felt like dead weights. Luckily, in this expedition, I am not the driver of our little blue Suzuki we named "Laura". Tom took his place in the driver's seat, triple espresso in hand we headed in the direction of Folkestone to catch our train under the sea to the main continent.

The drive was fairly uneventful so I wont bore you with the details, for those of you wondering what the Eurotunnel is like, it is so quick if you blink you'd miss it. It took 35 minutes altogether and cost 130 pounds sterling return. (That is for 2 people and the car.)

We arrived at our Campsite Camping Memling at 5.30pm local time so the entire drive took around 9 hours including an hours wait in Folkestone. If you are planning to do a trip like this yourself I will tell you that it was whilst navigating our way to the campsite that I thanked the heavens we decided to invest in a GPS and Europe maps, although sometimes its not 100%, it will stop arguments, save your life and possibly even your relationship if you are thinking of taking someone special. The roads here are mayhem. It is literally like trying to navigate your way through a roller disco backwards at around 70mph, not forgetting that you have to instantly remember to keep on the right hand side of the road.

The campsite from a glance was beautifully green surrounded by a wood and with hedges and small bushes growing around the site. It was warm at 28 Celsius and the air in Bruges has a subtle calm about it that seems to extend to the locals. On the drive into Bruges it is impossible to notice the hoards of people riding bicycles, not mountain bikes either, true old fashioned solid framed bikes with bent handle bars. The roads and pavements are built extra wide to make it not only an excellent mode of transport but a lot safer for cyclists too. Even the traffic lights and pedestrian crossings have a little bike symbol included on them.

After entering reception I realised I had been so ignorant as not to learn any Flemish, not even hello, goodbye, thankyou, you know the good apologetic "I'm a tourist" phrases that you hope may endear you to the locals. We inquired as to the price for each nights stay and the young 20 something guy at the camp reception simply peered at us over the desk from beneath a blonde fringe. We were clearly speaking too fast. Apparently the excitement and the heat had already turned me into an incommunicable idiot. We eventually figured things out and it was a fair 19 euros a night.

After setting up our quick and easy pop up tent I started to cook dinner whilst Tom disappeared for a really long time. When he came back, he was carrying a bottle of wine some other campers had given to him. I secretly thought it might be poisoned - cynical or too many fairy stories? However, the cork seemed pretty well forced in so I decided to take my chances, who turns down free wine anyway? I eventually met the couple in the form of at least 7ft 3 Rick with a strong Cumbrian accent and his partner who was at least half his size with a blonde perm named Sal. Both of them had a cigarette and a glass of wine in hand, we later learned they were both over 70. Before the end of the night we had made good friends and listened to many a story of the past. Before we left to explore a little, Sal insisted I take one of her many silver rings. This one was beautifully sculpted with a small opal in the centre. She feared she wouldn't live much longer and wanted me to take her round the world which she never got to see. It really does amaze me to meet such fine people. I'm wearing the ring right now.

Anyhow, Tom and I set off into the night to see Bruges lit up in all its glory and words may only begin to describe its splendour. The quaint cobbled uneven streets and shops with carved wooden signs hanging above the doors really take your breath away. The character of this place is astounding. We came across an old bridge that had been lit up underneath turning the canal a beautiful, yet mysterious purple hue which could not be captured with all its atmospheric qualities on camera.

We made our way to the city centre where we decided to grab some local food at 'Friterie 1900'where we waited to be served by an old man who was quite skinny and balding with his spectacles perched on the end of a long nose. He didn't seem to speak any English. However, after hearing him assist a customer in French I realised as I speak French too, we wouldn't have a problem. As I started to ask him for two hamburgers the old man replied in English "Don't worry we speak English. English, Flemish, French, Dutch, whatever you want." He then began to sing, "Mr Boom Bastic Telefantastic", complete with dance moves. The Dutch food was great, but this man made the first night of our trip. The Bruges locals were warm and friendly from the start and despite the cold we slept sound in our little tent.

More Photos Of Bruges >>

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