Packed the caravan and sorted everything out in the days leading up to the trip.
Quick shower. Wave goodbye to our grown up jellybeans and the cat, in the car on the way to the storage site by 8am.
50 mins after the start of our drive we were still only 18 miles down the road stuck in rush hour traffic on the A3 as the paper pushing masses try to get behind their desks in Guildford by 9am. The rest of the drive to the Channel Tunnel went smoothly. We arrived early and even managed to book onto an earlier train.
Quick toilet stop in the terminal before boarding, surprisingly very quiet today. Within 40 minutes of arriving we are safely cosseted in our own carriage for the 30 minute or so journey. Butties for lunch eaten in the caravan. Freshly fed and watered, France starts to flicker into view through the carriage windows.
Right hand side of the road and the sun is out, so is the wind, it’s blowing a hooley and The Boss grumbles about how the caravan is blowing around. Onto smaller roads and the weather calms and driving becomes easier. France becomes Belgium, the landscape stays the same but to our uneducated eyes the road signs are now in an unfamiliar language. Out of our comfort zone now. We can manage in France both verbally and with the written word. Now I feel lost trying to second guess what words might mean. Belgium gives way to Holland. No signage declaring a change of country, no obvious border, just our first windmill standing proud in the vastness of flat farmland.
The site is easy to find and we are welcomed in fluent English by the two lovely wardens. Pitched up, unpacked and kettle on within our usual half an hour. Wifi on site so my worry of not being able to contact the jellybeans is gone. I’ve checked in, we’ve arrived safe and sound. Something out of the freezer at home for tea tonight, gammon and leek pie hungrily devoured. Now to get the bike out of the car.
The wind is still blowing and is quite cold around the head. Having piled the pounds on recently the usual lycra cycling gear has been left at home, we didn’t want to frighten the locals. A scenic ride down to the coast, a sandy beach and small marina. Very blowy, with temperatures dropping rapidly as the evening draws in. Riding a bike in Belgium/The Netherlands is a joy, cycle lanes are separated from traffic almost everywhere and are not an afterthought like the UK, where they paint a white line on the pavement that stops at every side road or allocate the rain gutters of the road to cyclists. Cyclists and Car Drivers don’t need to hate each other here, due to intelligent planning they barely meet.
Heavy rain overnight and the world is looking freshly watered. It was looking slightly parched and is now revitalised. On the agenda today, back into Belgium to visit Bruges. It’s like taking a step back in time, architecturally. Ornate buildings of all shapes and sizes skirt round pretty squares. Now, though is not the time for sightseeing, The Boss is busting, he needs a wee and he needs one soon. As with everything you can never find a loo when you need one. We March across squares, up and down streets. Not a loo in sight. Normally we’d pop in a Costa or McDonald’s. It seems the part of Bruges we are now frantically pacing is too posh for these kind of establishments. Whilst walking we’re also on the look out for lunch, it’s now past lunchtime and he’s hungry too. Posh nosh is on offer, with prices to make The Boss push his wallet further into his pocket. Toilet located in an underground car park. 0.40€ each for a wee. Money flung at the nice lady and in we run.
Now to find food, with nothing obviously on offer we spy a small shop and grab a chicken wrap each. Wander around the next corner to be presented with an array of street food stalls, just the kind of thing we fancied, typical. Just so that we didn’t feel to fed up we treated ourselves to a heavily loaded sugar infused waffle.
Back to the car, on a complete sugar high, supermarket needed for supplies. This is where the day gets worse. A Carrefoure looms on the right with 2 spaces outside. In we go, not one of the cheapest of supermarkets we have come across so we only pick up the absolute essentials. Lidl, where are you when we need you?
As we pull away I notice a piece of paper flapping beneath the wiper blade. “Probably some discount voucher” says The Boss, I’m not so sure, we pull over so I can retrieve it. The sheer amount of red ink immediately suggests this is not a discount voucher, it’s a parking ticket. Unlike the UK, where a parking restriction is clearly marked by road lines and lamp-post signs, we had driven into a permit parking zone signposted about half a mile previous, we should have seen it, yes, but in a strange environment your driving senses are foremost on safety and positioning rather than parking permits. 30€ to be paid in 30 days, Thanks Bruges it’s been nice knowing you. Guess what, lovely little Lidl round the corner complete with car park.
Back at the site and they are celebrating the King’s birthday, a public holiday. The campsite have issued a free alcoholic drink voucher for all guests, seems a shame to waste it so off we trot armed with our voucher clutched in sweaty palm. We are hot on the heels of our Dutch neighbours who very graciously give up any chance of a good afternoon chatting to friends to keep the English couple next door from being ‘Billy No Mates’. We ‘clicked’ instantly with Max & Carla (we think that was their names) who seemed to have a similar outlook and sense of humour about life. A few more drinks followed until the temperature dropped and The Boss realised his stomach was nudging him in the ribs for a top up (ie. his Tea).
Our new Cadac made its debut tonight, Butterfly Chicken, Sausage and Vegetables flung in the Paella Pan and left to sizzle. The Boss pretended he was cooking by turning everything over every half minute, I left him to it. It was bloody good though, I let him think it was due to his cooking prowess.
After two nights it’s time to move on, we have a date with ex-Neighbours who live in Amsterdam coming up. Max & Carla had created a list of highly recommended sites in France for later on our tour, plus advice for today’s planned route and we chatted a little more. Lovely people, if everyone else we meet is only half as nice, it will be a good trip.