Dover, Calais, Brugges
3 days away
118 miles / 190 km since last post
446 miles / 718 km total
We spent a fairly lazy weekend in Appledore, Kent. The campsite was fairly basic, with only two toilets on site. That said, it was fine for what we needed for the weekend. Our motorhome is geared up for camping without the need for electric hook-up so we were fine.
On Monday morning we left fairly early to get to JC Leisure and have our leaking pipe repaired. We didn't see anyone who worked there all weekend, and nobody came round to ask for payment, so it seems we got our three night stay for free!
After the tap was fixed we headed straight to Dover to find a site for the night, somewhere close to the ferry to make it easy the following morning. We didn't want to book the ferry until we knew the motorhome was all fixed up, but looking at the prices we decided to take the ferry the following day. Ferry same day booking = £130. Ferry next day booking = £32.50 - an easy decision to make.
The campsite was fine, and it was a treat to have electric power for our stay (and be able to use a hairdryer!) as well as get a proper internet connection - reception in Appledore was very poor. This was also a good opportunity to get things like insurance sorted for the bikes (Stu note: £5 for WiFi that can only manage 8kb/s upload speed is a rip-off).
It was a warm and sunny start in Dover on Tuesday morning. We headed straight for the ferry port in good time for our 11:30am sailing. A fairly uneventful trip across the English Channel to Calais, and a fairly empty ferry too.
As soon as we arrived in Calais the mission was to leave it as soon as possible and head straight for the campsite we had booked in Brugges, Belgium. (We will be back in France at a later date). Stu had plugged in our location onto the GPS app on the phone, and we were off.
It didn't take too long to drive the 78 miles or so to get to Brugges, and was fairly straightforward on the main road. We drove straight to the campsite to park up. As it was mid-afternoon by this point we just wanted to grab a quick bite to eat first, and then take the bikes for a ride into the city.
As we discovered, Brugges is made for cycling. There are plenty of other cyclists around and it is well catered for with cycle lanes. Most of the roads are cobbled, but fairly easy to navigate. Though I did have to keep reminding Stu that they drive on the right over here! (Stu note: Sarah, you stick to driving, I'll stick to cycling)
Despite riding our bikes, we still stick out like obvious tourists, mainly due to the fact that we wear helmets when we ride. It seems none of the locals wear helmets - and I mean none! We also drew quite a few stares when folding and unfolding the Brompton bikes too. I don't think people have stared at us that badly since being in China!
We spent a lovely afternoon cycling round the city, taking in the beautiful sights. The buildings, churches, canals and bridges really do make this a pretty place. The bikes made getting around so much easier and quicker. I think we managed to see all the sights in this one afternoon!
After a few hours cycling we met up with Stus' Dad and step-mum, Tim and Lyn, who also happen to be holidaying in Brugges for the week. We stopped for a beer on Vrijdagmarkt and they came along to meet us. Then we took a stroll to a restaurant nearby for a spot of dinner. We were able to sit outside as it was still really warm outside. After dinner we said our goodbyes to Tim and Lyn, and headed back to the motorhome on the bikes - just stopping briefly for a coffee on the central marketplace. It was a really enjoyable evening, and it's so nice that it doesn't even get dark until nearly 11pm. A great first proper day of our trip.
This morning (Wednesday) started a bit late - all the beer drinking and cycling yesterday made us feel a bit tired this morning. We took things easy in the morning, and then made our way into Brugges again around midday. Today we decided to take a walk instead of the bikes. We reasoned that yesterday we managed to cover a lot of ground, but today we would take it a bit easier.
It wasn't too bad to walk into town. The morning started a bit drizzly but soon became hot and sunny later on. Just before heading to the central area we found a nice little restaurant to grab some lunch by the river. The beer was nice, as always here, but the food was quite average for the price - 16 Euros for a soup starter and Flemish Stew and chips. As we are gradually realising in Brugges, everything is expensive.
Once in the centre of town we walked to the Belfort (belfry). Tim and Lyn had already been here and warned us about the many spiral steps going to the top, that get narrower as you get higher, but they said it was worth the effort. And it really was. There were 366 steps in all, and yes they did get really narrow at the top, but to be fair there were a few stop off points along the way where you could take a break. At one stop you get to see some of the massive bells - apparently 27 tonnes in all - and they even rang out just upon our arrival.
At the top there was a welcome breeze (it's still very humid here) and a fantastic view over the city. We stayed a while to make the most of the view (and the breeze) before heading back down - carefully squeezing past people coming the other way.
We stopped at a cafe for a Belgian waffle and much needed drink before heading back to the campsite. The waffle was a little disappointing actually - it was a bit dry and tasteless. Had to be tried while we're here though.
This evening has given us a chance to catch up on our blog, sort through pictures and work out what to do once we leave Brugges tomorrow.