Monday, 18 August 2014

Off again to the Continent

Off to the continent

We decided to travel on the Sunday as it was only £80 for the ferry, £100 cheaper than the Saturday. Another fine day and we had a very pleasant crossing – although I hate leaving the dog in the motorhome which is why we always do the short crossing.
It was just a short journey the other side and we were booked into the Municipal campsite in Ypres for 3 nights.

The first night we chilled and the next day we went into the town. We had been here before about 4 years ago but Iain wanted to go back on 4th August as this was the WW1 anniversary. The Menin gate is very humbling and it's so difficult to really appreciate the sacrifice made by so many all those years ago. There are 56,000 names inscribed on the gate, all fell at the Ypres salient and these are just the men whose bodies were never recovered.

56,000 names of people who have no known grave - it's very humbling

Quiet during the day but....

Crowds gathering at about 7.45pm for the last post ceremony

We returned in the evening to the service and to hear the Last Post. If you want to see the service then you have to get there early, but to my mind, it's not about seeing the service but all about just being there. There are signs up about etiquette, ie complete silence throughout the service and no clapping at any time. So at about 7.50 every evening, the roads are closed and at 8pm everyone falls silent. The last post has been sounded every night since 1928 and it conducted by the Fire Service.

The town itself was completely demolished during WW1 and has been rebuilt as it was originally. Some of the buildings are really impressive and were only completed in 1967 – mmm but that was nearly 50 years ago.

Gothic Vaulted ceiling of the Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall rebuild completed 1967

Can't be in Belgium without a picture of a Belgian beer - you pick it up with the wooden handle.

Our near neighbours had an interesting outfit. They had a van with a pop-up top and then towed what looked like a very small caravan or a sleeping pod. This also doubled up as a storage trailer. Iain immediately said that they must have teenage boys who would sleep it in. He was absolutely right of course and they called it their “Snooze Box”. Another thing they had was a tandem with an incumbent bike on the front. Their older son was disabled and whilst able to pedal, he wasn't able to ride a bike alone and this made a great way to get around as a family. He looked really cool on the front wearing his bike helmet and cool dude sunglasses.

The snooze box

On our second evening, I was just looking out of the door of the van when a fairly old motorhome drove in to park just 3 pitches away from ours. As a laugh I said to Iain, “Look at this motorhome, this could be Steve and Clare coming in, wouldn't that be funny”. Then I said “Actually it looks like Steve driving”, I was still laughing about how unlikely that would be as Steve and Clare are getting married in Spain this month. Then I saw the driver's partner walking along and said “It is Steve and Clare, look, there she is”.
Well what a coincidence, it's such a small world. We had met Steve and Clare in Albir, back in March and although they didn't stay long we had included them in our group and had won the quiz with them (and Joy and Nick) the night before they left. In fact they were the only people we met in Spain who were younger than us. Steve and Clare had been in England for 3 weeks and had only left Leicester that day. They had pitched up in Ypres on their way to Spain where as I said they are getting married later in the month.
It was lovely to catch up with them and I must admit that Clare and myself spent the late evening putting the world to rights with the aid of a few bottles of fizz. I think it was nearly 1am before we retired.
We tried to stay on another night to spend some more time with Clare and Steve but the campsite was full so we parked up in the road and went into town with them for a walk. Iain of course gave a tour of Ypres and the Menin Gate, sharing the benefit of his knowledge with them.

Steve and Clare - on their way to Spain to get married

We had nearly two weeks to spare before being due in Ermelo in Holland and we had heard that the campsites in Holland are very expensive in August so we decided to go to the Belgium coast for a week and here we are at Ostende.

There really is nothing to say about Ostende, we were the only English speakers on the site. Of course it's so close to England that there's no reason for English people to go there.  It was a bit like Breen Sands only smaller.  The internet was rubbish, and it was expensive.  I must admit I don't mind paying but I do expect a good service for that.  So I had to take my laptop to the toilet block every day to pick up our emails (yes I still prefer the laptop to the tablet).  We do try to pick up at least daily as this is our main source of communication and the last time I didn't pick up for a few days there was a problem at the house and the maintenance guy didn't have authorisation to spend that sort of money without checking with us first.

We kicked our heels for a week and this gave us a chance to do some much-needed washing at least when dodging the effects of hurricane Bertha which of course you have all been experiencing at home.

Moving onto Breda next.............

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