Belgium – last minute!

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I’ll set the scene. We’re sitting watching the F1 late one Sunday afternoon, we have the coming week booked off work and the weather forecast is pants – yay!

We wanted to go somewhere on the bikes but we weren’t sure where and had nothing booked. Hmm…. what to do? The other half was engrossed in the F1 and not really paying any attention to anything I was saying but fortunately for me I had the internet and a credit card at my fingertips 🙂

By the time the F1 finished, it was 7 in the evening and I said to the other half ‘You get the bikes ready, I’ll pack – we’re booked on the 8.30 tunnel tomorrow morning, we’re going to Belgium’! He finally finished oiling the chains, checking tyre pressures etc. and bolting the luggage system on his bike about ten o’clock that evening.

I don’t like to carry much luggage, I find a tank bag is ample (on longer trips I do have a tail pack). Luggage, in my opinion, upsets the look of the bike and so I prefer the other half to carry most of it (of course I can’t tell him this, so I tell him it affects the weight of the bike and he takes pity on me and puts it on his bike).

When we arrived at the tunnel I had got through passport control first and pulled up behind another biker in the waiting line. I was chatting to this chap and he asked where I was off to and when I told him he was really impressed at how light I travel. That was right up until the other half pulled up and saw all the luggage on his bike and then he started laughing.

Now there are some pitfalls in going away last minute as we were to find out, the first of which was when riding to the tunnel in the morning.

Normally when we’re going away the bikes are fuelled ready a day or two before we go and I may have omitted to check the fuel situation on leaving in the morning. It was on the M20 that my fuel light came on – eek! There were no services so we ended up coming off at the next junction and riding for a few miles before finally finding a petrol station! As a result we were now very tight on time to make our booked crossing. I was not very popular at this point.

We made our crossing by the skin of our teeth and arrived in Belgium mid morning and found a lovely place for late breakfast/early lunch. The weather was lovely and sunny but as it turned out, it was not going to last!

We made our way to Ghent where I had booked us a lovely B&B and arrived mid afternoon. The owner of the B&B let us park our bikes in the back garden.

We chilled the rest of the day discovering Ghent and its tram system and checking out what places looked good for dinner. We found an Irish pub serving great food and beer – perfect.

The sun was definitely hiding the following day but we decided to head to the famous World War One site of the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front. It is the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war and is now the resting place of more than 11,900 servicemen of the British Empire from the First World War.

From there we then went onto the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres which is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War 1 and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. Both places were very surreal and thought provoking.

By now the rain had found us and we were to say the very least absolutely soaking. The second pitfall of last minute going away was that I did not take proper notice of the weather forecast for Belgium and wore my non waterproof boots and gloves. Doh! Every time we stopped at a junction or traffic lights I would wring my gloves out. Urgh! The water had got through my boots and I had soggy socks. We found a pub and had copious amounts of coffee whilst we dried out a little.

The forecast for Wednesday was dire and as our bike gear still hadn’t dried out from the previous day, we headed to Bruges on the train. What a lovely picturesque place Bruges is. It is the capital of West Flanders and is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings with lots of Gothic architecture.

We found a lovely little restaurant for lunch and went on a boat ride through the canals in the afternoon (well we were wet anyway so we figured a bit more water wouldn’t make any difference!)

After a stroll around Bruges (via the little boutiques of course) we stumbled across a waffle house so went inside to warm up and dry out. Of course we had to have a waffle – well, it would have been rude not to!

Thursday we were booked on the lunchtime tunnel crossing. Our bike gear had just about dried out (with the help of a hairdryer) but the rain was torrential when we woke up. We put on our waterproofs before we even stepped foot outside the B&B, loaded the bikes up and set off. Home we rode.

A brilliant few days in Belgium despite the weather, I definitely have to go back, there is so much more to explore.