Ooh, today’s the day! We’re finally catching the ferry. Dover ahoy!
I was a bit worried about how rough the journey from Dover to Dunkirk would be but the sea was as smooth as a mill pond.
We had an unexpected laugh when Darren drove on to the ferry at Dover. As we pulled up behind the motorhome in front of us the crew member who was seeing us on waved us forward, Darren couldn’t see him so I told him what was happening. Needless to say Darren was inching forward extremely tentatively because from our position it looked like he was about to hit the vehicle in front, during this time the crew member was getting more and more frustrated at how slowly Darren was moving until in his frustration he told us to stop, then as he walked towards the vehicle behind us he looked in my window and burst out laughing and explained that because our van had UK registration plates he’d thought I was the driver and that’s why he was making all his signals at me! Hee! Hee! What a Silly Billy but it was very nice of him to explain why he’d been getting so shirty!
Once we’d disembarked in Dunkirk Darren drove to our first European stop, Camping Fort Bedmar, De Klinge a campsite in Belgium.
We’d booked in for three nights because we felt sure we’d need some time to recover from the mania we’d encountered in organising this trip and it would be a good opportunity to plan where we were going to drive to next because other than this stop and the Sweden Rock Festival in Sölvesborg on the 9th June we had nothing planned. Eeeek!
We drove in through some large gates and were greeted by a very friendly man who asked Darren to manoeuvre the van into what looked like a path but turned out to be the place to fill the water tank, it was a tight squeeze but Darren managed it. Then the man cycled very slowly in front of us (we were amazed that he could balance at that speed!) stopping every now and again to point out things we needed to know. He took us to a grassy area that had hedging scattered around and let us choose our pitch. It was hard to make out where our pitch was, there was nothing marked out so we set up camp next to one of the hedges.
The campsite was full of static caravans which seemed to be privately owned, most of them were closed up. We had neighbours opposite us, the man had a pet parakeet which just sat on his wrist even when he was wandering around.
The campsite was very quiet during the day, which was just what we needed, however as soon as night kicked in a noisy owl started screeching loudly all through the night, we discovered he did that every night. He was certainly conscientious! I wouldn’t have minded quite so much if I’d managed to at least get a glimpse of him but he was as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel, we seek him here, we seek him there!
On Saturday we decided to explore the area, we wonder now whether Sunday or Monday would have been preferable because the town was closed when we got there (re-reading this a year after our tour I’ve realised we’d walked into town at the time of day Europe closes, if we’d gone in earlier or later in the day I’m sure the town would have been buzzing!).
It was a long walk into the town of De Klinge down an extremely dull road, even the architecture was uninteresting. All the houses were bland, maybe it was because the properties were built in beige blocks and most of the front gardens were covered in slate or concrete. Although there were a few gardens with the occasional green shrub planted in them the majority of gardens didn’t have any flowering or coloured plants instead they had little, and sometimes not so little, painted ornaments decorating them e.g. wells or windmills.
When we arrived in De Klinge we discovered that the only places open were a pizza shop and a fish and chip bar. We wandered through the centre of the town then turned and walked back to the chip shop. We had a slight issue ordering our chips (which we were disappointed to discover were actually french fries, should have realised I suppose), we didn’t speak any Flemish and the ladies serving in the shop didn’t speak any English but with some gesticulating (on both sides of the counter) and with the help of the other customers, we ordered two boxes of french fries and a beer (because we could point at that!)
One of the ladies asked us whether we’d like to sit and eat our fries in the shop (at least we think that’s what she meant when she pointed to the lean-to attached to the side of the shop) so we stayed there for a while eating our fries as they ate their meal at the table next to us. It was so nice to meet such friendly people at our first stopover, hopefully we will continue to meet lots of friendly people on our adventure.
We couldn’t bear the thought of having to walk up that boring main road again and we saw a sign which looked like it might be a sign for a football ground. We’d seen a sign for a footpath as we were walking towards the town so we hoped that it might lead us to that.
We were a bit dubious about taking that route in case we ended up walking along an even longer ‘beige’ route, however after a lot of deliberating we decided to try it and as a result found a nice walk back to the campsite with fields with wild flowers dotted through them on one side of us and prettier individually designed houses which did have some colour in their gardens, on the other side.
I’m sure if we’d been less tired and had more time we would have discovered some of the pretty places that the campsite advertised on the website.
When we finally arrived back at the campsite we passed the campsite bar where a few people were sitting at tables enjoying the afternoon sun with glasses of beer in front of them and we decided we owed it to ourselves to do the same! We bought two different Belgium beers 8.5% and 10%. Oh, wow! The Belgians definitely know how to brew a decent beer! It tasted AMAZING!
We learned another lesson while I was cooking, DON’T put the microwave oven on when the kettle is plugged in, apparently it overloads the electric hook up and trips the circuit breaker! Luckily we could see the fuse box from the van so Darren went to see if he could reset it. Inside the box was a bird’s nest with two tiny blue and yellow chicks looking up at him. I’m a bit disappointed that I forgot to go and see them too, I only remembered later on as we drove away.
On Monday we left to visit Bruges.