25th May 2016. Berlare, Belgium.

Although we had decided to walk into Lokeren for coffee this morning our plans changed because it was SO peaceful that we overslept and we opened the blinds the next morning to the sight of two big coaches and loads of very excited school children with wheelie cases, going on school trip perhaps and decided it would be best to move on.

Our change of plan was to drive to Gent however I started to talk to Darren at what turned out to be a crucial moment and we turned off the motorway that was taking us to a Park and Ride too early and we ended up driving into Gent town centre.  It was a bit traumatic when the SAT NAV said “route only suitable for vehicles under 2.5t” (our van is 4.25t!) then the SAT NAV stopped navigating!  We never did find a suitable car park although we did eventually get to the one we had initially been aiming for but it was dug up!

After that scare we decided to quit while we were ahead (phew!  Not stuck  and no parking fines!) and followed a bus that was heading in the direction of the motorway.  We thought if the road is suitable for him then it must be suitable for us, and it was!  We decided to make our way to Venlo in The Netherlands instead of stopping at the ‘aire’ by a castle where we’d intended on spending the night.

It was quite a long journey so on the way we popped into a village called Berlare for lunch.  We decided to park at an ‘aire’ because that would have enough space for our van.  It would have been a lovely place to stay over night because it was by a big lake.

We followed the path beside it and into town and found a restaurant called Poseidon which overlooked the water.  We had an awkward moment when we realised we couldn’t understand the menu so we ordered coffee to bide for time while we looked for clues.  When the waitress came back she spoke to us in broken English, I’m ashamed to say we couldn’t even say please or thank you in Flemish.  Darren had chosen something using guess work so we asked what it was and she started making pig snorting noises and then beckoned another customer over (presumably a regular) who could speak more English.  We told the lady I was vegetarian and would be happy with salad and she asked if I liked cheese, I expected to be given a boring cheese salad but it was anything but boring.  She told us a bit about the town and said the local speciality was eel which Darren was keen to try only to be told that the Poseidon didn’t have it on their menu at the moment.

The food that arrived was superb.  The waitress brought a bowl of fish soup for Darren and cubes of Mozzarella drizzled in pesto for me, they were ‘on the house’ as a starter and when my salad arrived it looked too good to eat.  The chef had placed a large circle of potato rosti on top of a pile of shredded lettuce, red cabbage and peppers together with two circles of goats cheese and some marinated veggies, which we didn’t recognise, scattered with passion fruit and pomegranate seeds, it tasted as good as it looked.   Darren’s pork also had pomegranate seeds on it and came with mushroom sauce in a gravy boat plus a colourful side salad.  We didn’t have room for dessert unfortunately.

We arrived back at the van just as another motorhome turned up.  It belonged to a Dutch couple who came over to see if we were staying the night and were disappointed to hear we weren’t.  They had just toured the UK for two weeks and were very tired, they told us it is always best to stop with another van at an ‘aire’ if you can as a safety measure.

We travelled on to Venlo and we came to the conclusion, while we were sitting on the Antwerp ring road in a very slow moving queue of traffic for ages, that travelling in the rush hour is a daft time to travel, you live and learn……. hopefully!


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