So here we are, the day we’ve been waiting for, it’s time to leave Suffolk and start our European Motorhoming adventure. But, before we hopped over the Channel, we decided to have one more night in the UK, staying in the New Dover Road Park-and-Ride in Canterbury. The £7 cost to stay the night is pretty decent as it includes the bus into town. We chose to park up in one of the end bays next to the fresh water tap and waste disposal area. It wasn’t until the next morning when everyone was emptying their black waste that we realised this was the wrong decision (the smell wasn’t pleasant). Lesson learnt we buckled up and started making our way to the Dover Ferry Terminal, heading down the A2, turning a corner, and there in full view was the port. It hit home; we were really doing this!
We travelled on the Pride of Burgundy, an old ship by the look of it, but nevertheless pretty clean and tidy. Once on board, the kids soon clocked the small play area, if you could call it that, in the corner of the family lounge. We spent the first half of the journey here before finding somewhere to eat our pack-lunch.
Once docked in Calais, it was the part Richard was most nervous about, driving on the opposite side of the road. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as he thought and we were making our way along to Ypres, Belgium. We had already planned where we would spend our first night so went straight to the Aire to pitch up, but as we approached we saw a sign saying ‘VOL’…..”hmmm, what does this mean”, and with the help of Google Translate discovered it meant ‘FULL’. So, with no plan B we opened up our Camper Contact App and found somewhere else to pitch up. After a 30-minute drive, going around in circles and having to reverse out of a dead-end road we finally pulled up at an Aire in the village of Langemark. After lots of playing around and a walk into the village we settled in for the night having dinner and getting the kids to bed. At around 10pm we decided to call it a night ourselves, but then approximately 10-minutes later there was a loud knock at the door, Charlie our Labrador went mental and Richard shot out of bed like a gun went off. Surely this loud bang must be something important? Weren’t we supposed to be parking here? Have we annoyed someone already? No! it was a Dutch chap wanting to know if our electric was working. It was, and turns out his wasn’t! Even more amusement followed in the morning when we realised that they had unplugged our electric just so that they could use our socket to make themselves a cup of coffee!
The next day we were up early and headed back to Ypres, stopping on the way at The Yorkshire Trenches located in the middle of a fairly new industrial estate. It’s a place worth stopping if passing and you can even walk in the trench itself. From there we drove to Tyne Cot Cemetery. This was a place we had ear marked for a visit. The cemetery is huge, filled with perfectly straight lines of head stones and is pristinely maintained. It’s a place you can’t help fill with emotion. The scale is huge yet only touches the surface of the scale of sacrifice. There’s also a small visitor centre located just out of the cemetery that gives a further insight into the WW1 battles fought around Ypres.
We thought we would try our luck again at the first aire we attempted on the outskirts of Ypres and luckily enough there were several spaces, so we pulled in. Although, 2 minutes in and we realised that we needed an adaptor for the electric socket! You would have thought that after months of planning, we would have heard about needing one of these but obviously not, so we had paid 8 euros for a pitch with no electric. And to rub salt in our wounds another motorhomer then told us we could’ve parked for free just 200m down the road, hey ho, at least it was situated right next to a beautiful lake with a path running all the way round. The next day we left the Aire and headed 200m down the road to pitch up for free, and even better we were closer to the lake.
We spent the day in Ypres and took a visit to the ‘In Flanders Museum’, which was good but we’re not quite sure it was worthy of the 10 euros per adult entry fee and the kids got bored within 2 seconds.
That evening we cycled down to the Menin Gate for the 8pm Last Post ceremony which is held night after night without fail. It was great to watch and a chance for us as a family to pay our respects especially after our visit to Tyne Cot the previous day.
So far, we are loving Belgium. Everything looks beautiful here and you can tell the outside means a lot to them, with tree lined roads and cycle paths everywhere. The language is a new experience for us. As we understand, they speak Dutch, French and English depending on the region and so far, we have heard a mixture of all three! And another thing, squash/cordial doesn’t exist which is a little annoying as the kids drink it by the gallon load.