After 3 nights spent in Ypres, which we thoroughly enjoyed and looking back now could have spent another 3 days, we moved on to a little town called Thieu, close to Mons. As we approached the small village there were some minor roadworks which was just enough to fluster Richard so once again, we had to reverse out of a dead-end road and go around in a 20-minute detour before we finally pulled up at the Aire. We stopped here for free alongside a canal, providing plenty of entertainment for Jack as every time a boat went passed, he would shout “BOOAATT”. It was the warmest day of our trip so far with temperatures reaching 30 degrees, making for a very hot and sticky night in the motorhome.
The following morning, before moving on, we cycled up the canal to the Strepuiy Boat Lift, which was pretty impressive. Getting out of Thieu was just as eventful as getting in to the place, with several road blocks put up overnight we were beginning to think that we might have no other choice than to stay put. But with the help of our trusty Co-Pilot app, we managed to eventually find a route out.
Our next planned stop happened to be just over the border in France, in a rural town called Boussis. We weren’t overly enamoured by the place and after parking up for lunch, we decided we would move on the night, but not before we used some of the facilities. Looking a little confused by the facilities and the French signs that adorned it, a kind old lady popped out of her house to give us a hand, although she didn’t actually speak any English. Wanting to thank her for her help, Richard put his language skills to the test, but instead of saying ‘Merci’, the word ‘Gracias’ blurted out of his mouth. Very much a ‘cringe, keep your head down and keep walking’ moment, but nevertheless it kept us laughing for days and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we get confused with the languages.
Moving on, we travelled to Belgium’s largest lake, L’eu de Heure and we were lucky enough to find a big grass motorhome parking area, which also happened to be free. Even better still, it was right opposite a ‘centre parcs’ style holiday village that we could walk straight onto, with a shop and pizzeria!
The next morning we decided to take the bikes out for a cycle by the lake as the weather forecast said we were due for an afternoon thunderstorm. So, after lunch, to avoid the rain, we headed to the swimming complex opposite and the kids were thrilled with a toddlers swimming pool, outside splash pool, log flume and a main swimming pool for Piper to practice her swimming (we’ll have her swimming without her armbands by the end of the year). The kids were too young for the log flume, but that didn’t stop me and Richard from taking a turn each. It was Richard’s go first and as I was a tad nervous (I’m a total whimp), I asked him if it was scary to which he quite simply replied “no”. I however had a slightly different experience and didn’t enjoy it one bit! Dinnertime that evening was a bit of experience as we had thrown caution to the wind and decided to try out the pizza from across the road. Turns out the pizza wasn’t as expected and Richard came back to the motorhome with some thick square pieces of bread that only slightly resembled pizza. Oh well, you win some, you lose some!
The thunderstorm finally arrived at about 8 o’clock and as Piper was still awake in her bed, we let her jump down to watch our very first thunderstorm from our motorhome. It was a slow starter with a few flashes across the sky and some low roars of thunder in the distance. But before long, the trees were shaking in the wind like a scene from Jurassic Park and the motorhome was rocking from side to side. Richard and I were a little concerned, but Piper was chill as a cucumber, gazing in awe at the sky outside.
The next day came around and with the weather having improved, we set off with the intention of stopping at a supermarket to stock up on food, but we ended up in the town of Nismes to use the motorhome services. It was clear as soon as we drove into the town that it would be a pleasant place to spend the night, so that’s exactly what we did! Set in the valley with a quaint watermill and river flowing through the centre, it was indeed a rather charming place to explore.
We ventured out to the Arboretum and to the woods on the other side of the town, where we stumbled across some massive rock faces and caves. All in all, a 5km walk which Piper managed very well apart from the odd moan and her new catchphrase “my legs want to relax”. The next day we moved onto Dinant, but as we arrived at our planned stop, we spotted a sign that said “no motorhomes”, so we swiftly moved on, albeit a little disappointed that we didn’t get to explore the town further. That’s the name of the game I suppose and we are slowly finding out that it isn’t always going to be easy to stop where we want to.
Deciding we might aswell find somewhere with facilities, we headed to a small campsite which looked rather appealing on our CamperContact app, it had laundry, wi-fi, and a playground as well as goats. But when we arrived it was a different story, it looked completely run down and ragged so we headed out of there faster than you can say go, frantically searching our app for somewhere else to spend the night. Finally, third time lucky, we arrived at another campsite which looked like it would do us just fine for the night, so we used this stop to get all our jobs done, laundry, hoovering and washing the outside of the motorhome, whilst making the most of the electric hook-up to let the kids watch a bit of Peppa Pig after pretty much a week of wild camping.
So, we may have lost a few days from missing out on our planned stops which meant we arrived in Germany a few days earlier than planned, but we still had a fantastic time in Belgium. It seems a little crazy that we raced through it in only 8 days, but it is only a small country. Just a little gutted that we forgot to buy some Belgian Chocolates!