Zeebrugge, Belgium

No overnight stop here, just a quick visit to an awesome attraction.  Toby put B-143, a Russian submarine on the map ages ago so even though we actually need to go inland from Bruges, we nipped to the coast for the afternoon to visit the submarine. We don’t normally post lots of photos on the blog, suffice to say that T has hundreds of photos of submarine interiors, so you have a lucky escape here!

This is a 100 meter long foxtrot class submarine.  Foxtrot subs were developed between 1954 and 1981 and were based largely on German technology which the USSR inherited after the war.  75 seaman would have served on the sub, and it is bloody cramped! They were also sold to nations such as Cuba, Libya, India and Poland.  Foxtrots even played a part in the Cuban missile crisis.

What is interesting is that the sub is almost untouched – it was decommissioned in June 1991 and not too much has been stripped out and even things like the torpedo computer is still intact.  Time has taken its toll on the sub, and although it looks shabby on the outside, it was great spending an hour or so clambering around inside, flicking switches and generally developing a great big grin. We only learned after leaving Zebrugge and checking up the Wikipedia page for the foxtrot class, that the sub is due to be scrapped in 2019 as it’s condition is degrading too much to leave it in the water.  So visit it while you can!

The same seafront museum also has a lightship, so we explored that, then back to Mothership for the trip to Ghent.

Bruges, Belgium

A brief stop at the local supermarket and then 50km to Bruges.  We’ve done Belgium for a weekend once before and managed to go around Bruges without visiting.  We’ve put that crime against Belginity to rights now! We’ve had a wonderful three days here – thanks Amanda and Dave for the great suggestion! 

The weather has not been kind but that hasn’t stopped us getting out and seeing the town. There were two camping options we found using our motorhome specific apps.  The first was a lovely looking camp-site but a bit out of town and the other a parking only type affair very close to the town centre. The latter was much closer to town, but had terrible terrible reviews, so we went for the out of town campsite and commuting! Camping Memling is a great little site.  Only about 40 pitches, but very spacious pitches and very nice services. Very high tech – the check in machine presents a picture of the campsite and you even get to select which pitch you want. We had the last available pitch!

Sunday and we rambled around the town, had hot dogs, and chips with mayo for lunch.  We couldn’t quite manage a waffle! We bought some Belgian chocolates (obviously). We visited the Dali museum, where you can even buy signed Dali works (a little beyond our budget!)

Monday and it was a lap of the town on the bikes and then into town for a lunch at De Beurze on the corner of Markt. We had traditional beef stew and chips with a Kwak beer served in a distinctive long glass with a bulb at the bottom.  

Then the VR tour of the town – we are becoming big VR fans!  We finished the day with the beer museum, also on Markt with six beers to try after the tour!  It was quite a wobbly cycle ride back to the mothership! We’ve put a Trappist brewery on the map – hopefully we can fit it in later on the tour.

Dunkirque, France

We arrived at the Unicorn campsite just after lunch and as the weather was due to worsen, we went for a brisk stroll along the beach.  Popped into town, visited the commonwealth war graves and back to the van for a chilli con carne van dinner. First impressions of the town – a sad reminder that the French national pass-time is to encourage dogs to shit on the pavements – it’s everywhere!  So an afternoon wandering & doing the dogshit dance.

Day 2 and we got the bikes out and had a great time cycling up to the LAAC modern art museum (https://www.dunkirk-tourism.com/What-to-see-do/Contemporary-art/LAAC-Modern-Art-Museum), the sculpture garden and after a massive burger for lunch, spent the afternoon exploring the maritime museum and the ships that they have in the harbour. The museum is mostly models but they also have a temporary exhibition space and for our visit that was dedicated to music and the sea.  

Sadly, the Dunkirk 1940 experience museum is closed until June.  Maybe on the way home! We also didn’t get to walk around the FRAC contemporary art  museum, although the big glass building is impressive from the outside!

Gravelines, France

What was supposed to be two weeks back at home ended up being a month and we had to kick ourselves into gear to actually get back on the road.  Finally it was goodbye to Charlie and next door’s cat, SORN the car (again) and off we go to Calais. We didn’t book in advance and just turned up and rolled right on the RORO. £125 not too bad really.  

Our first stop, just 20km east along the coast from Calais was Gravelines (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravelines).  It’s one of many walled towns along the coast dating back to the times when the Spanish controlled the area!  These days it’s famous for the epic nuclear plant that generates over 7% of Frances electricity and for two of Frances largest data centres.  

Our stopover was just €7.50 for 24 hours, although without any services!  A wonderful spot overlooking the Fleuve canal. Interesting as the whole marina dries out at low tide leaving everything sitting on mud!

We arrived late so just time to get settled in.  A quiet night and then a brief walk of the city walls in the morning and back to mothership and off along the coast!