Day 9 - Team Beck in Bruges (and Dunkirk, so not a movie)

in #travel4 years ago

Team Beck had originally planned to drive from Hardelot through Bruges to Amsterdam on Saturday 19 August, but thanks to previously unforeseen levels of complication with dropping off the rental car in another country (grmph – EU my foot) we decided rather to drive to Bruges on Friday and return to Hardelot via Dunkirk. We had heard so much about what a pretty town it is, and some of us had seen the film In Bruges with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, but frankly hadn’t remembered much other than what a lovely place it looked to visit.

For background on how we got to Day 9 (intact), have a look at the posts listed at the end of this article.

Bruges canalscape

Bruges - building detail

Team Beck flips out at the borderless border crossing

Hey, we’re from Africa. We’re not used to a border crossing being anything less than a Nollywood production, with stacks of papers needed for all people and equipment in the car, and the car needing more papers than the people just so it can put its tires onto foreign soil on the off chance it might commit some car sin, like getting hit by another car.

Humans must be herded through multiple lines on each side of the border, once to get out and once to get in, and their papers (of which there are usually many, with the same information recorded in quadruplicate) must be stamped – hard, by officious, passive aggressive clerks – using stamps that long ago forgot what wet ink felt like. One wrong move at an African border crossing and you’re toast, doomed to hours of purgatory and recycling between form stages.

Okay, it’s possible I might be exaggerating just a bit, as for what it’s worth, the only time I’ve ever had difficulty crossing land borders in Southern Africa – and I’ve crossed most of them – was when travelling with an important World Bank person who made the mistake of showing impatience and pointing out her passport was diplomatic, as befits an important World Bank person. I ended up with hours in a back room, a hefty fine and a cancelled residence permit thanks to that helpful intervention.

So perhaps I digress, but suffice it to say we were not prepared for a sign on the highway basically saying “you’re in Belgium now”. How anticlimactic. And delicious. We thought this Europe thing was pretty cool.

Team Beck hits the tourism information centre

Total pros at this tourism thing now, we Google mapped our way to a decent parking spot not far from the Tourism Information Centre, convinced the parking meter (which as I recall had instructions in Flemish) to give us two and a half hours of parking, which would take us to about 3:00 in the afternoon. @tim-beck Google searched the Information Centre so we’d know where to go, while I admired the huge, two-storey lighting shop window across the narrow cobblestone street from us, with its modern and traditional light fixtures displayed to great advantage. We set off down the street, armed with Madame Google to tell us how to get where we were going, passing beautiful flower boxes (one I particularly noticed had a profusion of delicate white flowers dancing in the breeze) adorning the houses and shops lining the street.

Here's an idea of what those streets look like - three-storey buildings built close to the street, a mix of residential and commercial.

Reinforcing my heritage at the Molenbrug

A couple of blocks’ stroll got us to the Molenbrug ("Mill Bridge"), where I learned my ancestors the ververs had plied their dying trade (my last name is Dyer, and few believe me when I say my ancestors must have been into textiles; maybe this will finally convince them).

Molenbrugen info sign

Bruges is really good at telling you in multiple languages the history of what you're seeing. That signboard is on the middle of the Mill Bridge.

Ververs detail

In this case I was far more interested in the fact it was talking about Dyers - my ancestors! Now I know my name is Ververs in Flemish. Or Dutch. Or something. 😜

By this time, we realised the streets were quite a maze. Clever us – thanks to Madame Google, we had total confidence in where we were going, but wouldn’t necessarily remember where we’d come from. We pinned our location in WhatsApp and shared it within Team Beck. Now we wouldn’t get lost on the way back!

We got good info at the Tourism Information Centre

Given that we had only a couple of hours and had learned from the near-starvation trauma experienced earlier in the week that it’s wiser to feed all Team Beck members between breakfast and dinner, regardless of how late breakfast has been consumed, we asked the ultra-professional yet down to earth, sweet young woman behind the counter for two specific recommendations – where to find a good, affordable Belgian lunch nearby, and what to do in Bruges in under two hours, minus said lunch time. Oh, we want to see beautiful bridges, we added.

Her recommendation: walk around, see the beautiful sights, if you’ve seen the movie I suggest you go here, here and here, she said, expertly circling spots on a handy “In Bruges” map of where Colin and Brendan played out their hapless hit man tale, and here’s a restaurant I go to on Fridays which isn’t too expensive. They usually serve fish on Fridays, she added.

In Bruges map - front

In Bruges map - inside

They really have maps showing where “In Bruges” scenes took place! You can probably even do a tour, if you have more than two hours, and don't need lunch.

Priority: lunch

So yes, lunch. It turned out the hotel was not a tiny, local hole in the wall, but a strategically placed international chain.

Our lunch restaurant

Image source

We selected our spot on the outside terrasse just off Castle Square, ordered our set meal (delicious carrot soup and, yes, fish for the main course) at a most reasonable price, which motivated us to add some local beer and wine to wash down the food. The waiter brought us bread in a little paper bag, a new experience for us.

Carrot soup

Yummm...carrot soup.


Some delicious fish with a velvety sauce the waiter said was made with pickles. My Moulinex has an attitude which keeps it from making sauces that smooth.

Candle on table

The tables all had these simple but lovely decorations.

A Belgian beer, downed.

Me with wine

Red wine is good for the heart, they say.

From this spot we watched the horse-drawn carriages clop-clop past us, carrying tourists from around the world on more formal tours of Bruges while we enjoyed the delicious meal.

Walking tour of Bruges

Now adequately fortified, we set out to walk the streets of Bruges. Here are a few photos from our short but most enjoyable walk.

Castle Square, I think

This link gives you a good idea what everything actually is. We just walked around and took photos of things we thought were beautiful, which turned out to be pretty much everything.

This is the Town Hall.

Emma and me in front of The Chambers.

Worth another shot, because the building is so beautiful.

The canals and bridges

I mentioned horse-drawn carriages - they move at quite a clip. Apologies to the horse for cutting off his face.

Some stunning details

This town was a treasure trove of details. Here's a small sample.

Have a closer look at the top of that building across the canal.

...our coach was about to turn into a pumpkin

We checked our watches. Five minutes to 3:00! Quick! Who knows what these Belgian authorities will do to tourists who overstay their parking meter welcome? Team Beck’s risk management sub-committee wasn’t willing to contemplate this.
We were so glad we’d pinned our location in WhatsApp. Girded by Google Maps and cheap data, we hotfooted it back to where we’d parked our car, storming past an impressive two-storey lighting shop window on our right, then some lovely flower boxes, one with a profusion of delicate white flowers swaying gently in the breeze, on our left.
When we got to the Molenbrug, it dawned on us that we’d walked straight past the car, which was parked between that lighting store and the pretty windowbox. Technology is no stand-in for thinking!

Next stop – Dunkirk, or Dunkerque, or Dunquerque, or….

Really, we English speaking people spell it really wrong. It's a French name.

We headed back to France on the same highway we’d come in on, this time completely missing the sign saying “Bienvenue en France” or whatever it says – we don’t know, because we never saw it. The border crossing is that innocuous.

The Tourist Information Centre

But you knew that by now.

We stopped at this extraordinary Tourist Information Centre, housed in an old belfry, of all things, across from a lovely cathedral, and picked up some essential info on what to do in Dunkirk.

It's in a belfry, no joke.

The Tourist Information Centre sits across a square from a beautiful cathedral.

This is a detail from the entrance to the cathedral

And this, oddly, is basil growing in glassed-over recess in the sidewalk in front of the Tourist Information Centre. I have no explanation.

We headed towards the beach. @tim-beck and I had prepped for this by watching the recently-released movie of the same name, so I’ll admit I was expecting romantic, narrow, cobblestoned streets not unlike those in Bruges.

There’s a spectacular inner harbour area, which has clearly been the object of significant investment, and what looked like a good museum to give us an overview of the events of late May and early June 1940 (see links here, here and here to get perspective on the evacuation – but do yourself a favour, if you haven’t seen the film, do go and see it).

A tall ship in the refurbished harbour.

Emma and me in front of the tall ship

We arrived half an hour before closing of the museum, so opted instead to head to the museum at the bunker at the edge of town. The exhibits there are pretty tired, so we decided to head up to the top of the bunker, where we’d been assured we’d get spectacular views of the beach and be able to imagine for ourselves the landing of the hundreds of little British civilian craft.

The access was closed for the night. So much for that. We tried walking around the dunes to get to a proper vantage point, but every dune we mounted had another dune in front. Finally, in disappointment, we decided to head back into town and at least see the famous beach there.

The beach in town

Perhaps it was just where we parked, but the stretch of beach we found when we walked past the nondescript, rather seedy 1960s/70s buildings between the parking lot and the sea reminded me more of New Jersey than anywhere in Europe.

The beach itself is spectacular.

The wind was howling, scouring us with fine beach sand, and Team Beck rapidly reached consensus that this was unpleasant, and we’d rather be in Hardelot.

Return to base and dinner

Back to Hardelot we drove. Dinner was an odd French tapas (read bar food) combo with cheese at the bar area of our hotel, as we were too pooped to try to go out to dinner. No photos of food here, just some interesting chats with our charming waiter Benoit, who was delighted we remembered the words please and thank you, which he insisted were gone from the vocabulary of other guests. Our day ended with us at least hoping we’d done well for South African tourists who would follow us.

Images by @kiligirl, @tim-beck and Emma Beck except where otherwise credited.

Other posts to date on our trip:

Team South Africa banner designed by @bearone


Thanks for the update again!! I so have to do a Euro trip!! Hoping to go to Germany next year - let's see...

Such a pleasure, - I need to get these experiences out of my system into the blockchain! I hope you get to Germany next year so we can get a vicarious thrill from your future photos....😊😊

Hehe - I've never really been to Europe. All over Africa, the States a few times and Australia numerous times... Let's hope it comes together 😎
Loving your posts though!!

I hope you and your family can go soon. For us New World types (whose written history doesn't go back beyond the 1500s), seeing buildings that someone started to build in the 800s, with their history documented, is truly humbling.

Thanks for your support on my posts! Sometimes it's like wrangling a bronco getting them out. Photobucket hit me with their paywall earlier this week and I had to start using another service. Can't get imgur to work for some reason (which could have been "ai yi yi, I have to get this post up so we can cook supper, I'll use anything...", so perhaps I should ask you next week.

Enjoy CT! 😊😊

So true what you say about the history there. Here in SA a building is old if it was built in the early 1900s 😝
Ah, will definitely help you out with imgr next week 😎👍🏻

Well, we do have some stuff dating back to the 1500s and 1600s if we go looking for it, and we do have some interesting history to explore (Darwin in Cape Town, for example). And thank you re imgr - vgy failed me on Friday so I had to go back to my old Flickr account, but I struggle with the direct links there (the album features are kinda nice, though...). Hope you're enjoying CT!

Wow, I didn't know that!! Might be worthwhile to read up on 😎
Yip, imgur has been rock solid for me so far ☺️

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Wow, the pictures are damn awesome ma'am !

Well, thank you kindly, @khatisam4! I'm really appreciating my Huawei Mate 9. That is one smart piece of electronic whiz-bangery. For once my photos actually reflect my memories of the place. Appreciate you stopping in! 😊😊

lovely architecture \o/, the basil growing in the recess is indeed strange but nicer to look at than just a metal cover, maybe its the equivalent of when they used to take birds down the mines to help monitor the atmosphere maybe the basil gives an indication of what the atmosphere is like under the cover who knows lol, I'm liking the beer glass with the jester on it i must try to get me one of those \o/

Hi, @coindevil - yes, it was strange, stranger perhaps because the other recesses (which might have been for night lighting) were devoid of plant or other discernible life. Why that one? Why basil? Maybe you're right...perhaps it's an indicator herb. 😉

As for the glass, the word reminded me of a comic strip I used to read when I was a kid. It featured an anteater whose tongue would make a "zot!" sound whenever it caught an ant. I think. Unless my memory is deeply flawed, which is possible...I also loved the beer jester...😜😜

@kiligirl, Your posts are addictive. I'm liking them more and more and when you don't post, I've to wait for it anxiously. Another great post. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. By the way, I liked those golden fish the most. It's a pity that you can't parcel them to me. ;)

Keep writing, posting and supporting the community.

Steem on!

Oh my greatness, @ugetfunded, you motivate me so much! Thank you for reading. Your support means a lot to me.

I'm really enjoying writing about this trip because it feels like capturing the memories before they burst like those bubbles at the wedding.

And I was so caught by those fish! Belgians seem to like beauty and humour combined.

Steem on too! 😊😊

What you just wrote made my day!!!

By the way, do you have plans to turn these travel posts into book entitled something like Kiligirl On The Road?

I'm so glad!

I don't have any book plans, but you're not the first person to ask. I post these on FB as well, and a few old (and I mean OLD) friends from primary school have asked the same question. For the time being I just want to enjoy getting these stories out of me and into the blockchain where they can't escape 😜😜.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

When I read your articles I think how much I want to be in your place ... You have a perfect life and I am very happy for you! I hope you always be happy: D

That's really sweet of you to say, @amedeo, but trust me, it's far from a perfect life! It's a good life with good people in it, but I've had my fair share of crime and nastiness over the years, and there are people in my life whose agendas do not include looking out for my best interests. And I have my own moments of behaving in ways I'm not proud of, too frequent than I'd care to mention. But that's life! Overall, I try to be thankful for the little things, and that helps me to put negative stuff in perspective. I find this is a great platform for sharing positivity, so I'm using it for that.😊😊

Certainly there are bad moments, but I'm happy you share the good ones here. Anyway, I'm very happy for you and your family. I know for sure that you have a very good life, even if there are bad moments. And thank you for this comment! :D

Well, I hope the people and events in your life bring you happiness, @amedeo, and that perhaps Steemit brings some extra spice to you as well. I really appreciate hearing from you and look forward to more from you on Steemit

That's so cute on your part ... I also wish you the same! It's always a pleasure to hear you: D

hi @kiligirl, very nice and interesting travel tour you have and share with us whole story and some pictures. wonderful article. your creative skills are admireable, keep it up i wait for next. upvote done.

Thank you so much for your kind words and support, @rabeel! Glad you enjoyed it. 😊😊

Wow, looks like it was a great trip - wonderful pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

It was an insanely great trip, @clarkwb02! Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated 😊😊

Wow, Thank you for all the great pictures. Seeing the world through your eyes is such a blessing ! Congratulations on a such a wonderful adventure, you deserve every minute of it.

Thanks again for sharing ! /hugs

Hi JT, glad you're enjoying the trip! It was absolutely amazing and we wanted a special way of remembering it. A little bit more to come ;-). Thanks for your support! 😊😊

What a great read and amazing pictures. Looks like you are having a fabulous time great blog.

Hi, @cryptojack94, thanks for the kind words! We had a fabulous time indeed...would be lovely to still be there, but ah well....😊😊

Hello...I just love reading your post. So wonderfully you have described your tour..the aggressive clerks,stamps with no inks,beaches etc..I have come to know of these places and its beauty from your tour only..thank you so much ..I am glad that I have a friend like you..have a wonderful day ahead.
I am resteeming it...

Hi, @momi5 - to be fair to France and Belgium, we didn't experience a single clerk! Crossing the border is a non-experience because you just keep driving on the highway. Crossing a border in southern Africa is where you can experience the fun and frustration of forms, stamps and clerks! Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it. 😊😊

looks like a nice enough place and I'm sure you guys are having a blast.

Thank you, @raybilson, we had a faaaaaaabulous time. Thanks for stopping in! 😊😊

Fantastic travel and good wrok..😍

Thank you, @nomishiekh! 😊😊

a beautiful place.
I really like

Thank you, @safrijals, glad you liked it 😊😊

I will always follow you.
but please visit also to my blog ...

Very interesting blog

Thank you, @pardeepkumar 😊😊

This is a worthseen place. Thank you for inspiring people to visit such place and travel guidance. Amzaing photographs. Keep insipring God bless you and give you more strength to visit such places.

Thank you for the kind words, @muhammadsaqib - I'm glad you appreciated the both the text and the photos. Steem on! 😊😊

gorgeous pics. great travel post. Upvoted :)

Thank you so much, @nehab. I really appreciate your support! Nice to meet you on Steemit. 😊😊

Same here 😊

Congratulations @kiligirl, this post is the ninth most rewarded post (based on pending payouts) in the last 12 hours written by a Hero account holder (accounts that hold between 10 and 100 Mega Vests). The total number of posts by Hero account holders during this period was 292 and the total pending payments to posts in this category was $4469.93. To see the full list of highest paid posts across all accounts categories, click here.

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The place looks like in a fairly tale. The city is charming with a little canal. Im so carried away.

It does, doesn't it, @zawadi? Perhaps fairy tale illustrations are based on Bruges. Every time we went around a corner, we oo'd and ah'd at how lovely and interesting everything was. Thank you for stopping in. 😊😊

Just amazing feelings via reading this blog.
I have followed you.And upvoted.

Thank you so much for your support, @masudrana! All the best in your Steemit
journey 😊😊

gracias por compartir este contenido con nosotros te di un voto espero que te guste

Gracias! 😊😊

It is beautiful place, hope one day I can also visit and enjoy XIV/XV century feeling :)

It was my first time there, and that feeling of history is so strong. It's inspiring and humbling at the same time. Thank you for stopping in, @sanat! 😊😊

wish if i could visit those place too.lucky u.

Big time lucky, @santy! I saved up for nearly a year once we found out the lovely couple were getting married. There was no way I was going to miss that wedding. When we realised it would cost less to make a longer trip (much cheaper airfare), then the planning engines got into gear. I hope you get a chance to visit such places too. Thank you for stopping in 😊😊

What beautiful architecture! I love that Town Hall.

Ah, the Town Hall, the Chambers...I still haven't figured out what the black building was nestled in the corner of Castle Square (or was it Market Square?), but they're all beautiful. Anyway, the whole town is simply beautiful and insanely photogenic. Thanks for popping by and having a squizz 😊😊

Great post. thanks for share. Upvote and follow you.

Feel free to a little view:

Seems to be fun place...! thanks for sharing all information.

Bruges is lovely, @contactfund. Thank you so much for stopping in. 😊😊