Day 500 – 15 Jul 11 – Lee Valley/Bruges

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Day 500 – 15 Jul 11 – Lee Valley/Bruges
For piccies see www.eastmidlands

Hi Clo,
Set off for Wickford to meet up with ‘The Only Sue’ on Saturday morning after final loading up on the Friday. Said our farewells to Jim and Carol at Welby and drove down the A1 in bright sunshine – bodes well we hope. Straightforward journey to the East Essex meet even though ‘Doc Brown’ decided to take us through the country side. However, we found the meeting site OK next to Runwell Hospital for the insane! Didn’t see mad Brian though!

Parked up on grass and left Smartie attached. Sue looked well and we met her fellow campers, the friendly Andy and Marion who also lived locally. The East Essex are a part of the C and CC and seem to be really well organised with meets every week. About 30 wags and vans were there and I can see why Sue joins in as they are a welcoming bunch. Andy got his BBQ out and we cobbled together a great meal in warm sunshine and we all caught a bit of sun – eh Sue?

After breakfast on Sunday we bade farewell to Sue and headed off to Lee Valley. A quick 45 minutes around the M25 and we set up in a hardstanding near the entrance so we could make a quick getaway on Monday morning for Dover. The staff were REALLY helpful and allowed us to store Smartie on site whilst we were in Bruges. Saved us the expense and hassle of towing it across the channel for 3 days.

Had a meal in the local pub and got to bed early. Rose at 5am and set off for Dover. Crossed the Dartford bridge 1 minute before 6am – so it was free! Got to Dover early and got the 0800 ferry and were on the road in Dunkirk by 11am local. No problems until we left the AutoRoute and then we spotted the day-glow orange signs in Flemish. ROADWORKS!!!! Got halfway down a side road and could go no further. Had to do a U-turn and it would have been v tricky with Smartie or without the Sat Nav. We made a detour around further road works and got to the site by 1 pm. Even the road leading to the site was blocked by builders and we had to joust with a giant digger! We’ll go out a different way.

So, here we are in the land of Van Damme, Poirot and Tintin. Didn’t see them but there is plenty to do in Brugge – a very nice medieval walled city. Beer, frites, chocolate, lace and waffles!
The site is a challenge. Very small with lots of tenters. Our pitch is extremely small. Barely large enough to park. We exit the main door and step onto the next pitch. Yet other pitches opposite for caravans are twice the size. It's not good, so I’ll be writing a review for MMM – warts and all.

The only benefit is that it's relatively close to Bruges – 3kms on the bikes. Also, Aldi and Lidl are at the end of the road. Belgium is very bike friendly with clear bike lanes everywhere and bike traffic lights. Once in the city it's cobbled roads. I am really surprised that I didn’t get another puncture.

Bruges is very picturesque. Cathedrals, canals and sights to see. All in excellent condition, not a tatty building to be seen! We parked the bikes up in Burg Square, where a heavy metal concert was in progress, and walked into the main square and admired the architecture. I sat in the seat outside the Belfry where the line in ‘In Bruges’ about elephants was delivered by Colin Farrell. Apparently, the Frites selling license in the main square is €100,000 per annum!!

We found a nice al fresco restaurant and indulged in mussels and frites and beer. Excellent meal in the sunshine. We then walked to the canals and took a boat tour (€7). Had a wander round, another beer and a waffle, and got back to the campsite by 7.30pm to find that our new Aussie pals Karen and Dante were sitting outside and no other van had yet squeezed in between us. Sat and chatted until 10pm when a VW camper arrived and slotted in between us. An excellent refurbished ’76 model. The owners had only taken delivery on Saturday and the starter was playing up and wouldn’t start on the dock at Dover so they missed their original ferry.

Next morning we biked into the city and did the Belfry (8 euro) – all 366 steps – and got great views of the city. We gave the City Tour a miss (14.50 euro) as we had seen most of it from the Belfry and canal. Then into the Frites Museum, (6 euro) followed by authentic frites for lunch. Then into the Belgian Choco museum (5 euro). Mildly interesting. Mum went into some church and saw a vial of ‘Christ’s Blood’ – yeah –right!

Back home just in time to miss the rain – 16 hours non-stop as I write this. VW had a leak and aaarrrggghhhh!!!! so did we this morning – from the main Heki again. SMC are for it! It’s not bad though so we might survive the winter.

Stuck in the van this morning, waiting for the rain to stop. The Aussies set of for Amsterdam and eventually Newcastle to end their European trip. They came over from Oz and bought a cheap camper and have done just about all of Europe in it. They are going to sell it in Newcastle and then see Spain and Norway by air. Sounds like a great trip.

Just went to get an internet ticket and the VW had conked out completely on the exit road. He’s calling out the AA. Should have really done a shakedown trip in the UK before bringing it away.
Never mind, we gave them a cup of tea in the warm whilst they waited for advice on a fix. Good luck. They got it fixed – dodgy wiring – and now safely on their way.

Home tomorrow via Dunkirk and hopefully we shall see you on Friday night – which is day 500!
Still raining on Thursday morning so we changed our booking and set off early getting the 1200 sailing and were ensconced in Lee Valley by 1600. Raining hard in Belgium and we had a small casualty – going over a sleeping policeman we graunched the towbar electrics connector and lost the cover. New one to be bought!!

Now to celebrate 500 days on the road!!!!
All for now,

M and D

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