Off across the sea again : the Lowlands

Published by Jac Sprat in the blog jackie and martin's gap year. Views: 141

We were delighted to see we could go for six days without electric hookup. The solar panels charged during the day and gave us enough power to recharge our devices and even for me to play my keyboard. We used their trench eco loos which are far superior to the portacabin system used at big festivals in our opinion. There wasn't a scrap of litter on the ground afterwards which shows the culture of the festival and how it can be achieved if everyone cares. There will be a video about the festival uploaded as soon as I can get Youtube to work and that shows the spirit of Small World Spring Festival much better than I can describe. It was a lovely experience – even better than Glastonbury last year we felt because it was smaller and cosier. I'm sure we'll be back year after year now we've discovered it.

It was strange watching everyone pack up and stagger off with masssive rucsacs or pulling impossibly loaded trolleys getting stuck in the mud. All we had to do was start Lenny and drive away.

However before this I discovered I was missing our Mifi which is an essential part of our kit so I had to comb where we were standing last night and write it in two different lost property books (after explaining to a number of bemused people what a Mifi actually is) Later that night I found it in my bed so I felt a fraud.

Within an hour or so we were back at the Flying Horse, near Ashford where we started our trip back in March. It was a novel feeling having been there before and being old hands and knowing the best place to park (well away from the trees so we could raise the roof TV satellite so Jac could watch her Corrie) Early start the next day and we were boarding the shuttle again. This time I got a good picture of the vans actually driving into the train.
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It was nice not being at all nervous this time round. Driving on the right felt like second nature and it felt great to be back in France even though we were only there for 45 minutes before crossing the border into Belgium. After two hours we were negotiating the traffic around Bruges at rushhour. We were following a tip off from someone on our motorhome forum about a city central free spot by a canal that was rarely used and very comfortable. It's always scary following one person's advice but we went for it and were delighted to find a leafy cul de sac by a canal with houseboats and no vans there at all. We parked up and cycled off to explore.

One of the things we love about northern European countries (apart from ours!!) is that the cycling culture is so strong. Every road has a separate bike path often separated by a hedge or wall and literally everyone cycles. Often people use strong upright bike frames with a big basket on the front and a flat rack on the back where people can sit sideways (well - one person). It took me a while to figure out why so many of the older women cyclists reminded me of Mary Poppins puffing along and it was because they sat very upright and wore skirts!
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We were parked by an unusual bridge that had a huge counter weight that was wound down for the bridge o be closed then released to pull the bridge up for big boats. It was exciting to watch but the pictures we took don't really do it justice really. It was a 'have to be there' moment watching the massive structure slowly pulling the bridge up like a giant see saw.

This was the bridge on its way down.

We had a canal cycle ride and then went to our first Belgian bar. I was looking forward to a draught Leffe beer seeing as it's made in Belgium but it was bottled so maybe that's the only way it comes. Plus it was just as expensive as in England which was annoying.

In the evening a massive truck pulled alongside us and I was tempted to invite the driver in to join us for Scrabble but I felt too shy (plus it wouldn't really have been fair with him probably not being a native speaker) The next day it was gone and there was a note tucked into our windscreen wipers. 'Hope you enjoy your stay in Bruges' with the signature of the man from the forum. It turned out he wasn't the lorry driver we saw but he lives there and had driven over to say hello. Next time he is going to bang on our door. It's funny how a little contact like that means a lot when you are travelling. Maybe he felt too shy to bang on our door or maybe he saw us playing Scrabble and fled!!

Our day in Bruges was wet but we cycled in bravely and parked up in the big market place. The bell tower from In Bruges the film was first on our agenda. The rain made it even more spooky but the pics grey.

The medieval square and buildings were lovely and we plan to return hopefully in better weather.


We saw a couple of museums which were interesting.
Here are some arresting images:


and another angle....


One that Martin was very taken with:


Here's another - can you see a theme?


Here's one I liked:

We happened upon a harp performance which was in a specially soundproofed room with the guy having built loads of stringed structures into the wall that had unusual resonances. He set up a wall of sound by running around plucking all the different instruments. Very unique experience. He asked for donations and that we recommend him on Tripadvisor. His CDs were more than we wanted to pay but I'm sure they were worth it and I have regretted not doing so but maybe that makes the memory more special.

We used our trusty google map phone app to get us back by bike through the rain. Where would be without all this technology!

The next day we fancied checking out the coastal area as we so often do so we headed to the nearest beach which was again a sand dunesy stretch of land. It was called Knokke and our over riding memory is that was we had a knokke in Knokke. There was a low sign post that boshed our mirror in passing and it is now a bit cracked. Luckily not so bad we need to repair it but a pain none the less and demoralising.

We had a cracking bike ride round the dunes and the surrounding area and on the way back I called into an empty art gallery as I often do. I always find the gallery owners very eager to talk and we have interesting conversations. I met an extraordinary character (gallery owner) who was very angry about art in general and people who call themselves artists and what is art anyway (all this is reply to my asking him if he was an artist...) and once he was on a rant I couldn't really (politely) stop him. It was all in translated Flemish so although it was very fluent with lots of long words it didn't really hang together which is why I had no handle on it to come back with an apposite rejoinder. When I was trying to leave I asked if he had any any postcards or pamphlets and he asked crossly why and I said I liked to stick them up in my motorhome because it was nice to have something to look at. He gave me a long appraising look and then said I will give you my book on the condition that you read it. He gave me this beautifully bound hardback book then threw in a second one as I left. Martin had missed the entire thing as he was standing outside holding our bikes because he couldn't be bothered to lock them and come in. It was a pity as he is very good with people like that and will not be bullied or lectured to. He thought that I was probably the only one to go into the gallery all week and that the guy had been desperate to let off steam. When we got back to Lenny I had my promise to fulfil and duly sat down to read the book. It was called Contemporary Art 'The Spot': The Silent Cry of the 21st Century, Each page had a couple of blobs on it – like 3 ink spots and a smear. This is an example of the text on the other side of the page - presumably in explanation: 'The spot is the capital letter on the canvas of Hans Fo*h*n, (the artist) the spot that doesn't want to be understood. The spot is a symbiosis, a subdued explosion that doesn't avoid the dialogue. The spot that is considered stubborn and without conventional right of direct affection, usually will be removed as soon as possible'

Can you see why I didn't have any reply?

The page is then translated into Italian, Finnish, Turkish, German, Russian, Polish, French Japanese, Persian, Dutch, Wolof (?) Hebrew, Spanish, Danish, Greek, Chinese, Hungarian, Swedish, Ukranian, Slovak, Arabic, Serbian and Portuguese. I just have one question – why?
PP Bear and Robin McHood like this.
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