2018/11/10 – Brugge – Belgium

Saturday 10th November & Sunday 11th November 2018

Rainy this morning so hope it clears by Sunday.

Only 7 days left before the Chunnel Crossing – so so sad 😢😥.

We passed through many towns where it was the same, people everywhere so headed to the countryside on our way to Brugge, Belgium.

It was a year ago when we came through here and spent many days looking at all the World War 1 memorial sites and monuments in this part of the world.

Our campsite for two nights:  Smart-ijs, Wingene –

GPS N51.073769.   E3.265150

What a gem this place is – set in the country, there are only 6 places here with green pastures, braying donkeys next door and a restaurant and ice cafe on site. 

Pretty as a picture setting and so quiet compared to where we have just been.  

For €8 you get water, electricity and hi speed wifi.

The guys who run this place are super friendly, speak excellent English and deserve to do well.

The rain stopped us from doing little else apart from reading and enjoying the tranquil and picturesque setting.

Monday 12th November 2018

Our campsite for tonight:  Parking Kanaaleiland, Brugge –

GPS N51.195671. E3.226380

Brugee is the capital and largest city of West Flanders in Belgium and has a population of around 118,000 and is sometimesreferred to as the ”Veniceof the North” because of the canal networks.

Waiting for a water taxi

You do not need a tourist guide or tour map in Brugge –just simply walk around the streets and take in the many fantastic sights.

Sights not to miss include the 83 metre high Belfry andMarket Square, the 14th century City Hall, the Groeninge Museum, Saint John’s Hospital, to name just a few.

Taxi Sir?

All the sights were within a short walk from our over night campsite which has around 55 camping places and is 19 Euros off season or 25 Euros in season.

The city has many Belgian chocolate and waffle shops.

I have never seen all those colours in the one tree near where we live

Tuesday 13th November 2018

Our campsite for tonight:  Torhout – GPS N51.077648.   E3.061490

Belgium was invaded by the Germanarmy in May 1940 and on 25 May 1940 Torhout was bombarded by the Luftwaffe, with fire bombs resulting in the destruction of the church as well as some nearby houses.

The Castle of Wijnendale – our campsite for the night

The City Hall was unharmed even though it was only located some 50 meters from the church.

On that same day the King of Belgium was just a mile or two away in the Castle of Wijnendale together with the Prime Minister and three other ministers.

It was there that the king would sign the capitulation of Belgium.

Torhout was bombed again on 26 May, 27 May and 13 August, which damaged the hospital and some schools.

Torhout was occupied for 4 years before Canadian troops liberated the city on 6 and 7 September 1944.

It was also during the occupation that the City Hall was classified as a monument on 29 November 1943.

We camped overnight in the parking area for the Castle of Wijnendale – free of charge – only facilities were rubbish bins – had a quiet night.

There are still a few items of interest left over from World War 1 near the Castle.


Wednesday 14th November

Our campsite for tonight:  Aire de camping car, Ekelsbeke –

GPS N50.883911.   E2.431360

Ekelsbeke was a free camp spot with 7 places only 250 metres from the centre of the village.

The facilities included free grey and black water disposal and a rest room.

Water and electricity were available for 3 Euros each.

They were gearing up for a festival and the local people were very friendly and helpful.

Ziggy Sold

Mike Steers from Stafford had sourced Ziggy for us in late 2016 and helped to equip her with all the items we needed for our tour and had started to advertise her for sale a little while ago.

There had been a couple of people interested in the sale including an American couple who just about drove us crazy with an endless list of frivolous questions which went on week after week.

We had finally had enough and basically gave them a “put up or shut up” ultimatum and thankfully they dropped off the prospect list.

During late October/early November a British expat living in Spain had begun showing considerable interest in Ziggy.

His only concerns were based around all the challenges of importing Ziggy in to Spain.

Once he had all that sorted out he wanted to proceed with the purchase.

He gave us the go ahead in early November and transferred the purchase amount in full in to our bank account on the 14th November.

He had agreed to our “turnkey” approach” which meant that he was not only buying Ziggy but all the chattels as well including electric bikes, Garmin Sat Nav, crockery, cutlery, linen etc etc.

It was a good deal for us as foreigners in that we could just walk away but a good deal for him as well as it meant he could just walk on board and absolutely everything was there ready to go.

However it left us in a rather awkward situation – we had sold Ziggy, had been paid in full but we were still in France and had to get Ziggy across the English Channel and back up to Stafford for the hand over – every time I drove through an intersection I felt as though every car was going to run in to us – fortunately we got Ziggy back up to Stafford without any mishaps.

Thursday 15th November

Our campsite for tonight:  Aire de camping car, Watten –

GPS N50.831390.   E2.208790

Watten is a free camp spot catering for about 12 motorhomes and is one of the closest Aires to the Calais ferry or Chunnel.

The site is only a short walk to the shops and restaurants.

The facilities included free grey and black water disposal and water and electricity were available at 4 Euros each.


Friday 16th November 2018

Our campsite for tonight:  Toby Carvery Stonebridge, Coventry –

GPS N52.446190.   W1.688470

Had another uneventful crossing from France to England via the Chunnel.

The new departure terminal has now been completed and there are restaurants and duty free shops in the departure waiting area.

Felt a little uneasy walking around the departure area with French police patrolling through the shops with their fingers inside the trigger guards on their machine guns.

Sailed through both the British and French immigration checks – the French check being the Schengen departure point and we had been in the Schengen zone for around 12 months and we were supposed to exit after 3 months.

Had to familiarise myself again with driving on the left hand side of the road in a large LHD vehicle, but it didn’t take long.

Endured a long and boring drive from Dover to Stonebridge near the NEC.

Camped in the Carvery carpark – no charge – fully floodlit – had a great meal and a pint in the carvery – very nice – but had to get used to the British high prices again.

Saturday 17th – Wednesday 21st November – Michaels Steer’s house – Stafford

Arrived at Michael Steers house in Stafford and began discussing all the arrangements regarding preparing Ziggy for her new owner.

Michael had arranged for a full engine service and MOT on Monday 19th November and a habitation check on Tuesday 20th November.

The engine service and MOT went through very smoothly and when the habitation check was done we had a new rear skylight hatch installed.

Our purchaser Steve arrived and we went through Ziggy showing him all the workings of the Hymer.

Steve moved Ziggy to a nearby camping site that Mike had arranged and we picked up a rental car.

We had a last dinner with Mike and Anne at a nearby English pub, sampled a couple of local ales and had our last sleep at Mike and Anne’s house.

Wednesday morning we said our final goodbyes to Mike and Anne and headed off in the direction of Gatwick in the rental car.

Mike and Anne had been absolutely fantastic hosts and we couldn’t thank them enough.

If anyone is contemplating purchasing and or selling a motorhome in the UK then you could not do any better than have Mike Steers at UKMotorhomefinder assist you.

Wednesday 21st November 2018 – B&B Gatwick

Had a boring but uneventful drive from Stafford to Gatwick where we had arranged a B&B until our departure on Sunday 25th November arriving Brisbane at 06:40 on Tuesday 27th November.

We flew Emirates as we couldn’t get a seat on Qantas – must say we were disappointed with Emirates – the flight and staff were nowhere near as good as on the outbound Qantas flight.

2018/11/09 – Ypres Belgium

Friday 9th November 2018 – Ypres Belgium

Had a big sleep in this morning and didn’t surface until after 9.30 am.  With the days getting shorter and shorter there is very little light before 8am now and together with our wonderful silver screens that keep out light and cold (and heat) we sleep longer here than in our sunny bright light and airy apartment at home.

Didn’t venture into town this morning and decided to head to Ypres ASAP to try to secure a spot in the main Moho park until Sunday.

Not much luck here or at the other two in the area – all booked out and queues waiting at the gates to move in once a Moho vacated.  Many of the parking areas in town normally open to day trippers were closed from Saturday until Monday – ugh!!!

We had driven through the town on the way to the campsites and the town was truly alive and buzzing.  Thousands of people and cars everywhere so can imagine what it will be like by Sunday.

Drove out of town a couple of kms and parked on the roadside.  Waited until 4pm and then walked into town to enjoy the evenings festivities.  What a magic town with wonderful architecture, particularly the Flanders Museum and the square around it.

Walked to the Menin Gate where a field of poppies has been laid by the many visitors who have come here for these celebrations.  Like a massive red carpet in a sea of green.  All the walls on both sides of the road of the massive gate were etched with names of the lost ones in this terrible wall. 

We were here to be part of the Last Post bugle ceremony which is at 8pm every day and has been since 1928 hail rain or shine.

Every restaurant and bar was full with an unbelievable atmosphere of camaraderie of all nations.  We sat in a bar that was full of Brits, Aussies, Canadians and many others where shoulder to shoulder  they enjoyed a beer or two or three or more while waiting for 8pm.  We spoke to a Brit who has been coming here every year for over 30 years and had so much knowledge – very interesting.

By 7.30 pm the streets were packed a hundred deep in front of both sides of the Menin Gate and that was before everyone left the bars for the Last Post.

So much noise as everyone chatted and waited – then complete silence as 4 buglers marched toward the gate, stood in the middle of the road facing the Gate and began the Last Post.  So moving as the tears rolled down the face of so many around us.   This was followed by Scottish bagpipers who played Amazing Grace.  We couldn’t see much from our position in the crowd but captured the buglers and pipers.

The bars and restaurants again filled up so headed the 2kms back to Ziggy.  Were not happy about staying on the busy roadside overnight as it was a main road with trucks and tractors passing by within inches so were very relieved to find Ziggy in tact.

Parked in a nearby carpark next to a large shopping complex and were joined by several other Mohos before morning.

Had a very peaceful and quiet night which I am sure we would not have had on the main road.  Contemplated staying here until Sunday but as the carpark started to fill with other Mohos, we knew they would be moved on by the police soon, so opted to move on and away from the increasing multitudes coming into the town.

2018/11/03 – Belgium – Jalhay, Blegny


Saturday 3rd November & Sunday 4th November

Our campsite for two nights:  Parking Barrage de la Gileppe, Jalhay – GPS N50.587570.  E5.969600

Before preparing the last post we published in Germany WordPress (the software for this site) updated to a Gutenberg editor – just what I needed was something more to learn with only a few more posts to do (not) so apologies as there were a lot of formatting errors in the last post and probably will be in this one.

We could not find new places now in this part of Germanyas we have been through this area before, so decided to bite the bullet andhead across the border into Belgium.

No border checks at all so entry into Belgium again was seamless.

A much nicer day today with no rain so really enjoyed the drive through the Autumn drenched forests and hillsides – awesome – so spectacular!

This is a gratis Stellplatz which has dedicated spots for 4 motorhomes only and 4 electric points at no cost.  Have not seen this very often in our travels.  We were lucky enough to get the last spot.

Looking across the dam from the lower restaurant

This place is really popular and so busy with the car park and all adjoining streets full by lunchtime.   Again set on a huge lake with cycle and walking tracks for miles. 

High on the hill overlooking the dam, there is a structure that is three storeys high with a restaurant at the top.  From the top there are 360 degree panoramic views.  

The dam wall is massive and the centre span includes a 20 metre high statue of Leopold the Lion  who guards the water and valleys.   The walk across the dam walls is really spectacular and today with the weather being a little better, the locals really came out to enjoy this.

Day two came with not a cloud to be seen.  The carpark filled very quickly and by 10am cars were double and triple parked with no spots anywhere and once any Moho vacated, cars quickly took their places with eventually Ziggy sitting all alone surrounded by cars. 

Took the opportunity of such a beautiful (but still really cold day) to do one of the many long walks so once across the dam walls we walked through the reservoir forest and along the lake.  Couples, families all with man’s best friend in tow  (can’t believe how important dogs are to Europeans) were everywhere walking and cycling and enjoying probably one of the last sunny days left this year (hope not). 

The autumn shades seen on one of the hikes around the lake

The views across the lake were stunning and again the trees in full Autumn colours now drenched with sunlight were spectacular.  Autumn in Europe is really special.

Several hours later we returned and enjoyed a hot chocolate (for the navigator) and one of our favourite beers – Jupiler (for the driver) at the lakefront restaurant.

Monday 5th November

Our campsite for tonight:  Begny-Mine, Blegny – GPS N50.686138. E5.723820

A UNESCO world heritage site, this mine was really interesting.   It is out of season now so only option of viewing the mine was to go with a tour group of Dutch retirees with a Dutch guide but with the aid of English audio headsets.  Super information through audio but really missed the jokes the guide was sharing with the group.  Well worth a visit if in the area.

Memorial to the miners

The mine closed several years ago but is a top attractionin the area.  While we were there severalbusloads of kids, teenagers and old folk like us took group tours.  

The Navigator getting the stretcher ready for me

Great location to just stop and take in thesurroundings with playgrounds for the kids, an open air museum and an animalpark for the little ones (which the navigator also enjoyed).  The brasserie was also well utilised by thegroups and Moho owners.

About a 15 minute walk into town where there was little life to be seen and the church being the only point of interest worth photographing.

You want us to go down there???

The Stellplatz  itself was great and very peaceful once the gates closed in the evening.  Great complimentary facilities including water and use of the mines restroom during the day.

Tuesday 6th November

Our campsite for tonight:  Park Olmental, Herk de Stad – GPS N50.934059.   E5.166150

Beautiful setting in a wonderful park with water fountains, a picturesque lake (where fishermen sat for hours on end) and caught nothing and a beaver pond.  We went in search of the beaver but this part of the lake had dried up and the Beavers were long gone.

Great little town with heaps of shops with very expensive clothing in shop windows – the price was enough to scare me away – but did lots of window shopping.

Again a gratis site with a very new WC block where men and women went through the same door and the wash basin was right next to the urinal – so pleased the navigator did not strike anyone of the opposite sex while visiting!

Lots of automatic bread and sandwich dispensers in Belgium

Wednesday 7th November

Our campsite for tonight:  Parking Demervallei, Aarschott – GPS N50.984921.   E4.840760

Really worth visiting here.  A really trendy, funky town with a waterway running through the middle of it.  We arrived late so by the time we hit the town, it was getting dark so could not take pictures.  Very pretty walk in the evening with the cathedral well lit up and the streets now with Xmas trimmings was delightful.

Dropped into a trendy little bar where we had to choose from about a hundred different types of beers.  

Woke up to a glorious sunny cloudless day so armed with camera headed back into town to find the photo opportunities we missed last night.   Market day today prevented us from getting photos of the uniquely Belgish town square which was a little disappointing.

Just had to visit the cathedral (just love visiting these) and were rewarded with an exhibition gallery of photos of Armistice Day back in 1918.  The town is gearing up for celebrations for the coming weekend which is the 100th anniversary.

Laughed his head off???

We are keen to be part of these celebrations and wonder where we will be on the 11th – Ypres maybe?.

The Navigator negotiating in Belgish?to buy a cooked chicken at the open air markets

Great complimentary Stellplatz again with electricity included.

Thursday 8th November

Sadly left just after lunch after deliberating for some time about staying here until Sunday – Armistice Day.  Still so much of Belgium to see and now only days left before we head across the channel.

With only 75 kms to our next stop, no more than an hour on the motorway my driver said, took us nearly three hours with delays and detours that took us round and round with seemingly no way to get past them – very frustrating!

Our campsite for tonight:  Parking Lennik – GPS N50.807800.  E4.163050

Arrived as the sun disappeared but were happy to get the remaining spot (only 4 here but really pretty setting).  No walks tonight but hopefully in the morning.

10/28/2017 – Aussie – Belgian friendships

Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October 2017 – Zonnebeke Belgium

Departed the lovely French seaside resort of Hardelot and had an uneventful drive to Zonnebeke Belgium.

Drove about 150 klms which was further than we wanted to drive but the driving was easy and we really wanted to see the World War 1 memorials in this area where so many Commonwealth soldiers lost their lives.

Arrived at a Café/Inn named De Dreve (also known as the “ANZAC Rest”) or “Home of the Underground War”.

The outside side wall of the ANZAC Rest Inn

Went inside the Inn to check with the owner to see if it would be ok to stay overnight on his property.

As soon as we walked in the door we were just grabbed by the ambience – we felt right at home – the walls were completely covered with Aussie and ANZAC memorabilia – not an inch of space was not decorated (even a Maroon Army Cap).

One wall inside the ANZAC Rest Inn

The owner, Johan Vandewalle, welcomed us and gave the ok to camp on his premises and offered to provide whatever help he could.

Johan has a private museum on the top floor of his Inn and he allowed us to view the memorabilia and some of his films.

Johan has lived in this area all his life and has dedicated much of his time to finding unknown Commonwealth soldiers who were buried somewhere in the fields surrounding his Inn (and he has found many).

The best way to describe Johan would be part time Inn Keeper, war historian, archaeologist, farmer and engineer.

We spent Saturday afternoon talking to Johan whilst his Inn filled up with mainly local elderly Belgium people who were extremely friendly and when they found we couldn’t speak their language switched to another language until we found one we had in common. (German or English).

Johan gave us information including GPS coordinates regarding where to go to see the most important sites such as the Buttes in Polygonwood, Zonnebeke Museum, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Hill 60, Menin Gate, a German Cemetery and Messines Village, Memorial and Visitor Centre.

A wall of recovered shells inside the Zonnebeke Museum

On the Sunday we only had time to see the first three so will be coming back again – can’t stay longer currently as we are booked in for our annual vehicle inspection in GB on 31st October.

Part of the Trench System at the Zonnebeke Museum

We could have stayed all day just at the Zonnebeke Musuem alone.

Zonnebeke Museum

We did a standard museum tour and an add on tour through a dugout which is under the church on the Zonnebeke Museum site. This dugout is in its original condition – the only one left and will be closed permanently in a week’s time so we are very fortunate to have this opportunity. The dugout is 10 metres underground and was used as accommodation to rest soldiers from the front line, to treat the injured and to house supplies and armaments – it is in original condition.

One of the corridors in the Dugout in original condition

Sleeping accommodation in the Dugout

The strange thing was that all the car parks for the sites were overflowing with cars, 95% of which had Belgium number plates, the balance being mainly GB plates.

Passendale War Cemetery

Sunday was really cold, wet and windy and yet all these local Belgian people went out to the memorials to pay their respects – they really appreciate what was done for their country.

Passendale War Cemetery

Late Sunday afternoon we went back to the Inn again and it was packed with local Belgians.

We had a great time sipping on a few Belgian beers and then retired to Ziggy to prepare for the drive to Calais in the morning for the Chunnel journey across to GB.

Johan is trying to raise funds to build a memorial near his Inn but is struggling as Commonwealth officials don’t seem to warm to the idea of a private individual being involved in something of this nature – Johan’s project is called “Brothers -in-Arms Memorial Project” and can be viewed at www.brothersinarmsmemorial.org

The Brothers in Arms sculpture depicting the Hunter Brothers inside the ANZAC Rest Inn

The Brothers -in-Arms Project is based around the Hunter Brothers from Nanango Queensland, who were inseparable and the older brother John was injured in the Battle of Polygonwood in 1917 and died in his younger brother Jim’s arms.

Jim carefully wrapped his brother up in protective garments and buried him along with four other Australian soldiers and promised to return after the war to find his brothers body and send it back to Australia. The five soldiers became known as the “Westhoek Five”

Jim did return and searched in vain but could not find his brother’s body.

Johan was part of a team who uncovered John’s body in 2006 when pipes were about to be laid in the area.

There was an interesting article about Johan and his endeavours written by Greg Callaghan in the Weekend Australian in 2017.

Details regarding Johan’s Inn can be found at www.dedreve.be

18/03/2017 Belgium

Saturday 18th March

Left Bousse-Lez-Walcourt for Saint Hubert which is the European capital of hunting and nature.

The architecture here goes back to the seventh century when Saint Hubert’s Abbey was founded and then rebuilt in 1729.

Saint Hubert Abbey

The locals were very friendly even if I couldn’t understand a word they were saying – languages spoken in Belgium include French, Flemish and a little German in the north west but unfortunately where we are it is only French speakers and my attempts at German have Fallen on deaf ears.

Fortunately the girl manning the tourist office spoke very good English which helped us out immensely.

Grocery shopping in a supermarket is an interesting experience when everything is labelled in French, particularly when you get to the checkout with fruit and vegetables and the operator tries to tell you in French that you were supposed to weigh the goods yourself – ah well – “Non Francais – Australie” seems to help particularly when said with a smile and a “Merci”.

All the wine we have been buying comes in bottles with corks which we haven’t seen for years at home.

Spent a couple of hours in a little bar which had over 100 varieties of local beers some of them as strong as 12.5%.

Very cold again today – got all the ski gear on.

Sunday 19th March

Visited our friend in the tourist office again for some more info, did a major shop in the local CarreFour Supermarket and then headed for Bastogne.

Bastogne is famous for the battle fought there between the Allies and the Germans in the winter of 1944-45 which is better known as “The Battle of the Bulge”

This area was also previously invaded by the Germans in 1914 so can understand why the German language is not too well accepted here.

There are 4 or 5 huge monuments and museums erected in honour of the US 101st Airborne Division which was surrounded by the German 5th Panzer Division until the 27th December when the siege was lifted by General Patton’s 3rd Army.

McAuliffe’s Monument

The Americans are somewhat heroes around here.

We are planning on heading to Germany tomorrow where at least we will be able to communicate with the locals, even if slowly.