Our trip through the tunnel was a good one and on arrival in France we decided to drive just over the border and visit the Belgian coast as the base for our break. We live near the sea and so we've never normally stayed in seaside places when we go away, but this time we thought "seaside".
We opted for De Panne, just over the French border and a seaside resort. It turned out to be an interesting town, full of contradictions. The buildings along the wide white beach were mostly blocks of holiday flats..a bit like Spain..going for volume, but the streets behind it reminded me of Blackpool without the funfair!! The whole town was like that...almost like different places depending on which streets you walked...a real mix, but fun exploring. Market place, shopping boutiques, seaside stuff, you name it they seem to have it all in this one small town.
One of the interesting things about Belgium is they have two languages, French and Flemish. It just depends what area of the country you are in as to which language people speak. As De Panne is a holiday town a lot of the people speak both, plus English and a few speak German. It is lovely to just sit and listen to people around you and hear so many different languages and dialects all in the one place. You really feel like your watching the world go by...or at least listening to it!!
The beach was lovely, wide white and clean. So, after checking into our hotel we decided to take a stroll. The tide was out and a large sand bar was available as a second promenade and even although it was early evening, we walked for miles, taking in the peace and fresh air. What a beautiful sight, seeing the sun reflected on the sea and watch the light get less and less as the sun slipped silently away.
Our hotel, the Hotel Royal, is a family run hotel. The owner/manager is a lovely, friendly young lady who took over running the place on her father's death. She is the fourth generation of her family to run it...and she is doing a wonderful job. The rooms have all mode cons, but atmosphere of the place is of a gentler less frantic time. I could imagine the hotel in the 1920's, 40's and 50's, full of respectable Belgian's drinking coffee in the "tea room", or sedately eating breakfast in the dinning room.
We were on the second floor and had a balcony which I was slightly scared of...it was VERY narrow and it was a long way down....I hate heights!! I did sit on it but I preferred the ground floor terrace..coward that I am. I went out to grab a quick photo or two and then scuttled back in!! It did appeal to some though as when we came back in on Saturday afternoon, we found two young men were sitting on our balcony enjoying a drink and the sun. It seems they came through the emergency exit that leads on to it and thought they would just stay and enjoy the view. DH explained the balcony came with our room and they moved on...to find an other unoccupied balcony I expect, lol!!
The only thing I did missed was a kettle in the room, but in Belgium it seems that people prefer to promenade and visit the terraces and plentiful cafes where they can watch the world go by as they sip. I have to admit we did a fair bit of watching the world go by ourselves but we had a multitude of bottles of water for those dry moments in our room. Perhaps the Belgians are also shrewd enough to know that if you have no kettle they can sell you the coffee...or perhaps they feel that good coffee can't be made in your room...who knows.
We only ate breakfast at the hotel and then we had fun picking places to snack or eat dinner in. Being a seaside town, fish and shell fish were on the menu everywhere. Mussels were the big thing, done to various recipes....some with lots of garlic...yummy!!The sea front promenade has space for cycles and carts of all sizes not to mention the scores of people who appeared at the weekend for what turned out to be a holiday weekend locally.
As our break was short we didn't want to spend all the time driving but we did spend Friday walking around Bruges to visit some of our favourite places. The temperature was around 30 degrees in the morning and very hot for wandering around, so we sat in the shade in a park and watched the water flow by when the going got too over powering. What is it about water that is so soothing?
But by afternoon, when we were driving back to De Panne the rain arrived and cleared the air, leaving a newly washed feel to everything.
Saturday morning brought the sun back after a misty start and again the temperature soared to the high 20's. Saturday was a special day for the town, a Braderie, and so there was a street market, brass bands and all the shops had 30% off..a sale!! We walked and jostled in the crowds and then ate and walked some more on the sand bar. The day flew by and soon that sun was setting again and I was yawning wide!! Tired but happy I fell into my bed.
Sunday morning we ate our fill on the standard continental breakfast, fruit salad, rolls, French bread, cheese, ham, jams, croissants, jam, juice...you get the picture..I'm a pig!! Feeling a little over stuffed, we headed for the patisserie and after buying some of our favourite breads set of back into France and the tunnel under the sea. Mind you, it still takes three and a half hours to get home after we get to Dover, so it was afternoon before we rolled up at our front door.
I felt tired and refreshed at the same time...have you ever felt like that...or is it just me? Strange as usual!!
Well, I'm off now but I'll be back tomorrow with a little goodie for you all and some more pictures. Take care until then.