Dunkirque - Brugge - The land of the Belgians and Luxembourgeois - CycleBlaze

March 10, 2011

Dunkirque - Brugge

Heart 0 Comment 0

I was up good and early, had a good breakfast in my B&B, and down to the ferry port for the 2 hour crossing to Dunkirque.

Dawn over the white cliffs
Heart 0 Comment 0
The ferry port from the ferry
Heart 0 Comment 0
In the distance, a tall ship in the middle of the channel
Heart 1 Comment 0
First site of the industrial docks near Dunkirque
Heart 0 Comment 0
Docklands
Heart 0 Comment 0

As I disembarked, I said hello to a fellow cyclist coming off the ferry with my. He was from Germany, and was cycling a portion of the North sea route - he asked me if I wanted to ride together for this stretch, an offer I enthusiastically took him up on.

The coast from the ferry port to the town of Dunkirque is an almost dystopian landscape of heavy industry. In front of this is a lagoon, and a cycleway runs East along the dunes which front it.  I was very glad to be with someone who knew the way out and onto this.

My new friend from the Dover ferry led the way
Heart 0 Comment 0
The cycle route on the spit of sand separating the lagoon or "Basin Maritime"
Heart 0 Comment 0
My new friend kindly took a photo of me, against the apocalyptic backdrop of Dunkirque's heavy industry
Heart 0 Comment 0
My new German friend
Heart 0 Comment 0

While the landscape is apocalyptic, it's actually quite impressive. Things settled down once we got into Dunkirque. We passed a lot of water towers, and were soon crossing the Belgian border.

Impressive water tower #1
Heart 0 Comment 0
Impressive water tower #2
Heart 0 Comment 0
A big pile of bricks
Heart 0 Comment 0
Duty-free shops at the Belgian border: "French products, Belgian prices" (presumably good)
Heart 0 Comment 0
Welcome to Belgium, man!
Heart 0 Comment 0
Orderly roads
Heart 0 Comment 0

We peeled off the coast to the old town of Veurne. As my friend remarked, the Flemish landscape truly was pancake-flat.

In the town, we stopped and had a quick beer, I shook hands with my new friend, and we went out separate ways. I spent a little time checking out the impressive cathedral and medieval architecture of the town.

Market square in Veurne
Heart 0 Comment 0
My friend was kind enough to take another photo of me before we parted ways
Heart 0 Comment 0
Inside the cathedral
Heart 0 Comment 0
Impressive volted ceiling
Heart 0 Comment 0
Veurne city hall, with Flemish, Belgian and EU flags
Heart 0 Comment 0

I was off on my own steam now, next stop the small town of Nieuwpoort, where I could cross the Ijzer river. Navigation was straightforward as I followed well signed and maintained bike roads along straight canals across the endlessly flat countryside.

Horse and buggy
Heart 0 Comment 0
WWI memorial
Heart 0 Comment 0
Bike path alongside endlessly straight and flat canals. Very Flemish.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Crossing the Ijzer in Nieuwpoort
Heart 0 Comment 0
Impressive lock
Heart 0 Comment 0

Through Nieuwpoort, there was a short stretch on country roads, then back to join another canal and bike path running alongside the N385. This would take me a little more inland to bypass Ostend, and would meet up with (you guessed it) another canal, conveniently for me running Gent-Brugge-Ostend.

Now that's flat. The fens have nothing on Flanders.
Heart 0 Comment 0
This cow has become catatonic with the shock of gaining a few metres altitude
Heart 0 Comment 0
Elaborate bird hide
Heart 0 Comment 0

Near Ostend, I turned onto this and feeling pretty pleased with my navigation, made my way inland towards Brugge. The canal was again flat, straight and the bike path perfect. I started to overtake people.

In fact, the endless unspooling of miles of canal started to have an almost hypnotic effect. I found myself drifting on the bike path - no harm - and then suddenly managed to drift a bit too far. I went laterally into the grass verge, fell over onto my side, and continued sliding at about 15mph!

It all happened so fast I didn't even really have time even to be shocked. I zipped past a Flemish couple walking by the side, skidded to a halt on the grass, and flew back up onto my feet. The couple looked pretty shocked and sympathetic, so my first action was actually to turn to them with a grin to show I wasn't hurt.

They were pretty concerned that I was all right, and pointed out that I was quite close to sliding into a trunk. Because I was wearing long trousers and sleeves, I wasn't actually too scraped. The chain of the Hawk had got forced in front of the freewheel (don't ask), and the guy helped me to loosen the backwheel to free it. They patted me on the back and I went on my slightly shaky way.

A rare non-straight section of the canal. I was going well here until disaster struck
Heart 0 Comment 0
Big barges carrying bulk good (and also a handy car) ply the canals
Heart 0 Comment 0

As I more slowly covered the next few miles, the adrenaline drained out of me and I realised that I was both shaken up and bleeding from several scrapes on my arms and chest. Nothing major, but enough to soak through the (fortunately already red) top before I got into Brugge. The tourists packing the streets of the beautiful old town gave me plenty of leeway. The reception of my hotel were sympathetic, though, and let me store the bike inside.

After I staunched the bleeding and cleaned myself up a bit, I went out for some architectural sightseeing and to find something that wasn't mussels for dinner.

Arriving in Brugge
Heart 0 Comment 0
The main square
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Cool windmills on the edge of town
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Great views over the town skyline from the windmills
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0
Bruges - it really is like a friggin' fairytale
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 89 km (55 miles)
Total: 89 km (55 miles)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 2
Comment on this entry Comment 0