We really missed the beach after Croatia and decided to take a quick weekend trip to the Belgian coast. After reading up on the area we stayed in the small town of Ramskapelle, just off the E40 Autobahn and near the coastal town of Nieuwpoort. This area is known not just for the beaches, but it was also the frontline for World War 1. Numerous monuments, cemeteries, and other sights mark the events of 100 years ago. The town of Niewpoort controlled the dikes and water supply for five different canals, and during the war the coastal area was actually flooded to prevent the German Army from advancing further towards France!
We spent Saturday morning walking around the pretty city before the cruise ships and flocks of tourists arrived. The town square was nearly empty during the early morning hours before the cruise passengers and bus tours arrived, and we enjoyed looking at the historic and colorful buildings all around. Just past the square we found some canals and walked a healthy loop, passing endless chocolate shops and other shopping (but no bakeries surprisingly…definitely not in Germany!).
Indi needed a break so we got some chocolates to have on the walk much to her liking. It will be a sad day for her when she has to eat American chocolate and realizes it’s just not as good! More canals, churches, and historic buildings finished up the rest of our walk, and we passed a flea market setting up (first of two we would see that day, actually). Bruges was a beautiful city that we would spend more time in during non-tourist season, and was great to get a taste of.
The coastal town located between Bruges and Dunkirk has two areas – the main Staat and the Bad, or beach. We had lunch at a “barbecue” restaurant that we ordered entirely too much food at, but it was good to have some steak and baked potatoes for a change. We also visited another flea market which was nice to walk by and seemed more like what we would call in the States- a neighborhood garage sale. Located across the main canal was the large WWI memorial and museum, and next to that was the lock control area where the basin was flooded in 1914.
The beach area was interesting and very different from both Croatia and Germany where we have visited. The beach town was very crowded and upscale. We luckily found some street parking and walked by various clothing and jewelry stores, restaurants, and other shopping on the short walk to the beach promenade and beach. Picture an American east coast “Boardwalk” but without the Boardwalk; the promenade was a nice option to walk, shop, or grab a bite to eat. Lots of families and vacationers relaxing and enjoying the seasonal temperatures (around 70). The beach itself was very nice – wide and sandy, free, and not crowded! Great sand for building things, Indi loved playing in it and especially putting her feet in the water. “More beach!!” She would call out after leaving the water. Interestingly, there were mussels and razor clam shells littered everywhere on the beach. So yes, the perception is true – in Belgium one can always find waffles, French fries, and Mussels just about everywhere!
Though just a quick two night trip for a five plus hour drive (Brussels traffic…wow), the Belgian coast made for a great weekend destination. Our first time in the Flemish region, we struggled at times with the translations, but thankfully most everyone spoke English. As Indi would say- Bye bye beach…until next year!