Friday, July 8, 2011

Campinglandia to Belgium

Finally camping again! Dutch campsites abound - we have seen more campsites in the past couple of days than we did in all 10 days of looking for them in the UK. And what pretty campsites. The photo above is morning, it was hot in the tent at 8am.

Pretty riding, too. Still with that big headwind.

And huge sea dams, with beach areas on the ocean side.

The bike lane is more of a guideline than a rule.

This dam is open.

These dams are opened every 12 hours to let the tide flow in and out. Here the tide is going out. Behind us, the bay is essentially below sea level, so the ocean is ultimately trying to get in. But the tide is going out. The two forces create powerful standing waves, like those you see down east Maine and in the bay of Fundy. The difference here is that the standing wave is something like 3 kilometers long. There were also some huge (deep) whirlpools.

Biggest windmill yet (see the RV at the bottom).

Bollards do not have to be posts.

In this one they are closing the gates.

It took a long time, the dam moved downward barely perceptively. But the water was changing dramatically all the time.

Rolling into the storm. We had an afternoon break while we waited for the rain to come, but the rainy areas seemed to skip us. By 5.30pm we were at a campsite, and rain was definitely coming, so we set up in a hurry and...

...finally use the tarp! It poured. A bunch of times. We stayed dry.

We had a good time eating dinner and giving each other foot massages.

Good morning baby cow. In this country you can often find camping bij de boer, which is camping on the farm. This farm had cows, chickens, a goose wandering around (and another one locked up - geese can be evil), and an old-looking, black duck.

Another fantastic sunny (if a bit breezy) day saw us into Belgium.

I think that was the border behind us.

We followed a canal straight into Bruges. It might have been called the Damme Canal or that might be Flemish for canal. As the day progressed our heading changed and the prevailing west wind was more at our back.

We had some fantastic kilometers on good road surfaces into the city. The knoppunt system was still with us (parts of Belgium have recently adopted it), but alas we had no map - knoppunt or otherwise - so we navigated by sign posts, the sun, and cathedral spires. We entered Bruges with no plan other than to find some maps and stock up on water. The city had other plans. The cobble stone streets (which we later found out were locally called 'baby heads'), manic car drivers, tram tracks, horse carriages, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians all crammed onto small streets all conspired to put us both in a state of shock.

Late in the day, we decided we'd better just find a room. In a bookstore, we got a Michelin map of Belgium (1:350,000). Better than nothing. After a couple of full places, we decided to just pay up and stay in a hotel that had a closed garage where we could leave our bikes. Searching for a cheaper alternative was getting more and more painful. We ate our dinner in the room and then went walking around town. Bruges is beautiful. There are many reasons that people visit the city from all over Europe and the world. Things are a bit crowded, and cars are still allowed in the city center, if in a limited manner. Why anyone would drive in that city is beyond me, but those who do seem to be very angry about their predicament.

After a beer at one of the many cafes on the main square, we went to a small but distinguished beer bar on a very small side street. The menu had way too many beers on it... and many had super high alcohol levels. 8%, 9%, 13%!?!!?

So we just had a couple.

Belgian IPA!? Thank goodness.

Chouffe does an IPA!!!?!?! yay!

And while drinking strong beers late into the night, 
what better snack can you have than cheese cubes with mustard?

- rolling post

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