Day 12 marked the end of our Europe Escape. We woke up and had breakfast in Haarlem, Netherlands. After breakfast, we started the long drive back to London, England via Port of Dunkirk, France. We took a detour along the way and stopped over in Bruges, Belgium for lunch and a little bit of sightseeing. In one day, we travelled through 4 different European countries & cities. Sounds tiring, yes, and hectic too, but for us 1st time travellers, it was another amazing experience.
Looking back, we started our journey on 28th of October with mixed emotions – excitement, fear (of the unknown), anxiety (mainly worried about our health & how we’d cope with all the activities on tour) plus others.
And here we were, on the last day, fit & healthy as ever, me thinks 😁, full of excitement still – from all the activities of the past 11 days – and sublimely content with all that we had experienced. And truth be told, we’d been bitten by the travel bug! Keen as ever to travel more, and happily making plans with our new found friends for the next group adventure. I wonder what the conversations would have been like had we somehow known what 2020 would be like?! 🤔
Back to day 12; highlight of the day would have to be the detour to Bruges. It was nice and sunny when we arrived there: such a beautiful laid back town. Rich with the amazing colours of autumn and history!!
Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower with panoramic views.Google
The whole city centre is UNESCO world heritage listed. During the bus ride in, Matt told us a little bit about Bruges’ history, some of it not very pleasant. And it can prove difficult at times, to affiliate the city’s beauty with it’s dark history.
Our tour started from the Steenstrat quarter – lined with gingerbread houses, sculptures, cobbled stone streets, belgian cafes etc, with a horse pulled carriage or two trotting their way through the streets; truly felt like we were walking through a medieval town. As we walked along it was difficult not to stop and take pictures of everything and anything, moving or otherwise.
We walked past many landmark buildings and places including ‘De Halve Mann’ (the Half Moon) – a 16th century brewery owned by the same family since 1856. In 2016, a 2 kilometre beer pipeline was built underground from this brewery to a bottleshop on the opposite side of town, a boozeline – they call it!
The city also has many bridges, churches and canals – that’s why it is referred to as the Venice of the North. Apparently there’s more castles in Bruges, than any other city in the world.
It’s not Belgium if there’s no chocolates, waffles or ‘Moules et Frites’ (the original ‘Flemish frites’) or simply French fries. Random facts – 1: French fries originated from Belgium 🙂 2: over 220,000 tones of chocolate is produced per year in Belgium, wowww!!
During our own sightseeing walk around town, we stumbled upon the lovely ‘Rozenhoedkaai’, or Quay of the Rosary. Once upon a time rosaries were sold here, now it’s one of the city’s most photographed spots. It wasn’t any different on the day we visited – packed with lots of tourists, photographers, influencers, instagramers etc all clamouring for the perfect shot.
After taking loads of photos of the canals, bridges, gingerbread houses and munching on waffles and fries with pork bellies, we rejoined the rest of the group at the designated stop. And we all walked back to the coach stop where we farewelled three more people, who were leaving the tour there. That was another said occasion, saying goodbye. We started our final road trip on the continent of Europe at about 1pm, destination Dunkirk, France. Dank je wel, Bruges and bonjour Dunkirk!
From Bruges, it took one and a hour hours to get to Port of Dunkirk. Now, if you love watching movies, like me, then I’m sure you will understand when I say I had goosebumps when we arrived in Dunkirk. I was one of the first to be out of the bus to take photos.
But first, we had to pass customs. Matt advised us on the way, to pack everything away and have only our hand luggage and travel documents on hand. As we’d been to Amsterdam as well, he was pretty sure the border security’s would be doing a thorough check of the bus. So at the checkpoint, we got off the bus and had to go through security scanners. Fortunately none of us had any ‘unsavoury’ items either on hand or packed, so the checks went smoothly and rather quickly. Luckily we arrived early so had a chance to take a few photos around the terminal before boarding the ferry for Dover. Dunkirk, France, another item on my bucket list ticked 🥰
Once onboard, we got off the coach and into the ferry for the hour and a bit sail back to Dover. It was a beautiful November afternoon and after resting inside for 15 minutes or so – we headed out to one of the top decks to see the sunset. The late afternoon winds had picked by then so we didn’t stay long outside. However the sunset was beautiful and we couldn’t help but feel sad about the trip ending.
This beautiful sunset marked the end of the trip of a lifetime for Iamo and I. At Dover, we passed customs quickly and without any issues, and were back on the road to Greenwich, where our trip had initially started.
Some of our tourmates booked to stay at the Novotel in Greenwich, others like us booked to stay closer to the airport as we were flying out the next day. After saying our goodbyes outside the hotel in Greenwich, we went to the train station, which was conveniently located near the hotel. However finding trains to the airport – proved difficult, at that time of night. Just as well one of our friends’ son, who lives in London, was there to collect his parents and he pointed us in the right direction. It was pretty late when we finally got to the hotel near the airport. Lesson from the day, always double check and triple confirm your hotel bookings 😁. And make sure to get as much information about train lines and schedules etc, beforehand.
What a day, what a trip! Forever thankful to God for His travelling mercies🙏❤. We came, we saw, we experienced and learned so many things not just about the places we visited but also what it is like to travel. Would we do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. The most beautiful part of our experience was the people of many different races, religions, colour and nationalities we met throughout the trip and especially those we now call friends from #EE28102019.
Here’s a prayer for all our friends from EE28102019 tour, as well as Matt and Zoltan (the A team from expat explore), and everyone else who blessed us during the tour including our children and grandchild (who was still in the her comfy niche at that time) – Ali, Titi, Iamo, Rhiannon, Vikay and baby Te 🙏❤
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)