Our Barge, Odysseus

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Into the Wilds of Belgium

Out of the big city and into the countryside it was. From Brugge, the plan was to head west on the Ghent-Oostend Canal until just outside Oostend, one of the entry ports from the North Sea, then to head southwest on the Kanaal Plassendale-Nieuwpoort. We would then make a loop back to Nieuwpoort using the Ijser River, the Lokanaal and the Kanaal Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk. Along the way, we would bicycle the 30 km round trip down the Ieper-Ijzer canal to Ieper (Ypres, in French).
As one of our guide books points out, the trip would be almost entirely rural, bypassing the larger towns of Oostend and Nieuwpoort but spending time in smaller towns like Veurne and Ypres. The guide book also warned us that we would have to watch out for charter boats as this is a popular vacation area and there are big hire-boat bases in Nieuwpoort. The first day we traveled south with two other boats and only passed a couple going north. Not what we'd call crowded! When we first contemplated the boat purchase, Belgium was just someplace between Netherlands and France; country to be crossed. We've discovered some really beautiful, almost deserted cruising areas, friendly, unpretentious people and truly spectacular cities. Despite it's faults (the Italians must have taught the Belgians to drive and Al Gore could definitely teach them a thing or two!) we really like Belgium.

This was our tie-up spot for the bike ride to Ypres.

As we passed through the opening bridge we asked the bridge tender if there was a place to tie up for a couple of days; we wanted to ride our bikes to Ypres. He pointed to the 1 hour limit bridge-waiting tie up and said, "there." When we told him we wouldn't be riding until the next day he said, "No problem!" Now there's officialdom I can deal with!

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