Saturday 3rd December
Up early this morning and after a quick breakfast we stowed the remaining items, drained and put some fresh water in. We also carry a 5ltr and 10ltr bottle of fresh water before heading off on our travels, we do this just in case the site we are heading to does not have any water. We have been caught out in the past!
From the campsite to the Eurotunnel it is only about an eight mile (less than half an hour) drive. We arrived with plenty of time and were fortunate to be told that we could get the next train and that boarding was imminent.
After checking and stamping our passports we were sent to an inspection bay just to see that we had turned off our gas bottles. After this we were free to board and shortly after we were on our way.
When we first started travelling in the motorhome we used to take the ferry from Dover to Calais. Angela does not like sea travel so for the last few years we have been using the train. Yes, it is more expensive but so much easier and now our preferred route. Our return train ticket was just short of £300
After a journey of about 35 minutes we arrived in France and were on our way. Today we only had a short drive of one and a half hours and were heading to Ieper. The campsite we were going to is closed for the winter but there is an area for motorhomes to park all year round, with hard standing and behind a security barrier. It is called Camping Jeugdstadion and is handy for visiting Ieper and the Menin Gate. We have been here before and this time we wanted to do a guided tour around some of the local battlefields and cemeteries and monuments. Being so near to Christmas we decided not to this time but may on our way back from our winter travels.
We think that this may be our lay up point before getting the train back to the UK in the future as it is not too far away and we do not want to be staying anywhere near to Calais overnight.
As we had booked in advance we were given a code for the barrier and a pitch number so access and parking up was made easy. The site was almost full so it was a good job we booked.
Unlike the UK there is no 6 meter rule here so we manged to squeeze ourselves in between two other vans. We noticed that about 90% of the vans here were from the UK. We plugged the electric in, set up for our two nights here and walked straight into the centre. It is less than a kilometre to the Menin Gate and can be reached in less than fifteen minutes.
We walked in to the centre for a quick mooch around and then came across a small Christmas market outside the In Flanders Museum (Ypres Cloth Hall). We had a glühwein each before going to do a bit of food shopping.
On our way back to the van we saw a bar called St Arnoldus, The Beer Café of Ypres has 25 beers on tap and looked warm and inviting so in we went.
We studied the beer menu (in English) for a selection of four beers that are bought to you on a little wooden tray. We sat chatting and drinking and were very happy to be travelling again after the last two years of being locked down.
Before getting too comfortable and conscious that we had items of shopping that needed to be put in the fridge we set off back to the van for something to eat and a relaxing evening discussing our plans for tomorrow.
Sunday 4th December
First job of the day for me was to put 40 litres of fresh water in while Angela got the breakfast ready. As we were eating we noticed that there were lots of people packing up and leaving today, I guess some are back to work tomorrow.
Today we decided that we would go for a walk and explore the beautiful ramparts of Ypres (Ieper). It is an ancient stronghold city and trade centre just inside Belgium. It dates back many eras and has evolved from the early middle ages via huge Burgundian works to the vast complex of ramparts, bastions, moats, islands and advance fortifications constructed by Vauban, the great French military architect.
The ramparts are lined with lots of mature trees and many have a sign saying what variety they are. It had a feeling of Autumn with the colours of the leaves. There is a lot of water giving off lovely reflections on calm days and plenty of wildlife. Along with this there are surprisingly mellow constructions of prior military needs.
The best of the ramparts are to the south and east of the city and a walk along them will take an hour. Longer if like me you stop to take lots of photographs and explore many of the remains and read the information boards.
Along the way you will see great towers and bastions from several periods, the medieval Lille Gate with a poignantly beautiful First World War graveyard nearby, and the unmissable, moving Menin Gate, memorial to almost 55,000 British Empire soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during WWI but have no know grave.
The streets of Ypres are ancient but rebuilt after the wholesale destruction during WWI.
After exploring the ramparts we meandered around the side streets ending up back at St Arnoldus café/bar. This time we ordered a piece of apple pie with ice cream and cream washed down with a nice hot mug of tea. What better way to warm up after a mornings walk?
The atmosphere was so good we ended up ordering a beer before we left to explore the Menin gate again. Looking at and reading some of the many names and Angela found a few Pullen’s. As remembrance day was not that long ago there were still many wreaths to see.