Category: Belgium

End Of Trip

We were surprised how the rules for mask wearing varied from one European country to the next. When we crossed a country border we had to watch carefully to see what people were doing so we could comply with local rules. We felt so much happier and more comfortable in Sweden where hardly anyone wore a mask – we felt the protection the masks offered was vastly overrated. In Germany they were very strict and masks were compulsory indoors and a lot of people wore them outside too. In one German shop we were requested to adjust our masks to ensure our noses were completely covered with the masks reaching right up to our eyes. The Germans were allowed to shake hands though.

We postponed our return to the UK until we no longer had to quarantine for ten days upon our arrival home. Repatriation proved to be very expensive – even for us double jabbed oldies. If you couldn’t pay you didn’t travel and we witnessed some extremely upset people at the Eurotunnel terminus. The two of us paid an additional £300 for a Covid test in Calais and another Covid test for Day 2 after our return including the additional cost of the Eurotunnel crossing, the price of which rocketed within a nanosecond of the announcement of the government’s change of policy.

Tony Could See the White Cliffs of Dover
A Quiet Spot At Sangatte Aire

We stayed overnight in the Aire at Sangatte, thus avoiding the Cité d’Europe where we always used to stop in happier times. Then we would do a big shop at Carrefour and have a meal in one of the restaurants in the shopping centre. However, the last time we parked at Cité d’Europe, a Border Force officer advised us to move to Sangatte because of the aggressive behaviour of the young migrant men.

French Police Discouraging Migrants

Sangatte provided a lovely parking area set at the top of the windswept cliffs. The site was full of campervans but we managed to find an isolated spot in the corner. We noticed a couple of police vans were parked on the beach. They told us they were deterring migrants trying to cross the channel to the UK. Later that day three policemen called at the truck, they were very friendly but we were very aware that we were being checked out to ensure we were genuine tourists and not people smugglers.

That evening we walked the few hundred yards down to the the local sea food restaurant where we enjoyed a large plate of oysters, a perfect ending to our stay in France.

Blog ends . . . .

Northern Europe

By June 2021 we were legally allowed to leave the country. The continuation of Covid restrictions, in spite of everyone over 50 having been double vaccinated, moved the UK into pandemic limbo. We wanted to return the truck to the manufacturers, Camperspol in Poland so they could remedy a few problems we were having with the habitation box. French travel restrictions meant we had to take a lateral flow test en route to Eurotunnel and we also had to download a UK to France control exit check list and sign “on our honour” that we would comply with the Covid rules for entering France. As we were double vaccinated it turned out that we were not subject to any restrictions driving through Europe – apart from the wearing of face masks in shops and on public transport. We travelled through France, Belgium and Germany to Poland without any further Covid checks. The weather was extremely hot, well over 30° but the air conditioning in the cab kept us comfortable whilst driving.

We had two overnight stops before we reached Magdeburg in east Germany. There we parked alongside the River Elbe and walked into town to our favourite Asian fusion restaurant. It was extremely hot, even after the sun went down so we spent a happy half hour watching the children play in one Magdeburg’s lovely squares, enjoying the intoxicating scent from the linden trees lining the square.

The following evening we reached Poland where we parked overnight by lake Niepruszewo. We were warmly greeted by the proprietor of a chicken and burger stall. Our new friend and his mate wanted to look around the truck, he then returned with two more friends and, some time later, brought his daughters for a viewing. The adults could speak little English but the girls’ language skills were excellent. We dined magnificently on a whole rotisserie chicken with a selection of home pickled dill cucumbers at a cost of less than £4 and later we walked down to the water’s edge to dabble our hot feet in the lake, enjoying the splashy antics of the youngsters playing in the evening sunshine.

Time To Leave

We almost lost the will to live when in October 2020 PM Boris announced a second lockdown affecting the whole of England. That meant that perfectly viable businesses were being snuffed out of existence on the say-so of a group of middle aged men at Westminster, comfortable on their salaries and generous private pensions – paid for by the tax payer. Their bizarre male “group think” was aptly illustrated by one of their new rules: “Visits to your home or garden by your friend, granny, aunt or daughter are forbidden” but, hey, your cleaning lady could come! I rest my case.

We felt it was time to leave the UK. We were confident of keeping ourselves out of harm’s way – our lifestyle whilst travelling was naturally self isolating but our toughest challenge was having to wear the wretched face masks whenever we were out and about.

Not only did the mask partially suffocate us humans, they were extremely harmful to wildlife.


We travelled to France on Eurotunnel and stocked up with supplies (wine) in Calais before driving on through Belgium, Holland and on to Germany, Switzerland then Italy. We stopped each night amongst the truck drivers at motorway services. We only ventured away from our vehicle to purchase supplies and (Tony) to use the loo. One evening we did “eat out” in Germany at a Burger King. Our confidence on the safety of this meal was not increased when the “yoof” who handled our cash also then served our food. 🤮

We stopped for a couple of days at Lake Como, Italy. The weather was beautiful. We took the ferry to the town of Como and were saddened to see every café was closed with the exception of a few brave establishments serving takeaway – but without being able to provide somewhere for customers to sit. Oh how we would have loved to sit outside in a sunny piazza with a coffee and, perhaps, a pastry . . . . or a spot of lunch. Instead we bought delicious fresh pasta from the supermarket and ate in the truck.

Deurningen

We called on HPC Hydraulic in Oldenzaal as one of our levelling rams was leaking. They replaced the ram and two hours later we were on our way.

We spent the weekend at a natural park in the forest where there were miles of steep trail bike tracks, as well as wider paths suitable for regular cyclists. The park was a haven for hikers, dog walkers and horse riders. There was a large lake where where there were several man made sandy beaches and plenty of play areas for children of all ages. We were surprised to see so few people using the park, just the occasional hikers and dog walkers. No-one was swimming in the lake. It may have been the weather which was damp and dull with some heavy rain showers – or the Covid virus may have kept them away. The goodbye message on the park sign was “Gute Fahrt und bis bald”.

Blankenberge

We turned towards the UK and stopped on the Belgium coast at Blankenberge, a traditional seaside town with a long sandy beach. At the end of the bustling promenade was a marina. Tucked away behind the marina was a seafood restaurant called De Oesterput where we had a wonderful lunch.

Eurotunnel was less frantic than when we left the UK, the terminal was open for refreshments – and the toilets. We usually paid £140 to travel on Eurotunnel one way. This excursion cost £218.00 outbound and £350.00 to come back – how is that for price inflation? A rip off.

Blog ends . . .

Eurotunnel

En route to Eurotunnel we took the opportunity to call in on Jill and Alan, friends we had not seen for over a year. Jill had needed a serious operation at the height of the Covid crisis and, although her timing was unfortunate, the treatment went well and we found her looking extremely healthy and serenely convalescing under the strict supervision of Alan. The four of us put the world to rights over a few glasses of wine. It was so good to see them.

Jill and Alan in their beautiful garden

Normally we pre-booked our journey on Eurotunnel but, on this occasion, we had been unable to access their website. So we just turned up and discovered that there were delays because only one train per hour was running, due to staff shortages. We had followed on-line guidance and downloaded a Health Declaration form which no-one asked to see. We also had our masks at the ready as we were travelling on public transport – but they were not required either.

There were long queues of vehicles waiting for trains. This was no hardship for us with the truck – we could make a cuppa, use our loo and even take a nap, if necessary. People packed into cars were not so fortunate. Bizarrely, all the toilets on site were closed and taped off. People (men) could be seen urinating (or, perhaps, worse) in the surrounding shrubs. It was almost three hours before we were finally able to board a train – the toilets on the train were closed too. It was so unlike Eurotunnel to do anything to cause inconvenience to passengers and the decision to close the toilets was unforgivable and would have caused huge embarrassment to many of the elderly / female travellers.

We left Calais without any further checks and drove on unimpeded through Belgium and on to Holland.

Auf Wiedersehen und gute Fahrt

I should have grown out of smirking at the sign we regularly saw as we left motorway services in Germany, but a childish giggle bubbled up from nowhere! The German word for “exit” was Ausfahrt so we saw that word everywhere on motorways. I didn’t learn German at school so maybe my inappropriate amusement could be put down to ignorance.

Whilst in self critical mode I have to confess two chores that I had completely abandoned whilst we had been travelling – I think many will concur. Firstly, except for moisture cream and sun screen, I had used no make-up on my face. Secondly, I had not ironed any clothes – clothes were washed, dried and folded and, after wearing for a short time, the creases were barely visible. Tony didn’t appear to have noticed any drop in standards. Any comment from him about wrinkles in either department would have had serious consequences!

When we reached the Calais area we saw the usual groups of young migrants walking along the roadside and generally hanging about. We parked overnight in the car park near Carrefours, designated for camper vans with no height limit at the entrance. Whilst we away shopping three migrants were seen looking over our truck, climbing on the roof, opening outside lockers and trying to undo the motorbike cover. On our return Tony spoke to them and they told him they were trying to get to the UK. They were polite and well dressed and spoke good English. They told Tony they were originally from Sudan.

Later that evening there was a loud knock on the door and a security guard said they were closing the car park for security reasons and requested that we move on and park somewhere else overnight. We refused to move (it was 10 pm) and the migrants were everywhere, not just in our car park. Anyway, we felt no threat from these young men as our truck was very secure and Tony had told them to leave it alone! The security guards finally gave up and merely placed a light plastic chain across the car park entrance which they removed the next morning. We carefully checked outside the van in case we had extra visitors before we set off for Eurotunnel.

The migrants we talked to were from Sudan and were hoping to get to the UK

Blog ends.

Magdeburg

Stellplatz At Magdeburg

Lamb Chops

Magdeburg was our regular overnight stop on our journeys to and from Poland.  Stellplatz was the German equivalent on the French aire and the Magdeburg stellplatz was on the banks of the River Elbe, fifteen minutes walk from the shops and restaurants.  Our favourite restaurant was Hyaku Mizu, an Asian fusion restaurant.  The food seemed  expensive at €30 a head – especially after Polish prices – but everything was of the highest quality.

The Marina At Venlo

The following night we stopped in the Netherlands at a marina near Venlo and, after battling through heavy traffic we arrived in Calais the next afternoon.  We stayed that night at the car park at Cité d’Europe, did some shopping in Carrefours and had a meal.  We took Eurotunnel the following morning.

 

Blog Ends

Poland – Again!

We left the UK in early October 2018 with the primary purpose of visiting Posnań, Poland to see how far they were progressing with our new truck and to get an idea of when the project might finally reach completion.

Habitation Box – galley on the left looking aft to “bedroom”

Galley on the right looking towards dinette

We were disappointed – but not necessarily surprised – that progress was almost nonexistent. The vehicle had been languishing at a truck fabrication company for many weeks having a hydraulic rack fitted and the habitation box progress was stalled because they needed the truck to complete the installation of  the various domestic systems.

It was very frustrating but we refused to be downhearted and, having sent a few grumbly emails, we decided to leave Poznań and head north towards Gdansk on the Baltic Coast.

Homeward Bound

We left Poland and headed west towards the UK, stopping overnight beside the River Elbe at Magdeburg, Germany.  The following morning the weather was perfect and we enjoyed the sunny day travelling on smaller roads, slowly making our way across Germany.

Fürstenau, Nr Osnabruck

Stellplatz At Furstenau

We stayed overnight at a stellplatz in a small town near Osnabruck.  Stellplatz were the equivalent of French aires, where the townsfolk allowed campervans to stay one or two nights in the hope that the visitors spend their money in the town, buying produce or eating in the restaurants.  We obliged on all counts.

 

As we travelled we were constantly looking for an  internet connection as our own Wi-fi had run out.  Apart from camp sites, who were now usually quite good at providing internet access, we had to rely on motorway service stations for Wi-fi.  It often happened that, having refuelled and bought our coffee, we would discover that there was no Wi-fi available.  We eventually found that our best bet was Macdonalds who offered uncluttered seating areas and unlimited Wi-fi; the coffee was ok too – so they got our custom every time.  Anyone who knows us would be aware that we wouldn’t normally be seen dead in a Macdonalds, so for us two old fogies to be frantically searching the horizon for the famous Golden Arches was a shameful first!

We felt the German people, kind and helpful as they often were, seemed to resent visitors who couldn’t speak their language.  That is, of course, understandable – but from an English speaker’s viewpoint you would have to be a pretty competent linguist to be familiar with all languages of the European countries we visited.  I reckon on that short trip we must have encountered at least twelve different languages.  In order for the Swedes to communicate with the Poles; the Dutch to converse with Norwegians; the Greeks to understand the Serbians or the Belgians to talk to the Italians, there had to be a common language and, like it or not, that lingua franca was English.  Perhaps when the United States of Europe finally take over they should all agree on one common language, although I guess they would not want it to be English!

The following day we were in Holland and then Belgium.  The next day Calais and Eurotunnel back to the UK.

Poznań, Poland May 2018

It was a pleasant drive to through France, Belgium and Germany to Poland.  The weather was warm and sunny and it was such a joy to be able to sit outside in the evenings and relax after each day’s drive.

The River Ruhr

We stopped overnight near Dortmund on the River Ruhr.  It was a bank holiday and the place was extremely busy.

 

River Elbe At Magdeburg

The next overnight stop was at our regular spot at Magdeburg on the River Elbe.  The last occasion we were in that city it was March and we struggled through ice and snow as we walked into town to get something to eat.  Now it was warm and sunny and we even stopped for a delicious gin and tonic at a sandy beach bar constructed on the banks of the river.

Poznań

Poznań

We arrived in Poznań the following afternoon and were soon out on our bicycles.  It was often sunny in Poland but we hadn’t known it to be so warm – almost 30° it was a real treat.

We drove out to the factory where they were constructing our habitation box.  They were in the process of fitting the windows but it was frustrating that progress was so slow.  We realised it was unlikely we would have our new truck before September.

Ania and Graham showing us the embryo habitation box