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Setting out again.........

Our plan was to rush off to France for three months but our proposed route seemed too ambitious in the time available so the day before departure we resolved to take a leisurely attitude, staying mainly in Belgium and the Netherlands. So after numerous parties and last minute preparations we set off from our winter berth and turned left instead of right.............Half a day to get round the Brugge ring canal and north towards Ostend.

We have travelled 150 km in a month......so it's obvious that we haven't been in much of a hurry!  We are happy to be on the move again and are exploring a tranquil part of West Flanders where there are so many reminders of the Great War. A real opportunity to explore the history, visiting museums and battlefield sites. We took a very pleasant meander to the little town of Oudenburg, near Ostend where we lingered for a week or so, catching up with maintenance jobs and cleaning. Then on towards Nieuwpoort, the sea port where we arrived with Esme two and a half years ago. We again enjoyed a stay in Diksmuide, a typically Flemish town, flattened in WW1 and completely rebuilt soon after. An afternoon was spent in the Peace Tower, an 22 storey monument to the fallen, depicting not just the Great War but an education in pacificism and the history of the Flemish people.

All over town the builders are sprucing up for next year's centennial of the Great War. We took several cycling expeditions in the area including a very pleasant Sunday afternoon at St Jacobskapelle where the local pub "The Fallen Angel" was most welcoming and the beer excellent. We also reacquainted with friends at the local Yachthaven.  We then headed for Ypres taking in the excellent Flanders Field Museum and the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate; the latter particularly moving, held every evening at 8pm for nearly 100 years (apart from a few months in WW2). Nearby is the Essex Farm Cemetery where the Canadian Army Officer John McCrae wrote his famous poem "In Flanders Fields", probably the most evocative poem of the war.  For us this month has really become a Great War excursion as the history has been all around us.  Next year we shall be returning to the area for the annual Barge Rally to also coincide with the centennial.  Leaving Ypres we then sailed on north to Veurne,  one of the prettiest towns in West Flanders, very close to the coast and the French border. We were made very welcome by Johan the lockkeeper and passed a very enjoyable week there, shopping, tasting the local food, meeting old friends and making new ones.  So now by the end of our first month, we find ourselves heading back via Brugge to Zeeland and thence the Netherlands, where we will spend the next two or three months. 


Ypres IJser canal A beer in Ypres

Ypres IJser canal                             A beer in Ypres

Cloth hall Ypres King Albert monument Nieuwpoort

Cloth hall Ypres                              King Albert monument Nieuwpoort

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