Belgium and Back
A short travel story exploring Belgium's coastline and about the realisation of how accessible Europe is to the United Kingdom.
Words: Laura Pendlebury
Photography: Mirko Nicholson
The weather was forecast to be 24 degrees. This was practically a heatwave for England in Spring, the days were longer and we all had the weekend off. When going for a trip somewhere away from London for the day was suggested we threw several ideas around: the Cotswolds, Eastbourne, Brighton. Then France was casually brought up and we laughed. However, a quick check on Dover ferry times and prices revealed a ridiculously cheap price, and we realised that actually, this was not only possible, but potentially could cost around the same as remaining in England. Taking this initial suggestion more seriously, we booked as early a time as we could handle and headed off to bed, grimacing as we set our alarms for 4.30 am, not a time we were used to waking up on a Sunday.
The next morning, we crawled bleary eyed out of bed, already regretting that last Gin and Tonic the night before. We crammed into the car, padded out with blankets and cushions in preparation for the first leg of the journey and began the drive from London to Dover. There was little to no traffic and we were lucky enough to experience a glowing, orange sunrise as we approached the harbour at Dover. Several coffees down we were all well and truly awake, and excited for the day to begin. The ferry left the harbour at 8:00 am and we were already experiencing the beginnings of what was promising to be a beautiful day. The Channel was still, ripples spreading across the calm waters as we crossed relatively quickly.
Upon arriving at Dunkirk, we decided to take our trip one step further and drive to the bordering country of Belgium. We sped through the French countryside, the sun rising higher in the sky and casting a dewy glow over the flower covered fields. Within an hour we were driving through Belgium, the only clue to this was the change in language on the road signs. Aiming for the small seaside village of De Haan, we arrived just after midday. Parking up on one of the small side streets, we wandered slowly through the little sea side town in search of moules, frites and ice-cream. We settled on a place offering these opposite the beach, and once finished we strolled down to the sea. The beach was packed with Belgians enjoying the beginnings of summer, and we bravely attempted a paddle in the sea. This quickly reminded us that we really weren’t that far from England, and the sea was still ridiculously cold. We headed along the beach, basking in the warmth from the sunshine, and headed up the sand dunes.
Google maps providing us with the news that our route back had changed from an easy green to a traffic fuelled red, we raced back to the car and began the drive back to Dunkirk. Unfortunately, this part was not as enjoyable or exciting, as road closures led to us missing the late afternoon ferry. However, being booked onto the later ferry meant we were able to witness the sun melting into the horizon as the boat pulled out of Dunkirk harbour. Arriving back into Dover and beginning the drive back to London, we realised just how accessible Europe was. Where to next weekend then?