Kortrijk Judith fancied revisiting the excellent "other" Ribs 'n' Beer in Kortrijk for her birthday.
Eurotunnel Friday - First trip on Eurotunnel for almost a year (in fact our last trip was also to Kortrijk, eleven months earlier). FlexiPlus did the business again and we were on a train leaving the Folkestone terminal less than 20 minutes after arriving at checkin, even having ducked into the terminal to fill a doggie bag with snacks. It's going to be very, very hard to break the FlexiPlus habit (particularly in the next twelve months as I've just signed up for another Frequent Traveller account!).And the sun had come out for the first time in almost a fortnight. A promising start to the weekend.
Center Hotel As much as we enjoyed staying in the Ibis last year, we thought we'd try something new. The Center Hotel is, as it's name suggests, almost right in the center of town, just off the Grote Markt.Our room was very bright with its massive windows, but strangely felt somewhat unfinished given that it had no bedside tables, expanses of empty walls that looked like they needed a picture or two...
Center Hotel ...and a bathroom with no door on it! I am very much not a fan of this design concept.
Windows Impressively, our fourth floor room had massive windows that opened wide. There we even a ledge outside to try to tempt you to climb out. I imagine these rooms aren't often requested by people travelling with small children.
Grote Markt Anyway, having checked in, we didn't have too long to kill before dinner so went for a short walk...
Beer ...in search of a beer, which we readily found nearby.
Nightmare We headed for Ribs 'n' Beer, only to discover that the street that Ribs 'n' Beer is on had been closed for "childrens" party. Basically all of the 16 and 17 year olds in Kortrijk had finished their exams earlier that day and, being of legal drinking age in Belgium, had gone out on to celebrate.Apparently last year they had wrought havoc across the town with their drunken antics, so this year the rozzers had decided to keep them all on one street. This is the queue to get in.
Nightmare And this is inside! We phoned the restaurant to ask how we could get in and the owner (who was not at all happy about what was going on outside his restaurant) came out to escort us in. It was like being a VIP at a concert, getting escorted through lines of police and security.Fortunately Ribs 'n' Beer has excellent soundproofing and once we were inside we could barely hear the melee on the street outside.
Rib 'n' Beer Shortly, ribs arrived and were excellent as usual. I managed a rack and three half rack refills (I reckon I could have got a fourth in, but I didn't want to appear greedy :o).Fabulous restaurant, fabulous staff. It's always nice chatting with the owner, who likes to wander around the restaurant making sure everyone is having a great time.
Breath Test We popped back to the car and on the way out of the car park noticed that they have a self-breathalyser device. Curiously the writing on the screen is in English, with addition instructions printed below in Dutch, French and German. Strange in a not-very-touristy town where there are pretty much no British people. Perhaps Belgians lose the ability to read all languages except English when they've had a few?
Walking Given the volume of ribs we'd consumed, we thought it would be a good idea to go for a bit of a walk before turning in. This being the middle of June, it was still pretty light even at 10pm.
Hotel View Back at the hotel a practiced hanging as far out of my massive window as possible without falling out. And took this nice picture.Time for bed.
Begijnhofpark Saturday - Still lovely out so after an excellent breakfast in Tarterie (just round the corner from our hotel in the Grote Markt) we headed for the Tourist Information office, which is in the Begijnhofpark, which you can see in the photo.
Tourist Information This massive pencil points to Kortrijk on a map on the ground. Brilliant.
Sightseeing Walk There's a map outside Tousist Information showing a recommended sightseeing walk around town. For some reason we didn't do this last year, so we decided to have a go at it today.
Studs The route is marked by these studs in the ground. The first few were tricky to spot, but after a bit you get your eye in and generally start to spot them from a way off (although it did help to also have a photo of the map on my phone :o).
Broel Tower A nice view of one of the Broel Towers as as were crossing the River Leie.
Seat Much of the artwork from last year had now gone (like the PIVAJ - the Public Individual Voluntary Automatic Jail), but the most of the tall chairs still seemed to be here, so I felt compelled to have a go.
Collegebrug The awesome "Collegebrug" bridge was still there too and the sightseeing walk crossed it.
Textile Museum The walk also went past the Textile Museum, which Judith was keen to have a look at. It shows the history of the flax industry in the area over the last few hundred years. A remarkable amount of stuff is made from flax and the byproducts of flax production.
Beer By the time we'd finished in the Textile Museum it was jolly hot outside. So we thought we'd pop into the bar in the musuem for a beer before heading out into the heat.
Begijnhof We walked though the Begijnhof, where apparently the last nun in the world died. Something like that anyway. I may have misread/misunderstood the information board.
High Street When we were in Kortrijk last year it was Independence Day and every single shop was shut (although fortunately every single bar and restaurant were still open). This year it was not Independence Day and the shops were rammed! Handily the sightseeing walk didn't stay on the high street for long.
Baggaertshof (Secret Garden) Through an inconspicuous looking door in an inconspicuous looking wall is this amazing secret garden. It's only open for four hours each day and we missed it last year so it was nice to have the opportunity to have a look at it this year.
Baggaertshof Chapel The garden also has a tiny chapel.
Virgin of Flanders... ...and the (not) Golden Spurs.
Groeningepoort When I tried to photograph this last year the sun was in a very disadvantageous position. Not so this year. It was tricky getting a clear shot between passing cars though.
Saint Medard Brassierie So, after many hours, we completed the sightseeing walk and set about finding somewhere to go for dinner. Trip Advisor said that the Saint Medard Brasserie did excellent stew. And they were absoutely spot on. The pork stew was excellent. As was Judith's goats cheese salad.
Buda Beach Bar To end the day we thought we'd watch the sun go down at the Buda Beach Bar. Disappointingly, we appeared to be the oldest people there. I suspect we're going to experience that more and more over the coming years :o(
La Coupole Sunday - After a leisurely late breakfast in a busy Tarterie (again), we checked out of the hotel, packed up the car and headed for La Coupole, a WWII museum situated about 25 miles south(ish) of Calais.The museum is based around the imposing (almost) V2 rocket base that was being built by the Germans in 1944 at the time of the Normandy landings. The enourmous concrete dome of the base, which protects the factory buried in the hill, can be seen at the top of the photo
La Coupole You enter the museum through one of the rail tunnels that would have delivered supplies to the base had it been finished.
Tunnel Inside the tunnel. The scale of the base is epic.
Under the dome. There's a very interesting museum situated directly under the dome.
Model This model in the museum shows what the base would have looked like had it been completed. The dome is visible at the top and the tunnel that we entered the museum through is in the bottom left. The two enormous "doors" are where the completed rockets would have been rolled out for launch. The Germans had planned to launch 50 V2 rockets a day from here.
Eurotunnel After a very interesting couple of hours at La Coupole we had a leisurely cross country drive back to Calais where we once again stuffed our faces in the FlexiPlus lounge...
Eurotunnel ...before boarding the train back to Folkestone.Super weekend. 387 miles driven in the Mini at a rather impressive 69.9mpg!