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  • Day17

    Breakfast in France, lunch in Luxembourg & dinner in Belgium just about sums up today! North East France is not a very popular tourist destination but it is an attractive area and includes the historic cities of Verdun, Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg. It is very rural, we see lots of cows and there are large areas of forest similar to The Black Forest area of Germany. We arrive in Luxembourg, fuel is only €1 which is the cheapest we've seen this trip, we stop for lunch at a very upmarket shopping centre and George buys me some earrings.
    On into Belgium, no stopping or checks, we are staying in a really lovely chambre d'hote in the Ardennes and there is a chateau just around the corner. The owners are lovely people and the family Jack Russell is called Yoko, he's very friendly too.
    Tonight we drive a couple of miles into Marche-en-Famenne and eat at a Moroccan restaurant, I have chicken with cous cous and George orders chicken pastilla which is a mixture of chicken, almonds and spices in a thin pastry, both delicious. I order mint tea, forgetting that the Moroccan's automatically sweeten it, so I have to order another pot without sugar. George drinks the first pot!
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  • Day1

    Nach gut 9h Fahrt mit Pausen und ohne grossen Stau kommen wir in Rochefort an wo wir unseren ersten Zwischenhalt geplant haben.
    Unterwegs mit 4 VW-Büssli ist schon mega cool und man ist nicht zu übersehen :-).... doch es verlangt auch einiges ab beim Fahren. So muss man genau schauen und sich gut absprechen, leider haben wir gemerkt dass unser Aldi-Funk für 20.- doch nicht so eine gute Entscheidung war, die Reichweite mit ein paar km angegeben reicht kaum 300m.
    In Rochefort angekommen richten wir uns ein, es ist kleiner aber sehr gemütlicher Campingplatz, die Dame in der Reception ist sehr freundlich und wir erhalten einen Platz für 2 Personen mit Hund alles inklusive für 13€ was sehr günstig ist. Nach einem Spaziergang im Städtchen und einer Runde Spaghetti sowie einem feinen Glas Wein stossen wir auf unsere tollen Ferien an. Es ist recht früh dunkel und so geht es auch bald unter die gemütliche Bettdecke.
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  • Day60

    Today was what you would call a hallowing experience. I did the Flanders field tour which was extremely informative and emotional and then the day finished off with the last post ceremony at the Mennin Gate

    At the gate my great great great uncles name was carved into the wall of over 50 000 missing or soldiers with no graves

    It was extremely emotional and honestly words can not describe nor the pictures do justice of what I saw today and the information that I heard

    I had tears in my eyes during the last post it again was honestly a place that you had to be to experience for this I didn't take photos or videos as I felt it to be disrespectful

    The WW1 history just within Belgium is immense!
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  • Day7

    And the final war memorial of this trip was to Bedford House Cemetery where my grandfather's brother is buried. Charles Duncan was killed at age 21. His and the other 3 soldiers he was fighting with had their remains exhumed and moved to this location.

    Of the 5,075 soldiers buried here, 275 are Australia and my great uncle is among those. He is buried in Enclosure 4 and with nothing more than that information, it took some time to find him. Kate placed a poppy on his grave and Craig had brought along the guitar so he played Amazing Grace. It had been so cold and windy as we were trying to find the grave, but then we sat down and the wind died down and the sun came out.

    The cemetery itself was beautiful. Charles has a great view in his final resting place!
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  • Day59

    Bus trip from Paris to Bruges today!! Got in at about 1pm so had a nap then went for some sightseeing and it's a very charming city. Really pretty old buildings very touristy but

    Then I had one of the best burgers that I've had over here top 2 and homemade ice tea which was lovely

    Trying to have an early night but my room is right above the bar!! So noisy, getting to that stage of been over hostels but only 1 month more in them hahaRead more

  • Day171

    Day trip outside of Brussels today. Leuven is a small-ish university city about half an hour's train ride to the east. It's also home to two UNESCO sites, so after a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee we hopped on a train and headed out!

    Arrived around 12pm and walked into the city centre from the train station. It's quite an attractive city, with some lovely old buildings and interesting alleyways to explore. Lots of young people around as well, despite it being summer holidays.

    First stop was the first UNESCO site, another of the belfries. This was attached to a church, but was mostly in ruins these days. It was originally planned to be a colossal 180 metres tall, basically unthinkable in the 15th century, and would've comfortably been the world's tallest building until skyscrapers in New York and Chicago started breaking the 200m barrier in the early 20th century.

    But they never finished it, and after a few fires and wars it's now basically the same height as the church it's attached to. Still nice to look at though!

    Next stop was the beguinage, another multi-site WH list entry that's unique to the area. A beguinage is basically a community of religious single women who wanted to retreat from public life. They weren't nuns, they took no vows, they didn't collect alms and they were free to leave at any time to marry or return home. But otherwise it was just a simple, quiet community of religious women (usually landless nobles, widows, second daughters and so on).

    There's 12 beguinages on the list, but this was one of the largest so it was good to explore. And it was very peaceful, set off to the side of the city in a walled compound. Lots of small houses, narrow streets, canals running through of course, and a few parks plus the obligatory church. A very nice environment, and as with a lot of places in Belgium, well off the tourist radar so we had it mostly to ourselves (aside from the students who live there now, of course).

    Headed back into the main part of town where we ummed and ahhed about what to do next. We had a quick lunch in a chain health food place called Exki, then debated having a drink outside and doing some people watching. In the end, the weather decided for us, as an enormous downpour forced us to take cover in a small portico along with a lot of other people! It absolutely bucketed down for about 10 minutes before stopping.

    Since everything was now wet and we didn't feel like sitting inside, we just headed back to the train station and grabbed the next train back to Brussels.

    By the time we got back, it had fined up a bit again, so we walked from the station back to our hotel - about 30 minutes worth. Strolled through a nice park and past the royal palace as well, which was good to see, though we were too late to go inside (and I have a feeling dogs wouldn't be permitted!).

    Back to the hotel where we settled in for the evening to work and plan. I briefly ventured outside for some takeaway kebabs from the store across the road, but that was pretty much it! It's surprising how common kebabs are here in Belgium (and Netherlands and France too, for that matter). Though they're different from Australian-style kebabs with meat, salad and sauce - these tend to just have meat, sauce and cheese. No hummus or tabouli either!
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  • Day22

    My time in Bruxelles is coming to an end. I'll have more than just fond memories to take with me though, I spent the day buying various potables and libations to bring with on the next leg of the journey. Will be an interesting challenge trying to get them there (and back to the States) intact.

    Also got to enjoy flowertime, and the various arrangements put together by Artisan florists.

    Chris had recommended a place right by Mannekan Pis called Poechenellekelder. Super cool place, with many puppets and other knickknacks decorating the walls and ceiling. Great beer selection too!

    Bonus pictures: Laura picked up Mira from my mom today. She's so big!! Miss my pup!
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  • Day7

    Whistle stop to wander around Hill 60. The concrete bunker was used by both German and British Armies. This was another site riddled with underground tunnels which were used by both sides. They would try to dig close to the other side, listen in and once confirmed it was the enemy would set of explosives to try and cave in their tunnel network. The Australian soldiers were known to dig as low as 8 metres to try and get right under the Germans without detection - they would occasionally die from carbon monoxide poisoning or the tunnels would collapse.

    The site was purchased by a British family after the war in order to preserve it as is. There were so many fallen soldiers whose bodies had sunk into the mud during the battle that they could not be retrieved and buried properly.
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  • Day7

    We ended our foray into Flanders with dinner in Ypres and then the Last Post Ceremony which has been held under Menin Gate every night at 8pm since 1928 (save a few years of WWII) as the local way of honouring those who fell in WWI. People travel from around the world to attend, play or lay wreaths. On our visit we were lucky enough to witness an extended ceremony and hear the Norwich Pipe Band from the UK and a local bugle band of cadets of some sort. There were around 1,000 people attending which, for a ceremony that happens every night of the year regardless of the weather, is rather amazing.

    The kids were on the hunt for Belgium waffles afterward, but the places had either closed or sold out, so they had to settle for Belgium ice cream in a waffle cone instead.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

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