Belgium
West Flanders Province

Here you’ll find travel reports about West Flanders Province. Discover travel destinations in Belgium of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

129 travelers at this place:

  • Day13

    Brugge: Beer, waffles and chocolate!

    September 15, 2016 in Belgium

    What more could anyone want from a city that has the best beer, waffles and chocolate?! This was our second visit to Brugge and it was just as great as we remembered. We love this city not only for its food and drink but also because of its quaint feel and charming character. We'd highly recommend a visit or next time we plan to go back we'll let you know!

  • Day14

    So I just happened to arrive to Bruges on Asencion Day. Bleachers in Markt Square and a bazillion peeps. I couldn't cross the street to find my hotel so I surrendered and looked upon this minor inconvenience as a bonus. Floats, animals, 1700 locals, body tan makeup, wigs, even proper period footwear! Pretty impressive.

  • Day14

    In Bruges, literally

    May 10 in Belgium

    This morning, I took the RER C train from Versailles to St. Michel.
    Transferred to RER B train to Paris Nord.
    Took the Thaylis High Speed train to Brussels.
    Connected to the Intercity train to Bruges.
    City bus into town and Voila, here!
    Nobody said independent travel is easy!
    Actually, it all went super smoothly.
    When I got on the train to Bruges, the woman across the aisle leaned over and said "This is 1st Class". I acknowledged that I was aware of that.
    Yes, I did look a little travel weary but lordy, attitude from this Euro
    Louis Vuitton wanna-be was uncalled for!

    Travel tip to live by: read and follow the very clearly posted signage
    in stations first, then if you're still unsure, don't hesitate to ask anyone who will listen:)
    Read more

  • Day14

    Bruges

    May 10 in Belgium

    I do believe that Bruges IS "the cutest city in Europe".
    Just adorable with lots and lots of sights to see in a relatively small area, all walk-able. Of course I had to go to 't Zwart Huis (The Black House), where they filmed
    the bar scene in 'In Bruges' and I might have sat at or very near the location.
    I wanted to take a photo but this just wasn't that type of place and I didn't want to be rude. It was a COOL, hip vibe. Took the brewery tour at De Halve Maan ending with a lovely pint of my fav Brugse Zot. The guide mentioned that we would be drinking the unfiltered, fresh as fresh can be version since we were drinking it on-site. It was extra tasty and I could tell it was more flavorful than at the bars.Read more

  • Day514

    Goodbye Belgium

    November 22, 2017 in Belgium

    We spent 5 and a half weeks in Belgium, 10 days of which were on an organic permaculture farm in Flanders.

    As ever, there were many things we liked about the country and a number we didn't. Lets start with the negatives, move on to interesting aspects and end with the positives:

    Things we didn't like:

    Prostitution
    Belgium's neighbour The Netherlands has a famous red light district in Amsterdam but, perhaps naively, we'd never anticipated coming accross them in Belgium. Our first experience was in a small town, the high street of which seemed overtaken with shop windows displaying women whose services were for sale. We encountered it again in Antwerp and although it was by no means widespread, it still left us with a very negative impression.

    Exploitative war tourism
    We appreciate that many people visit Belgium specifically because of the part it played in the World Wars. However, as pacifists, we found much of the commercialisation of this role unsavoury. Ypres in particular had a whole host of outlets making profit from souvenirs of a conflict in which so many people's lives were taken.

    Sprawling urban areas
    Along the coast and around cities such as Brussels and Antwerp, the concrete and glass walls of urbanisation often seemed to be endless. We enjoy visiting cities, but we find ourselves feeling hemmed in if we stay too long and at times it was difficult to find rural areas to relax in.

    Flanders' prefab roads
    A small consideration perhaps, but when you are travelling with all your earthly possessions rattling noisily around you, the road surface really does make a difference. Many roads were narrow, meaning we had to reduce our speed and hold up traffic behind us. Flanders was especially bad for laying down prefabricated concrete strips that Martha Motorhome objected to loudly!

    Recycling
    Concious of the environment, we have a larger recycling bin, than we do for general waste. Belgian councils pick up waste directly from properties and it was remarkably difficult to find any public recycling bins.

    City parking and lack of laybys
    Using the Park4Night app we were usually able to find places to stay easily enough, but the Ardennes and Wallonia in the West were particularly poor for the laybys we like to use for lunch breaks or spontaneous stopovers. Many European cities provide dedicates motorhome aires in city centres, but we found no such things in Belgium. It was difficult getting a place to park on our day trip to Antwerp and our 2 nights in Brussels were very troublesome in the initial stages, although it worked out alright in the end.

    Interesting aspects:
    As people who like to engage with locals using as much of their language as possible, we initally found it disconcerting to be in a country where 3 very different languages were spoken. Unlike in Luxembourg, where residents would often move fluidly between their different tongues, Belgium has areas that speak either Dutch, French or German and we'd read that people didn't like it if, for example, you began speaking French in a Dutch area. Luckily English was widely spoken and we fell back on this when we weren't sure. However, as we moved between different areas we started to get used to picking up clues, such as which languages were used on road signs and shop advertising. There would often be a crossover area of dual language signs, alerting to the change. In the end we found it very interesting and with France being our most frequently visited continental country, we felt almost at home speaking French!

    Now, lets get on to the things we really liked about Belgium:

    Free stopovers amd services
    Whilst city parking was difficult for us, a large number of towns in this small country provided free stopovers with free services. A definite thumbs up in our book!

    Bike lanes and canals
    The roads may have been narrow and sometimes bumpy but the brilliant network of bike lanes was a really refreshing sight. They were well maintained and their coloured surface made them stand out. In Flanders there were many kilometres of flat canal towpath to enjoy out in the countryside and places you could park for the night alongside it.

    Special places
    We stayed in Belgium's capital Brussels, for 2 nights with Will's daughter Beth and our son in law Richard. Of course it was memorable for the fact that we got to spend time with people we love, but the beautiful Grand Place, lit up at night, is a sight that will stay with us. It truly is stunning. We found a very different kind of beauty in the Belgian Ardennes. As far different from the flat north as the language of the region, the rolling, forested hills and enchanting rivers of the Ardennes stole our hearts.

    Food, drink and the organic movement
    Apart from our time on the farm, if we were asked to name the most memorable thing about Belgium, we would have to say 'the food!'. We found a pleasing number of organic foods available in both supermarkets and independent shops here, especially around the city of Ghent. Our waistlines were grateful we didn't stay longer, because the Belgian's really do know how to titillate the tastebuds! What a treat it was to sample the Trappist beers, each served in its own dedicated glass. We frequently bought frites for lunch, either at cafés or friteries / frituurs, where they came wrapped in specially perforated paper to let the steam out and make sure they stayed crisp. Even Vicky's sweet tooth was satisfied with the huge crepes submerged beneath icecream and fruit sauce and the waffles - both Brussels and Liege style, were hard to resist. Saving the best to last, Belgian chocolates bought from Belgian chocolatiers really are the best you'll ever taste. The delight of choosing a selection of the artfully arranged delicacies and watching in anticipation as the maker's white gloved fingers pick them out for you will stay with us forever!

    Despite it being a such a close neighbour to the UK, we had only previously passed through Belgium on our way to other places and didn't quite know what to expect when embarking on our tour. Because of its size, we feel we were able to get to grips with the country during our stay of nearly 6 weeks, during which its character and complexity showed through. All in all we really enjoyed our time here and are very glad we dedicated as many days as we did, to exploring this interesting and diverse country.
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  • Day488

    16 months away today!

    October 27, 2017 in Belgium

    On the 27th June 2016 the two of us and Poppy left our house in Netherton, Dudley and set off on a 5 year European adventure in Martha, our new home on wheels! 16 months and 22,200 miles later we are still on the continent but this will be our last monthly 'vanniversary' over here before returning to the UK for a Christmas time visit, just short of 17 months from the date we left.

    We've toured 12 countries from the southernmost point of Sicily to the northernmost point of Norway. Here in Belgium, our 12th country, we are closer to the UK than we have been in a long while. We are getting very excited about seeing people we know and love and treading familiar paths once again. Don't get us wrong, we love our nomadic life and are very glad we took advantage of the only time we wouldn't need to visit a UK garage after 12 months to MOT Martha. It has given us an unparalleled experience of open-ended exploration and allowed us, to a great extent, to live for the moment instead of our thoughts frequently reminding us of the end. One of the many things we have learned is that the views, opinions and memories of our encounters are very much shaped by things we notice for their prominence and novelty. Many times, the absence of something has far less of an initial impact, memories fade quickly as we acclimatise and adapt rapidly to new circumstances in different countries and regions. However, we have felt the absence of friends and family throughout our time away, apart from during the wonderful visits from those who have been able to come and see us. We knew before we set off to satisfy our wanderlust that we'd miss people, but as we've been able to cast off many of life's possessions, complications and day to day business, our focus has been drawn to the things that are truly important to us.

    We'll be seeing many of you soon!
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  • Day589

    Knokke-Heist

    May 20 in Belgium

    Nach der langen Fotonacht, hieß es erst mal gemütlich ausschlafen. Es war kein Stress angesagt da wir erst bis 12 Uhr auschecken mussten. Bevor es noch einmal nach Gent auf den Blumenmarkt ging, aßen wir ein ausgiebiges Frühstück. Nach Besuch des besagten Marktes und dem ein oder anderen Blumenkraut welches gekauft wurde entschieden wir uns noch einen Abstecher an die Küste zu machen. So erreichten wir nach knapp 60 min. Fahrt die Küste von Knokke-Heist. Nach einer gefühlten Ewigkeit wurde ein Parkplatz ergattert. Ab zum Strand und die Füße ins Meer halten. Danach noch ein Café in der Sonne... ach ist die Welt so schön :)Read more

  • Day477

    WWOOFing @ Woudezel Farm, Flanders 1of 3

    October 16, 2017 in Belgium

    After our volunteering experience at Jan Ols Gården organic goat farm and riding stables in Sweden, we had caught the WWOOFing bug and arranged another placement for 11 days in Flanders.

    De Woudezel farm is an organic permaculture smallholding of 6 hectares, incorporating a plant nursery, food forest and a small number of amimals. Our host Diderik and his huge dog Lappa met us as we pulled off the main road into the farmyard as agreed, at 6pm sharp. Lappa is a cross between an Irish Wolfhound and a Briard, full of life and very, very affectionate! A black kitten soon came bounding up to join in the fun, purring happily when Vicky scooped her up.

    Life at Woudezel began with a tour of the animals, food forest and potted plants. As Diderik talked passionately about about permaculture, the philosophy of sustainability and working in harmony with nature, it struck a cord with us and we became increasingly enthusiastic about the coming 11 days.

    We'd heard of permaculture before, but seeing it in action was inspiring. Instead of being a labour (or chemically) intensive slog against weeds and pests in order to grow dense monocultures, natural systems had been created where a range of different plants had been planted thoughfully to grow alongside each other. Some would provide shade or protection from the wind, some would fix nitrogen and some would act as support. For example, a kiwi would be planted at the foot of a cherry tree and grow up its trunk. Grass and nettles grew throughout, their roots helping to bind the soil and their nutrients returning to it. Varieties would be chosen that would self propagate and often only a small amount from each plant would be picked, leaving seeds to fall and roots intact to grow more plants. The idea was for a 'permanent culture' that wouldn't be dug up and restarted annually, but that would continue of its own accord, with a small amount of careful and knowledgeable management. We'd had an amazing time on the previous farm, but already Diderik was sharing so much of his knowledge that we had an inkling we would get a lot out of working with him. Eventually the darkness forced us in to the large kitchen of the recently renovated farmhouse.

    Over the coming days, the more we discovered, the more we saw how far Diderik had progressed along the path towards a sustainable life. So much was put back into the system, with kitchen waste being fed to the pig, chickens or thrown onto the garden to enrich the soil. One kitchen tap was connected to a rainwater supply and used for washing and cooking, the other for drinking. A compost toilet was ready to be installed downstairs. Solar panels on the south facing stables harvested the sun to provide electricity (although the complicated Belgian system meant they must first sell the power to the national grid then buy it back). Diderik's cupboards were stocked food items such as coffee, juice, sugar, oil and flour from his brother, who is part of a cooperative shop in Brussels called Ethiquable. All customers are members who work there one day a month and recieve 30% discount on the ethically sourced food they trade in. One of the farm stable blocks now had a transparent roof, transforming it into a greenhouse. Plant matter and animal manure were combined to make compost, a process that produced heat to keep the animals and plants warm in winter and produce delicious black grapes.

    Diderik was keen to point out that there was lots more to be done but we recognise that there are many challenges to living sustainably, ethically and in an environmentally friendly way. We truly admire the aspects of his lifestyle he has adopted in order to pursue these goals.
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  • Day479

    WWOOFing @ Woudezel: work & community

    October 18, 2017 in Belgium

    We've talked a lot in previous posts about the farm ethos, setup and what we ate, but not much about what we actually contributed to it. Believe it or not we did work hard while we were there! Our first job was clearing dead wood from the forest area around the swimming pond. It had indigenous trees such as oak, birch and holly but had also been planted with american blueberry bushes, edible honeysuckle, kiwi, lime and many more species, some of which we had never heard of. The goats and rabbits enjoyed munching some of what was removed but the rest was taken to stack in one of the far fields where it would be left to decompose, providing homes for wildlife, some of which would help break it down. In a few years time, Diderik would start to colonise the stack with plant species, beginning with raspberries. It was heartwarming to see a hawk perched on the pile just a few hours later and a wren exploring between the branches the following morning.

    A thick wall of bamboo needed to be cut back to let light in to the forest and after we'd finished working on this, we set about clearing the spiky hawthorn branches Diderik had cut from the hedges. Long sticks were tied in bundles to fuel the stone bread oven, while smaller pieces were raked together and burned in the field where the ash would enrich the soil. Towards the end of the week Will got his wish and launched the little boat out on to the pond. Armed with a net and large plant pot, we removed a massive amount of duck weed from the water surface and raked the dead reeds from the shore. Ever the pig tucked enthusiastically into a trough of weed, a little was given to the chickens and the rest would e composted.

    As a less strenuous activity, we tended to some of the hundreds of potted plants Diderik was growing. Some were to plant out in the food forest but most were to sell at markets or to people he knew through courses. Local buyers would also come directly to the farm from time to time. For most of the pots, we needed to remove weeds then add compost and mulch. Some needed trimming, repotting or securing to a bamboo cane cut from the forest. Before we arrived, we reckoned we knew a good proportion of edible plants, but we discovered so many new varieties in the nursery here!

    As you would expect, most of the work was outdoors. We were lucky with the rain, but being October, it was sometimes wet. We spent these times working our way through three freezer drawers of Sea Buckthorn branches. Removing the tightly clustered orange berries was a slow task because we needed to be careful of the very strong, very large spikes that would pierce our gloves if we weren't. These berries were one of the many things Diderik used to make organic jams, some of which he would sell on at markets and some that we had the pleasure of sampling on toast, with cheese or in a stew at home. Belgian cuisine uses sweetened fruit in otherwise savoury dishes, for example we accompanied the roast chicken on the final night with yellow plums soaked in syrup.

    Our WWOOF host worked off-farm at another organic project 3 days a week, but during the time he was home, visitors came and went frequently. His Mum, Anne-Marie and 4 year old neice, Selestine came over when it was time to kill the chickens. Anne-Marie helped with the chickens and Selestine with the potted plants. We must mention the delicious Belgian chocolates they brought with them and left for the three of us- yet another of the many gastronomic delights! Near the end of our time, Diderik's Aunt and an older niece came to pass on some veal from a calf that had been in an accident on their farm and had to be put down. We got to know his friend Stoffel who was doing up an old mercedes camper van in one of the outhouses. He came with his two Border Collies, Izzy and Moss who grumpy old Poppy took a dislike to and scarpered back into the van whenever she saw them. Contrary to this canine relationship, we took a liking to Stoffel, who was initially a little quiet but once he got his teeth into a discussion, revealed well thought out opinions on topics such as immigration and multinationals, that were very close to our own. The back forth between the four of us was reminiscent of some of the political discussions we were so used to having in meetings and conferences back home!

    Diderik is passionate about spreading knowledge on permaculture systems, running various talks and courses on the topic. Seeing his system in action was one of the best ways to do this, so visitors would drop in for a tour of the food forest. As a new initiative, an acquaintance had begun to hold a Sweat Lodge in one of the fields, once a month near the time of the full moon. The sort of people who attended were likely to be interested in connecting with nature and therefore more links would hopefully be made to spread an understanding and perhaps the practice of permaculture. By staying at and working as part of the farm, more of these community webs were revealed to us and for a short time, we ourselves became part of De Woudezel's permaculture community. By writing this blog and talking with people we hope we can help share some of what we learned about a positive alternative to intensive modern monoculture farming. If you are interested or have any questions, we'd love to hear from you!
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  • Day478

    Goodbye to Beth, Rich & Brussels

    October 17, 2017 in Belgium

    Yesterday we got chatting to a Tokyo born Brussels local. There is a real mix of people in this city and it creates a sense of vibrancy. Our friend had recommended Jeu de Balle flee market in the Marolles district as an experience that would show us the heart of Brussels culture. Well, how could we refuse? Getting up early we took the bus to the market, which was just getting started. Within a cobbled square, tables, boxes and sheets were layed out, packed full of antiques and nik naks. Bone china tea sets, silver trays, dark wood furniture and classical paintings were just some of the treasures to be found amongst the jumble. It was lucky we didn't have room for anything big or a steady shelf for anything delicate because we would have been sorely tempted to put our haggling skills to the test!

    We met Beth & Richard near their hotel just after 9am. Unfortunately the Sunday buses hadn't been as frequent or reliable as the weekday ones. We had decided we'd get more quality time if Beth & Rich caught the train to the airport instead of risking it with the van again, so we strolled down to a nearby café. It was a leisurely birthday breakfast of coffee, orange juice, pain au chocolate and of course Belgian waffles, both Brussels and Liege style, the former being hard and dusted with icing sugar, the latter softer and integrally sweet.

    There wasn't much spare time but a visit to a chocolate shop was in order for Beth and Richard to pick up a box of world famous Belgian chocolates. Not many were open but we found one displaying an impressive model of the Hotel de Ville made from the confection! There was a mouth watering array of 30 individual chocolates and truffles presented in a glass fronted cabinet. After the chocolatier had picked out two of each to make up a selection box, he allowed the four of us to choose our favourite to try. Belgium has a reputation for making the best chocolate in the world and after these heavenly tasters we weren't disputing it!

    The time had come to catch the train to the airport and after a slight hiccup with the ticket machine refusing the first two bank cards we tried, we were all standing on the platform hugging goodbye. We waved Beth and Richard off and suddenly felt deflated and tired. Brussels had a lot more sights and experiences to offer but all we felt like doing was getting back in the van and heading out to somewhere less urban. Overall, it had been an amazing weekend with our family. The difficulties we experienced were more than made up for by magical moments, such as Beth's discovery of the beautifully lit Grand Place on the first evening and we were sad to see them go.

    Our lasting impression of Brussels is of a city of contrast and diversity. Shiny, glass fronted European Parliament buildings jarred against dirty streets and polluted air (a much needed low emission zone is due to be introduced in January). The history contained within the antiques markets in the Marolles district was contrasted with smooth, modern hipster cafés. The indulgence of handmade chocolates and champagne bars jarred with the poverty of the large homeless community. Even the co-existence of French and Dutch native toungues was something we hadn't experienced in many other capitals. Although it isn't an easy city to visit in a motorhome, it has many layers and we are glad to have had the opportunity to see it for longer than our usual day trip.

    A huge thank you to Beth and Richard for coming out and being with us!
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Provincie West-Vlaanderen, West-Flandern, West Flanders Province, Flandre-Occidentale, West-Vlaanderen, Flandres Ocidental, Västflandern

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