It's been an eye opening view into another side of European culture for our girls. Full of new adventures with plenty of new friends met along the way. It's been full of 'wide eyed' stares at the poverty witnessed in Poland or Hungary, yet these are often the places with the warmest of local people... We've seen the impressive canals of Venice, climbed the steep cliffs of Split and been staggered by the beauty in Budapest, Vienna or Prague.
If you missed yesterday's Ghent article, you'd have missed the chance to see us explore Ghent's stunning historical centre (but you can read it by clicking here) However today was all about trying out Ghent's family friendly series of museums.
Having spent most of February working our way across the UK's most interesting cities, we've seen our share of impressive spires, imposing cathedrals and historic centres.... But Ghent (or Gent to locals) in Belgium is something else!!! It has a little of Amsterdam & Bordeaux about it.
As you enter this intricate web of small rural byways that criss cross river lined valleys, you certainly get a hefty sense of 'enchantment'... a sense of poetry that matches the beauty of the natural environment... It's as if nature has created it's own brand of 'Autumnal Magic' with wild deer roaming freely whilst green woodpeckers swoop into conifer laden forests.. With over 5,000km of footpaths, there are plenty of tourism routes to explore such as the Beer Route, the Fortifications Route or even the Route of Legends.
Turning left at Calais, we opted to visit the captivating city of Bruges on the day it celebrates its liberation towards the end of the second world war. The liberation on the 12th of September in 1944 is now celebrated by almost every house flying Bruges's iconic flag (red and white stripes with a blue dragon)
However Bruges' history goes much further back than 1944 with a past of riches and woes to match any city in Europe!!
Having visited Ypres with the fantastic Salient Tours in April, we were always going to return to Ypres... but this time with grandparents accompanying both girls. It was their first visit to the powerful reminders of the sacrifices of so many people during the Great War... a very moving day as we toured the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Cemetery and In Flanders Field Museum..
Definitely a case of falling into bed tonight... well perhaps not falling, more clambering upwards into our drop down bed at the front of our Adria Matrix 670 SL whilst the kids sleep in the luxury of their twin room at the back of the bus!!!
It's been a hectic day to start this trip... leaving London early this morning and heading southwards to Dover... spot of retail shopping at the impressive tented village that is the Ashford McArthur Glen Outlet park... worth a visit enroute and we will use it to break up the journey on way back too (requests Catherine!!)
With the girls still reeling from the superb introductory tour (from Salient Tours), we headed for the main Ypres museum 'In Flanders Field' just along from the central square (in sight of the Menin Gate).
It really is a superbly situated museum within easy reach of several cafes for lunch... and despite its almost gothic exterior... it is a remarkably modern and interactive museum.. full of hi tech displays, huge LCD screens and a brilliantly novel 'poppy wristband' to personalise your visit and feel even closer to the action.
We'd raced through 700km of Germany, to grab an opportunity to see Holland, Belgium whilst hoping we'd have time for the girls to experience a hugely important historical visit to the WW1 battlefields.
Thankfully the wonderfully efficient Salient Tours had a space for us, so we leapt at the the chance to join them on their morning visit to a variety of battlefields, cemeteries - a general tour that was intended to cover a real breadth of experiences. Having met us personally in their new minibus, we headed into the hub of Ypres and the hustle, bustle of the owner's (Steve Douglas) shop - The British Grenadier Shop
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