France & Belgium

A joint birthday family get-together for Uncle David & myself

A joint birthday family get-together for Uncle David & myself

We finally got the last visa that we had to get in the UK courtesy of Tajikistan. With fast-track it was GBP 100 and took less than 24 hours. Finally we can piss off the application form-filling for a bit. Was this trip for paperwork or for sightseeing?!

Dad and me

Dad and me

For the first time we fully packed all our stuff into the Troopy and spent a few days saying bye to my family in London and Kent.

Ladies only shot!

Ladies only shot!

It was my Birthday on 8th June and I had the best day doing an oil change on the Troopy and lubing up all of the suspension shackles! (Seriously – it was a good day)

My Great Aunt Jan who lives in Ramsgate on the coast

My Great Aunt Jan who lives in Ramsgate on the coast

DSC_0293We left the UK on 11th June on the P&O Dover to Calais ferry for just 50 quid. It was a bang-on day – a brilliant way to say goodbye to the UK.

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We only had 24 hours in France as we have both been there before and didn’t have any special urge to hang around particularly because big cities are expensive 😉 Our main port of call was La Coupole, about 50km South-East of Calais.

La Coupole - a Nazi Megastructure

La Coupole – a Nazi Megastructure

La Coupole is home to one of Hitlers 4 concrete-domed V2 rocket launching bases built in France. We had seen this particular one on a programme called Nazi Megastructures. Both the rockets and base were engineering feats (despite what they were intended for) and we had researched this place quite well.

Quick lunch stop to eat some HEAPS stinky cheese I had bought

Quick lunch stop to eat some HEAPS stinky cheese I had bought

The base is made up of a 72m diameter concrete dome about 5m thick. The dome was designed to hold under continuous bombings and therefore protect the V2 rocket storage and staging area located 42m beneath it. The dome withstood many attacks on it from the UK and it’s allies.

The main tunnel at the entrance into the base. Freezing cold in there

The main tunnel at the entrance into the base. Freezing cold in there

Hitler managed to launch a total of about 8,000 V2 rockets from all of the bases in France and Belgium, killing 6,500 people in the UK, France and Belgium. It was estimated that more slave labourers died building the rockets than the actual victims.

A V2 engine - the first rocket engine ever made (with liquid fuel). 250,000Nm of thrust propelled it along at 3 times the speed of sound so that it could deliver its 890kg warhead

A V2 engine – the first rocket engine ever made (with liquid fuel). 250,000Nm of thrust propelled it along at 3 times the speed of sound so that it could deliver its 890kg warhead

Many of the rockets would have been launched from the La Coupole base before a sustained air raid eventually caused the ground beneath the dome to collapse and halt all operations.

Many km of tunnels - dug out by Polish & Soviet POW's.

Many km of tunnels – dug out by Polish & Soviet POW’s

The base was then taken over by the allies and sealed with dynamite. It was re-opened in the seventies and has been used as a museum and display area from both of the world wars.

I Think that this was the train line bringing in raw materials to the base

I Think that this was the train line bringing in raw materials to the base

We struck a bit of luck pulling into La Coupole. As per usual we were running a bit late and got there just as they were closing for the day. We asked if they knew of anywhere local to camp and they said that we could camp in a small grassy field overlooking the dome! Jerome was MADE UP!

Cooking dinner with the Coupole Dome in the background

Cooking dinner with the Coupole Dome in the background

Messing around with the camera on miniature effect.....

Messing around with the camera on miniature effect…..

The next day we spent a few hours touring the amazing structure and some of it’s crazy huge tunnels. It was so eye-opening and sad to learn about exactly what the soldiers and victims went through during the world wars. The exhibitions were very confronting and graphic – an honest snapshot of what war really does to people.

We finished the museum and had lunch before jumping in the Troopy and heading over to Bruges, Belgium.
Again, we only had 1 day in Belgium. We chose to spend it sight-seeing in Bruges.

City centre view of Bruges

City centre view of Bruges

Our research was slightly lacking and we turned up in the city expecting it to be quaint, old and authentic. Bruges is definitely nice enough but it is a tourist trap.

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We also discovered that the famed old architecture was not really preserved. Instead, the buildings were re-conditioned in the 19th and 20th century.

Still a really pretty area...

Still a really pretty area…

We also made the mistake of choosing a crap Italian restaurant to eat in which was next to a busy road. Jerome’s portion of pasta consisted of literally 8 ravioli pieces hahaha. We quickly learnt that if we are going to head into a city (neither of us are big city fans) we should try and make the most of it. Choose the right restaurant with local food to try. Have a kinda plan for what you want to actually see. Oh, and choose the right city!
After dinner we had a bit of a jaunt down the little streets next to the canal, as well as taking a peek at the famous Belfry of Bruges.

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All in all Bruges was nice. Just not for us. We spent the night at a designated campsite and did some more research into Rotterdam (our next city venture), as well as downloading some Russian guides so that we can learn a bit of Russian for later. The next day we made tracks towards Holland. Holland is high on our list of favourite places and we have 4 days there so we were pretty excited to get going. See you on the other (hazy) side 😉

Slowly building up flags for each country that we have travelled to...

Slowly building up flags for each country that we have travelled to…

If you are enjoying following our blog and what we get up to please donate to our cause. There are many people back home with a spinal cord injury who would only dream of doing such a trip. They silently struggle to get by day to day, financially, physiologically and emotionally. Every donation, no matter how small counts!

https://give.everydayhero.com/au/lost-abound

 

Categories: Belgium, France | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “France & Belgium

  1. Anonymous

    No stopping you guys. So proud. Mumxx

  2. Mike and Lyn Rodgers

    Have a great trip stay safe looking forward to further blogs..

    Mike

  3. Anonymous

    Good luck – looking forward to following your trip!

  4. Hope you have a great and safe trip good luck

  5. Melanie Bray

    Fascinating stuff! Keep trekking Mxx

  6. Great post – keep them coming!

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