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