Chaam, Poperinge & Homeward Bound

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17th July 2019 – 30th July 2019

We absolutely love van life, but with the horrendous heatwave due we decided to hunker down in a campsite where we have plenty of water, electric and hopefully some shade. We stayed in a small family run campsite near the town of Chaam North East of Antwerp. We found the only tree in the whole campsite that would give a little shade, but only in the afternoon. The heatwave hit with the temperature reaching 42 degrees and hotter in the van. We were certainly suffering, but poor Chloe coming from a chilly 12 degrees in Norway only a matter of weeks ago to 42 degrees was suffering more. We filled buckets of water, let the sun warm them up and then slowly poured them over her. We cycled to do some shopping ( yes in the heat !) and found a paddling pool for 6 euros, thinking Chloe would lay in it. How wrong we were, we had to pick her up and put her in, but she didn’t like it. However, David and I loved it, big enough to lie flat in, it was the perfect dunking pool and the best 6 euros we have ever spent to date on this trip. We stayed for four days, melted and then headed west to Poperinge in Belgium. We stayed a couple of nights in the rolling countryside, lovely and quiet, just the sheep bleeting and the geese hissing at Chloe as she passed. We cycled into the town on Sunday for lunch, passing through the hop fields. Know as the hop country, with it’s imposing hop vines, there are many Belgian hop farms producing 80% of Belgian beers. We sampled the local poperings hommel beer with lunch, a big fat steak and chips. We couldn’t remember the last time we ate red meat and it was delicious, oh what carnivores we are ! Poperinge during World War 1, was one of only two towns not under German occupation. It was to billet British troops and also provided a safe area for the field hospitals. In the middle of the town and a stone’s through from the main square is Talbot House. In 1915 chaplain Philip Clayton opened a club for soldiers there. A home away from home where every soldier was welcome, regardless of rank. There were no soldiers,officers or lieutenants in Talbot House, only people who wanted to escape the horror of war. Today, it is a guest house where you can stay or you can just have tea in the lovely gardens. David said that my Dad has some affiliation with Toc H as it was know, he remembered him talking about it. I wish he was alive to ask him. On the way back we cycled to Dozinghem Military Cemetery, here lies 3024 British soldiers together with 81 Canadian, 14 New Zealand, 15 South African, 34 British West Indian and 65 German casualties. We have visited many other cemeteries during our various trips and it is humbling and so, so very sad to walk amongst the beautifully tended grounds and see thousands of graves. To read, the ages of these brave men, 18, 19, 22 years old it breaks my heart. An important place to visit and one that puts into perspective how very lucky we all are. As we cycled back to the van, David turned into a big kid, riding down the hill as fast as he could, with me trying to play catch up all the time. What is it with men and boys on bikes, always a race. I like to look around at the fields, houses and like a gentle cycle, always looking at David’s back as he is getting further and further away from me. I was pleased to see a family pass us on their bikes, the husband and son way out in front and his wife and daughter some way behind. It made me feel better,to know that I wasn’t the only one always playing catch up on a bike. For our last day we drove to the coast to enjoy the sunshine and a nice 26 degrees. Just 30 minutes from Calais we found a beautiful sandy beach that went for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see. Chloe of course was in her element, although she desperately wants a ball to be thrown, sadly those days are over as arthritis is setting in. I think we need to get her into the Greek sea again to massage her joints.

Well, our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ trip part 4 has come to a close. We have travelled for 112 days and covered 5,822 miles. This has been the trip with the most miles covered, Norway is a long way ! It has been a trip where we have constantly felt on the move, but to do this trip we could not spend weeks on end in one place. For me, I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. Norway is just so amazing, as you probably have guessed with our blog posts on the country. We have seen the country in probably the best mode of transport, being able to park up and sleep on the edge of fjords, fish to our hearts content, find beautiful sandy beaches and watch the midnight sun. See moose, reindeer and white tailed eagles. Drive to the base of glaciers and sleep looking over turquoise lakes. We have to look at the photos to remember all the amazing places we passed through and wonderful vistas we saw. I had been so excited to set off on this trip and wow, it didn’t disappoint, memories to last a lifetime.

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