Thursday, June 2, 2011

A day in the UK and then back to Belgium and France

We spent our one full day in England first going on a walk with Jane, the boys and the dog to the park and walkway near the channel shore. Then Beth and I decided to get out on the road and practice 'staying Left'. We drove to Sandwich, a cute old town, and had our snack lunch on the side of a canal. We then drove to find the city of Ham to take a picture of the new sign that has Ham and Sandwich on the same signpost. I guess many old ones have been stolen as souvenirs. The town of Ham is hard to find since it is only a couple of buildings. Some of the roads in this area are so narrow that we had to stop and move into the weeds to provide enough space for bicyclists to ride by. We are glad there was very little traffic so no one had to either drive into the field or back up.

We then drove to the town of Deal and toured the castle which was very unique, in the shape of a flower. It was fun for Beth to practice some of her French on some middle school students from a small town in France. After the tour, we attempted to drive along the coast thru Margate and on to Ramsgate. We only went in circles a couple of times. Things were a lot easier when we had the GPS. I was glad the sun was out so at least I knew what direction we were going. We got back at our scheduled time and Luke took us to his church which is over 900 years old. They had arranged a baby sitter so we could go out to dinner at a local pub without the minor distractions provided by a 5 and 3 year old. We had a nice dinner and got into bed at a reasonable time so we could make it to the ferry before 6 AM.

We were at the ferry a minute or so before 6 and waited until we loaded at 7. They made us get out of the car and searched through every door and the trunk before we could drive on to the boat. This boat was much bigger than the one we took to Ramsgate. It had 8 decks with space for over 500 passengers. There were only 15 or so car passengers and the truck drivers head to beds in cabins, so the boat was essentially empty in the passenger areas. We got into Belgium about noon and once thru customs headed to Brugge. We arrived at the large underground parking lot amidst a stream of cars. We later learned that they were having a procession thru town to celebrate the Passion and Assension of Christ, something that has been done in Brugge since 1339. The number of people made it difficult to appreciate the beauty of the inner city, but they did a very good job presenting the procession.

A note on their parking ramp. Besides signs indicating how many spaces were currently available on each level, they had bright LED lights above each stall that were red when a car was there, but blinking green when the stall was empty. That made finding an empty stall very efficient.

We left Brugge and headed for France. We stopped for the night in a hotel that used to be a Formula 1. Now called A1, it is exactly as we remember them from 20 years ago. But they are inexpensive and appear clean. We will see how we sleep and if the breakfast is worth 4 euros.

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