Day 2 – 5 april 2016 From De Panne (B) to St-Amand-les-Eaux (F)
By: Nikol Salen (English arrangement: Dirk Devreese)
After tasting a continental breakfast in ‘het Koffiemoment’ at De Panne, we start our ride: Up to the border!
You cannot expect a racing attitude from a Royal Enfield, and that is the way we like it. Easy going aside the natural reserve that stretches from the sea shore down along the border.
Just one disgracing moment, when passing by the amusement park ‘Plopsaland’ where a superlong que of nervous cars tries to get in.
Hop Hop….everybody to Plopsaland !
We won’t! We look self confident to the other side and enjoy.
First stop: The castle of Beauvoorde.
We would like to visit it, but have bad luck. The castle is closed on Tuesday.
So, we enjoy a walk in the nice park surrounding the castle rising up, out of the castle-lake.
The village of Beauvoorde seems to be empty.
Everything is closed. There is no noise.
The impression: a museum without visitors.
If you long for a period of silence, this is definitely the place to be!
A good talk with a man who maintains the graves around the church and a local lady-artist, brings us to the only bar for a coffee.
After the coffee and drain-pause we go on humming. Sorry, Beauvoorde, for this short disruption of your silence.
We search with the map for the “Gemene Weg” and “Grensstraat”. Both seem to be roads forming the border between Belgium and France.
Out there, we really balance on the rim of Belgium.
Left, there is Belgium, on the right side is France, which of course you cannot see on the landscape.
Without a map, we would even not know there is a border.
However, something strange is to be remarked: The farms we pass have their house on French ground and the stables on Belgian ground.
Would it be possible that a tax benefit is the reason for this split-arrangement?
In the border village Oost-Cappel we want to warm our bones beside a homemade soup in café ‘L’autre epoque’, geographically situated on top of the border. We look forward to it, because from internet we know: “The old, well known café on the French-Belgian border was closed for years. Recently it has been taken over and refurbished with all kinds of stuff from local collectibles markets.”
It turns out different! Non updated information. L’Autre Epoque is not anymore.
A poster on the window invites us for a bicycle tour along the border, with stunning stories…
Afterwards we find out the poster dates from 2014. At that time, Kamagurka made a television series to bring the story of 300 years human existance at the border. He tracked the border with his “grenscamionette”. Movies on this event are still to be found on the internet.
A lot happened since this television series. We wonder if people would think different about the border now, compared to two years ago.
We end up at the Belgian side: ‘Herberge / Auberge ’t Kappeltje’.
It smells a bit dusty in here. The four customers inside, people of a plus-80 age, look up surprised when we come in.
Soup? No they don’t serve it. The local oldies recommend to us the delicatesse of the house: meatballs wrapped in bacon and served with French fries. Euh…we prefer a toast with ham and cheese.
We continue our ride and arrive at Komen, the Belgian part of a community. Just one yard further, we cross the border and enter the French part of (the same?) community: Comines.
Was it ones one community, a village, split by an over-active administrator drawing borders on a map?
Or were there two villages and were they at one or the other side not able to find a more original name for their homeplace?
Strange bunch those Belgians!
Arrived at Wervik, we make a stop at the “tobacco museum” (tabaksmuseum).
A charming place with a cosy bar, sunny terras and of course the museum with the history of tobacco cultivation, tobacco smoking, chewing,….
As I only quit smoking one year ago and still feel addicted, we go for the terras with a delicious coffee and leave the museum. We relax between a bunch of adorable nice but disabled people, probably having their yearly excursion and enjoying the first heart-warming rays of the sun this year. The tobacco museum is our background.
From Wervik over Bondues to Wattrelos, seems to be a long frustrating road. The outskirts of Lille with streets in a spaghetti pattern not to be unruffled with an old fashioned road map. Indications re not there where you need them and the locals can’t give any valuable indication.
We feel released when we get out of this crazy city mix and are able to continue our ride over lonely urban routes.
At 18:00 h we stop in Rumes. Time to find a place to sleep. Well prepared as we are, we have an address: ‘La Ferme des Géants Batisse et Lisa’ in Flines-lès-Mortagne, just over the French border. Let’s give them a call. Oeps?? We were not the only prepared people it seems: fully booked!
We start a search on the environment of Flines-lès-Mortagne, without success.
It is getting late and the only alternative is to go down to the touristic Spa-centre of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux. Hotel found at 20:00 h.
Normally this place should be in the middle of a natural reserve. We only can find plastic hotels, sucky casino’s and light polluting shopping centres.
The last part of the day being too tiring we decide to start looking for accommodation at 16:00 h as from the next day.
A good shower, a nice (standard) meal and a soft sleep round up the day.
We cannot call this an annoying trip!