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BINCHE    (Hainaut province): MH overnight parking and Borne sanistation; an interesting town

The parking and borne are located at Parking des Pastures on rue des Pastures, which is to the north of the centre: coming from Brussels and A7/N55: turn left at the traffic lights with the statue in the middle of the road, then next left - entrance to the parking is on the right in about 250m. The tourist office in the town hall
[ photo ] provides maps and information about the town. When we visited they were apologetic that the water supply at the borne was not working: this may be permanent as it seemed vandalised, but the waste dump is at ground level even if manoeuvring above it is a bit difficult. MHs generally park in the top left corner of this large area, against the trees. 5 minutes walk to the centre of town, and a bit noisy at night. ATM at Citibank top end of Grand Place, no doubt others as well.

Binche - pronounced as 'bansh' not 'bin...' - has lots to recommend it: a multitude of good bars and cafés on the Grand Place and the road leading up to it; a first-rate Saturday morning market [ photo ]; the ruined remains of the Palace of Mary of Hungary built in 1545- not a lot remains but enough to visualise how colossal it must have been; the Museum of Carnival and Mask which relates the story of carnivals world-wide. If you visit at Carnival time - Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras - they claim the New Orleans' event was copied from theirs - it must be one of the greatest spectacles in Northern Europe. 'La Binchoise' brewery offers visits and a tavern (was closed for holidays mid-July). Binche is also the home of a particularly intricate form of lacemaking and 'Le Fuseau' is a small shop and display dedicated to this. We ate at 'Le Chateaubriand' on rue Notre-Dame just below Grand Place, an expensive place which didn't come up to expectations, though it's popular with locals and our menu choice may not have been well-advised. Much better and loads cheaper is 'Aux Inseparables' at the lower end of the Grand Place and fairly near the town hall: an unpretentious bar which has a decent beer list and does exceptionally good local dishes, posting the day's offerings on a blackboard. The bar 'Petit Mousse' recommended in the CAMRA Guide, has a good beer list and also does good single 'plats', particularly croque-monsieur and similar grilled-on-toast snacks. In addition, if you need any materials for repair, a great hardware/ironmongery store 'Traesl' opposite the Petit Mousse bar and next to the Pharmacy with amazing tiled frontage. It's in the great tradition of an aladdin's cave of metal-working tools and items of hardware, sadly all but disappeared in UK. [2007]

BRUGGE (West Flanders): Aire Communale; a renowned city of art and culture                                                                                         

At Katelijnpoort, near the railway station.

There are signposts leading to parking at the railway station, but this has a 2m. height barrier. Continue in an anti-clockwise direction around the Ring Road and turn off right on a slip road in about 300m. beyond the station, immediately before the road goes up over a canal bridge. If coming clockwise round the Ring, turn sharp right immediately after this canal bridge and then right again under the bridge. The parking for motorhomes is a cobbled area against the bridge embankment. No facilities, but an easy walk into the city via the gorgeous ‘Minnewater’.[1999]

Please Note: there have been reports that this authorised parking area has been closed but I am informed that this may only apply to the coach park. It’s best to check during daylight. The parking against the other side of the bridge may be used but is intended for cars.

Amenities : a beautiful City – Flemish Architecture - lovely cafés – classy shops – Chocolate Shops – Museums and Galleries – Breweries - Restaurants

Recommended: ‘Chocolat Dumon’ at Walstraat 6, just off Katelijnstraat towards Walplein: genuinely handmade chocolates (they also have another shop in the city at Eiermarkt 6) and they will post -- e-mail chocolatierdumon@hotmail.com   –--

a Canal cruise, which shows a completely different view of the city –--

Staminet ‘De Garre’ at de Garre 1, a splendid beer café which does excellent cheese and cold meat platters: down an alleyway on the right off Breidalstraat between ‘Markt’ and ‘Burg’ ---

‘Den Dyver’ restaurant, Dyver 5, Lunch and Evening meals. Cooking with beer par excellence and selected beers with each course for the dégustation menu (probably need to book, it's very popular) ---

Moules Frites (when in season, basically when there's an 'R' in the month) and draught Straffe Hendrik beer at ‘Gruuthuse Hof’ Mariastraat 36 (near Sint Jan Hospital and on the opposite corner to the Liebfrauenkirche) ---

Coffee or Chocolate and cakes at a teashop on Katelijnstraat between Walstraat and the canal bridge (opposite a chocolate shop)

a walk through the park to the Begijnhof and Minnewater --- you could be in a painting by Vermeer or de Hoogh

Sint Jan Hospital Memling museum, Groeningemuseum, Gruuthusemuseum and lots more ---

Straffe Hendrick brewery, Walplein 26 (lookout for metal sculpture in square nearby) ---

Frites with mayonnaise from the food wagon at the foot of the tower in the main square (featured on UK TV by the 'Hairy Bikers' as the best frites in the world).

DAMME (West Flanders): Aire; a  village of gastronomy

The parking area on the right of the road just before the village, when arriving from the direction of Brugge. It’s signposted as the authorised parking area for visitors. Not an official motorhome parking area, but motorhomes are tolerated. No facilities. Don’t park overnight in the longest spaces, these are favoured by coach drivers who arrive early morning, especially on Saturdays. [2000]

Damme is hugely popular as a gastronomic village, and there are a lot of eateries to choose from.

Amenities : Restaurants – walking beside canal

Recommended : for a simple lunch, the Café / Bar on the corner where the main street leads off the canalside road is fine, for finer food the main street is lined with restaurants. The side street on the left, Jacob van Maerlantstraat, hosts ‘De Lieve’, which is for serious eating with occasional seasonal specialities at serious prices. There is a micro brewery on the same street (not visited).

EEKLO  (East Flanders)  : Parking; lunch stop and source of excellent chocolates

We were looking for a lunch stop. Coming into the town from the N49/E34 Antwerp-Bruges main road head for 'P6' at J.F.Willemsplein. It's only a short walk to the centre and avoids the time-limited/metered spaces on the main road. Free parking is available further out on this road, but it's further to walk. There are many cafés/restaurants in the main square in front of the town hall [photo], we ate at 'Café Leffe' which appears to be owned by the brewery company. Good and not too expensive, there are several other eateries nearby. Eeklo also has a shop selling among the best Belgian chocolates we have ever tasted! Avoid 'Leonidas' on the 'Markt' main shopping street unless you have a really sweet tooth but go to 'Bon-Idee' at Molenstraat 6 which is to the right just round the corner at the junction as you walk in from 'P6'. Surprisingly inexpensive and a very good selection. The CAMRA Good Beer Guide to Belgium & Netherlands doesn't list anywhere at Eeklo but I thought the cafe 'Huyghe' just before the main square looked to have a good selection of beers. Eeklo has an Aire listed in the Reisemobil Bordatlas but I have not checked it out. [2006]

ESEN (West Flanders): Brewery

Near Diksmuide, about 20km. ESE of Veurne.

Included for one thing only: the ‘De Dolle’ Brewery, Roeselaerestraat 12b, a ‘must-see’ for its wacky decoration and glorious beers: free visits most days but may close for lunch, please ask as officially visits are only at weekends. If she is still around the person to get the talk from is the brewers’ mother, a great character and salesperson. Beer sales and some merchandise – look out for the brewery calendar. 'Oerbier' and 'Arabier' are excellent staples, 'Stille Nacht' weighs in at an alleged 12% on the label and is like liquid Christmas pudding!

Not too easy to find, it is set back from the main street in Esen through an opening which does not advertise itself as a brewery entrance. About the middle of the main street going East, on the right, or ask. [2000]

GENT (East Flanders): Campsite; renowned city of art and culture

‘Camping Blaarmeersen’, located at the city sports complex. [ Photo ] Although at the edge of the city, there are frequent buses from just outside the camping right to the heart of the city, and they run until late at night. The return fare in 2000 was approximately 80p. and it takes around 20 minutes each way depending on traffic.

Amenities: a beautiful but very busy City – Flemish Architecture - Art Museums and Galleries – Cafés – Restaurants – Canals – serious shopping – Beer Cafés. [2000]

Recommended: ‘Dulle Griet’ café, Vrijdagmarkt 50, a beer café which sometimes does food: small and crowded at most times and near the large gun from which it gets its name ---

‘De Hel’ restaurant, Kraanlei 81 in Patershol district - over the canal from the above café. Probably need to book, it is small and intimate ---

‘Picardie’ restaurant, Hooiaard 7: decent food and efficient service (moderate prices) ---

‘Agora’ restaurant, Klein Turkye 14 (central near Post Office): during the day it seems to attract business people but good food and pleasant decor nonetheless ---

‘De Hopduvel’, Coupure Links 625, the finest beer emporium in Europe (probably) but very difficult to find without a map, even with one the one-way streets are difficult to negotiate. The street name refers to the fact that it’s the left (west) side of a canal: the street is one-way in the direction away from the city centre. If you have Tim Webb's Good Beer Guide to Belgium & Holland  (3rd.ed.or later) the warehouse is further up towards the left edge of the Gent map than is the marked beer café of the same name. GPS should find it but take care with the one-way road system.

HAN-sur-LESSE    (Namur province):     Campsite and MH parking; the 'Grottes de Han'

Han has two municipal campsites, Camping de la Lesse graded 3 stars and Camping Le Pirot graded 2 stars. Both are very close to the centre of this small town. We stayed at the first-named which is behind the tram station [ photo ] for the Grottes de Han, the principal reason for coming here. Campsite € 19.80/nt. incl.electricity, immaculate washrooms and free hot showers. There is one main access road to the site due to a one-way street system, SP right turn just before the tram station if arriving from the motorway and Ave-et-Auffe. There is a dedicated parking area for MHs on the edge of the town in the direction of Rochefort, turn left at SP [ photo ] down a narrow road, then right into the parking area: MH parking is to the right and there is a waste dump but a parking charge of €2.50 for an indeterminate amount of time - probably 12hrs.

The only two clear reasons for visiting Han are the animal reserve referred to as a 'Safari' (ibex, wild boar, lynx and european brown bear) and the Grottes, which are pretty awesome. A 'supercombined' ticket is available which is cheaper than any two individual attractions so worth having; reductions for 60+ age group. Han has a profusion of taverns and restaurants (several closed in mid-July) but we thought none had much advantage over any other. Patronise the one you like the look of. [2007]

HARELBEKE    (West Flanders province):     MH parking with electricity, water and waste disposal point

Very thoughtfully provided at 'Sporthall De Dageraad', not in the centre of town but on the southern edge [ photo ]. The best way to find it is to come north-west on N36 from J.4 of the A14 Kortrijk to Gent motorway. This is SP Harelbeke and is a dual-carriageway. Just before reaching Harelbeke itself (should be the third main junction after leaving the motorway) there is a set of traffic lights with a diversion left for HGV over 5.5t (N.B. there are a lot of roadworks in progress here mid-July '07 so junction may change): turn left at this junction and continue on this road 'Kortrijkse Heerweg', avoiding SP to 'Centre', until you reach a roundabout 'De Mol' - turn left, there is a sign with a football on it, and the sports centre entrance is c.300m on the left, SP with MH Parking sign. Go straight ahead to sportshall buildings. Waste dump via large grating at edge of roadway, fresh water threaded tap on side of building and two electricity sockets also on side of building - all free! Two parking areas and a 'blue badge' reduced mobility area marked on the 'pavement' in front of the building. The Sporthall has a large bar/restaurant, only likely to be open when the sports centre is heavily used. The location is at the north-west corner of the country park 'De Gavers'. [2007]

KNOKKE   (West Flanders) : Parking

I'd suggest heading for the Casino, in front of which is a square with free parking. The roads around also have free parking but all may get very full at times. The casino is at the western end of Knokke before it becomes 'Heist'. I wouldn't advise driving into the centre of Knokke where most of the shops are, streets are narrow and one-way, parking controlled and a nightmare. An added advantage of parking near the casino is that it's close to the beach and there is a very good café/restaurant 'Le Pirate'- 'J-Ruff' on the corner of one of the apartment blocks facing the sea. Seriously good coffee and ice-creams, fairly expensive. If you are on your way to Zeebrugge you are already at the end of Knokke nearest to the port. [2006]

de PANNE    (West Flanders):     MH overnight parking; Beach and Cafés/Restaurants/Shops

This straggly but rather classy town on the Belgian coast is known as La Panne in French and is a mecca for campervans. As it is right up against the French border it's very convenient for a day or night stop before or after taking the Dover-Dunkerque crossing. In future it will be my preferred stopover as I find the French coast and hinterland in the Nord department rather depressing. MHs may park overnight at the parking beside the roundabout [ photo ] which is reached by entering the town on the N35 from Veurne. The main parking on the right is for cars and has a height barrier, but on the left is a 'Frituur' wagon (open 1130-1330 and 1730-2100) and MHs park in the long bays beside this [ photo ]; if full MHs also park further on under the trees opposite the skateboard park. This spot is quite close to the town centre. ATM at 'La Poste' down the side street opposite the parking (no vehicle entry - one way), the Town Hall with tourist information is also down there. Further out but possibly more congenial is extensive parking behind the blocks of flats along Boulevard Dynastie: to locate this continue ahead from the previous roundabout to another roundabout. Take care as the tram line crosses this! Warning signs flash when a tram is imminent. Take the second exit, which is a dual-carriageway and leads slightly uphill - continue until you find a suitable marked space to park [ photo ], possibly noting where other MH have parked.

De Panne has lots to keep everyone happy: good shops, good cafés, good and plentiful restaurants, a wonderful sandy beach with a very long promenade restricted to walkers, cyclists and hired buggies. If that's not enough the De Lijn tram runs all the way to Knokke-Heist at the other end of the Belgian coast, taking in Ostend, Zeebrugge, Blankenberge on the way. The tourist information office has good booklets about the tram and the different tickets which can be purchased. Beyond the high-rise flats towards France is the 'Westhoek' Nature Reserve, claimed as the largest dune system on the north European coast. Access from several points and on a good day it makes a wonderful respite from the holiday atmosphere of the town.

We found better-than-average ice-cream at 'Georges' on the promenade and at 'Ijsbeer' on Duinkerkelaan, the main tram street behind the promenade. 'Le Flore' on the same street is a high-quality French restaurant, quite expensive but very good service. Moules-Frites obtainable everywhere, they are not a cheap dish at €16-20 but for that a kettle full to overflowing is provided. We found 'Le Kursaal' on the promenade to be as good as any, and it did display prices - some did not so would need to ask. [2007]

PERNODE:    (Namur province): Brewery and Campsite; walking country

Brasserie du Bocq in the centre of the village, SP from N937 road running east from Yvoir. Visits every day in July & August at 1400 and 1600hrs., otherwise April to early November ONLY on weekends, feast days and school holidays : € 5 for adults but €4 if you are staying at the campsite and have a stamped flyer. Camping du Bocq, past the brewery, turn left and SP out of the village down a steep road with hairpin bends, but in a lovely setting beside the small river Bocq [ photo ] and close to the Pernode terminus of the delightful 'Petit Train Touristique' which runs on Sundays ONLY to Spontin and Ciney, €7 return which is a bargain. Campsite cost € 12.90/nt. elec. optional extra €2. Site is only graded 1 star but has a pleasant bar and simple restaurant and very clean 'sanitaires' [ photo ]. Hot showers cost €1 for a token. Marked pitches in the main touring area and possibility of ground level waste disposal - ask as it is on the side of the washroom block and not obvious; will require extension hose and some careful manoeuvring. Water available at the washroom block via threaded taps.

On a visit out we ate at 'Le Temps d'une Pause' a grill-restaurant in the direction of Yvoir at the second side road SP Evrehailles, very good and with a terrace (closed Tue evening and all Wednesday). On a Sunday during the season you can take the first train to Spontin or Ciney for lunch and return later. We took it to Ciney where we found an amazingly good and huge Italian restaurant 'San Marino' turning out excellent grills and Italian dishes at a furious pace. This town does have other interesting looking restaurants as well, but the only ATM which would accept foreign cards (ING Bank on main street) had run out of cash!   [2007]

POPERINGE (West Flanders): Beer Shop

'Noel Cuvelier'  a warehouse style emporium which sells just about everything edible and potable. It's not in the town of Poperinge, but on the N38 road in the direction of l'Abeele and France. If coming directly west out of Poperinge, turn left at the roundabout onto the ring road, then next road right at the traffic lights [2007: traffic lights seem to have gone]. Continue for approximately 3km.: Noel's is set back from the road on the right and looks like a set of isolated farm buildings. If coming across the border from France, continue on the main road towards Poperinge for about 1.5km. until you see the sign on the left. [1999] 2004 Update: there is a sign reading 'Bier Shop' beside the track which leads off the main road. It's still one of the very best places to buy Belgian beer singly or by the crate, and prices are mouth-wateringly low (spirits as well, names you will have never encountered before!). I think M.Cuvelier now takes Credit Cards as well, but best take cash to be sure. Closed Mondays. [2007: confirmed he does accept Credit and Debit Cards, subject to validation and connection of course]

ROCHEFORT    (Namur province):     Parking for MH, Cycling

The town of Rochefort has a municipal campsite 'Camping La Roche' which is in the process of being upgraded and the 'statics' section has been finished. In a tourist brochure we picked up it is shown as open, but it is not ready for touring units. The price when open is shown as € 25 per night for all fully-serviced pitches, very expensive. Happily there is a parking - 'Parking Hableau' - where MHs are welcome to overnight, and it was pointed out to us by the Tourist Office which is on the main square at the high point of the town. This Parking is just on the edge of town in direction of Jemelle and N4, quite close to the Camping. Café 'La Gourmandise' near the Police Station does good snacks and has a reasonable beer list, we also enjoyed a very good evening meal at 'Figaro3' a rather swish bistro-style restaurant next to the huge church in the upper town. ATM at Fortis Bank near the Tourist Information and opposite the Police Station.

It is not possible to visit the St.Remy monastery from which the mouth-filling Rochefort beer originates. Rochefort 10 is my favourite. What Rochefort does have is a section of the 'Ravel2' cycleway, running 18km. to Houyet on near-flat former railway trackbed. One c.1km. section in the middle deviates onto a roughish cinder track on which  ATBs would have been better than our 'city hybrid' bikes. Allow 2hrs. each way for a gentle pace, along the way there are stops for drinks/snacks near Ciergnon - a buvette which opens c.12.30-1330 and a sign 'Brasserie du Halloy' (not visited). A marble works at Havennes is served by a brasserie off the cycleway. Houyet has a small bar opposite the station buildings, a large restaurant beside the campsite (other side of the tracks from the station) and a fairly good patisserie on the main street, which does filled baguettes. To find the start of Ravel2 in Rochefort follow SP 'Gare' downhill from the main road junction in the centre of town: the route begins behind the public library [ photo ] to the right of the fire station! [2007]

TONGEREN - TONGRES (Limburg):  Stellplatz

Off most main routes but a town definitely worth visiting, it claims to be the oldest town in Belgium. Approximately 20km. north-west of Liege on the N15 road which has the highest frequency of traffic lights I have ever met! The stellplatz is located at 'Stadspark De Motten' to the south of the centre and is listed in the Reisemobil Bordatlas guide: follow SP on the ring road for 'Parking De Motten'. The actual authorised place for campervans is shared with coaches near the sports club buildings: there is a sign showing a campervan, on 'Kastanjewal'. If stuck ask for the Youth Hostel, which is across the street. N.B. When we visited a circus was occupying the campervan stellplatz, we parked overnight beside the fishing lake next to the 'De Velinx' cultural centre (with café) on 'Dijk' without problems. [2006]

The town centre [photo] has some excellent cafes, bars and restaurants, also a museum, church and 'Begijnhof' well worth visiting. We found the tourist office (facing the front entrance of the church) helpful with map and literature.

WATOU (West Flanders): Restaurant and Breweries

West of Poperinge and practically in France.

‘t’Hommelhof’ in the main square, a superb beer restaurant with regional specialities, including delicious 'Hopshoots' in Spring. Great ambience. Closed on Wednesdays and may need to book. Prices moderate or expensive according to choice. I parked overnight in the square – out of season – with no problems (bit noisy). [1999] 2004 update: closed for the latter part of June due to holidays; the eatery on the facing corner of the square had also just closed for its annual holidays! 2007: our luck was in and in late July all the taverns around the square were heaving with patrons enjoying the local beers and the excellent food. Again we stayed overnight on the town square although it was a tight squeeze for a 5.6m long MH and it lacked a little in privacy. Anything longer than 6.0m. could have a real problem and would be advised at high season to seek a different parking spot.

The former bare tasting room of the Van Eecke brewery (Kapittel) has been transformed into 'Brouwershus', a wacky and wonderful bar/tavern, with bizarre decor and playing all the best pop tunes from the 1960s. Irresistable. Just off the square on the opposite side to the t'Hommelhof: face the Church and look right. A 'must visit' as the beers are among the best.

Also: beer tours at local breweries Bie, St.Bernardus and Van Eecke. Check times and availability as not always open.

WESTVLETEREN    (West Flanders):     Trappist Brewery

Anyone interested in Belgian beers hopes to visit this monastery to sample what are allegedly the greatest authentic Trappist beers in the world. It is virtually the only place to taste the Blonde, Extra and Abt. The monastery and brewing premises are totally closed to the public, but the monastery has seen fit to build an enormous tasting hall 'De Vrede' across the road, open 1400-1700hrs. We visited in high summer and it resembled a UK holiday camp canteen. Basic food and ice-creams as well as the beers - they do stock soft drinks but no-one would take that option unless they have to. Undeniably the approved method of transport is to arrive by cycle and prop it up outside De Vrede. There is a large car park which may be very full and could be difficult to negotiate in an MH, plus a few 'Bus' spaces. Belgian traffic police must be very lenient as the whole of the local population seems to descend here on a Summer Sunday, about 25% on bikes and 75% by car, and the beers range in strength from 6% to 12%. When we visited they had no beers for takeaway sale, during the winter months a visitor could strike lucky. Next to the monastery at the far end is a drive-in selling outlet, firmly closed on a Sunday and with a sign informing us that advance notice by telephone is required if one wishes to purchase - presumably so that you can be told there is no beer available. Still a great place for a beer enthusiast and the beers are worth the pilgrimage.

The best approach in an MH is to go to the end of the Poperinge ring road on the north side, turn right onto N321 dir. Vleteren at the (literally) end of the road, then take the second of the left side roads SP 'St.Sixtusabdij'. When you come to a junction turn left, the monastery is about 500m. further on. The other side turnings with the same small SP are even narrower and I wouldn't like to meet a bus coming the other way. [2007]

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