Ypres – August 2008

Summary of a long weekend cycling in/near Ypres (Belgium) with my father.

Friday 1 Augustus 2008
The Netherlands Amsterdam – Belgium Ypres

After sleeping in (08:30) a shower, packing my bag & camera and some breakfast I called my father, telling him I was ready to go! We planned to depart around 10:30/11:00 but I was all done at 09:30. Around 10:00 my father arrived and we loaded my bike on to the car, placed my bags on the backseat we drove south. The navigation system telling us where to go. Although we could have done it without it. But since the navigation system also warns about speed cams it was very useful to have it!

We arrived around 14:00 in Ypres at a small Bed & Breakfast my father found on the internet.
A nice lady opened the door and it turned out she likes to have a chat with the guests, she told us that a couple of years ago she had lived in The Netherlands for a while. After we were shown the room and approved it we unloaded the car and parked it a couple of blocks away. Next we explored the town a bit by bike.
It didn’t take long for me to spot some really nice things I would like to take pictures of. After driving around a bit and asking around we found the Tourist information office and also a supermarket. Given the fact that it was almost 14:30 I was getting very hungry (since I don’t eat breakfast). We bought some meat (and we also saw some pork chops!), bread and marmalade we returned to the hotel to eat lunch in the room.

After finishing lunch we decided to explore the town some more, only then by foot. Weather didn’t look very promising and we didn’t feel like cycling in the rain on the first day. As it turned out we could have done a nice cycling trip after all, as not a single drop of rain fell down. We even had a clear blue sky for a while. But then again I wouldn’t have been able to shoot some nice pictures! Architecture still looks better against a blue sky then against a grey one. While I was taking pictures of the various churches and other building in Ypres my father had some disgusting coffee (had whipped cream on it or something like that).

Next we went to the Ypres museum where a lot of information was at hand about the First World War (1914-1918). As we planned to cycle through the surroundings of Ypres tomorrow this was a good source of information to get up-to-date on the horrors that happened here. It was allowed to take pictures inside the museum and so I did.

Once outside we walked around the town some more, looking for a nice restaurant, preferably one away from the main square but we didn’t manage to find one. The town seems ‘dead’ once you’re of the main square. Having not much choice we ate a restaurant meant for tourists, it turned out to be actually quite good! After a couple of nice Belgian beers we had our main course: Eel, prepared in “Hommel”beer sauce. Very nice, not like the smoked eel you can get on sandwiches, but actual pieces of eel. When you finish a block of eel you’re left with its spine! No fish bones luckily!
With it came real Belgian fries with even better mayonnaise, one that can’t be found in The Netherlands. What’s for the best anyway otherwise I would start to like fries with mayo.

We didn’t have desert as it was near 20:00, and at that time they perform “The Last Post” at the Menin Gate. You could see that the people on the square started to move towards the gat. Once we arrived there it turned out to be very busy.
Arnoud wouldn’t be Arnoud if he couldn’t find a solution for that. Armed with a big camera I walked up to an official and told him that I would like to shoot some pictures for a magazine in The Netherlands and if there was a nice spot for me somewhere. This wasn’t a problem and I was assigned a nice location where I would be able to shoot some nice unobstructed pictures. Some people complained that I wasn’t inside the public area. Since I had permission of the officials I didn’t pay much attention to them. I was well worth it, very impressive to see and I made some nice shots as well!

After the ceremony we explored the Menin Gate itself. Almost the entire complex is made up of wall filled with names of soldiers who died in the war. Also a lot of flowers and other small things were laying around, left by family of a soldier. A lot of the tourists in the town are from Britain, as a lot of British soldiers came here to fight in the war. Now their family visits Ypres to remember and honor them.
After shooting some pictures of the gate and its surroundings we returned to the main square to have some desert. My father had a coffee and I decided to order a milkshake. I was faced again with the difference between The Netherlands and Belgium, a milkshake in Belgium is made up of just some shaken milk that isn’t really cold. I prefer the really cold ones from back home (and if possible with some rum in it).

After finishing desert we returned to the hotel. Since I brought my laptop (to review the photos) I discovered that the hotel had wireless internet. I received the WEP key without problem (I could have used it without asking, tools enough on my laptop, but since it’s staying in the room it would be best to ask them).
After browsing the net for a while, checking the weather and reviewed the pictures, watching an episode of Entourage (while my father watched something else on TV) it was time to hit the sack!

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