Le Grand Tour: Day 3 – Vlissingen To Ostend (63km)


This trip is turning out to have more ferries than a cycle up the west coast of Norway. Another two today; at the start from Vlissingen to Breskens and a short one at the end across the harbour in Ostend. I think, however, that may be it for the time being. Sandwiched between the two boats was a 69km cycle along the coast to Ostend and it was somewhat different to what I had expected…

Before I go on… Did you notice the new episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast published late last night? It’s episode 052: Le Grand Tour – Part 1. Check it own by clicking one of links to the podcast page. More podcasts to come in the next few weeks…

In my mind, any stretch on continental coastline that looks out across either the North Sea or the English Channel (that isn’t in the UK) is a littoral paradise dotted with the kind of little Belle Époque towns that you see in Jacques Tati movies. (Tim Sanders: I hope you appreciated the reference.) That’s clearly not the case, as a place like Belgium, with a relatively short coastline, still needs its ports etc… So within that ferry sandwich mentioned above, there are layers of beautiful beach, pristine towns but also ugly ports and their suburbs. Not quite the continuous idyll I was (perhaps stupidly) expecting. 

Let’s not linger on Zeebrugge (I’ve only just realised that means ‘Sea Bruges’…) and it’s rather frustrating cycling signage that has you taking ever twist and turn along the coast, but the beautiful towns and stunning beaches that do make up most of the coast. At times it was almost Mediterranean. The northern suburb of Knokke has some serious money dripping from its thatched mansions and manicured lawns. Even the centre of the town is pretty up market. Blackpool it ain’t. As for the beaches… is that really the North Sea out there? Caribbean sand?

Admittedly, everything today shone under the blue sky but even so… You could do a lot worse than spend a fortnight sunbathing here. Note: it probably looks and feels very different in horizontal rain. All I need to do today was fend off the wind from the north-west. As I was travelling south-west, a sail might have come in very handy. 

Tonight: WarmShowers in the suburbs of Ostend.

Tomorrow: the rest of the Belgium coast, Dunkirk, train to Boulogne-sur-Mer and, err… haven’t worked that out yet. 


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