We were sad to see Ieper in our rear vision mirror this morning, such was the fabulous time that we had here. Both the visit to Tyne Cot and the beautiful Last Post ceremony will stay in our memories forever. I’m also pleased to be able to say that we found another great city in Belgium – a city that so many have never heard of.
Leaving Ieper also now means we have almost finished our travels throughout Belgium. For a moment, I poke out my bottom lip and put on a sad face. But, it’s only for a moment, as we spend our next hour or so in the motorhome reliving the last 10 days of some of the most beautiful cities we have ever seen. Throw in all the Belgian beer we’ve drunk, the frites (oh how could we forget those), waffles, other fantastic food and great people and is it any wonder we are big fans!
Such incredible history
But it is perhaps the abundance and variety of war history that has meant that Belgium has left a lasting mark on us. Sure, it’s fun to remember the good times of eating and drinking. But it the seriousness and significance of the battles that took place across this country, a country who always wanted to be neutral, is simply something that can’t be forgotten.
Tournai – the last of our Belgian towns
We stayed in Tournai tonight, the last of our Belgian towns. Tournai is a town that is listed as being one of the most beautiful in Belgium and whilst it has a reasonable square like many of the others, it lacked the beauty and appeal that I have become accustomed to. So for now, Tournai will be the town we spent our last night, but won’t make it to my “List of great cities in Belgium”. But, that’s ok. They can’t all be showstoppers can they?
I think part of the reason for my ho-hum feeling is because as we walked from our motorhome, through the streets, into the main square, there were a few shady characters around.
Time to walk a little faster
As we are walking, I get a sense that someone is following us. As I turned around, ever so slightly, a young man was walking, bent over, peering into all the cars that were parked along the street. He was clearly looking for something. Valuables perhaps?
I’m carrying my MacBook with me as we’ve decided that the afternoon looks like a great opportunity for me to catch up on some writing and my husband suggests it’s good beer drinking weather. Luckily for me I can do both. My MacBook, which is already tucked inside my jacket so as to not overtly advertise its presence is clutched even tighter to my chest. I’m quite sure this young man has no intention of rolling me to steal my laptop, but when something is clearly not right, it is probably best to take precautions.
As we approach the main square the man peeled off to the left and was joined by two even more shady looking people. They hurriedly ushered him into a laneway and hid behind an industrial bin. Suspecting some sort of dodgy deal was about to be transacted, we kept moving quickly. We saw him a few more times throughout the afternoon, on his mobile, and scurrying to and from. Perhaps business was booming?
A smaller central square
The central square still has some amazing buildings, although it doesn’t have the buzz and vibe that we’ve experienced in the other towns.
They also allow parking right in the middle of the square which is unusual, and sometimes a little dangerous.
Tournai is home to a very special church, the Cathedral of Our Lady. It’s an impressive structure, built in the 12th century and showcasing four magnificent towers. Like so many buildings of this age in Europe, it has not survived unscathed through the years. This Cathedral was damaged by a tornado, of all things, in 1999 and has been undergoing repairs and stabilisation ever since.
We holed up at the Le Central bar for the afternoon, taking advantage of their free wifi and great beer.
After a number of hours, we felt like we might be overstaying our welcome, so we switched bars, had a couple of Stellas and watched the world in Tournai go by.
Last night parked up in Belgium
Our motorhome park for the night was just outside the main centre of Tournai, an easy five minutes walk into the square. Here at Esplanade du Conseil de L’Europe there is capacity for 390 vehicles. It’s a general parking area and is free to stay here for the night. As this is just a carpark, there are no services available. If you park right at the back away from the road, the park backs onto a quiet park area.
Thanks so much Belgium. Some countries make it really easy to visit and others don’t. You are definitely one of the best!
Love Belgium as much as I have? Be sure to let me know your favourite places, just in case there are more for me to add to my list.
Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.