Gent & Pas de Calais

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26 November 2016

I love to travel. I always have, and probably always will. Even three months after we came back from eight months travelling the world, I already felt the need to leave this tiny country again. But then it quieted down for a bit. Until recently. In the past couple of months I have been to France twice, and to London. And in two weeks I will be in India. Oh, and I also got married. All in between following classes for my masters degree. So much for a quiet life. This travelling bug, or at least a small part of it, came from my upbringing. When I was a little girl, we always went camping for a couple of days at the beginning of May, and for a couple of weeks during summer holidays. I loved those periods. At age seven I got my first tent. So I had a small space all to myself where I could read and read for hours and hours. And I thought it was really exciting that people spoke another language. The best part was buying croissants at the local bakery by pointing at them and let them know how many I wanted by showing my fingers. And later I could practice the languages I learned in school. With my family I have been to many countries in Europe. But of all the countries we visited, most often we went to France. So now, when Matthijs and I think about where to go camping, my first thought always goes there. After that, many other places come up, so in the end we actually never go there. Although, our first camping trip together was also in France. But that was in 2011. By now, I have seen many different parts of la douce France. Some even more than once. But I had never been to the coast. So when Matthijs and I had the opportunity to go away for a couple of days, the choice was fairly easy. We found a campsite on google maps, borrowed a car, threw our camping stuff in the trunk, and off we went. It was a four-hour drive, and since we had all day, we decided to have lunch in Gent. While driving through the city centre to find a place to park, we passed the St. Baafs-cathedral. And then it crossed my mind that in that church was one of the most famous paintings of a painter I have admired since the first time I came across his work over ten years ago: The Mystic Lamb by Jan van Eyck and his brother Hubert. A painting which was finished in 1432. After admiring this massive painting for some time, having a more than palatable lunch, found this wonderful bookstore, and walked around town for a while, we continued our drive to the French coast. We stayed in Le Portel, a small town where there is next to nothing. Perfect for a short vacation.

I prefer to travel slowly. To me, this means that I like to be in the place where we’re sleeping for some time during the day, and just go and see a couple of things in the vicinity. So the first day, we walked around town, checked out a large supermarket, and in the afternoon I read a book at our campsite. Matthijs prefers to see as much as possible, so while I was reading, he hiked for a bit. And while the sun was setting, we wandered around Boulogne-sur-Mer. At the square in front of the cathedral in the historical part of this city, there was an art exhibit themed the five senses. After observing all the little details and determining the different types of flowers and vegetables, we walked past the cathedral, through its vegetable garden, and strolled over the old city walls.

The next day we drove along the Site des Deux-Caps, a beautiful piece of nature between two capes: le cap blanc-nez + le cap griz-nez. Loosely translated: the white and the grey nose. On route we passed some lovely villages, had lunch with a view on the United Kingdom, and hiked in three different places. The weather wasn’t the best, but in between showers, we had the best day. So when you’re looking for a nice weekend getaway, I highly recommend this area.

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