In Flanders Fields | The Great War Centenary Tour

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Guest post by Kelly Giblin

When I received the news that I was going to be lucky enough to experience Bruges and Flanders Fields I was elated. We were going to be travelling by Eurostar which was a first for me so I was intrigued to see how easy this would be. I live in the North East and I’m sure most of you will be thinking- ‘that is far too much travelling and flying would be so much easier’. Well, I am about to show you otherwise.

St-Pancras-champagne-bar
St Pancras Station. I’m sure that you will have also spotted the Champagne Bar!

The Journey

On Tuesday evening I travelled on the fantastic East Coast Rail from Newcastle to London Kings Cross which only took 3 hours and there I was in the heart of London. There was no need to change all I had to do was sit back and relax. We are so lucky to have such a reliable and regular service from this part of the country. I stayed overnight in the Imperial Hotel- Russell Square as I would be catching an early Eurostar out from St Pancras the following morning. This hotel is in a great location for exploring London and only a 10 minute walk from Kings Cross Station. The morning had arrived and I was pretty excited to set off on my travels. It took me only 10 minutes to walk to St Pancras where I would be catching my Eurostar from. St Pancras is directly across the road from Kings Cross Station so, for anyone catching an afternoon Eurostar and not needing to stay over in London the night before, the location of both stations could not be any better.

The picture above is St Pancras Station. I’m sure that you will have also spotted the Champagne Bar! My Eurostar departed for Brussels at 1058 and we had only just arrived, it’s 1020. No need to worry though as Eurostar check in is only 30 minutes prior to departure. Yes that’s right, no need to get there 2-3 hours early- Bonus! Checking in was so simple. The standard security checks took place and within 5-10 minutes we were through to the departure lounge. I think we only waited for 5 minutes and then we were informed that we would be able to board. We were lucky to experience ‘standard premier’ class going out to Brussels and it was a treat. For the extra money, the seats were spacious and comfortable, there was an array of magazines to read, we were given breakfast which consisted of pastries and muesli and tea & coffee was served throughout the journey. Within 2 hours 10 minutes I had arrived safe and sound into Brussels. We now had to catch our connection into Bruges. This was very straight forward and the train arrived on time. The trains from Brussels to Bruges run every 30 minutes which is great. The train journey into Bruges was a breeze only 2 stops away which took around 1 hour.

bruges-eurostar-break
Bruges is what only I can describe as charming and picturesque

Bruges

Once in Bruges, the centrally located hotels were between a 10-20 minute walk from the train station. I stayed at the Hotel Navarra which is a 4* 17th century listed building in the heart of Bruges. Located only a 2 minute walk from the famous Market Square and many shops that’s Bruges has to offer, this hotel was perfect for my stay.

Sightseeing in Bruges can be done by foot, horse and carriage or via a City Bus. For those who have never been before I would recommend the City Bus Tour of Bruges. It costs around £14 per adult which can be pre booked with Superbreak. This tour takes you past some of the most beautiful sights that Bruges has to offer. Enjoy the views and listen to the audio through your headset as you learn about the history behind each sight. This tour lasted around 50 minutes and picked up in front of the Belfry.

Food and delights

For all the chocolate lovers out there, Bruges is a chocolate heaven with a huge variety of shops selling the best in Belgian Chocolate. Be sure to treat yourself before you leave, you won’t want to miss out on these naughty delights. Delve into the history of chocolate to find out where it came from and how it all started by booking a trip to the ‘Choco Story’. It cost around £6per adult and not only did we learn how chocolate truffles are made but, we also sampled chocolates as we went around each room (nom nom). There are some things that you just have to try. The ‘Bicky Burger’ is one of them. This is something that they swear by in Bruges. I of course tried it and, well… it was delicious. The meat in the burger was juicy and it came with fried crispy onions and some secret sauce. No matter how many times I asked the gentleman in the takeout, he would not tell me what it was. It was pretty amazing and I
would definitely have one again. You can get these ‘Bicky Burgers’ from many different food places in Bruges all in and around the city centre. It cost me around 7 Euros for my Bicky Burger and fries and it was worth it. Mussels are another must have while visiting Bruges. Prices varied from 15 euros to about 22 euros depending on what you had these with or whether it be on a set menu.

mussells-in-bruges
Mussels are a must try in Bruges!

Top Tip- There is cheaper places to eat if you wander off the square and down some of the cobbled streets.

In Flanders Fields Tour

Day two of the visit was where we had our tour of Flanders Fields. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this or what emotions I would experience especially as it is the centenary (100 years on). We were picked up from our hotel by a mini bus and a guide who would be joining us for the day. On our journey around Flanders the guide took us back in time to 1914 covering stories of events that took place. We visited many sights such as the Tyne Cot Cemetery which is one of the largest Commonwealth War Cemeteries. Here lays just fewer than 13,000 gravestones of those who lost
their lives in the battle for Passchendaele. On the walls of the grounds are names of nearly 35,000 missing soldiers. When I entered the grounds it felt very peaceful but the thought of what had happened here was saddening. I struggle for words to describe the emotions that were felt.

Many other sights were visited such as ‘the trench of death’, Vladslo German Military Cemetery, Buttes New British Cemetery and many more. We stopped for lunch around midday which was included in the tour. After lunch, the journey continued and the landscape of the region still tells its own stories of the war. We ended the tour in Ypres where we visited ‘In Flanders Museum’ which tells the story of The First World War.

Top Tip- Buy an ice cream from Il Gusto D’Italia which is opposite the Museum in Ypres. There were so many flavours to choose from and well worth the euros if you have some cash to spend.

For the final part of the tour, we watched the Last Post which takes places daily at 2000 at Menin Gate. On the walls of Menin Gate are around 55,000 names of missing soldiers.

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The memorable and emotive Flanders Fields Memorial

Beer and Bars

We arrived back into Bruges at around 2120 so we headed out to find some bars. We had to sample some of the Belgian Beer. There are so many bars to choose from all of which were reasonably priced. Please note that Bruges does not have a lively nightlife. There are a few lively bars on an evening but other than that it is for those seeking a relaxing beer while taking in the sights that Bruges has to offer.

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Kelly with her delicious fruit beer!

Home time and recommendations

The following day was the day we were heading home. The journey home back to Newcastle was just as smooth as the journey I had to Bruges a few days before. For those of you interested in experiencing ‘In Flanders Fields- the Great War Centenary’, here at Superbreak we offer fantastic 3 night packages via mini cruise from Hull and alternative packages available via Eurostar. Centrally located hotels I would recommend- 4* NH Bruges for great value for money, 4* Hotel Navarra this is one of our top selling hotels and is perfectly located, 4* Relais & Chateau Hotel
Heritage for experiencing an elegant and classical stay and the 5* Dukes Palace Hotel for extra luxury indulgence- perfect for a special occasion. Truly an amazing experience and I would highly recommend. This has definitely been a trip that I will not forget.

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