(YOU’LL GET TO SEE THE PHOTOS JUST AS SOON AS I CAN FIND A RELIABLE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET CONNECTION)
… €110 (well, €118 with taxes) for three nights in this hotel and I do have to say that I’ve not had such a good deal as this in most other places where I’ve stayed.
No breakfast of course at that price but I’ve brought my own, left over from the place in Leuven so that’s no big deal. But the bed was so comfortable for a cheap bed that I was out like a light and stayed out for quite a good while.
That didn’t stop me going on a midnight ramble though. I was in some kind of tower last night – a tower that was some kind of tourist attraction. Right at the top of it I was. But for some reason there was nothing that interested me and I was more interested in seeing how quickly I could descend to the ground. Old women, schoolgirls, families – nothing slowed me down and I was bowling them over like ninepins in my race to the bottom. Outside, I was just leaning on a fence in some kind of depression when I was tapped on the shoulder. Two people – a young man and his girlfriend – from his party were there and they were desperately trying to cheer me up – telling me about all of the machinery that was still in this mill and how there were a couple of big old engines in the cellar that were used to manufacture electricity. But nothing seemed to haul me out of my depression.
Nothing seemed to haul me out of my stinking pit either. After all of the exertions of yesterday I was aching in places that I didn’t even realise that I had, and I thought that my fitbit was really taking the mickey when it told me that “your activity yesterday will really benefit your health”.
After our usual morning performance I had breakfast and then, shame as it is to admit it, I closed my eyes and was away with the fairies for at least half an hour. I definitely did too much yesterday.
But you can’t keep a good man down for long – nor me neither for that matter – and I was out on the streets again on a walk down to the Delhaize supermarket for some shopping and a baguette for lunch.
And we had yet another delightful scene in the Delhaize – of a woman weighing the punnets of strawberries (clearly labelled 500 grammes) to find out which one had the most in it. I thoroughly despair of the human nature that is within some people.
Back here I had a few things to do and then I made my butties for lunch and hit the streets.
But not very far – just outside the hotel where the people who run the bar opposite were unloading stuff from their van.
And you only need to look at the corrugated bonnet to tell you that this is one of the earliest generations of 2CV vans. And that makes it something of a rare beast. you don’t see too many of the cars of this generation about these days (although I do know someone who has one) never mind the vans.
In fact, thinking about it, with the Healey 3000 on Saturday, the Ponton last night and now the 2CV, I’ve seen more interesting vehicles this last three days than I have over the last three months.
My route took me along the promenade again in the general direction of the railway station. And past some very interesting works going on down on the beach with them building a sort-of lego wall to stop the sand drifting over the new causeway that they had built a couple of years ago.
And there was some piling work going on at the end of the older, previous causeway that was the harbour mouth. So it looks as if the work on the modernisation of the harbour is going to be going on and on.
It’s always a bad idea for me to see a ferry. I get in such a bad mood because, of course, every time I see a ferry it makes me cross. And of course there is a free ferry from near the aquarium that goes across the harbour to the commercial side of the docks where there are many of the fortifications still remaining from World War II, and also from World War I when Oostende was an important German submarine base.
We saw these towers yesterday and I had been wondering what they were. And so seeing as I was in the company of Master Bates, Seaman Staines and Roger the Cabin Boy aboard the Good Ship Ven .. err … Roger Raveel, I enquired of one of them what was going on.
It seems that they are the masts of more wind turbines for the offshore wind farm, whose headquarters you may remember we visited last time we were here. And the ships that are dodging in and out of the harbour are supply ships for the construction of the extension to the wind farm.
Being decanted onto the other side of the harbour, I threaded my way through the network of canals and locks that form the entrances to the various little avant-ports and found myself in the derelict shipyard.
The shipyard was built in 1931 apparently but not much ship repairing goes on there these days. But there was still this old fishing boat here, up on chocks and fenced off from the public. It’s looking very much the worse for wear these days and like the yacht from Delaware that we saw yesterday, this one won’t be going anywhere any time soon either.
In our quest for yet another Ship of the Day today I wandered around the headland to see what I would see.
But the first thing that I saw was the barge with the piling machine scuttling off presumably for its lunch break.
And subsequent enquiries revealed that they are still working on the harbour with the intention of providing a safe have for ships of up to 150 metres in length (which will be quite impressive from my point of view) and the work will continue for quite a while.
Not only that, according to the architect’s drawings, there seems to be the intention to put some kind of amenity building over there at the head of the old harbour entrance and that would be a pleasant addition to the amenities offered to tourists by the town.
There was a ship in the distance – one of the supply ships for the wind farm – and so with the aid of the zoom telephoto lens I was able to have a good shot of it.
But I was interrupted by a French couple who enquired about the piece of the bow of HMS Vindictive (whic, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, is stuck on a plinth just here).
Of course it’s the kind of thing that I’ve talked about before … "at great length" – ed … so I was able to tell them everything about it. They may not be any the wiser, but they are certainly better-informed.
There was a biting wind out here and it was quite cold too, but I found a corner of the beach that was well-sheltered and in a sun-bowl so I sat on the sand and ate my butties.
And read my book
And … errr … had a little relax in the sun. And why not? It was the first time this year that I had felt really comfortable outside in the nice weather.
There is quite a bit of work going on along the beach here right now. It seems that the sand has drifted quite considerably during the winter, probably with all of the storms that we have had, and has buried the protective fences.
There are teams of diggers digging out the sand and passing it over to bulldozers which are spreading it out on other parts of the beach.
And judging by the amount of sand that needs shifting, they are going to be here for quite some considerable time.
Halfway along the promenade is a little cafe and this was my destination today. I’d had a really good walk so far and so I reckoned that I had earned a cup of coffee and a little relaxation. And apart from anything else, there is a gentleman’s restroom here.
So yet another sit in the sun with a coffee, the book and a little repose for half an hour while I gathered my strength for the return journey. It’s a long way back to civilisation from here.
I took a slightly different route on my way back. After a mile or so I clambered up over the dunes behind the promenade and was rewarded by yet another candidate for “Ship of the Day”.
Never mind the smaller boat in the foreground – it’s hard to tell at this kind of distance whether the ship in the background on the horizon is a container ship or a cruise liner. But nevertheless it is certainly an impressive sight and I’m glad that I bought the zoom telephoto lens for the new camera.
Now this is what I had been clambering over the dunes to see.
We’ve mentioned the World War II fortifications and also the World War I ditto, but there are fortifications from an earlier date here too and the fact that they are built of brick rather than concrete will tell you that they date from before the mid-19th Century.
In fact, this is the Fort Napoleon, built by the aforementioned as part of his defences to keep out the pesky British from invading the Continent.
Every time that I’ve been to Oostende something has always cropped up to put a stop to any plan that I have had to come here, but not today. And so, in accordance with the usual procedure, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall, it’s closed right now to visitors.
Being obliged to scramble over fences and building roofs is not something that has caused me any great difficulty in the past, but it’s not the kind of thing that you do in Belgium. Belgian police are notoriously unpredictable in their reactions and we have had some … errr … interesting encounters in the past, as regular readers of this rubbish will recall.
Heading back to the ferry I was lucky enough to be standing on top of one of the lock gates when the siren went off to tell me that the gate was about to open.
It’s that time of the day of course when the tide is coming in, up to the level of the water in the smaller docks and harbours and so they are opening the gates to allow traffic to proceed in and out.
And as luck would have it, right at this moment there were two fishing boats, O190 and O191, preparing to leave the harbour and they were queued up at the inner gate (being a tidal harbour there is a double-set of lock gates here, one opening inwards and the other opening outwards).
Fishing is not something that is as common today as it was 50 years ago. In those days there would have been whole fleets of smaller coastal fishing boats in ports like Oostende but with the amount of over-fishing that took place, the fishing fleets have declined as quickly as the amount of fish that they used to catch.
Nowadays it’s mainly huge deep-sea trawlers that work on a more industrial basis.
Back on the western side of the harbour my walk along the promenade took me past yet more redevelopment.
When I first started coming to Oostende 40-odd years ago the whole sea-front area was nothing but nice belle-epoque villas from the lats 19th Century and small, cheap down-market hotels.
But today there’s almost nothing from that period remaining. It’s all been bulldozed away and replaced by modern holiday flats that cost an arm and a leg to buy or to rent. It’s just not the same as it used to be and I personally think that much of the character of the town has gone.
Nevertheless, it’s still one of the places that I enjoy the most for a little break for a couple of days and i’ll keep on coming here for as long as I can find some reasonably-priced accommodation.
It has some nice beaches, good walks, good, cheap rail connections to just about everywhere and not the least of the reasons being that it’s situated on one of the busiest shipping lanes in the World.
Out there on the horizon miles away but we can see quite well thanks to the telephoto lens is a ship that, i reckon, is almost certainly a containership.
And although it’s difficult to tell at this distance, it seems to be “outbound” to the North Atlantic. That looks to me like the blunt end to the right of the photograph.
Back at the hotel I had a little … errr … relax for half an hour or so and then later went out in search of food for tea.
The Syrian restaurant that I like and which does excellent falafelschotels was open, but so was the good Italian restaurant next door. But that was displaying a “closed on Tuesday” notice on the door so it looks like falafel tomorrow then and Italian meal tonight.
The penne al arrabiata here, zonder kaas of course, is wicked and it does have to be said that had there been a fridge in my hotel room I would have put the toilet paper in it ready for tomorrow. But I enjoyed every mouthful of it and I’ll be back here again next time I come to stay in Oostende.
On the way back to the hotel i was swept up in a party of kids streaming out of the Youth Hostel on their way to the beach for some late-evening amusement but I came back here to wash my clothes, to have a shower and take an early night. No internet up here in the rooms so instead I watched a film on the laptop.
And I made it down to the end too, for the first time in quite a while.
So now to settle down for a good night. The next night won’t be anything like as comfortable as this one. The alarm will be going off at 05:30 for a start and that’s enough to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
At least I can sleep on the train on Wednesday morning though.