Dunkirk & Ypres

On Friday we nipped across to France to go to Dunkirk. I was going to say that we did it as a day trip, but that sounds like it took us much longer than it actually did. The distance from Zedelgem to Dunkirk is about 60kms, and it took us 45 minutes.

Dunkirk/ French: Dunkerque / Dutch: Duinkerke means ‘church in the dunes’ and it is the world’s northernmost French speaking city, with a population of around 100,000. It’s 10kms from the French/Belgian border. We headed straight to the beach for a look and a photo or 2. In summer it would be a seething mass of holiday-makers, but there were just a few well-rugged up people walking and one crazy wetsuit-clad person swimming in the surf. We spent 20 minutes or so there, and he was in the water the whole time. Then we drove to the museum, which is only open from April to September, and on a bit further to East Mole, the long stone and concrete breakwater to the south of the beach where nearly 200,000 troops embarked on ships in late May-early June 1940. More info about Dunkirk here, and the 1940 evacuation here

There is so much war history in the area, and also in Belgium, and it’s a hot destination for war history buffs. We could have spent days or probably even weeks visiting places and museums, but it’s not really our ‘thing’ so we just visited one more place. And that was thanks to a movie we stumbled into by mistake a few years ago. We got free tickets to see The Last Station and went into the wrong cinema and saw Beneath Hill 60 instead. We did eventually watch The Last Station and thought that Beneath Hill 60 was a much better movie. So we drove to Ieper / Ypres, then a few kms out of town to Hill 60, which was originally created when the railway line was built in the mid-19th century. You can read more about it in the Wikipedia link above, and here, but one thing that really amazed me was how little distance there was between the 1915 German front line and the British front line, which both run through the boardwalk on Hill 60. There’s barely 30 metres of ‘no man’s land’ between them!

While we were in Dunkirk, we stopped in at a large French supermarket, can’t remember the name, but it wasn’t a Carrefour. We bought essentials – baguettes, apple tarts and far too much French butter (but really, it’s probably one of those things that one can never have ‘too much’ of), and a couple of other things just because it was my birthday the next day and I was going to cook what I wanted to eat rather than eat out. Cocquilles St Jacques, and raclette cheese. The raclette was sort-of influenced by popular culture. One of the first books I read all by myself after learning to read and getting beyond learn-to-read books was Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. When Heidi goes to live with her grandfather, he put a wheel of cheese by the fire and when it had melted, he put slices of the melty cheese on boiled potatoes or bread or both. Almost 50 years later, I finally got to try it for myself

It started snowing on Friday night, and we woke up to it still snowing and quite a lot of snow still on the ground on Saturday morning. Definitely a memorable birthday, this one, my first snowy birthday. We went to an outdoor market in a square in Brugge. The square is being renovated, so there are piles of cobble stones and dirt, but I’m sure it will be looking good by summer. The market sold mostly clothes and food, and lots of locals were there doing their food shopping. There were at least 6 huge stalls selling rotisserie chickens, roast potatoes and prepared meals. I wanted to buy everything, but settled for a bag of roast potatoes to take home and have with the raclette for lunch. There was a young man selling mini Belgian waffles, so we had a few of them too.

My birthday dinner was probably a bit strange to everyone else, but we were happy … I ate all 4 serves of the frozen Cocquilles St Jacques on the shell that we’d bought in France, Greg ate rhubarb & raspberry crumble and we drank Belgian beers – Belle-Vue Kriek Extra, a fruit beer brewed with cherries. Gorgeous colour, and it tasted good too.

Deserted Dunkirk beaches

The remains of East Mole Dunkirk Harbour

The front line at Hill 60

Memorial to Australian Tunnellers at Hill 60. The bullet holes happened during WW2

The two opposing front lines at Hill 60. Judy is standing on the German front line marker

This entry was posted in belgium, France and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *