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Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Category

So, having figured out the Belgian “Coast” Tram system, the next day I ate my 5 Euro breakfast of chocolate croissant, OJ, coffee, and brie cheese, grabbed my towel, had the front desk watch my luggage, and was off to Bredene!

Or so I thought.

You really do have to pay attention to the digital schedules posted at the tram stops.  My first tram took me all the way to Oostende station…and right back to Marie-Joseplein station again. Then I actually paid attention, caught the tram to Knokke and was on the right trail.  Once you get into Bredene there are signs posted that let you know that the Naturiste beach is coming up.  The stop you want to get off at is Bredene Rebaan. 

You will see a sign right across from the stop letting you know you are in the right place.

Bredene naturist sign

Bredene naturist sign

 Once you cross the way, there is a tunnel you go through that has some lively graffiti (or art?) along the walls:

wall art

wall art

For those of you who like to live vicariously…

Once out of the tunnel, you hike along a short trail toward the beach and see yet more signs:

And more signs:

And in case you missed the first 50…more signs:

One can only assume with the many signs and various translations, the Belgians really don’t want you to get lost…or maybe they just think nudists are dumb.

Since it had been raining all morning and, thankfully, just cleared up in time for my arrival, I was not surprised to find this:

Belgian nude beach

Belgian nude beach

Yes, I had the entire nude beach to myself.  But not for long!  No sooner had I stripped down to my birthday suit, when, not one, but two lifeguard trucks sped in to keep watch over me, lest I drown in the sand.  I also had the boys volleyball tournament in the next beach plot over to keep an eye on me.  All in all I felt very secure. 🙂

Stripping off!

Thankfully the Gods of Naturism blessed me with a few hours of sunshine, so I wouldn’t completely freeze my ass off. 

Bredene nude beach view

  One other person did later come to the beach as well but he never made a formal introduction. After a few hours the clouds decided to make an appearance again.  So I was off.  Fortunately I had a bakery full of mini eclairs, cream puffs, chocolate croissants, and crepes, and a bar with great Belgian beer to tide me over until my train for Paris left later in the day.

End note: Being Belgium’s only naturist beach, the beach I was at is usually so filled to capacity on nice days that they are thinking of expanding it.  I will admit that the nude portion is about the size of a football field. At least someone in the world is headed in the opposite direction of most places that want to lessen the amount of space people have to go nude…I’m looking directly at you America!

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 Correction: I think you may need to replace all references to “Dutch” with “Flemmish”. 

After my very enjoyable 3-day stay in Amsterdam I caught the train to Oostende, via Antwerp.  This was my first train ride and because Amsterdam Centraal Station seems to be one of the few places in all of Europe with decent signage (more on that latter) I had no trouble finding my train.

After getting unsolicited* help in Antwerp I made the train to Oostende in no time.

Oostende Station

Oostende Station

It was most definitely a beach town and, had the weather been nicer during my stay, it would have been that much more obvious.  As it was, the clouds were heavy and the weather a tad nippy.  Things didn’t look good for nude sunbathing.   Instead I walked through town, enjoying the sites on the way to my hotel.

I got there and some sort of construction was going on outside the front door.  It was the Hotel Thevenet.  The proprietor didn’t speak English but assumed I spoke French.  We got by, and heck, the place was only 45 Euros a night so who was I to complain.  I signed up for the 5 Euro breakfast just because.  The next day the guy at the front desk did speak English…and was cute and flirty, but more French than Dutch so, eh.

My Hotel Room

My Hotel Room

My Hotel Room

My Hotel Room

 

The thing about Belgium is that it’s like a mix of French and Dutch. In fact they pull the best from both worlds.  They are not snooty like the French, but they do know how to make a damn fine pastry.  On the other hand, the men are just as “intensely observational” of someone like myself. And the beer is fucking awesome!  Belgium is definitely on my to-re-visit list.

Sites from around Oostende:

A gorgeous day for the beach...NOT!

A gorgeous day for the beach...NOT!

Statue near Oostende beach

Statue near Oostende beach

Leopold Park

Leopold Park

Leopold Park in Oostende. This is the front landscaping telling the date and time. Pretty darn cool.

Leopold Park in Oostende. This is the front landscaping telling the date and time. Pretty darn cool.

 

Leoppold Park

 

Stones in Leopold Park

Stones in Leopold Park

The day started to get better so I decided to figure out how to get to the other side of the bay to Bredene where the nude beach was.  My train the next day to Paris didn’t leave until around 3 so I’d have all morning to be a naturist.  I had looked up the Belgian Coast Tram online, and even mapped out exactly where my stop would be.  So I sat on a wall near the beach and waited….and waited…and waited.  The closest thing to a tram was a train looking contraption that was obviously made for tourists.

So to save you a lot of unnecessary, and embarrassing, grief I’ll point out….the Belgian Coast Tram isn’t literally on the coast.  The photo in Wikipedia is misleading. It does pass through coastal towns though.  Which is how I figured out that that “tram” running all through the center of town is in fact the Belgian Coast Tram. Doh!

Anyhoo, I was at a complete loss as to which ticket to get because all the info packets were in Dutch (?).  Fortunately there is a visitor’s center right smack in the middle of town near the BIG Casino.  The lovely woman I met there did her best with English for me.  Again I’ll save you unnecessary grief.  The line is called De Lijn (you’ll see it on the side).  Get a day pass for 5 Euros (you can get this at the Visitors Center).  If you want to go to Bredene, like I did, make sure you check the times listed on the info board and see when the train going to Knokke is.  Some of them only go as far as Oostende Station.  Then you have to get off and get back on again!

Anyway, once I had that figured out, it was too late to go to Bredene anyway, so I wandered around for a place to eat.  And what luck!  I passed by this bakery with delicious looking chocolate croissants in the window.   I don’t recall the name but wander around the Marie-Joseplein station downtown until you see this red sign.

Worlds Best Bakery

World's Best Bakery

The woman inside is slightly more French than Dutch but not enough to be a complete twat.  And she didn’t bat an eye when I asked if that was indeed chocolate in the croissants (note to readers, chocolate in croissants seems to be very popular in Europe…or at least Amsterdam/Oostende/Paris.  I fully plan on starting a campaign in America to get more chocolate in croissants!), or when I decided to order a crepe as well…oh and 2 of those mini eclairs, and, um, 2 cream puffs too!  I don’t even like the last two but they looked so cute and delicious…and I was not at all disappointed.

And wouldn’t you know it, there was a bar nearby to order a beer to go with them.  I’m labeling the following a typical Oostende diet of Belgian beer and French pastries:

Crepes and Stella Artois

Crepes and Stella Artois

Chocolate croissant and Luffe Blonde

Chocolate croissant and Leffe Blonde

 

More Stella Artois and mini eclairs and cream puffs

More Stella Artois and mini eclairs and cream puffs

Yes, I was just that sort of glutton.  Fortunately, wandering around trying to find my hotel earlier in the day, and figure out the tram system earned it for me.   Needless to say I went to be satisfied and quite ready for my day of nude sunbathing in Bredene the next day.

*Here’s the thing.  When I see someone with an obvious lost and wandering look on their face, I offer to help.  Parisians could give half a shit (see next post), but Belgians/Dutch are much nicer that way.

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