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8th April - Brugge

Ryan enjoys a beer
Ryan enjoys a beer

Our last full day of the trip and we travelled the 100k's to Brugge.

Brugge is known for its lace and its beer. So that's Rayls and Ryan happy! Like Amsterdam it is a canal based town.

The historic centre of Bruges has been a world heritage site since 2000.

The Church of Our Lady, whose brick spire reaches 122 metres is very impressive. 336 steps to the top, or so I am told!

Bruges' most famous landmark is its 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillion containing 48 bells which played nearly all day - everything from Beethoven to the Beatles.

We took a canal cruise which was fun. We called our skipper Boof because he was bald and looked a bit like the Australian cricket coach. 

We had lunch in the town square, many restaurants and Ryan got to try some local beers. Rayls finally got to a quilt shop, sadly not that good - dirty and the service was not good. Rayls also hot some lace. We had a good day, our last in Europe.

Home around 5:30pm, a nice light dinner and then some packing before bed.

7th April - Antwerp

Viviane took us into Antwerp today. She is a great tour guide, we learnt a lot about this old city.

My bone on bone left knee struggled and is in need of a rest when I get home. It is probably more in need of replacement but that's another story.

Antwerp has a population of a half million people, it is the most populous city in Belgium. It sits on the river Scheldt, linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary.

The train station dates back to 1905, it has two monumental neo-baroque façades, a large metal and glass dome that is 60 metres high. Magnificent. We walked along the street to the shopping precinct where we all bought clothes. Ryan bought a cool cardigan!

We saw the former home of the artist Rubens, went to the 10th floor of the Museum aan de astronomy which gave us a great view of Antwerp. There was a nice walk along the river and we had a nice lunch, afternoon tea and even real Australian Ice Cream.

Public transport both into Antwerp and back, tough for the driver with such narrow streets - better him than me. 

The weather was nice, sunny and 13. A very pleasant but tiring day.

6th April - Back to Holland!!!

We had the very best day today. My cousin Arjen invited us to meet up with his sister Tooske and his mother Riny. We had seen Arjen and Tooske just 2 weeks ago but hadn't seen Riny since our 1980 trip 35 years ago.

It was just a few minutes more than 2 hours to drive to Castricum, just north of Amsterdam. We spent nearly 5 hours there, the six of us reminiscing and laughing. I had the best time I have had in years. Riny is in her mid 80's but so alert, a wonderful sense of humour, Both Ryan and I were beaten to a joke by Tooske which proves what a weird sense of humour she has!!!!! I am not a social person, surprise surprise! However, I had a wonderful time, so pleased to have such quality time with extended family.
After a chat in the house we went to the nearby beach; Egmond on Sea, the North Sea. Lovely spot, lovely weather - we walked and then sat down to a meal at a beach side restaurant. Very pleasant.
All to soon it was over and we were on the drive back to Belgium. Quite a hold up for a serious traffic accident but we were home by 9:30pm.

5th April - Back to Belgium

We are back in Belgium staying with Viviane, where we started out 3 weeks ago.

Our last day in France, we visited Frommels where the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial is located. Then across the border into Belgium and to Ploegsteert where we visited the Toronto Avenue Cemetery,  At the edge of the wood is Toronto Avenue Cemetery, an exclusively Australian burial ground. Nearby there was a memorial to football and how it linked the two different sides who apparently played some friendlies in between battles. There was a recreation of some trenches with no mans land (mud and barbed wire) in between. Whilst we were there we noticed some German tourists at the opposite trench, no battles though!

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cemeteries and memorials in northern France and Belgium. Amazing! They all seem to be of allied troops in WWI. Made me wonder what happened to the German dead and the WWII dead?
The last 2 of the Memorials on the Australian Remembrance Trail were Tyne Cot Cemetery and the lovely town of Ypres where we watched the remembrance cemetery at Menin Gate which was without doubt the highlight of the remembrance trail.
At Tyne Cot is a Great Cross. Hidden beneath the cross’s stone pedestal are the remains of a German concrete bunker which, an inscription relates, was captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4 October 1917.
In Ypres, Rayls checked out The In Flanders Fields Museum which tells the story of Australia’s association with the town and its defence through new Australian content and displays. We walked the town for a few hours and at 7pm headed to Memin Gate Memorial to the Missing.which is at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin. The buglers of the Last Post Association, local men with different professions connected with the Ypres volunteer fire brigade, have been honouring the dead of the Menin Gate in this nightly ceremony since July 1928. The idea came from Ypres Chief of Police Pierre Vandenbraambussche who had been in Ypres during those early months of the war when many of the inhabitants of Ypres remained in the town despite the German shelling. After witnessing the unveiling of the Gate in 1927 he brought together a group of like–minded friends, eminent citizens of the town, to consider ways in which the British Empire sacrifice at Ypres could be more formally marked by those homes the British soldiers had fought to protect. So was born the nightly ceremony of sounding the Last Post under the Menin Gate. Every night of the year, 8pm, the Last Post is played by these dedicated people. Every night since 1928, other than a period during the Second World War. Wonderful tribute.