Wednesday, October 05, 2005


On day three, the ship stopped in Zeebrugge, Belgium, the only port in Belgium (located on the North Sea). The ship docked at a pier in a remote industrial area, and the nearest town was Blankenberge, a seaside resort town of 17,000. The ship offered excursion tours to Brussels and Brugge, but I had already been to those places, and although I loved them -- especially Brugge -- I didn't really feel like going back at this time. In addition, I was still jetlagged, and the day was cloudy and threatening rain. So I chose to go into the little seaside town of Blankenberge, and that turned out to be an excellent choice. I spent four hours or so just wandering around, stopping to eat lunch at a wonderful little restaurant that had a covered area on the sidewalk. As I was eating lunch, suddenly there was a downpour. I stayed at the restaurant until the rain stopped, and then walked around a little more before returning to the ship. I am attaching the only photo I took of the little town (because of the rain), which was very charming. After Amsterdam, Blankenberge was a huge change. Everything was perfectly clean and neat, perfectly orderly. It was "picture perfect". As this is the only seaside access for the people in Belgium, high rise condominiums lined the coast for miles. I very much enjoyed my day in Blankenberge, and I was very happy that I decided to go there rather than make the two hour trip into Brussels, or go back to Brugge. However, I must tell you, Brugge is a FAR prettier and FAR more interesting place than Blankenberge. Brugge is WONDERFUL. The biggest event in Blankenberge each year is the annual International Sandsculpture Festival, at which huge sandcastles are built. Last year, 64 international sand sculptors participated in the festival; they carved 24,000 tons of sand in 3 weeks. The highest sculpture was 19.5 meters high and was the new European record for height. The Festival was open to the public July 11 to August 31, and last year over 320,000 visitors attended the festival.

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