I love the seaside but in the 12 years living here I’d only been to the Belgian coast on a couple of day trips. I didn’t know what I’d been missing until we went for a week – in February.
I spent childhood family holidays at various seaside resoorts around England and Wales but since then I’ve always flown south for beach holidays. Why? First of all to visit new places like Greece and Turkey and wander around ancient monuments, and then when small children arrived, for a holiday we could enjoy with them.
I’d been to the Belgian coast (did you know Belgium had a coastline?) on a few daytrips. Trains from Brussels to Ostende take about an hour and a quarter and there are direct services to various coastal resorts. In fact, Belgium’s first king, Leopold I, built one of Europe’s first passenger railway lines to connect Brussels to the coast. When you wake up to a sunny summer’s day, you can be on the beach by mid-morning .
There a grown-up resorts like Knokke-Heist with it’s nightlife, and there are a number of family friendly resorts like Blankenberge and Ostende with pedal car rental, candy floss, amusement arcades, and chip-shops. Despite the curtain of apartment blocks marking the esplanade, these feel very like the British seaside towns I spent holidays in. On a sunny day there is plenty to do and a relaxed and easy feel to the place. But on a wet and windy day I expect they’d be desolate. So I’d never been there out of season.
However, with half term rapidly approaching, and agitation for a much needed family hoilday, we were looking for options. Having ruled out the Maldives on cost and time grounds (carbon emissi, and Amsterdam on the basis that the kids would soon tire of the things we wanted to do, we were left with “the coast”.
So we booked a cute little fisherman’s cottage (which turned out to be one of thousends in holiday camps all over the place), packed light, jumped in the car, with the dog in the back, and in an hour and a half we arrived in Middelkerke.
It was February… It was the North Sea… It was… really good fun.
We walked the endless beach and threw sticks for the dog. The kids hired pedal-cars and raced up and down the sea-front. We took the coastal tram line as far north as we could go, and as far south. We bought walking maps from the tourist office, and even did one of the walks.
We had a good time. No, Really!