- A New Year’s Drive, Part 1: The Belgian Coast
- A New Year’s Drive, Part 2: The French Coast
BELGIUM – What to do on new year’s day? Party until 11 in the morning and sleep for the rest of the day? Visit family and friends? Go for a walk? Or why not go for a 1300 kilometer drive, along as few as possible motorways, and include as many as possible pointless detours? My friend (and WPP co-founder) and I decided to do the latter on January 1 2016, and can definately recomend it!
My trip started in Zeist, the Netherlands, where my friend – who had left Amsterdam 45 minutes earlier – came to pick me up around 5 in the morning.
Towns like Brussels and Ghent were already far behind us by the time the 10 o’clock winter sunrise greeted us on the empty E40 motorway through the polders* of western Belgium, illuminating a landscape that, if it weren’t for the endless wall of appartment buildings lining the seafront in the distance, could have come straight out of a painting by Breughel.
* areas with controlled water levels
1. The entrance to a petrol station near Koksijde
2. The polders of West-Flanders with the seaside resort town of Koksijde in the distance
The Belgian coast has a reputation for being ugly. Its main town, Ostend, is infamous for having been transformed from the elegant ‘queen of seaside resorts’ into a part of the 70 kilometer long wall of appartment buildings – affectionatelly known as ‘the Atlantikwal’ – in post war years. It is also known that this transformation is far from finished.
Nothing can prepare you for how ugly it is though. Despite having visited Kokzijde as a child (and having fond memories of it), my mouth fell open at seeing it again. These pictures don’t do justice to its ugliness, so the WPP team will have to get back there to try again:D A typical Kokzijde streetscape at the end of the main street (which runs parallel to the coast a few blocks behind the seafront)
9. The main street, which was already quite lively at 10:50 on this new year’s morning
10. 1930’s (‘Brasserie’) surrounded by 1950’s
12. One pre-war building (a 1930’s one, second from the right) survives in this row
13. Looking towards the sea
14. 1950’s church on the edge of Kokzijde
16. A 1950’s church
17. Some typical recent developments
We didn’t get round to visiting the seafront, so there’s another reason to revisit Kokzijde in the future.
In contrast to the Belgian coast, the area directly behind it is beautiful, as is our next stop, the small town of Veurne, 6 kilometers in land from Kokzijde. Being in the same region as Ypres, Veurne (FR: Furnes, population: +/- 11,000 ) was badly damaged in WW1. As is the case with many Belgian towns that met the same fate, Veurne was tastefully reconstructed after the war, and nowadays seems to be like it has never been different.