Friday, December 12, 2014

The Longest Tram Line in the World: Belgium


This is still the "last trick" of 2014, going backwards in time from our 4-day trip to Belgium at the end of November.  In the last post I showed our stop in Veere, NL, on our way home, December 1.

Today's post is what we did Sunday, November 30, celebrating our 7th year of meeting on the internet, via our Shutterchance photography blog.  Has it really been 7 years?!

One of Astrid's co-workers told her about the tram line the full length of Belgium's coastline.  And since we were staying in Ostend, around midway on the coast, we both got very excited about spending a day on the tram, getting on and off wherever we wished.

The Coastal Tram, as it's called, is 42 miles long with 70 stops, making it the longest in the world.
Since we started in Ostend, we first went south to De Panne, near the French border,
and then back all the way north to Knokke-Heist, near the Dutch border,
then back south to Ostend, making the full trip up-n-down in one day.
(image from Wiki)

And it cost only €5 each for that entire day!

We started at the Marie-Joséplein tram stop in Ostend around 10:15 a.m. that Sunday,
just a 5-minute walk from our hotel, on a very foggy day.

Disclaimer:  some of the following images may be hampered because of the fog or moving tram!

I knew we'd see the North Sea, of course, but had no clue about anything else.
The architecture was just astounding along the entire coast, and still building.
Astrid says the English and the Germans in particular come to vacation here.

I grabbed whatever churches I could get along the way...

...as well as these 5 water towers.
The Dutch aren't the only ones who build these magnificent water structures!

We figured we'd have a hot-chocolate break in De Panne at the southern-most stop,
which we did, right on the coast.  That's a Belgium waffle, yes.  We're not dumb.

Little did we know that at that exact time, the 19th Panne Beach Endurance international bike race
was happening!  Talk about serendipity!  It was our biggest surprise of the day.

So, both before and after lunch, we were spectators of the 1000 plus participants,
at the starting line of their 52 km endurance ride.
A real beach race over one distance, a struggle against nature and against yourself.

Are you ready for the race of your life?  We were all waiting.

Finally, they started coming, gaining speed to climb the ramp...

...over which they would then hit the quagmire of loose sand before riding the beach.

While many sailed through with flying colors, many others didn't.

Once they saw the water, I bet they thought they were home free, almost before they started!

But of course, they still had miles to go!


Here's where I was standing most of the time, seeing mishaps and all.
You can actually see Astrid at the end on the right, crouched down in the crowd (red coat).

 Back in the tram again, heading north to Knokke, we enjoyed the Ostend sights as we passed by.
We had already seen many of them on foot the previous two days (a later post).

It would have been fun to get off at many of the tram stops, of course.
But the purpose of the day was to get off at the "bottom" and the "top" only,
and just look at everything else while passing by.

Speaking of which, we did see all kinds of fun things (besides sand dunes, of course).

You could spend much longer than a day on this tram to see everything.
And yes, that's a windmill (bottom-left) and my one weathervane of the day (upper-right)!

All along the way we had looked to see where we might stop for our anniversary dinner.
At the end of the line in Knokke, we switched trams and started back down the coast.

We had picked the Blankenberge Pier once we passed it going north!

The present Blankenberge Pier was built in 1933, crossing 350 meters into the North Sea.
(The original pier built in 1894 was destroyed by the Germans during WWI.)
The pier is now a leisure complex with several catering businesses, an auditorium and exhibition space.

And that's where we chose to eat our anniversary meal.  How exotic!

Besides choosing the local Blankenberge beer,
we noticed they had spaghetti carbonara on the menu.
Have you ever seen it served with a raw egg like that?
Hands down, it was the best carbonara either one of us had ever eaten.
And the pork dish suited it well (we always share, remember).

By then the daylight was "setting," with the fog ever-present as we left.

What a way to end the day, get back on the tram and go home.
Look at Astrid's sheepish grin.  We had the time of our lives.

It really doesn't get much better than this, Folks.

12 comments:

  1. Beautiful documentation of a very special day! The food looks great, along with all the sites that can only be gobbled up so well by the two of you.

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    1. Thank you, Ruth, and you know us well. We do eat this stuff up!!! :)

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  2. Happy anniversary. I’ll bet some of those after dark shots are gorgeous viewed full screen. I presume you know the Bechers' photos of water towers.

    Ted

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    1. Oh, yes, Ted. Even with all that fog, I was ecstatic about the pics. Thanks. And yes, you were the one who told me about Becher's water towers awhile back. Incredible art from both of them.

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  3. What a great post – I really enjoyed looking at what you saw on your tram trip. How about that bike race! I bet Astrid was beside herself since she is a bicycling race aficionada. The food also made me hungry – spaghetti carbonara is one of my favorites – the egg looked good anyhow. You really changed your life by getting on the Internet – just think, even 15 years ago, you may not have known that you would become a native in Europe – what a destiny.

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    1. Astrid was indeed beside herself, Vagabonde, as was I, watching that bike race. No doubt about it. We feel so blessed on every level, seriously. And you're so right about the interent. Without it, I'm very sure I would not be now living in Europe! What a destiny, indeed.

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  4. I am behind reading posts but I will catch up....I say when in Belgium eat the food....of course the waffles, cocoa and lots of chocolate daily for me.

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    1. I suppose this is the time for us all to be behind, Donna. I'll get caught up, too. But definitely...when in Belgium, eat the food (chocolate is food!) and drink the good beer! :)

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  5. The tram-ride was a great thing, we saw a lot and it was great to do it 'all the way'. I love those unexpected events where we bump into. Those bikers were grand. The fog made it more special.
    The dinner at the pier was a great finale of a wonderful weekend, which ended in Veere the next day. Thank you for being my companion in crime HA... and have these adventures with me. I hope for the next year that I will have problems keeping upw ith you, that means the operation went well.
    IHVJ MLS....Wonderful pictures, wonderful collages and wonderful memories added.

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    1. There could be no better partners in crime than us, MLMA! I just LOVE that we did this tram ride together. What a day of celebration, from beginning to end! Happy anniversary, again. :)

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  6. Wonderful! Now this tram ride is going on the must do one day list! How cool!

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    1. The thing is, Robin, if you're ever back in Belgium, it's not that far away! Definitely a good thing to add to your list. We'd love to do it with you. :)

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