Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Belgium's seaside resorts

I was born in Blackpool England, a seaside town and perhaps for that reason have always been attracted to other seaside resorts.

Belgium has very limited oceanfront (less than 60km) but a lot of Belgians want to have homes by the sea. Earlier, we visited Knokke-Heist, the most fashionable of Belgium's seaside towns, and were very impressed. We subsequently visited some of the other resorts spread from the French border (de Panne) to the Dutch border.

The largest (although by no means the best) seaside resort is Ostende, where the ferry lands from UK. Here one finds wall to wall high-rise buildings along the sea front that have replaced what were probably very attractive older buildings.

I did come across this development, however, which I thought was a creative integration of the old and the new.

While I was disappointed in the look of the waterfront, I was even more disappointed with the seafood that is sold in stalls along the beach. IT’S ARTIFICIAL…that is to say, you find shrimp and crab claws molded from pollack. You can also buy herring and other fresh food, but it’s the image of artificially shaped and coloured shellfish that will remain with me.

Between Ostende and Knokke is Blankenberg, another large resort. It too has a very dense waterfront, although in places between the high-rises, one finds older properties (sort of like missing teeth) that provide a clue of what the place was once like.

Along the waterfront are numerous private beach areas where one can own or rent a 'cabana' and enjoy meals and refreshments. There are also numerous activities including a Velodrome where kids of all ages can race their bikes.

Another feature of Blankenberg is its pier, the only pier along the Belgium seafront. It is not a very attractive structure, and when we walked to the end, I thought how sad that it was not a wonderful old wooden pier. That's when we saw the photograph....the photograph of the wonderful old wooden pier that had caught on fire, leading to the construction of the current structure. What a shame.

Fortunately, we decided that we could resist the fellow inviting us to a party at the end of the pier.

Leaving Blankenberg I stumbled upon a restaurant where a very large lady was eating an even larger platter of real seafood. I have always loved these platters, and while Sally doesn't really enjoy some of the snail-like creatures they contain, we thoroughly enjoyed this assortment of Belgian delights. There was nothing artificial about it at all.

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