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Day 2 - Dunkerque to Oostende - 55km

The sound of cars driving through water puddles and the pitter patter of rain beating against your window is a lovely sound if you're all rugged up in bed with nowhere to go. It is not however so great if you have to cycle 60 kilometres to a committed accommodation booking.

We delayed our departure so long that they were clearing and readying the buffet for lunch by the time we took our leave.

Kathryn's resolve - ''these km are not going to cycle themselves '' - was impressive.

The first hour of cycling was in a torrential downpour. At least it was relatively warm. We were determined to see the Allied Forces Memorial at Dunkirk beach and rode there via the city's sculpture park. Looking out across the wide open expanses of the beach it wasn't hard to envisage the scene as over 300,000 Allied soldiers were being evacuated. The only people out and about were two mad cyclists on their way to Oostende and a few locals determined to walk their dogs come what may.

Once at the beach we took our direction along a wide open boulevard that had the flat open beach to the left and a series of poorly thought out seaside apartment blocks built anywhere between 1965 and 2015. The architecture was thus mixed.

We left the coastline after about 10 km and with the rain still beating down made our war across open farm fields towards the small town of Veurne. In doing so we crossed over the 'border' from France into Belgium. Shortly thereafter we came across a main road adorned with quite a few shops specialising in selling tobacco products. Clearly the tax on smoking in Belgium must be significantly lower than that in France and many of the French clearly come across the border to buy their cigarettes.

Lunch in Veurne was lovely and taken in the shadow of the main church in town which was the well named St Niklas. Post lunch we headed back towards the coast mostly alongside canals and passed through Nieuwport before hitting the coast line at Middlekerk. Here the route was once again along a well paved / tiled boulevard and with the weather clearing there were more people about. Off in the distance we could just make out the towers of Oostende and for the next 10-15 km we remained on the promenade which made for not very exciting cycling. It was however flat, it was dry, and what wind there was, was blowing over our shoulders.

Entering the outer limits of Oostende we encountered one of the longest and most impressive public buildings adorned with hundreds of colonnades. To this day it remains a bit of a mystery as to what the building's original purpose was. Suffice to say most of it is now boarded up.

Oostende is known for its long beach and promenade. Docked in the marina, the Mercator is a 3-masted 1930s ship that now acts as a floating museum. The Mu.ZEE displays Belgian art from the 1830s onward. The neo-Gothic–style Church of St. Peter and St. Paul has soaring spires and distinctive stained-glass windows. Near the harbour, Fort Napoleon is a 5-sided fortification built in 1811. (Source:Google)

Our accommodation for the night was Hotel Ter Streep. It made the previous nights accommodation at the Best Western look positively 5-star. This hotel hadn't seemingly seen a lick of paint since its construction the 1970's. Our room has now got a place in my top 3 smallest ever hotel rooms I have stayed in. There wasn't enough room between bed and wall to do any stretching and the bathroom was a piece of genius design work given it measured 1.5 m x 2.5 m and. included a sink, shower and toilet. It did however have a comfortable bed and water pressure was good.

We scurried off to have a look around the town and had drinks below the shadow of St. Peter in what was now a lovely evening with the sun setting gently behind the square. Being in Belgium, home to so many different beers, I had my first taste of one. At 8% alcohol volume its effect was immediate. Dinner too was lovely and our waitress who was solidly Belgian and called Vikki , told us that her father had a thing about English television series and for some reason had called her Vikki, her brother Terry and her other sister Shirley. All very non-Belgian names.

The old town of Oostende is quite picturesque and I think would warrant a longer look around but for the fact that we had to head off to Gent the following day.

Even in teeming rain the sculpture park of Oostende had its merits

The Allied forces war memorial was a somber reminder of all who had passed through this way over 80 years ago.

No lack of colourful and I imagine overpirced beach huts now adorn the beaches where once thousands of soldiers fled the clutches of the advancing armies of the 3rd Reich

The first 5-10 km along the sea front were uninspiring with the architecture a melting pot of contrasting styles.

Local war graves for French soldiers who lost their lives in the area during WWII . Like all war graves I have come across in my life it was immaculately kept.

A fuzzy picture of our entrance to the 3rd country of our trip insdie the first 2 days. Yes, it was still raining.

At least the pathway in Belgium took us off small country roads and onto a dedicated walk / cycle way that once was a railway track.

Lunch of champions taken in Veurne where we ate in the shadow of a wonderfully named church. Nothing replenishes the sugar levels quicker than a glass of Coke.

The aforementioned wonderfully named church of St Niklas. Its bells chimed every 1/4 of an hour for 1 min. Cute if you are only visiting for a short period. If you lived in the square I think you might think otherwise.

We were starting to encounter more canals after lunch. Not all working canals either and some water toys were evident.

King Leopold Military history monument in Nieuwport.

Not sure what the sign means but it made me chuckle.

This hotel sign as we hit the beach again also made me smile.

Beachside sculptures

The start of the final 10-15 km of the days ride from Middlekerk to Oostende. At least it was starting to dry out. Again the architecture was a mismatch of contrasting styles and tastes.

Had to stop and take this photo for obvious reason. No lack of other apartment complexes with names such as ''Malibu'' ''Hawaii'' ''Sunset Boulevard Apartments"" ''Miami Way'' etc etc

To be fair though the local casino at least was innovative and modern and half appealing in its design.

The impressive colonnade laden building on approach into Oostende.

A few of these and you won't remember much. The waiter told me their beers on the menu went as high was 14%.

Oostende has an impressive maritime history and our walk around town pre-dinner was a delightful one that took in some of the sights under a warming sun with the wet memories of the days ride now a distant one.

Local church scene was impressive too.



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