One day my wife, Greta, and I were visited by friends in their Volkswagen campervan. They enthusiastically invited us to look around inside, and offered us the use of it so we could try it out.
The winter eventually arrived, and we were now the temporary owners of a cute home on four wheels! The destination for our forthcoming trip had to be somewhere abroad; after all, we didn’t want to freeze, did we? If only we’d known.
The many attractions of Bruges in Belgium looked good, we thought: it’s not too far away, I love beer and we both love chocolate! Hey, there are even chocolate factory tours to try out. We read the guide books, bought some Euros and booked our ferry. We stocked up with Earl Grey and Marmite (you can’t get those abroad, it seems) and went off into the unknown.
In less time than it takes to say ‘Hergé's Adventures of Tintin’ we were on Belgian soil and at our site, Camping Memling, just outside the city. It was freezing. After wrapping up as warmly as we could, we ventured in to see the sights.
It was great, and the magic of that first time lingers on. An ice rink in the central square catered for would-be Torvill and Deans, and when our circulations needed restarting we stood around open-air braziers eating roasted chestnuts. If we were still cold, there was always Glüwein (mulled wine); all we had to do was follow our noses. “This is the life,” we thought; but there were surprises in store.
Back at the campsite, we were dismayed when we discovered that our gas hob wouldn’t work. No one had told me that butane doesn’t produce gas below 0˚, and of course the outside temperatures were well below that. Fortunately, the electric heater worked well and it didn't take long to warm up such a little campervan. It was the beginning of a long learning curve! As cooking was out of the question, we decided to eat out. You can’t live on hot chestnuts and moules-frites, but how about beer and chocolate? Possibly, and there are limitless opportunities to do just that in the city.
As a destination for a first try at touring in a campervan, beautiful Bruges has everything going for it. There are photo opportunities galore in the medieval city centre, and it’s easy to explore on foot, or by using the canal boat trips.
Before leaving, I poured warm water over the VW campervan's hook-up cable, which had frozen into the ground, and picked up the grey-water container, which was a solid block of ice. We left the levelling ramps where they were: we’d have needed dynamite to shift them. But we were well and truly bitten by the motorcaravanning bug, for which – as we all know – there is no cure!