Blogger Bart Melis from Vetexbart recounts
Hi, my name is Bart, a thirty-something from the Antwerp Kempen region. I am the globetrotter, writer and photographer behind ‘Vetexbart.be’, a travel blog I started in 2013. Since then, I have visited more than 50 countries but the love of my life is and will always be the United States. The States are so vast, with something for everyone in every corner, from the largest metropolises in the world to the most intimate spots in the stunning national parks.
Aside from the US, I also have a soft spot for cool destinations nearer to home. Nothing nicer than hopping on a train for a weekend away. In our own country or just across the borders. Treating my epicurean inner to a delectable regional dish, a sportive bike ride or checking out the colourful street art on foot before rounding off the day with a drink or two. That just about sums up my ideal outing!
RECHARGING YOUR BATTERIES IN POPULAR SEASIDE RESORT BLANKENBERGE
Even though I don’t frequent the promenade every chance I get (anymore), it’s fair to say that I know Blankenberge like the back of my hand. My parents used to own an apartment near the marina you see. That’s how I got to ride those funny bikes in all shapes and sizes in the Velodroom during my younger years. Then I would make my way to ice-cream parlour Vincent and wolf down banana splits as if my life depended on it. And at night, I would be the first in the queue for a photograph of Anne De Baetzelier and Willy Sommers who used to introduce starts like Helmut Lotti and Leopold 3 in the golden era of Tien om te Zien (music programme). Anne wasn’t into autographs, too busy I told myself. I never quite got over the trauma of it.
Blankenberge caters for everyone. It’s something you notice the minute you get off the train in the revamped railway station. A retired couple walking hand in hand towards Brasserie Terminus for a cup of filter coffee. A young family (with inflatable flamingo in tow) skipping behind a mother and daughter pushing their poodle in a pram. A gang of smitten teenagers proclaiming their love for Niels Destadsbader at the top of their voices when they spot him on the cover of one of the weeklies. You’ve got it: it seems that Blankenberge is loved by young and old.
Something for everyone!
Because of its variety it makes complete sense of course. You can spend the day sunning yourself on the beach, go for a walk in the dunes, bag yourself a bear at the Luna Park or stroll through the streets with the old belle époque homes. There are dozens of tea rooms if you’re in the mood for pancakes with syrup or a vol-au-vent with croquettes while foodies can wine and dine in the finest fish restaurants.
The Epicurean West
West-Flanders has long been known for its talented chefs who time and again turn the region’s outstanding produce into a feast for the eyes. Belgian Red beef, the much-coveted Westvleteren Trappist beer or the Jules Destrooper biscuits are just some of the things that make my mouth water. And at the mere mention of the North Sea I can’t help thinking of all that wonderful fish. Westtoer selected 125 chefs who work with what the region produces. 100% West Flemish in other words.
We checked out two of them...
De Oesterput is what you might call an institution on the Belgian Coast. More than 100 years after it first opened its doors, this restaurant, situated near the Westerstaketsel (western palisade), is still owned by the same family. In fact, its entire family history is intertwined with the crustaceans from the North Sea.
These days, it’s Chef Piet Devriendt who stands at the helm of the fish restaurant. Aside from the famed oysters and mussels, De Oesterput also turns out plate after plate of fresh shrimp and lobster. Tip: arrive a little before opening time because the restaurant does not take bookings.
Oesterput | $$$ | Wenduinse Steenweg in Blankenberge
Brasserie Oosterstaketsel may be a simple spot but it serves the best fish soup money can buy. The passionate Francis De Vleminck tells us straightaway that he wants to move away from the ubiquitous piece of cod.
His restaurant specialises in the unfamiliar and less popular types of fish like weever, pollock or hake. Against the stunning backdrop of the wooden pier we ate the best fish soup ever, swimming with heavenly pieces of monkfish, mussels, hand-peeled brown shrimp, razor clams, Dublin Bay prawns and half a lobster. Also the taster of deep-fried sole was finger-lickingly good.
Oosterstaketsel | $$$ | on the Oosterstaketsel (wooden pier) in Blankenberge
8 top Blankenberge tips
This little cottage is probably the oldest preserved cottage on the Belgian Coast. The original cottage dates from 1272, its current version from 1775. If you order something to drink here you get to visit the tiny museum on Breydelstraat for free.
Situated between Blankenberge, De Haan and Zuienkerke, you’ll find West-Flanders’ largest nature reserve. Go for a walk in this century-old meadow landscape with its ditches and watering holes for livestock.
De Fonteintjes is another hiking and nature reserve between Blankenberge and Zeebrugge. Its stunning dune landscape is home to numerous bird species.
One iconic building that has made its way onto many a postcard is the unique concrete pier. It was built in 1933 and runs some 350 metres into the North Sea.
5. Lustige Velodroom
While the pier offers you a stunning vista of the coast and sea, cycle track the Lustige Velodroom, one of the oldest attractions on the Belgian Coast and one of a kind, is the place to be for a hilarious cycling experience.
6. Beach bars
7. Belle Epoque
Many people associate Blankenberge with the chic belle époque buildings that continue to give the seaside resort an air of luxury, reflecting the lifestyle of the bourgeoisie of yesteryear. Make sure to take a stroll along the art nouveau facades of the inner city!
This open walkway - near the marina - has managed to withstand the elements for more than 110 years. Its name is derived from the French ‘paravent’, which means windbreak.
This four-star hotel, in the centre of Blankenberge, is situated in a side street of Kerkstraat and within walking distance of both the railway station and the sea. The rooms in this modern building are equipped with all the mod cons you could wish for. The sumptuous breakfast with inter alia champagne, eggs and fresh fruit will set you up for the day.
Bed and breakfast from 110 euro| Langestraat 36 in Blankenberge
Blankenberge in practical terms
We travelled to Blankenberge by train. There is a direct train service from Bruges, Ghent, Brussels and Genk. The brand-new railway station is located in the city centre.
The coastal tram connects Blankenberge with all the other seaside resorts. During summertime it runs every 10 minutes, during winter every 20 minutes.
If you’re planning on visiting Blankenberge by car, I would suggest taking the E40 in the direction of Ostend. A word of warning, there is next to no free parking in the town.
For further information about Blankenberge, contact the local tourist office.