Karin Gesquière, from mom runs the city, recounts:
A weekend away in Koksijde - Oostduinkerke
When Westtoer asked me if I felt like spending a weekend in De Panne with my family, I was surprised as I had no images at all of Belgium’s westernmost seaside town. Apart from a sweet little bee, the renowned pots of Meli honey and maybe a gnome, no other associations occurred to me. Odd, for a coastal town that was not even 40 km from my door! I took on the challenge along with hubby and son to go and explore what makes De Panne so unique.
The weather gods were less favourable to us. The temperature stood at 0° and an icy north-eastern wind accompanied us the whole weekend. Completely bundled up and full of pep, we were ready to welcome King Winter.
As brave walkers heading for De Panne.
As coastal residents, our family is well able to cope with poor meteorological conditions. So there was no way we were going to pass up a weekend in Koksijde in spite of the heavy showers that had been forecast.
OK, we had been looking forward to climbing De Hoge Blekker, Belgium’s highest coastal dune, and to a stunning walk through nature reserve De Doornpanne, and we did have to come up with another plan. A plan B with history and culture a child would enjoy, culinary discoveries, shopping and indoor sportive fun.
Our 8 favourites in a row:
Art: the Delvaux museum
Paul Delvaux is one of my favourite artists. I tend to plan our outings, so this particular stop was a deliberate one. I didn’t think my boys were into art much and would probably find it fairly boring, but, as it turned out, it wasn’t too high-brow for them and they actually enjoyed it. Mind you, I suspect that the painter’s love for trains, railway tracks, skeletons and graceful, scantily clad Lolita-like ladies may have had something to do with it. For the record, the museum houses the largest collection of works under one roof in an idyllic setting of old fishermen’s dwellings, modernistic villas and picturesque cottages.
A healthy lunch at Kantine
Only a few steps away from the Koksijde Casino and the Promenade, this is the place to call into for coffee, sweet delights and a hearty lunch! The separate menu for children is actually a colouring book and, more importantly, also the kids’ dishes are home-made and freshly cooked on the day. My son chose the crispy chicken pieces with home-made apple sauce. I fell for the suggestion of smeus (a delectable combination of buttermilk mash, poached egg and North Sea shrimp) with hand-peeled shrimp. The gluten-free variant of toast with avocado pear and smoked salmon for hubby didn’t prove to be a problem either. A contemporary spot with nice people and one we were happy to fritter some time away in. The fact that it forms part of the well-known Kabine concept store made it twice as nice. While father and son couldn’t wait to go gaming in the shop, I found it next to impossible to resist the adorable baby things after lunch.
The Flemish fishing industry is centuries old and in this National Fisheries Museum you can immerse yourself into life at sea, past and present. You are taken back to the time of the Iceland trawlers, can peep into an authentic fisherman’s cottage, admire model ships close-up, learn all about the local traditional fishermen on horseback and plenty more. Via a photo hunt, children will easily find their way around this fascinating environment. As a bonus, you get to meet a number of North Sea residents in the aquarium and watch baby dogfish being born in the maternity ward. Also the stunning portraits of the seamen by Stephan Fleteren are a credit to the museum.
Shopping and feasting for big and small
Lordie, Lordie, wallet trouble on the horizon. And no more so than on Leopold II Laan in Oostduinkerke! At De Karavaan you can shop for Scandinavian fashion, original knick-knacks and must-have accessories. I bought myself a stunning pair of blue corduroy dungarees, and, given half a chance, I’d go to bed in them. They’re that comfortable. Buurwinkel Boekentuur helps young readers find the right book and has a wonderful selection of educational, original and wooden toys. One shop I will definitely visit again is ‘newbie’ Gallery Lottie. Ideal if you’re looking for a stunning piece to add to your wardrobe: from cocktail dresses to casual wear, ear candy to handbags. Last but not least, at De Zandvoetjes you can buy the nicest children’s shoes and they now also stock comfortable and trendy footwear for mums and dads.
A bite to eat to round off the day? De Spelleplekke has a beachy interior and the tables come with a view of the dunes. A jovial atmosphere and good food: I had a delectable brill with hand-cut French fries.
Sleeping like a baby at Casino Hotel
We got to spend the night here and were ecstatic when we were shown our spacious, modern room. As Timon had his own quarters with TV and bathroom, mum and dad also got some time to themselves. Stretched out in the bath and watching TV, little legs up into the air, what a way to recover from a successful first day! After a great night’s sleep, a sumptuous breakfast awaited. Various granolas, freshly squeezed juice, an extensive fruit buffet on top of the traditional offer meant that we were set up for our second day. The hotel has its own wellness centre but, on request, you can also avail of De Hoge Blekker, the municipal recreational pool, free of charge, which is what we did on Sunday morning.
Swimming in Recreatiebad De Hoge Blekker
The perfect stop on days where the weather leaves a lot to be desired! For a Sunday morning it was really busy but the swimming pool has everything young kids dream of. A wild-water river, a slide, a play pool for the tiny tots and a diving board for the tough guys.
Oh Restaurant: Sampling the local gastronomy
Timon is finally of an age where we can take him to a more up-scale restaurant. OH Restaurant in Sint-Idesbald is a gastronomic bar with an exceptionally artistic interior. Chef Ivan Puystiens fills the space with temporary exhibitions featuring local artists. The sculptures by Ostend artist Lut Brackx complement this minimalistic setting to perfection. As an Epicurean West ambassador, Chef Ivan works with local growers and creates the most delectable dishes with these home-grown produce.
For Timon, he cooked a piece of Dierendonck-raised Belgian Red beef with hand-cut French fries. We opted for the lunch menu. Hubby’s gluten and lactose intolerance didn’t pose the slightest problem, not even when it came to dessert! A surprising place where we felt at home with Timon and gained an especially delicious experience! Thank you Chef Ivan!
On discovery tour through history at the Abbey Museum
It’s almost one thousand years ago since the mighty Ten Duinen abbey was founded in the Koksijde-Oostduinkerke dune landscape. The remaining ruins in the nature reserve most certainly catch the imagination. The nearby museum teaches you about the former monks and about life in the Middle Ages. Add some extra dynamic to your visit and don a pair of Google cardboard goggles or take things a step further and sign up for the Virtual Reality experience.
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