Saturday 16 December... Early AM!! About to embark on what was originally titled the Christmas Market tour, but pretty quickly became known as the Glühwein tour!
Arrive at the docks in Dover, and look how flat that sea is!!
Ready to board...
We're on! Of course the sea inside the harbour was flat, it's pretty much always flat as there's a big wall around it, however outside the harbour the sea was, well, it was just as flat! Infact I don't think that I've ever seen it so flat, which works well for me because I don't like boats at the best of times! Before too long we were getting off the ferry in Calais, ready to head for our first stop on the
Christmas market Glühwein tour, Brussels!
Yes Brussels! Don't ask, I'm really only in charge of logistics, I have nothing to do with destinations at all! We arrived at our hotel for the evening without drama, and before long we were heading into Brussels to find some sprouts! No, not really, but we were heading in to get something to eat! Mrs Clint had decided that it was my turn to buy dinner! We wandered into Brussels along the Rue des Bouchers and were immediately set upon by every restaurant owner trying to badger us into their premises! I wasn't really into any of this to be fair, I had somewhere cheaper in mind, however we fought our way through until our route was blocked by the manager of Restaurant Le Moulin, who pretty much blocked our path! I told him that we were just looking, and might be back! But he was very persistant! We did however get away! But as the kids were hungry, and so was Mrs Clint I found to my dismay that we were heading back there!
Once outside, and back in the grip of the restaurant manger we were promised a free glass of wine for us, and the children would eat for free!! Ok, I thought, perhaps I was wrong! We were quickly usherd inside and seated by a lovely roaring fire (It was a gas fire, but it was roaring, and lovely and warm!) The wine arrived, and the menus. The menus had no words, just photos. This, we were told was to make it easy for us tourists to understand! I noticed that also, the menus had no prices!! This should of been our que to leave, but as we were already enjoying(?) our wine, I stayed... Stupid, stupid, STUPID! We orderd, Paella... For four! And it arrived, and to be honest it wasn't too bad, definately edible, if a bit average! We finished up and I asked for the bill, that arrived... 163€!!! Yep, you read that right 163€ for Paella, and don't forget, the kids were eating free!! I knew this was a scam as soon as I saw the menu had no prices, but stupidly and against my better judgement I carried on regardless... Hunger does strange things to a person! I was spitting feathers (not litterally, there were no feathers in our Paella!) Mrs Clint was not happy either, but reminded me how I had agreed to pay for dinner! Grumpily I extracted my Barclaycard from the safety of my wallet and handed it to the waiter! who promptly handed it back to me, and told me NO, only cash!! I said sorry old boy, but I don't carry cash for fear of being robbed (which we were about to be!!) I said that it's the card, or nothing!! But with that Mrs Clint, to my dismay whipped out 170€ in cash and proceeded to pay him!! What?.. I mean, as the kids today say, What The actual F... are you doing woman was my initial thought! But I waited until we were outside before I repremanded her! She couldn't see a problem with what she did, but said she was pretty angry about the bill, and I would need to pay for several dinners now whilst we were away!! I told her that I was pretty angry about the bill also, and thats why I was paying with my card, other people were paying with their cards, so why couldn't we? Anyway, to sum up our experience of Restaurant Le Moulin on Rue des Bouchers (Beenhouwersstraat) just off the Grand Place in Brussels, beware, its a rip off joint, the food is average and there are too many other touristy restaurants in that area to even think of dealing with these guys. Don't stop. Don't even talk to them. Just keep on walking. Any place on this tourist trap street of restaurants would be better. Ahh, the joys of dining out in a foreign land!
So away from being ripped off at the first resturaunt of our trip I am guessing that you probably don't want to hear too much about the Christmas markets, and probably want to hear something a little more car orientated? Therefore once back at our hotel and still seething from the cost of the meal, and mild indigestion I decided to head out for a bit of a walk about, and that was when I stumbled on this little place!
It was closed, obviously, but I thought I'd get a closer look...
All manner of coolness littered the showroom floor, and I stood outside glued to the window like one of those Garfield stick on window toys that used to be a popular sight on cars during the late nineties! I would be back in the morning for a closer inspection of all the cars and bikes that dissappeared in the darkness at the back of the showroom... The following morning I arrived back at the showroom brimming with anticipation with what I was about to find only to find that it was CLOSED!!
Well, that cheered me up... NOT, and I was hungry so I headed to the local supermarket to pick up some sort of sustinence! Pretty soon I had done my shopping and upon heading out of the supermarket I was greeted by this coin-operated amusement ride for small children in the doorway...
Not just any coin-operated amusement ride for small children, but a Knight Rider coin-operated amusement ride for small children no less!! I find it strange that thirty years after the original TV series ended back in 1986, that it is still very popular in mainland Europe...
I know... I know... Don't hassle the Hoff! EPIC!! To be fair this kinda made my day! Well, that was until we got into Brussels when this took over making my day...
Yep, the best part of fifty Father Christmas' thundering through Brussels on their motorcycles! I have often wondered how Father Christmas gets around to everyone on Christmas eve, and suddenly it was obvious, there isn't just one, there is a team of Father Christmas', probably all with their own district to deliver to! I'm not sure what this was all about, but they didn't hang around for long...
I'm guessing they all had sleighs to pack and raindeer to feed before the big night!
It has to be said that after the taking that Restaurant Le Moulin did, Brussels just kept giving! As the day drew to a close, and as we wanderd back to our hotel we witnessed a UFO landing!! No really... LOOK!
Ok, it's fair to say that by now I had indulged in a fair share of Mulled Wine! But frankly this (presumably) water tower looked epic to me. Next stop, the hotel for a good nights sleep, and then... Germany!! (For us, not the aliens in the docking UFO!)
Arriving in Köln it was really becoming obvious that calling our little holiday "The Christmas Market Tour" was not really what the tour should be called...
So we re-named it "The Glühwein Tour"! Now I'm not much of a drinker, and infact up until we went on our little holiday you could count the units of alcohol I have consumed this year on one hand! But frankly, mulled wine replaced practically every drink I had while we were on holiday and I wasn't doing any driving! I was rapidly becoming the Keith Floydd of our holiday!
Still, it's Christmas, so why not!! While we walked around the Christmas market in Köln I still managed to get some photos of the cars that I saw, amoungst which were quite a few mk1 Renault Twingos! I'm not going to bore you with dozens of images of them but here's one for good measure! I've got to say that I owned one of these quirky little cars once and it was brilliant fun to drive, and actually I still kinda miss it. There may well be room for one again at some point in the future!
Piaggio Ape, I keep threatening Mrs Clint with one of these for her little commute to work in the mornings!
Jaguar XJS... I want one!! Lastly, several Mustangs parked in a row!
I have a feeling these would be a really low budget/low quality shoe, but I'd still quite like a pair, and I think that every time I see some, but I've not bought any... YET!!
All this walking around had givin me an appetite, so we started looking for food...
We didn't go for these, yes they may have been succulent, we may have been really hungry, but I'm pretty sure it's not for me! Instead...
Currywurst!! Was it good? No... It was the wurst!! Ha Ha... Actually it was pretty good, and the only time I managed to get my hands on some the whole trip! Ofcourse I was still buying dinner, as mine had all been a heck of a lot cheaper than Mrs Clints!! I wish we could get currywurst at home, the last time I managed it I had to travel 60 odd miles to London just to go to Herman Ze Germans! To be fair, they do the best currywurst outside of Im-Biss! A couple of days later it was time to move on again, and we were headed back to Belgium, to Gent for, yep, you've guessed it the Christmas Market... I was starting to feel all Christmas Marketed out by now, but the thought of more Mulled wine drove me on! Upon loading the Chev-suzu Mrs Clint enquired about the web that had appeared in the back of it!
I told her that it was incase we bought anything, then we could get some card and make a shelf to seperate our luggage which we would be taking into the hotel, from stuff that could stay in the back of the truck! She seemed happy, and we headed off! Once out on the open road for 15 minutes Mrs Clint did what she always does when we are driving anywhere far... Nod off! This irritates me as I think that if she rides up front, shes the navigator, and needs to be on the lookout for stuff as much I do... But it falls on deaf ears, leaving the true navigator of the family (The youngest Monster) to navigate from the back seat, which she does quite well, and misses nothing! So Mrs Clint's now sound asleep, and snoring loudly, I turn up the volume on my Johnny Mathis Christmas CD, and hand the SatNav to the youngest Monster, and tell her to type in this new address that was on the peice of paper I was handing her! She hands it back, and our destination is changed from Ghent in Belgium, to Renswoude in Holland! She asks me why we are going there instead? So I tell her that we just need to pick something up! She's happy with this, and goes back to watching the road go by! A couple of hours later and we are pulling up outside Autobedrijf Romijn...
So, the guys at the Romijn car dealership specialise in old Opels, in particular it would seem the Commodore, which sadly we didn't get in England. However what they seem to do is buy them, restore them to a high standard, then sell them. Here's a few pictures of what I saw there.
Damn, why didn't we get the Commodore coupe in the UK? Such a pretty car! But nevermind, that wasn't what we were there for! I was here for something I had always planned to fit to my Carlton from way back when I first saw one, a bonnet from a Diesel Opel Rekord 'E'! The chaps at Romijn were extremely helpful and before long they were loading my new bonnet into the bed of the Chev-suzu!
Just as Mrs Clint stirred and woke up! Where are we, she enquired, this doens't look like Ghent? I said, ah, thats because it't not Ghent, it's Renswoude, in Holland. I had to pick something up? She asked what I was picking up, and I told her it was a brand new, but 30-odd year old bonnet for the Carlton! She was very impressed, especially when she asked me if it was much further! I said it was still about 130 miles! She wanted to know then, why we had only travelled 30 odd miles in over two hours! Hmm... Telling her that it was because I had done a 130 odd mile detour to pick up the bonnet didn't go down very well... I was buying dinner... Again!
Back on the road again I pointed out to a fairly grumpy Mrs Clint that the Dutch had put their roadside fans on to blow away the fog from the road so that we could get a clear run all the way to Ghent! This cheered her right up... Well, no, it didn't, but the girls chuckled!
The miles rolled by and before long she was losing her wallet somewhere in the middle of Ghent... This pleased her even less! Now I was definately buying dinner! Wandering throught yet another Christmas market she was saying that she was a bit thirsty, so as has become tradition by now, or maybe just habit, I wandered off to get some Mulled wine, only to come back with one Mulled wine for me...
And this for her worshipfulness! Oh how we laughed... Well, three of us did! So I handed over my Mulled wine and went to track down another one for myself! Apart from Mrs Clint losing her wallet, Ghent was pretty un-eventful, but I did manage inbetween the Mulled wind drinking to photograph a few cars, so here they are.
The Paparazzi were in town, obviously my reputation proceeds me!
Tina was in town too, I didn't meet her though, Mrs Clint said I wasn't allowed, but she clearly likes her Beetles!
Then there was this thing of beauty, I'm not a BMW fan, but I've always fancied one of these! Before too long it was time to go home!
The Chev-suzu lugged along all the way to Calais, and pretty soon we were coming up on the largest refugee site in Calais...
Where I took this picture right in the middle of where the biggest refugee camp in Calais had stood just a couple of years ago! It had completely been cleared, so I took this photo then headed for the docks! As we had arrived a couple of hours early we decided to pop Carrefour for some shopping, y'know, because we hadn't done enouogh of that! Well, Mrs Clint did some shopping, I wandered around the car park taking photos of Twingos, and other cars!
I quite fancy one of these Dacias... This one was obviously full of pride!
Ooh... Twingo... x2!
I was quite proud of the Chev-suzu myself, at this point having performed faultlessly for the whole trip. I don't know why that should surprise me, to be fair to it, it may well be a bit scruffy, but it drives without fault.
Before long we were back at the dock in Calais waiting to board, and it was windy... Very windy, this, I thought would not be the smooth crossing that the last crossing was!
It wasn't!! It wasn't the roughest crossing I've ever been on, but frankly it was rough enough, and I was glad to get off the other side, back in England land! It was then just a quick 140 odd mile run back to BelongaClint, and off to bed before Father Christmas comes and empties his sacks! A successful mission accomplished!!
Merry Christmas everyone!!