Friday, 5 October 2018

Sand dunes and salty air

It was on the Friday of our holiday week back in September (can't believe it's already one month ago!) that we were finally greeted by the sun.

Drawing back the curtains, we were met by a sun-drenched landscape as far as the eye could see, even if the hills we were supposed to see in the distance were still obscured by a haze.


Neither a dress nor a pair of trousers were my outfit of choice that day: I'd brought a jumpsuit I'd bought from New Look, and I thought it was about time we went out together!

I used the scarf clip on the bottom right, with its exquisite Millefiori design, for modesty purposes, even though I was wearing a tee shirt underneath. With so many colours to choose from, I picked out blue for my accessories which, apart from the scarf clip, consisted of a belt, beaded necklace and ring.

If you look sharply, you can see I'm being photo-bombed! The tiny figure on top of the ridge where the dark green of the shrubs and the bright green of the field meet is actually the resident goat! Can you spot it?



Not having had our full fix of sea air yet, we decided to make the most of the sunny weather and return to the coast.

So, again we drove down to our nearest seaside resort, De Panne, which also happens to be Belgium's most westerly coastal town, just a stone's throw from the border with France.

Walking towards the seafront, we were welcomed by the statue of Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians. Brushing up my knowledge of Belgium's national history, and educating my non Belgian readers in the process, when Belgium became independent in 1830, its constitution declared that we should have a King. After considering several candidates, the honour fell to Leopold von Saksen-Coburg, who was born in German, but who lived in England at the time.

The new King arrived in Calais by boat on July 17, 1831, from where he was taken to De Panne by coach. The statue was erected in the spot where he first put foot on Belgian soil.




It was quite a blustery day, and as soon as we arrived at the seafront and ventured away from the shelter of the promenade, Jos had to make a run for his hat, which had decided to go its separate way.

Walking along the promenade and then down to the beach, we were leaning into the gale, with the roaring of the waves obliterating every other sound.

Where sky and sea meet, the horizon seemed to be hemmed in a choppy silver line.

No intentional silly pose: I actually had a problem staying upright, and it truly felt as if I was being tossed about by the wind.


The legs of my jumpsuit were flapping about, the thin fabric no match for the tempestuous wind, and putting on my scarf wasn't an easy task, as it kept trying to escape, following the example of Jos's hat.

Walking on the beach, eagerly breathing in the sea's briny aroma, we were mesmerized by the mermaid's call of the waves, overlapping each other in rapid succession, their tips edged by bubbling white foam.



Several years ago, we walked for miles in a nature reserve in the dunes, walking the final stretch along the coastline towards De Panne on the beach.

It had been a glorious Summer's day and we recalled eating our picnic at a viewpoint in the dunes which, in our imagination, wasn't all that far from where we were now.

What if we walked to the viewpoint from here? However, as the tide was high, we had to abandon the beach and walk along the sea wall.



As soon as we'd reached the path leading off the coast, and into shelter of the dunes, the cacophony created by the wind and the waves died away and it was as if we'd entered another world.

Shortly after entering the nature reserve, we started climbing until the aquamarine sea could be glimpsed in the distance. The whitewashed and red-roofed cottages are all that's left of the fisherman's village, where the town's origins lie and where fishing still flourished 100 years ago.

No fisherman could afford to live there now, as the cottages have been turned into exclusive residences.


The 340-hectare Westhoek nature reserve is the only dune area on the Flemish coast where nearly all dune vegetation is represented in one unbroken dune landscape. This is due to two artificial breaks in the dunes (called "slufters") where sea water penetrates into the nature reserve at high tide, making the vegetation and wildlife here of particular interest.

This is a region of rolling sand dunes interspersed with dense thickets of thorny shrubs, where it is possible to wander for hours, feeling miles away from the rest of the world.


The meandering sandy path took us deeper and deeper into the dunes, but we kept going, expecting the viewpoint to appear around the next bend.


We were just about to give up when suddenly there it was. It was hard slog climbing up to the platform erected on top of a dune through the soft and shifting sand, but the panorama which awaited us was definitely worth the effort.


We returned the way we'd come, passing a lonesome and bedraggled cormorant along the way. 

It was getting late and back at the promenade the newly renovated Kursaal beckoned us for lunch.




Sufficiently restored, we explored De Panne's one kilometre-wide sandy beach, which is the widest on the Belgian coastline. 

There's a huge variety of boldly coloured and striped old-fashioned beach huts, which are quite irresistible and a magnet for my camera lens.




Many of these have wheels, looking as if they have just arrived by time machine from a bygone age, when bathing machines, which allowed people to change into swimwear at the water's edge before wading into the sea, were an essential part of sea-side etiquette.


They huddle together in clusters, their colours and names identifying the different rental agencies.

Apart from the quintessential striped ones, I especially loved the blue and white huts named Alice (my late Mum's name), which were decorated with a yellow scallop shell.


We walked all the way along the beach, past a graveyard of empty razor shells and a lonely yellow buoy left landlocked in the rippled sand, to neighbouring resort St. Idesbald.

The wind had lost some of its enthusiasm by then, so that the going was somewhat easier. 

We almost had the beach to ourselves. On this wind-blown day, it was almost devoid of holidaymakers and day-trippers, with only a handful of people like ourselves blowing the cobwebs away. 



Our feet tired after all this walking, we took a breather and then returned to De Panne by tram.

Just one more day, and our holiday would be over ...

Linking my jumpsuit to Nancy's Fancy Friday!


40 comments:

  1. glorious seaside!
    just by seeing your pics i can smell the salty air.....and thanks for the earworm!
    ;-D
    your jumpsuit looks fun&cool and seemed the best choice for that very windy weather - imagine wearing a wide skirt!!!
    hugest of hugs! xxxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, dear! Wide skirt + windy weather = disaster ;-) xxx

      Delete
  2. I adore these reports on your adventures! Fab jumpsuit on you x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love these fun photos in the wind Ann. Lovely and colourful. Have a great weekend xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can imagine that wind! My camera lens would have been attracted by those beach huts too! Looks like a lovely beach. Love your jumpsuit XXX

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Linda. I've lost count of the number of photographs I've taken of these beach huts over the years! xxx

      Delete
  5. what a wunderful seaside! It is great you have the tram along the sea. Few years ago we stayed in Oostende and De Haan. De Haan was amazing, Oostende a littel bit loud and busy. Thanks for these wonderful pictures Ann.
    You look gorgeous in your striped jumpsuit and yes the wind is very strong. I felt it last week, I'm often had my hair in my face and doesn't saw the way :)
    We are back from Antwerp :)
    A very huge hug, Tina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tina! I don't like Ostend much, but De Haan is quite nice, isn't it? xxx

      Delete
  6. The photo of you in that jumpsuit in the wind is fantastic. It has so much energy and you look great.
    I loathe the wind, even so it looks like you had a lovely day out.
    Have a good weekend xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sally! I love that photo too! xxx

      Delete
  7. Lovely to see you in a jumpsuit Ann, even if it was no match for the wind...always a problem at the seaside! Thanks for educating us about King Leopold, ashamed to say I was totally unaware of him, I wonder why he lived over here? Dr Panne looks lovely in the sunshine but I wouldn't mind betting the sea was freezing! Xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fiona! To answer your question about King Leopold, he used to be married to Princess Charlotte of Wales, second in line to the British throne and daughter of the future King George IV. Charlotte died in childbirth after only a year of marriage. I bet you didn't expect that ... xxx

      Delete
  8. That bright blue sky and seaside is the perfect backdrop for your bold striped jumpsuit.

    We did our first hike since my husband came home and I don't look remotely as grand as you do. I'm wearing all sportswear. Not a colourful dress in sight. I'm always impressed when people manage to dress up for hikes.

    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to wear sportswear on hikes too, but now I try to be as colourful and dressed up as possible! xxx

      Delete
  9. Love it! But then again, you never disappoint!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love the seaside pics and the brightly coloured beach huts! I also love your gorgeous jumpsuit, Ann! You look fabulous and your blue accessories look great. Hope you're having a relaxing weekend, Ann! XXX

    ReplyDelete
  11. The wonderful Groove Armada!
    I love how old fashioned the beach resort is, it's like a step back in time - so pristine and colourful.
    Fascinating to read about King Leopold.
    I love that jumpsuit on you, the deckchair stripes make it totally beach appropriate even if the weather wasn't playing nicely. I hate wind more than I do rain, it's impossible to dress for it. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pleased you and Beate got the Groove Armada reference! Well, who else? I didn't think of deckchair stripes, but you are so right! xxx

      Delete
  12. I'm glad you didn't blow away, but you'd have been the best dressed wind-sock if you had ;)
    Love, love, love that jumpsuit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Goody! The best dressed wind-sock: I like that ;-) xxx

      Delete
  13. Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside....

    I loved your jumpsuit and what a clever idea to fix a scarf ring to the neckline. I have this problem a lot and usually use a brooch but a scarf ring is a brilliant idea - now I have an excuse to look in the charity shops for some scarf rings. Thank you!

    I really think nature reserves are such interesting places and to have one on the sand dunes is great. There's a similar one in Donegal called Sheshkin Mor and when you get to the end there is a beautiful beach to greet you.

    Hope your week is going well
    xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So do I, Veronica! I once used it for a post title! I've got quite a few scarf rings I picked up because I liked the look of them. It took me a while to actually find a use for them, though! xxx

      Delete
  14. Wow, that is just gorgeous! I love the ocean, and can only imagine the sheer joy in spinning in the wind as you walk along the sand. I love your striped jumpsuit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sheila, I love the ocean too, only here it's just the sea, as we have no ocean ;-) xxx

      Delete
  15. Such a pretty place, though it's sad there aren't fishermen in the fishermen's houses any more. And what a sea of razor shells!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those fishermen would drop dead if they saw the prices their former houses are going for ... And I'd never seen so many razor shells in one place! xxx

      Delete
  16. Wow this is sso lovely, I adore the ocean and wish to be there right now. Lovely.

    take a look at my BLOG and my INSTAGRAM

    ReplyDelete
  17. At last, here I am come to see your stiped jumpsuit! Yes, it's lovely and similar indeed to my culottes of late. This is a super post, sharing the day out in such detail. I love to be by the sea and therefore seaside anywhere is of interest to me. The beach huts are cute, the Alice one very pretty with that yellow shell too.
    Have a super weekend!
    Anna x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Anna! I love to be by the seaside too, but unfortunately don't live as close to it as you do! xxx

      Delete
  18. Now that's what i call a walk! There is something so enticing about the beach in 'other' weather. Everyone is drawn by the sun but the beach when windy, wet, grey, choppy, snowing can be just as spectacular, just not as warm!
    I love the beach huts! So nice to see so many striking colours.
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Hazel! I actually prefer the beach in "other" weather! xxx

      Delete
  19. so many beautiful pictures, landscapes, dunes, waves and striped huts! everything looks so fresh and delightful. And you look particularly fabulous in your jumpsuit! so cute!
    besos

    ReplyDelete