Then east on the E40 towards Dunkirk, then south on the E42 towards Steenvoorde. On to the minor roads east and north-east. Surrounded by hop fields, you can see what Jacques Brel meant about “Mijn platte land, mijn Vlaanderland” [“My flat country, my Flanders“] in Marieke and “Mijn vlakke land/Le Plat Pays“. Good country for these things, though, and for more conventional pedal-powered vehicles.
On to the lovely little town of Poperinge for a splendid lunch at the outdoor tables of the Hotel Amfora. Hops with several of the dishes, including the eel, and a chance to try the grey shrimps, perhaps caught by mounted shrimp fishermen. An excellent range of beers for lunch, including the very refreshing Poperings Hommel Bier.
A short distance to the north is the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus, home of the Westvleteren Brewery. If you’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to order some of their beer, you turn up at the appointed time and get your two crates, while looking disapprovingly at those who have not booked and are begging to be allowed to buy. They are turned away empty-handed but they — and you — can enjoy a glass of the beer at the café across the road.
Then back through Poperinge and, en route to the E42, a stop at Noel Cuvelier’s beer shop, which is just as it is described here. A phenomenal range, amazing value and lots of glasses. Fill any remaining space in your car, then head for Calais; back in London in less than twelve hours.
Waterways? The road crosses some ….