Culture, Enthusiast

Classic Bruges in Steam

6 to 13 June, 2019
Belguim

This tour should appeal to a large range of people.  Lovers of culture and history, good living, and vintage transport will all find themselves well catered for.

The tour is based in Blankenberge, a seaside town on the Belgian coast close to the port of Zeebrugge. Accommodation is in the recently completed Mercure or Ibis Budget hotels which now form the main part of the station building and are therefore an ideal base from which to explore. The town is full of shops, cafés and restaurants, and the tram can easily take one further along the coast.

Excursions have been arranged to the old Flemish cities of Bruges, including a cruise on the famous canal system, and Gent, where a tour of the city by tram and a visit to the castle of the Counts of Flanders is included.

A day trip by train will take us to the Belgian National railway museum “Train World” and the Museum of Urban Transport with transfer between the two by vintage tram.

Everyone is moved by the bloody history of Flanders fields in the First World War, and a coach trip will show us some of the main sights and memorials from this dark period in history. The day is concluded by a ride along the coast in a restored 1930’s tram.

Travelling by coach, a more light-hearted visit is to the acclaimed Pairi Daiza Zoo-Park with its superb 60cm gauge steam railway. Again, there is something for everyone to see here including the park’s own brewery!

On the last day, we travel by preserved bus over the border to the pretty Dutch town of Sluis before continuing back into Belgium to visit the Canada-Poland War Museum,  arriving mid-afternoon at Maldegem Steam Center, We can visit the railway’s workshop and museum shed to see the extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock and take a steam hauled narrow gauge train ride. The “Orient Dining Express” then awaits us, and we board a beautifully restored Wagon Lits dining car in which a gourmet meal will be served at our seats as we travel, in steam hauled luxury, to Eeklo and back before returning to our hotel.

Highlights

  • Dinner on the “Orient Dining Express”
  • Boat trip on Bruges’ famous canal network
  • City tour of Gent by preserved tram
  • Flanders fields tour including Ypres
  • Train World railway museum and Brussels tram Museum
  • Vintage tram ride along the whole Belgian coast
  • The castle of the Counts of Flanders
  • Pairi Daiza Zoo Park & Railway

Tour manager: Kevin  email kevin@ptg.co.uk

Itinerary

Day 1 Thursday 6 June (D) From London by Eurostar, Changing to InterCity train at Brussels South to the seaside town of Blankenberge, our base for the week staying. Alternatively take the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry (evening of 5 June) for a short transfer to Blankenberge. We have two hotels for you to choose from – the new Mercure or Ibis Budget hotel situated in the station building and across the road from the coast tram stop, 10 minutes from the sea front. Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2 Friday 7 June (B) We travel by preserved bus to the famous Unesco city of Bruges where follows a walking tour including the Cathedral, the main square with its octagonal belfry and ornate town hall, Our Lady Church with Michael Angelo’s statue of Madonna and child, and the Begijnhof convent. This is followed by a trip in a motor boat around the city’s famous canal network. Rest of the day free to explore, perhaps climb the 366 steps of the belfry, do some shopping, or sample some Belgian beer.

An optional visit to the Steenbrugge loco shed, where the reserve National railway collection is kept: 3 steam and several diesel locos, may be possible (to be confirmed).

On the return, we make a short stop in the picturesque village of Lissewege.

Day 3 Saturday 8 June (B) We travel by InterCity train from Blankenberge, changing to a suburban train in Brussels which will bring us to Schaerbeek for “Train World” the Belgian National Railway Museum. After a break for lunch, a vintage tram will bring us to the extensive Brussels museum of urban transport in Woluwe where a trip to Tervuren on another vintage tram will be possible. After the visit, the tram will return us to Brussels South for the train back to Blankenberge.

Day 4 Sunday 9 June (B) By coach from the hotel to visit the famous sights, cemeteries and memorials of the first war in Flanders fields including Ypres with its Menen Gate memorial. Travelling on to DePanne for a visit to the small tram museum before boarding a restored 1930’s electric tram for the two-hour trip along the coast to Blankenberge with an additional option of remaining on board to the end of the line at Knokke to visit the restoration workshops before returning to Blankenberge.

Day 5 Monday 10 June (B) This morning we board a train for the 50-minute ride to Gent. At St Pieters Station, a 1970’s PCC tram car, restored to its original Blue and crème livery, will be waiting to take us on a tour of the city finally dropping us in the center where we visit the restored Gravensteen, the castle of the counts of Flanders.  The rest of the day is free to visit the beautiful city, Finally, we take a service tram back to St Pieters station for the train to Blankenberge.

Day 6 Tuesday 11 June (B) We are picked up by coach for the 1.5-hour drive into the French speaking part of Belgium to the renowned Pairi Daiza Zoo Park. In the beautiful setting of an old monastery, The park is home to countless exotic animals and birds including giant pandas and koalas. A large circuit of 60cm gauge railway has been built around the park and we start with a visit to the pretty wooden engine shed which is home to its four steam locos before taking a trip around the circuit which has some quite serious gradients and passes through elephant and bison enclosures. The rest of the day is free to visit the park, take extra rides, photograph the trains or sample the excellent products of the park’s own brewery. Return to Blankenberge by coach.

Day 7 Wednesday 12 June (B, D) Mid-morning a preserved bus will collect us from the hotel for a drive through the Zeebrugge dock area and over the Dutch border to the pretty little town of Sluis where we will make a stop. The bus then continues back into Belgium to Adegem to visit the Canada Poland War Museum and Japanese Gardens. The museum tells the story of the liberation of the local area by Canadian and Polish troops in the Second World War. There is a Canadian war cemetery nearby. After this we proceed a short distance to Maldegem Steam Centre, one of Belgium’s foremost railway preservation sites. We take a trip on a narrow gauge steam hauled train and visit the museum and workshop to see the society’s extensive collection of restored locomotives and rolling stock. This is followed by a highlight of the holiday: The famous Wagons Lit luxury train company was a Belgian initiative. We board an immaculate restored Wagon Lit restaurant car, originally built in France in 1919 with a teak body, it was rebodied in steel in Hungary in 1943, but retained the original interior. The car is part of the “Orient Dining Express” operation, and we take a steam hauled ride to Eeklo and back during which a gourmet meal including suitable wines will be served at our seats before the bus returns us to Blankenberge.

Day 8 Thursday 13 June (B) We take early afternoon train to Brussels Midi where we transfer to the Eurostar to take us home to London. Those returning to Hull will catch the 15.54 train, via Bruges, to Zeebrugge Port station (arriving 16.54).

Belgium is full of cafés and restaurants to suit all pockets, therefore we have left you free to choose your own meals on most nights. The tour is moderately active with some walking involved to visit the cities. Each day will be leisurely with no early starts or late arrivals planned.

Overland via Eurostar

12.58 St Pancras to Bruxelles-Midi (arriving 16.07)
16.51 Bruxelles-Midi to Blankenberge (arriving 18.05)

12.54 Blankenberge to Bruxelles-Midi (arriving 14.08)
14.56 Bruxelles-Midi to St Pancras (arriving 16.05)

Ferry from Hull (on 5 June)

18.30 Hull to Zeebrugge (arriving 08.45 on 6th)
10.05 Zeebrugge Port – Bruges – Blankenberge (train – arriving 11.05)

16.54 Blankenberge – Bruges – Zeebrugge Port (train arriving 17.54)
19.00 Zeebrugge to Hull (arriving 08.30)

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person) – Hotel Ibis Budget

  • 8-day holiday with Eurostar from London St Pancras: £1,350
  • 10-day holiday with ferry from Hull: £1,350 (twin outside cabin)
  • Own travel to/from Blankenberge: £1,150

Supplements (per person)

  • Ibis Budget Blankenberge: included (double/twin), £185 (double for single use)
  • Mercure Blankenberge Station: £210 (double/twin), £460 (double for single use)
  • Ferry from Hull: Single use cabin add £115

Deposit

  • £500 (with flights or Eurostar) or £300 (if making own travel arrangements)

Price includes

  • Travel and activities as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary (B = Breakfast, D = Dinner) excludes drinks
  • Services of our Tour Manager
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