As part of our year in the Elddis Avante 462, The Caravan and Motorhome were treating us to a trip to the Christmas Markets to Valkenburg and Cologne and we were able to extend the trip by three extra nights. 

We caught the overnight ferry crossing from Hull to Zeebrugge and travelled to Bruges to the Camping Memling campsite which is in a good position, just walking distance of the centre of Bruges. 

We then travelled from Bruges to Valkenburg where we stayed for four nights before catching the Rotterdam Hull crossing back.

Hull to Zeebrugge overnight crossing. 

We found the drinks and food a bit more expensive than Brittany Ferries.  As usual (due to Jane not being good at sailing), Steve went for the ‘All you can eat’ breakfast’ on his own.  When we arrived in Zeebrugge it should have been only a short journey to Bruges but unfortunately we went wrong (again!). 

The Camping Memling site is situated within about one and a half miles from the centre of Bruges.  On the first day we caught a bus into Bruges but we found it was just as easy to walk.  There are two supermarkets (Lidl and Aldi) about half a mile from the campsite.  The campsite is well maintained with good warm facilities and an area to sit with a welcoming fire.  There was also excellent free wifi.  The English speaking warden was very helpful. 

It was cold when we were there and the site's fresh water taps did freeze up as temperatures were below zero.  The caravan was warm and cosy but the electricity on site was only 5 amp so we used the gas for 5 minutes twice a day to boost the heating.  The beauty of the caravan is being able to use both electricity and gas with all the appliances. 


Beyond the Christmas Markets.

In our opinion Bruges should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’ to visit at any time of the year.  The atmosphere at the Christmas Markets in Bruges was great – we went on two of the days we were there. 

The first day was bright, cold and sunny but the second time we went it rained most of the time.  There is an ice skating rink and other things to do whilst in Bruges are a canal trip, horse ride, chocolate museum, beer museum, shopping etc.

Bruges is within driving distance of the Memorial Museum in Passchendaele. The weather was misty and cold which added an extra dimension to the day.  The Memorial Museum is a Belgian museum devoted to the 1917 Battle of Passchendaele, where in only 100 days, almost 500,000 men were killed for only eight kilometers gain of ground.  The Museum is extremely well laid out and informative and includes lots of memorabilia and mock trenches.

The Tyne Cot Cemetery is nearby and is the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in the world.  It is also the most important reminder of the Battle of Passchendaele from the First World War.  It was a very humbling experience.


Valkenburg and Cologne.

We travelled from Bruges to Valkenburg (and unfortunately went wrong yet again!!).  It was nearly dark when we arrived on the site. The Valkenburg town centre was more or less closed for the Christmas Markets and so even when we arrived within half a mile of the site we had to travel about 4 km around the town to reach the campsite.  The campsite was in a fab position with lovely views over Valkenburg.  There was a chair lift reasonably close by to get to the centre although it did not take long to walk to the centre.  The English speaking campsite wardens were very helpful and friendly (especially when we had a flat battery on the car!!).  On our first evening there was a welcome meeting where we were introduced to other members of the party (there were 23 people on the trip – 6 motorhomes and 5 caravans).  We had snacks, Gluwein and hot chocolate in a marquee on the site. 

A coach collected us at 9.30am the day after and took us to Cologne which was about 1 hour 15 minutes away.  Cologne Christmas markets are spread out throughout Cologne – there are at least five! 

We were there for about four hours so only visited two, although a few in the party visited four!  We went to the one by the Cathedral, then walked along the river Rhine to one which had an ice rink and curling.  We had a fabulous day and would definitely recommend going to the Cologne Christmas markets!

The next two days we spent in Valkenburg where there are at least three Christmas Markets.

The 32nd Christmas market Municipal Cave – located at the foot of the well-known Cauberg – is the largest, oldest and most visited underground Christmas market in Europe. We were amazed by the beautiful settings and decors, which are in complete harmony with the countless stalls offering Christmas gifts and other luxuries.

The attractive and cosy Christmas Market in the Velvet Cave is large with over more than 50 shops.  On the visit to the Christmas Market in the Velvet Cave you can enjoy the impressive mural paintings, sculptures, the unique 18th century chapel, market stalls with Christmas and gift items, ancient trades and a cosy catering establishment.

We were lucky enough to be in Valkenburg when the Christmas Fairytales Parade with illuminated and magical Christmas floats, and beautifully costumed dancers, paraded through the charming city of Valkenburg.  It takes place twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays evenings). 

Valkenburg is a lovely city with lots of shops, cafes and restaurants.  The Christmas atmosphere while we were there was ace.

On the last evening we all went for a fabulous 3-course meal to the Daelhemergroeve restaurant which is in another cave within walking distance of the campsite.  The food, drink, location and company was a great end to an amazing trip!

It was a relatively easy journey to Rotterdam where we caught the ferry to Hull.  Unfortunately the sea was very rough, so no food for Jane (again)!..

Happy New Year from Jane and Steve!