The worst part about getting to Belgium is the “getting to Belgium” bit, especially if you live in the more northerly areas of the UK. The choices are a flight, which involves transport to and from airports and definitely has serious limitations for a beer lover wanting to bring supplies back home. Eurostar, which is probably the easiest and most comfortable, but again has a downside of the train/tube journeys adding cost and awful disruption in dragging luggage across London. Then you have the cross channel ferries and of course the Eurotunnel from Folkestone, we opted for the latter, so on Easter Sunday night we headed on down to Folkestone planning a leisurely night out in town and a nice easy start on Monday morning.
After a four hour slog from Stoke we arrived in Folkestone where our first impressions weren’t great, we’d spent a few extra quid on a decent looking and highly rated hotel which unfortunately is located on a bit of a scruffy looking street, the Hotel Relish though stood out immediately.
Once inside, the Hotel Relish is luxurious but still manages to be warm and homely, the hostess welcomed us and took us on a brief tour of the communal areas and offered us a complimentary drink of either wine or a beer, with a selection of home made cake, a great touch and one you don’t get at ExpressbyHolidayLodge..
The rooms vary in size and price but all are clean, well appointed and stylish. The service was perfect with a fresh cooked breakfast made up of items of your choice getting Monday off to a great start, definitely worth seeking out if you are staying in the area.
Beer and food were next on the agenda so we hit the road and walked into town stumbling across our first bar The Chambers.
A short tight staircase takes you down in to a cellar or ‘chamber” which is laid out over a series of interconnecting open plan rooms, with a great little bar stocked with a selection of real ales, cider and foreign beers on tap, with a small bottled selection. A good find we thought, the staff were friendly and the bar had a nice buzz going on.
I sampled a Hopdaemon Skrimshander IPA, it was light, copper in colour, fruity, pleasant but not mind blowing, I expected a massive hop rush though from the brewery name but it didn’t really happen. It was also served a bit too warm which didn’t help, a real shame as I’d like to try more of their beers, the Leviathan and Green Daemon in particular sound delicious.
Sadly this was where Folkestone went a bit downhill, a wander through the town centre was bleak, it was badly lit and almost deserted. We came across a pub which was blasting someone murdering Brian Adams into the street, a quick reccy inside found no evidence of real ale (creamflow central), so we just as quickly left.. We then found a Wetherspoons pub set in an old church “The Samuel Peto” and thought we could check out their beers and get a cheap meal.
More disappointment soon followed as we reached the bar which had no pump clips which was odd, sods law hit us again because due to a gas leak (?), all they had to offer was bottled beer. Settling for an acceptable Budvar I ordered food. Burger and chips which came with a free beer, which they didn’t have, so after a lengthy discussion and an inability to compromise I had to have a bottle of Becks..
We ate, left and headed back to Chambers which was now (understandably) packed to the gunnels, fifteen deep at the bar and with a completely different atmosphere. It was hot, stuffy and contained a lot of drunk looking folk so it was no surprise when the inevitable happened and a brawl ensued in the main room, glasses, tables scattered as the fists and elbows flew. The Police arrived in numbers, the bar was immediately closed and we left for the sanctity of the Relish where we had a bottle of vodka waiting and chilled cokes…
Monday morning came and Sunday night was quickly forgotten after a hearty breakfast, excitedly we packed then dashed off to the Eurotunnel terminal.
Having never used the service before I was a little apprehensive but it’s simplicity itself. Tickets were booked online and the know who you are as you drive to any barriers by number plate recognition, customs checks etc are conducted through the car window and within minutes you are weirdly driving onto a double decked train. That’s it, the internal carriage doors close and approximately thirty five minutes later you are driving off again straight onto the French motorway network, it’s just brilliant…
From there it’s half an hour to the French/Belgian border and the delights that await, for us it was the next chapter Poperinge.
More on that tomorrow where the journey gets much more enjoyable…
To finish just a quick note about anyone worried about driving to Belgium, don’t be it’s a breeze. The Eurotunnel was brilliant and as I said earlier within half an hour you are through France and in another forty minutes you could be in Brugge. Driving is no problem and you soon get used to driving on the right (left turns are odd), nobody seems to speed over there so driving is just at a leisurely pace.