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Luke

Belgium What I Did On My Holidays AKA Belgium Greatest Hits Tour - June 2013

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So after what has seemed like years of waiting and watching every explorer and their uncle get to taste the derelict delights Europe has to offer finally it was the turn of our motley group (bar Mookster the jammy sod as it feels like he's been over here more times than I've had hot dinners) to head on over the pond.

After barreling down the A12 from Essex and snatching up Jess, Mookster and I from the arsehole end of London, known to the locals as Orpington and to everyone else as 'don't go there, especially after dark' our heroic party consisting of the already mentioned loonies as well as Ant_43 (aka Gorilla Face) and our noble driver Bones Out (aka Bones Out) arrived at our destination and the beginning of what was to be our grand European Urbex Adventure. In Dover.

Arriving perhaps a little earlier than planned (our train wasn't leaving until 11pm) a few quick local explorers were hastily arranged beginning with perhaps truly the greatest explore ever known to mankind, the veritable mansion known as Bushy Ruff House.

This glorious site, built in 1797, is still in tip-top mint condition and comes with all it's original features such as walls and holes for windows, even some floor if you are lucky, and will leave any explorer worth his salt speechless, even ones jaded by the past glories of sites such as Pyestock will see they but pale in comparison to this mighty edifice. Worth the journey down alone. Highly recommended.

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"OK guys, everyone point to the best explore you have EVER done!"

So dazzled were we by Bushy Ruff's radiance we at first completely walked past it trying to find the bloody thing, ending up on a sheer path overlooking some tennis courts and finally in someones back garden before one member of our party helpfully pointed out that perhaps the crumbling burnt out pile we initially dismissed in the first instance was the site we were looking for all along. So back we go, acquiring along the way some strange looks from the locals playing in said courts. Like they've never seen 5 explorers loaded with camera gear getting hopelessly lost thirty feet from a derp before. Tssh.

Bellies full of fish and chips and now with a train to catch we bid adios to dear ol’ Blighty and the very confused seagull trying to hitch a lift from the queuing cars. Through the night we drive and through various stages of consciousness I slumbered until we finally arrive at stupid o’clock to our weekends first foray into continental exploring, Grand Moulins, an impressive gothic structure I have fuck all photos of.

Yes, after an hour or two of me enjoying a pleasant mooch in the dark around the grounds stupidly waiting for the sun to creep up over the horizon so I could finally get some outside shots without having to use my clumpy tripod and my camera now finally half way out my bag our visit was somewhat interrupted by the local fuzz, one of whom was, as has already been pointed out in past reports, a total babe.

Thankfully more amused than annoyed the six officers escorted us back to our car which by this point had been completely boxed in by very official looking police vehicles and another half a dozen coppers. Clearly it was a quiet night for the Lile force.

After giving Jess a half hearted telling off (she being the only one who could speak french all the rest of us could do was just try and look as sheepish as possible) we were free to leave which we did. Quickly.

So, onto the explores.

DAY ONE

Doel

A graffiti artists wet dream, Doel is an abandoned village North of Antwerp. Mostly brought up by the port wanting to expand, and left to ruin while the few residents that now remain slowly trickle out, it is now awaiting demolition but in the mean time this unique explore has become a living street art gallery with some of the finest examples of graffiti I have ever seen.

A finer place as any to mooch, the vast amount of space available to freely wander meant the group split up and met back up again several times. You could quite easily spend an entire day here but we had other fish to fry so just a very enjoyable morning it was to be.

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Bones Out lending a helpful hand by scaring away Doel's last few remaining residents.

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No explanation required.

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Du Parc

I rather arrogantly thought this place was a shit hole. Possibly me literally stepping in a pile of shit and skidding for a good couple of feet, nearly taking out Ant in the process, swayed my opinion of it somewhat.

Most of the explore I spent sulking with my camera firmly in my bag incase of any more poop related incidents but looking at the shots the others in the group came back with I can see that perhaps I was a tad hasty in rushing to my judgement of this site. It does have some photographic potential.

(It’s also a shit hole.)

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I do like this picture I took though. One of the few things left standing in there.

Tapioca House

Now we are talking. Possibly my favourite site from our little weekend away.

Greeted by a local walking her dogs while we were all standing conspicuously outside the site with our big fuck off camera bags and tripods doing everything but whistling and looking aimlessly up at the sky in trying not to look like we were until about a second before planning on nipping around the fence and rolling on in.

Thankfully she was very understanding of our very obvious mental illness and spoke briefly about the site before bidding us good day and thus our planned entry continued undisturbed.

I spent a worryingly long amount of time in here and no doubt frustrated the hell out of the rest of the party who probably just wanted to take a few shots and bugger off but with this site being the way it was and me a self described ‘stuff photographer’ I was well and truly in my element and it would have taken an armed swot team descending on the site to get me to leave before I was well and truly done (which thankfully for me, but not for the rest of my group, never happened).

Mook meanwhile was having a little kip in the car. Just because.

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In most of the rooms I got so caught up in taking close up shots I forgot to take any wides. Doh.

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Hofstadt Swimming Stadium

Last stop of the day, Hofstadt Swimming Stadium, which was an unusual little explore with not a whole lot happening but still made for a couple of nice snaps and a chance to explore in the fresh air and baking hot Belgian sunshine for a change. Bumped into some fellow explorers here.

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Pretentious arty shot ahoy!

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Edited by Luke

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DAY TWO

Villa Wallfahrt

First explore of the second day and what a site to begin with. Like with Tapioca I was in bloody heaven here, to the point where I got a sad but well meaning pat on the shoulder from Bones and told not to rush as he and everyone else slowly traipsed back to the car leaving me behind knowing full well I would be snapping away happily for another hour at least.

Thankfully for them I wasn’t quite that long and emerged gleefully blinking in the morning sunshine not that far behind my since departed crew who had in the meantime gone looking for milk for tea. Which is near impossible to find in Belgium it seems.

It had not been all that long since my grandfathers funeral and I must confess the godawful furniture and decorations in Wallfaht reminded me a bit of their old house where I spent many a day over the summer holidays in and it made my eyes more than a little misty walking around this one. It just felt familiar somehow.

So much stuff to photograph here, though as the location is getting so well known nowadays you can see it’s clearly starting to get trashed around the edges. And some knob-end has nicked the pheasant. The bastards.

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Peggy Olson from Mad Men, no?

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Duvel Bowling Mill

Is it a mill that was turned into a bowling alley or is it a bowling alley themed like a mill? Who the fuck knows but it was certainly one of the most unique explores I have done. We got more than a few weird looks for a local who was hovering around outside but we pressed on regardless. Mook slept this one out as well.

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Atelier Decor

One of the urbex classics. Went into this one thinking it would be another trashed Du Parc but as Mookster commented on his report from our weekend away, I was ‘pleasantly surprised’ at what I found.

Light was a bit funny in here so many of my photos didn’t turn out all that great but got a few crackers nonetheless. Spent a good while fixating on 'stuff' as I usually do and then found out just as we were all leaving that the adjacent house Mookster "misremembered" as having nothing in it actually contained more than a few gems to call its own so with a few groans a hurried explore of that was also called for. Sorry guys.

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What... I don't even...

Our entire trip was soundtracked by Mookster shouting at his phone to work and by a song that the radio station was clearly being held hostage and forced to play repeatedly at gun point which appeared to consist entirely of the word ‘Formidable’ (my rusty school days french translated that to ‘great’ which the song, like my French, definitely wasn’t).

Other incidents of note worth mentioning included the Sat-Nav containing all our sites breaking the moment we landed on enemy soil and started working again the moment we packed up readying to leave, discovering a Mario Kart like shortcut by taking a private service road while driving down a motorway tunnel, crashing into the site of the Eurotunnel train (or did the train crash into the side of us)...

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...the discovery and shortly after conquering of Battery Island, which I suspect is where the government disposes of the dead batteries they use to power Belgium (haven't they heard of these so called rechargeable batteries that exist in this 21st century we live in?)...

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...and the 2013 British invasion of Dunkirk by Cyberbones (fatty at the back is not amused)!

So there you have it. Landed home safe and sound without a scratch (though perhaps a slightly dented wing mirror) and we are already in the early stages of planning the next one. Now I can see what all the fuss is about, Belgium really does just work for explores.

If you have made it this far thanks for sharing my journey with me ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have enjoyed our humble tale of swashbuckling adventure, human tragedy and laugh out loud comedy. I know I certainly did.

Good company and good explores, you really couldn't ask for anything more!

A quick shout out to Mookster for playing tour guide so graciously even when the chips (or in this case Sat-Nav) were down and a huge debt of gratitude to the one and only Bones Out for driving us the 650 mile round trip to the far ends of the earth and back without a single grumble to his name. His generosity knows no bounds.

Edited by Luke

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That's a better write up than a Neil Gamon / Tom Sharpe novel fella.

fannytastic stuff, your pictures are spot on and bring back fun memories, what this hobby is all about!

Cheers Luke, I want moar.........

PS, that last shot, it is isnt it, like it is France's version of little britain?

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Guest Scattergun

Wooo yeh, holiday fun :) I enjoyed that. Glad you had such a successful first trip!

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BOOM British invade and well,cracking shots Luke and what a great write up, looked like a fun packed weekend I can't help but wonder why you bought a picture of the man :PVilla Wallfahrt #5 (sorry bones) look forward to seeing some more thanks for sharing Luke :cool:

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Guest Dubbednavigator

That my friend is possibly the best write up ive seen on a forum. What an effort :thumb

Quite gutted i couldn't come now, Bones did mention you were looking to do it

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