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Disclaimer: Lots of words. Proceed at your own peril.

Day One: The Great No-Claims Write-Off

Our story begins on a Thursday afternoon just like any other.

A post on Facebook by me ol' mucker Perjury Saint caught my eye. "Bit last minute but I have a plus one going for Belgium if anyone is interested". And interested I was. Having first travelled across in the pond in the summer, my experiences there had left me an unsatiated appetite for more continental exploring. A phone call later and it was all arranged. In a few hours he'd snatch me up from South London and we'd barrel down M25 to Dover to catch the last ferry. I had just enough time to make sure my camera batteries were charged, scrape together a quick dinner and try think up the best excuse I could to give to my unexpecting partner for why I was abandoning her for a long weekend of stomping around dusty derps.

Just as I'm about to grab my gear and bid my farewells to the little lady my phone goes. "I'm lost and the sat nav is buggered"

Shit! I have a train to catch so there is nothing I can do but give some basic and hurried directions, cross my fingers and dash out into the evenings drizzle, hoping against hope it all somehow works out.

The rain ramps up to a deluge as I wait at the station for Mr. Saint's car to show, minutes slowly ticking off the large clock in the foyer and our chances of making the ferry on time edging ever closer to the impossible.

Never have I been so glad to see another person when he finally arrives, headlights illuminating the gloom. It's gonna be tight, very tight, but bar any disasters we should just about make it. My bags are hurled into the boot and the car accelerates off into night as lighting rips the sky in two.

Somehow we make it to Dover with but mere minutes on the clock to spare. The rain so heavy you could only make out a few feet in any direction but we could see the car ahead of us in our queue was taking it's sweet time while the lane next to it was all but empty. Thinking quickly, and with time very much against us, Perjury Saint shifts gears and reverses. A car horn blares out into the night and our brief journey backwards ends with a crunch as our rear end gets a little too cosy with the front of the vehicle behind us. With the driver of the bumped car failing to see any humour in our present situations, insurance detail were quickly swapped and somehow, somehow, all parties made it onto the boat just as it was preparing for departure. The very definition of relieved, we scuttle up to the lounge to sleep off our short journey across the pond.

-

Freshly arrived in Calais at horrifically early o'clock Friday morning, Perjury Saint pulls out a carefully composed notebook full of tasty sounding locations and their coordinates then enters the first on the list into the sat nav.

But our trials were not to be over so soon. With slow dawning horror he realises the device wouldn't accept the geographic coordinate system and despite all best efforts his phone wouldn't connect to the sodding internet for love or money.

We quickly start texting our assorted friends who would in time come to our aid and give us the various street names we needed to find our way about. Guys, you know who you are, we are truly indebted to you as you well and truly saved our bacon on this one.

While waiting with fingers crossed to hear something, anything, back or at least to find out if we were effectively stranded in a strange country with bugger all to do for three days (though on the plus side the rain did seem to be letting up a bit) we decide to go check out the one place we did have a location for. Chateux De Foret.

Unfortunately but not surprisingly this one was locked up very well, but walking down a lone dirt track in the middle of the night with a faint sheen of rain in the air, deep in the heart of the woods and listening to the nocturnal fourna crashing and howling in the overgrowth, I was having the time of my life. When the Chateux itself finally loomed out from behind the trees, well, it made all our efforts getting here thus far worthwhile, even if we didn't manage to get a decent look around inside. Didn't bother taking pictures, it was one for the memory books. Utterly haunting.

We made our way back to where the car was parked just as the sun made an appearance and started it slow but steady climb and moments later the life-saving texts started coming in. Spirits renewed we began our adventure now in ernest.

-

Crystallerie Val Saint Lambert

Founded in 1826, out of a deserted building, Val Saint Lambert became a world famous, rapidly expanding and emerging as the epicentre of the Belgian crystal industry in the late 19th century, employing some 5000 people and producing 120,000 unique creations each day.

The first World War and then later the Great Depression brought an abrupt end to Val Saint Lambert's fortunes and in the 80′s, despite the Belgian government subsidising the plant, Val Saint Lambert was threatened by bankruptcy. The company since has changed hands several times and now while still remaining ambitious about the future runs on a skeleton crew with only a quarter of the whole facility remaining active, the rest now abandoned and falling slowly into ruin. Which is where our two gallant explorers come in to the story.

Actually, we come in through the nettles and thorny bushes, but sleep deprived and desperate to crack this nut it seemed a perfectly good idea at the time.

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Despite being a little gem this was probably my least favourite site of the weekend if only because the bar was raised so high by the explores that were to follow. Still, it was a very enjoyable mooch indeed, with the many boxes and overgrown windows looking fantastic, a bit of ducking and dodging around some half hearted security and such an embarrassingly easy exit that our bungling way in was made all the more painful to remember. Onto the next one then.

Universite Du Val Benoit

Constructed between 1930 and 1965, Universite Du Val Benoit has been standing empty on the banks of the Meuse river in Liege for the past 8 years. Once the home to several of the countries finest mathematicians, plans are to transform the modernist ruins into housing, offices and retail spaces over the next few years.

Hard to miss from the outside, the sheer size of Liege University campus is beyond words but suffice to say it's quite large.

A good few hours were sunk into exploring this one and I'd say we barely scratched the surface, especially considering all the empty buildings that lay outside of the main complex. Alternating between severely trashed and almost untouched, Universite Du Val Benoit could easily have been my favourite from the weekend if we hadn't seen such amazing houses later on, but walking those long corridors and finding those amazing labs and auditoriums made for a truly memorable explore. Brace yourself, for there are many photos.

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Angus Dei

Our final stop of the day was Agnus Dei, a small church connected to an equally small nursing home. After a destructive fire in one of the wards it was abandoned in 2005.

Spotting the famous red van first and the glorious church spire soon after, we quickly pulled over and parked up before finding our way inside. Stepping instinctively first into the chapel we found ourselves interrupting a photoshoot with girls, professional lighting rigs, bouquets of fake flowers, hot-pants and everything. With the sound of giggling models ringing in our ears we step back out into the fresh air and decide to give them thirty while we investigated the remainder of the property.

The nursing home itself was fairly trashed but there were a few moments of photographic potential to be found scattered here and there about the ruins, including a few nicely staged rooms. The building itself was also bewilderingly quite large considering how small it had originally seemed from the outside. There is also a huge attic space which gave me a serious case of the heebie-jeebies while investigating it.

Returning to the church we found it now empty and were able to get in enough time to cover the place to our satisfaction before the next round of photographers showed up and we bid our leave, continuing on our way into the fast approaching evening light.

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Heading back towards Liege for some grub we decide on the way to have a look at Chateux le Chat Noir, a site we knew next to nothing about but we had a rough location and the name alone sounded pretty cool so it was worth a shot.

Sadly it seemed the cruel hand of fate was not done tormenting us just yet.

Perjury Saint overshoots a barely visible give way sign and our increasingly unlucky mode of transport is broadsided by a bewildered and shortly to be royally pissed off Belgian lady. The police are involved along with some poor sod whose only crime was to stop and see if everyone was alright and was then conscripted in to provide translation duties between the office of the law and the two frustrated drivers. Insurance details are once again exchanged.

With the light now well and truly gone, taking with it Perjury Saint's no-claims discount, we consoled ourselves with trying to find some grub, a mission that was to take several hours of driving about and a great deal of exasperation before any decent tucker was eventually found.

Tired but at least refuelled we pull in to a service station lay-by to get a nights shut-eye just as the storm we left behind in Dover finally catches up with us and the heavens open once again. Not entirely confident our car won't have floated onto the highway by morning, exhaustion finally overtakes us...

Edited by Luke

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Day 2: The Dolhain Chainsaw Massacre

I wake up with a pair of dead legs and an aching back. Being over 6ft I'm not really designed for sleeping on back seats.

We'd somehow survived the past nights minor weather apocalypse. We'd also overslept. A hurried refresh and we were on the road to our first visit of the day, a journey made all the more enjoyable by the discovery of Studio Brussel (Stu Bru) on the radio and the sumptuous tones of Siska Schoeters whose fine taste in tunes kept us in a good spirits throughout the drive and for the remainder of the weekend. :D

Preventorium Dolhain

Found in a peaceful secluded area of Dolhain, surrounded by some of the most stunning woodland scenery we'd seen so far on our travels, the preventorium is a fantastic art deco style building constructed in the 1950's to accommodate children diagnosed as being in the early stages of tuberculosis. The building itself had but a brief running history as a treatment facility though, closing only 30 years after construction began and the property itself sold on with plans for it to be converted into apartments.

Home of course to the iconic dilapidated fire engine parked outside in the drive, the building itself is mostly barren and stripped of contents but the moody morning light, glorious art deco architecture and stunning scenery visible from nearly every window made Preventorium Dolhain an absolute delight to explore. Simply put, a must.

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Lavoir Et Carbonisage De Dolhain

We passed this on the way to the Preventorium and it begged for a quick look around on the way back towards Bruxelles. Apparently something to do with wool washing and carbonisation (a chemical process for removing vegetable matter from wool, the more you know and all that), it's lain empty for a good while now and there are plans to eventually convert it into the usual high-end apartments in the near future.

Parking up under the train bridge and still in good spirits from our excellent first explore, we started gathering together our gear from the boot while watching a small forklift truck drive into the neighbouring warehouse which was still clearly in use.

Judging it was now safe to quickly hop and skip our way over to where the door to Lavoir Et Carbonisage De Dolhain lay invitingly open, we were halfway across before a loud exclamation echoed in the frosty morning air. Spinning on our heels towards the direction of the shout we are confronted by a man storming out of the building the forklift was last seen disappearing into.

Our eyes than shift to the god-damn chainsaw he is waving above his head.

Somehow overriding every natural instinct to run blindly in the opposite direction as fast as humanly possible, Perjury Saint steps bravely forward in an attempt to converse with said aggravated gentleman. Meanwhile staying what I estimated to be a safe distance behind I pull out my camera and start taking a few external shots, partly to provide corroborating evidence in support of our reason for being there and party so if needs be I could quickly switch to video mode and record Perjury Saint getting his noggin sawn off by a pissed-off Belgian Leatherface.

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Thankfully the chainsaw wielding maniac proved to be easy going and after a quick warning about the building's structural instability (and probably something about the English being crazy under his breath) we continued in without further incident.

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Despite being completely barren I still found Lavoir Et Carbonisage De Dolhain to be very photogenic, in fact we probably spent far longer here than we had intended. This was mostly my fault as per usual. Done done we packed up and moved onto the next one.

Villa Hector

Villa Hector is a must said the text from Mookster, and blimey was he not wrong.

Believed to have originally belonged to a doctor and his wife from Wisconsin who relocated to Europe to serve during the second World War, it was then passed on down the family until it's most recent elderly occupant was taken into a home and has since sadly passed on leaving it now standing forlorn and empty.

This was a profoundly moving explore, with so many memories on display it would be all but impossible not to feel something walking around Villa Hector. It would be utterly shameful if this was to have the same fate that so many other houses have shared once word gets out there about where they are.

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Leaving here with mixed feelings, we head to Tapioca Farm. As if proving my point this site is now sadly looking a lot worse for wear since my last visit over the past summer. Windows have been smashed, several prominent things had gone missing and the whole site is looking a lot less like the Mary Celeste and more like any other derp. The difference a few months makes. I despair sometimes! :(

Perjury Saint eyes up the comfortable looking leather sofa and declares that this would be an ideal place as any to bunk down for the night, so we take what shots we can in the failing light (I took a few wide photos I forgot to do the first time around but since I'd only be repeating what I have shown in my first report I'll leave it up to Mr. Saint to fill in the blanks here) before heading out and grabbing a most delicious burger for Belgium's finest kebab emporium while Perjury Saint imbibes his bodily weight in Cola.

Back on the farm, Perjury Saint crashes on the sofa while I set up my incredibly awkward tent on the cold tile floor, crawling in and firmly zipping up the entryway behind me like a big sissy while trying not to think about the many spiders that were at that very moment scurrying around in the darkness on the floor and walls.

Sleep doesn't come easy, it must be said.

Edited by Luke

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Day 3: In which Perjury Saint gets brutally savaged by a wild security dog

We awake at dawn and step out to find a morning thick with fog. With the ever-delightful Siska Schoeters on Stu Bru providing yet another fine soundtrack to our journey (Depeche Mode and Talking Heads FTW) we cautiously head down the A10 to our next destination, the view so obscured we're barely able to make out the cars on the road ahead of us.

Chateau La Chapelle

To be honest I didn't know much about this one but Perjury Saint was keen as mustard to see it and that was a good enough reason as any for me. The less than conventional route onto the site itself looked daunting when first viewed through sleep encrusted eyes but thankfully for me and the camera gear strapped to be my back it's bark proved worse than it's bite. Taking the picturesque ornamental bridge over the mist shrouded lake, before us, through the trees, the house sat and beckoned and I knew then we'd made the right choice in coming here for it was a right proper beauty to behold.

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Finding access to the building itself proved a little tricky, Chateau La Chapelle seemed for all intents and purposes to be locked up tight and after a complete orbit of the house our cause started to look hopeless. That was until we ended up back where we first started our search and realised entry had been staring us right in the face the entire time.

What a location we found as we made our way inside. The ground floor was probably the grandest site I have ever set foot on in an explorer capacity, mostly empty except for a selection of fine chairs. The floors above got increasingly derped the higher you climbed but as a whole it still made for a good couple of hours serious photo taking, heart firmly in my mouth the entire time waiting for the inevitable sound of baking dogs, blaring sirens and the crunch of police cars on the driveway gravel.

It had all seemed just too damn easy for my liking...

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Much like many of the sites we did this particular day, I cannot find sod-all about it.

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But easy it was. We had the house to ourselves undisturbed for our entire stay and, once satisfied we'd seen all we wanted, we head back to the car in good spirits just as the morning sun finally made it's proper appearance and the fog burned away to reveal a beautiful blue sky and a great start to our final day in Belgium.

Maison Le Grand George

Next on the list was a crumbling farmhouse near Bruges, affectionately known as Maison Le Grand George. From the outside an obvious derp and a barely standing one at that but inside a treasure trove of goodies for photographers who have a preference for shooting stuff as it's well known I do. That combined with the backdrop of peeling decay made this one of the most aesthetically pleasing sites we had seen that weekend and my own personal favourite.

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Monastere Les Trois Croix

We knew absolutely nothing about this one except for having the street name on which it could be located but as we park up in a row of brand shiny new houses we experience a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach. Perhaps we were too late?

After a stressful start, luck had almost been entirely on our side in terms of the explores themselves. Could it finally have run out?

Down the road a bit though was a fenced off mass of great trees and a dishevelled road winding its way them which hoping against hope we followed. After a few minutes of walking a large building comes into view. At first we hesitate. From where we are standing it looked in too good a condition to be a derp, but as we cautiously continued following the driveway around we can see open doors and smashed windows. We'd found Monastere Les Trois Croix and entry looked about as easy as it comes.

But fate had other most cruel and terrible plans for us that day.

With an uneasy feeling still gnawing away at me we approach the building. Suddenly I spot something out of the corner of my eye.

It was a dog, with a makeshift rope collar around it's neck tied to a drainpipe, sitting and watching one of the open doors in the distance. I freeze where I stand, reaching out to grab Perjury Saints shoulder before he walked too far out into the open.

"Dog" I whisper sharply under my breath.

As if hearing this the creature in question suddenly snaps his head up directly towards us and from his muscular throat comes a deep menacing growl that sends the birds in the surrounding trees scattering into the air. With a snarl he is bounding over to us, covering ground at an impossible speed, the feeble rope collar that had been restraining him snapping as if it was but a length of cotton thread.

We run blindly for shelter of the nearest open doorway but it was too late. With a final bound Perjury Saint was down.

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"SHHHHIIIIIIITTTTTTT!!"

From the protection of the building I can only watch and take the odd picture as pinned to the wall by a pair of mighty paws, and a snapping slathering jaw full of gruesome teeth inches from his throat, Perjury Saint was but moments away from being torn limb from limb.

But when all looked completely hopeless a small squirrel suddenly broke cover from the trees and made it's way across the road and the vicious brute was away, teeth snapping after the furry critter and giving me enough time to drag Perjury Saint into the building and to safety. Tragedy had been averted, but only just.

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Perjury Saint's near dance with death has left him a born again man. Lock up your sons.

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Brewery C

Apparently built in the 1880's and for but a year was a boy's school before it was turned shortly after into a brewery, which went onto have a long and successful history, closing finally in the early 1990's. Despite the majority of the rooms being empty and pitch black this site is packed with lots of details and curiosities to uncover. Truly a gift that kept on giving, this was a perfect end to a very rewarding long weekend's adventuring in a strange and far away land. The bottling machine was a hand-me-down from the urbex gods themselves.

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There's not much more to be said really. The return home was a much more stately affair than the one leaving, arriving in Calais with time to spare and, after landing on the shores of dear old Blighty, a relatively drama free journey back to the big smoke, bar the odd sat-nav mishap. A bite to eat followed by a shower hot enough to scold then sleeps galore, while Perjury Saint had a further three hours drive back to his humble abode to endure, the poor bastard.

Cheers for reading this far, or for at least skipping all the blab and looking at the pictures. It only goes for me to extend my sincerest gratitude to Perjury Saint for navigating us safely all those miles and for allowing me the opportunity to see these amazing places on an adventure that, lets be honest here, shouldn't have really been mine to have. Another huge debt of thanks to Mookster who came through for us at the last minute, and to everyone else who chipped in with addresses to sites we would have otherwise spent the weekend hopelessly scouring the country trying to find.

A long overdue Severalls report coming up soon. That will probably be a wordy one as well so my apologies in advance.

I'll try keep it down to a necessary minimum after that. Honest.

Edited by Luke

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Cracking stuff there Luke took some bloody getting through lol but well worth it.

Just a thought Mate as so long you might have broken down into separate location posts?

But can see why you have done as you have and works so alls good.

Looks like a great weekend had a some cool locations visited.

Cheers for the share

:thumb

:comp:

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I was expecting a proper good write up on this un Luke and I got one!! Brilliant!! Excellent pics n all of what was an epic weekend!! Good on ya for stepping in at surch short notice and putting up with my maniac driving!! Ha!!Got the Euro fever BAD now though!! :D

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Great write-up! Just glad I could help and all!

Brewery C is one of my favourite little Belgian gems, well off the tourist trail...

Also props to Studio Brussel, the best radio station in the entire world.

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good to see and proper report for a change takes me back 5 years when i could be arsed cant even be bothered posting theses days ill leave it to the new school once again cool report man

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Superb, well written report, please don't minimise on future ones I enjoyed reading that! Your little adventure sounded awesome, fantastic selection of locations and so many lovely pics to boot, what more could we ask for? :thumb

Looking forward to Sevs report muchly :)

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Fuck me that's a report and no mistake Luke, I gotta say, when I open a report and see a few words and half a dozen pictures then you have the win, absolutely no disrespect at all for anyones reports, I am more guilty than anyone for that, but this is the way I like to read a damn good post!

Respect to you two fella, and Mookie for his ever willing help as always :-).

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Guest Scattergun

There's some really great shots here mate. The high contrast black n whites are my favs.

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Amazing!!!

Great write up and images too.

You have now set the benchmark for us all to aspire to. Looking forward to reading the next one :thumb:thumb:thumb

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      length: 1050 m
      width: 8 m
      maximum ship width: 5 m
      maximum draft: 2.1 m
       
       
       

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