Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 78 / Trains & Boats & Inclined Planes

Thursday 27 August – Monday 31 August 2015

We are delighted to be based in gorgeous Ghent for this Tour and staying at the fantastic Novotel Gent Centrum. Ghent is one of the top beer destinations anywhere in Europe and we have been working on getting back here with the group for some time.

This Tour focuses on beer and transport. We will take a 14 kilometre steam train ride on the Dendermonde-Puurs line, a voyage on the Ronquières inclined plane on the Brussels-Charleroi Canal, an evening cruise through the historic city of Ghent and a pub crawl of the entire 68 kilometre of the Belgium Coastal Tram.

Ronquières inclined plane boat lift.

There will be visits to breweries both old and new, plus plenty of opportunities to enjoy top quality food and the best beer in the world which this Tour will help you to discover.

This Tour is fully booked, but we are planning another transport themed beer Tour in 2016 so if you are interested please send Podge an email.

Belgian Coast Tram.

Thursday 27 August 2015

05.15hr Coach pick up Crown Street, Ipswich,Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park)

05.45hr Coach pick up at Severalls Lane, Colchester CO4 9PD at the covered bus stop, (Turn right from Ipswich Road if coming from A12, then about 250m beyond a mini-roundabout).

06.15hr Coach pick up The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

07.00hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE

09.36hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

11.15hr Arrive Calais.

12.00hr Our first stop is at a typical Flemish café Au Nouveau Saint Eloi just south of the village of Watou. The café is on a small road down the middle of which runs the Belgian-French border, with this café in Belgium! Here we have our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two chosen from their menu of over 110.

14.30hr We make our way to the centre of Poperinge to visit* “Heavy Traffic - Rail and other traffic in Poperinge 1914-1918”. This temporary exhibition centres on trains in Poperinge in the First World War. For the British Expeditionary Force Poperinge was an essential logistics hub linking the BEF in the Ypres Salient with their lines of communication and the Channel Ports, and Britain. Crucial was the railway line – Line 69 - between Poperinge and Hazebrouck. In the hospital town chapel there is an exhibition on the train traffic in Poperinge, with the centrepiece being a 1:76 scale diorama of Poperinge Station as it was during WW1, and the image apparently includes ammunition crates and casualties being loaded and unloaded, over six hundred soldiers, six trains, stray dogs and a black cat. Siobhan’s research for her dissertation alcohol on the Western Front made a special study of morale and discipline in the triangle Poperinge-Hazebrouck-Bailleul and she will tell us transport-related alcohol stories in this area.

16.00hr Arrive at the village of Ledegem, near Roeselare for a visit to a special new aviation museum* and café - the Old Leghem – built and opened in 2013 by plane enthusiast Rik Foulon. Rik has built dozens of airworthy replica models to a scale of 1/3 and 1/4 (about 4 meters across) and his favourite period is pre and WW1 planes. Rik recently sold his interior design business to follow his love, building and flying First World war scale model planes from scratch and with the correct materials from documentary records, not out of kits. Some of his models even have exact replica engines. Don’t miss Rik’s Red Baron’s Fokker DR which he built from scratch from photographs and which is powered by an old chainsaw engine. No Belgian museum would be complete without its own bar and we can have a drink in this one after our visit.

18.00hr Arrive at the centrally based Hotel Novotel in Gent. After check in we will meet at the water front, at the green hut at 4A Korenlei for an evening boat tour around the beautiful canals of Gent and a historical meander through Medieval Ghent including a canal-eye view of the city’s most important buildings, including St Bavo's Cathedral, the Belfry and St Nicholas' Church, the old guildhalls, the Castle of the Counts, the Princes' Court and the famous Fish Market. We should also see the 13th-century Monasteries and finally the Ancient Port of Ghent which we are told in the promotional information was not “too far away from shady inns packed with girls of easy virtue”. Whilst aboard we will enjoy a Gentse Tripel beer* from local brewery Van Steenberge and snack of cheese with the inevitable world famous mustard, and exquisite Ghent speciality 'Mosterd van Tierenteyn'. The evening cruise experience will take about 50 minutes. The rest of your evening is free in this most beautiful of the Flemish Pearl cities, much frequented by Podge & Siobhan over the past year, and whose Gent Bar Guide now includes a whopping 70+ entries. If you want to see the full unexpurgated version this can be found at Podge's Gent Bar Guide but a shortened version* and a city centre map* will be distributed to all on Tour.

Day 2 Friday 28 August 2015

10.00hr Following a superb buffet breakfast in our hotel we head off by coach.

11.00hr Arrive at the Tram station at Adinkerke/De Panne at the Western (France) end of the Belgian Coastal Tram. You will be given a day ticket* for the tram and have the day free to travel on this fantastic tramway. We will provide you with bar guides for the best places for a beer (and food) along the western half of the tramway, up to Ostend, where we will all meet the coach at 21.00hrs. You are free to travel right to the Dutch border but this does take about two and a half hours, and another hour or so to get back to Ostend, so bear this in mind with food stops when planning your day. A tram map will be provided and trams run every 10 minutes in the summer. We recommend sauntering along the line from De Panne to Ostend, particularly as there is a North Sea Beer Festival from 16.00hrs in the Leopold Park in Ostend with over 20 breweries and 150 beers, and we aim to finish our day here.

21.00hr Leave Ostend by coach for Gent.

21.45hr Drop at Hotel Novotel in Gent.

Baasrode Steam Engines.

Day 3 Saturday 29 August 2015

10.00hr Head off by coach from Hotel Novotel Gent.

11.00hr Arrive at the Tram Museum in Schepdaal, in the Pajottenland. Here we will have a special visit* (it is usually closed to the public) of a preserved tram depot built in 1887 as part of the integrated network with the nearby railway. We will have two English speaking guides to the Museum. Schepdaal was located on the busy passenger and freight line between Brussels and Ninove. Trams were serviced and repaired here, and now it has been restored and is a heritage site with rare and valuable trams including a royal carriage built for King Leopold II. Work is still continuing on the site renovation including the (re)- electrification of the depot and the renewal of tracks and switches. There are three sheds, one of which can be visited which contains the tram collection. There is also a terminus building for passengers, a water tower, a blacksmith shop and a lamp store. It also previously had an official residence for the stationmaster and sleeping quarters for the tram staff on early or late shifts. For those trammy experts they have the first electric tram in this region from 1894 and one of the last steam train locomotives from 1920. We will have a look around the site* and Podge has arranged for us to have a special beer tasting* in the Museum of beer from a brand new local brewery, 4Pajot. We can meet the brewer as he is bringing to us the beer and glasses!

14.00hr We proceed to the nearby famous Payottenland café restaurant De Rare Vos (The Sly Fox) in Schepdaal village, where we will have our pre-arranged meal and a chance to try a lambic or two from their great beer list (some on draught) or their unique house beer Rare Vos which is a Faro created especially for the café by Brouwerij Girardin.

17.00hr Arrive at the De La Zenne Brewery on the edge of Brussels for a tour* of this excellent brewery and a tasting of four* of their fabulous beers.

19.30hr Arrive in Moorsel near Aalst for a visit to the 3rd Streekbierenfestival held outside in the village in marquees. This is a festival of Regional Beers from the Aalst area co-run by Robrecht who owns the new and brilliant Ambarosa Beer shop and tasting café in Aalst. At this festival you can sample regional beers you won’t easily find elsewhere.

21.00hrish Leave by coach for Gent.

21.20hr Drop at Hotel Novotel in Gent.

Tram Museum Schepdaal.

Day 4 Sunday 30 August 2015

10.00hr After breakfast we head off by coach from Hotel Novotel for a day of Trains and Inclined Planes. We make our way east to just beyond Dendermonde to North Baasrode Station for a ride on the steam train (Stoomtrein) from North Baasrode to Puurs.

11.45hr Board the steam train at North Baasrode station for the hour journey to Puurs. We may have the opportunity for a beer beforehand or even on board, as they have a buffet car which sells hot and cold drinks and plenty of beer.

12.45hr Arrive Puurs station (Seinhuiskaai) where our coach will pick us up and head off for Ronquières.

14.00hr Arrive at La Restaurant La Tour Glacée at the foot of the sloping locks at Ronquières Inclined Plane for our pr-arranged meal.

17.00hr The unique boat experience commences at Ronquières Inclined Plane. This fantastic piece of Belgian engineering is situated on the Brussels-Charleroi Canal in the province of Hainaut, Wallonia. It opened in 1968 following a six-year construction. Its purpose was, and still is to reduce the delays caused by the 14 canal locks built to follow the local hilly topography and take account of the 68m difference in levels from the upper to lower reaches. The inclined plane is 4,698 ft long and lifts boats through 222ft vertically. It consists of two large partially filled containers (Caissons) mounted on rails which can carry one boat of 1,350 tonnes or several smaller boats up to that weight. Each caisson has a 5,200-tonne counterweight running below the rails, which allows each caisson to move independently of the other. It takes 50 minutes to pass through the 5,900 ft of the entire structure, including the raised canal bridge at the top end. Technical curiosity or huge work of art. You decide!

18.00hr Following our boat experience we rejoin our coach for the return journey to Gent and an evening free to explore the bars.

19.00hr Arrive at Hotel Novotel, Gent.

Old Leghem Museum.

Day 5 Monday 31 August 2015

10.00hr Check out of Hotel Novotel Gent and head off by coach to:

10.20hr Arrive Dranken Geers in Oostakker, probably the best beer warehouse in Belgium for an opportunity to buy beers to take home. They do take credit cards.

11.30hr Arrive at the Het Stoomcentrum Maldegem, or the Maldegem Steam Centre where we first pay a visit* to their steam museum. Following this we go on a journey by railcar to Eeklo station.

12.30hr Arrive in Eeklo for a Steam Beer* in the local café before returning to Maldegem Station to rejoin our coach.

14.00hr Arrive at the Bryggja Brewery in Moerkerke near Damme for a quick look at the brewery* and a taste of their beers*.

15.30hr Arrive at the brilliant Bistro Nieuwege in Varsenare for our pre-arranged lunch. Didier and his family run a superb canalside café restaurant with a superbly picked beer menu extending to 150+ excellent choices including some great beers on draught and some rarities from smaller breweries such as Struise and Alvinne.

Time permitting we aim to call in for a short visit to the lovely town of Veurne for a last beer and snack or a look round the pretty Grand Place.

Leave Veurne at an agreed time for Calais and the Eurottunnel.

21.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel.

21.25hr Arrive Folkestone.

22.15hr Coach drop 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE

22.30hr Coach drop Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP

23.10hr Coach drop 102 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA

23.40hr Coach drop Colchester

00.10hr Coach drop Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park)

Tour Price: £550 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £185

If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Podge as we are regularly able to pair up travellers in twin rooms to avoid the need for payments of Single Supplements.

Included in the cost of this Tour are:

Hotel accommodation and breakfasts;

Hotel city taxes;

Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet;

All brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings;

Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites;

All items marked with an asterisk on the individual detailed tour itinerary;

Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;

Still and sparkling water on the coach;

Pick up from Ipswich (Crown Street Layby), Colchester (Southway Chapel St South Layby) or Chelmsford (The Woolpack, Mildmay Road). Arrangements can be made for different joining points on the way to Folkestone or even on the other side of the channel.

Items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary.

Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary plus all passport and insurance costs.

All itinerary times are local and approximate.

Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price but is strongly advised, as is carrying the European Health Insurance Card available online, by phone or via the Post Office.

If you have any questions or would like to join us on this Tour please send Podge an email or call him on +44 (0)1245 354677 for details on how to send a deposit of £120 per person for this Tour. The full balance is payable five weeks before departure.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.