Looking for a nice bike trip to the sea? The roads from Ieper to Boulogne-sur-Mer take you through flanders fields, green valleys and impressive views on the sea. We took this trip together with Louis’ cousin Olivier whom grew up in Poperinge.
On Friday evening we took a direct train from Brussels-South station to Ieper. If you take a regular bike you just need to pay a 4 EUR ticket for your bicycle and try to catch the train responsible to see where you could best park your bike. In the newer trains there’s a dedicated spot with a special door for bikes and wheelchairs only, in older trains you might have to lift your bike up high and park it in the entrance of the train.
To go from Ieper to our camping spot on the Kemmelberg we took some detours, drove through the village of Kemmel, the park with the city hall and had dinner on the terrace of De Hollemeersch. We pitched our tent into the wild and enjoyed a good night of sleep (50°46’29.9″N 2°48’05.9″E).
On saturday morning we bought our breakfast in the old bakery “d’ovetote” in Dranouter, where they still make bread in a wood based oven. And of we went into France: Belle, Hazebroek, Ebblingem, next to the water to Arques, a flat tier and then to Saint-Omer for lunch in the rue Louis Martel.
After that the trip continued through the fields and woods all the way to the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer via Coulomby and Bournonville. This route was mainly on double roads where you can advance well, but you share them with quite some cars. So for the way back we proposed another (way more calm road).
A good brake to eat bananas + muesli bars and drink liters of water is of course mandatory. And Tine was enjoying it!
Since we did not really do a lot of preparatory route planning, we searched on google maps on the way where we could take the smaller routes and enjoy driving through the fields, in between the typical hedges next to the road.
And while approaching Boulogne-sur-Mer the impressive tower of the cathedral is welcoming you. Just before reaching it you enter the fortified city center into the narrow streets. It’s a beautiful old city center worth taking the time to visit.
…but since we wanted to camp we did not stay there, but continued another couple of kilometers to camping Phare d’Opale Tohapi. The road google maps sent us to, did not exist, so we headed to the beach to drive (big tires) / pull (thin tires) our bikes to the next road.
The campground itself is rather a trailer park, so nothing special, but on the side there’s some camping spots with a 5-star view to the sea and village (picture below). Good enough for a safe camping spot and a good shower. After a little more than 110km we pitched the tent, skipped the shower and went for aperitif!
The village of Le Portel is not the most beautiful one, based on a meters high concrete dyke that could survive every climate change water rise, but it had some good restaurants and nice atmosphere.
The seafood restaurant to go to is “Le Portelois”, it has a cosy terrace on the dyke and good food! No tourist trap here.
By coincidence we were there on the evening before the 14th of July festivities, and thus shared the village with thousands of other French people that were celebrating.
It seems like 14th of July (Bastille day – the French national holiday) is celebrated as intense as new year, with impressive fireworks that lasted way too long.
On Sunday morning we bought a good baguette and cheese to have breakfast in the old city center of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Tine had her coffee, and so we were well prepared for another 100km back to Poperinge.
We were expecting google maps to send us back on roads with cars like the day before, but we got a slower and way more beautiful route proposed. It was a blast: small grass and stone paths through fields and valleys, from village to village! In short we took the following route. Passing by Liques, Tournehem-sur-la-Hem, Nordausques, Volkerinkhove, Wormhout, Herzeele, and Houtkerke on the border between France and Belgium.
We celebrated 14th of July with free lunch and beer from the villagers of Tournehem-sur-la-Hem.
A good drinking / evacuation break once in a while, combined with a short prayer on the road, gave us enough energy to continue.
We never saw more flemish lion flags than in the North of France, also called “Flandres”. All the villages there have really flemish names. The older local villagers in that part of France speak West-Flemish and French, a very odd thing to discover. And no better place to discover this than with a Picon in the bar of Gisele in Houtkerke. The bar got stuck in time somewhere in the fifties. The owner is more than 80 years old and only speaks french patois or West-Flemish.
After a good lemonade we hit the road to Poperinge and finished our trip by taking the train back to Brussels later that evening. A nice and intense weekend. Don’t make this your first bike-tour, but if you’re used to some cycling this is an impressive trip!