Eating our way around Flanders: Trip report from our latest Pioneer trip

The komoot community is a diverse bunch of people, and whether it’s reaching that distant peak or finding a memorable breakfast spot that drives you to explore more of the outdoors, you are welcome here. As it turns out, our latest Pioneer trip was largely about the latter.

We have the stats:

  • Four Pioneers
  • Three days
  • 10.3 hours in the saddle
  • 92.4 miles (148.7 kilometers)

But they don’t matter that much compared to the fantastic food (and beer) we tried along the way.

The weekend plan was to gather in Bruges and then head out to explore the Flanders region by bike, stopping at hotels en-route. The trip ended in De Panne, a seaside town near the French border.

Arriving in Bruges: A cycling cafe and a guided ride around the city

Gathering on Thursday evening, we got off to a great start with a taste of the city’s lovely architecture as well as its contemporary eateries. We wasted no time on the food-front with welcome drinks (beer for some, coffee for others) at a chic cycling cafe in the heart of Bruges.

A unique concept in the city, the Velusso Cycling Cafe is part museum, part shop and part cafe. It set the scene perfectly for our Tour and was a great warm-up for our first mini-adventure  — a guided cycle around the city.

We enjoyed snapping away pictures of the classic architecture and cycling over the famous canals. We celebrated a successful first afternoon with a great meal at De Republiek, accompanied, of course, by good Belgian beer.

An elaborate dinner at an industrial-chic restaurant is not always what you’d associate with a komoot Tour, but adventures come in all shapes and sizes, right?

Day 1: A breakfast highlight, and a beer recommendation

Our first full day of cycling was one of sunshine and smiles. We agreed it can be defined as the nice ride we did between a farmhouse breakfast and beach-side beer-drinking in the evening.

We had a full morning, setting out from Bruges just after 08:00. We cycled along the canal (a pleasingly flat cycle for those who prefer a gentle outing) which links Bruges to the region of Damme, and eventually the Netherlands.

Breakfast at Cafe De Stamper was the first day’s Highlight. A charming old homestead, the place was just what you’d want from a relaxing break in the Belgian countryside. The food was great, there was a pretty outdoor area, and a friendly atmosphere (largely thanks to the dog).

The second part of our morning was taken up with more gentle countryside-riding on well-maintained cycle paths, and a visit to the Het Zwin Nature Reserve. A ranger guided us through the reserve explaining how the unique wetland ecosystem works.

The reserve occupies the north-east corner of Belgium, between the Dutch border and the sea. It’s officially a wetland of international importance and is home to many bird species, particularly seabirds and waders.

Here once again we were reminded of simple pleasures and the little things, as we admired flocks of white storks (Het Zwin is one of the few places they’re found in Belgium) and the tiniest little frogs.

Heading inland again, we spent the afternoon cycling on the shaded cycle paths of the Leopold Canal and then zigzagging back to the coast, ending in the town of De Haan. We pulled up some chairs at a beach-side bar and toasted our first full day of cycling.

After freshening up at our hotel, we headed out for another fantastic meal — in keeping with the seaside theme, we enjoyed delicious seafood before heading back to the hotel to relax.

Day 2: Historic ships & contemporary street art

Leaving our hotel, we cycled inland for a while before turning back toward the coast and finding ourselves in the seaside town of Oostende. Here we encountered a small festival celebrating historic ships, and at the other end of the spectrum, we had a guided sightseeing tour of the Crystal Ship, an open-air street art exhibition. The collection is based on the premise that art is the only radical thing you can do with your life.

It was certainly a day of food for thought. And of course, there was literal food too!  We rolled into Nieuwpoort mid-afternoon and headed straight to a beach bar. We enjoyed dinner at a cozy restaurant where we got a taste of Belgian hospitality and traditionally-influenced dishes.

Day 3: Cycling to France, almost

On our final day, we cycled to De Panne, a coastal town on the French border. It was a gentle cycle with an interesting visit to a protected nature reserve where the grasslands and dune eco-systems play host to migratory birds. We had a pleasant stop for coffee (yes, more food was eaten here too), before boarding the train back to Bruges, where we enjoyed the scenery through the window while reflecting on the weekend’s cycling. Back in Bruges on Sunday afternoon, we were weary but satisfied travelers as we exchanged contact details, said our goodbyes and headed off in the direction of home.  

Would you like to go on a Pioneer trip with us? Find out how to become a Pioneer here.

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