Going to Brussels via Dunkirk and returning via Calais

When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.

Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.

As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.

Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.

Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.


After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.


This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.

Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.


This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.


Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.

We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.


Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.


Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.

In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.

Ferry Terminal

These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.

11 thoughts on “Going to Brussels via Dunkirk and returning via Calais”

  1. I’m curious if there was anything you experienced that really surprised you. Also, what is your most memorable experience from your trip?

  2. “Also, what is your most memorable experience from your trip?”

    These are old friends I have known for years. We had a lovely weekend at their home in Chichester and a quiet trip to Brussels. The week at Ypres was impressive in terms of WWI history, especially the enormous memorial arch to those whose bodies were never recovered.

    Waterloo was a good trip. I had read Bernard Cornwell’s book about Waterloo, which is excellent. There is an enormous literature about the battle but his book is concise and tells you what you need to know. The battlefield reminds me of Gettysburg, which looks somewhat the same although this is 200 years old, about 50 years older than the Civil War.

    We visited some old haunts in London but the trip to Ypres and Waterloo were the highlights along with our very pleasant evening with the dinner guests of John and Susi. Susie’s sister was there with her husband and he and I spent most of the evening visiting. He was a “Name” at Lloyds who lost everything in the asbestos litigation some years ago. He is none too fond of American lawyers, nor am I. Her sister is a fashion model and still beautiful at 65.

    Very pleasant trip.

  3. What a gorgeous old house and spectacular garden. The town reminds me of Annapolis.

    Waterloo was a good trip. I had read Bernard Cornwell’s book about Waterloo, which is excellent…The battlefield reminds me of Gettysburg

    I love Gettysburg. I don’t know why. It’s beautiful and haunting at the same time. It’s about 90 minutes away for me. I was there last October with my oldest daughter and we enjoyed a gorgeous fall day, with clear and brilliantly blue skies and gold and red leaves all around. We always find something we’ve never seen before. I also have a fond memory of watching a meteor shower there with my youngest daughter about 15 years ago. We tooks a thermos of coffee and blankets, put the top down on my Mustang convertible, turned on the heat, put on a CD, and watched meteors for hours.

    I know almost nothing about Waterloo. I’ll have to read up on it.

  4. What I find interesting is the French had similar problems with the terrain as Lee did at Gettysburg. They both attacked superior forces because they couldn’t see how the forces were arrayed.

  5. “a big article on replanting the orchard at Hougoumont.”

    The whole area was rehabilitated for the 200th anniversary in June. At Mont St Jean, a young woman we met had gotten her brewery opened just at the last minute to benefit from the tourism. We met her and I bought a couple of her beer mugs that are shown in the web site. I’m not much of a beer drinker but will use them.

    I don’t remember seeing the orchard but it may be to the side from where we parked.

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