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Photo TR: Larrygator returns to Europe with TPR

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First off a big thank you to Robb and Elissa handling the schedule and logistics. When this trip was announced I knew I would be adding a couple of days, and the amount of work that went into just planning three days in Belgium on my own was painstaking. So before I join TPR in Amsterdam I had 3 days in Belgium. Why Belgium? It has beautiful cities to explore, great chocolate and lambic beer, in addition to two amusement parks I had not visited before. I decided to base camp in Ghent and buy a rail pass for my adventures, since my main concern was not having to deal with carrying my luggage every day.


I was prepared for a lot of walking on the trip, but did not account for the added pressure of walking on cobblestones and uneven surfaces throughout the trip.


July 13th - Walibi Belgium (below)/Ghent

July 14th - Bellewaerde

July 15th - Plopsa de Panne/Bruges

July 16th - travel to Amsterdam

July 17th - Bobbejaanland

July 18th/19th - Efteling

July 20th - Toverland

July 21st - Walibi Holland

July 22nd - Drievliet/Duinrell

July 23th -Energylandia

July 24th - Legendia

July 25th - Krakow

July 26th - Liseberg

July 27th - Kolmarden

July 28th - Grona Lund


I had mapped out a schedule to be at Walibi Belgium at opening. However, I ended up in an insane Customs line and then had to head to Brussels Midi train station to store for luggage before I was off to Walibi Belgium. As I was on the train platform I realized my camera was in my luggage in storage. Since I was already running late, I did not want to miss the train to Walibi, so this first park of the trip in my PTR, will just be a TR.


I arrived at Walibi Belguim about an hour after opening to light crowds and a light rain. I decided to do a lap around the park to get the new credits that have been been since my last visit. Tiki-Waka was first and is probably the weakest Bobsled Coaster that Gerstlauer has built to date. After Fun Pilot, I took my chances that Pulsar would not get me too wet. I was fun and I stayed dry and this allowed my to enjoy what Walibi Belgium does best, indoor attractions.


I rode Psyke Underground about 5 times, because what's betters than a shuttle loop in a box. I rode Curse of Tutankhamon with a short 15 minute wait (much better than the one hour wait on my last visit) because what can be better than a trackless shooting dark ride. So I walked back on it too more times throughout the day.


Since I love Mad Houses, I had to reride le Palais du Genie, I forgot that the pre-show has some cool visuals. particularly the spiral staircase. But the highlight of the park turned out to be the ride I was most anticipating, Popcorn's Revenge. A second trackless shooting dark ride at the park. In this Bollywood themed theatre you use your gun as a utensil to shoot colored flavoring on to popcorn. I lived this ride cycling through the queue about 10 times, and luckily it was a walk-on the whole time. Which the park being so family friendly, I could not believe how few people were taking advantage of this great new park addition. Unfortunately the last indoor attraction was horrible. 4D - Tempo Attack was playing in the theater and this 4D movie was loud and pointless and did nothing for me.


Before leaving I hopped on my longest line of the day to ride Loup Garou. It's just a forgettable coaster. The good news for this park is that their Intamin is only two years away.


I left the park early to be sure I wouldn't be late for my B&B check-in Ghent. It's a simple 15 minute walk from the train station to the park entrance.


I'll post pictures of Ghent next.

Edited by larrygator
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Forgetting electronics can be really freeing. I sometimes forget every one of us used to leave the house on a daily basis with no electronics at all. Glad you had a good time, and looking forward to seeing Ghent. It's a city I don't know that much about.

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My sightseeing photos will not be in order as I spent parts of two days each walking around Ghent and Bruges but it makes sense to put all Ghent pictures in one post and all Bruges in another post.


I estimated that I walked about fifty miles over my first three days and after retracing my adventures on Google maps it seems accurate. I calculated walking over 16 miles around Ghent (7 miles of which were because I took a wrong turn). I purposely stayed a little out of the way in Ghent to save money, get a higher rated B&B and make sure I got some walking in. I have no issues walking 3-4 miles at a time, so my 25 minute walk from the train station to my B&B was no big deal. (Except when it causes you to miss a train by one minute).


Ghent isn't as touristy as Bruges but does have many cobblestone streets, plenty of canals, old buildings, architecture and most importantly it was billed as having the only medieval castle with a functioning moat.


My first attempt to walk to Gravensteen at night by following the canals caused me to miss a turn when I was only 1/4 of a mile from Gravensteen which caused me to walk about 1.5 miles in the wrong direction.


One interesting feature in Ghent (which I assume to be the case in all Belgium cities) is the presence of both Day and Night convenience stores . The Day Winkel sold what you might typical buy during the day in a convenience store including drinks and sandwiches, When the Day Winkels closed and the Night Winkels opened and were stocked mainly with alcohol, munchies and smoking products.


I love European railway stations, but for some reason did not take photos of any of them on this trip. Ghent Saint Peters is not as grandiose as the stations found in major cities but still had nice architectural features.


This picture shows my daily walk to the train station (along the bottom). The two spurs show the path I should have taken to Gravensteen and the incorrect path I took to the shipping/dock area of town.


After realizing the it was difficult to follow the spurs of the canals or walk Ghent's curving streets with names that could not be pronounced I had to find a better way to walk the castle. A less stubborn person would have just used public transit, but I decided to follow the tram line wires that ran to Gravensteen.


I think this was the oldest building I walked past in Ghent


Typical building in the old part of town


After 30 minutes I made it to Gravensteen


Gravensteen is also called the Castle of the Counts. Gravensteen sounds much more imposing.


Since I arrived after a day at an amusement park it was started to get dark, not ideal for pictures, but I was happy to finally find the place.


I was initially upset about the moat it just didn't seem very big.


But in retrospect I guess it was pretty difficult to traverse 1,000 years ago when archers are shooting at you from the castle.


And then you would need to scale the wall. My bigger beef, the moat was advertised as fully functional yet it only goes around 3/4th of the castle. I guess I would have had to take to tour to get an explanation. I initially felt cheated not seeing a full moat , but half a moat is better than none.


Across the street (which probably used to be part of the moat) was a public square where the executions used to take place.


Over one hundred years ago the powers that be decided to put a better light on the plaza and installed these lights.


These lanterns are connected to the maternity wards throughout Ghent and slowly light up every time a child is born. No one was born in Ghent during the 15 minutes I stared at the lanterns.


They was some stupid festival going on during my first two nights in this area of town, was caused me to stay further away as hotel prices were ridiculous in this area.


After getting a better lay of the land I was able to follow the canal system back to my hotel.


Taking this route also allowed me to see most of the key architectural points.


I have no idea of the names of any of these edifices.


It's getting dark I better keep walking in case I get lost again.


Looks official


I think I found another church


Not just a church, a big church, like a cathedral.


Not a religious building!


That my B&B. Not the cool looking building on the right, the building above the hair salon.


A welcome sight at the end of the day. A Nacht Winkel.


Because the sell lambic beer at a cheap price.

Edited by larrygator
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Great start, Larry. Now that I've seen a lot of the Netherlands I hope to spend some time in Belgium in the future, so I'm enjoying the view of Ghent and looking forward to seeing Bruges.


Same here. I've dipped my toes in Belgium with Bobbejaanland so I would like to see more of what the country has to offer and especially Bruges. Looking forward to seeing more of your TR Larry.

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...Because they sell lambic beer at a cheap price. (fixed)


...And have a bottle of Centrum at every table, too.


Great tour start, Larry. I love the architecture of Europe, old and new! Looking forward to more of your trip.

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Great report! Sounds like Walibi Belgium has some nice dark rides.


I should have also stated that with the re-theming of rides since my last visit, there is a nice flow to the distinct sections of the park. Overall the park is above average for families with kids up to their early teenage years, but not a full day park for coaster enthusiasts.


Great start, Larry. Now that I've seen a lot of the Netherlands I hope to spend some time in Belgium in the future, so I'm enjoying the view of Ghent and looking forward to seeing Bruges.


Same here. I've dipped my toes in Belgium with Bobbejaanland so I would like to see more of what the country has to offer and especially Bruges. Looking forward to seeing more of your TR Larry.


I can't believe I almost skipped going to Bruges, as I was considering taking the train to Luxembourg City for a new country credit. Friends had told me Bruges is the best city in Europe to walk around, I hope my photos do it justice. I'm always hesitant to act too much like a tourist and even though it seemed as if everyone walking around Bruges was a tourist I was hesitant and didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have.

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Those of you itching to hear about NeuroGen again, and those who will hear for the first time will just have to wait, because while others are already talking about Holland in teir PTRs I still have three installments from Belgium.


Bellewaerde - an amusement park and zoo. It was easy to get to Ypres (Ieper) from Ghent by train, one train no connections, but the train station is a few miles from the the park. I know the bus I needed to take, but can not find anyplace to buy bus ticket around the tiny train station, therefore I was at the end off a very long line of day tripping families and teens. I serious wondered if we would all fit on the bus, I was the 103rd person and last to squeeze on to the bus. Any more people and someone would have had to train a top the train like in India. At the drive three attempts to close the doors to secure our safe passage, but since I entered through the side door, there was no way to pay the fare.


The bus runs every hour and arrived at the park for park opening. While there is nothing standout about Bellewaerde; there are quite a few combo amusement park/zoos in Europe, but this one has a larger number of rides. The park is fairly spread out in order to include the animal exhibits. Again it was an overcast day so while most of the Eastern United States was experiencing 100 degree weather it was 65 degrees and you will notice many people in the pictures wearing sweatshirts.


Luckily the Nacht Winkel sold munchies in bulk. Great for breakfast and snacks. I bought a ten pack for of these waffles for about $4 that lasted until I got to Amsterdam.


My first order of business was to check out how dual mountain coasters operated in an amusement park with such low capacity.


As you can see int this picture the sleds go up the lift hill on their own and riders have to make the 10 minute walk up long inclined ramps up to the loading platform.


Riders were dispatched every 16 seconds. These mountain coasters had tradition brake handles, however they did not work, therefore they never had to worry about vehciles bunching up.


View of the Camp Niagara Splash Boat from the loading platform.


Screaming Eagle Drop Tower is located only 100 feet from the Dawson Duel entrance. As you can see the park is extremely well shaded.


There is plenty of foliage surrounding the Bengali River Rapids.


This was my favorite thing part the park, Doodshoofdapen Singes Siamiris, but what the hell is it?


Spider Monkeys


The building on the left in the back housed the spider monkey but they had free reign inside the enclosed area. There plenty of signs telling guests not the touch or feed to monkeys. However, even though some people think those outside the US re superior, I saw plenty of child who had difficulty following the rules. However, the offending children were dealt in a stern manner instead of being coddled.


After momma monkey decided to explore the ropes course it encouraged the youngsters.


Then the offspring decided to come out and play.


I dared not test if the sign was true or not.


The wet dry slide is so well hidden you don't even see it until you are right in front of it.


River Splash is also well hidden from the viewing public until the drop.


Who has scene this creepy screen shot before?


A fully themed Houdini mad house, same as SFGAdv and SFNE.


Jungle Mission = Jungle Cruise without the schtick


OMG an operating Topple Tower


El Toro breakdance. I remember when SFGAdv made the mistake of taking out their breakdance for El Toro. No reason it should not have stayed in the park.


Play structure of death


Huracan is the park's signature coaster.


But scary stone face forbids all riders to speak of the experience.


Gift shop entrance


There was a train ride to many more animals, but I didn't have time.


The park was strongly pushing the Lumberjack show with actors being driven around the park drumming up excitement, but alas I had no time if I wished to explore Bruges.


I spent about 15 minutes watching this guy. he just looked so happy (I have no idea is he very was happy, but he appeared to have a smile on his face) As you might see he has a tree branch in his trunk.


He kept launching the branches into the sky. But he was calculated in what he was doing. He always did it in one of two spots and was trying to get the branch to land in the tree. When he accomplished this he would strut around making making his trumpeting sounds like as if trying to announce his accomplishment. he would then pick up another branch (which were clearly placed there by zookeepers) and try it again.


Overall is was a fun day at Bellewaerde, and the empty bus ride back to the train was much less eventful, but I did find out you could pay the bus driver when boarding the bus.

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"Don't worry about the brakes. We ain't got none." Hey, if it's designed to run at full speed, as those mountain coasters usually are, it's fine. Would love to see one run like you've described.


This park looks fantastic, rides and aminals and all. Great photos!

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Plopsa de Panne


The next morning was my last day before riding the train up to Amsterdam for the TPR trip. On this day I visited Plopsa de Panne in the town of de Panne. I knew this park had built Heidi and Anubis over the past few years, but really never paid much attention to it. However, as I started looking into traveling around Belgium I realized this park had a little more to offer than just a kiddie park.


The park was easy to get to with the train station only 5 minutes from the entrance gate. The entrance plaza is spacious and gorgeous, the park is beautifully landscaped, the themed areas are very well done and I had my first encounter with poffertjes. Lines moved quickly for all the rides except the indoor dark ride and the Disco.


The morning started the same is the previous day, so I'll use the same picture to show my breakfast.


Get off the train and just walk down this path to the Plopsa dePanne, it's that easy.


Just another parking lot coaster


Walking to the front gate, I walked through the giant book in search of knowledge.


Off to the right there Plopsa is building a hotel, things they would not teach me of in college.


As you can see it is not done yet


This beautiful arcade lead to a spacious entry plaza.




well manicured


and water to keep kids occupied


That parking lot coaster has a dark ride section


The Dragon powered coaster gives you two laps, unlike in the US many powered in Europe are longer in length, more powerful and well themed


a unique carousel for the kids


They also have a proper carousel










When not resting in their pens, the farm animals roam around the Tractor ride.


The park has the best themed roller skater, themed to a female pop trio that sometimes roller skates.


ROX Flyer


at an amusement park???????


The poffertjes are more my style


Some areas of the park are picturesque


Covered tea cups


not a coaster


Anubis is a great coaster put into a very tight footprint. Extremely reridable and enjoyable


I can't figure out why this had a 45 minute wait. I can't figure out why a waited 45 minutes.


Why did you wait 45 minutes for a Disk-o?


Dino Island had a delayed opening. I did not ride as the line got very long and I did not know if the ride had an acceptable level of wetness. I did not want to leave the park partially wet and walk around Bruges in chaffing mode.


Pasta in a box


I try to steer clear of Unofficial Bicky dealers, very unsavory rogues.


Nothing unofficial here


I'm glad I waited out the long line for the dark ride and its cute ride boats


We passed a bunch of trolls going through their daily routines


The highlight was the gift shop items


The park also has an indoor kid's area right off the entrance plaza




Edited by larrygator
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Great reports!


I didn't realize there was still an operating topple tower out there. I'm glad I rode the one at Marineland to say I've done one, but I don't remember it being all that good.


Disko coasters always seem to have long lines in my experience.

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I knew I would either have time to take a train to Luxembourg and walk around Luxembourg City or visit Bruges. As I posted on Facebook from Ghent a college roommate asked if I was going to Bruges, which he said was a great city to walk around not only from an architecture and history perspective, but the locals are very nice and friendly. Food wise, Bruges is known for chocolate, waffles, beer and fries so I knew I needed to go there before returning to Ghent from Bellewaerde. However, I had much fun those four hours that I decided I needed to return after Plopsa de Panne also. Maybe I'll get to Luxembourg on another trip.


My mistakes walking around Bruges were twofold:

1) not realizing the wear and tear walking on cobblestones for hours at a time could do on your feet

2) disregarding the friend who told me I would get lost walking the streets. The layout is about as far as you can get from a grid pattern. Add in street names that can't be pronounced and change names without warning, lack of streets signs, few posted maps outside the largest tourist attractions, and an assortment of canals and you can get completely disoriented. The one thing I knew was that as long as I didn't cross the largest canal encircling old Bruges I could eventually follow that circle back to the train station.


My starting point - the Train Station


A close-up of the map to show you these street names are no joke.


Pretty much this is the totality of the Bruges tourist area. encircled my the canals. Within the boundaries are some of the finest examples of medieval architecture. During both WW1 and WW2, Bruges was occupied by the Germans and in uncharacteristic fashion they left their conquered city practically intact. The train station is located below the bottom left hand corner, and my goal the first day was to get to the larger market squares in the center of this map.


One of the larger canals near the train station


This is how many streets looked


Streets just bend and sometimes change names without fanfare


These cobblestone streets were closed off to most vehicular traffic


Whenever I passed a grand building I took a picture but honestly have no idea the names of all the buildings


This might be the famous Church of Our Lady


Or this one might be


Or maybe this is it. Hell, I don't even know if all these are the same building just from different angles. But I was there.


Here is the proof that I found my way to the large Market Square


and in that area were many chocolatiers


and waffles


and beer


but mostly chocolate


a lot of chocolatiers


and chocolate by-products


This store allowed you to choose your style of chocolate to create your own hot chocolate


While the US was going through a heat wave in early August it was in the upper 60's at night in Belgium so I visited this shop both nights.


There was a Dali exhibit at one of the museums


but I was more intrigued by the canals


and the architecture


on my second day my goal was to return to area A on the map and then walk due west to Area B, which is one of Bruges six city gates, as the map makes it looks like there are actual windmills in the vicinity also. However, I ended up where you see the handwritten C on the map


stupid curving streets


and canals threw off my sense of direction


I was blissfully unaware that I was lost


and kept taking pictures of interesting buildings (Bruges City Hall)



I finally reached a moat like canal, one of the large ones that circles the town.


and found one of the city gates. It was only when I consulted the tourist map next to the site that I realized I was on the west side of the city not the east side. Thus no windmill picture.


To ensure the shortest trip back to the train station without a getting lost, a decided to follow a path south keep the large canal on my right side at all times.

Edited by larrygator
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on my second day my goal was to return to area A on the map and then walk due west to Area B, which is one of Bruges six city gates, as the map makes it looks like there are actual windmills in the vicinity also. However, I ended up where you see the handwritten C on the map


I feel like there's a hidden meaning in your letter selection and arrangement, perhaps implying some regret in your choice of walking...?

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Make-your-own hot chocolate? I could have used that on some of those chilly pre-trip days!


It was amazing how much cooler it was in Belgium in those 3 days before the TPR portion of the trip started. I only brought outerwear because we were going further north on the trip but I never used it after Belgium.

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