Damme Shore Excursion
This was our fourth trip to Belgium in under a year, having previously been to the country exactly zero times in our lives, and this was the third time we’d visited on a P&O cruise ship. We had originally planned to simply take the free shuttle bus provided by the cruise company to the nearby town of Blankenberge as we’d already visited Bruges twice and Ghent once but with a few weeks to go we realised that we couldn’t be sure what sort of weather we’d have at the tail end of February and while we’ve no objection to exploring in the rain we decided it might be just a little more pleasant to do something a bit more organised with more opportunity for not getting potentially frozen and drenched. As such, we booked ourselves on something called the Scenic Villages and Chocolates excursion and the first stop would be a town called Damme.
Our experience of P&O cruise excursions is that they’re handled very well, and certainly a lot better than those with Princess. Instead of gathering in a lounge or the theatre then waiting for half an hour or longer before heading off P&O simply asked that we get off the ship ourselves and find our coach ten minutes before the departure time. Dead easy as there was only one coach waiting when we made our way ashore and we were in our seats with fifteen minutes to go; we weren’t the earliest by any means. Some people can’t read and so turned up a couple of minutes after we were supposed to leave but not too awful in the grand scheme of things.
Damme Town Hall
We hadn’t really been sure how long we would have to explore on our own so were pleasantly surprised to be told we had about an hour from when the coach parked up to when we’d need to be back on. As it would turn out this would be plenty of time for the town on a Saturday morning in February as the town was very small and there was practically nothing open. I don’t doubt that some people headed straight off to grab a coffee as suggested by our guide Pascale but this was camera time for me; it was incredibly cold with a wind chill taking the temperature below freezing as evidenced by the ice we saw around the place but that crispness added incredible clarity to the light on a cloudless day. With the coach at the market square of Damme the first, obvious point of interest was the Town Hall and its lovely architecture.
Damme Poplars And Windmill
Our coach had crossed into Damme over the Damse Vaart canal, a popular spot for taking photos on account of the poplar trees lining the canal’s banks and the Schellemill windmill along one side. We encountered plenty of cyclists along the path we took to the windmill and a large group of them stopped to take pictures of the picturesque location too. We didn’t see anyone from our coach come along to see the structure but they may have after we returned to the town. While a windmill has existed on the spot since the town’s formation the present one was more recently constructed, having been built in 1867.
Damme Herring Market
We headed back into Damme, picking pretty little streets at random.
In a short amount of time we ended up coming upon the Herring Market. The exterior decoration of the former poorhouses along with the pump, statue, and tree in the centre for some reason reminded me of Portmeirion in Wales.
Our Ladies Church Of Damme
We headed back towards the main street of the town on the lookout for any other interesting sights.
Aside from the town hall the other easily seen sight from within Damme itself was Our Ladies Church on account of its tall tower. We’d been told that the church was open and free to visit and this was technically true and would have been nice as its interior is supposedly quite impressive but there was a funeral taking place and out of respect I took a glance through the door but no photographs inside.
In the grounds of the church was an oddly surreal piece of sculpture called Blik Van Licht (Look Of Light) by Charles Delporte to whom there is a museum dedicated in the town.
We finished off back in the market square waiting for our coach to arrive and I took a few more photos of the area to pass the time, a covered well and the prominent statue of Jacob Van Maerlant (a Dutch writer and part of the reason for Damme being known very much as a book town these days) being two specific areas of interest.
Damme was a very pleasant little place but with us visiting so early in the year and day there was little for us to do other than take a quick stroll around. I think if you were staying in the area of Bruges it’s a pretty pleasant walk or bicycle ride along the canal from there and in the early summer I imagine it would be lovely to do. Surprisingly, we weren’t told about the Battle of Damme by our excursion guide which I think would have been a nice thing to do for a British group.
You might think that adults know how to tell the time and couldn’t possibly be tardy with regards to returning to the coach in a small town such as Damme but you would be wrong. We made our way to our next stops of the chocolate shop followed by the castle at Loppem only a few minutes after we were supposed to. Again.