AT last, after years of scraping and saving, we were able to take Dean Dawson's advice and " Go East." Accordingly, all of us, fifteen boys and four adults, assembled at Ely station on the morning of Tuesday, March 31st. We arrived in London and in spite of a misunderstanding on the Underground we completed the journey across the city to Victoria station. Having arrived at Dover, we embarked on the " Prins Albert." The wind was cold, the sea choppy and for the first ten minutes out of port the ship rolled considerably. Visibility was poor and Dover was soon out of sight, but as the ship passed the Goodwins we were able to see parts of the wrecks. The party relieved the monotony of the voyage by exploring the ship and eating their packed teas.
Darkness had fallen by the time we had reached Ostend, and having passed through the Belgian Customs without difficulty, we were met by the Gentours official who took us by 'bus into Bruges. We arrived at the Hotel Van Eyke, where we were made very welcome.
The following morning we arose early and the adults celebrated their arrival by being late for breakfast. After breakfast we explored Bruges, most of which was built during the Middle Ages. The ancient city of Bruges possessed five gates or " Poortes," which guarded the bridges over the canal surrounding the city. The most prominent feature of Bruges is the belfry which, houses one of the two best peals of bells in the world.
On Thursday we visited Middelburg in Holland. We went via the ports of Breskens and Flushing. The sea between these was very calm and on arriving in Holland we noticed how clean everything was.
On the following day Mr. Kitchen produced his black beret on account of the rain and this promptly put ideas into the heads of a few members of the party, who bought similar headgear, thus becoming Kitchenettes.
On Saturday we decided to visit Ostend and after lunch we went to Bruges station. The forms for our party ticket had been religiously filled in, checked and rechecked for mistakes. We arrived at the station a good twenty minutes before our train was due to leave. We had some difficulty in finding the correct booking-office, but having succeeded, we found, to our further dismay, that it would not be open for another ten minutes. Time slipped by rapidly and we were becoming very agitated when at last the office opened and Mr. Waller and Mr. Kitchen were faced by a fat, pompous gentleman, seated behind a desk. When presented with our forms, he merely informed us that it would take half an hour to get a party ticket and by that time the train would have left. Mr. Kitchen exploded ! After the arm-waving and fist-shaking had ceased it was decided that a trip round the Bruges canals would probably cool off the enraged leaders of the party. On this tour we were accompanied by an expert guide who made sure we missed no places of interest.
At breakfast on Easter Sunday we were all delighted to find an Easter egg under each of our coffee cups.
Next day we visited Brussels. and as our route passed through Ghent our guide took us for a short conducted tour round the city. After Ghent we continued along the Autostraat, which is the best road that I have ever seen. We stopped at a cafe where there was a sand artist who used coloured sands instead of paints. While we were there we saw one of his unfinished pictures and also a film demonstrating his methods of working. When we arrived at Brussels we toured part of the city in the 'bus and were shown the chief buildings of the city, such as the Royal Palace and the Independence Memorial, in front of which burns a continuous flame. We also visited the Cathedral and after this we were let loose and did some private exploring.
The journey home was hectic, to say the least, and our 'bus averaged over fifty miles per hour. As this was our last day in Belgium we decided to celebrate the fact by holding a party. This took place in a rather small room, and as we had invited over forty girls it was rather a tight squeeze. Despite this, however, we all had a good time.
The weather on our day of departure was sunny and warm, this being a pleasant change from the previous week, and everyone in the hotel turned out to see us off. The journey home was uneventful, and on arriving at Ely the party dispersed, after having thanked Mr. and Mrs. Waller for organising such a wonderful holiday.
From the Soham Grammarian Coronation issue, Summer 1953 - If you can add anecdotes or photos about this trip, please contact the editor.