Dame Allan’s Schools recently returned from a 5-day tour to Belgium, during which time they visited some of the country’s most beautiful cities and landmarks and performed in some of its most spectacular venues, including St Salvator’s Cathedral in Bruges and the Menin Gate in Ypres. Tour Courier, Roy, thoroughly enjoyed accompanying the group and gives us his account of the tour…
After a very good run from Newcastle to Dover and a smooth channel crossing, we enjoyed the short drive to our accommodation at the youth hostel in Ghent. Following our evening meal, we went for a short walk around the area, admiring the statue of the mean-spirited Emperor Charles the Fifth before strolling along the ‘romantic lovers’ walk.
We spent the day in Bruges, beginning with a pleasant boat trip round the city, under sunny skies. In the afternoon, we gave our first choir and band concert in the impressive St Salvator’s Cathedral. Our young musicians rose to the occasion and the concert was well-received by the audience. After the evening meal at the hostel, we rounded off the day with a bowling session, much enjoyed by all.
This was our day at the Bellewaerde Theme Park – setting off under heavy rain showers for the hour’s drive, we wondered if we were in for a wash-out. Fortunately, the skies cleared just as we arrived at the theme park, and we enjoyed a sunny time of fun and laughter. We rounded off the day with a quiz evening at the hostel.
Blessed again with beautiful sunny weather, this day was largely dedicated to remembrance of World War I, beginning with a visit to Tyne Cot Cemetery. This was particularly interesting to the group, as the name is said to originate from the Northumberland Fusiliers regiment which was from the same region as the group. Standing next to the central cross, built on the remains of a German machine gun post, we listened to a short explanation of how the German army held the high ground here, and the British had to make an uphill attack from Ypres, which we could see in the distance. Moving on to Ypres itself, we spent an hour at the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum, followed by a short impromptu rehearsal at the Menin Gate, to prepare for our participation there in the evening. As light relief, we then spent some time in the local Leonidas chocolate shop, where many of our group took the opportunity to buy gifts to take home.
Later in the afternoon, the band and choir gave a concert of light music on the market square. Our very busy day finished at the 8 o’clock daily ceremony at the Menin Gate, where the group sang very movingly during the laying of wreaths. They were delighted to receive complimentary remarks afterwards, not just from the local organisers, but also from Canadian and Australian visitors to the event.
This was our departure day, and we left the hostel after breakfast for the journey back to Newcastle. All in all, a very happy and successful tour!