The Ark

Tuesday, 6th January 2015

Tuesday was bright but very cold, and it took some time to defrost the windscreen of the car before setting off for the Ark. Picking my way through the service station I was soon on the motorway and heading in the right direction. The A16 took me over the Holland Deep, formed from the waters of the Maas and the Waal, and on via the N3 into Dordrecht itself. Lori the SatNav Lady, as usual, took me to the right spot. You can hear her in this clip:

After taking in the sheer size of the thing I moved a bit nearer and parked to take some stills. No apologies for the in-car entertainment you can hear (“Classic FM at the Movies“):

Ark 1
Ark 2

Then I drove through the car park and parked near the entrance, which was a bit naughty. However, in the depths of winter there were very few people around.


The wooden rails are for hitching your bike to. The Netherlands is a very bike-friendly place!

Opening times

Once inside you pay at the desk then follow the footprints on the deck. There are many individual dioramas, the first one being the waterwheel-powered saw that might have been used to cut the timber:


The wheel turns a shaft, and a crank attached to the saw at the other end converts the rotary motion into reciprocating motion:


Each display has explanatory notes in 3 languages:

Waterwheel explanation

I’m not going to list every such item, except to say there are lots to see and there are video screens here and there to give more commentary. Nor are the displays limited to the Ark story. For example, there’s one depicting the High Priest and furniture of the Tabernacle mentioned in the book of Exodus …


… and one depicting the Resurrection:

Empty tomb

The cross, like the tomb, is empty.


There are open spaces at the bow and the stern which give a sense of just how big the Ark is:


The uppermost deck has a restaurant with panoramic views through the side windows:

Restaurant 1

You can also step outside to enjoy the view:


Bearing in mind that this is January and that the ark is not heated, and moreover it’s in a damp atmosphere by the sea, it may come as no surprise that after a couple of hours I was chilled to the bone despite waering many layers of clothing and my trusty duffel coat. I made a few purchases in the gift shop then reluctantly had to beat a hasty retreat to the car.

The next target was to find an authentic stroopwafel (and please remember the “oo” is pronounced “oh” and the “w” as “v”) so I drove into what I thought looked like a suitable area, parked the car and started walking. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find a café or market anywhere in the locality, and the temperature wasn’t getting any higher. So, again reluctantly, I went back to the car and set off back to Dunkerque. I called at the first service area I could find on the motorway and went into the refreshment bar. Yes, they sold stroopwafels but they were the usual pre-packaged ones similar to the ones I could buy from Lidl at home. The one redeeming feature was there were two in the packet!

All in all, then, I can use that phrase we’re all familiar with from schooldays – “must try harder”. I’m hoping to make a return visit to the Ark in the autumn when the temperatures should be a bit higher, and chase down that elusive waffle.

The journey back was uneventful and I arrived at the B&B opposite Dunkerque station in the dark. After check-in and claiming my free night it was back to Flunch for dinner once more. This time I plumped for something totally new to me – a galette complète. This is a very thin disc of bread-like material put on a hotplate and upon which was placed a slice of ham, some cheese and a raw egg. The bread was then folded over to form a semicircle and the whole thing left to cook for 5 minutes or so. I added the usual extras and enjoyed the meal thoroughly. The video shows the galette being made from scratch (basically just buckwheat flour and water) whereas in Flunch they were ready-made. The folding over is different, too.

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Monday, 5th January 2015

Monday was a travel day. Searching for a suitable hotel in the area of Dordrecht threw up the Hotel Port of Moerdijk, one of the Holiday Inn Express chain. I’d stayed at one of these in London last year when I went down for the Marfan Information Day, and was quite impressed.

Before setting off I needed to get some supplies, especially some fruit, and fill up with diesel and again Lori the SatNav Lady came up trumps. I’ve added several supermarket chains to Lori’s points of interest list so it was a simple matter for her to find the nearest Carrefour selling fuel. This turned out to be the Carrefour Market in the Dunkirk suburb of Malo les Bains.

When I got there I found the supermarket was in a complex containing other specialist shops, one of which was a fruiterers called Les Halles du Méridien. It was a self-service shop with a vast array of fruit, vegetables and other items of a more calorific nature. The apple section contained several varieties which were new to me, so I plumped for the nice-looking Rubinette. This turned out to be a good move as when I got home and did a bit of research I found it is the best-tasting apple in the world! I would not disagree with that.

With the apples, clementines and bananas safely on board I filled up with diesel and set off. It’s a direct motorway route along the E40, E17 and E19, and with a couple of stops on the way I turned off for the hotel by late afternoon. The motorway was remarkable for the number of lorries using it. The convoys stretched for miles, and by way of example here’s a small (boring) sample:

See how many lorries there are in the other carriageway, too.

The hotel was easy enough to see but proved remarkably difficult to access. The secret was to go through the small service area (“Pin & Ga Tankstation”, no less) and over a small stretch of unmade road. Once checked in and having looked around, the hotel was well up to expectation. I did venture into Moerdijk later but darkness had descended and there wasn’t much to see. I returned to the hotel and dined in its restaurant, which was serving a buffet. The Coq au Vin was excellent!

The Netherlands is divided into several provinces of which North and South Holland are but two, so it’s not correct to use “Holland” and “the Netherlands” interchangeably. The full list of provinces is Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, North Holland, South Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Zeeland. Being in Moerdijk I was in North Brabant. Tomorrow, in Dordrecht, I would be in South Holland.

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Sunday, 4th January 2015

I’ve already mentioned the poor night I’d had on Friday but Saturday night made up for that. I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear the alarm at all so it was well into the morning before I surfaced. This was a great disappointment to me as I’d planned on visiting the Eglise de l’Espérance for the morning service at 10:00am.

So after a more leisurely start than anticipated I toddled off for a mooch around. The day was bright though cold, and a short distance down the road was the Tour du Leughenaer (the hotel is on Rue du Leughenaer), which dates from around 1450.

Tour du Leughenaer

You can see the hotel (the rust-coloured building) in the background on the right. Further along was the marina:

Marina 1
Marina 2

Then, across the water, was the Dunkirk Port Museum and berthed alongside was one of the exhibits, the tug Entreprenant:


Further along was the previous Sandettie light vessel. There is a current one moored in the English Channel to mark the Sandettie Bank and which replaced the one in the picture in 1989. Besides warning of the sandbank, the vessel (unmanned and without engines) relays weather data which is reported on the BBC’s Shipping Forecast.


Lastly, there was the Duchesse Anne, a sail training vessel launched in 1901 as the Grossherzogin Elisabeth. She was given to France by Germany in 1945 as part of the reparations following World War 2:

Duchesse Anne

Here are the 3 in panorama:

3 ships

There was an information board, too:


Later, I drove out to Bray-Dunes, right on the Belgian border. The last time I was here there was a little market on the main car park, but alas (or should that be “hélas”) not this time.

So here’s a picture of the beach, from which some of the 300,000 troops recovered in Operation Dynamo were evacuated under extreme conditions in the dark days of May/June 1940.


In the evening it was back to Flunch for another excellent meal (Saumonette, sauce aux petits légumes, and Gateau Basque), then off to bed.

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