48 hours on the Belgian coast

Fri Oct 5, 2012 7:21am EDT
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By Barbara Lewis and Robert-Jan Bartunek

OSTEND, Belgium (Reuters) - Belgium's 72-km (44-mile) stretch of coast is distinguished by the world's longest unbroken tramway to take beach-lovers from the Dutch border to the edge of France or vice-versa.

Mostly, it's a very urban experience. High-rise development dominates and the challenge is to winkle out the remnants of graceful art-deco and unspoiled nature.

Correspondents with local knowledge can help.

Day 1

10 a.m. - To get there, catch a ferry to Ostend. Alternatively, from Brussels, trains to Ostend are cheap and take just over an hour. They also run to Knokke, if you want to start at the Dutch border.

Ostend shot to prominence as a vacation spot after the Belgian King Leopold I had a summer residence built there in 1834. Now it's better known for its ferry terminal. It also has 9 km of sandy beach, a Napoleonic fort and an art heritage.

Painter James Ensor, an important influence on expressionism and surrealism, was born in Ostend and lived there for almost all his life (1860-1949).

His house and studio in Vlaanderenstraat, near the sea front, is a museum (closed on Tuesdays), preserved as he lived in it to give visitors an insight into the man behind the powerful artistic angst.   Continued...

Some of around 10,000 people take part in the filming of "The big ask again" video clip on a beach at Oostende August 29, 2009. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet