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Sunday 28th July 2013

Adinkerke, Belgium

Tonight my game has been cancelled, and it’s too late to find an alternative. So I’ll write the article I’ve been promising Splodge for a day or two.

It’s about our trip to Belgium a couple of weeks ago, and the inevitable stop along the way. If you take either the Channel Tunnel, or the ferries to Calais or Dunkirk, then head north towards Belgium, the first town you’ll reach once you’ve crossed the border is Adinkerke.

Its part of a conurbation with the coastal town of De Panne, and during both World Wars the town saw significant action including many casualties during the retreat to Dunkirk in 1940. There’s a military cemetery on the outskirts of the town, and the pontoon-style bridge does hint at its military past as you enter the town from the road past the oddly named Plopsaland theme park. It isn’t fairground rides that attracts the vast majority of tourists to Adinkerke, it’s just the one small detail that taxes on tobacco, and alcohol are substantially lower in Belgium than in France.

With the first exit on the E40 motorway being the turnoff for Adinkerke a veritable industry has built up around selling the kind of goods an economist would describe as demerit and the rest of us as the goods you really shouldn’t consume. There are shops selling tobacco, alcohol, porn, outsize plastic gnomes, (who buys a 5 feet tall Madonna and child in plastic?) and even hotel sized boxes of Persil!

So concentrated are the shops devoted to taking advantage of lower Belgian taxes that the town now has the dubious claim to fame of having the greatest number of tobacconists per capita of any area in Europe! We took advantage of the Palais de bières section of one Tabac, and filled Splodge’s boot, and also bought some “Conscience Chocolates” for our respective wives and girlfriends.

I suspect that’s the way for many who pay this town a visit. There is however, a sting in the tail . It’s not uncommon for the E40 to be closed at night at the junction with the town with French and Belgian police stopping drivers to check that purchases are within reasonable limits. Cargoes have been seized, so it’s now very much a case of take advantage, but don’t go overboard. Tell you what though, those beers were fantastic!