POPERINGE, BELGIUM. A great many travelers would enjoy five-star luxury accommodations more often were it not for the expense. That said, for many the next best alternative is a family operated establishment that is neat, clean, relatively inexpensive and allows you to interact with the proprietors who may ultimately become lifelong friends. Adapting the familiar adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” one such place is the Skindles Hotel and Guesthouse in Poperinge, Belgium.
Skindles Hotel and Guesthouse: Suitable for many travel tastes
Tourists have a wide variety of standards in mind when they need to find suitable accommodations here and abroad. Available choices might include five star hotels, family operated inns, home stays, pensions, youth hostels, B&Bs and on and on. That’s because there are as many options as there are lifestyles.
For example, historic, quaint B&Bs may prove ideal for some travelers. But maybe not so much for those who prefer the comforts of services one can dial up conveniently with a single touch of the phone. The Skindles Hotel and Guesthouse could be a perfect accommodation for both.
History, accommodations and exceptional proprietors
A classical 18th century mansion located at Gasthuisstraat 57, Skindles was once the residence of the Renynghe Voxvrie family. Later, during and after World War I, Skindles was a British club available only to officers. Originally located on the same street as “La Bourse Du Houblon,” the club moved to its present location at number 57.
The fronton of the house honors the hunting goddess Diana. Inside, all the interior furnishings reflect the styles of Louis XV and Louis XVI.
The house itself is charming. Its casual ambiance includes beguiling nooks and crannies that beg guests to explore them. But the real key to Skindles’ charm lies in the warm, hospitable personalities of its proprietors, Chantal and Peter.
Go online to read reviews of the guesthouse and, more often than not, Chantal and Peter garner rave reviews for their friendliness where each visitor receives royal treatment. In that sense, the owners would personally rate 6 or 7 stars when compared to their more elaborate counterparts.
Inside and outside Skindles
Upon entering Skindles, a cozy bar/library to the left welcomes visitors while the lounge and adjoining dining room are located to the right.
Then, just few steps ahead, guests discover the centrally located kitchen. It comes fully equipped with refrigerator, desk, microwave, dishwasher and oven.
Continue onward into the lovely courtyard. En route, note the “backpacker’s room,” which provides spacious accommodations for 6 travelers who share a spirit of adventure.
The terrace overlooking the courtyard features garden furniture and barbecue facilities. Skindles also offers a large multi-purpose room for indoor activities as well as storage space for bicycles. There is private parking as well.
The three story guesthouse comfortably accommodates 16 people. Guests gain a sense of being at “home away from home” without needing to deal with hoards of anonymous faceless travelers. That intimate atmosphere is part of the charming character that is most appealing to Skindles’ guests.
The town of Poperinge with its history dating to medieval times, first became prosperous through the production of cloth. Later, in the 15th century it thrived for its production of hops for beer, the favorite drink in Belgium. Today, Poperinge also produces high quality lace.
In addition, there are dozens of quaint restaurants and sights for travelers to visit when using using Poperinge as a base for nearby historic day trips.
During World War I, Poperinge was one of only two towns in Belgium that were not under German occupation, even though it was less than 10 miles from the front lines. By contrast, neighboring Ypres, just 8 miles away, was totally destroyed in the war, while Poperinge became an oasis, surrounded as it was by the chaos of war.
As a result, 21st century Poperinge continues to thrive today, relatively unhindered by the burdens of war but still remembering and reflecting on the past.
Visitors can discover grim reminders of that period can be found at the town hall, which still preserves two death cells. Outside in the courtyard, one can also find a public execution post once used by firing squads.
Another reminder is the location of a number of military cemeteries on the outskirts of the town such as Tyne Cot, the largest British war cemetery in mainland Europe.
The British Army lost nearly 300.000 men while capturing the ruined village “Passion Dale.”
More sights and memories
Next door to Skindles is Talbot House. From December 1915 until the end of the war, “Every man’s club” provided rest and recreation for soldiers, regardless of rank, to escape the horrors of war. Known as “Little Paris,” and once known as “Toc H,” it thrives today as a popular museum as well as a small guesthouse.
Just 12 minutes from Skindles is the Pilgrimage Church of St. George’s which attracts thousands of visitors each year to the World War I sites of the Ypres Salient. Today, there is a small resident congregation living in Ypres and the surrounding areas of Belgium and Lille in Northern France.
Completed in 1304, and completely destroyed during WWI, the Cloth Hall has since been totally rebuilt. The first floor now houses the In Flanders Fields Museum which opened in 2012.
Ypres and beyond
Other than St. George’s Church, perhaps the best known of the memorials to the fallen in Ypres is Menin Gate where at precisely 8 p.m. every evening since 1928 the “Last Post” ceremony pays homage to the 54,896 British soldiers who went missing in action during the war. Needless to say the brief ritual is both solemn and meaningful.
You see, Skindles Hotel and Guesthouse is one of those off-the-beaten path places where everything a traveler desires unites into a classic journey through time with all the comforts of home. Chantal and Peter will see to it.
— Headline image: Skindles Hotel is situated in an 18th century mansion in Poperinge, Belgium
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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