I recently joined a great bunch of travel and music bloggers, writers and photographers for the Marvin Gaye #SoulTrip; in Ostend, Belgium on a media trip organised by Visit Oostende.
Having checked into the Avenue Beach Hotel, which proved to be as comfortable as it appeared, a group of us got together to go explore the windy beach and sea front a little before making our way to have dinner at Histoires D’o which is rather cosy with a nice sea view. The outside tables even come complete with blankets thoughtfully provided for those deciding to brave the fresh wind. I was relieved to discover I was not the only vegetarian in the group, there were two others; safety in numbers. After dinner we went to La Fayette, a lively busy bar; in fact a little bit too crowded so I was glad we chose tables outside!
The next morning saw me up and out the door very early to go peek at the beach again, however it soon started to rain so after braving the free cold shower for just twenty minutes I returned to the hotel to shower, change and meet the rest of the group for breakfast.
After enjoying a continental breakfast it was soul time! Well at least it was meant to be, however there was an international Kite Festival on at the beach and it was impossible to resist stopping for a while to watch and snap a few photos. We eventually tore ourselves away to go have some soul time, determined to pop back to the kites later, which we did repeatedly.
The Marvin Gaye Midnight Love Tour is a documentary walk, so a walkumentary through Ostend. It visits various places where Marvin Gaye lived, worked and recovered from his depression and drug addiction during his stay here. He had arrived on a ferry on February 14th 1981, accompanied by his son. To take the tour collect an iPod for €5 at the city’s tourist office just across from the Casino Kursaal, which houses a fabulous statue of Mr Gaye sat at a piano, so be sure to go and peek at that too.
The iPod is provided to watch various relevant video clips of interviews explaining each stopping point. There are quite a few interesting stories and anecdotes to listen to at the 12 places in the city that marked moments of his time in Ostend.
Sadly it is only possible to view the exterior of the apartment where Gaye wrote one of his biggest hits, “Sexual Healing”. at Stop # 7 which is Residence Jane on the Promenade A shame, as it would have been thrilling to see inside. The tour also takes you to see where he often played basketball and a group; of people were doing just that when we visited. Albeit rather confusingly one of the stops on the tour is called Studio Katy, however it is pointless searching around for it because as I later discovered, it is not actually in Ostend, it’s in a village south of Brussels called Ohain. Incidentally Studio Katy is where Marvin’s album Midnight Love was recorded.
Unless you are iPod phobic as I appeared to be, (but amazingly it was my first time using one) it’s an informative tour. However I struggled with the controls at times and at one point instead of it playing the next video I was greeted with a screen showing the weather for Antwerp; heaven knows how I managed that! Whilst I enjoyed the tour, I also felt a bit disjointed and detached from it. Personally I think I would have preferred the addition of a knowledgeable guide to explain the locations in more detail and provide some answers to any questions. Some plaques with a narrative at each stop would also have been useful; I’m a lo-tech kind of girl. However I would like to return to Ostend and repeat the tour again one day to try and take it all in.
It does involve a lot of walking so sensible footwear is required. Set aside at least two hours if you want to watch all the videos and walk at leisure rather than rush. I also suggest a stop halfway through the tour to rest your soles while enjoying a waffle and hot chocolate, which is of course is soul food! If walking really isn’t your thing you could always do the tour on a bike. Find out more about the Midnight Love tour.