Ren Mouchotte Searching For Ren Westende Belgium

Jan Leeming

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - Westende, Belgium

Date: 19th October 2012

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE – Searching for René – Westende in Belgium

In my researches I discovered that the Hotel was still standing, in front of which René’s body washed onto the beach. I suggested that we might stay there and be in situ for an early morning shoot. The Hotel was called the Belle Vue, built in 1911 during the era of the Belle Epoque and was the only building left standing – albeit a trifle damaged – at Westende at the end of the war. It had been built of reinforced  concrete.

Now the hotel is called de Rotonde and though the building is as large as it was in its hey day between the wars, only a small portion is an hotel and the remainder is divided into apartments.

It was a grey, misty, wet evening when we arrived to be met by a Georges of All Trades. The lovely Georges was the Receptionist, Bartender and as it transpired later also the Cook. What a fascinating story he had to tell – escaping from Rumania as a young man, he swam the Danube and with nothing arrived in Belgium where he has built a life for himself and his children.

Our cameraman, Ben, was one of the old school where he really did go that extra mile to get good shots. He was very artistic and maybe that was down to his genes – his Grandfather was the Leete who did the ‘Kitchener wants you’ poster used in the first World War.

We had agreed that we didn’t want to drive into town for a meal and George was so welcoming we decided to eat in the hotel. Then Matthew called for me – there was the tiniest bit of a sunset and Ben wanted me standing in silhouette looking out to sea. I can tell you there was a tear in my eye when I thought of the death of René and his being brought by the tide to this spot roughly where I was standing.

Our dinner was certainly not Michelin star but served so well and willingly by George that it really wouldn’t have mattered if we’d been eating sandwiches.

There are only ten rooms at the hotel and they are all behind doors depicting a scene from the years between the two world wars. The hotel itself is a rather odd design and must have been light years ahead of its time when built. In fact it looked very Moorish and as though it would have been more at home in the Casbah.

Next morning was again grey and drizzly but in a way it suited the mood of the filming. They had me walking at the tide’s edge and there was Ben down on his knees in the water – and yes it was cold!

We then drove the short distance to Middelkerke to meet the young archivist - Simon Vosters.

Jan

Hotel de Rotonde, Westende.  (The Hotel Belle Vue during WW2)

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - Westende, Belgium

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