After finishing with our climbing in Fontainebleau we headed north to Belgium where we were to meet with a couple of friends met many years ago, and have ever since planned time and again to meet up, however this has never happened. We arrived in Aalst after a looong drive, and had a few drinks outside one of the local bars, as the sun was shining! Whilst drinking and having a laugh it was mentioned that Ghent was a lovely town and worth a visit, I’d never heard of the place as a place to visit, all I knew was they had a football team, and even that I don’t know how I know!
We then returned to their house for further drinking games and spent a nice weekend following our drunken antics on Friday relaxing and spending time with the dogs. It was great that even though we had not seen Reg and Lucy for years, it was as if there was no time between and we picked up where we left off!
The next day we headed into Ghent after saying goodbye to everyone! We parked our van on the outskirts, next to the rowing lake. It seemed a safe enough location with a few other campers, it was also free which helps. A twenty minute walk and we were in the town centre. I didn’t know what to expect coming here, and in all reality I had no expectation, so when we approached and saw ornate steeple after steeple rising over the town I was quite shocked!
We walked over what I later found to be called saint Michaels bridge, to see a picturesque tourist town, with restaurants and bars next to the river. Our first port of call was the tourism office to get a map and use the facilities. The map we got had the names and some information of what each building was/is. Around every corner we past picturesque buildings, or grand churches, I’m surprised that I had never heard of it as a place to visit. I have been to Brugge before and this was way nicer in my opinion. Whilst in the tourism office I came across a banner saying ‘Ghent, Europe’s best kept secret’, and I have to agree, out of all the cities, towns and villages I have visited on this trip I did not expect Ghent to be up there with the big guns of Venice, or other similar locations.
We took a river cruise as we both thought that €7 was a good price for fifty minutes on the water. This tour was done in four or five languages, so a lot of time was spent listening to gibberish until it got round to listening again. As usual on these things it was nice enough and it was good to hear some cool facts about the city. Highlights that crop up in my mind was the jail cell under the bridge, where you had the pleasure of staying the night before you lost you head. Secondly was the now Marriott hotel, with a picture of two swans facing away from each other on the buildings front, marking this as a brothel, if the swans faced towards each other they would make a heart shape, and this was obviously no place to find love, more for something else…
As we were here, it only seemed fair to try some of the foods that are famously associated to Belgium such as fries, waffles and chocolate, as I had already become associated with the beer on my first night here! We had fries and a local sauce from a small hut on the …??? square called …?? These were really nice, and as it was takeaway we ate next to the large cannon by the river. We followed this with a hunt for waffles, we passed a really busy take out place, but as the queues were huge, decided against it. After some research we found another spot called …??? However at €10 a waffle I was ok, I’m too tight for that! We returned to the previous place and found the queues had died down, we had a chocolate covered waffle and it was pretty tasty, as well as ticking off both waffle and chocolate in one! I know that’s not quite how it should be done, but for me I was ok.
We left that evening as we are close to the end of the trip and are keen on fitting in as much as possible between now and then. Next is Amsterdam, think it might have a different vibe to Ghent, but we shall see?