Category Archives: Gent

March 25, 2017 – Final Thoughts on our Trip

 

 

 

It was a fabulous trip and have been thinking of the highs and the lows.  So let’s see what comes out as I write my final memories.

Favorite city was Gent/Ghent. It was full of life, interesting things to see, good, delicious food and chocolates, and it was old with great opportunities to imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago.

Favorite people – well that has to be a split decision – the people we met in Athens were so full of life and humor and were helpful every step of the way.  I know the guys in front of the restaurants were working but they were also fun and interesting.  Aside from them trying to get us to eat our meal with them we also talked travel, politics, family and other topics.  It was a great way to start our holiday.

Second favorite people would have to be the Laughland cousins in England = all of them.  They are a lively bunch, with great humor and lots of spirit.  The little kids were all warm and friendly which says a lot about their lives. The folks I met for the first time I really enjoyed getting to know and hope I get to see them again.  All in all it was fun times.

And third but not last = Pat and Una Weir.  We have stayed in their apartment three times before I believe making this our fourth visit to them.  They are a lovely family and made us, as always, feel at home and totally welcome there.  They go out of their way for their guests and the feeling is always one of friendship and family.  So I could not talk about favorite people with out including them.

Favorite new food – I think it must be Tzatziki that we ate in Greece.  Not being a brave taster of new foods, in fact totally resistant most of the time to eating anything new, I was proud of myself for trying several Greek items.  The Tzatziki was delicious and I can see myself trying to make it and eating it again.  Oh and I have to add the alcoholic drink Advocaat, it is a creamy yellow, egg nog favoured drink that we had with whipped creme. It is Belgian and if you are there in Gent by the train station there is a little bar restaurant that serves it with a cup of coffee. It was delicious. Those two items were worth the trip.

Favorite archaeological site – Would have to be all the things we saw in Athens. The old Olympic Stadium, the ancient ruins, the Acropolis and all were spectacular.  Yes, we also saw lots of old cathedrals and buildings but I think what we saw in Athens was awesome.

Favorite historical item – In thinking back I believe the Bayeau Tapestry was extraordinary.  It was done at the time of the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  It is 70 meters long and is displayed in all its glory in its own museum.  It tells the story of the rise of William the Conqueror and the battle to maintain his kingdom.  They give you a hand held speaker to take around with you which tells you what is happening and who is shown in each part of the tapestry.  I learned a lot from the experience.  If you are near there don’t miss it.

Favorite Museum – In Dublin we went to the Viking Museum at Christ Church across from our hotel.  I had been there before and it was good and wanted to see it again.  It was equally as interesting the second time around.  Learned that those Norwegians came over looking to be farmers and needing more land to farm. I can see that with all the mountains in Norway.  At the end of the Museum you can go into the Cathedral and tour it which is also very interesting.

Another interesting museum if you can call it that was the Bell Tower in Gent.  I learned how they make those bells so that they ring in a certain tone  and believe me it is not easy or a quick job.  That was fascinating to me so I included it this list.

I don’t know if I should call this the funniest or saddest thing from the trip.  It was an observed event.  One night we were out having a drink and were going to listen to some music.  We had been in this bar before so recognized some of the regulars we had chatted with.  Everyone likes to ask about Trump and our opinions as well as give their own. Did not matter the country or the language.

One fellow there appeared to be on his way to one whale of a hangover and this woman drinking next to him was chatting him up and it was obvious she and her friend knew him.  Her friend just kept rolling her eyes.  But the one chatting with him seemed to be moving in for the kill.  He had his hand on her shoulders and then her back and eventually on her butt.  She seemed to move away a bit but then came back to him again.  I was just sitting back in my spot watching all of this dance of the frustrated lonely old people.  All of a sudden I saw this fellow move his hand the way he had before except this time he went for the Trump move.  She moved pretty quickly back away from him but my mouth was almost on the floor.  I turned to hubby who had also been watching and said something about they have Trumps over here as well who feel free to grab what they want.

Well I figured that her moving down the bar to chat with others meant this whole show was over.. ah the fools we can make of ourselves.   Nope it was not over.  After a bit she returned and was rubbing up against him and whispering things to him.  I was just starring at this point in disbelief.  Then her friend told her to put her coat on and after some more intimate moves she put it on and left.  I think if they had been in between 20 and 40 I might have just thought not a great deal of it but she was heading in my direction age wise and he was maybe my age or older. Hard to tell since the love of the drink can make you look older than you are.  Anyway not an episode I will forget any time soon.

Disappointment – We went to see the play “The Weir” in Dublin and I could not hear or understand the actors very well.  I missed so many of the humorous lines that it was kind of a waste on me. I was disappointed in that since I had been the one who suggested we go see it.

Regrets = My biggest regret is that the trip was not longer.  Several of the places we visited  had so much more to see and a couple more days would have been better.  I am sorry that it had been rainy so I did not get to climb up to Queen Maeve’s Tomb.  Meeting of the Waters had also been on my list of places I wanted to see again and we did not get there.   But I know we could not do everything with the time we had.

Hopes = to win the lottery and just go and spend a whole year or so traveling around to all the places I would like to see before I croak.  And that I don’t lose my mind and forget all of this. Too many fun memories to go and not remember them.

Gratitude for Denis for being the person he is so that the trip was our trip and we both enjoyed our time together with no work, no pressures other than getting a train or plane but the rest of the time we just took our time which made it joyful.

Cutest thing that happened – this goes along with the last paragraph – in Dublin we were walking up O’Connell Street holding hands and this woman walked towards us and we did that little dance you do when one person starts to go right and the other does the same, then you go the other way etc.  We all kind of laughed and stopped and she came up and said how pleased she was to see two people who obviously still love each other and are just enjoying being together.  So glad it showed…

 

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February 13, 2017 – Moving Day

dsc00469Woke up to a beautiful day in Gent.  The sun was shining and all was right in our world.  Took our time as usual getting going. Today was moving day from the apartment in the old city to a hotel near to the train station.  So we started packing and cleaning up so we could get going.

We decided to walk over by the canal and walk that way to the hotel. It was lovely walking along the water but I had too many clothes on for the level of exertion.  It took us a little longer than walking with out those big suitcases but I am grateful for the person who figured out putting wheels on suitcases made life easier.

The NH Hotel chain is very nice it would seem.  The fellow who greeted us and checked us in told us where to purchase the best Belgian Chocolates and to purchase an interesting bottle of beer in Bruges tomorrow.  Happy for that info.

After settling in we decided to have lunch and take a walk thought the Citadel Park.  Lunch was in a cafe/bar but what was neat about it was when they brought the coffee in addition to a cookie or a piece of candy, they gave us a drink called Advokaat which is like egg nog, along with a little cup of whipped crime.  Goodness gracious it was so good.  Could not believe it.  The coffee became an after thought.  And the sandwich just something to eat.  I asked for the name and the maker because I have to find some  to send home or buy when I get home.  I can just picture having that after Christmas Eve dinner…

The walk was lovely though the park.  Everything of interest is closed on Mondays in Gent. Museums and many restaurants.  Guess it is family day or something.  But with the lovely weather the walk was delightful.  It is a pretty park with lots of different paths and statuary and gardens.  Must be lovely in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.  Bulbs were starting to come up in the wooded area.

After our long walk it was back to the hotel a different route just to see what there was to seeing in housing in that southern area of the city.  I was tired and there was a message that Denis had left some clothing in a drawer at the apartment so I went to sleep and he went and rescued his belongings.  It was great to sleep for an hour or so.

We had to return to the train station area to eat dinner since everything else was closed.  Had a simple meal, soup for me and omelette for his self.  Then we shared an apple tart.   Was nice.

Just watched Justin Trudeau do a great job at the press conference where our president embarrassed himself again by not answering the questions asked or blathering on about how great he thinks he is.   Justin got in some jabs that the old guy totally missed.  Love you Justin.

February 12, 2017 – 23,000 steps– really?

This morning I woke up to find out how far I walked yesterday, thousands of steps.. no wonder I could hardly see straight last night.  Still only slept about 6.5 hours too.  Figure between walking to the two train stations and into the City Centers that took a lot and then museums, walking around here and there it all added up to about 10 miles.  Pretty good for 72 years, if I do say so myself…

We had promised ourselves to take it easy this morning so we did.  The landlord had to come and get the visitor tax from us for our stay and he had forgotten and not gotten here when he was going to so that gave us even more time.   He tried to show us how to work the washing machine but it is obviously not a usual thing for him.  But we got a load of wash done and hung and hopefully it will be dry in the morning enough to pack.

Had breakfast here again which was nice and peaceful.  Watched SNL skits which were hilarious.   Eventually we headed out with the plan to see two things.  First was to take the boat tour on the canal.  We hit that just right and got the 2 pm boat.  That was short and sweet and got to see things from the water which was nice.  Then I was starving again and we found a great place for a treat.  It was a little coffee/dessert place –  I had Creme Brûlée Pie and Denis had the Carrott Cake along with some coffee to wake me up. I could not stop yawning I was so tired.   I was in heaven eating that pie.  Ginger cookie crust was delish  and the crime brulee just so yummy.  Should have taken a picture but I ate it too fast.

Then we headed for the castle of the Counts.  It was a very good thing to do it turned out.  They have a very nice museum there with the history of what the castle was used for over the years and a torture museum… Yes they tell you in graphic detail how they tortured people who were taken prisoner there as well as chopping off their heads etc. The inhumanity of it was shocking to me.  They had a collar with sharp spikes in it they put on peoples necks and then sat them in the Center of the room.  Most people could last 3-4 hours before they ended up moving which it the spikes hit the right part of your neck probably killed them pretty fast.  YUCK!!!!!  And other kinds of torture. They even had straight jackets back then for the mentally ill which were also torture implements.

As we got to the top of the castle the sun came out so the pictures from there are much better.  I put a set on Facebook since tonight it is getting late and this iPad takes for ever to upload pictures for wordpress.  Will try but it too late will skip it.

After the castle we wandered back to the apartment and rested until 6:30 and then headed back to the Italian Restaurant we ate at the other evening.  We both had pasta and it was very good.  As usual I did not eat a lot of it but what I did was very good.

Upon getting back here we got set up on Skype and had a visit with the granddaughters.  They were fun and happy so that was good.  Had been to their first surprise party for the little ones best friend Zelda..

Tomorrow we are moving to a hotel.. and will investigate the museums down by the train station.

February 11, 2017 -Lots of questions

Today we did not rush although I was awake from about 6 until 7:30 then fell back to sleep for another hour.  We ate breakfast in the apt and then headed out to the train station.   Just to be upfront – I walked according to the Fit Bit -23,525 steps so far today.  Hard to believe this couch potato did that but I did and am still able to walk. Took a few days but it appears the legs are ready for anything. Queen Maeve might have to wait for another time but you never know.

We got the train to Antwerp. Great deal for seniors – 6 euro round trip on the same day. Took an hour to get there and on the way we chatted with a Brit who is a graduate student in urban planning.  He is in a one year program in London and sounded like he came from up around Liverpool.  The time flew by.

Arriving in Antwerp we went to the Visitor Center and I was asking about where the hospitals were that were used in WWII for victims of the bombings and war casualties. They showed me where two hospitals are that were there back then. The military hospital has been torn down although I am not sure that is where Aunt Pat was anyway.  They also told me what the person I had contacted before told me about where the old site of the movie theatre bombing was so we could check that out. They assured me there was  plaque on the building.

We walked out of the stations and found the building where the theatre had been. I knew it was long gone and replaced with modern buildings. It is actually a movie theatre and a mall kind of place.  BUT there is no plaque. They are doing work and I am sure they just took the darn thing down.  I was very disappointed.  We walked through the building and out three of the doors but nothing.  Took a picture of the building as it is now.  Aunt Pat wrote about the theatre being bombed in Dec 1944 and they were three days getting everyone out and they took care of many of the wounded.  They worked for 48 hours straight during that time and then more hours.  It had been a theatre of the kind like our Proctors at home – there were at least 3500 people watching a movie when the bomb hit.

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From there we went and found the Rubens House and got tickets and went through. Really lovely old 1500’s house and lovely paintings and other items through out.  We got little books that helped us since most was not in English although I think they have figured out that having everything in Belgian does not encourage English speakers to take your tours. Since that gets put in travel books about their sites. The woman who sold the ticket assured us things had changed since an earlier version of the travel books.  She saw my Rick Steves book.

We quite enjoyed seeing everything. It was snowing out which made things quite lovely. Not sticking but nice anyway.

Then we headed for something to eat.  We found a cute little health food cafe and got sandwiches.  I made the mistake of assuming the ham and cheese would not have mustard on it .. Wrong… so I ate what I could but I cannot stand the taste or smell of mustard.  The bread was very good organic… I had some food with me that I nibbled on to make up the difference.

From there we headed for the Cathedral which closes to visitors at 3 pm and it was after that but we went in and just could not freely wander around since they were having a Mass.  We did walk in the back and took some pictures. It is a lovely old building and so huge. Always hard to imagine how the designing happened and the ability of people way back then to know about all the necessary math and physics that goes into building something that huge and not having it fall down.  They have such beautiful art in the Cathedrals.  Lots of Ruben’s and other masters.

From there we wandered down to City Hall and took the tour. They are celebrating the 450th Anniversay of the hall and it will close for five years of renovations.  It was a nice little tour of the history  of its start in the 1400’s and how it had been torn down,  burned and rebuilt several times until this current 450 year old version.  The people were very nice and we enjoyed it.

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From there we went down by the water front and first went up on a bridge to nowhere but a great place to take pictures on the river.  And then over to what is a castle on the water. It is just called the Castle since most of it is gone.  There is a statue out front of a giant intimidating two traders.   There are problems with the rising water in the Scheldt River because of rising seas and storms so they are working to makes things safe along the river for the future.  At the Castle there was a plaque commemorting the Canadian 1st Division which made me happy.  They lost so many lives freeing the people of Belgium and  the Netherlands they deserve some recognition.

Then we started our walk back to the train stations.  It was getting dark and we were both pretty darn tired.  We stopped and got some street food – Belgian Waffles – His with whipped cream, mine with chocolate.  They were good to eat as we walked along.

The Meir Street I guess you would call it, really got to me when we first arrived. It is totally pedestrian walking area but the stores are all the high end ones and better mall ones that we could see at home or in the big cities.  And people were all carrying bags from various stores. The economy is obviously doing well in this part of the EU. Very well dressed people and tons of young people out shopping with groups of friends.  I like the little old areas with more local shops personally.  If I want to shop at GAP or H&M I know where to go to find them.  The childrens clothing stores have such lovely looking outfits and not the normal stuff you see around.  Just gorgeous stuff.

I read that Antwerp has about 25% ethnic minorities and immigrants.  Eastern Europeans as well as Middle Easterners and Africans.  It is a wonderfully diverse city and you can hear languages from all over the world.  The common denominator language in English since there are so many others you could not learn them all. But I heard French, Spanish, German, Italian, and various middle eastern languages. It is fun to try and figure out what I am hearing.

We got the train back to Gent and walked the 1.5 miles from the station back here stopping to get a brick of Cheddar cheese along the way. Not interested in eating out again tonight.   Planning to slow down a  bit.  Have to pay what we owe the land lord tomorrow and Monday noon we move down to a hotel near the train station and will do some museums there and then tuesday going to Bruges.  Weds we move on to France which will be an adventure in itself with several trains, changing stations in Paris and finding the train to Rouen.  But until then we will continue to drink in the culture of Belgium.

February 10,2017- St. Nick and the Pickle Vat

Such wonderful adventures today.  Slow start although woke up super early.  Denis went for a run and I took my time.  By the time we were both ready to set out I was starving.   We found a great little place to have breakfast just down the street.  They were kind of an organic, vegan type of place but did serve meats and cheeses.  I had yogurt with fruit and tried a piece of their gluten free bread. I would have made good toast but as usual fell apart easily so would not have made good sandwich bread.  Denis had eggs, ham and bread I think..

Then we headed out to do some touring.  We started with the Cathedral of St. Bravo.  It is one impressive place.  Looking at all the art and wood work and gold items etc they kept a lot of artisans busy over the centuries.   We went down in the basement where the original church was.  There are fresco’s on the walls and ceilings that are just 10th century old.  We spent a while there and no doubt it is gorgeous and impressive and a must see.  There was some one practicing on the organ and occasionally a person singing and it was beautiful.   Would love to attend a mass there just for the music.

We checked out a couple of other buildings around the squares and after a cup of coffee decided to go to the Belfry museum. It was darn cold out and thought it might warm us up – NOT!!!  But again it was worth the visit.  They have various items on four floors of the belfry.  The first one had four soldier/guard statues. One from the 1337 and the others recreations.  They are called the Stone watchers and stood in the corners of the Belfry.  Then we climbed a bit and found the lift to get us from there from floor to floor. The windy stone steps were not going to work for me.

On each floor there was something different. The Dragons were fascinating.  Some had bullet holes in them from the World War II.  The Dragon watched over the city for centuries. The oldest one guarded the city from the Tower for 500 years.

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Then we learned how bells are made – what a process!  It takes weeks and weeks of careful work to make one of those beautiful Carillon bells.   There are 54 bells and every Sunday morning there is a carillon concert by the City of Gent carillonneur.

We were in the clock room and I took a video that I posted on facebook to show the clock bells go to work.  It is like a very large music box of the old fashioned kind. It is such an interesting thing to watch and see how it makes the bell sounds.  How did someone figure out how to do that?  Always makes me feel kind of dumb that things like that make so sense to me.

Then we walked up the final stairs and walked around the outside of the building and took some pictures.  Denis went a little higher to see the bells up top.  I did not want to do those tiny stone steps.  But he did take a picture for me. This is the Cathedral of St. Bavo.

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Then we went into St. Nicholas Church.  I am surprised they don’t call it a Cathedral as well because it is very big and only a stones throw from the other one.  Anyway, it turns out there are statues, paintings, stained glass, altars and wood carvings all over  the place with St. Nicholas and the three children in the pickle vat. It is said that St. Nick saved three students on their way to Greece to study philosophy in about the 12th Century that were kidnapped and their teacher killed.   Nick found out about it he went and saved them.  Somehow that turned to into them having been children and he became a patron saint of children but he is also known as the patron saint of merchants and sailors.  Go figure…

After that we went back and I got into some warmer clothing.  Always helps to dress appropriately for the weather which I had not done.  Needed more layers and tights under my jeans.  Then I was fine for the rest of the day.

We walked along the canal and saw the Castle of the Counts which we are going to tour  on Sunday if all goes according to plan.  We went and had a bowl of the best soup I have ever had.  It was so good and warmed me up and it felt great.

Then we found Patershol which is a group of windy streets dating back to the Middle Ages.  It was lovely and I kind of wanted to hear the footsteps of houses on those cobbled streets.  Each house was different but just gorgeous.  Would have loved to see inside of one of them.

On our way back we found a grocery store and got ourselves some food so we can eat here in the mornings instead of going out for breakfast.  Also it will help since we are going from here to other cities on two days and if we get back and are tired we can eat here.   After a rest and deciding maybe we had better have a little super we went out and had pizza and an italian restaurant.  Great thing about the EU is all the variety of restaurants available.  We shared and seem to be perfectly happy with that.

 

February 9, 2017 – Irish Pub Food

Today we were up early and our driver was waiting for us when we got down stairs.  What a charming young fellow.  Hard life driving a cab although the airport pick ups and deliveries are at least prepaid and scheduled.  We talked about schools, and day care, and all the kinds of issues they are having due to the economy.  Nice drive so early so not a lot of traffic.

Our flight to Brussels went just fine.  Got to see the snowy Alps again otherwise the sky was cloudy.  As we waited in Athens for the flight we met a young woman traveling  by herself who comes from the Berkshires.  She has been traveling for five months and is due to return home in March.  Obviously seeing a great deal and learning a lot. I think we should do that too.

Anyway, we arrived at not the big airport in Brussels but at the smaller one 30 miles out of the city.  Adventure, right?  Took the shuttle bus into the main train station and figured out how to get the train to Gent so away we were.  Brussels is obviously a very industrial city and big.  Kind of made me glad we had decided to move on directly to Gent.

Had coffee at the Starbucks at the Gent station and then started our walk to the apartment we have rented.  We are three blocks from the main old square with all the cathedrals, the canal, great looking shops and restaurants.   The apartment is on the second floor and the stairs are narrow and windy.  Could not carry my own bag up them. Thank goodness for healthy strong men.

It is a lovely roomy apartment. Fully equipped kitchen,  a powder room and a huge shower  with double sinks in this huge bathroom.  No toilet in that one.  Kind of weird but beautiful.  TV we cannot figure out yet how to work.  Also a washing machine so we can clean the clothing before moving on.

Went out for a walk. It is so pretty here.  Took some pictures in the fading light. Will up load a couple for you to see.

Also, don’t yell at me but I was a bad, bad girl.  I decided I am so tired of trying to figure out what to eat we went into the Irish place and I had fish and chips.  Yes, glutenish fish and chips.  Hard to care when one is hungry.  Also had a very nice salad with it.  Took a picture… too much food for me but what I ate was good. The restaurant the Celtic Towers was fun and our waitress was Russian, living in Gent, and loving it.

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So, we are settling in and will take more pictures tomorrow.