Tag Archives: Gent Belgium

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 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.