Our next Airbnb apartment was in the gorgeous city of Ghent. Finding our apartment was interesting as Ghent is a University city full of push bike riders with tram lines sharing the thin cobbled streets with cars. We missed our street the first time as it was really a tiny dirt lane next to a humongous construction site. The underground parking was dark and ghetto like. There was no room for error when navigating our car around concrete huge pillars, so using our marital good communication skills we managed a perfect park (it took 20 minutes!).
With a glass full of positive optimism we went in search of our apartment. Rob however was a little concerned due to the neighbouring construction site mess. Interesting no one had mentioned it on the Airbnb site!!!!
Once inside our 3rd floor cute studio apartment we were in love. It was roomy, nicely decorated and believe it or not it had a tranquil ambiance as both lounge room walls were all glass and looked down over a picturesque canal lined with a smattering of boats. It was also extremely quiet during our entire stay, which was amazing considering we were only 5 minutes walk from the historical city centre.
Ghent is a beautiful city for so many reasons. One thing that we really noticed was there were no hideous high rise monstrosities. The skyline came low into the city allowing you to breathe.
Ghent is full of stunning historical stepped gable architectural buildings and a quaint canal runs like a main artery through the heart beat of the city.
We took a great canal boat tour where I kissed Rob under the willow trees. Interesting how it is the girl who has to make all the moves. Kissing under the willows is meant to bring eternal love!!! I noticed we were the only couple that dared to do it, maybe everyone else thought eternity was a very long time!!!
Our canal trip took us under St. Michael’s Bridge and past St. Michael’s Church which we had already explored by foot. It sat majestically on the canal banks.
Castle of the Counts looked very romantic with its fortress high walls still intact sinking into the deep dark mirror like waters on the canal.
Most of the main historical attractions are all in easy walking distance. On Easter Sunday morning we explored the historical city centre where 2 huge old churches sit facing each other at opposite ends of the main square. We had just finished visiting St Bavo’s Cathedral which was crowded due to Easter Sunday mass and we headed to the Belfry (bell tower) in the middle of the square and both Church bells from either end of the square began to ring loudly announcing Easter. The sound of these loud medieval church bells made my heart skip a beat!! It took my breathe away and brought tears to my eyes. The church bells continued to ring and danced their songs through the cool morning Easter festive air spreading the spirit of Easter for at least half an hour. There was a real joyful spirit amongst the crowds of people who were out enjoying their Easter Sunday.
….We return to St. Bavo Cathedral later in the week when it was less busy so we could explore what we described as the many football fields of treasures inside. The original church which lays underground was impressive with its quaint architectural features and medieval painted mural walls.
We peered at jewelled religious cloaks, gold goblets, scrolls dating back 600 years and at many famous religious artworks.
Ghent is full of beautiful designed churches. We also explored St. Nicholas’ Church with its remarkably high arched ceiling that reaches for the heavens.
We loved the old timber beams in the 15th century Great Butchers’ Hall. Between the 15th to beginning of the 19th century this was the only place meat was allowed to be sold.
Feeling a little hungry we ate at Ellis Burger’s. We had a great table outside on the square. We listened merrily to a live singer and watched bubbles fly high in the sky. It was a great spot full of positive atmosphere but I found my chicken burger a little average. My Berry Liefmans on the rocks hit the spot and made up for my under achieving burger. It needed more live food (greens) to entice me!!!
We explored everything we could get our eyes on;
the Sunday flower market, GRU (Gourmet Food Market), where you could stuff your face sampling bread, cheese, wine, chocolate and nuts!!!! We shouldn’t have had breakfast before entering this delicious shop!!!
We checked out the graffiti alley ways where I learned a few new words, the trendy Holy Food Market but we were too full from our earlier free samples to eat here!!!
We loved exploring this vibrant city !!! Highly recommended.
We took a pleasant hour’s drive to see the Belgium coastline. Pleasant because it was the Easter long weekend and there were no big trucks hurling down the highway. First ocean front town on our radar was Oostende. Spring fever was truly noted here as the roadside median strips were bursting with brilliant bright bustling daffodils competing for their space in the Spring festival of glorious nature. It was a pure joy to see so many delightful flowers dancing in the breeze. Like chocolate sets off positive endorphins so do flowers after the dead of winter. I am a flower girl forever more!!!
Oostende’s jewel was its large casino which sits on a huge ocean front promenade. The beach front was flat, vast and ran directly down the coastline. It was a very clean town. Favourites for us besides the beautiful park was finding The Australian Ice Cream Shop which stood out boldly in green and gold with a somewhat poor resemblance to our native kangaroo. The first ice cream attendant couldn’t understand our English as we were asking why was it called, The Australian Ice Cream Shop. The money had been funded by the passing of an Australian Aunt. It is now a very popular ice cream chain here in Belgium. The ice cream was so creamy, shame we don’t have it at home!!! I hope European tourists don’t get too disappointed when they try real Australian ice cream. I think their success is due to Dutch full cream milk. Yummm!!!
The memorial to a brave companion of man’s best friend was very moving in the park. A pup or two is high on our list when we return home.
Our next seaside town was De Haan which was delightfully beautiful as I wasn’t expecting the exquisite Dutch architecture. The beachfront promenade was stunning and had lovely female statues that portrayed the female body in a delightful way.
The sand dunes were a real heartwarming feature, which lured us into the dunes for a walk.
Stay and pay sections of the beach were opening up their hut doors for the first time for the session. You want to stay in certain sections you need to pay. Let’s hope this concept of big business never reaches our shores.
De Haan was a holiday destination for families containing every sort of push bike for hire imaginable. Restaurants filled the street lined with expensive European cars. Porsche heaven which meant Rob had car envy. He has eyes for only one car and that is a Porsche. Nothing cheap about Rob he knows quality. Once again the beautiful laid out park was over run with sparkling good time daffodils. They were definitely the star of the show in this park. This park had its very own dove house which was very popular with the doves strutting their feather tails.
On our way back we couldn’t resist trying some freshly baked treats.
The traditional tram stop is an icon of De Haan.
Another favourite was a small park that had an animal enclosure which housed fluffy rabbits, plump guinea pigs, cheeky chickens and gorgeous goats.