After the fact- thankfully after- when I was telling a friend about our trip to Belgium and mentioned that the weather was not always perfect, he responded with the politest of ‘what did you expect responses’. Something like: ‘Yes, I was wondering why you chose to visit Belgium in the springtime.’
Belgium, it seems, has a bit of a reputation for rain.
And Ghent, my friends, was a little bit Grey.
And yet, as you can see already, it still managed to be all kinds of beautiful.
Plus, as my sister and I quickly realised, rain is just an excuse to drink more hot chocolate!
We arrived from our very-short train journey from Brussels in the morning (seriously guys, the country is tiny. Staying in the capital and journeying out for the day was the easiest thing ever) and immediately hit up some food.
And here, before I begin anything else, I have to thank both my work colleague Phillip, and Belgium native Sinke for the amazing advice and recommendations.
The pancakes (at Gwenola) were Phillip’s idea!
Spinach and cheese, down the bottom (not bad), and sugar and butter up top (AMAZING)!
After fuelling up, we went for a wander, and, despite the slightly dreary day, very rapidly managed to find ourselves surrounded by colour:
Guys, I might as well warn you now, this post is going to be filled with a lot of sister-selfie.
I don’t get to see my sister very often, so you’d better believe that when she’s in the vicinity I take as many shots with her as humanly possible.
The sillier, the better:
This is a particular favourite from the trip. It will surprise noone who has met either of us, that we both have a reputation for loudness. And at least one of us had the nickname of ‘loudmouth’ as a young lass.
Ok, so we walked around the city a bit, occasionally dropping into shops when the drizzle got the better of us. We also took many photograph, and my sister, with her lovely perfect darn hair, stood for a bit, looking model-esque, on the bank of the river.
And then friends, we discovered the New Thing in Chocolate.
Turns out that there are not three types of chocolate (white, milk, dark), but in fact FOUR.
Where the fourth kind is Red Chocolate! (but actually kinda pink).
We bought some to try, because we are responsible experimental scientists who are not afraid to put our tastebuds on the line in our quest of the truth.
Turns out that red chocolate tastes largely like white chocolate, but perhaps a little bit more sour/fruity.
Anyway, fuelled by sugar we continued our merry skipping through the town, taking in the sights and asking ourselves (or rather, being asked by banners), the big questions:
Yes, and it would definitely screw up less than I do.
But I have more charisma.
Our next rain-avoidance technique involved a short trip through history and up and down the river. The guide switched rapidly through Dutch, French and English, and had the peculiar but also charming habit of ending nearly every sentence with ‘isn’t it’.
‘How history changes, isn’t it!’
We learned that Ghent is the place where the rivers come together, that at one time the Protestants threw so many books from the monastery into the river that you could cross without getting your feet wet, that wooden facades on houses became illegal after the great fire of London, that the houses slope because you only paid taxes proportional to the base of the house, that women pulled the boats along the river…
.. and a great many other things, all of which I have now forgotten.
I of course, took some rations for the long boat journey.
(And at this point I would like to extend my gratitude to Ariel for such a ‘lovely’ photo!).
Ariel just reminded me that we also scoffed about 20 truffles on the short journey. A necessary activity, both because our sugar levels were dropping dangerously low, and because we had purchased many flavours, and needed to try all of the kinds.
After a quick lap of Ghent’s sights, we disembarked, to more rain.
But! The weather’s variable tendencies only lead us to greatness: our next drizzle-stop was Huiz Collette- for hot chocolate.
Some of us were just born to pose with fancy things!
While others of us were born to be Kings.
Check out my fancy Castle:
This is Gravensteen, a 10th century castle which happens to be one of the few actual castles (i.e., zombie-proof buildings) placed smack bang in the middle of a city lake.
Apparently we were not the only ones who felt at home in such noble surroundings:
Ok guys, I now this is the world’s longest blog post, but we’ve finally reached the near-end of our day’s journey.
Welcome to Huiz van Alijn.
It was recommended highly to us by the ‘isn’t it’ boat guide, and we quickly began to suspect that he may have been paid to do so.
It was definitely fun, but also quite weird.
^Ariel getting excited by the mention of olliebollen (dutch donuts).
In case you can’t tell from the photos, the museum is set up as kind of bizarrely structured narrative that follows both the months of the year, and the stages of life. It flicked through school beginnings, moving house, marriage, christmas….
Completely odd- visit with a sense of childish playfulness or don’t bother.
Luckily for us, we were sugared up and ready to have fun:
Ok, that’s it for Ghent, I’ll leave you with some shots of the rather beautiful city!