Following the week in Scotland our next destination was Ghent where we were due to spend a week celebrating the wedding of Duncan and Sarah. The week turned out to be rather relaxing and an appropriate follow up to Scotland before heading to the hustle and bustle that was Paris.
Our trip to Ghent began (as seemed to often be the case) in panic as we arrived at the Brussels transport centre and my phone unhelpfully told me that there were no trains from where we were until the following day. When you’re in a City where English is the third language, thats hardly what you want to hear. After some panicking we discovered that it was just a limitation of Google Maps and how much transport info it had on the area, and we discovered trains were still running. We still couldn’t read any signs so we got on the train that looked most correct in what was another flustered minute of panic, and proceeded to spend the first thirty minutes of the train trip monitoring the GPS to make sure we were headed in the right direction.
We arrived in Ghent late that evening and after checking into our hotel discovered our good friends Troy and Michael were staying about 200m from us. We caught up with Troy that evening for dinner prior to running into Duncan and Sarah who took us to a bar that we would frequent on four or five occasions over the following week. The bar sold nothing but boutique shots and was run by a single guy that looked to get frustrated if you asked for any less than five drinks at any one time. There was a more traditional and still very nice bar next door, but I think everyone agreed that the shots were one of the highlights of Ghent. Belgium waffles weren’t bad either however so far as food went.
Of all the places we visited, Ghent was probably the least eventful and as such there’s not a lot to say really. Our days were spent hanging out with Troy and Michael, occasionally seeing Duncan and Sarah when their busy schedule permitted it. We did spend a day looking at the shops and another going through a castle nestled inside the City, but other than that we didn’t do a lot of note other than to eat and drink. The all you can eat rib joint Amadeus was another favourite when it came to the former. There was the one occasion where we accidentally stumbled on Ghent’s very own red light district, something I expected to only see in Amsterdam. That was an interesting stroll and one that set the expectations for when we hit the Netherland’s later on. Certainly it was amusing to note the different reactions of those in our group, from Ali and my outright curiosity to the complete embarrassment of others as we walked past beckoning girls wearing underwear and not much else at 10AM in the morning.
The big highlight of the week was the wedding of Duncan and Sarah, which was absolutely lovely. The entire day ran for close to 20 hours from the time of the initial town ceremony to the closing with the last song. I won’t go into the whole event too much since anyone who is interested in that was either there or would be better served talking to Duncan and Sarah (who no doubt have 1000’s of photos to share), but needless to say it was a great day and I couldn’t have been happier for the two of them. I feel especially privileged to have been part of the bridal party. Below is a photo of the town hall where the ceremony took place before everyone headed to the countryside for the reception, the location of the second photo with my lovely fiance and myself (looking quite dapper if I do say so).
The three interesting things I learnt in Ghent was firstly not to expect a free toilet trip, even in the middle of a large multi-story store. Ghent was a bit like Italy in this regard and it was equally as off putting. Secondly in Ghent it was almost as if English was the first language, which based on signage isn’t the impression I got of Brussels. This made communicating with locals a breeze. Lastly of all the cities I’ve been too, Ghent has to have one of the lowest number of cars I’ve ever seen for what was a fairly dense space. Everyone used bicycles (we saw thousands of those), but otherwise there were only a handful of cars around at any time along with what appeared to be a fairly efficient tram system.
In the end we had a delightful time in Ghent. We may not have done a lot, but it was nice to have a relaxing week and a pleasure to share that with a number of our Australian friends. Our next stop was Paris, which was also lovely but far far less relaxing than Ghent. More on that at a later time.