Today I’m coming at you with part 2 of my recent European adventure: Ghent! If you missed part 1 (Amsterdam) you’ll want to read that first here. Ready? Let’s dive right in!
Fabio and I left Amsterdam on Monday morning and hopped on the train to Ghent, Belgium! On our way we stopped in Antwerp, which we’ve heard is another beautiful Belgium city. Just look at the train station!
Next time, Antwerp.
Our train ride took no time at all and soon enough we had arrived in Ghent (or Gent, as the Belgians spell it). We quickly dropped off our bags at our Air BnB, which was close to the city center and very clean and spacious. Perfect!
For our entire trip in Belgium, Fabio and I relied heavily on a travel book from Rick Steves, which was a recommendation from one of Fabio’s coworkers. Neither of us had ever used a Rick Steves book before, but now that we’ve traveled with one we will never leave home without it! Rick’s spot-on suggestions, down-to-earth nature, and quirky sense of humor had us exploring the three Belgian cities like a couple of pros, and his book didn’t leave my side the entire time we were in the country. It looks like his books mostly cover Europe, but he does have books for a few other areas which is nice.
For Ghent, Rick provided step-by-step directions for a two hour walking tour around the city center, so as soon as we dropped off our bags we headed out. After about a 10 minute walk, Rick – as we lovingly started to call our invisible travel guide – led us to this amazing view.
I don’t know what Fabio and I were expecting from Ghent, but it was not this. We were both completely blown away by the beautiful medieval scenery. Check out all that gothic architecture!
Rick did a great job of leading us through the city and explaining the historical significance of each building. In addition to outlining the history, his book offered fun facts and hysterical descriptions of everything (e.g., he referred to a sculpture of a male angel as a “frat bro” because he was sculpted to be muscular with a smirk on his face).
He also had separate tours of most of the main attractions, including in this case, St. Bavo’s cathedral. He told us what to pay attention to in the cathedral, and explained the significance of the beautiful Ghent altarpiece (which I read about in Monuments Men, so I thought it was pretty cool). A piece of the altarpiece was actually being restored while we were there, and we could peek in on the men who were working on it. Eek! I could not handle the stress of a job like that. What if you messed up and ruined the whole thing??
Our tour also took us up into the bell tower, which offered amazing views of the city.
I loved this bird’s-eye view of the cathedral with its flying buttresses.
I’m sure anyone else out there who is a fan of the books Pillars of the Earth and World Without End can appreciate some flying buttresses. 😉
Halfway through our walking tour, the skies opened up and completely drenched us – despite us having rain jackets – and we had to run into the nearest building. Luckily for us, that just building happened to be a coffee shop with fresh waffles! Yes!
Here I had my first true Belgian waffle, complete with chocolate and whipped cream. It was as amazing as it looked.
Take me back!
Soon the rain petered off to a drizzle, so we continued our walk and headed over to a castle!
Now it wasn’t a very big castle by any means, but neither Fabio nor I had ever been in a castle so we thought it was really cool. The views at the top were also amazing. Ghent is just so pretty!
I also liked these views from the windows in the castle. It was sort of hard to envision the people who would have lived here. Can you imagine if this was your bedroom window?
The castle also featured a room with old torture instruments and drawings of how they would have been used. We were then led into the dungeon, which had creepy music playing. Yikes!
Cercei, are you in there? (GoT reference, sorry.)
Overall, we loved our day exploring in Ghent!
What a ham.
Once we finished the walking tour, we took a break for beers because that’s what you do in Belgium. 🙂
Eventually our stomachs told us we needed to run on more than beer and waffles (though that doesn’t sound too bad…) so we asked our waiter where we could find some traditional Belgian food. He recommended a place called Aba Jour that was right on the canal nearby. Fabio got stoveri – beef stew – and I got some kind of chicken stew that might have been Vol-Au-Vent but I’m not entirely sure. Our food was great, but overall I don’t think I’m a big fan of Belgian food. They should stick to beer, chocolate, and waffles. 😉
After dinner we were pooped so we called it a night and went back to our Air BnB. What a fun day!
I was going to try to recap Brugge and Brussels in this post as well, but this recap is already entirely too long. You’ll have to wait for next week for those!
Question of the day: When you travel, which of these do you use: map, tour guide, mobile app, travel book, recommendations from locals?