September 20 – Ghent, Belgium
Rested from the Leffe Brewery and the ascent to the Dinant Citadel, we decided to play it safe today and stay close to Brussels. Ghent, Belgium on the list of heard about ‘you can’t miss’ cities, yet never explored by the Weatherly Tribe, other than couch-surf traveling via a House Hunters International episode at home, we decided to conquer today. No splitting of the trains today and only a 30 minute ride, we took a leisurely pace getting up, having breakfast (even squeezed in a grocery run), before heading to Brussels Midi Train Station.
Ghent, the capital and largest province/city in Belgium’s East Flanders is a sister city and close companion to beautiful Bruges. With winding canals, a castle to be conquered, an abundance of churches and one of Europe’s most treasured works of art (made famous by the movie – Monuments Men…stolen by Hitler and returned by US Forces in WWII..the Ghent Alter Piece). If you haven’t seen Monument’s Men staring George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett, rent it, watch it, love it…outstanding film for Europe lovers and WWII aficionados! The Ghent Alterpiece was breathtaking, we would definitely consider revisiting to spend some time taking it all in when the kids are a bit older.
Short story – we strolled into Ghent, walked to the city center, a good 30+ minutes, explored the city center and once again stood in awe of a castle built by men and glorious churches built for God. After having a pre-packed picnic at the base of the castle, a run around the moat and through dungeons, and a climb to the castle’s top towers, we decided there was no way we were going to be able to see all of Ghent in one day, and headed back home for Brussels. After all, it’s good to leave a little something left to for the next time.
Another day, another city, another endless list of memories with family and new friends, we are amazed that it has been almost 3 weeks since arriving in Belgium. This evening while looking ahead, we decided to call our friend Luciano at Il Canto del Sole (Tuscany, Italy) to ensure our reservation for October and November was still in tact. Like we never missed a beat, we laughed as old friends, for there is much history (check earlier blog posts), he confirmed for south in October and north in November. We cracked up..in several languages…as his English has improved since we last spoke, and as has so my Italian. He swears when we visit he is going to only speak in English and me speak only in Italian. I must admit that is somewhat exciting and yet nerve racking at the same time. What if I mess up? Who cares, it’s Italy right, you laugh, smile, hug, kiss and drink vino! Europe…quite the other world!
We look forward to more adventures and continuing this amazing journey, a quest for work, revenue corporate America and profit but more importantly with tons of friends, laughs and memories in between. We know that one cold day in late November this journey will finally come to an end, but for now we are keeping the words of Ernest Hemingway front and center, “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Cierra’s Notes: We traveled to Ghent today and I have to say it was great. Only 30 minutes from Brussels and gorgeous. It reminded me of Bruge with all the canals and canal tours and old buildings. If you have children I would recommend to either bring strollers or take the tram ( see in the background of our castle pic ). We walked all the way there and our little ones were tired. In any case we proceeded to storm the castle of Ghent and have a picnic. Mike brought a bottle of white wine and poured ourselves a cup of vino in a kids sippy cup ( see the pic inset ). This worked! We also had salami, bread, olives, apples, and a few other snacks before we headed up to the castle. The castle was great and afterwards we walked around the city square. We had a guy take a pic of us but of course I chose the guy with the most unsteady hand ( shaking like a leaf ) to take our out of focus pic in front of the castle. We did get to go into an old Church which the entrance was decorated by hops ( only in Belgium would you see this ). We got to go into the crypt and there we got to see the Altar piece of Ghent that was stolen. That was pretty cool. I was in there snapping away and at the end realized as I looked up that there was a no camera picture on the wall. Yep, I was that rude, ignorant tourist who didn’t follow directions. Hey, I didn’t use a flash in my defense. After that we got mixed up on the wrong tram but in the end got back to the train station.