Hello from Ghent, Belgium!
Sunday we left Amsterdam, our suitcase wheels rolling along the cobblestones in the morning quiet was sort of sad. We boarded our first French train and arrived in Brussels in what seemed like no time. The Z's sent us a text message saying the had missed their connection in London and we're on standby for a later flight, obviously they weren't going to beat us to the city after all. So we dropped our bags at the funny little "Downtown Residence" and went out to wander. We ended up sitting down for a beer and that's where D found us! Luckily I had mentioned a few days earlier the first bar that CF wanted to try. What fun to be in another country and suddenly have one of your best friends show up at the table!
Eventually everyone arrived, the Z's luggage did too, several hours after them. Our hotel was run by a funny (okay, dirty) old man who was constantly drinking coffee but also always seemed at least a little bit tipsy. Our first dinner in town we decided to eat at his restaurant, he lured us in with a promise of an 11euro meal, but then we said fish sounded good when he asked so we ended up paying more. Oh well, it was so worth it. The starter was scallops and shrimp in a delicious tomato and creme fraiche sauce. He made us an amazing meal, practically by himself, what an experience!
The next morning we went out to see the murals of Brussels, a walking tour suggested in our book. Comic book artists are so well respected here they get to do public murals all the time! We tried to go to the Comic museum but found out it was closed. It was Monday! All the museums were closed. Whoops! So we went for a great walk around the city, which included a beautiful park and a cute part of town we hadn't seen yet. We picked up some Belgian chocolates and wandered back towards our hotel. We found a great place for lunch and everyone had mussels and frites.
What happened next made me very sad... we figured out how to use the internet at the hotel, but we tried to switch from wireless to wired just as my camera was downloading photos onto the laptop. The computer froze, and the photo files were corrupted. I lost over 24 hours of Brussels photos. So sad!!! I spent the last evening trying to take some of those photos over again, but they're just not the same. Therefore my shots of Brussels are weak in comparison to other stops on this trip.
The next day we made it to the comic book museum, it was very cool. We also hit the musical instrument museum where you put on headphones and infrared sensors played music for you featuring the instruments you were looking at. Brussels didn't turn out to be nearly as charming as Amsterdam, but it is worth a visit... try the frites, they're delish! Oh, and the waffles! I didn't mention the waffle I had, it was served to me on a napkin or two with a huge ladle full of chocolate sauce on it. It was damn near impossible to eat without getting everywhere but my goodness it was amazing.
Okay, so on to Ghent. Cute place! And our lodging is fantastic. It was described as a B&B but there's only three rooms so we take up the whole place and the owner has basically left us to enjoy it. As we settled in I found a CD player and hit play. Billie Holiday was an uber-cool addition to this already fabulous place. We had take away cheap dinner the first night and I was so glad to not be in a restaurant. As much as I love going out to dinner, it gets old! The next morning we went for a walking tour (self guided with the help of a guidebook or two), saw the cathedral and Gravensteen Castle (very cool!), and had a little lunch. More honey drizzled over goat cheese for me. This is becoming a favorite. After lunch we split up the group a little and CF and I went for a wander. We got to see a little bit more residential part of town. This is a really cute place. Though I don't know if the residents would like me consistently using that word.
After a little rest the group met back up and we hit the town. We went to an incredible gin bar that I think there must be nothing like anywhere in the world. Dutch gin is different than English gin, it's all made with grain, so it's not like drinking a tree (I am not a gin girl if you couldn't tell). And the man who runs this gin bar has many straight gins to buy shots of, but he's also concocted amazing flavored drinks. They're already mixed in the bottle, and he pours you a shot glass full, you can sip it just fine though. The tiramisu drink was incredible! This place is another little gem I am so happy to have experienced in the world.
I am speeding through the trip because I don't have as much free time now, because there's socializing to be done! We're leaving Ghent today and headed to Brugges for 3 nights. There are more waffles, frites and chocolates to be enjoyed!