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Published: September 23rd 2019
The Grain Store, second from the right, we thought was falling over. This was built in13th Century with an engineered lean so that grain could be hoisted up easily.
I‘m a bit out of sync due to an unreliable Wifi connection at Tim and Natalia’s place. I thought Australia‘s NBN was third world but I think we’re in a black spot here. It went out late last night and I wasn’t sitting up in the hope it recovered. As someone who is on holidays with someone else who had a heart attack earlier this year, the thought struck me that without Wifi, I have no phone, no language skills, and we’re on the third floor; keep taking the medication Sue.
Here’s a catch up. Better late than never.
I said yesterday that we had no travel plan to return to Luxembourg ; we’ll things have changed and the plan has evolved.
We were staying in Ghent until tomorrow, but after researching the journey home and its cost, and balancing it with the minor advantages of staying after Tim has left, we’re catching the Nissan Micra Express home.
The train trip involved five changes, took 6 hours, and would have cost about 100€ for both of us. It does make a one night stay in Ghent very expensive, but taking the saved fare into account, it’s worth
And Ghent was great.
We walked most of the Old Town, ate some delicious local food, and visited a few interesting museums, a local secondhand flea market, and I climbed the 255 narrow circular steps to the top of the Belfort Tower, and was rewarded with possibly the best 360° view available in town.
This morning I was up early to tell Tim of our decision to cut our visit short, and after his initial disappointment, his own research confirmed mine; the extra night and a few hours in the next day really didn’t justify the hassles and cost involved in getting home.
For breakfast we went to a classic Ghent chocolate cafe, and had bread and croissants with hazelnut praline spread and jam, and a rich indulgent hot chocolate with a shot of coffee added. It was almost too sweet, but I overcame this hardship, and forced myself to eat a slice of Sue’s bread as well.
This morning we had a brief peak at Belgian life in the 20th Century through a visit to The Museum Of Everday Life , that was built in 1363 as a hospital and orphanage for
children. Today it is a beautifully maintained cream brick building that has a shady, concealed courtyard area with outdoor settings that service the tiny bar and restaurant inside. This is available to everyone but unless you go in to check out the museum, you’d never notice it. This became our morning tea break.
At 1pm people started to take up the remaining tables and it appeared the lunch crowd had arrived. Locals would love this place for its slower atmosphere. The canal district was only a little less busy than yesterday.
The predicted weather change never arrived - although it has now, as we pass by Brussels - and it was a pleasure to wander around the oldest part of Ghent that we hadn’t visited , with light fluffy cloud cover and no direct glare from the sun.
The Soup Lounge was a wholesome, inexpensive lunch, with outdoor tables scarce and the long queue inside savouring the blended smells of soups, quiches, and simmering side dishes, filling the restaurant and wafting outside.
Groups perched on the concrete bollards across from the restaurant, waiting to pounce on the tables, like vultures waiting for the jackals to abandon
a carcass. No pressure; you just have to wait your turn.
The last thing we wanted to do before picking up the car and heading home, was to visit The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb , painted in 1432 by the Van Eyck brothers, Hubert and Jan, displayed at the Cathedral of Saint Bavo.
This alter piece has a history too complex to go into here, but it has been stolen, traded, damaged and eventually returned to Ghent after centuries of travel. It is arguably the most important painting in history and was commissioned by the local mayor for the former Church Of John The Baptist, now St Bavo’s Cathedral. The artwork is now securely behind glass, in a small room unfortunately containing some people who thought their ticket entitled them to a front row view at the expense of others, and they use elbows to reach their birthright spot.
I’m no art expert but sometimes you can be a complete Luddite and still get it. It has been restored, but previous restorations have been removed to reveal its true beauty, and something that I was previously, Ah, whatever, about, had my interest for quite a while.
My own personal challenge today, other than getting out of bed, was to climb the Belfort Tower. It has a lift, but I like to try the stairs knowing the alternative stops at each floor. It has a very narrow spiral staircase of 255 stairs, and I hugged the narrow centre whenever opposing traffic was coming.
This Tower was originally built as a local symbol of independence, and the bell was used as a civic alarm system. These belfries were a sign of urban prosperity and were common throughout Belgium.
Ghent dates back to 630 AD, but remains discovered in the square near the Cathedral date back to the Bronze Age.
This was our snapshot of Ghent . Never had a waffle but the smell was so consistent that I get the idea; sugar and syrup.
Brussels has a traffic free day today and all the highway off ramps were barricaded, with police turning people back who tried anyway. As we were intending to visit the centre, our plans changed from city visit to a small village nestled in the Ardenne forests. Large patches of cleared forests cropped up occasionally, stacked with the thick trunks
of oak trees that only recently stood as threatened trees. Not threatened any more; gone !
Suddenly we approached a narrow gap between a tall rock pillar on the river bank and the mountain on the other side. We had entered Dinant..
This diversion was a real bonus and I’m glad Brussels was closed to us.
It’s a small riverside village nestled in a deep valley on the River Meuse about 20kms north of the French border. It dates back to Celtic , Roman times and has suffered greatly from it’s close proximity to France and Germany.
Early in WWI the Battle of Dinant saw the Germans and French fight for the town and among those injured was a young Lieut. Charles De Gaulle. The town and its strategic bridge were lost and on 23 August, 674 inhabitants were summarily executed by the German army; the biggest massacre by the Germans in 1914. WWII saw similar devastation but the Church of Notre Dame, the bridge, and the many riverside buildings look welcoming to us on this cool rainy day.
With rain jackets holding some of the rain away, we skipped a couple of pizza type
Tram Track Eateries
This restaurant set up on roadworks at night. A Tramcar Restaurant, when you don’t have a tram.
eateries and settled into Chez Bouboule, King Of Mussels , to test this claim to fame. Sue chose meatballs in a capsicum, tomato, mixed vegetable sauce, while Tim and I took on the local mussels.
Each serve is 1.2 kilograms of mussels - I know shells must be taken into account - cooked in their oven saucepan with the option of your choosing; I had the garlic and mushrooms, and after watching a local woman eat hers, I took to them like a pro. The trick is to eat them with an empty shell using its hinge to form tongs. Easier and less messy than a fork.
Less garlic next time, Chef.
After our meal, we crossed the bridge to get a better view of the Castle and the long drawn out village. With the mountains impeding any urban sprawl, this village had to hug the river in order to grow. Dinant’s most famous resident was Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone , and there are symbols of his contributions to music displayed across the bridge and in neon signs throughout the town. Sadly he died in poverty in Paris and was buried in Montmartre Cemetery
without any fanfare, or a saxophonic send off.
We left Dinant into the dark rainy night , and after a fuel stop, we were home about 10.30.
We were all tired but Ghent and Dinant were places I’ll revisit and am so glad we had a chance to sample now.
We’re in Luxembourg until Saturday morning, when a train will drop us in Paris. It’ll be a quiet week but I’ll keep in touch anyway. Maybe not daily.
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