Bruges and the Dutch Bulbfields with Shearings - DAY 5
Ghent, easy on the eye but choose good footwearBabs and I decided that today, our final day, would be coach-free. Our driver Ian had taken the group into Ghent at 9.00 am. We wanted a more leisurely day so we had a lie-in and a later breakfast.
The hotel is fortunate being at the end of tram line 1. Trams arrive every 10 minutes and whisk you into Ghent in about 15 minutes. Astonishingly cheap too. One Euro 30 each way. But don't forget to frank your ticket on the tram. The fine is 50 Euro if you fail to do so.
"The Final Countdown" by Europe was playing at the station as the tram arrived. I sincerely hoped it wasn't going to be - I was quite looking forward to the day.
First impressions of Ghent. More sprawling than Bruges. Much better shops. Modern high street shops. And bikes galore. There were hundreds at Sint-Pieters train station.
Not every city can boast a castle at the end of the High street. But Ghent has the Castle of the Counts built in 1180. Sombre looking but impressive and enormous. There is a great view from the top of the keep. The torture museum brings tears to the eyes. Dungeons and dragons. The dragon is on the Belfry, 95 metres high. It has been protecting the city since the 14th century.
The place to be seen or hang out is down by the river. Gabled guild houses, hotels, bars and restaurants line the waterside. Take a boat trip from here around the canals and rivers.
The view from St Michael's Bridge is the most photographed in the whole of Ghent. Whenever you see Ghent in a travel brochure it's always this Graslei area that is shown. Many Gentenaars take a drink and sandwich down to the quayside. And no wonder. It's gorgeous! We had an amazingly good Flemish stew (Stoverij) at De Witte Leeuw riverside restaurant. Chunks of beef cooked in two sweet beers. Wonderful. Do try it.
Close by is the fabulously named Castle of Gerald the Devil!
Mad Meg. A cast iron cannon weighing 12,500kg at the end of a cobbled shopping street is a strange sight. Ox- blood red. So easy to spot.
The new city pavilion is striking. Massive. Glass, wood and concrete in harmony. Not from IKEA.
We both had a great day. Ghent is easy on the eye but choose good footwear. The cobbles are heavy on the feet.
As the tram returned to the hotel, the radio played "Together in Electric Dreams" by Sheffield's Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder reminding us of our South Yorkshire birthplace. And tomorrow we will be back there after a lovely short break.
I had noticed that in Belgium, Ghent becomes Gent on all signs. A bit like a home. Some parts of Yorkshire have been dropping letters in conversation since Adam were but t'lad.
I can see why coach holidays are so popular. All you have to do is keep your side of the bargain. Turn up at the allotted time and let the coach take the strain from then on. Sit back relax and enjoy the countryside, the sights and smells and noises of everyday life as you are driven by. Everything else is taken care for you. No stress, no headaches.
The choice of driver can have a major impact on your enjoyment of a coach trip. Ian's charm and approach was spot on. Not too intrusive. Professional, knowledgeable and as you would expect superb driving skills. Shearings are very good at organizing these trips. That's for sure.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Shearings Coach Holidays