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Day trip to Ghent

On our second day in Belgium, we headed out of the city to visit Ghent and Bruges. Our hostel Sleepwell Brussels had cute hand-drawn maps made by locals so we took these with us.

A youth travel company USE-IT makes these maps in conjunction with locals and they’re an excellent resource. (Not that I can read maps but they’re nice to look at.)

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First stop was Ghent which is a beautiful Dutch city. Don’t be fooled by its medieval vibe, it’s also a place of genetic research and home to several Nobel prize winners!!

Ghent also has an eco-friendly vibe with wide cycle paths and promotes vegetarianism avidly even having a “meat-free” Thursday in many places. Also, no-one seems to lock their bike up in Ghent….wouldn’t happen in Dublin…

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For our day out I wore a nice casual outfit: a vintage tweed jacket which I bought in Paris, a floral jumper, black skinnies with a crochet hem and my trusty Topshop plimsolls.

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We strolled through the town taking in the sights with a guided tour from Michele’s lovely friend Christine who lives in Ghent.

We stopped for a lunch of “Ghent Bolognese” which is basically finely ground mince bolognese with carrots and mushrooms at a restaurant called Club Reserva Cafe. It was delicious!

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The beautiful Saint Nicholas church

Ghent was an industrial town, ruled by traders and Saint Nicholas’s church was owned by the traders. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of traders.

Incidentally, Ghent was one of the first places after the UK to participate in the industrial revolution. This church underwent several attacks and ransacking but is undergoing reconstruction today.

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Ghent Castle

Ghent Castle harks back to a time when Ghent was part of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish occupation was a difficult time and most traces of Spanish influence have been removed from the city.

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The picturesque canals are lined with old buildings and boats by the docks and I got some great photos here.

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The architecture and canals are quite similar to those of Amsterdam.

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The old fish market
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Detail from the fish market building

While in Ghent we also sampled traditional “cuberdons”. These are little red fruit sweets that look like a nose.

They have a crispy coating and are filled with a sweet liquid. They are quite strong so a few will suffice.

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From beneath this bridge is the only point in Ghent where you can see all of its three medieval towers together.

The most famous one, The Belfry of Ghent, is not a symbol of the clergy or the monarchy but in fact the people themselves.

The gilded dragon on top of the tower is a representation of this.

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Ghent Belfry

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and photos and thanks as always for visiting my blog.

I’ll also be attending the Irish Blogger Association conference soon, hope to meet some of you there! Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

Visiting Brussels

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Prior to visiting the Belgian capital, I’d heard that Brussels isn’t the prettiest or most exciting city but I was more than willing to keep an open mind. Belgium is a mix of French and Dutch cultures with some parts predominantly French (Brussels city) and others like Ghent are completely Dutch.

However, there are also many English speakers which makes it a little easier for tourists. Brussels has a French feel but is decidedly more relaxed and friendlier.

I arrived early on a Friday morning and headed into the city. I’m quite proud of myself for navigating the city’s public transport on my own as I’m normally useless in foreign countries!

My friend Michele wasn’t flying in till later and I managed to two buses and an underground without getting lost once.

I had a stroll around the E.U. parliament and then headed to a little park to rest. I also went to OR Coffee Roasters where I had a gorgeous latte and a “wafel.”

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I then made my way to our hostel in Brussels North which is a lively area full of shops, tourist pubs and friteries.

(Word of warning, Brussels North can be dodgy at night-time but like any capital city if you keep your wits about you, you will be fine).

Also, Brussels has many cobblestone streets, some are pedestrianised but beware most are for cars also despite the lack of road markings!

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I was keen to sample some Belgian gourmet delights and found a restaurant named Cafe Georgette. The restaurant consisted of a main dining area and a takeaway fries service.

The fries looked very enticing so I ordered them with meatballs. “French” fries are in fact Belgian in origin!

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The heavenly fries were served with peppery mayonnaise and unsurprisingly I returned later that night with my friend!

Once she arrived we set out to try out the delicious Belgian beers starting with a “Kriek” or cherry beer.

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We went to a bar called A la Mort Subite first before moving on to the appropriately named “Cafe Delirium”.

Here you can buy beer in a one-litre glass, a two-litre glass or a Wellington boot glass, needless to say, it attracts huge crowds of tourists. At peak times, it’s more like Cafe Pandemonium!

The next day we headed out of the city to visit Ghent and Bruges. I’m going to devote another post to this as there’s simply too much for one post!

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In the evening we went back to Brussels and out once more to Cafe Delirium. Their signature beer is known as “Delirium Tremens.”

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On Sunday we decided to take in the sights of Brussels and we headed first to the Belgian Comic Strip Centre.

Our reason for going here? TINTIN! Yes, the famous cartoon strip is revered here and it made my day to see the comics I grew up with come to life!

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Ermagerd Tintin’s actual moon rocket!

As well as Tintin, the museum also pays homage to cartoons such as  The Smurfs, Asterix and Obelix and provides insight into the history of cartoons.

We later found a Tintin wall mural and a Manneken Pis mural. Another thing the Belgians venerate-a small statue of a urinating boy 😛

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We then went to the famed Manneken Pis and realised the statue is tiny! His wardrobe is also more impressive than mine! (He probably has more vintage too, the bastard…)

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We then climbed up to Place Poelart where you can view the entire city from a great height.

Also here is a monument to the Belgian soldiers who fought in both World Wars. This monument has a golden crown on top which can be spotted miles away.

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On our way back down we finally found the Grand Place which we’d been trying to see all day! As its early spring, the famous floral carpet is yet to bloom.

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As always I was keen to see what shops were on offer.

Brussels has loads of lingerie stores as well as all the chains such as Zara, H&M etc. In Pull and Bear I spotted this vintage-style jumper which will be mine yet.

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I didn’t buy anything here as the prices were similar to home.

They also have a nice store called Pimkie which has lots of cute stuff like this chain-trim denim jacket and fringed jumper.

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I found a kilo shop (€15 per kg!) sadly it was late and I couldn’t try on anything.

If any of you vintage-lovers are heading to Brussels, definitely pay a visit to Melting Pot Kilo. You can have a peek at their stock below.

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We also visited a market where they had beer shaped candles and waffle-shaped earrings.

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I couldn’t resist these doughnut earrings..I’ve never seen anything so bloody cute!

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So my verdict on Brussels? Great food and drink and a lot of fun! Reasonably easy to navigate and lots of resources for young travellers. Our hostel Sleepworld Brussels was great value and also had free maps made by locals with lots of tips.

Our trip to Bruges and Ghent will feature in my next post.

Hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel

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