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Belgium

    Mons, Belgium – an accidental day trip from France

    We drove from London to Belgium, crossing Essex, the southeast of England, a fair amount of France and then accidentally slipped over the border to Mons, Belgium. 

    Mons Belgium Day Trip Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As a reprobate island dweller (all the way from New Zealand to Grande Britannia) I still delight at how easy it is to slip between countries in Europe, so we took full advantage of this when spending a few days in France.

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    Gambolling Through Ghent; A Wanderers Guide.

    As a day trip from Brussels (only a half-hour train),  I’ve found that either many people haven’t heard of Ghent, preferring to explore the chocolate box streets of Bruges, or they adore Ghent so much that when a blogger (me) visits, they spam them via instastories with recollections of days spent there and memories made. True story. Disclosure: I was a press guest of VisitFlanders in Ghent, but all planning, mischief and thoughts are all mine.

    Things to do in Ghent Belgium on a city break Adventures of a London Kiwi .

    We fell into the former camp on our trip to Brussels and explored Bruges, but genuinely regretted only being able to fit one city in, vowing to return one day.

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    A Gathering Of Gastronomic Suggestions In Ghent.

    Eating frites smothered in mayonnaise, nibbling fresh waffles under a mountain of freshly whipped cream and drinking glasses of beer outside in the sunshine is practically inviolable law when visiting Belgium. (In fact, if you look under a microscope at your Belgian passport stamp ‘proost / à votre santé / prost’ may or may not be etched under the flag.) Disclosure: I was a press guest of VisitFlanders in Ghent, and our dinners were complimentary but all thoughts are very much my own.

    Enjoying their exquisite pralines is obviously the fourth law, but one I managed to fail miserably, thanks to a bag of Bolognaise flavoured crisps for lunch – but I did take some home to the UK, which totally counts, right? Where to eat and drink in Ghent

    Where to eat and drink in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    While we spent our long weekend exploring the medieval city of Ghent, we also uncovered a few local specialities and places to explore, quenching a quota of wanderlust. The city is small enough to feel cozy, but vibrant enough to feel fun and have something going on – a perfect long weekend break. With 97 Michelin-starred restaurants in Flanders, the quality of local cuisine is rather high – and these were my favourite tastes of the weekend.

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    Getting Lost in Ghent, Belgium

    From my hotel window, I can hear the sliding scales of a bluesy jazz saxophonist, children softly singing a nursery rhyme and the occasional tinkle of coffee cups from a nearby cafe.

    I should be parading around the town, hunting out all of the medieval gems with the keenness of a panther, but instead, as it’s a Saturday morning, I’ve simply snuggled in further into the covers (more like a house cat in truth). There is a soft breeze floating through the ajar windows, I have a hot cup of tea cradled in my hand and no concrete plans for the morning. Disclosure: I was a press guest of VisitFlanders in Ghent, but all planning, mischief and thoughts are entirely mine.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    This is what I call a blissful city break.

    I knew that as soon as I walked out of the hotel that there was plenty to explore, history to discover and frites to eat, but the tenor of our whole trip was relaxed. Even the journey.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    To get to Ghent I simply rolled out of bed and hopped on a couple of trains (that crisscrossed three countries), checked into the hotel and hopped onto a boat cruising the canals. It was that simple, that carefree.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Eventually slipping out of bed and into tourist mode, I picked up my wallet, the City Card that Visit Flanders had provided us (complete with map) so I could wander into any museums that I happened across and my phone.

    And wandered.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The city is compact, and an intriguing mixture of ancient and modern. Belgian beer halls sit a few streets away from a lane dedicated to street art…

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

     …and the electric tram rolls past the cluster of Cathedrals drawing your eye heavenwards.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Best of all? Fresh waffles on practically every corner.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    During the week Ghent is buzzy – full of student hubbub and lining the canals with picnics on sunny days, but at the weekends they mostly go home to their parents so the city settles into more of a sleepy hum.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I loved both tastes of the city, and just meandered. (This could possibly be the subtitle of my blog – but I really feel that you get the best angle of a city by foot.) The centre is small enough that you can throw away the map, but large enough to spend a few hours peering into lanes and being surprised to discover cat cafes and ancient belfries.

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I was also kicking myself for choosing Bruges over Ghent for as a day trip from Brussels a few years ago. Bruges is chocolate box beautiful (excuse the foodie pun) but Ghent has a spark of life that makes it a long weekend destination in itself. And, it’s almost taken me longer to cross London than it took the Eurostar to get to Belgium.

    Thank you Visit Flanders.

    Have you been to Ghent yet? The trip excitement on my Instagram was awesome!

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    What to do on a long weekend in Ghent Belgium Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

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    Bruges, Belgium #travelthursday

    Chocolate, sunshine, Colin Farrell, gingerbread buildings, turrets, canals, lace, chips & mayo and medieval cobbled streets. What more could you want from a weekend city break? 


    Everyone has asked me whether we preferred Brussels or Bruges and I honestly can’t say. Bruges is quaint, teeny, full of meandering streets and canals, chocolate shops and frite stores catering for your average cheesy tourist. They do also however have something called ‘samurai sauce’ for your frites which I’m disappointed we didn’t try.

     


    We turned up in Bruges having done no research whatsoever, and simply followed our noses (and initially the rest of the tourist off our train) down into the village mostly untouched by the modern world.

    Oh, except in a few places…


    The architecture was a beguiling mismatch of styles, decoration and twisty alley ways bringing you to yet another interesting building.

     

    This building on the main square looks like it could easily house Volturi, but sadly hosts the Bruges Medieval museum which has about as much bite and interest as an orange.

    Brussels is much more of a city, and takes coaxing to find the quirky delights, but seems to have something for everyone. Beer, Margritte cloud post-it notes, Invader street art, more chocolate, restaurants that just sell waffles, beautiful buildings, Peter Pan statues in hidden gardens, laughter and a Eurostar station. 

      

    I can tell you what I did find though, my new home. Now, I only need to get it to London…



    What’s your favourite of the two cities?

    Oh, and psst don’t forget it’s almost time for the monthly travel link up – this month’s theme is your favourite travel – add your post to our linkup between the 1st & 7th, share a little comment love and read in wonder. I’m not sure how I’m going to pick…


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