With four days to spend in Ghent on my own, I decided to while away some time in Bruges.
A mere 30 minutes away on the train, Bruges boasted many more Michelin stars than Ghent – including the three-starred De Karmeliet. And with a famous film to its name, albeit one that I haven’t seen, it seemed promising.
It was a city that shattered the little preconception I had of it.
The cloudy grey skies of Flanders was nothing new but this city was built like a maze. Or at least the old town was.
Two hours were wasted circling its mystifying streets trying to find the tourism office. Finally, with map in hand, and a city card, I finally found my way to lunch.
He presented me with several cookbooks that he authored – on Flemish cuisine and on cooking with beer. He also spoke plenty about travels and the local food offerings. At times, it seemed at odds with the food at the restaurant which had pretty much been the same since it opened. But the food, though rustic, was delicious, hearty and certainly very traditional.
The friet museum (potatoes and fries) and the chocolate museum (Belgian chocolate and beyond) were the top of my list for places to visit post refuelling. The idea that a whole museum could be dedicated to fries seemed so bizarre that I just had to see what it was all about. And the chocolate museum? Well I was working on a story about cocoa after the Dominican Republic trip. I’m not sure I learnt anything new but it proved to be an interesting exercise.
With dinner plans back in Ghent, I made a move towards the train station. It was there, near to where I started the journey in Bruges, that I found my favourite part of the city.
By the river was a begijnhof, a sort of nunnery in the loosest terms.
It was the first part of the city, and first bit of Belgium I’ve come across, that wasn’t so built up. Here, it was green, lush and spacious. And so peaceful. It’s the sort of place you walk through and immediately envisage being able to draw, paint and produce poetry at length.
It was hard not to stay but impossible not to go. As I walked away, I took a little bit of serenity with me.