Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

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Ghent, the better Bruges

What’s that? Annie went to Ghent and preferred it over Bruges?

Yes, I finally went. I’ve been saying I wanted to go to Ghent for the longest time, yet after two stays in Louvain-la-Neuve, it still escaped me. Most of the time it’s due to laziness that I skip out on trips. I mean, it’s a winter weekend and all you want to do is snuggle in the warmth of your bed in the morning instead of venturing out in the cold! I often give in to the temptation of sleeping in while forgetting that the joys of travelling and wandering are just a tug of an eye away.

And indeed, when you overcome the fatigue and drag your stubborn body out of bed, it only takes about 5 minutes to shake your head awake. Then you get dressed, fling your bag onto your back, leave the door behind for a day, and dive into a whole new world. Then when you see the beauty of the world in front of your eyes, you wonder why you were ever too tired to explore.

Ghent is, as best as I can put it, too beautiful to miss. Most people would want to see Bruges if they even stop by Belgium during their Eurotrips, but boy, Ghent tops Bruges in my book. I wasn’t a fan of Bruges when I visited last April, and truthfully, I don’t think I give Bruges enough credit. Ghent, however, deserves all of my recommendation for those planning to visit Belgium. It is as underrated a city as Belgium is as a country for travel.

I had the same problem with Ghent in terms of its name as I did in Bruges, only this time, it’s even more complicated. (Of course, Ghent is also in Flanders, the Flemish region of Belgium.) You see, Bruges is the same in French and English, and is only spelt “Brugge” and pronounced differently in Flemish. Ghent, being the English spelling, is “Gent” in Flemish and “Gand” in French. I’m actually still unsure about its pronunciation; I believe in English, it’s “gent” with the “g” sounding like “girl”. In French it’s more like “gone” without the ending “n” sound. (I’m no linguistic expert and I probably explained that very poorly…)

Onto the trip: before I visited I did some research to find out what I should see and do, and one of the things that I was determined to do was stay until the sun has gone down, as night in Ghent was supposedly stunning. Arriving in Ghent at around noon, that meant I had about 7 hours to spend in the city, assuming that it gets completely dark by around 18:30 and I take the 19:24 train. Let’s see how that worked out. (Full picture album here.)

The first thing I noticed when I got off the tram at Korenmarkt (Ghent town centre) were these strange dancing statues on top of a building. I realized afterwards that Ghent is filled with these figures on rooftops all around the city, and that became one of the things I really liked about Ghent.

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Bruges, or is it Brugge?

Some thoughts before the actual entry: After May, when I head back to Bordeaux, it’ll be time to stay in one place and cease travelling for a bit. Sometimes travelling too much makes me forget to appreciate the mere prospect of being able to travel. I see one place in Europe, and then another, and then another. Then I begin to compare, and I see that many aspects of European cities are similar. Then I lose the desire to explore, that wanderlust that so strongly captured me when I started travelling. I don’t want that to happen. I want to retain that curiosity and that “kick” that makes me want to see more of the world. That’s precisely why I need to slow down for a bit, to rest, to get some weekend sleep-in time back and enjoy the relaxation of just being in one city where I feel I belong, the place where I can call home, albeit temporarily. I cannot be back in Toronto every weekend, so Bordeaux is the next most logical place to call home for the time being. Bordeaux, how I miss you.

After the weekend getaway to the Netherlands, my weekly city explorations continued with Bruges, a good ol’ city in Belgium located in the Flemish region of the country. If there was one city in Belgium I wanted to visit besides Brussels, it was Bruges.

I had been struggling with the name of the city throughout my research of what to do once I got there. Should I just go by the English name of Bruges, where the “g” is pronounced as in “gentle” and the “s” is silent, or the Dutch version of Brugge, where the “g” is pronounced as in “girl”? I decided that Bruges sounded more pleasing to the ears – personal preference, no offence to the Dutch language – and so, unlike Den Haag where I chose to keep using the Dutch name, I am sticking with Bruges, even though they say Brugge everywhere in the actual city anyway.

What is Bruges known for? Like Amsterdam, it is called “Venice of the North” because of the water canals that traverse the city. (I really gotta visit the real Venice sometime.) Bruges is also a chocolate city, selling some of the finest chocolate in Belgium, which itself is the chocolate capital of the world. So expectations were definitely high.

I only took 199 photos during this short day trip, one short of 200. After sorting them out, I picked the ones that seemed most representative of the city of Bruges. Without further ado, let’s go on to the pictures, and I’ll talk about some afterthoughts a little later on.

First impression of Bruges, within 5 minutes of getting off the train. This is near the Beguinage of Bruges, which is supposedly a peaceful and quiet area away from the city centre where you’d hope to take a nice stroll away from the crowds. Unfortunately, Bruges is so infested with tourists and travellers (like me) that it’s almost impossible to find any corner of the city without a large crowd.

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