Ghent

Managed to finally organize my Ghent photos from the begininning of the year. Ghent was the last stop on my Belgium tour. This is a port town which also has a huge student community. I was there very briefly, I couchsurfed at the home of two lovely Belgian girls. I couldn’t see the city in depth because the weather was horrible, it was freezing and if it didn’t rain, there was fog. Thus not too many photos. Tip: Do not choose early spring to visit Belgium, unless you travel sans camera. 


The first thing you notice about Ghent is the nouveau art structures all over the city. Sometimes right on the pavement, sometimes on buildings, sometimes in places you least expect to find art!

Another prominent landmark where you don’t look for art is the Railway station. That’s right! At Gent-Sint-Pieters station, you must look up (and also pay attention to your luggage). There are beautiful murals depicting the life of the city all over the ceiling.
To escape the chilly weather, you can visit the Saint Nicholas’ Church in the heart of the city. Construction of the church began in the early 13th century and continued till the end of the 15th century. Try and see here how the cathedral looks from a 360° angle. 
        You have to love the religious statues wielding the little objects painted in gold. 
 The decor and the choir stand is so pretty. 
The Angels were all singing out of tune,
And hoarse with having little else to do,
Excepting to wind up the sun and moon
Or curb a runaway young star or two.

~Lord Byron
Architecture in Ghent ressembles that of Brussels and other cities. You have to admire the effort taken by the government to preserve and restore the buildings dating back to the middle ages!
You can’t get tired of the zig zag Belgian façades! 
And the charming streets built alongside canals..

Finding decorated bicycles can brighten up anybody’s rainy day in Ghent!

Market, Bruges

Fruits and Vegetables are some of my favourite things to photographs. My camera always captures natural colours best.  I was thrilled to find a market set up right in the centre of Bruges (on a wednesday!) selling cheese, meats and every delicious pre-spring fruit. This is also the place to indulge in the infamous French Freedom Belgian Fries. You can buy other foods for a fraction of the price the restaurants make you pay in the centre. 
My goal is to take photographs that look so good, that it makes you want to reach out and grab the fruit :) not sure if I’ve reached there yet. But I’m trying.

In Bruges!

Let’s rewind (again) to the beginning of the month when I was in Belgium for the winter holidays. Bruges is about an hour away from Brussels. The weather was terrible during the week A. Ruiz and I spent in Belgium. However there was one day when the sun came out and that was on the day we spent in Bruges. We stayed at St. Christopher Bauhaus which is a great (and reasonable) hotel situated very close to the centre.
Bruges is really my kind of place. It has really old architecture, great cafés, bookstores, antique stores and there is nothing disturbingly modern about it. We didn’t know much about the city and so we spent our one night and two days wandering about the quaint neighbourhoods and taking pictures of the Bruges’ treasures, big, small, edible, non edible, sensible, non sensible, etc.

 
In Bruges, you love the little iron lamps and iron birds on doors.
 
In Bruges, you love the criss crossed buildings and the town square.
You of course love the castle and the canals, the houses by the canals, the windows on the houses by the canals. In Bruges. 
In Bruges, you can sit in a café and enjoy a Viennese chocolate, you can find French books in old bookstores. You can buy cream filled delights and eat them over Le Rouge et Le Noirby one of your favourite authors, Stendhal 

Horses! That’s one of the main reason you fell in love with Bruges. Horses that are friendly, horses that are busy, horses that are tired, horses that couldn’t care less about you. But handsome horses all the same. In Bruges.

In Bruges’ shops, you will find the nicest of things. A curious dog, an antique weighing machine, a hundred jars of tea and your favourite antique, a chandelier!

Ah yes, the colour Red! Your favourite colour to see. You love to see it on the doors, windows and post boxes in Bruges.

Door knobs, keyholes, knockers, lamps, shadows, wreaths and all the little marvels that go unnoticed. But not in Bruges.
I still think about the city. In the remote corners of my minds, I still dream about horse carriages, castles, canals, narrow cobblestone streets and houses with scarlet or sea shade doors. And I know that place is not a dream. It’s only a few hours away, safe and sound. Awaiting for me to return. Beautiful Bruges.

Street leading to the centre square.

Street lamps outside the town hall.

     The market place.

One of the many charming horse drawn carriages. 

    

Antwerp

Antwerp is hardly an hour away from Brussels. It’s worth spending a day here since the city has so much to offer culturally. When I got off the train in Antwerp, I was blown away by the sheer magnificence of the Centraal Station. It is often called the “Railway Cathedral” and was even voted as Europe’s most beautiful station. Undoubtedly, this is my most favourite place to miss a train.
 
 
The station was built between 1895 and 1905 by Bruges architect Delascencerie. The interiors of the old dome building are lavish and intricate. Twenty types of marble and stone were used during the construction of this marvel. One felt like a princess. At a train station. 
You will find a beautiful lamp post in front of the station. Take some time to admire the ironwork and lovely wood carvings. 
 
You will pass pretty nothings on your way to the city centre. Everything is worth a picture.
 
If you know me personally, you know I have a penchant for old world charm. And nothing is more synonymous with antique glamour than a chandelier. A chandelier can brighten my day without even being lit up.  
The city centre at last! Antwerp is a major shopping hub. People from the Netherlands and all over Belgium come to shop here as well. Don’t forget to tilt your head upwards and admire the grandiose architectural framework that now houses every major clothing brand in the world. 
The Stadsfeestzaal: basically means Hall of Festivities. This luxurious Neo-classical monument was originally built in the beginning of the 20th century. After a fire destroyed the building in 2000, it was renovated and reopened in 2007. Today it serves as an upscale shopping center.
 

If you’re a fan of the good life, this is the place to see and be seen. Check out the floating Laurent Perrier champagne bar, which stands in one corner of the structure! Pretty impressive to dine in a champagne glass I suppose!
  I enjoyed just getting lost in Antwerp and appreciating the intricate bells, grilles, wall clocks and frescoes that dress up the city.  

One can never tire of the over fed pigeons and the freckled kids who never tire feeding them. 

The force of Belgium! :D Strangely enough, I didn’t try my first waffle in the capital city but right here in Antwerp. Très Délicieux. 

The buildings all over Belgium have one trait in common. They all have a criss crossed design on their façade. I asked my host in Ghent, what the reason was behind this and she said it was a very practical reason. It’s meant to stand out but also to keep the snow from accumulating on the rooftop.


Another striking monument in Antwerp is the Cathedral of Our Lady. The cathedral contains many works of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. The cathedral charges a very small fee to enter and then you are free to admire these chefs-d’oeuvre for as long as you want. 

The interiors of the cathedral are stunning. Napoleon compared the cathedral to Mechlin lace (an intricate bobbin lace produced in the city of Mechelen, about 20 minutes from Antwerp).
 
The Cathedral exhibits Rubens’ paintings frequently. We were lucky enough to visit when they displayed religious paintings of other Flemish painters alongside Rubens.

 

I miss beautiful Antwerp, it’s compact historical center and losing myself in the medieval streets lined with a mosaic of doors, windows and other illusive charms. :)

Hello Belgium.

The French have way too many holidays. I’m not complaining. I just wish I had enough money to make the best of them. This winter vacation (Feb 19 to March 6) I decided to head to Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany. But I was low on funds (since I’m in a relationship and I’m constantly buying stuff for the both of us) and ended up going just to Belgium. So I decided if I was going to see just one country I might as well see it entirely. So a girlfriend and I spent the whole of last week going through
  • Brussels
  • Antwerpen
  • Bruges
  • Ghent

Belgium is a great country and the people are really friendly and not to mention multilingual. Any given Belgian will forcibly speak a minimum of 4 languages! namely French, English, Dutch and Flemmish! Wow! Sadly though with the exception of Bruges, I didn’t find the other cities in Belgium too appealing, I just liked them in bits and pieces. The weather definitely played a major role here. The only day the sun ever came out was when we were in Bruges. The rest of the time, the weather was horrible. I advise against visiting Belgium in February. The cold was biting, there wasn’t a single day when the temperatures rose above 0°c and no amount of hot chocolate and hot wine could make you feel any better :(

 
When we first arrived in Brussels, we were greeted by protests by the Congolese Diaspora in the city. The protestors were really peaceful but one could see that the Belgian Police force didn’t take any chances. I found that the beefed up security was a huge exaggeration on the part of the European authorities. The people had taken to the street to protest again the various atrocities that are currently taking place in the DR of Congo. Peace.

The St. Michel cathedral in Brussels is worth a quick visit. I loved how they had little oil lamps instead of candles here. Or were they candles which had melted? Still pretty.

My most favourite place is Brussels is the main town square or Grand Place. The square is surrounded by beautiful old buildings and even though the weather was gloomy/pathetic, there were just enough tourists and lights and noise to create a lively and welcoming atmosphere in the main square.

 
I had to touch up some of the photos, mostly add some brightness to them because there really was no sun in the city at all. I recommend just standing in the middle of the square and just be for a few minutes. You will soon find the crowds and the noises being drowned out and all you can hear are the buildings. Each one of the ornate beauties has a story to tell. You can choose to listen to the Guild houses standing magnificently in a row, or to the Gothic Town hall who witnessed the death of it’s architect who noticed too late the asymmetry of his creation and hence leaped to his death! Or you can just wait there till you figure out why Joseph Conrad called this square a White Sepulchre.
 
I love the quirky restaurants they have all over Brussels. The also have tons of flea markets and you can get some great bargains on boho jewellery and stuff.
 
Sweet nothings around Brussels :)
 
The Palace was breathtaking and all the roads and quarters surrounding it have really beautiful intricate decor on walls, fountains, etc. My favourite has to be this sleepy lion who can be found on the right side of the palace walls. I think the palace is now used only for official purposes and hence is off limits to the common public. 
 
Of course no trip to Belgium is complete without succumbing to the rich and numerous types of Belgian Chocolate. After picking enough for the Chéri and his family, we made sure we bough enough for us girls too! I was curious to know why there are so many representation of a little peeing boy all over Brussels. You can find him in the form of chocolate, on t-shirts but mostly you find little statuettes of him all over town. Our host finally told us that there are many legends about “Manneken Pis” (yup that’s his name). But the most famous one is actually quite funny. When a certain “foreign invader” marched into Brussels, Manneken Pis was upset and to show his patriotism, he climbed atop a tree and peed in contempt on the foreign soldiers who were marching below :D

This was the first time I was travelling with someone and it was actually quite fun. I did miss certain liberties one has while travelling alone but I was glad to have the company and the conversation while we sat in various restaurants, eateries and bistros in Brussels :)  
Finally some of the other amazing foods we tried in the city. Yes what you see in some pictures is indeed Spaghetti Bolognese and Lasagna. What can I say, you can take the Italophile out of Italy but you cannot take Italy out of the Italophile :D Do NOT miss the amazing fries at the various friteries all over the place, they’re dripping with oil and calories and other unhealthy nonsense, but they are oh so amazing!