We left the ship and were introduced to our local guide before jumping in a taxi and being whisked off to begin our day of adventure.
Our first stop was Emile Braunplein which was a kind of centre square, with St Nicholas Church on one side, Belfort on the other and then the city hall to the back of it. It was a lovely space and is referred to as “the meeting point in Ghent”. Next we took a short walk to St Baafskathedral and spent a few moments marvelling at “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. The work is considered Van Eyck’s masterpiece and one of the most important works of the early Northern Renaissance, as well as one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of Belgium. The cathedral itself was beautiful inside, the architecture simply stunning and I only wish we had been given more time to look around.
We left the Cathedral and took a short walk through the city to the canals where a rather lovely little boat was waiting for us, fully kitted out with nibbles, champagne and orange juice. We had the most pleasant 40 minute boat trip you could possibly imagine. I actually much preferred this to Amsterdam’s canal trips, it was much more relaxed. Our guide/captain was wonderful! She had so much enthusiasm for what she was telling us, along with adding a few cheeky jokes along the way. When I visit Ghent again (because I will!) I would do another boat trip, maybe not the exact same one of course, but I would certainly board a boat, it was the best way to see the city. We went through the medieval centre of Ghent taking in sights such as St Bavo’s Cathedral, the old guildhalls of fishmongers, masons, boatmen and so on, Castle of the Counts and the Princes’ Court, old fish market and old meat hall and the 13th century monasteries previously occupied by Augustinians and Dominicans. The photograph opportunities were endless and all I can say is what a beautiful place Ghent is!
After the mornings excitement it was time for lunch and we descended upon Pakhuis, which is located in a small alley behind the Veldstraat. What a building! If you are ever in Ghent then PLEASE eat lunch here! I was literally blown away the moment I walked through the door, the interior of this place is wonderful. We sat on the upper level which was entirely open and offered a great birds-eye view of the other dining area below. The food was absolutely delicious! I had vegetable soup to start which was bursting with flavour, followed by grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and chicory. To finish I opted for the rice pudding cake, the entire meal was delicious!
With full tummies it was time to start a walking tour that would include various nibbles. The tour was wonderful. We walked to each location and we offered various nibbles once there. This included chocolates (of course 😉 ) cheese, ham and pastries.
The most interesting part of the nibbling tour was actually not the food but instead when we ended up outside the Castle of the Counts. Our guide told us some history of the structure and then went on to mention a lamp we were standing beneath. When a baby is born the mother will press a button in the hospital and the light shall come on. She said there were three lamps in total. They symbolise life where as the Castle of the Counts has long been a symbol of death because of torture over the years. It was pretty interesting and I can’t really tell the story as well as she did, but she promised it still worked. Sadly no light came on during our brief moment there.
We ended our day with a visit to the Gruut brewery where beer tasting was on the menu. Unfortunately time however was not on our side and our visit was incredibly short, we had to leave just 25 minutes or so into the tasting session. I had three mouthfuls of a pale beer, it was quite smooth actually and I literally only looked at the second before I had to grab my bag and go.
As we made our way back to the ship we were all aware that the clock was ticking and the traffic was not moving! The ship was due to sail at 17.15, it was 17.35 by the time we made it back to the dock after having tried three different routes. The ship was virtually ready to sail without us, making arrangements to pick our group up from locks further down. The gangways were gone and she was held in position by a mere two ropes. One forward and one aft. We boarded the ship via what I can only describe as a gang plank! No wider than both of your feet put together. It was an experience let’s just say and testament that they will not wait for anyone. I was on the trip with a group of journalists and we were going to be left behind, simple as that!
After my heart finally made its way back into my chest it was time to relax and get ready for a busy day in Amsterdam………………..