Ghent has to be one of my favorite European cities. As with so many other things we like, sometimes the words to describe why we like something fail to simple feeling of oneness. I am Ghent. It’s a rather small city as cities in Europe go, there aren’t too many people here. The tourists come, but don’t fill the streets or act as an impediment to daily life; they are a truly symbiotic part of the city itself. The architecture in Ghent isn’t the most impressive, but it is consistently wonderful and interesting. I suppose it is a fantastic city that managed to not overwhelm. New York, Paris, Moscow, London, and so many others are amazing, but can be overwhelming when you want to just kick back and take it slow. Ghent accommodates.
We stayed in a two story flat that occupied the top two floors of a four story row home. It was wonderfully composed, clean and a pleasure to relax in. That said, we spent a good bit of our time out and about downtown.
I wanted to have some good Belgian beers while here and I wanted the whole family to experience good Belgian waffles. Sounds like an easy check list for a three day visit! The day we arrived I took the family to a tiny brown house called 't Galgenhuisje that serves snacks and beers. It was quaint and wonderful and everyone enjoyed me enjoying my beers.
The next morning we went to have Belgian waffles but the place I wanted to go was closed due to bridge construction. Instead we tried Agrea, also closed! I was frustrated, but the place next door served waffles, so we went to Hof van Herzele to experience the amazing Belgian waffle. Complete failure. These had to be the worst waffles I’ve had in years in any country; crap, plain and simple, and overpriced to boot.
We needed to get some travel supplies (specifically some new pants for the human beanstalk that is Gianna) as well as some quick-dry travel towels as we expected many a pool in our Moroccan future. On our way to the outdoor equipment store, we passed the Australian waffles and ice cream stand. I bought one waffle for 2€ and we shared it. It was divine. The next morning we returned at Tori’s request and she produced the 12€ she had carried with her from Maryland to buy us each a waffle. With left over 2€ she bought a sixth waffle and gave it to a homeless man near the store. This was, unequivocally, the highlight of my Ghent experience.
One of the side effects of having a large van all to yourself for ninety days is that it makes light work of over heavy bags and other crap that one might carry forward from place to place. We were about to leave Europe to Morocco and there would be no more carrying of nonessentials. We’d picked up food which is easy to leave behind, but also keepsakes (a plate from Cuneo), lots of paper memorabilia, and clothes that we bought to attend Heinrich’s wedding and clothes that not-so-little ones have outgrown. Ghent was where we said goodbye to these things and shipped them back home.
Ghent generally feels like a very safe city and the apartment we were staying it reinforced that feeling. Lisa and I were comfortable enough to leave the girls to themselves for an evening and we went to experience Volta. Volta is a fancy restaurant with a multi-course dining experience. The food was mixed, some fantastic and other plates simply didn’t work well. The service was nice and slow and Lisa and I enjoyed a bonafide date night. That was likely to be the last date night for a long while.
There is an epic french fry restaurant in Ghent called De Frietketel and we all went there for dinner our last night. It is an interesting dive joint with a cult-like following. I have to say that I was quite unimpressed. I’ve had better fries and better atmosphere. There was a place in Sodermalm, Stockholm called Prime Burger and the fries there were worth writing home about. I think we are all happy that we went to De Frietketel to experience it, but none of us feel the need to return.
Interestingly, I was so comfortable and at home in Ghent, I never even removed my camera from its bag. I took a picture here and there with my phone, but aside from that I just relaxed and Ghent let me do that. I did not feel like a tourist, I felt like we were living there. I believe Ghent is definitely one place in which I would be comfortable living; though I’d get fat off the waffles.