AND SOME FREE–ASSOCIATION
By Kelly Sargent
GHENT is located at the junction of two major rivers, the Leie and the Schelde. Most historians believe that Ganda, an older name for Ghent, comes from the Celtic word "ganda" which means confluence. Besides these two rivers that meet in Ghent, there is a system of canals and waterways running through and around the city.
Several companies offer boat tours every day, all day long, and of course we were keen to take one. Ours lasted about 45 minutes and included cruising up and down the two quays, the Graslie (Grass Quay) and the Korenlei (Corn Quay), located on opposite banks of the Leie River, one of the most scenic parts of Ghent.
Here are pictures from our tour.
By Kelly Sargent
PAUL AND I have fallen hard for Ghent. Here's a little background about this old, old, but very hip city:
Ghent (Gent in Flemish and Dutch; Gand in French) is a port city at the confluence of the Leie and Scheldt rivers. It’s the largest city in East Flanders and the third-largest in Belgium. Archaeological evidence reveals a human presence as far back as the Stone and Iron Ages. In the Middle Ages Ghent became one of the largest and richest cities of northern Europe. Today it’s a university town and cultural hub.
The entire heart of Ghent has been a car-free zone since 1997, the second-largest such area in Belgium, behind Brussels which has the second-largest in Europe. In 2009 in an effort to fight the climate crisis (the UN says meat production is responsible for nearly one fifth of greenhouse gasses), Ghent designated every Thursday as a suggested vegetarian day and to encourage residents to participate, the city provided recipes, a list of vegetarian restaurants and cooking demonstrations.
Take a walk with Paul and me.
By Kelly Sargent
I HAD to get out of the country for awhile. Self-care, I think it's called. It wasn't just that I needed a break from work and routine — although I do. I specifically needed to be away from the US.
So, here we are in Brussels. We've just been here a day, but thus far we love Belgium. It feels surprisingly like a fit, like home minus the insanity. Except for the drivers! Yikes! Although they (usually) yield to pedestrians, most of them drive like a bat out of hell. Again, yikes!!!
Let me tell you how we got to where we are. It was a simple equation: I was looking for the cheapest flight to Europe I could find. And I did: round-trip airfare from Chicago to Brussels for $448 each. The downside was having to get ourselves to Chicago.
I found our inexpensive flights on an airline called WOW. Yup, that's the name of the airline. It's only been in existence since 2012 and just started flying out of Chicago last month. They're a fun and witty bunch: a no-frills airline, based in Iceland that describes itself in this way, "Iceland's only high performance, low-cost airline. We promise you that WOW feeling!"
It was a l-o-n-g journey! Paul said that it was the first time he'd seen the sun set and rise on the same trip on a plane. Me too.
For our stay, I chose a bed and breakfast called Living in Brussels Urban B and B located in a quintessential, neoclassical neighborhood in a part of town called Etterbeek, roughly three miles from the city center and blessedly free from the congestion and pods of tourists afflicting the central core. We couldn't be happier with our place of temporary residence. Our room is the fifth-floor, converted, renovated attic with large skylights and windows that offer an amazing view of the city in two directions. Quiet and private; exactly our kind of place.
After dinner we walked to a nearby small square, the Place Jourdan, where sidewalk cafes were populated with people having dinner or sampling one of the 1,300+ different regional kinds of beer available — or munching on frites served with mayonnaise, a particular Belgian specialty, being sold by a street vendor. Paul chose the vendor's own special concoction, a spiced tartar sauce, instead of mayonnaise. I ate mine plain.
We strolled the quiet, cobblestone neighborhood till late at night on the way back to our private aerie. C'était très romantique.
Paul Bridson and Kelly Sargent
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