Catching the Eurostar from London to Brussels, Belgium was no mean feat with many delays that day, but we finally made it over to continental Europe and the land of waffles, chocolate, beer, frites and comics!
After a slightly disastrous attempt to stay with some generous friends, in which I learned that I am in fact very allergic to all cats, we settled in to our hotel in Brussels and did some exploring. Brussels is not the most beautiful city, with many of the older buildings destroyed to make way for new buildings when it became the capital in the 19th century, but it makes up for it with excellent food and beer. I was impressed to discover that despite being mainly French speaking, many people in Brussels (and most of Belgium) are fluent in French, Dutch and English.
Being such a small country, were able to use Brussels as a base to explore other towns in the Flanders region – such as Bruges. Bruges has a beautifully preserved medieval old town, with many canals running through the little streets. We attempted to do a canal boat ride, but between being sat in the middle of the boat and Belgium’s notorious weather causing everyone to open up their umbrellas, we didn’t get to see much!
Bruges is a quaint and beautiful town, but fighting through hordes of tourists (all dangerously brandishing umbrellas) dampened the experience somewhat. No wonder some residents complain about feeling like they’re living in Disneyland!
Just an hour away, Ghent is (in my opinion) at least as beautiful as Bruges whilst being far less popular with tourists. It was a sunny but sleepy Sunday when we visited Ghent – not another tourist in sight. We ended up getting a private tour of one of the churches, stumbling across a gin exhibition and chatting to a local who would sporadically break out in French. Quirky, fun and beautiful, and completely underrated. Over a month and many stunning and quaint towns later, I still think Ghent is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve been to.