On the Belgian Coast
Yes, Belgium has a coast — and while the country is known more for their beer than their beaches, we discovered a nice sandy city this weekend. Oostende (ewst-en-deh) is one stop past Bruges on the train from Ghent.
We had seen some locals heading there on a hot day - so we planned to cut our work week short and head to the beach for a relaxing Friday. Of course, we didn’t really have any beach gear so we picked up a few things from the Danish Five Below counterpart, Flying Tiger. Two towels, a cooler, and a mini Petanque set later we were ready to head out on the 12 o’clock train.
Oostende is first and foremost a port city, industry heavy, similar to Norfolk in Virginia. But head past the shipyards and fish markets and you’ll find a lively boardwalk next to a no-frills beach, just sand and sea.
We spent four blissful hours drinking Kriek Lambics (Belgian cherry beer), swimming in the warm sea, and playing rule bending games of Petanque. Replacing the city-grime with a layer of salt.
After getting (a little too much) sun we rented a buggy and wheeled ourselves down the boardwalk - a collection of souvenir shops, overpriced dining, and the occasional casino. We headed off of the main area for dinner, where I spotted a window of rotisserie chickens.
Ten euros for half a chicken and a pint of Stella Artois. There was a smart seagull around that made off with my chicken carcass directly after we got up to leave.
On Saturday we finally got around to taking one of the free guided walking tours. The light rain caused us to be the only two people that showed up for the English tour. As a result, Corey and I got a private tour from an Australian woman who moved here after falling in love with her friend’s brother.
We finally got the history of all the buildings and cathedrals we’d been admiring for the past two weeks. Ghent has some strange history, the least of which includes a “myth” about a prisoner being kept alive by his daughter’s breast milk and a rivalry with Bruges fueled by jealousy over a golden dragon statue.
We also made our way down the hidden Graffiti Street, where anyone is free to leave their mark without legal consequence.
My favorite part of the day, however, was our mid-afternoon visit to a cat cafe. Yes, these are real things. DreamCATchers is run by a non-profit organization and all of the cats are up for adoption. Only a certain amount of people are allowed to sit in the cat-room at a time, but luckily it was a slow day.
I don’t have much to say about Sunday as we spent most of the day dealing with a plumbing issue in our Airbnb. But this did lead us to discover one of the best bars in Ghent (which also has great bathrooms). The Out. This gay-friendly bar has one of the nicest bartenders ever. I highly recommend it.
We’ll be saying goodbye to Ghent tomorrow as we head on our way to Frankfurt. Stay tuned!