From Paris to Ghent
It’s two weeks to the day since we landed at Charles de Gaulle, and yesterday we finally said goodbye to Paris. We were ready to go, it wasn’t because of the heat or the cramped apartment, or anything else I may have complained about — it’s because we got to experience the city the way we wanted.
We saw plenty of the sights, but some days were simply lived. We had nights in, nights out, days of work, weekends, we made a few friends, and we felt what it was to live in Paris.
And somehow there’s more. Yesterday we arrived in our new home for the next two weeks: Ghent, Belgium. It’s under-the-radar, yet breathtakingly beautiful. Ghent feels like just what we need right now.
We left Gare Du Nord on the bullet train. Corey was able to convince me for two minutes that bullet trains are shot out of the station in cannon-like tubes (he was very earnest.) Yeah that’s not true, but they do go fast.
It felt like we luckily stumbled into the right places at the right times to make all of our connections. For the bus portion of our trip, luck came in the form of a compact Audi that ignored the ear shattering horns behind in and blocked the entire bus roundabout. We made it on just in time.
We got off at our station “Gent Dampoort” and walked out into a maze of bicycles. It was clear what the preferred method of transportation was here.
The initial beauty of Ghent stopped short when we opened the door to our apartment to find it uncleaned, with trash bagged up and used towels hanging from a rack. Luckily, I reached our host and there had been a mix up with the cleaning lady. So we went off to find food while the apartment was cleaned.
I was still a bit worried about the apartment when we sat down for a bite at a Surinamese restaurant (the only place serving food at 4 p.m.) But as soon as the waiter gave me the best beer I’ve ever had… you heard me correctly THE BEST BEER, my heart was back open to Ghent.
After beer and chicken masala, we explored the city’s mix of the modern and the medieval. The quiet of the clear streets was startling after Paris. Yet, masterpieces of architecture and art still came in the masses.
We’ve heard there’s a free walking tour lead by “Fabio,” that everyone who visits Ghent must take (and it’s definitely on our list) but for now, we fared pretty well exploring on our own.
We crossed off the first item on Corey’s to-do list when we found a place selling frite cones. And in case you were wondering: yes, there is such a thing as too much mayonnaise.
We took our cone to sit along the edge of the canal. The whole city seemed to be there, sitting, snacking, or paddling in the water.
We ended the evening with another beer and came back to our (cleaned) apartment. The ceilings are higher here and the window let’s in a beautiful view of the park out back. It’s still hot … but Corey and I have been toying with the idea of ordering a mini fan and an ice tray from Amazon.
This morning we knew the first thing we needed to do was get bikes. We went back to the station to the Max Mobiel cart and got two shiny red bikes. Only 40 euros for two weeks!
Ghent is definitely meant to be experienced on two wheels — the bike lanes are roomy and wind all the way around the city,
Once in the center of town, we grabbed breakfast at Caffe Rosario, and I had a classic Belgian sandwich. I haven't had anything that hearty that didn’t have ham on it since we were back in the U.S. It was divine.
Lastly, we found our workplace for the day: The Krook. Here’s a translated description from their website: A library for the 21st century. A spearhead of entrepreneurship and innovation. A cultural hub where every Ghent is welcome. A beacon of civic participation and research. But above all an open house that invites encounter.
Corey said this is the best place we've been so far — with fast wifi and ample space to work, I agree! Looking forward to see what else Ghent has to offer. Next on my list: Belgian waffles!