Wednesday, July 4, 2012

From Canals to Castles to Churches

Hey all,

Back by popular demand, today's travel blog offering is of our latest trip to one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen.

Ghent, Belgium.

This medieval city is so chock full of history, everywhere you look you can see a lovely old building that just shouts out it's heritage.  We spent a day there this last weekend, and if I have a chance to go back, I will.  It was that amazing.

Ghent sits in the center of Brussels, Antwerp, and another small historical town, Bruges.  From Antwerp, it's only a forty-five minute train ride and while you can spend days here, it is also great for a day trip.

We got into town about 9:00am, and knowing most everything opened at 10:00, we opted to wander a bit and then grab a little breakfast before we jumped into sightseeing.  We found this little cafe just off the main waterway areas--Korenlei and Graslei, and munched on a light Belgium repast of boiled eggs, cheeses, wafer thin sliced ham, fresh orange juice, bread and croissants.  And some jelly that was tart and sweet at the same time.  We think it was gooseberry.  Yummy!

Once we were fueled, we hit our first target, the Ghent canal boat ride.  This ride takes you up and down the main waterway so you can see all the historical building from the water.  Our guide, Lynn, was very good and we really enjoyed ourselves.  Here are a few of the pics from that part of our day...

Just after leaving the dock, the waterway with all the old buildings on either side.

Heading out of the city center towards the old wall and warehouse district.

 The old city gate.  The old and the new right together.  I thought it an interesting picture. 

 The old warehouse and factory district.  Some are crumbling...others are in good shape.  Still others are now apartments or businesses.

Back to where we started.  And yes, for you Brits, that IS a copy of the famous Big Ben clock.  Apparently, it's Ghent's nod towards England and their ties with that country.

One last pic for the boat tour.  These are the Ghent famous three towers seen from the boat.  Not the building in front, but after that, the three tallest are, St. Nickolas Church, Belfort (the Belfry) and St. Bavo's Cathedral.  Absolutely beautiful buildings and view.

Once we'd finished sailing the canal, we grabbed our map and went on a walking tour.  Ghent is best seen by walking, and it's compact enough (even though it's the fourth largest city in Belgium) you can walk by all the historical sites in just a few hours.

We had an amazing time.  I took--get this--706 pictures!!!!  A new record.  Thank God for digital cameras!!!!!  But there were so many gorgeous many jaw-dropping churches.  And, so many surprises around every corner.  Let me show you a few treasures we saw on our walking tour...

The view of the waterway from St. Michael's Bridge.  One of the best lookouts in the city.

 Another view from the bridge, this one towards the three towers.

 The inside of St. Nickolas' Church.  Beautiful and serene.  I could have spent hours there.

 The Belfry.  A UNESCO heritage site, it was the old guard house.  It now has a museum and a beautiful view of the city from the top.  One of the places I'd like to go back to.

St. Bavo's Cathedral.  Originally built in 942, little remains of the original chapel, but this 1561 founded cathedral house many beautiful art treasures.

 A view of the inside of the cathedral. 

The main claim to fame for St. Bavo's, is this painting by the Van Eyck brothers.  The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is a beautiful altarpiece.  The original sits protected behind glass and security since one of the panels was stolen in 1934.  We were able to see the real altarpiece, but no photos are allowed.  This is a pic of the copy.

Another gorgeous building.  The Castle of Gerald the Devil.  Seems old Gerald had a habit of going through wives.  He had five all together.  But the problem was, he got a new one by killing the old.  Thus, he became the devil.  Appropriate, if you ask me!!!

Unfortunately, we didn't get to go into any of the museums as I would have liked to do.  But we only had a single day and just looking around town was more important.  But if I have some extra time while here in Belgium, I've already decided to go back and see a couple of the things I had to walk away from.

We ended out tour with a visit to Gravensteen Castle.  Quite beautiful and although it's not restored, just being inside is enough if you love castles like I do.  Check these pics out...

This is the front of the castle.

This is the back, taken from the water.

One of the inner courtyards.

The wall.

The chapel.  

One of the rooms where guests were received.

 And finally, the Dungeon

I took so many more, but I don't have time to show them all.  I'll leave you with one last of my favorites.  The view of Ghent from the top of Gravensteen Castle.  And if you ever have a chance to go to Ghent, take it.  Spend the day wandering.  You'll be glad that you did.

Until Friday...


CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


Phylis said...

I just LOVE seeing your pictures and hearing about your sight seeing! Thank you so much for sharing them. It's beautiful there. I would have fun exploring.

CJ England said...

You're welcome, Phylis. I enjoy sharing my adventures with everyone as well!

Tali said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.

CJ England said...

You're welcome, Tali. I'm glad you enjoyed them!

Ray said...

We have an old section of Norfolk, VA that is called Ghent. When I first moved to this area parts of it were run down. It has been gentrified through urban homesteading and later because it was so nice through big bucks. It is of course nothing compared to the real thing. The pictures are beautiful.

Naval Hospital Portsmouth, VA has a dungeon, at least it did, that is now used for storage. The hospital was opened in 1830, the oldest Navy hospital in the US.

The unrestored castle is probably better for the imagination. You get to envision it as part of your world rather than that of the restorers. That is why I wish I could read Ancient Greek and Hebrew so I wouldn't have to take the word of the translators on points of controversy.

Happy Fourth of July

CJ England said...

I love visiting castles, Ray. I've seen both empty and refurbished ones. I've been to ones that were beautifully restored and those that were crumbling.

All give you such a sense of history and if you can use your imagination, so much the better.