Tag Archives: photo essay

Ghent Under My Skin

I am fortunate enough that most of my travels are in a sense, ‘co-sponsored’ by the company I work with. I travel for work, be it coach camp, conference or training course, and always take the opportunity to take a few days either side of the event to explore the place I’m at.

This time my travels took me to gorgeous gorgeous Ghent, in the Flemish region of Belgium. The 3 days I spent in Ghent was enough to whet my appetite to want to return and spend more time exploring. I also want to return in the spring or summer months, because the 2 degrees (Celsius) weather is something I am not used to. It was icy and I bundled up sausage-like with gloves, scarf, woollen beanie, and layers of clothing underneath my coat.

Ghent in 2-minutes

Ghent in Motion was shot over one year,  in and around the city, trying to catch the daily vibe of the city. Have a look at the video below showing a 2-minute teaser.

How I got there

From South Africa, I flew to Amsterdam (next time I will fly via Paris, it seems to be more straightforward), and took a train to Antwerp where I hopped on to an intercity train bound for Paris that stopped at Ghent St Pieters station.

Amsterdam to Antwerp, then on to Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

Transport in Ghent

I walked everywhere, starting with a 1km trek from the station lugging my 14kg suitcase. I really must start travelling with a large backpack. Easier to carry and will encourage me to pack light, although I have to say that this time around I packed lighter than what is usual for me. I could have taken the tram but I had no energy to figure out how to buy a ticket and ensure that I got on to the right tram. The trek helped me get the initial layout of the area in my mind, and it put a whole lot of steps on my daily 10,000 steps requirement. Eventually, I realised that all trams go past the station and tickets can be bought at each stop at a coin-operated machine.

By the time I got to the Airbnb the sun was setting and I saw no food shops, coffee shops or restaurants open in that part of town. I was tired from the travel and all I wanted was to do was take a hot shower, have a decent cup of coffee and cocoon in the warm flatlet.  And eat something that was not bread-based or served in small plastic containers. On my trek to the flat I saw someone on a bicycle with an Uber Eats cooler bag at the back, so Uber Eats it was. The food arrived within 30 minutes of my order (on a bicycle). I was mightily impressed.

Ghent also has the largest pedestrian area in the centre of the city and most people cycle. It has a street where bicycles rule (and cars have to stay behind the cyclists). It’s the largest car-free area in Belgium. Oh, and there’s boats too.

The pedestrian friendly streets of Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

The food, coffee and chocolates

Ghent has the most vegetarian restaurants per capita in the world. I was spoilt for choice and this was a new reality for me, where I battle to find vegetarian food in most places I go to. The city has meat-free Thursdays (Donderdag Veggiedag) with vegetarian options promoted all over town with the distribution of veggie street maps. How delightful and thoughtful is that?

My first cup of coffee was the next day, where I ambled into an Irish pub for breakfast (they advertised breakfast, I promise) and was served coffee liqueur and chocolate with my cafe-au-lait. If this was going to be the norm (the liqueur not the chocolate) at the rate I drink coffee I was going to get drunk just on coffee.

Getting drunk on coffee in Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

Chocolate was everywhere. Shops selling chocolate, hot chocolate, people walking the streets with a cup of hot chocolate in hand (as a sweeter alternative to the ubiquitous cup of coffee), waffles with chocolate. The tea buffet at the hotel where my training course was at had a selection of chocolates and cakes and cookies…all of them with chocolate. The smell of chocolate pervaded the streets – yum!

Festivities, festivities, festivities – and shopping

The Christmas lights were still up and the final days of the Christmas festivities happened the weekend I was there. I’m glad I caught the tail-end of it. When I left the stalls, Winter Wonderland exhibition and fun fair rides were being taken down. Of course, the winter sales were on with some good deals on the go.

The architecture

It’s the kind of place where every photo I took was a great photo because the subject matter was just perfect. Well preserved Medieval buildings sat right next to more modern ones. I visited the Gravensteen Castle and St Niklaas’s Church dominates central Ghent. The city houses many churches and I loved the sounds of the bells tolling each day (and twice on Sundays), calling the devout to mass.

St Niklaas Kerk to the right
©2018 Regina Martins

As mentioned before I want to return to Ghent, to get to know it better, from the history to the food to the people. It’s a city of quiet canals, chocolates, bicycles and friendly people. Ghent is rich in history, architectural wonder and cultural heritage, and it has got under my skin.

 

Last Week In Instagram Pictures

I was pretty much absent on the blogging front last week. Roll-call would have come up with silence. I was taking photos though so that I’d be able to report back to you that last week consisted of a wonderful trip to Cape Town. For work, off course. Any trip to Cape Town, even a work one is pleasant because, well, Cape Town. I have proof of this assertion…in the photos below. Take a look…

As the plane came in to land this is what greeted me. As you can see it was breathtaking so much so that I quickly switched on my phone to capture it before landing. How gorgeous is that?

#capetownwelcome #capetownsunsets🌅 as the plane was coming in to land. A minute later it dipped below the horizon.

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Then this was the view that greeted me when I woke up the next morning.

Imperfect pic of a perfect setting #viewfrommywindow

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And this one too.

A ship in harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for. John A. Shedd #kalkbayharbour #quoteandsayings

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And on my return to the Airbnb from a yummy food outing this is what I found.

And a couple more pics before driving to the airport to catch the plane back home to Jhb.

It was a beautiful and cold day in #capetown today

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And this one too.

This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. – From the journal of Sir Francis Drake, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580. 

 

WordPress Weekly Photo: I’m on Top of the World!

Atop.

 

Photo Essay: Four Hours In Barcelona

I’ve written previously that I can’t really say that I’ve been to Barcelona. In that post I mentioned that I did manage a four hour walking tour of the city.

It was pleasant and unexpected and we were not prepared for it. So we made the best of it.

Even though it was only four hours I did take loads of photos. Like I am wont to do. Because that’s just what I do. Take loads of photos.

Firstly though I want to introduce the intrepid walkers, my companions on this excursion. I enjoyed the company of my colleagues Ebru and Amy. Here is a photo of our feet. And our faces 🙂

But I am getting ahead of myself. Having spent the whole week 30kms away in a small hill town, we arrived in Barcelona in STYLE! On a yatch. After winning a regatta. See medals below to prove it.

I was surprised to find, among all the trendy hotels ringing Port Olympia, the stainless steel sculpture of El Peix, dominating its entry and exit. It changes shape depending on which angle you see it. We didn’t spend any time looking at it because we had other priorities.

El Peix ©2016 Regina Martins
El Peix, ceated by Canadian architect Frank Gehry for the Olympics in 1992
©2016 Regina Martins

First stop had to be the Sagrada Familia, so we found a taxi who took us right there. I’ve posted a whole lot of pics of the outside of this beautiful structure in another post. We so wanted to have a tour of the inside of it. I went online to find some tickets but none were available for that day. That experience is in itself a subject for a different post.

Sagrada Familia ©2016 Regina Martins
Sagrada Familia
©2016 Regina Martins

With a tour of the Sagrada Familia off the table, we debated whether to take one of the open topped busses. This was scrapped when we saw the queues for tickets. Time was ticking and by this time we had three hours left before having to make our way back to the Port.

Plaza Catalunya became our next target. We stopped a few locals for directions and started walking.

To take a bus or not to take a bus? Across the road from the Sagrada Familia ©2016 Regina Martins
To take a bus or not to take a bus? Across the road from the Sagrada Familia
©2016 Regina Martins

Without a travel guide street signs became something we looked for but they have a tendency of not being consistent. We followed this sign, came to the Arc de Triomf and got half-way to the Parc Cuitadella when we got the feeling that we were not going in the right direction. And not a street sign to be found at this point. So we backtracked to this sign and found another local to ask directions of.

Walking around Barcelona without a city guide, relying on street signs ©2016 Regina Martins
Walking around Barcelona without a city guide, relying on street signs
©2016 Regina Martins

But not before coming across this beautiful church.

A church, beautiful architecture ©2016 Regina Martins
A church, beautiful architecture
©2016 Regina Martins

And coming across this inviting facade to restaurant Sant Joan. It was closed, alas.

Lovely art work facade restaurant San Joan ©2016 Regina Martins
Lovely art work facade restaurant Sant Joan
©2016 Regina Martins
Close up of the art work inviting people into the restaurant. It was closed when we walked past though... ©2016 Regina Martins
Close up of the art work inviting people into the restaurant. It was closed when we walked past though…
©2016 Regina Martins

It was at this time that a taste for coffee and patatas bravas called and we stopped at a sidewalk tapas bar for some sustenance. It’s hard work walking, looking for elusive tourist landmarks. And food and coffee is a priority in my book.

No walking tour is complete without a cup of some local coffee ©2016 Regina Martins
No walking tour is complete without a cup of some local coffee
©2016 Regina Martins

I love the symmetry and balance of this monument. I wonder why the water wasn’t running.

Monument to Bartolomeu Robert, Catalan doctor and politician ©2016 Regina Martins
Monument to Bartolomeu Robert, Catalan doctor and politician
©2016 Regina Martins

Look carefully…can you see the bicycle precariously balanced on the balcony in the photo below?

A building... ©2016 Regina Martins
A building…with a bycicle precariously balanced on one of the top balconies
©2016 Regina Martins

Walking to the Arc de Triomf...

Walking... ©2016 Regina Martins
Walking…
©2016 Regina Martins

…with coconut ice-cream in hand after the coffee because walking is hard work.

Refreshing coconut icecream... ©2016 Regina Martins
Refreshing coconut ice-cream…
©2016 Regina Martins

The Arc de Triomf. The Barcelona one. I don’t know the people in the photo but it adds to the fun of it don’t you think?

It was built as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas. The arch presides over Passeig de Lluís Companys, a wide promenade leading to the Ciutadella Park. It is located at the top of the promenade, where it meets Passeig de Sant Joan. Hence the restaurant named Sant Joan along the same boulevard (wikipedia).
Arco de Triunfo ©2016 Regina Martins
Arco de Triunfo
©2016 Regina Martins

Such a gorgeous walk.

Parque Lluís Companys ©2016 Regina Martins
Parque Lluís Companys
©2016 Regina Martins

Soap bubble blower at Parque Lluís Companys entertaining the kids and other passerbys.

Parque Lluís Companys ©2016 Regina Martins
Parque Lluís Companys
©2016 Regina Martins

Beautiful mosaic’d dome of a church, don’t know which, but it makes a nice photo doesn’t it?

Beautiful mosaic'd dome of a church, don't know which, but it makes a nice photo doesn't it? ©2016 Regina Martins
Beautiful mosaic’d dome of a church, don’t know which, but it makes a nice photo doesn’t it?
©2016 Regina Martins

And finally, after a few twists, turns and a shopping spree for swimsuits at Women’s Secret, we arrived at the Plaza Catalunya, the city centre. Some of the city’s main streets meet here.

Fountain at the Plaza Catalunya ©2016 Regina Martins
Fountain at the Plaza Catalunya
©2016 Regina Martins
Beautiful flowers at the Plaza Catalunya ©2016 Regina Martins
Beautiful flowers at the Plaza Catalunya
©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya ©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya
©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya ©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya
©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya panorama ©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya panorama
©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya, such a shiny floor ©2016 Regina Martins
Plaza Catalunya, such a shiny floor
©2016 Regina Martins

And after a wonderful day and all that went with it, the day capped off with a beach braai on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Sunset over the Mediterranean ©2016 Regina Martins
Sunset over the Mediterranean
©2016 Regina Martins

This was a rather long post. I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and thanks for reading.

Regina