Tag Archives: travel stories

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.

 

Here And Now

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

The presencing I feel when I travel is like an addictive drug allowing me to be in the present, leaving me wanting more. Its fleeting nature allows it to pass into the archives of the past, reluctantly escaping into the safety of memory.

©2016 Regina Martins
©2016 Regina Martins

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

I have the memories, tucked away in my heart, the experiences stored in my body and the photos stored on computer hard drives, bringing the past into the here and now.

©2016 Regina Martins
©2016 Regina Martins

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

I am curiously aware of others’ experiences – what they are seeing that makes them take a photo of a particular scene, what they are hearing that makes them turn around to look at another scene and what they are feeling that gives them the freedom to strike silly poses in an effort to make the moment memorable.

©2016 Regina Martins
©2016 Regina Martins

“Photos bring the past into the here and now.” – Regina Martins


Discover challenge – Here and now.

 

Shared Journeys

I’m not sure about this weekly Discover challenge to write about a shared journey taken with someone. My whole blog is about my journey through life and those I share it with. So all you need to do is read all the posts.

I’ve also posted about my travels, solo and with others. The last shared journey I went on with a friend was my trip to India with Sharon.

I usually travel alone. I do a lot of travelling for business and I take a day or two extra to get to know the place I’m visiting. It’s something that I enjoy on the one hand because I don’t have to synchronise wishes and desires with anyone else about what to see. On the other hand I know that I’d be a lot more adventurous if I travelled with someone else.

I’m not good at traveling with more than one other person. It’s the whole two is company and three is a crowd thing. I retreat into myself and end up going off on my own anyway. I’m keeping an open mind this time because I’m joining a few co-workers in Barcelona on Friday to explore a bit before joining coach camp on Sunday.

The only person I’ve travelled with more than once is my Mom. She’s rather fun and I end up spending lots of money I’d rather not, on shopping. My Mom likes her comforts, so going to the beauty parlour and hairdresser is part of travelling with her. She lands in Lisbon tomorrow and I’m going to meet her at the airport.

I’ve travelled more with friends and co-workers than I’ve travelled with Che. That’s just the nature of the travel that I do. I do wish he came with me more times, and I know that he comes when he’s able.

I have a secret wish to be a vagabond. My definition of a vagabond – someone who travels the world at will, lives like the locals, sometimes works, takes many photos and gets paid to blog about it.

There’s a time for solitary exploration and there’s a time for travelling with a group. I do err on the side of solitary exploration though, because I get to know more about myself then.

 

Stream Of Consciousness: Hotel Peculiarities And Foot Sprain Update

It’s been 11 days since I last blogged. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I can’t say that the time has flown because it has passed in exactly the same rate as it always does, 1 second, 1 minute, 1 hour, 1 day at a time.

Continue reading Stream Of Consciousness: Hotel Peculiarities And Foot Sprain Update