It was a very quiet parking place. We woke up to hear rain pouring down outside. We kept changing our minds about what we were going to do, whether we could be bothered to cycle in to Gent in the rain or whether we should just move on to Bruges. In the end we decided to bite the bullet and cycle into the city.
As we were leaving the car park we thought we’d see whether the signs at the front of the car park would shed any light on the midnight caller. To our embarrassment we discovered that underneath the picture of the motorhome was a much smaller sign which said motorhomes were only allowed to park between 07.00 – 19.00. no wonder he knocked on the door! We came to the conclusion that the motorhome parked in the car park was parked there without any people inside and that the security man assumed our van was the same. We’d been so excited at seeing another motorhome there we’d taken it for granted that the motorhome sign meant we could stay there, whoops! A huge apology to the climbing centre for our overnight stay.
It was cold and wet as we cycled into Gent but as we came to the castle the rain stopped and while we were taking photos a couple came up to us and asked whether we knew where the entrance to the castle was as it was opening time but the door was still closed. Darren said we didn’t know but he asked them whether they had pushed the door to see if it opened. I then asked them whether they could tell us where the old part of town was as we’d only just arrived. They were very helpful and a short while later as we cycled towards the entrance to the castle the man beckoned to us and pointed out that the castle was now open.
We hadn’t intended going into the castle but we’re glad we did, it was very interesting. The torture section was a bit gruesome, it’s awful to think that human beings could do such horrible things to each other. Near the end there were some information boards which showed the damage that had occurred to the castle over the years (which was extensive) and how they had restored it, they’d practically rebuilt it but they’ve done it so well you’d never know!
When we left the castle we explored the city whilst searching for somewhere for brunch. We discovered an interesting building with a stall outside where we had a short chat to a friendly man who was selling fruit sweets called cuberdon which are apparently a Belgian speciality. He told us we could leave our bikes resting against the cafe wall behind him and that we didn’t need to chain our bikes up, they’d be safe. Hmmm! Was he dissing our bikes?
We had gone in for waffles but they were very expensive so we settled for a set menu which said it had a mix of cakes and included a cup of coffee. We decided the set menu and an extra coffee to go with it was the way to go. The plate that arrived with the coffees had two pieces of cheesecake, strawberry flavour and vanilla flavour, topped with cream and chocolate sauce and sliced strawberries on the side, there was another plate with three small slices of cake on it and a glass of liqueur. It was perfect to share and tasted gorgeous, in fact it was so tasty I forgot to take a photo in my haste to eat it.
We had a nice cycle round Gent in the sun, it was great to actually get here after our failed attempt at the beginning of our trip. We cycled back along the canal to the van which was a much nicer route than the one we’d taken earlier in the rain.
From there we moved on to Bruges.
We returned to Bruges because we were so tired when we first visited at the start of the trip last May that we missed a huge chunk of it. This time we parked on the other side of the city beside the canal and cycled in, once again it had started to rain.
Our first stop was at a cafe where we had a very nice filled roll and coffee, much cheaper than the cakes in Gent. It had stopped raining when we left the cafe so we had a good old look around Bruges. We found the area that we had seen in our Dream Routes book, so all was good in our World and we discovered other pretty areas that we hadn’t seen before.
We reached the Markt where last year we’d sat in an exhausted daze drinking coffee and watching the horses, we’d been intrigued by the poo catchers they were wearing (we’d never seen those before, we’ve now seen them in all of the major cities we’ve visited on this tour, some enterprising soul must be making a mint!). After we’d circled that we decided to call it a day and went back to the van.
We programmed in a stopover half an hour away but when we got there the parking area was on grass and with so much rain lately Darren was worried we’d get bogged in so we moved on to Aalter where we’d stopped at the beginning of our European tour.
It was lovely to come back here, although it’s peaceful most of the time there is still so much to see, lots of cyclists, joggers and dog walkers go past on the lane and every now and again an enormous barge will pass by on the canal.
In the evening the area became nice and quiet.