Honestly, I don’t know how I can say something about my favorite Belgian city (so far) that this photo already doesn’t.
Is it: (a) breathtaking or (b) astounding?
Ghent, in my humble opinion at least, has all the medieval loveliness of Bruges, except it lacks that tourism-driven “looking like a postcard on purpose” vibe. And, in case you care, its belfry is taller!
Of course, I’m not all about looks… Or building height for that matter. All I ask when I travel, really, is to be fed (a refreshing drink is also wonderful) and treated nicely. Belgium, like France, delivered generously on both accounts.
The photos above were taken right as a fantastic summer thunderstorm was rolling in…
…And this is what it looks like in daytime. Note all the intensive chillin’ that is happening! It made me long to be a Belgian teenager and drink cheap beer on the river banks.
The old post office and St. Nicholas’ church, from St. Michael’s bridge.
Of course, the #1 Belgian tourism activity is…
The whole country is a basically a beautiful stairmaster with incomparable views. Let’s all move here and get some really killer quads, ok?
Again, the beautiful St. Nicholas’ church.
This is the Gravensteen, the only surviving medieval castle in the Flanders region. It houses a grim but interesting museum of torture devices and, uh, killing devices.
And guess what? We climb the castle, too. You can see the famous “three towers” of the skyline, left to right: St. Bavo Cathedral (scaffolded up at the time of my visit), the belfry, and St. Nicholas’ church.
Part of the reason I wanted to visit Ghent is, unsuprisingly, food-related. Increasingly, the city is becoming known for fine dining, specifically in the quiet little Patershol quarter.
The whole area is just so idyllic and cute.
I had lunch at the t’Klokhuys brasserie, in the background.
…And I obviously ate most of my OUTSTANDING white asparagus/smoked salmon/potato/creamy sauce dish before I could sneak a photograph for you. (Quiet restaurant = self-conscious, majorly.)
The rest of the time, I stuck closer to the center of town/the riverfront. Not that it’s far from Patershol at all, but I loved the casual, lively atmosphere of the outdoor brasseries and cafes.
This is Gentse Waterzooi, a rich chicken and vegetable soup. Originally, this was made with fish, though it seems chicken is the protein of choice lately. If it looks like a big bowl of comfort… It’s because that’s exactly what it is. Chicken and noodles, minus the noodles, Flemish style.
You’ve seen pretty much exactly the same photo in my last post. It’s just… Look at how this one glistens with burnt sugar. Unreal.
Another Flemish dish I was super intrigued by: chicory gratin. It’s chicory (Belgian endive, as we call it in the States), wrapped in ham (can’t go wrong), baked in a creamy cheese sauce (again, can’t go wrong).
I quite liked it–if you are an endive fan, you probably would too. I have a feeling that you’ll see a couple Flemish recreations here come fall and winter. I mentioned the thunderstorm, right? I think Belgians have perfected the art of warming themselves with incredible, rich meals.
Of course, you would have yelled at me if I didn’t include street frites in all this, right? Or was that just me justifying all this decadence? I’ll tell myself I did it for you, if that’s okay.
I stumbled upon this frituur (fry stand, y’all) in Grotenmarkt at just the right moment. It was a simple, unlabeled, no-fuss operation, with locals milling about. All good signs as far as I know. After some Google snooping, I discovered it’s run by a fellow named Filip. Just in case you need to track it down.
I opted to have mine doused in Andaluse sauce, which is basically mayo spiked with pimento or red bell pepper. It was literally perfect.
And, you know, Ghent itself is literally perfect, to me. If you like ALL THE GOOD THINGS, or if you’ve ever wanted to visit Belgium and you only had time for one city… You know where my vote goes.