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Belgium-Gent-Brussels-Antwerp
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2013 2:50 pm    Post subject: Belgium-Gent-Brussels-Antwerp  Reply with quote

Going to do this in instalments otherwise it'll never get done. Inspired by The ace Mr Avengers trip we decided to do this about a year ago. Sadly I can't promise any accounts of skullduggery with transvestite prostitutes and sexy chics on tecno dance floors but we did enjoy immensely lots of the other charms the place has.

I know a bit about its history and for a country not exactly renowned for global bullying too much colonial aggression and colloquial hostility the place has hosted lots of world changing flash points over the years. It was here that Napoleon finally got his comeuppance when Our Duke of Wellington gave him a sound thrashing at Waterloo and put an end to his dastardly expansion plans. To be replaced by our heroic mission to civilise the rest of the world of course. It followed decades/centuries of Anglo French hostility and wars throughout which Belgium remained neutralish for fear of jeopardising their precious cloth trade before finally deciding to go with the British, when it was clear we were the hardest.

That followed the dominance of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty that came to an end here amidst protestant rebellion and the failure of the king to produce any sprogs bringing in the war of the Spanish succession. Apparently he was so repulsive that even a Cas lass would think twice. Before that the Roman empire ended here bordered by the German tribes.

Karl Marx wrote his Communist manifesto in the opulence of the Grand Place in Brussels with Engels before being kicked out for being a Commy. This was the Place, No9, the squalor of the place clearly igniting his sense of injustice and inspiring his egalitarianism



Not long after that it was in Belgium where the Allies and The Jormans slugged it out in truly horrific and absurd blood ridden stalemate around Ypres throughout the Great War. Same with the second world war where the Allies, mainly the Yanks 101st airborne managed to hold firm during the Nazis final push, the Battle of Ardennes aka the battle of the Bulge.

Lately of course Brussles is the battle ground for EU debate and dissidence where heroic politicians like Cameron and Farage try to hand out traditional sound biffins

So all this together with the deep divide in the country between the largely catholic Frenchy types and the protestant Flemish types you'd think the  place would be riddled with more hostility than a Spurs away game but remarkably everybody seems to get along with political debate and cultural tolerance replacing petrol bombs, flags, drums, marches and hilarious sectarian songs.

So it was Eurostar for this trip, the horror of Ryan air being too much to face and what a great decision that was. From Front door to hotel reception after Taxi-Train-Train-Train-Train-bus the whole journey took about 7 hours. I reckon about an hour more than the plane but more than made up for with the comfort, relaxation and no intense hatred for fellow passengers and travel officials to gnaw away at my soul.

The brilliant St Pancras international terminal where we caught the Euro star



First up was Gent after a quick transfer in Brussels, just in time for the Gent festival as it happens and what a wonderful place it was. This was the sight just outside the hotel before the festivities begun


and this was the entrance to the Hotel



Quick wash and change and a nice pair of these to start the Holiday Proper


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Last edited by Late Doors on Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Them clouds were low.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Enzo Scifo, that's one all the clever bastards forget.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2013 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great photos and write up too m'lud.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Took me back, nice one M.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cracking report so far and those two beers up there are making me want to return...
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 04, 2013 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers for posting LD. Good that.
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So Gent
First impressions rarely deceive and it struck me immediately  that this was going to be a fine town. From the Train station through the suburbs on the tram and the walk to the canal side Hotel it exhumed industrious pride and charm. Clearly a lot of money has been spent sprucing up the place and  renovating the fabulous old Gothic structures and blasting the stone. It would take a stone heart to begrudge the spend, they look superb.





Several canals glide in and amongst the streets and boulevards whilst cafes and bars provide ample tarrying stations. All this is not to say it's a classic tourist  trap, it isn't. Although there are plenty of us about I got the impression that tourism and the towns organic industry and commerce sit happily together with everyone enjoying the facilities and outlets.





As mentioned earlier and as chance would have it our arrival coincided with the start of the Gent Festival which put a different perspective on our wanderings and observations. That and the glorious heat and sunshine gave the whole place a vibrant but relaxed vibe we both really enjoyed.

Prominent in the town is the Cathedral St Baafskathedral one of a trio of grand old Gothic statements.



Apparently there is a famous painting inside but on account of the fabulous weather and the admission fee it remained unseen. It's one of those dreary medieval religious affairs anyway only interesting because of its age by my low level reckoning anyway. In any case we had other things on our mind, like Food n Drink.

There is nothing like a spot of Sunglassed people watching whilst sinking a frothy one on the terrace.



Lots of Bars but the best ones were Dulle Griet, De Trollekelder, Den Turk and Het Waterhuis on the canal side that had a great little Jazz/blues/Rnr band playing on the terrace.



The beers were strong, flavoursome and extremely satisfying. La Chouffe and Westmalle Triple had peachy cream top that surfed on an ocean of smooth rich malt elegance. They had to be exceptional to cope with the strength (a frankly ridiculous 9.2%) but they were, and then some. Beautiful but potentially very dangerous, the Liz Taylor of Beers . Prices ranged from £3.50 for 33cl to a max but a one off £6 for 50cl. Averaging at about £4.50 a pint of strong ale or £3.50 for Stella type lagers. Believe me 4/5 pints were enough of the strong stuff





Wish I could report some great tucker but alas it was a mixed bag. A very ordinary Thai meal and Pizza separated by a succulent fresh Persian meal (Not on the same night of course). The Persian place the Ankara is massively popular. I've had better kebabs but not many and the whole evening there was good. The best thing we had was lunch at a veggy place out of town called Greenway. It was a basic unpretentious place a bit like Subway in appearance and decor but wonderful falafel and some veggy type pattie sarnys in  fresh bread, lots of crisp salad and a zingy little sauce.

Wish I could also say we sought out Arty places or museums but we spent the entire few days simply strolling about  this most engaging of towns in complete enchantment. Everywhere you looked threw out delights for the eye that hopefully the pictures can justify.















And of course it was Festival time. Kicked off with a parade through town featuring the bizarre, comical and that peculiar North European mix of pantomime, brass music and surrealist fun.





Night time came and the thousands gathered around the stages and beer stalls. People brought their own beer as well. Gallons and Gallons of the stuff were necked but not one single sign of even the slightest lairy bother occurred. Why is that ladies and Gentlemen? What is the difference between us and them.



Something seems to have gone wrong with this photo, so ive removed it till i sort it out

Anyway I must tell you about this lot. Slick Nick.



I have seen some of the best jump jive bands on the planet in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and St Louise and this lot were up there with the best. 90 minutes of shear unadulterated aural heaven that skipped, zipped, flashed and swung like a bastard. Totally enthralling that even had us two rolling back the years dancing away with the rest like demented chickens. I cannot over emphasize how much of a feel good factor this music has always given me and it left both of us buzzing for days and even now thinking back to it I'm chimming like a good'n

Gent, If not the best, certainly in the top five towns we have visited, we both loved every minute of it and will certainly go back
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I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing 'em


Last edited by Late Doors on Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:05 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Late Doors wrote:


Night time came and the thousands gathered around the stages and beer stalls. People brought their own beer as well. Gallons and Gallons of the stuff were necked but not one single sign of even the slightest lairy bother occurred. Why is that ladies and Gentlemen? What is the difference between us and them.



Yip, I noticed that in Antwerp too. Pubs were open round the clock, there were people sitting outside drinking after midnight. No bouncers on the doors and not even a whiff of trouble.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marvellous. Were there many naked women lining the banks of the canals or just that one? I like to think there were lots.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks lovely LD, will have to add it to the list.

I think the problems we have with alcohol is a cultural thing, as a whole we seem to accept drunkedness as a part of life.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2013 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like a place to go. Some great pics LD....Thanks for the excellent reporting as per usual. Pink is not you btw.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who was that chap with you ouside the bar? The one with the blue top and the pint glass.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 12, 2013 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grunt wrote:
Marvellous. Were there many naked women lining the banks of the canals or just that one? I like to think there were lots.


* Steals East Anglian narrowboat. Heads for North Sea. *
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 17, 2013 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grind wrote:
grunt wrote:
Marvellous. Were there many naked women lining the banks of the canals or just that one? I like to think there were lots.


* Steals East Anglian narrowboat. Heads for North Sea. *


http://www.bbc.co.uk/stoke/conten...darlingtons_channel_feature.shtml
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 10:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brussels and Antwerp

Best finish this trip off before we get on to Spain   . Brussels, the very name conjures up visions of sterile opulence and regimented administration. The actuality of the place took me completely by surprise. The main station, the one where all the dignitaries arrive and the one our train from Gent deposited in is a shambling confusing mess to the newly arrived. Outside is worse. I can only describe it as a shithole to rival the worst most unkempt NCP piss sodden car parks. The whole area around it is a wasteland with sporadic figures ambling along carrying plastic bags or simply just sat around. I thought we'd stumbled out of the wrong exit but no, this was it, the main exit into town. No signs to direct you so we headed in the general direction of the ominously named Stalingrad boulevard for the 15 minute walk to the hotel.

First thing, well the second thing to strike you about Brussels is the shear ordinariness of it. Not without its energy or appeal but its streets, parks and buildings are merely functional and organised. Not shabby or derelict, just,there.

The center or more specifically the grand place I something else. Possibly the grandest most opulent square that I have ever seen. Quite breathtaking when you first behold its intricate magnificence around you. Other than the central plazza the City is quit humdrum. There is a north south divide with the North having the grander more spacious boulevards and avenues whilst the lower town is like a Jewish quarter. Its all quite pleasant though with good cafes bars and restaurants. We actually went to the same place twice it was that good. A Moroccan place called le Kasbar I think, very popular with locals. Fantastic Tagines and kebabs.


There are a few very old bars called Bruin bars. Traditional ale houses, lots of character and exceptional beers. Au Soleil was near our hotel and became our local, a great place for sitting outside as well. Le Becasse is the oldest bar, hidden down an alley, reminded me of Whitelocks especially with the yard area.

As it happens we arrived on coronation day with a new king getting crowned so we headed up to the palace to see the spectacle. Not much to see though other than loads of other people and a great firework show. I've forgotten the detail now though so maybe some photographs will jog the ol' memory.

The main sqaure







The Bars








Normal street scene, represents the place




Had a day out to Antwerp as well on the train. Just saw it in daylight but I can imagine it is a lively place at night. During the day it seems a relaxed tranquil spacious town with fab old architecture around and plenty of places to enjoy al fresco refreshment





dunno what this is celebrating



the famouse station as you leave the platforms to the exit




That was Belgium then for us. Had a great time and would recommend everywhere we went. The folk seemed sound as well, not very different to us really. They seem very excited about their national football team as well.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks ace LD, I'm nominating you to be our very own Judith Chalmers.
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Judith Chalmers has admitted she never wore knickers in more than 30 years travelling the world for Wish You Were Here?

*fact*
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's 'WINKELS' in English?

You can go left or right to get to them.

Toilet?
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*resists jokes about ginger ones*


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