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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Belgium

Kat, Vanessa, Glen and Ben at the Somme

31st July Belgium







Currently Glen is driving our little brand new Citroen C3 on the right hand side of the road. He has successfully stayed on the “right” side of the road most of the time. On a couple of country lanes on the Somme, Ben had to quickly remind Glen, “Dad the other side.” We are actually just leaving Belgium heading towards Middelburg in the Netherlands which is only a 40 minute drive.






We have fallen in love with Belgium and especially Ghent. We only spent 3 hours in Ghent but want to come back. It is such a beautiful town. One I can’t describe correctly so tonight I will download the photos and learn to upload them onto the blog. Ghent is only 30 minutes from Brussels. It is a charming university town built in the 13th century.






11:44 pm Australian time on Saturday but only 3:44pm here and we just crossed the borders into the Netherlands. Only a tiny sign marked the change of country.






Now back to Ghent. The town centre displays buildings of classical gothic architecture, the Town Hall and St Baafs and St Nicholas’ Cathedrals. The medieval castle in the town centre dates back to 1100AD is still is pristine condition and known as the Castle of the Counts. As we left the castle a bride and groom arrived with their photographer – What an amazing location for wedding photos. The canals, which you can go on boat trips along, pass rows of step-gabled guild houses. The canals are lined with cobblestone walkways filled with cafes and restaurants. Pots of brightly coloured petunias also hang in baskets and line the handrails. It is a festival of colour and delightful architecture. The market place is filled with people – drinking beer or coffee. The town has such a relaxed pace.


Cathedral Ghent




We are now driving 6 kms under a river in a tunnel – not Glen’s favourite thing to do. I think he held his breathe the entire way and was saved by Muse playing loudly on the ipod.






I have digressed from a linear description of our trip – let’s go back to leaving Paris. Our home swap in Paris was indeed an absolute delight. We loved the position, the local cafĂ© and patisserie and even the tailor. It was sad to leave.






Ben, Kat, Glen and I picked up our car and headed to the Somme for a 2 day tour of the World War 1 battlefields. Never have I felt so in awe of a generation of men who fought probably knowing there was little chance they would survive. To stand in a grave yard of 12000 buried soldiers with 75000 names of soldiers whose bodies were not found leaves you in silent respect, especially when this is only one of hundreds of graveyards. My understanding of the Great War was developed by both Vic and Diane as they told stories of individual men, explained strategies of the generals, told of successes and failures of battles and I have gained a reverent respect for the soldiers. We stayed with our British guides in their Bed and Breakfast.






Thursday we took Ben and Kat to Calais to pick up their camper van. We left them in Calais and headed to Bruges. We wandered through the centre of Bruges but decided it was way too touristy. We headed towards Brussels to meet Tanja and Mathias, our hosts from homelink.


Days have passed by. We really enjoyed Brussels and wished we had more time there – loved the town square and of course our hosts. We happened upon a Salvador Dali exhibition – it was fabulous. We get the privilege of spoiling Mathias, Tanja and the children, our hosts, when they visit us later in the year.






It is now a week later – one week in Amsterdam. What a crazy city. We have been through the Heineken factory, been to a comedy theatre production, traveled around the canals by canal bus, watched the gay pride parade, wandered the red light district, sat in a coffee shop and watched an intriguing world wander by and right now are enjoying relaxing back at the house we have swapped!






Ghent our favourite city
Tomorrow morning we head East to Nunspreet.






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