Written by zabelle on 19 Apr, 2005
When you get to Tournai/Doornik, you will need to hone your French skills. Though bordering on Flanders and Hainault, Tournai is a French city. Much of its history has placed it under the control of the French. Tournai was the first Belgian city freed by…Read More
When you get to Tournai/Doornik, you will need to hone your French skills. Though bordering on Flanders and Hainault, Tournai is a French city. Much of its history has placed it under the control of the French. Tournai was the first Belgian city freed by British Troops in 1944. Native sons Rogier Van der Weyden and Robert Campin have brought fame to their hometown, and the marble quarried in Tournai graces many of the cathedrals in England. The Calvinists destroyed many of the monuments produced in marble by the sculptures of Tournai in the 16th century. The French soldiers finished the job in the 18th century. Cathedral of Notre Dame: We were very disappointed to find that the cathedral was undergoing renovation when we were there. We walked around in the scaffolded interior and enjoyed the beautiful rose window, but most of the rest was off-limits. Treasury: The treasury has some items worthy of a visit. There is a chasuble worn by St. Thomas Becket, a gem-encrusted monstrance and a cope made from a mantle worn by Charles V. Two 13th-century reliquary chests, Our Lady and Saint-Eleuthère, as well as the Byzantine Cross, are of interest. There are some religious treasures from the Merovingian and Carolingian periods. As part of your visit to the Treasury, you get to visit the Chapter Room of the former Monastery. It is a beautiful room with walls of carved wood. Lunch in Tournai: L’Amphitryon 28 Rue de la Wallonie 069 54 99 97 We happened to pick a cold, rainy Monday to visit Tournai; we picked Monday because the museums were closed on Tuesdays. Little did we know that once a month they are also closed on Monday, but that is another story. L’Amphitryon is located right off the square near the Belfry. We had checked out the restaurants around the square, but the prices were outrageous. By the time we arrived, we were starving. Luckily for us, they had a fixed price lunch menu for 14.50€. It was a three-course menu, with pâté or cheese toast for appetizer, beef or fish for a main course, and ice cream for dessert. Our waiter, Christophe, was delightful. He asked us where we were from and how long we were staying and gave us suggestions on what to see in Tournai. He even took our picture for us. I decided to have a salad instead of the fixed-price meal. It was a beautiful creation of Parma ham and cheese over greens with tomatoes, served with oil and vinegar. It was perfect. Al had the cheese toast, which consisted of goat cheese served on toast points, and the steak with forestier sauce. I didn’t taste it, but he was impressed by the tenderness and the taste of the mushroom and cream sauce. Christophe made sure I got ice cream, even though I wasn’t supposed to. I chose coconut, and it was delicious. Al had strawberry and Joe had chocolate. To drink, I had a Stella Artois, which is my favorite Belgian beer and Bob had a Hoegarten. Al and Joe had Pellegrino. The café itself is lovely, with bright-red walls and white linens. It is an enjoyable and centrally located place to eat and will not break the bank. Musee des Beaux ArtsEnclos Saint-Martin After lunch, we headed to the Art Museum. This Victor Horta building is beautiful enough to visit even if you don’t care about art. It was built in 1928 to house the collection bequeathed to Tournai by Henri Van Cutsem in 1905. We were a little surprised to see no one else in the building, but the door was open, so we walked in. Some very surprised men gave us a headphone tour and wouldn’t take any money. Okay, this should have rung a bell, but we really wanted to see this museum. Actually, it was closed, but I guess they didn’t quite know how to tell us. The beauty of the whole thing is we got to tour this fabulous museum all by ourselves at our own pace.The collection here includes Rubens, Van Gogh, native sons Van de Weyden and Campin, and Monet and Watteau. This building is just the perfect backdrop for artwork, light, airy, and very open. Can you believe that Joe even got a guidebook and postcards from this closed museum? Keep in mind that, as of yet, we didn’t know it was closed. It wasn’t until we went to the Folklore Museum, which had an open door and a man sitting in it that we found out that it was closed. When we got back to Laarne, Ingrid told us that this was some new thing. Certain cities had the museum closed an extra day each month. Okay, but this is very confusing to tourists. ParkingThere is a very central parking lot right in the center of Tournai, near the Belfry. It would be impossible to miss it. It is a pay-and-display. We had to go back to the car once during the day to renew our ticket. Everything in the city is within walking distance. If you don’t have a map, stop at the visitor center and get one. The art museum is about as far from the center as anything gets. Close
Though not technically in Flanders, I chose to include it anyway since it certainly is the epitome of the duality of the Belgian culture with it’s two distinctive universities. Leuven/Louvain is a very typical university town and we watch in delight as the hordes…Read More
Though not technically in Flanders, I chose to include it anyway since it certainly is the epitome of the duality of the Belgian culture with it’s two distinctive universities. Leuven/Louvain is a very typical university town and we watch in delight as the hordes of students gathered for a rally on the Stadhuis steps. We had arrived on a college holiday, and it appeared that the students were on a quest. From what we could gather, they were on a massive scavenger hunt, since we were asked if we were in our thirties (we loved these kids immediately) because they had to find some one of that age to bring in. Too bad we were all old fogies. CULTURE Vander Kelen Museum Savoyestraat 6The museum is a short walk from the church and the Stadhuis. It was given to the city of Louvain in 1918 for the purpose of houses a municipal museum. Most of the building was built during the 17th and 18th century on the site of the Savoy College. It is not strictly an art museum though it has some interesting art works both paintings and sculpture. It is also a decorative arts, history and archeological museum. It has a little bit of everything. What it doesn’t have is a brochure in English or any English signs at all. Therefore, your French or Flemish must be quite good if your physic skills are not. One display that needed no explanation was a picture of the interior of St. Peters Church as it was in the 17th century. It has been totally changes so it was very interesting to compare it to how it looks today. You will also not want to miss the "Holy Trinity" by Rogier van der Weyden and "Mourning over the body of Christ" by Quintin Metsys.To visit the archeological section you must descend into the basement. It is worth the visit. HISTORYSt Pieter Kirk –A beautiful Gothic church built in the 13th and 14th century. One of the most striking features of the interior of the church is the pulpit. The work of Jacques Berge, it is carved wood. It shows St. Norbert after he was struck from his horse by lightening. The carving is very fine and includes birds and animals. The museum is located in the ambulatory. There are fifteen chapels and between and in them are the treasures of St. Pieters. There is an additional; charge to enter the museum. Your entrance fee gets you a booklet in English that includes a map of the interior and a listing of each of the showcases. Of particular interest in Chapel 8 which has paintings of the Legend of Proud Margaret. Saint Margaret or Margaret of Louvain was a servant girl who saw her master and mistress killed by robbers who then abducted her. When she refused to marry one of them, she was killed. Her body was then thrown in the river. The real treasure of St. Peters is the last supper triptych painted by Dirk Bouts. There are enough intersting things to see here to entrance worthwhile. On the exterior of the church, look for the golden man with the bell, if you are lucky you will get to see him actually strike the bell. The upside is that it is a combination ticket that will also get you into the Vander Kelen Museum. In the church itself is the statue of Our Lady as the Seat of Wisdom by Brussels sculptor Nicholaas de Bruyne. It is carved of wood and was created in 1442. This is a recreation, made after of the original was destroyed in 1944. Mary Seat of Wisdom is the patron Saint of the Catholic University of Louvain, the largest University in Belgium. St Anthony Chapel- There is nothing particularly interesting about this chapel. The reason to visit is who is buried here. Joseph de Veuster, better known as Father Damien or Damien of Molokai. Born into a large family in Tremelo Belgium Joseph was groomed to take over his father’s business. When he was 19, he decided to follow his elder brother into the religious order of the Sacred Heart in Louvain. He took the religious name of Damien. His brother had planned to go to the missions in the Hawaiian Islands but when he became ill Damien requested permission to take his place. It was granted and he arrived in Honolulu in 1864. That same year he was ordained into the priesthood. The Island of Molokai was designated a Leper Colony and the lepers were basically abandoned by everyone who feared the incurable disease. Damien volunteered to minister to the victims on a rotating basis and eventually he remained there. He brought hope to the hopeless and became a voice for the lepers. In 1885 after twelve years, he contracted the disease himself. He died in 1889 "the happiest missionary in the world". His body was transferred to Belgium in 1936 and he was buried in the church of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart in Louvain. In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared him Blessed, the first step in the process of Sainthood. The crypt of St. Anthony Chapel holds the remains of Blessed Father Damien. The walls hold pictures of his life and that of the people he loved. I rate visiting this chapel on par with visiting the tomb of Albertus Magnus in Cologne, maybe even higher because this man only died a little over 100 years ago and I could better understand the world in which he lived. I am in total awe of his sacrifice. EATINGVangrootloon Bakkerij121 NaamsestraatWe were starving by the time we reached Leuven. We had left Antwerp before breakfast and we had hoped to be able to find a restaurant where we could get a quick bit. We ended up at McDonald's. We were disappointed to find out they didn’t serve breakfast so we had French fries and Danish for breakfast. After visiting Sint Pieters Kirk and the museum, we needed to put more money in our parking meter. We past this bakery and the wonderful pastries in the window tempted us.We didn’t realize at the time that this is part of a local chain. It looks like any other bakery with a small café seating area. We weren’t quite sure at first if there was table service or if you went to the counter to order. It didn’t take long for us to find out, our waitress came over quickly and took our drink orders. Since this is a tea shop and it was a cold day, I opted for a cup of hot tea. The men all had hot chocolate, which came with little ramekins filled with whipped cream. Our cups came on little trays. Perched on the side were a couple of small pieces of delicious coffeecake. What a way to start a meal! The menu features mostly soup and sandwiches. I decided to try a Croque Hawaiian, Al had Croque Monsieur. My sandwich was grilled ham and cheese with pineapple. What was unusual was the cheese was on the outside of the bread with the pineapple. It looked a little peculiar but it tasted delicious. It was served with a generous portion of fresh green salad with mayonnaise and eggs, on the same plate. Bob had Krabtoast which was toasted bread with a filling of crab meat (looked like imitation to me) and mayonnaise. We were too full to try any of the delicious pastries but I can easily imagine coming in here just for afternoon tea and being very satisfied. The prices were good and the service was efficient if not particularly friendly. You pay as soon as your food is delivered so if you want to order dessert it would be on a separate check. This is a great shopping town and it was where I purchased my Belgian Beer to take home. Right in the downtown district there is a grocery store which has very competitive prices, not to mention a superlative selection of beers. Getting AroundYou need to park and walk. Parking in Leuven is in metered lots, which means you need to return to your car every two hours and replenish the meter. We found a parking lot right off the Grote Markt behind the Stadhuis. From there, we were able to walk all over town easily. Close
Saint John Hospital
This is not just an art museum, but rather a history museum;
the atmosphere of the former hospital adds a lot of historic appeal. The hospital is named for St. John the Evangelist, but St. John the Baptist is included in most of…Read More
Saint John Hospital
This is not just an art museum, but rather a history museum;
the atmosphere of the former hospital adds a lot of historic appeal. The hospital is named for St. John the Evangelist, but St. John the Baptist is included in most of the art references to the hospital from the 12th century on. Water still runs beneath the building today, as it was needed to clear the waste and to wash the clothing of the patients, as well as to water the animals that were kept.
St. John has always been a municipal institution, unlike most others of its kind that were attached to religious institutions. From the 15th century to Vatican II, the sisters who cared for the sick in the hospital wore habits; there is an interesting display of them for your viewing pleasure. The city council made the rules by which it was governed until 1459, when it came under the authority of the Bishop of Tournai. There are display cases documenting the income and expenses, which give a very good idea of the kind of things that were being used by the hospital. The hospital owned land, estates, and farms, from which it derived much of its income. You can view these registers as well. Not only do they give you a good overview of the 16th and 17th century, but the books themselves are quite lovely. I thought of them in terms of their genealogical significance. They list people who lived in homes in Bruges that were owned by the hospital. It would be amazing to be able to find your ancestor and know exactly where they were living and how much rent they had to pay. Moreover, when you consider that St. John’s was one of the largest landowners in the area, you can see the potential for a treasure trove of information.
I found some of the early medical information to be fascinating. During the Middle Ages, physicians had identified 33 main organs, three fluids, and four humors in the human body. A doctor did not operate; that was done by a surgeon, and they had to be astronomers to be able to decide when the best time to operate would be. A doctor’s job was to make a diagnosis; he did this by examining the urine of his patient. This helps explain the short lives of our ancestors.
Saint John’s has a mixture of religious and medical displays. The huge open interior is broken into artificially created rooms. The walls are brick and there are huge pillars with large wooden crossbeams. These were the wards. There is a 15th-century attic you can visit located up some winding stone steps. Most of the works of art were originally commissioned for the hospital chapel, but a few were for the benefit of the patients. This is a beautifully designed museum with an excellent flow. You can take the excellent headphone tour or tour on your own.
Located in the chapel of Saint John Hospital, the Memling Museum is a small but treasure-filled collection. The shining star is the St. Ursula Shrine
which was designed and painted by Hans Memling and is inspired by the architecture of Bruges.
Memling was strongly influenced by Rogier Van der Weyden, and it is very evident in his altar triptych in the chapel. St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist each get one of the side panels and then are united on the center panel.
Since 1994, some of Bruges finest chocolates have been being made at this location. The chocolates are not just sold here, they are made here. There are only three other shops in Brugges that can make this claim.
These days, many chocolate makers don’t use all cocoa butter, but substitute wax. Since 2000, in order to call something Belgian chocolate, you only have to use 2% cocoa butter, but at Pralinette, they use 100% cocoa butter. They don’t add sugar or glucose either. Needless to say, these are mighty delicious chocolates.
The hardest decision you will have is which of the fabulous truffles to choose from: white chocolate, dark chocolate, or milk chocolate. After you decide on the exterior, you have to choose the interior: rich chocolate, creamy hazelnut, fabulous champagne, or heavenly fruit flavors. You head will be spinning and your taste buds will be thrilled. Our box never made it back to the Ingrid’s. I have been asking myself ever since, why? Why? Why didn’t I buy more? I wish I had tasted the chocolates before we left the shop. They were far superior to anything else we bought in Belgium.
We took an audio tour of the Gothic Hall (Gotische Zaal). The audio tour was excellent and gave a lot of information. The Gothic Hall was where the alderman met, and it has a beautiful vaulted ceiling. We enjoyed looking at a map of Bruges from 1552 that showed all the canals and the main building. It was a fascinating study.
The Renaissance Hall is included in the price of the Gothic Hall and also on the audio tour. The mantle by Lancelot Blondell is the masterpiece of this building. It is the glory of the Emperor Charles. It shows his two sets of grandparents, Mary of Burgundy and Maximillan and Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. The room is flanked by tapestries; the ones on display are 19th-century reproductions of the 13th-century originals. Ceremonial portraits trace the genealogy of Charles V. It is quite a spectacular room.
Basilica of the Holy Blood
More accurately, this should be called a chapel of the holy blood. It was originally called St. Basil’s Chapel, and it wasn’t until 1923 that it was designated a basilica. It is a two-story structure. The lower chapel is almost unchanged since it was built in the 12th century. The dim interior has thick stone walls and is somber. The upstairs chapel, which houses one of Bruges most famous treasures, is awash in color. The precious blood can be venerated on Fridays’ from 9:30 to 11:45am and 3 to 4pm.
There is a small museum with a pretty little crown that belonged to Mary of Burgundy and a 15th-century chasuble showing the heart of Mary pierced with swords. Photos were not allowed in the museum.
Bruges is a city best appreciated on foot. Park your car in the municipal parking garage and start walking. You will see signs as you enter the city directing you to the parking garage. In this garage, you get a ticket as you enter, and when you are ready to leave, you take your ticket to a machine on the main floor and pay. The machine takes cash or credit cards. This is one time you may want to take your ticket with you for the day. You then insert your paid ticket at the gate to be let out. There are taxis available around the city if you have the need.
Kortrijk/Coutrai will always have a place in the hearts of all the Flemish. It was here in July of 1302 that the impossible happened; the French army made up of knights was defeated by the townspeople. This was the first time that this had ever…Read More
Kortrijk/Coutrai will always have a place in the hearts of all the Flemish. It was here in July of 1302 that the impossible happened; the French army made up of knights was defeated by the townspeople. This was the first time that this had ever happened anywhere. It was called The Battle of the Golden Spurs. After the battle, the Flemish, unaware of the usual policy of ransoming the survivors, killed any knights who hadn’t already died. After collecting all the Golden Spurs, they hung them in the Church of Our Lady.
Reports vary from 500 to 900 pairs but obviously many very important French knights lost their lives here. So highly do the people of Flanders regard the victory that in 1973 the date of the battle, July 11, was made the Official Flemish Celebration Day.
Kortrijk will always remain in my heart as the city where we were welcomed with open arms. We arrived early on a Sunday morning and headed for our first stop the Church of Our Lady. Little did we know that today they were celebrating the 800th anniversary of the church and the 200th anniversary of their community. We had come here to see the Van Dyke painting that hangs in their church.
We thought they were having a meeting in the Chapel of the Counts, so we just went over to the left side of the church where the picture is hung. While we were admiring it several different people from the parish came over to tell us about it and take us to see other treasures in the church, some spoke in Flemish and eventually when we looked confused, in English. They were all justifiably proud of their church and its treasures. We were finally invited to join them in their celebration and they introduced us to not only their pastor but a women who was visiting her hometown from her present home in Connecticut, small world. I will never forget the look on Al’s face as he popped that truffle into his mouth only to find out it was pate--priceless.
Begijnhofstraat - tel.: +32-56-244800
You will know when you have arrived here as you are greeted by the statue of Joanna of Constantinople, Countess of Flanders who founded this community of Beguine in 1238. The name Begijn may derive from the Flemish "beghen" to pray. The Beguinage consists of about forty small houses around a courtyard.
The museum is located in one of the houses and for a small fee, you can visit the rooms to see how the Beguine lived. Beguine were not nuns, as they had no common rule and each community was self-contained. They dressed in habits and dedicated their lives to good works and prayer but did not take the same vows that a nun would take. They often took the vow if obedience and chastity but not the vow of poverty. The women who were rich lived in separate houses while the poor lived in communal houses. The house where the museum is located is the house where the superior lived. There is no store and the elderly woman who was on duty the day we were there spoke only French, and she was testy to say the least. Go anyway; this is a fascinating look at a fading way of life.
BROELMUSEUM Broelkaai, 6 - tel.: +32-56-240870
Housed in a beautiful mansion along the river this museum feels more like a house than a museum.
Some of the rooms were more beautiful than the art they housed. The purpose of the museum is to highlight the art of artists who lived or worked in Kortrijk. It spans five centuries of work. I loved the mulberry delft tiles from the 18th century, they had bible verses drawn on them. Another thing I particularly liked was a four-season panel. All the writing was in Flemish so it was a little hard to follow at times so this was a visual visit. They have an excellent ceramic collection as well as paintings by Roeland Savery.
THE GROENINGEABDIJ Houtmarkt/Begijnhofpark - tel.: +32-56-240870
This is a history of Kortrijk museum. They have among their treasures the chasuble of St. Thomas Becket.
It is in amazing condition for its age. In order to view it you must remove the protective cloth cover of the case. There are two floors of displays going from prehistory through the First World War. This is a great place to learn about the battle of the Golden Spurs. The building itself is a former abbey and the museum is located in the dormitory.
St. Martin Church- dominates the skyline of Kortijk. The main treasures here are the stone tabernacles by Hendrick Maes and a sixteenth century triptych. The redodo is so big that it covers two of the stained glass windows, it is what I really don’t like about Baroque. However, as I have said, the townspeople consider it their treasure.
This lovely town has many other treasures that make it worth a visit. One of the women from Our Lady Church told us not to miss St. Martin Church, "it is much more beautiful", she said. We had a fabulous lunch at the Café Rouge. One disappointment was that the Flax and Linen Museum was closed in January. One warning, nearly all the stores were closed on Sunday. This did however make it easy to find parking right in the main square. Kortijk is a great walking city. Everything is quite close together. The streets in the old part of town are very narrow and I would park and drive. I can’t recommend this town enough, it is charming. The Belfry in the town center is also very beautiful.
We chose Mechelen to visit because of the wonderful art that is on display in their churches. While doing my research I came across the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance and I have to admit that it was one of the most moving and…Read More
We chose Mechelen to visit because of the wonderful art that is on display in their churches. While doing my research I came across the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance and I have to admit that it was one of the most moving and gut wrenching places I have ever visited. if you can only visit one place in Mechelen make it this museum.MUSEUMS
Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance
Goswin de Stassartstraat 153
May 10, 1940, is a day that will remain in the Belgian psyche forever; it is the day Hitler invaded Belgium. Beyond the obvious trauma this caused was the Nazi obsession with the final solution. This museum documents the course that this philosophy followed in Belgium and its impact on not only the Jews but on Belgians in general.
This is a very hard museum to walk through. The displays are disturbing on every level. The very first displays you see are identification papers for six Jews with Joot-Juif stamped on them. Suddenly, these are no longer just numbers or statistics; they are real flesh-and-blood people. Abraham Gold was born in October 1920; we see his picture and can imagine his hopes, his dreams, and his final solution. We see pictures of synagogues burned on Kristallnacht and pictures of Jews forced to wear the Star of David sewn on their clothing. The stars were not big enough for the word Jew to be written in both Flemish and French, so they just have the letter J. We see personal things, like a poem written by Iszach Lipschitz to his wife, whom he married in the transit camp at Mechelen.
If this wasn’t enough to break your heart, there are exhibits of Jews forced into labor camps. These are not just adults; some are children as young as 3 years old and some are seniors in their 80s. What labor could they possibly do, you have to ask yourself.
As shocking as all this was, some of the most shocking things were the reaction of the Belgian population to what was going on around them. The Bishop of Liege allowed Jewish children to be housed in Catholic institutions, but he never denounced the deportation, at least not publicly. There was a case full of photos of the children who were hidden in Catholic convents. In all, 3,000 children were hidden thanks to the "Committee for the defense of the Jews." It was sickening to read a letter from an informant identifying Jewish families.
This is a visual museum. It takes a long time to read all the displays and listen to the audios offered. Allow 1 to 2 hours. You will finish your visit by walking through a tunnel of photos. They are family pictures. The survivors are in black and white in the colored pictures, and there were not many. It made it all the more poignant to see how some families were decimated. Examples include a family of five, a mother and father and three sons, but only the father survives. Then there was one of a mother, father, two boys, and two girls, with no survivors, and finally a family who all survived, but no information is given on them. No children under the age of 13 sent to Auschwitz survived.
Though we are all religious, the main reason we visit most churches is the art they contain.
St Rombauld - Construction began on this cathedral in the mid-13th century, and some remnants of it still survive even though there was a devastating fire in the mid-14th century. Reconstruction took the better part of 200 years. What brought us here was what is perhaps Anthony Van Dyke's finest painting, "The Crucifixion."
St. Jan - What brought us here was a triptych by Peter Paul Rubens. His first wife was the model for the Virgin Mary in the Adoration of the Magi. Our Lady has another triptych by Peter Paul Rubens; this one, the "Miraculous Draught of Fishes," was originally painted for the Guild of Fishmongers. That this church still survives is miraculous; it sustained major damage in both World Wars.
Parking was difficult in Mechelen. We had to circle around the city at least three times to find a small pay-and-display lot behind St. Rombauld Cathedral. Just be patient. We started to follow people as they walked into the lot to make sure we would get their spot if they left.
As an English-history buff, I longed to visit Ghent, the birthplace of one of my favorite Plantagenets, John of Gaunt. This was my second visit and I was still fascinated. Though often overshadowed by its more-famous and romantic neighbor Bruges, Ghent has much…Read More
As an English-history buff, I longed to visit Ghent, the birthplace of one of my favorite Plantagenets, John of Gaunt. This was my second visit and I was still fascinated. Though often overshadowed by its more-famous and romantic neighbor Bruges, Ghent has much to offer in its own right.
Ghent is second to none in the area of art. If you long to see some of the best art that the Low Countries have to offer, Ghent is a must-stop.
The first stop of any art lover has to be Sint Bafe’s (Bavo) Cathedral. Van Eykes’ "The Mystic Lamb" has to be classified as a national treasure. It draws thousands to Ghent every year. It is perhaps the finest piece of artwork in Belgium. When you consider the other artwork in Belgium, the Ruben’s, Van Dyke’s, Memling’s, and Vander Weyden’s, you begin to have a small idea of the treasure that Sint Bafes has in this painting. Don't overlook the frescos in the crypt, they have a beauty all their own.
The Museum voor Schone Kunsten is located outside the central walking area of Ghent.
It is necessary to take a cab to get there. We had some small problems finding an unoccupied cab on a busy Saturday in January, but eventually we made our way there. It was worth the effort. Among their treasures are works by Hieronymus Bosch, Jacob Jordaens, Frans Francken, P.P. Rubens, Antony Van Dyke, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Frans Hals, Nicolas Maes, and Philippe de Champaigne. What was especially nice was that each offering had a description card in English. They have a small café where we grabbed a bit of lunch.
Gravensteen - This has nothing to do with art, but everything to do with history. It also offers one of the best views of the center of Ghent from its tower. It was the Castle of the Counts of Flanders, a very impressive sight with a truly horrifying museum dedicated to the instruments of torture. There are also displays of arms and armor, guns, lances, powder horns, ivory-handled pistol spurs, and all the accouterments of war. It made me sorry that I didn't have a Houligan or two in tow. Visiting here involves lots of stair climbing, but going out onto the roof is worth it all.
FACTSGhent in January is unsurpassed. I can still small the air, fresh, crisp, and redolent with the smell of waffles. It floats on the wind and entices you to stop in at one of the many shops and have a bite. We didn’t on this last trip, and I still have regrets. We did manage to stop for lunch at the art-museum café, which offered a satisfying and well-priced option.
You can see Ghent in one day. This was our second visit and though we revisited some of the sights we had seen on the first visit, St. Bafe’s in particular, we also had time to visit the castle and the art museum which is out of the center of Ghent. As in all cities, some sites are closed in the winter and we had this problem with St. Michael Kirche.
LACEOne of the real joys of Belgium in general and Ghent in particular is shopping for handmade lace. This shop on St. Baafs Square is among our favorites. Yes, it is in a tourist area and maybe it’s just because we always visit in January but the prices here are very competitive, the owners are delightful and the quality is exceptional. We met them on our first trip and couldn’t wait to stop in again and really, nothing had changed.
St. Baafsplein 22
TRANSPORTATIONParking in Ghent is difficult. As you drive into the city look for the signs telling you in real time the number of parking spots available in each lot. There is underground parking near St. Bafe’s but it was full. Since we were not familiar with the other lots, we followed the signs to one under the Library. There is a tram station adjacent that took us right down to the center. When we crossed the bridge to go to St. Michael’s,
we spied a parking garage right there, which is much closer. Most of the sights can be reached on foot. We did however, take a cab to the art museum and then to the library. There are taxi stands right along the main square.For information of Ghent go to Ghent Tourism