We awoke to a serene Sunday morning in Ghent. After a nice cup of coffee we headed off for a nice morning walk through the formerly run down, but now gentrified neighborhood of Patershol, past where we got off the tram the previous day near Gravensteen Castle.
We just kind of wandered around following the few folks out walking in the morning.....
We crossed over St Michael's Bridge.
And found a small Sunday Market in the square in front of St Michael's Church.
For some reason we were lucky enough to run into a flower market in Kouter Square.
It was a charming market....full of bright flowers.
And smiling folks, just taking in the flowers, the sunshine, having a nice morning coffee from one of the stands (there's even one serving oysters and champagne!). It's these little happy mistakes that makes travelling so wonderful.
We soon saw a band warming up in the bandstand.
So we did the local thing; we had a seat on one of the benches and listened to the band.
We soon saw a family of five looking for some seats; so we waved them over and took our leave.
While listening to the music, I had gotten an idea. Why not just stay in for dinner? So we headed back to the little market in front of St Michael's Church to do a bit of shopping. The riverfront was starting to awaken on this sleepy Sunday morning.....
We made a few purchases and then headed back to the apartment; taking the long way, joining all the folks enjoying the river front.
We did see one guy who had taken a pretty bad fall from a bicycle, but he looked ok, so we kept on going. Arriving back at the apartment, we took a nice little break, more coffee, a shower to freshen up...then the decision of what's for lunch....a rather early lunch (11 am). I decided that we should head down the two blocks or so to Vrijdagmarkt and see what was open.
There was a rather nice looking place; white tablecloths and all, named Brasserie Savarin that was open for service.
Since this WAS Belgium...anytime is a good time for a beer.....
The Missus had a Tongerlo Blonde; sweet, quite foamy, fairly non-descript.
I ordered the Ommegang Keizer Karel Charles Quint - A Belgian Strong Pale Ale.
Mild hops, a bit different from what I had gotten used to, a bit "clovey"....quite a bit of head.
I had read that in Ghent they use thyme and the different beer creates a different flavor....not sure; this one was pretty much what I'd had before, honestly, not quite as good. The beef was on the drier side and the "gravy" not as strikingly flavorful.
The frites were just ok......I was still searching for some great frites in Belgium.
Things were much quieter at this time for the day.......
Which gave me a chance to take a good look around......
The Missus got a really nice Geuze from Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen. Floral with citrus tones; with a nice funk, fairly light and very pleasant.
I got the house blonde, light, pleasant, and easy to drink.
Dulle Griet Vrijdagmarkt 50 Ghent, Belgium
We then took a leisurely post lunch siesta......a very under-rated and appreciated event.
Before dinner, we got back out and took a walk.
The one place I do regret not visiting in Ghent was St Bavo's Cathedral; it was under going some restoration when we were in town. I understand the artwork and altarpiece are quite stunning. But I mostly wanted to go to see the statue of someone near and dear those who know a bit about the history of Hawaii; Pater Damiaan; more commonly known as Father Damien who was born in Belgium. I'll make sure to visit next time.
Dinner was simple affair.......chicken wings and some cheese.
We'd end up buying cheese and carrying it with us for the rest of the trip.
Taking our post dinner walk we found that even on a Sunday night the Groentenmarkt was a happening place.
We really enjoyed Ghent and would miss this town. We stood and just soaked in the sounds and sights before heading back.
As we got back to Vrijdagsmarkt we were suddenly possessed and had to make a right turn back into Dulle Griet! For one last beer; the missus had Her Duchesse De Bourgogne and I a Leffe Royale. A nice end to our stay in Ghent.
The next morning we would be off, taking two different trains, in search of what some consider to be the most coveted and best beer in the world......
Having put away a couple of beers, we thought it would be a good time to grab a bite to eat. We headed back up to St Bavo's Square. Right next to the Dutch Theatre is a brasserie that was recommended to me for typical Ghent style Flemish food named 't Vosken. The place was pretty crowded; though most of it were tourists having beer on the patio.
The menu did indeed have some dishes we were interested in.
I started with a Palm Royale; fairly sweet, apple/pear thing going....not too boozy, pretty light and easy to drink.
I ordered the House Rabbit; which came which was a nice braised rabbit. The sauce was obviously beer based and it reminded me of carbonnade.
The rabbit was decently tender and the dish came with frites (not very good) and apple sauce which went well with the rabbit.
The Missus chose Ghent's signature dish, which originated in this city; Waterzooi. 't Vosken only serves the chicken version. The dish really looks strikingly different from other Belgian type braised and stewed dishes we'd had so far.
The color comes from the combination of egg yolk and cream used to add texture to this broth.....it was originally a very simple stew, I was told that "waterzooi" basically means to "boil in water". The Missus really enjoyed this.
We finished up with a Rodenbach Grand Cru.....a favorite of mine with nice stone fruit flavors that we love in Flanders Reds. The Missus loves Her Flanders Reds....
‘t Vosken Sint-Baafsplein 19 Ghent, Belgium
Lunch was fairly heavy so we walked back to apartment.
There was quite the shindig going on at the Groentenmarkt and band playing, folks having drinks....notice the singer in the band is using a "cheat "sheet"!
One of the vendors had this beautiful looking dog......
When I bent over to pet her, she turned over submissively.....so she got a nice belly rub....
After our nap, we headed back out. We'd be eating in that evening, but decided to take a pre and post dinner walk. By this time the day trippers seemed headed back to Brussels or Bruges......
After returning and having our dinner....cheese, bread, and some charcuterie we headed back out and had a nice walk. The Town Hall was lit up nicely. The building itself is kind of odd as it looks like several buildings of distinctly different styles were grafted together. Somehow, in Ghent, it just seems to work.
The Belfry and the Dutch Theatre looked quite dramatic at dusk.....just like a movie set.
And that party at Groentenmarkt was still going strong. Different band, but maybe, the same folks were still hanging out?
On the way back, we stopped in at what is probably the Missus's favorite bar in the world; Dulle Griet.
A combination of locals and tourists, this slightly dumpy and divey joint, with somewhat grumpy staff and a beer list of over 250 was just the right fit for us. We just felt at home.
We quickly noticed that there were several people walking around with only one shoe on. Apparently, if you order a "max beer", which looks like a liter, you need to leave a shoe as collateral. It is then hoisted in a basket to the ceiling. To prevent folks from stealing the glass perhaps?
I guess once you pay your tab, you get your footwear back.
And then there's our infamous "Duchesse" experience. The place had Duchesse De Bourgogne on tap, the Missus's favorite. So we ordered it....well, we tried to order it. The woman kept going "huh?" So I showed her the beer list and she went "oooohh, Doo-Chezz....doo-chezz....ha-ha-ha-ha, snort, snort." She then pointed us out to the other server and they giggled and snorted, I guess we were the big joke of the night. Anyway, this was the best "Doo-chezz" I've ever tasted....slightly pruney, balsamic like tones...the temperature was perfect. Much better than what I've had back here in the states....even on tap. We'd noticed that something is lost when beer is transported.
My Bornem Trippel seemed so mild in comparison.....
We loved this place.......even though we were now known as the "Doo-chezz" couple.
If you'd ask the Missus and I what our favorite city in Belgium was, the answer would be unanimous. It would be Ghent. Unpretentious and quite easy to like and navigate, not quite as touristy as Bruges, we loved the vibe that this city of 250,000 gave off. Ghent is but a 40 minute train ride away from Brussels. And like Bruges, Ghent has those wonderful canals as well.
It's just not crawling with all those tourists......
And a strange thing happened to us here....in a way, we even forgot we were tourists. That part of the brain which dictates the places to be and the places you need to see got shut off. Instead, we just enjoyed the city. From the time we caught Tram #1, getting off near Het Gravensteen (The Castle of the Counts), walking to our apartment near Vrijdagmarkt, we felt so at ease.
The city is full of "market squares". Indeed, we were staying one block away from Vrijdagmarkt - Friday Market Square. Having stowed our stuffs, we headed out, down the street to Groentenmarkt - Vegetable Market, which ironically has the ever bustling Meat Market right next to it.
The interior of the structure is quite impressive; the place was built without nails, and hams still hang form the ceiling......this was once the only place in the city where meat was allowed to be sold. These days it's a bustling restaurant.
Right across the way is this famous shop.
Tierenteyn-Verlent is known for their mustard and has been selling it since 1790. I read that it is still made in the basement of the shop.
It's some heady stuff. Guaranteed to clear those sinuses and quite good as well. We bought a small jar, but it cracked before we got past Bruges.
Luckily, I've got some great friends and Candice bought us a bottle when she returned from her trip to Ghent.
Tierenteyn-Verlent Groentenmarkt 3 Gent, Belgium
We were having so much fun that I totally forgot to take photos until we were close to City Hall. Along the way there's a little portal and a street; Werregaren Straat, walking down the alley, the faint smell of urine in the air, you'll be on "Graffitistraat" - Graffiti Street.
This is Ghent's solution to Belgium's strict laws on graffiti; it is basically illegal and the penalties stiff. Ghent has designated this street as an expression free zone for Ghent's graffiti artists.
Most of the grand historic structures in Ghent are in the area of Saint Bavo Square.
In retrospect, we should have been better at playing the tourist, but we were just enjoying the city.
South of this area, down what seem some rather small streets is Ghent's shopping area, full of interesting shops. We saw this one; named Kaas Mekka.
This was cheese heaven. We couldn't help but purchase some for our next two dinners.
Kaas Mekka Koestraat 9 Ghent, Belgium
Exploring further down the street we started coming across crowds of people....apparently there was some kind of major sidewalk shopping festival going on.
A very festive kind of vibe going on.......even a band or two along the way.
It looked like some folks even brought their own chairs and sat outside restaurants and bars....enjoying the sun and a nice beverage (and a nap?) or two.
It was in the area right across the river that we found the first spot I wanted to "hit". We were on the hunt for chocolates for my MIL and I'd heard some great things about a shop named Yuzu.
This shop is the result of former archaeologist Nicolas Vanaise's passion for Japanese and Middle Eastern Culture and chocolate. The flavors presented are a product of his travels. This was by far the best; and most interesting chocolate we bought on this trip.....flavors like Whiskey and Cuban Tobacco.....
Yuzu Walpoortstraat 11 Ghent, Belgium
This made a nice addition to the "collection" we put together for my MIL.
Right around the corner from Yuzu was another one of my target destinations. Even among the beer-focused Belgians; Gruut Brewery is unique. Before hops were used for beer making, a mixture of spices were used instead. This medieval mix was called gruut; the namesake of Gruut. Annick De Splenter is the owner and brew master here.
The place looks quite low keyed from the outside, but was quite busy. There was one large table of folks who were obviously on a "beer tour" and each beer was introduced and explained to them in detail. Meanwhile other folks were reading, chilling, just hanging out, and having a nice time.
We basically tasted everything before deciding on what we really wanted. My favorite was the Amber; which had some caramel tones, and a touch of sweetness. The beer has a really nice tongue coating texture and there is even a mild bitter finish so you're not really missing the hops.
It was a nice beer and we ended up buying a four pack to take with us back to the apartment.
Two ambers and two of the Missus's favorite.
The Blonde, which was very drinkable, light, fizzy, with an interesting herbaceous finish. Nice beer for a hot summer day....I'm kind of wishing for a pint of this today since it's been really humid here in San Diego.
They gave us a couple of Gruut Coasters when we bought our beer.
One quick thing. If you visit Gruut and are male, make sure to drink enough beer so that you'll be able to visit the restroom. The urinals are quite "unique".....
"Feed me, Seymour - Feed me all night long........"
Gruut Stadsbrouwerij Grote Huidevettershoek 10 Ghent, Belgium