Before I knew it, we were rolling in to town in our beat-up car and, as we passed some of the tourist sights I’d looked up prior to our visit and bounced over the cobbled streets, I realised quite how central our selected hostel was. As we’d emailed in advance to book parking, we were able to drive straight on in to the secure underground parking. After a slightly disastrous previous night’s sleep, Will had booked a bed on his phone that morning before we’d left the UK.
Sadly, upon arrival, it seemed that someone had taken it upon themselves to take a kip in his allocated bed. The (easily avoidable!) perils of shared living. As Adam and I had treated ourselves to a private room, Will decided that rather than go down to reception and mention this predicament, that he’d just curl up on the end of our bed and sleep there like our pet. As a woman of above-average height (I’m 5’11: on more than one occasion complete strangers have asked me if my parents put me in a grow-bag as a child), I do NOT recommend this… really- just go and tell someone. It’s worth it in the long run!
After dumping our stuff, “graffiti-ing” our trip quote on all of the cool blackboards that covered the doors and mooching through the relevant sections of ‘Lonely Planet’, we made a move to have tea (dinner) and make the most of our limited time in the Belgian city.
Ghent is absolutely the perfect size location for a trip such as this: it was big and beautiful enough to keep us busy all afternoon and evening, but minute enough for us to not feel like we’d missed out too much when we moved on the next morning. The only thing that proved slightly problematic was the early closing times of all of the shops. By the time we’d eaten and enjoyed a leisurely boat-tour along the canal to soak up some of the local culture, everywhere had shut up shop for the evening leaving us ‘no choice’ but to relocate to a tranquil little water-side coffee-bar for beer and mimosas (bucks fizz).
Our first stop was to find Pizza Gülhan: this place was certainly off the tourist trail, located in the Turkish area of the city, meaning that we got a lovely walk through the Belgian streets each side of it.
Including through the impressive Graffitistraatje:
It also meant that the prices were far more reasonable! Despite a definite language barrier, the service was brilliant and we got complimentary sweet-tea (we think!) and Turkish Delight at the end of the meal. I found the meal nice but not necessarily anything special, but the boys really enjoyed it!
The canal-tour was a great move as we managed to jump on one at sunset. It gave us a different vantage point of the stunning town, gave our feet a rest (it’s amazing how much walking you still do, even when on a roadtrip!) and was a cheap way (about 7 euros each) of finding out more about the area. The tour guide was flawless in several languages and was very witty. Our favourite titbit was about the monastery that didn’t have a roof, since the monks had spent all of the remaining funds on booze!
As a Doctor Who fan, it was also slightly terrifying to see a combination of two of the show’s monsters in the form of this gas-masked-weeping-angel!
One of the top things about the Back Stay Hostel (besides the great location, affordable prices and stunning building) is that it had officially the BEST (eat-all-you-like) breakfast of the entire trip AND it was included in the entirely reasonable price we paid: a beautiful range of fresh breads, meats and cheeses; fruit; cereal and best of all- a make-your-own waffle machine! Amazing! I definitely did not make the most of this meal (I’m currently trying to get back into shape for our next trip and I’m salivating at the memory!). The only downside to the accommodation (aside from the less than ideal nights sleep, which wasn’t actually their fault!) was a lack of lift. Not an issue for us at all, but something that others might want to take into account before booking.
A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles