Friday, August 9, 2013

Belgium - Ghent or Bruges?


Which Belgian Town?

Bruges has always been on my wish list of places to visit but recently people have suggested that Ghent is just as good, or even better, due to the fact that it is less crowded with tourists.
After visiting both I can certainly agree that Ghent is less busy and less "touristy" but it lacks that certain  "je ne sais quoi" that Bruges has. Maybe Ghent is more like a city and Bruges like a village but Bruges has a really nice feel and you could quickly become comfortable rambling around this UNESCO listed town. From what I have read the nightlife is better in Ghent but we are more interested in history and food so Brugge wins for us. And there is no denying that there are certain foods which must be enjoyed here - moules and frites and hot chocolate. There is also a plethora of chocolate shops - we LOVE Belgian dark chocolate.
In both places we stayed within walking distance of the main centre, but in Bruges everywhere, I think, is within walking distance! We really only felt that the central part of Ghent was of any interest. 
Moules and Frites
Another similarity is that both places have canals which is another fascination for us with our interest in purchasing a Dutch barge. The canals are much more obvious in Bruges with the town circled by a canal - making it like an island - with various others crisscrossing throughout. In Ghent we only really saw the central canal making it appear more like a river similar to many other towns in Europe. 
Lighthouse Ship
What we did experience in Ghent was the first of several organic food cafe/takeaway places. These shops showcase mainly organic freshly made food that looks colourful, appealing and tasty. These casual eating places are called EXKi and are scattered throughout Belgium, Italy and France. They are even at Charles de Gaulle airport. If you see one of these, try it. I am sure you will have a fantastic meal. The coffee's good as well.
Blankenberge beach
Bruges is also close to the coast where there are many resorts to get away from any summer heat. Summer heat certainly wasn't evident when we were in Bruges but, even so, we did make the journey to to Zeebrugge and Blankenberge. Zeebrugge is mostly an international shipping port but we did manage to see this unusual ship lighthouse. Blankenberge is the typical seaside resort complete with casinos and lots of shops.These resorts are very European with areas cordoned off where you pay for the "luxury" of pitching an umbrella and sitting on a deck chair. At least the beach was sandy - not the pebbles we are so used to seeing on English beaches and the French riviera.
Decadent Hot Chocolate
Now to the food. As I mentioned before, moules and frites (mussels and chips) can be bought in nearly all restaurants in Bruges and along the coast. The serves are enormous - we managed to eat one between the two of us for lunch and felt we had eaten enough. The mussels are really tasty, sweet and tender. The chips were tasty, crunchy and cooked to perfection. The other speciality is hot chocolate. This is really chocolate overload. What you get is a cup of hot milk and to that you add molten dark chocolate and stir till you get the desired "chocolatiness". If you really want to tip your cholesterol over the limit, they also give you whipped cream. And if that wasn't enough you get a bowl of various chocolates to eat with your cup of hot chocolate. Whew!! But it was soooo nice.
If you want a change from chocolate you can also indulge in the many decadent cream cakes that are on offer in the cafes. Just looking through the windows was enough to get the salivary glands working - they all tasted divine. This type of window shopping may be easier on the pocket but not so good for the waistline.

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