I don’t want to sugar-coat full-time travel and only write about the fun stuff, so here’s an example of a pretty mediocre day. Nothing too bad like getting robbed or cheated, just a bit of a setback.
As I write this, it’s 6:40 am, and I’m awake because the place where we’re staying, “13-o’clock hostel” here in Ghent is pretty bad. The rooms look fine, with a en-suite kitchenette, table and chairs, and window looking out on the street. Unfortunately, the window gives way to an endless cacophony of trucks being loaded, which started at 6 am (as I’m publishing, it’s 7:20 and the noise has gotten louder).
Now, maybe today’s just the day that all the trucks have to get loaded, or maybe it’s just the rooms on this side of the building that are so loud.
But even if there weren’t so much street noise, the walls are so thin, and the lack of carpets so stark, that you can hear people inside the hotel from several rooms away as if they were yelling in your ear. All of this, mind you, is through my industrial-strength earplugs.
So yeah. Don’t expect to sleep well at this hostel. Would have been really nice to get a heads up from the front desk, though I guess they don’t want to scare away their business.
Ghent itself has been beautiful. We came here for four main attactions, all very close to each other. First was Graslei and Koronlei streets on either side of the river where all the buildings have ornate facades, These made for some very pretty photos after dark, as the buildings were illuminate to reflect handsomely off of the water.
Connecting the two streets is St. Michael’s Bridge, which essentially provides an appealing view of all the buildings along the river.
To the north, where the river forks, Gravensteen Castle looks pretty cool and castle-like. And off to the east there is an alley with some fairly impressive graffiti in it. A lot of the work there has been tagged over a fair amount, which in many graffiti subcultures is an indication that the work is getting stale and it is time to paint over it with something new.
Though there are some very nice things here, I’m not entirely sure that Ghent was worth the lack of sleep today and the hassle of getting here. There’s quite a bit of construction in town, and our map did a poor job of telling us which way each road actually runs, which made getting into town and to our hotel quite harrowing, as we would follow a path only to find that it ended in a one-way street going the opposite direction, or in a bicycle-only road. Google Maps was no help in this, insisting that we should spirit forward through cement blocks and walls of angry cyclists.
We did have a lovely dinner last night, and enjoyed the time we spent walking through town, and the fantastic belgian beers we tried. I’m just hoping the lost sleep and the stress of getting in and out of town don’t spoil our journey on to Bruge today.
So how do we deal with days like this? Well our original plan was to check out at noon after a long morning’s sleep, followed by a lazy breakfast on Belgium’s famous waffles. Instead, we’re going to try to leave town before most people have woken up so that we can avoid traffic as we blindly navigate our way back to the freeway. What this allows us to do is reach Bruges (Brugge) early enough to check out some kind of huge wicker structure on the beach that nobody normally goes to.
So that should be fun – we love the weirder, off-the-beaten-path type stuff. You get tired of museums after a while. So maybe this change of plans will lead to brand new adventures. Plus, it’s pretty hard to complain when you have a car in Europe and two weeks to drive wherever you want.