Europe 2017 – Gent

After the whirlwind known as the end of the school year, which included field trips, field days, and award ceremonies, we zipped away to Europe to visit with the DH’s side of the family. We toured six cities over nine days starting with the DH’s hometown of Gent, Belgium.

Gent is a quaint little port city established at the point where the Leie and Schelde Rivers meet. It boasts rows of Guild houses, renaissance art, and cobblestone streets. On Day One, we checked into the Marriott in Downtown Gent and then set off to my MIL’s apartment for a light lunch.

Quick sidebar… on the Marriott’s façade, there are two swans looking away from each other. Typically swans are placed facing each other to symbolize love. In this instance, the Marriott’s swans are a reminder of the building’s past as a brothel.

Later that evening, the four of us meandered through the streets of Downtown Gent, people watching (there was a weekend food festival) and taking in the sights. As it was a national holiday and everything but restaurants was closed, we were limited to street views. However, there was still quite a bit to take in, like Sint Michiels Cathedral and the view of the three towers of Gent from St. Michael’s Bridge: St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry, and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.

On Day Two, the four of us set out to explore Gravensteen Castle, “The Castle of the Counts.” This medieval structure sits prominently in the city center and was on our must see list.

The Castle of the Counts can be traced back to the tenth century during one of Court Arnulf’s timber construction campaigns. Not long after, a stone hall construction with three large halls above each other replaced the central timber construction. It was a dignified and luxurious residence for the Count’s (itinerant) royal household with a monumental stone staircase, lightwells, wall-mounted fireplaces and latrines. And also a base for the Count’s army.

In the fourteenth century, the Flemish counts no longer required Gravensteen as a residence. It then served as the Court of Justice and, as a result, houses an extensive weapons collection and torture chamber (now museum).

We even had the good fortune of meeting a knight. Stinky was happy to have his picture made with the knight, but after touring the torture museum, Blinky wasn’t having any of it!

After the tour, we met the DH’s mom and aunt for lunch, after which the six of us took a canal ride. The guide gave the tour in Dutch, French, and English. The kids found it difficult to follow, but it was interesting seeing the city from this viewpoint. As it was the first warm spell of the season, locals and visitors were out in droves lining the river walls and filling the riverside eateries.

Following the boat ride we did a little more exploring on foot, had dinner, and then retired for a well deserved rest.

Make sure to check back tomorrow when I write about our day trip to Antwerp.

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