I’ve been a bit quiet blog-wise for the past few weeks so here’s what I’ve been up to…
I left Melbourne on Easter Monday and flew to Sydney to meet another ex-flatmate from Phnom Penh, Leanne. She kindly took the train down from the Hunter Valley to meet me at the airport and then we headed into the city together.
I’d been to Sydney before so although we had two nights there together, we took things easy. I was also really tired suddenly – I was nearly going home to England and being with friends for the final week allowed me to drop my single traveller alertness.
We spent the first evening in a local pub, chatting and catching up then after an early night and a long sleep we walked around the harbour area – ‘The Rocks’ – took lots of pictures of the opera house and the bridge then got on a ferry to Manly.
Manly is a suburban beach area a short boat ride from the city and it’s the best ferry to catch if you want fabulous views of both the opera house and the beach as you come out of the harbour. We sat on the beach, watching beginners learning to surf while eating fish and chips for lunch. It was a lovely way to spend my last day in Australia.
The next morning I flew to KL with Air Asia – really cheap and surprising comfortable, despite being an eight hour flight and spent the night at an airport hotel before returning to London the next day.
I’ve been back in England for nearly nine weeks now and in that time I’ve been to Berkshire on a hen weekend, the Greek island Kos for a wedding, a weekend in the Lake District and visited my friend in Belgium – no time to relax!
I took the Eurostar to Brussels two Fridays ago to meet Anne, another old flatmate from Cambodia, who lives near the Luxembourg border. I wasn’t sure what we were going to be doing in Belgium but I thought we would just be chilling out at her house – wrong!
We spent the first afternoon in central Brussels, having lunch at a pavement cafe near the beautiful Grand Place that has the famous town hall and all the buildings have a smattering of gold. We strolled around, had a few coffees here and there, sampled some delicious chocolate and macarons at Pierre Marcolini and jumped back in the car to head for Ghent.
Neither Anne nor I had been to Ghent before – I’d heard of it but as a tourist, Bruges is more popular. Ghent had been recommended by all of Anne’s colleagues so off we went.
When we first arrived in the late afternoon sun, top down on Anne’s convertible and big sunglasses on we were looking glamorous but completely lost. In fact we drove straight through the pedestrianized town centre by mistake!
Ghent is a university town and it has a lovely calm vibe but with all the riverside cafes and restaurants, it’s buzzing all the time. We were lucky to have gorgeous sunshine throughout the weekend but I think it would still be a lovely place to visit in winter.
We had cocktails and then dinner in a super kitsch restaurant before walking by the river to see the city all lit up.
It wasn’t until the morning that I discovered I had lost my precious necklace – remember the Cartier lookalike I made in Bali? I lost it on the streets of Ghent somewhere. So if you are in Ghent and find my necklace, please let me know! We walked the same route from the night before, looking to see if it had fallen in the cracks of the cobbled streets somewhere but to no avail.
We had a lovely coffee in Grote Markt, one of the several little squares and walked around looking in the little shops. There is a main high street in Ghent with the regular shops like Zara etc but away from that street are some charming little boutiques, and lots of them. This is the perfect gift-buying town with several artisan food shops, jewellers and specialist shoe shops and clothes shops.
We had a wonderful lunch outside again and then walked down one of the main streets for architecture. Starting by the river we saw St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and then had an ice cream.
By 5pm we were on the road out of Ghent, heading to Anne’s house via dinner at her parents. The countryside is quite similar to England, and it was great to see a lot of the landscape.
Anne lives in the village of Attert, one of the top ten villages in Belgium apparently and it was lovely and peaceful except on Sunday it was the annual ‘Tractor Day’ – a local festival for tractor owners to come and show off their motors. All the tractors drove past Anne’s house so there was plenty going on out on the street.
We sunbathed in the garden and had a relaxed day before we headed to the nearby town of Arlon on Sunday night to watch Belgium play Russia. The town square was packed with lots of jubilant fans singing, waving flags and chanting. By half time though everyone was a bit deflated as Belgium didn’t play very well. They did eventually score a goal though and everyone was throwing beer in the air – it was great fun! We went to a local ‘friterie’ after the game for some traditional Belgium double fried chips with mayonnaise and ‘Andalouse’ sauce, a mayo based dip with tomato, peppers and mild spicing – perfect after standing for a couple of hours.
On Monday it was a bank holiday in Luxembourg so Anne was off and we drove back to Brussels so I could catch the Eurostar home. Thank you Anne for a fabulous weekend!