We arrived in Brussels on Friday afternoon as we had planned to spend the week-end, with one of my dear friend. Apart from the cold, and a few soldiers here and there, all seemed pretty much normal.
Friday was nice and trouble free, but by Saturday morning… the whole city was on locked down. Yep! We manage to go to Brussels at what seemed to be the worst time of the year.
And I’m not talking about shopping frenzy, or any major event which would have filled the city with a hoard of people. I’m talking about terrorist attack threats.
At first it seemed a bit unreal. Hearing and seeing the news wasn’t enough to make us understand what was going on. Quickly, seeing the deserted streets, the military everywhere, the storefront closed, the reality kicked in: things were real and maybe even bad. But it felt so abstarct that we weren’t afraid per say, just unease for sure. The authority were recommending to stay indoor, away from the windows. That recommendation alone was troublesome. Obviously what was going on in Brussels, had everything to do with the Paris attacks which happened just a week before, but no matter what, it still felt like a nightmare, not the reality.
It reminded me of my first hurricane warning when I lived in the US. I had never been through something like that in Europe so I had no clue what the fuss was about. All the things people were doing, to protect their homes, seemed extreme to me, for what I understood was going to be a storm, a big one for sure, but still just rain and wind… Only once the hurricane had passed and as I walked outside, did I truly understand what had just happened.
Since that first hurricane, I take authority recommendations a bit more seriously! If I’m told to not go skying because of avalanche risk, I’m probably not gonna go, if there is a storm coming when hiking, I’ll most likely turn around. If there is a ‘do not swim’ sign posted, I’m gonna do my best to not jump in the sea head first (to not end up surrounded by hundreds of jellyfishes… again!).
It may sound like I’m just blabbing, but my point is: Be smart and stay safe when traveling.
- If you’re in a hotel or guesthouse, ask the front desk for advise and tell them about your plans.
- If you’re going to a remote place, on a hike for example and there is a visitor center, register with them.
- If you’re abroad, don’t just rely on international news, they might not have all the details. Try to read the local news instead.
- Have emergency contacts details with you in case something happens.
- Have a plan B!!
There was really nothing for us to do in Brussels on Saturday, except maybe a nap which wasn’t an option. So we opted for plan B which seemed the most reasonable thing to do: We left for Ghent! I think that was a brillant idea, not just because I had suggested it!!, but because we had a lovely and much more relaxed time, there.
Here are some pictures of Brussels on Friday. Seeing the Grande Place is always a treat. It is so magnificent!
The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert built during the 19th century, is very close by and shouldn’t be missed.
The one place we discovered for the first time on Friday was the Toone Royal theater. It’s a “Traditional Brussels’ puppet theater & Typical café”. Super cute, warm and cosy, kitties roaming around, puppets waiting to come alive, and lots of beer to choose from including the Orval beer! I totally recommend it. Check out their website to see what it’s all about: www.toone.be
Next time, I will plan my visit to see a puppet representation. Romeo and Juliette, anyone 😉
A little stop to the Atomium on our way to Ghent.
The Atomium was built for the World’s Fair of 1958. It represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is now a museum but was obviously closed so we’ll have to come back.
When we arrived in Ghent, the first things we did was to visit the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral which has the most impressive pulpit I have ever seen!
The Saint Bavo’s cathedral is famous for hosting the Mystic lamb painting by Hubrecht and Jan van Eyck (15th century) and a masterpiece from Rubens amongst other treasures.
Reliquary of Saint John the Baptist (1624-1625)
The huge crypt hosts many treasures including medieval frescos, parchment manuscripts and reliquaries and should not be missed.
Ghent is an incredible city with such a rich history and rich architecture that I absolutely have to go back! The few pictures below do not do it justice!!
If you’re planning a trip there, do consider a guide tour in the city with www.ghent-authentic.com. I know I will do it next time!
We had a delicious and different lunch at Wok away. I know what you may think, it’s not very local… but Belgium fries are not vegan as they are cooked in animal fat, so having the opportunity to eat some tofu with lots of fresh vegetables was more than welcomed!
We headed back to Brussels that evening, happy we had the opportunity to visit Ghent a little.
Truth be told, we stayed in our hotel on Saturday night and had pizza and wine!! And guess what?! We loved it!! It was comfy, we were all together, and had a lovely time!
On Sunday, my friends were taking their train in the morning to get back home and we said goodbye at the train station…
Next M. A and I headed to Namur and its citadel, but that will be for another time!
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