I visited Belgium on the 1st day of June in 2019. Arriving in Ghent from Paris by bus around 5AM, and leaving Brussels around 6PM, it was my shortest trip to a new country. It was my first time to join these cross-country bus tours from Paris, which I can say, both has good points and not-so-good points. The price was very affordable (only 60+EUR including fare, snacks and breakfast) and the transportation was accessible and convenient (no lengthy waiting time, no buying of tickets, no queueing) but we had to do everything and visit all places in one day and we had no time for a nice, long, refreshing bath before venturing into discovering the city.
Half of the day was spent in Ghent. When we arrived, we were given the entire morning to explore the place. The organizer gave us tips about the nearby places and landmarks we could visit, with the reminder to be back at exactly 1pm in the same spot. My two companions (a work colleague and her husband) had a great morning walking around. We passed by a church, we took photos from the bridge, and we came across a hotel that serendipitously offered free walking tours. But since the tour started at 10AM, we had a lot of time to check out the neighborhood.
I marvelled at the houses’ distinct architectural design, the flowers, the river, the historic buildings, and the many shops selling foodies, goodies, and other souvenirs. We even came along by chance a whole street selling antique items and knick-knacks, where I got two square, lovely, framed flower paintings, two golden candle holders, a souvenir plate, and other stuff for only 10EUR. I felt like a child who was so happy with my finds.
At 10AM, we went back to the hotel and joined the tour. The group was composed of a diverse group of tourists from different countries and our tour guide was an enthusiastic good-looking man who said that he left his regular job to work full-time as a tour guide. He gave lots of information, which could fill pages had I written them down within a month from the tour, but now I can just recall snippets–which shop serves the best fries, a historical anecdote about a building, how a canonball that was fired flew just a few metres from the canon, a famous meat shop in the city, the famous chocolates of Belgium, etc.
After the tour, we wanted to join the river cruise but decided against it because of time constraint. We had lunch in a small restaurant within the city square. By early afternoon, we were on our way to Brussels.
In Brussels, we went to two places–the Mini Europe and the planetarium. I enjoyed seeing the replica of famous places in the world. And of course, since I was missing Paris (haha!) I had a photo taken with the Eiffel Tower in the background. In the planetarium, we wanted to enter the building but the line was too long. So we just walked around the area, took photos, admired the gigantic atomic structure. The finale? Sitting on the grass during the last 30 minutes of our trip, while eating french fries and ice cream!
Visiting a new country for a day is really not enough. But it’s already a good opportunity to see new surroundings, sample local food and feel the vibe of a different city.
By midnight, I was already back in Paris and in the comfort of my apartment. It was as if being in beauteous Belgium was just a dream. I certainly hope to visit again. 🙂
(I initially identified Ghent as Bruges. That was a mistake. What made me realize it a few days after posting was the graffiti-lined street, which I labeled in my files as “Graffiti in Ghent.”)