After a wonderful breakfast at which we toasted Yves’ birthday, we walk back into old Gent, and find that the centre is much larger than we had anticipated – and all of it has kept its look and feel. We wander without reference to the map, just going where our eyes lead us, exclaiming in awe as we go round another corner to find another building, more spectacular than the last.
3, Side by Side
St. Bavo’s Cathedral is 1 of 3 beautiful churches side by side by side, evidence of the former wealth of Gent. Inside is a Northern European cathedral that feels almost southern European because of its artworks (including a masterpiece by Rubens), which is so unlike the austere beauty of most northern European cathedrals I have been in. We happily stroll around Gent for hours, every corner revealing beautiful new sights. At one point, we run into Marc and Yves, who are out doing their marketing for the dinner party that will have tonight to celebrate Yves’ birthday. We stand chatting in the sun for 10 minutes, enjoying the streetscape and the conversation.
Jumping over to Antwerpen
Mid-afternoon we force ourselves to leave Gent and do the short drive to Antwerpen. Another guest of Marc and Yves, Mieke, is from Antwerpen and she tells us that she thinks her city is quite as beautiful as Gent. When we arrive in Antwerpen, we find it a much bigger city than Gent, with a more modern feeling. We get to our B&B and Stephane, our host, gives us a map and shows us where to go.
Antwerpen is a bit of an onion – the 1st impression it makes is of a big, industrial city, which it is. It has not managed to preserve the integrity of its old quarter in the way that Gent has, but as we walk the streets and peel back the layers, we discover its many charms, and we are glad to have come here.