We finally made it to Belgium.
In the end it only took four tries. We first planned a trip to visit Ghent and Bruges for Christmas markets in 2019. We booked Eurostar tickets, and an AirB&B, and had to unravel it all when the longest French rail strike in 30 years undid our best laid plans. In 2020 COVID in the UK put the kibosh on our re-made travel plans, and in 2021 we made the call to cancel last minute when COVID surged in Belgium and markets started being curtailed and canceled.
So when we picked dates, rearranged the train tickets, and booked accommodation in Ghent, we weren’t particularly confident that the trip would actually happen.
By pure luck our dates dodged the rail strikes in the UK, and the threatened strike by Eurostar security staff, and on the morning of our departure we met our friends and traveling companions at St. Pancras station. Mere minutes before the train was scheduled to board came the announcement – the high speed tracks in Belgium were closed due to two broken down trains, and our train was delayed. ETD unknown.
The other shoe had finally dropped.
We found some seats in the departures hall and settled in. Scheduled departures to other destinations departed. And we waited.
A couple hours later it was announced that the tracks were clear and our train was ready for boarding. A small cheer went up in the departure hall, and we joined our fellow passengers on the platform and found our seats on board.
The trip to Brussels and connection to Ghent were uneventful and, a few hours later than planned, we arrived at our lodgings, met our host, dropped our bags and headed out into the town, and the markets.
Dawnise hadn’t been exactly thrilled at the idea of taking a train under the English Channel, but it all turned out ok. Even with the delay the door-to-door trip was no longer than a flight would have been and significantly more comfortable. I’m optimistic that we’ll do it again.
We spent a rather cold (-6C) day in Bruges, the next day in Brussels, and our last warmer but rainy day in Ghent. We wandered the towns and visited the Christmas markets. We stood in a stupidly long queue for frites in Brussels (worth it), had Mexican food in Ghent that easily ranked among our top five Mexican food finds in Europe, and stumbled on an (intentionally) hilarious castle audio tour that kept us chuckling and mostly kept us out of the rain for a couple hours.
And it was the first trip in a fair while that I took my “real” camera – so I have a bunch of pictures to sift through, a couple of which I’ve added to my mostly dormant flickr photostream.
Ghent and Bruges are just as beautiful as people say – and are both places I’d happily go back to explore when the weather is a bit less hostile, even if it means less gluhwein.