Lonely Planet has a list of the top 10 cities to visit and in 2011, Ghent came in at #7. The publication even went as far as calling the city a secret within a secret. Truth be told, I’m not sure how secret anything could really be once its been talked about in Lonely Planet and the thought of finding myself amongst a slew of other tourists looking to discover the hidden jewel in Belgium they call Ghent was enough to hit the snooze a few times before struggling to get out of bed. When I sleep in, I tend to REALLY sleep in so the trip to Ghent didn’t actually begin until after midday. There was talk about skipping it all together as we’d already been to Bruges but since nothing else was planned, what harm could a 30 minute train ride do right?
And with that logical, off we went. When Miss Bathtub Diaries and I first pulled into the station, my initial reaction was that this city was over-hyped as it all seemed rather sketchy from where we were sitting. Immediately after leaving the train station, I had the pleasure of getting involved in a rather baffling conversation with a Flemish man – he insisted on going into detail about his war with the French language and how they don’t respect Flemish so he won’t respect French and on and on and on. Again, I’m a magnet for weirdos so these things happen but somehow we managed to squeeze him for the directions we needed and jump on the tram before he could spew any more of his Flemish vs French agenda on us.
Once we found ourselves in the city centre of Ghent, the rating became crystal clear. I now understand why this was #7 on the list for last year. It was almost as though we stepped onto a tram and then stepped off on a movie set that was actually real life (Truman Show but prettier perhaps?). This is one of those rare occasions where I’m at a loss of words as I found myself looking around at my surroundings with my neck twisted towards the sky and slightly slack-jawed and amazed that I actually found another city to be worthy eye-candy. Forgive me but I grew up in Vancouver so it’s does take a certain type of look to put me in awe as my hometown will always be my benchmark. At the end of the day, I think the saying is “a picture is worth a thousand words” and it seems appropriate right now as I don’t think any amount of my ramblings could account for what we saw.