By Frank Farber
Special to AllThingsCruise
Today was a very busy day. We started with a bus tour of Ghent, passing by the building where the treaty to end the War of 1812 was signed. Christa, our knowledgeable guide for the day, led us on a walking tour through the meandering streets of the old part of town. We walked past houses built into the canals a la Venice. The city hall was unique. Part Gothic, part Greek due to the architectural disagreements of the city councillors of old. As we walked past the city hall we saw a newlywed couple emerge for pictures.
The main cathedral in town is quite beautiful and features a huge painting by Jan van Eyck from the 15th century. After some brief free time we returned to the buses for a pleasant 40-minute ride to Bruges.
Bruges is amazingly beautiful. You enter through lush gardens and canals and move toward the UNESCO designated cultural city. Passing a hospital built in the 11th century, you come across the Street of Chocolate where every other store seems to be a chocolate shop.
A short walk takes you to a church where a Michelangelo mother and child sculpture resides. As you move towards the huge belfry in the center of town, you realize that not only are you in a great historic and tourist area, but a vibrant living city. After we walked through the belfry area (and here again we came across another bride and groom) you enter a huge square. Surrounding the square are restaurants and a few shops. It’s time to stop and eat lunch, have a beer and peoplewatch. From our table on the square we enjoyed a pizza (so Belgian) and the local Bruges Zot beer. Delicious. Belgium has over 1,000 beers.
Snaking out from the square are numerous streets with stores, especially chocolate and lace, small restaurants and souvenir shops. At one of the small squares we came across a group of men playing bocce ball. We reunited with Christa and proceeded to take a leisurely half-hour canal cruise through the city. Tired but happy, we left Bruges and returned to the AMADolce at 6:45.
We had been on the go since 9 a.m. and we were hungry. Dinner was French and dessert was crepes suzette. Magnifique!
This evening there was a classical concert in the lounge which was very well received. It was a long but wonderful day.
Friday, May 6, 2011