Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ghent (Gent), Belgium

When we discovered that there was going to be a nine day break for Eid, the only question we had was "Where do we go!?!?!!" One of the things seriously lacking here for Adam is a quality selection of beer. If you know him at all, you know how much he loves good beer, breweries, brewing, just the whole process. That is how Belgium became our destination; with its awesome history, beautiful cities and countryside, and home to hundreds of breweries and the Trappist monks to brew some of the highest rated beers in the world. One of the other things that sold us was the fact that it was a direct flight from Abu Dhabi to Brussels. Who doesn't love NO layovers!?!?!
We departed from Abu Dhabi at 0200 (yes AM) and landed there at 0800, having the entire day ahead of us. We immediately rented a car and left the city, as we were ending our trip in Brussels. We ventured off the beaten path to Ghent (as we know it, but in Belgium it is Gent), making the 45 minute drive take 2.5 hours winding through the countryside and tiny towns. I was immediately struck with how green everything was. Living in the desert, it seems that I forgot that there were places like this, and it was almost like life suddenly came in Technicolor.

Red on the right = Bike path

Belgium very quickly reminded me of Amsterdam in the aspect that there are people biking EVERYWHERE. It is the primary mode of transportation in the cities. You have parents biking their kids to school, bikes loaded down with groceries, and more bike racks than you have ever seen. I LOVE THAT! No only is it great for you health, it is fantastic for the environment.

We rented an apartment on Airbnb (the absolute BEST way to travel and save money on lodging and we are obsessed with it!!!!) that was right outside of the city ring and was convenient to everything on foot or bike. We spent the better part of two days just walking and biking around the city. Unfortunately/fortunately for us, the week we stayed happened to be the week of Europe's largest music festival (unbeknownst to us) in the city, so it was crowded with 100,000 college student drinking and partying at any given time. Sadly, this meant that there were beer and event tents set up EVERYWHERE, obscuring the beautiful historic buildings and squares. Fortunately, most of the partying was in the evenings and during the night, so while everyone else was sleeping off the alcohol, we were out and about enjoying the quiet peace of the city.

Saint Bavo's Cathedral / Sint Baafskathedraal

Alter of Saint Bavo's Cathedral 

First beer of the trip!

I love Kriek!



On day one in the city, we opted to travel by foot everywhere, to catch all the tiny nuances and get a feel for the city. Day two we ventured out on the bikes and felt very local.


Other side of Saint Bavo's Cathedral 

Gruut Brewery

This was the only brewery within Gent city limits and it was a really nice and small operation they had going on. The beer was good but standard, and it was the location that was awesome. It was sandwiched on the corner where two canals meet so there were outside tables over looking the water on two sides of the building and the one side completely opened out into the fresh air. It was a wonderful place to sit back and relax for a while.

Inside Gruut Brewery

LUNCH! Fresh baguette with slow roasted chicken skewers!

After lunch we ventured (by car) to Melle, Belgium (which is right outside of Gent) to tour the Huyghe family brewery. If you want a tour you have to arrange it ahead of time, as they are not readily open to the public. If you are in the area, you should go, it is an awesome place and tour.

Brewery Huyghe: Home of Delirium brews

Happy husband!

Random house that I loved in Melle

Brew kettles

Rockin' the hairnet

Hello Delirium!

They get 40% of their bottles distributed in Belgium returned for recycling!!!!

Happy tasting!

As standard with every brewery tour (and lord knows we have more than a few under our belt at this point!), it ends with a tasting of their libations. Well, what is NOT standard about this place is that the tastings are full pints and you can taste whatever you want however many times you want. At this point, we were adopted by a group of 5 college students from the Netherlands who were biking around Belgium doing a brewery tour (like us, but more awesome since they were biking between locations!), and we kicked back and stayed here talking with them for about 2 hours. It was really an awesome time that had to be followed up by a long dinner to absorb the alcohol and a walk around town. That is one cool thing about our travels, we always seem to meet really awesome people who make our trip all the better with sharing their experiences.