Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bound for Ghent.

At the Bruges station, waiting for the train to Ghent, to arrive.

P

  oor Z. Had to get up early this morning...well, that would be early for him.  He had to get early not because we had a train to catch but because we had to make it for breakfast which meant up by 9:30a.

I, on the other hand, had a great night's sleep! I woke up bright and early and well rested. I figured out how to get air into our room to counteract the heat which the hotel had turned on and which we cannot turn off. On the outside of our patio door is one of those metal roll down shades that you often seen protecting the fronts of stores. There's a magical switch on the wall that we can press to put down/raise up the shade with. So last night, when it was suitably chilly outside, I lowered the shade down enough that a small animal could crawl under but not any human being....unless they were less than a year old. That gap was just enough to cool down the room so it was perfectly comfortable for sleeping.

Check out time at the hotel was 11a so after breakfast, we headed back to our room for a few minutes and then left our luggage at the receptionist for a bit while we had one last walk around Bruges.

When we were ready to leave, we walked back to the train station to catch the train to Ghent.  Today, it was not my lucky day standing in line.  There were only two people ahead of me but the guy who was already at the window was taking forever to buy his ticket.  I have no idea why.  I was just about to switch to another line when the guy at that window waved me back....indicating he was about to close up.  I think it took me longer to buy the ticket to Ghent than it eventually took Z and I to get to Ghent!  Two adult tickets cost 6.50 euro each.

There are trains, running between the two cities, pretty much every 20 minutes or so throughout the day and the ride takes less than 25 minutes.  We were on the 12:26 train, scheduled to arrive into Gent Sint-Pieters station at 12:55p.

We had second class tickets, no assigned seats so when the train pulled into the station, we just boarded the nearest car.  It was a very modern, comfortable train.  An overhead monitor indicated the train route and arrival times into each station.


The train left Bruges on schedule.  It only took a few minutes for cityscape to give way to fields of green.  The sky was heavy with clouds and given Ghent's proximity to Bruges, my hopes that the day would be a sunny one were quickly being dashed.  I was just hoping and praying that it did rain, it would be another torrential downpour like what we had yesterday.  That was no fun walking about in!


A conductor came by to check our tickets and I swear it felt like only a few minutes later when the monitor indicated we were about to arrive into Ghent.  Better to not doze off on this ride - you might jsut miss your stop!


We're staying at an Airbnb apartment in Ghent.  Our hostess had provided me instructions on how to get to her studio apartment and it seemed pretty straightforward.  But did we follow her directions.  No.

When we exited the station, we turned left instead of turning right.  We followed the signs for the Number 1 tram which takes you to the historic heart of the city.  We obviously weren't thinking straight as there was no mention at all.  We realized that was not the place to be so Z headed for the lot where it looked like buses pull in.  There, I noticed a small shed sized building.  People were going in and out of it.  I walked towards it and the moment I saw a man, dressed like a train conductor standing inside, I decide that perhaps he could at least point us in the right direction.  After he answered my questions, I went ahead and bought two tram tickets from him.  Instead of getting a *regular* one way tram ride ticket for 3.00 euro, the attendant suggested I go ahead and get the one day ticket for 5.00 euro which would allow us as many rides as we would take in single 24 hour period.  Sounded like a good deal so I went ahead and handed him 10 euros.

Indeed, the attendant turned out to be very helpful and had us walking back towards the entrance of the station that we had just exited from.  This time, we saw tram 22 coming and without thinking further, we got on board.  The tram is very modern.  Z punched our tickets as soon as we got on board and we took seats and settled in for the ride.

Of course, I had no idea if we were going in the right direction or not.  I counted the stops per the instructions we were given and it was just sheer coincidence that when I reached stop number 6, so did the train.  We had in fact reached the end of the line.


We got off the tram and I asked the conductor if we were on the right train and he instructed for us to go back in the other direction.  Sigh.  Riding the wrong train for at least 15 minutes.

The next train came quickly and again, I wasn't thinking.  I made Z get off one stop before the train station and of course, he gently (very kindly so) pointed out that I should have started my station count only after we passed the station.  Duh!!  So, we had to wait for another train to come along to continue our journey.  This time, we got off at stop number 6 and I fired up Google Maps to lead us the rest of the way.  It was a short walk, alongside the Coupure, that in the 18th and 19th centuries, was a busy commercial canal that linked Ghent to Bruges.   Today, it's lined with apartments, office buildings, restaurants and other commercial establishments.  Our apartment fronts the Coupure.

Per her request, I had told our Airbnb hostess when we arrived at the train station and I'm sure she was wondering where the heck we were when hadn't shown up by the time she thought we should have.

Thankfully, she was waiting for us.  We made our way up to meet her and were greeted by a very friendly face welcoming us inside her lovely studio apartment.  The entire one side of the apartment is windows - it's a very bright space.  There's a balcony as well with chairs to sit and relax on.  The moment I stepped inside the apartment, it felt good.  I was certain we were going to enjoy our stay here!

Our hostess was also extremely well prepared with all sorts of useful tourist information which she spent a few minutes reviewing with us.  After she left, Z took some time to go over the touristy stuff and as he did in Bruges, cross reference what he was reading on paper with his map app on his iPhone.  He's very serious when he undertakes this task so I've learned to not interrupt him.  So far, he's turning out to be a wonderful navigator - I'm quickly getting spoiled with just having someone lead me around :-)

The bed is behind the curtain.

The kitchen is teeny weeny but very well equipped.  We'll be doing breakfast in.

We took a few minutes to settle in before heading out to explore the historic city.

Greetings from Ghent!