What do you do when you’re stressed and bored at university? Get drunk, meet up with some mates or maybe just sit and watch a film? Well, on an early Thursday morning our thinking was that it would be nice to get away and out of town, maybe take a roadtrip to Manchester or something. And despite me not being able to drink, due to training for Muay Thai, it would be a good trip.
A revelation came to me then, sat on Rangga’s bed, as if touched by the divine. Manchester is pretty far, but so is Belgium, in fact there’s not much difference. Let’s go to Belgium instead. The channel tunnel was £20 each we sorted an Airbnb in Ghent for £15 each for one night. The trip was planned, well as much as we could be bothered to plan it.
After a Friday that dragged on and on we set off on Saturday morning at some ungodly hour. In no time, we were at the Channel tunnel. Rangga who, as per usual (with literally any trip anywhere on any mode of transport), was asleep and was promptly woken up to deal with the French customs. Now as was explained in my post about Montenegro, Rangga and borders don’t get along too well. The multiple passports and the residency card just don’t sit well with customs officers. We were held up for ages and our passports were taken for a while, we feared missing the trains and Rangga feared the white glove, being thrown into the sea or whatever they do to people with mysterious residency cards. We waited. Somehow, they came back and didn’t deport Rangga and we got onto the train so all was well.
The train was trouble free and we ate our way through our body weight in chocolate, crisps and grapes. Grapes. I know, a strange addition to the sugary stockpile, however AJ always seems to have them so they came along for the ride.
Once into France, we had the tunes blasting and the incredibly flat and boring countryside of northern France passing us by.
Arriving in time for lunch, we promptly found a car park and woke Rangga up. The city was littered with canals and pretty buildings and we wandered around most of it (it’s pretty tiny) in no time. We got some lunch, the restaurant’s name escapes me but as with many restaurants in Belgium the choice of beer was phenomenal. At this particular restaurant, there were 400 choices.
2 beers and a tap water. What a sad drinks order that was to say but it had to be done. The choice of foods was mainly stews and roast meats and was all pretty good, with the rabbit being the best. The highlights of Bruges for me were the architecture, the canals and AJ getting attacked by a horse.
Having had our fill of food and the city we took the scenic route back to the car, not entirely on purpose and set off for Ghent. The journey was over faster than you can say ‘Rangga is asleep again’ and we drove into the local neighbourhood where the BnB was supposed to be. Tom was the owner and we were staying in his house with his wife and young children. We initially thought he was a decent guy, and probably quite interesting as he had been all over the world. However, after a day we realised that the man had only two defining facets. He passionately hates the Russians and he thinks he’s an enormous legend. The latter was discovered thanks to the fact that we didn’t go out on the town all night because we were tired from travelling and didn’t want to hassle his family. He left us a review, that in short, said we are boring people. Tom the snake.
Either way, after walking down the Belgian equivalent of Hounslow high street we got into the centre of Ghent which to be honest was slightly underwhelming at first. It reminded me of Prague but without the continuously impressive buildings and nice places to sit down and eat or drink. So, feeling a little cold, we sat outside a coffee shop under the heaters to warm up. Into the evening, we started to like Ghent a lot more. With all the city lights on we wanted to take photos of just about everything and were inclined to explore the city more than before. The night ended with a Belgian waffle and AJ nearly being run over by a tram. Perfect.
Setting off on Sunday morning we planned to spend a bit of time in France before heading back to England. Lille seemed like the obvious choice and it meant we could take a different route back to the train. However, being a Sunday, almost everything was closed, it was cold and deserted. We went to the centre and as if by magic it started raining and we were approached by a beggar. When we didn’t give him any money, he decided that he had some unsavoury things to say about our mothers. It’s safe to say that this, along with the general atmosphere of Lille, made us think about moving on. Deciding instead that a stop in Dunkirk was a better bet.
Almost immediately after entering the city, our attention was drawn to people dressed in the craziest mismatched outfits I’ve seen. Bright colours, fluffy items and interesting hats. This apparently happens every year and is the Dunkirk Carnival but at the time, we just drove through completely unaware of what was going on. Passing the hordes of, what we assumed were the mentally unhinged, we arrived at the beach. It was enormous and pretty cold but a welcome change in scenery. Only having a little time in Dunkirk, we just wandered a bit of the beach and then it was back to the car. The sweets and chocolate were running low, and the grapes had long since disappeared. We got into the train and our brief road trip was over. Just a hop skip and a jump down the hellish M25 back to university and back to lectures the next day.
Waffles and chocolate aren’t all Belgium is good for. The roads make perfect sleeping conditions for Rangga, the beer is great (apparently) and finally a certain horse and I have the same feelings towards AJ.