After saying goodbye and thanking Noah again in Rotterdam, I bused to Antwerpen. Upon arriving, I admired the train station, and was surprised to see so many diamond shops (Antwerp has a diamond district), which teem with, among others, traditionally dressed Jews. Meirstraat is the biggest shopping street in Belgium going from the train station to the Stadhuis (city hall) and it’s Grand-Place. Antwerp is a beautiful city, with typical Belgian architecture, some nice street art and a very chill vibe. It’s worth visiting for about a day. The city hall is undergoing renovations to later open to the public, and the cathedral is also under renovation. If I ever go back, I’d like to visit these two, see more street art, and maybe visit the diamond museum. I spent less than 24 hours in the city 😅 it’s also close to Tomorrowland so maybe I’ll drop by next year 😁
The next day, I stopped in Gent on the way to see Sandrine 😁 It’s a medieval city with a belfry, a cathedral, and the Gravensteen (stone castle paid by and for the counts of Flanders). Visiting the belfry wearing Birkenstock’s and my 10kg bag was maybe not the best choice but was fun nevertheless 😅 climbing and descending 95 meters of steep narrow stairs was fun and slightly nerve wracking, as falling down would have been painful. The castle visit was top notch, and included an audio guide narrated by a Flemish comedian. I don’t remember his name but he made the visit that more enjoyable; without it, the visit would have been lacklustre. Gent also has a pretty alley covered in graffiti, and a cute little river which reminded me of Brugge. After touring the city for a few hours, I hopped on the train towards Koksijde-Bad. Sandrine’s flight was very delayed so I ended up arriving early than she did. When she did finally arrive, she barrelled down the hallway so fast that I barely had enough time to steady myself before she jumped in my arms and nearly tackled me to the ground ❤️😘😆
The next few days were filled with Flemish that I struggled to understand, windy and cloudy beach days by Sandrine’s side and a little bit of bike-go-karting (see pictures to understand). And when the weather permitted, some gorgeous sunsets on the beach. Sandrine had warned me that she wanted to make sure she spent enough time with her cousins as she hadn’t seen them in a year. Some times were harder than others to control my jealousy, which was worsened by the fact that I couldn’t really communicate effectively with anyone else. Overall it was still very much worth it.
I also went to my first Belgian music festival: SummerFest Aalter 🤘🎶👌 funny enough, I initially thought we were going to a house party. When we finally arrived, after an hour’s drive, I was just a bit confused then really looked forward to going in. There were three stages: the unpopular one with trans music (old and weird looking people were in attendance), the main stage with some hardstyle 🥳, and the last but most densely packed was electro remixes of songs from the past decade or so 🥳. As you might have surmised, I did not attend the first stage. I’m looking forward to more festivals next year if I’m back in Europe on time.
For the last couple of days, I was able to spend a bit more time alone with Sandrine at her grandparents, which I am so grateful for. On our last day together, we visited Ieper (Ypres) where we strolled along the water on the city’s fortifications, read some of the 54896 names listed of fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers on the Meninpoort (Ménin gate). All of these men were killed in the Ypres Salient of WWI. To compensate for the depressing sight, we enjoyed hot chocolate, crêpes and apple crumble pie by the city’s moat.
The following morning consisted of a 5am alarm for a 9:45 flight to Denmark from Brussels, following a sad goodbye at the train station.