Posts Tagged canals

A trip to Ghent (Part 2)….and some cool weather abroad!

Hello!

Must have a been a month or so since my last post so I thought I best get off my ample behind and write another post. Took me 5 minutes to get this far as WordPress keep changing buttons all over the place…it’s very annoying but I suspect I shouldn’t complain seeing this is all free and I can speak to my raft of fans (….cue tumbleweed….). Oh, Happy Valentines Day to all by the way. Hugs all round!!

Got the new bike the other week and it’s a flyer I can tell you. Who would have thought that a skinny tyre would make so much difference? So, if you’re around my area, don’t aim for the bike riders, one of them could be me. I’m also spending a bit of time souping up a fish-tank that I liberated from one of my work colleagues; had I known it was going to be so involved, I might not have. However, bits are slowly being cleaned, purchased and such…hopefully it will be filled and chugging away in the next couple of weeks. Bar that, all the news is work based so I shan’t bore you or risk being fired after ranting 🙂

Forward to the images!! As you can see, this is me finishing off the trip to Ghent, and in fact, the trip to Belgium entirely as, after this, we are back to boring old Wales. Not really. I shall try not to make it too boring…throwing in the odd interesting story as ever. Bar that, I could talk politics. Maybe not.

Anyway, here we go. First up are some pictures that I took when I went on the canal tour around Ghent. A lot of time was spent looking up as you can see. Interestingly, I swear that these canals were longer than those in Bruges but maybe it was that the tour was longer, who knows but I found it quite a lot more enjoyable than Bruges. First noticeable image in this set are the tops of some buildings we passed. I believe that the golden ship signifies that the inhabitant was a trader in goods from overseas or even a mater of a trading vessel (the nautical cues back this up). Whether that is real gold or not though is open to argument!

Does the top of a house need to be this fancy? I think not, but I suppose it was the thing back then...

Does the top of a house need to be this fancy? I think not, but I suppose it was the thing back then…

Next, we chugged along one of the longest buildings in Ghent where in days of old, merchants would store their goods. I seem to recall now hat it has gone the way of all old buildings like this, conversion in houses. But what a house you’d have, eh? Apologies for the man in the very bright jumper…the ability to take your time and use the art of composure is somewhat lacking when you have a moving target!

You! Metrosexual in the orange...tone it down!

You! Metrosexual in the orange…tone it down!

Around the corner past the square you got what I believe is the best view of the Gravensteen (mentioned in my last post) in the city. What an imposing building. That it got left to rack and ruin and was going to be used as a factory beggars belief. Should anyone be encouraged to visit this area of Europe after reading my posts, I sincerely recommend the few euros charge to get in.

Yes, it's that castle again (jarring chord)

Yes, it’s that castle again (jarring chord)

Further on, we came to a number of bridge and the canal started getting shallower and narrower by the minute…however, when you had lovely bridges such as this passing over your head, it wasn’t such a bad thing. I recall that this bridge is a recently restored one that makes up part of the University in Ghent.

One of the gates to the University of Ghent

One of the gates to the University of Ghent

All too soon, it was time to make an about turn at a very imposing and handsome gate (you can see, if you look through the bridge, that we could physically go no further as the canal has been dammed) but as we did, I also noticed some very large graffiti on the block of flats behind it…it appears to be someones cynical view of a treehouse if you look closely. Clever? Vandalism? I’m not sure…I find things like that quite appealing, I count myself as a Banksy fan.

Old and modern in one frame

Old and modern in one frame

My parting shot following disembarkation from our little boat and wandering to the train was this image of the archetypal curving and swooping frontages of shops and buildings that Bruges and Ghent are both famous for. Thank goodness for the rebuilding after the First World War.

A typical sweeping street facade

A typical sweeping street facade

Back in Bruges it appeared that interesting weather follows me. or maybe do I see it more than most as I can see what I am looking at better than some? I’m no Carol Kirkwood but as I arrived, it got very dark and then followed a hail storm with a hail core. Yay! I was lucky though, as my window faced in just the right direction, I was high up and the timing was right. Window open, camera at the ready….

The leading edge of the hail storm....

The leading edge of the hail storm….

I looked this up on Google and Wikipedia and it would appear the fact that we got hail was fairly rare, as these hail cores (feel free to do a Google image search, they look just like this) are quite rare at low levels and are usually seen at elevation where the stones are admittedly bigger. You can’t get lower than Belgium and its surrounding countries! However, the weather has been getting weirder of late, so anything is possible..

...you can now see the curve of the core and the rain and hail falling....

…you can now see the curve of the core and the rain and hail falling….

Just at the side, so no big hail. Damn. It was so dark, I expected lightning too. The pictures have been lightened slightly to bring out a bit of colour in the surrounding features…

...a little further on and the hail's still coming down....

…a little further on and the hail’s still coming down….

Then, just like that, it was all gone and we were left with a muddled sky, presumably all the turbulent stuff left behind by the wind.

...then, the turbulent skies to finish.

…then, the turbulent skies to finish.

Well, there we have it, a big finish for the last day of my Belgian exploration! Lovely place, very nice people, lovely food (all very reasonable if you stay away from the centre of the city), lots of beers, waffles and chocolate. What is there not to like? I should expect that I will go back, I found the place quite charming and educational. I hope you enjoyed the tours!

See you next time for some domestic scenery and weather, thanks for dropping in and enjoy the remainder of Valentines Day.

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A trip to Ghent (Part 1)….and some weird weather at home!

Hello and Happy 2015!

I know it’s a bit late but, I haven’t seen you. Looking good! Are you on an exercise program? Lost weight? Hehe…compliments over. Hopefully you all had a peaceful holiday and didn’t over indulge in mince pies and the like. I know I did but I am working on that. One of the steps is a new bike as mentioned before and seeing that will be soon, I am glad the near hurricane force winds that we had earlier in the week have passed us by. One night I had to park my car nose into the wind so I could get out without the door flying out of my grasp.

Also, some of you who reside in South Wales, or indeed the UK, may have experienced a fairly unique occurrence (well, to the UK anyway) in this last week. Thundersnow. No, it’s not a made up term (spellcheck thinks it is)…a quick explanation can be found by going to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30814403. I could have pasted the Wikipedia link but it was waaaaay too scientific. OK, so over me, it wasn’t thundersnow over me but thunderhail and thundersleet (yes, these are also real things).

All I recall is getting wound up behind a guy who couldn’t see a green light for toffee, then an almighty flash, no thunder, then a sudden downpour of soft hail which made the drive home VERY interesting. Think wet snow and people being tarts by driving normally. Apparently, the flashes are brighter in thundersnow and such because the light reflects from the moisture and this also in turn muffles the thunder, which accounts for the fact that I heard nothing but my father 4 miles away though the world was ending. He very rightly rushed out to garage his car, although the hail here was soft….we have recently heard from a friend that in Roch, 10 miles distant, it was powerful enough to possibly write off 2 cars we know of, but I’m sure others my have been damaged by multiple dents. I still think this is what damaged my bumper last winter whilst pounding a motorway, but Ford deny that their paint job is shite, so I have to take that on the chin. Anyway, pretty cool stuff eh? The only bummer it all happened when I was “sans camera”, so best use your imagination for an image!

What you don’t need to use your mind’s eye for is my trot around Ghent, or Gent, depending on which language you choose to write it in. Again, a lovely town with history oozing from the brickwork (hopefully not like Verviers which seems to have been oozing radicals…current affair based sly dig there). First stop from the rail station was a huge square where this is the main feature, the Belfry of Ghent, otherwise known as Belfort Ghent. Standing at near 95 metres tall, this is a further building that is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Listed item, as is the centre of the city.

Good weather and a pretty awesome subject to photograph. Eeexcellent!

Good weather and a pretty awesome subject to photograph. Eeexcellent!

This building served a similar purpose to that of the Belfry in Bruges, in the first instance it was used for religion, then was converted to basically a look out tower and now is used as a landmark and holds bells that lend a unique chime to the city every hour. On to the next picture and couldn’t get over this…this building is not a church, nor a cathedral but, believe or not, is referred to as the Old Post Office. Pretty cool place to get your postcard sent from I’d say! Further on round the corner, you get a flavour of the “Old Town” also recognised by UNESCO.

The Old Post Office...come on, a post office? Seriously?

The Old Post Office and Old Town…come on, a post office? Seriously?

In amongst all the old buildings, there are always a smattering of news ones and I was quite taken by this one. From what I could see by snooping, it was a very nice restaurant for the well-heeled (judging by the prices) but I was amused by the signage you might be able to see at the right of the fence banning people from parking their motor cruisers outside! Possibly a Belgian nouveau riche thing….

By all means visit this restaurant at the end of the row, but don't park in front of it in your boat!

By all means visit this restaurant at the end of the row, but don’t park in front of it in your boat!

Now, to a castle with possibly the coolest name ever. The Gravensteen. Say it with a deep voice in a sentence involving torture and it sounds even better….”take him to the rack in The Gravesteen”. Mwuhaha! Alas, the translation is less spooky sounding, as it means “Castle of the Count”. Quite disappointing really. The castle you can see is from the 12th century but, apparently, a wooden version of the building has been here since 900 AD or so.

Spooky intimidating castle alert. At least it's not raining to add to the spook :)

Spooky intimidating castle alert. At least it’s not raining to add to the spook 🙂

The castle was as multifaceted as castles are; if anyone has the good fortune to live nearby a relatively intact castle you can explore, they get used for all sorts of stuff. This castle was used as a courthouse, a prison and eventually decayed. Houses were built against the walls and even on the courtyard and the stones of the walls were used to erect other buildings. At one time it even served as a factory! At the end of the 19th century, the castle was scheduled to be demolished but the city bought it and renovated it for future generations.

Prepare to repel raiders! Oh, it's only people going to the cafe.....

Prepare to repel raiders! Oh, it’s only people going to the cafe…..

Part of the renovations added the museums within the walls and a fully renovated basement and crypt, which was pretty creepy and too dark to get decent pictures of, I’m afraid. Mind you, the stuff they had in the museum was awesome…not sure if it was from the renovations at all but still, all the exhibits added to the atmosphere. Very tasteful.

Fancy waering some of this armour? Not me, I'm a mere slip of a thing...I'd do my back in

Fancy wearing some of this armour? Not me, I’m a mere slip of a thing…I’d do my back in

Now this picture I really like, the curve of the walls in the inner sanctum of The Gravensteen. Mwuhaha! OK, enough of that, but it really does, if you squint and concentrate hard enough, look as though you were there. Ignore the modern trappings and such, imagine stray farm animals and wanderings serfs and it’d be authentic. In fact, the BBC liked this placed so much that a BBC drama series “The White Queen” used the inside of the castle squares for some scenes and the outside view of the castle with the moat was shown in some bits of the programme (with some airbrushing for obvious reasons). See, it’s not just me with a keen eye.

The sweeping walls and lovely relaxing interior of The Gravensteen

The sweeping walls and lovely relaxing interior of The Gravensteen

Anyway, I do leave the castle (under protest), so will show your some further images of Ghent next time. I believe there was nice bit of hail core action I took some pictures of when I got back to Bruges too…if not next time, then soon. I’m even taking images of weather on holiday! Sad, I know.

I shall keep you up to date with regards out freaky weather here. I hope it relents soon, I have a bike to ride to get under 12 stone! Until then, keep safe and thanks from dropping in.

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The canals of Bruges and the City Gate

Hello

Yes. It is I. If anyone was wondering where I was, I just had my second holiday of the year. Two holidays in a year…we thought this guy worked in the public sector?! Well, that is a whole other blog, but less talk on here about work the better.

I went to Germany, in particular the south west of Germany, to a teeny little town called Adenau just on the Nurburgring, to fulfill an ambition to drive around it. I was also visiting towns and cities in the vicinity, as I’m not a 100% petrolhead, you know. More about that once I get the photos on here (quite a while by the looks of it so far) but, suffice to say, it was the hardest driving I have ever done and this includes the 10 hours there and 10 hours back when I was being harassed by aggressive Belgian truck drivers!

Anyway, back to this holiday for the time being. I have picked a selection of photos over a couple of days that cover me wandering the quieter areas of Bruges, up the less frequented canal paths and up to the massive windmills and city gates. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of the culture contained in Bruges…I really would recommend it for a short holiday. Honestly.

Firstly, a nice wide (as wide as i can get anyway) shot of the canals along from the Markt that I featured in my last load of night shots. Quite a variety of younger more brightly coloured buildings here…

A wide shot of the canals leading to the Markt

A wide shot of the canals leading to the Markt

Next, I sauntered the canals looking for buildings of interest, I thought that this picture showed a nice mix of the old and the new. Maybe just me but I thought the mixture of the old buttresses and such on the water and the fairly modern glazed building in the background was quite attractive….

Old meets new, Bruges UNESCO style!

Old meets new, Bruges UNESCO style!

Further on, I caught a tourist ride passing the fantastic church in the centre of the city. The lady at the front doesn’t look too impressed does she? Maybe it’s because she realised after a few minutes that she was being used as a windbreak by all those behind her!

Touring the canals in the centre of Bruges....windy and cold is the name of the game

Touring the canals in the centre of Bruges….windy and cold is the name of the game

Now, this facade was really striking, the majority of it being timber. I am sure that this is not original but the age must be quite high as you can clearly see the weathering from the good old European winters on this. I bet there are carpenters who make an absolute fortune restoring facades like this, seeing the area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, if I lived there, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind too much. Until I got the bill….

Ooooooh, think there's a touch of dry rot there, guv'nor

Ooooooh, think there’s a touch of dry rot there, guv’nor

Now, this was just added in for the amusement factor to be honest. Apparently, according to a guide I overheard, this is the smallest medieval window in Bruges. Alas, I had to zoom in so far there is not much in the way of context but it had to be less that a foot wide and about 15 to 20 feet up a wall. Quite what it gave light to I have no clue, it was almost worse than useless!!

Why? Why would you put the smallest window in a city there?

Why? Why would you put the smallest window in a city there?

Onwards to the windmills. There are a number of these scattered by the city gates; I can only presume they were placed here in the old times to ensure that there was a fast transport route nearby, i.e the canal. Nowadays, although they are maintained very well, as you can see, they aren’t used to grind seed or produce anything, which is a great shame in my opinion. The tourists would lap up stuff from here…just think of a cafe selling cakes and pastries made using the flour of the mill you are sitting under. I’d pay for that and sure others would.

Kruispoort Windmill. Impressive

Kruispoort Windmill. Impressive

And so, onto the more modern city gates before the older ones…quite a beast isn’t it. I was quite amazed at the patience shown by the oodles of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians when a yacht pootled through this gate. Obviously there is a traffic light system for both sets of traffic (yes, even the boats) but still, it was just so normal to them but alien and amusing to me. I saw all sorts go through here whilst I watched, some cruisers, the river barges hauling I don’t know what and private boats of all shapes and sizes.

The more modern gate and bridge to Kruispoort

The more modern gate and bridge to Kruispoort

However, here we have it, the City Gate, or at least one of them. There are a number of preserved old city gateways: the Kruispoort, Gentpoort, Smedenpoort and Ezelpoort; alas, through early development and dilapidation the Dampoort, Katelijnepoort and Boeveriepoort have disappeared. I can see from my fancy map of Bruges that this is the Kruispoort; apologies for the blooming Fiat 500 that nipped into the frame. Those who know me will know I despise those cars…to vent properly regards them would take another post but I shan’t expose you to that :).

Kruispoort...and an unwelcome visitor in the frame

Kruispoort…and an unwelcome visitor in the frame

Finally, an image of Bruges that I am properly proud of, one that I took at night early on in my break and one of the most photographed corners of the city and canal basin. I thought it worked out very well and gave a good view of the building and The Belfry in the background. Hope you enjoy it, as I endured many furrowed brows taking this at about 10 at night! No creativity some people….

A night view of the canal basin towards the city centre and The Belfry

A night view of the canal basin towards the city centre and The Belfry

Well, that is Bruges for the moment, I note from my quick look through upcoming images that Brussels is next, political heartland of the EU. That statement either fills you with horror or excitement. However, those who hold politics in the same regards as I (yaaaaaawn) will be glad to know that Brussels is a very photogenic city, so there was plenty to see!

Until next time, toodle-pip, thanks for stopping by…shan’t keep you waiting so long next time!

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