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Getting to Ghent

As we descended into Kuala Lumpur, a tourist video on Malaysia was played for our benefit. It was awful. Cheesy lyrics, karaoke singing and claims to be everything. The slogan was "Malaysia, Truly Asia." I've got a better one.
"Malaysia. It's yummy!"
I've also got a slogan for Britain.
"Britain: Under repair."
It didn't help that we were slow to get out of the hotel. A queue at the ticket machines for the underground was to be expected. The fact that only one of four appeared to be fully operational and another which had issues was not. Not expected either was the woman at the head of the queue who went through the ticket purchase process at a snail's pace.
Eventually another machine was repaired, but by then the damage was done.
We squeezed on to the tube train with our luggage taking up too much space and made our way to Kings Cross station, from where we walked as quickly as we could to St Pancras. But it was too late. Check in for Eurostar trains closes thirty minutes before departure. It was two minutes before. Expecting to pay a hefty sum for replacement tickets we made our way disconsonantly to the ticket office...
...where we were offered tickets on the next train at no extra charge!
Unfortunately, the delay meant that we would be reaching Ghent quite late, but what could we do?
We wandered around St Pancras, bought another toy for Alex, some sandwiches for the train and gum ointment for Alex. He appears to be growing some molars and it hurts him to eat. What a time for this!
We passed through security and immigration to the busy waiting rooms inside.
All Alex wanted was to catch the escalators and lifts, but we told him that you have to wait until twenty minutes before departure.
Our carriage was right at the front of the train, far from the waiting area. We took our seats at the rear of the carriage, opposite a noisy family of orthodox jews (actually it was just the mother who was constantly talking to her friend or on the phone. We only knew that were orthodox because of the young son's shaven head and growing dreadlocks). Without anyone occupying the rearward facing seats in front of us the Eurostar was quite comfortable.

The day outside was dull and drizzly. We raced past green fields, towns and rivers until it was time to descend into the tunnel under the English Channel. Sounds dramatic, but in reality it was just black outside.

When we emerged the train raced past quaint villages, each with a stone church at the centre, old farmhouses and forests tinged with autumn yellow. France is such a pretty place.
B fantasised about picking up an Audi from the factory outside of Brussels as we pulled into the station. After we piled out of the Eurostar Alex was stroppy and just wanted to catch lifts or go outside to see a fountain while B shopped in a kids store. We just made it (just like my last trip to Ghent) on to the train as it pulled out, though unlike last time the ticket inspect, a straggly blonde female, was not encouraging us to board.
The double decker train was very clean and modern. Alex made too much noise - he was getting tired. The ride was half an hour through pretty countryside, though there were plenty of construction vehicles to excite Alex. With such a dull grey day outside I was surprised by the number of houses with solar panels. There were also big electricity generating windmills in operation. I had seen many as flew over Europe. They take green power seriously here.

Ghent's St Pieters station was in the midst of a big renovation with cranes everywhere. I was surprised by the lack of signs in anything other than Flemish, but fortunately I had already been here once before and was somewhat familiar with the process now. This was a chance for B and Alex to share in the experience.

We caught a tram up towards the city centre, past quirky shops and the university. I had the delight of watching B's jaw drop, just as mine had done, as we reached the historic centre, overlooked by the massive Belfort tower, St Baaf's and St Nicholas' cathedrals. The old architecture of this place is amazing.

Alex had fallen asleep on the tram, so we carried him straight to the hotel, another Novotel right near St Nicholas. The room was furnished almost exactly the same as the one we had left in London, but the bed is big and comfortable, unlike so many other cheaper places in Europe.
We let him sleep for a little while I ducked out to a nearby supermarket for supplies. It was already late, so as not to waste the day entirely we woke him up and set out to explore.

Chocolates from Leonidas, who were still open, treating ourselves. They won't survive Malaysian heat so no point bringing them home!

A few clothes for Alex. Gosh some of the baby clothes here are great. I was sad when he grew out of the ones I bought last trip.
Then it was time to find food. We walked along the Korenlei beside the canal, opposite the fairytale houses on the other banks. The restaurants we found obviously catered for tourists, but as I said to B, we were in a big tourist area, so what could we do?

Eventually selecting a place we treated ourselves to some local dishes. A fish waterzooi, a creamy soup of vegetables and fish, for B. A beer flavoured beef stew for me. And sausages with a yummy apple sauce for Alex. And a basket of chips, of course! Thanks to his gums and sleepyness he didn't eat that much, but we did. He wanted chocolate cake, which was what he thought the chocolates were.
Ghent is so pretty that we are already regretting that our stay is so short. I think B understands why I insisted that I had to share it with her.


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