Saturday October 7th – Day 15 – Ligneuville, Malmedy, Ghent, Zeebrugge
We made a reasonably early start from Ligneuville, stopping off in Malmedy to go to the supermarket and to hunt down somewhere where we could buy Ardennes ham. I’ve always liked Malmedy, though it’s fair to say we haven’t ever managed to spend that much time in the town. It’s a pretty place, and the floral displays are things of great beauty. Even in October there’s an impressive show being put on.
After a fair amount of repeatedly drawing a blank we stumbled on an impressive – and very busy – delicatessen at the opposite end of the main street from where we’d started and after some queuing I had a large piece of the local delicacy to take home. I could have bought so much more in Micha…
Actually the window display alone was enough to make me drool!
From there we dropped into one of the supermarkets, Delhaize being the one I will always go to. We usually do this because you can buy things like white port at very sensible prices. We had room for a half dozen or so bottles and so we stocked up without delay, filled the fuel tank at the first possible opportunity and then headed out onto the motorways. My intention was to get the other side of Brussels and then, if we had time, take a lunch stop somewhere, maybe with some sightseeing thrown in. Getting past Brussels can be something of a nightmare, but for once it wasn’t too hard. The trouble in fact started when we hit the other side, the rain started to fall heavily, and the road seemed to fill with complete idiots. Eventually, realising we had plenty of time in hand, we pulled off the motorway to get away from the homicidal Belgian drivers, and made for the centre of Ghent. We clearly weren’t going to be able to do justice to the place, but we did walk down towards the centre, enjoying the historic buildings and the odd goings on.
It was a bitterly cold day so we looked for somewhere to get lunch, settling on Passion because it looked nice from the outside and didn’t appear to be just a bar. A warming cup of coffee was essential.
So were those most Benelux of snacks, the shrimp croquette.
We decided that we’d do a quick visit to the cathedral and that we should then go back to the car and get on our way. St. Bavo’s Cathedral is an impressive structure, even when viewed through driving rain.
It also contains one of my favourite art works, the Ghent Altarpiece painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck around 1432, and sometimes referred to as “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”. It does tend to mean that the cathedral is busy at all times, but we decided we really didn’t have time to do justice to it. I’ve seen it before and the crowds make it hard to justify a fleeting visit. It requires time to take in all the details. Instead, we walked outside and had a very cursory nose around the exterior of some of the other buildings.
It’s placed Ghent squarely in the “must come back for a proper look around” list.
However the rain was now almost horizontal, it was impossible to keep an umbrella up in the wind, and we were cold. We did a runner back to the car, and pointed our way out of town and towards Zeebrugge and the ferry home.We eventually made it to the ferry terminal, despite the appalling signposting. A new road has been built but no one seems to have considered the fact that many people trying to get to the ferry won’t be familiar with the place. Here’s a suggestion for those who run the town: some signposting would help, folks! Anyway, we eventually made it after a couple of unscheduled deviations from the route and were quite quickly parked up on the car deck and on our way to our cabin.
And that was where I realised we might have miscalculated. On the Rotterdam-Hull route the ships are much bigger and so are the cabins. On the Zeebrugge-Hull route they are very small and poky. This is supposedly a deluxe cabin (with a deluxe price it should also be said). Apart from what you can see there is a small entrance way with the shower/bathroom off. And for around £500 all included (breakfast and dinner) that was all we got. Later research showed that the route from Malmedy to Rotterdam would have added on 14 minutes and 14 kilometres. I know what we’ll do in future…
It later turned out that the brasserie is also nowhere near as nice as on the other route. A somewhat uninspired plate of charcuterie to share was disappointing, frankly.
The fish that followed was ok, but that’s about all. It was slightly overcooked, and I’d have like slightly more interesting vegetable options.
The cheese, as is so often the case with UK establishments, was served fridge cold, which meant it didn’t taste of much at all.
The one thing I will say though, is that the service was very good indeed, very friendly and helpful. It’s just a shame they don’t have better materials to work with. We sidled off to our cabin and finished our bottle of wine there.