June 1 – Sunday. Our first full day ride! After 4 days of eating, drinking beer and walking at a museum pace, save for the short ride yesterday, we needed to get some exercise. Many of us rode between Bruges and Ghent 2 years ago but Tom followed a completely different route. Such is Belgium that you can pick many different routes suitable for biking between cities. As before, our route consisted of towpaths, wooded trails and roads, without having to battle cars at any time. If we encountered a car on a narrow road it just patiently waited until there was room to pass. Other roads had designated bike routes beside the roadway, painted red so there was no question where the bikes belonged and cars didn’t. We stopped after 25 km for a snack, i.e. coffee/beer, in Aalter then kept on going for another 25 km until lunch in Drongen. The Gandalf provided bagged lunches but the cafes were more than happy to let us eat our lunches at their tables in exchange for buying their beer. We were more than happy to fulfill our end of the deal. Lunch in Drongen even came with entertainment, in the form of 2 quite inebriated but friendly locals who had lots of questions (and some doubts) about what we were doing and the usual curiosity about Canada.
It was a short ride after lunch into Ghent, a city much like Bruges though much more populous, with a large university and younger population. We had over 2 hours of free time and Tom led a short tour to point out recommended places to visit. As an aside, he took us through the medieval-looking front door of the Marriott Hotel. Walking over the threshold was like passing through a time warp, with a bright and ultra-modern lobby on the other side. It was also evident that the sweaty people in bike helmets didn’t belong there. On the art front, I was able to see the second of the Monument’s Men works accessible on our ride – the Ghent Alterpiece. It is in the St. Bavo Cathedral and is such a complex piece of work that, using the audio guide, takes about 40 minutes to listen to the explanation of what you are looking at on each of the 12 panels. Fully protected behind glass and no pictures allowed though. I would love to spend more time in this city.
Rode 63 km