Next objective was Ghent, which we reached by tricking SatNav lady into taking us a more direct and rural route. In the latter part of our journey we visited another chateau that Sophie’d emailed me.
The plan on arrival late afternoon in Ghent was a “centre ville” drive through so as to orient ourselves with the town, then head for our preferred Park4night, which was a spot also endorsed by the Campercontact app. My theory for wild/free-camping in Belgium is that the Dutch Campercontact app is likely to be particularly helpful here given that these 2 countries are neighbours. So far this has proved to be true, and CC definitely has many more photos and reviews for the main overnighting spots.
As it turned out, following an unexpected Lidl visit, we arrived later in the afternoon than anticipated and Friday evenings in any town are always likely to be messy on the roads, so we took a view and went straight to the night stop. I did mistakenly go to the wrong one to begin with, after driving past the correct one and Sophie telling me that she’d seen some motorhomes parked up. It was a little quiet at the wrong place, and this was when I realised my error.
So we’re here now, in the right spot, with a number of other like-minded souls. The plan is to drive into town after supper once the roads have quietened down a bit so that we can park much closer to the centre, and appreciate the place at night. We’ll then head back here and hopefully find another spot for the night. At least we can always go to the place we originally drove to.
Having just settled down comfortably for a bit, we then knew we had to up sticks again for a bit because Ghent is apparently somewhere to be seen especially at night, and a half-hour walk just to get there wasn’t going to happen. So we opted for the “drive in as close as possible to the centre and hope you find a parking space” strategy.
I should add that it was raining, a lot. Not torrential, but it was persisting it down, and didn’t let up until we arrived back later. Driving conditions weren’t good, with bikes everywhere, coming at you from every conceivable angle, at speed, and it seemed as if they had the priority over everyone else. Add to this the trams. I’m just not comfortable vying with trams, with my first bad experience being in Orleans in France, when I’m sure the SatNav at that time was insisting I drive along the tram tracks, and there were definitely some confused faces as I drove past the tram platform stops.
Anyway, back to Ghent, within a short time (this was only a 15 minute journey), I’d almost had a repeat of my Orleans experience, but was convinced other vehicles were taking a similar route, so persisted anyway. Facing off a tram was also uncomfortable, driving along one set of tram tracks with a tram coming towards you at speed in the opposite direction, in what felt like a pretty narrow road.
I should mention that I also turned left as advised by SatNav lady, but soon realised that there were three lanes of traffic ahead of, and facing me, with the arrows painted in the road definitely pointing in my direction. I was certainly saved by the red lights to both my left and my right which enabled me to slip across to the right side of the road.
As we were then funnelled closer to the centre in narrowing roads I saw a rare reasonablly sized parking space to my right and pulled over with a sigh of relief. I still had to convince Sophie that yes, this was close enough to the centre, and no, I didn’t think it likely we’d find anywhere nearer. Somehow there were still trams running both ways down this street, and when we looked out our windows, the trams were so close we found ourselves on intimate terms with the tram passengers. I pulled in the wing mirror just in case. For amusement, once we’d climbed out we watched just how close the trams passed next to the motorhome. It would make your hair curl. We didn’t see any other motorhomes in the town.
Then began a very damp stroll around the stunning town centre of Ghent. It was quite breathtaking, and this is before the Christmas decorations had been put up. I can honestly say that I’ve never met anyone who’s said they’d been to Ghent. At the time of writing, which is a few minutes before we go and explore Bruges for the first time, I’d have to say that Ghent has to be one of the most stunning European towns I’ve ever seen. Every time we turned another corner, there were more beautifully lit old buildings, and the shops, restaurants, and bars all looked so lovely and inviting. Interspersed with all this were the canals, which really added to the atmosphere. Bear in mind that I say all this even though it rained consistently and was pretty cold.