The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Belgium From Ghent to Dinant

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

Needing a little virtual summer getaway? I’m excited to be posting some old travel photos with some new Lightroom filters! Thank you @tezza for the great presets!!!   This series has pics from the perfectly beautiful country of Belgium. I chose this group of photos because I loved the composition and colors and especially like how they look in a palate, when put together. The twelve of them are being posted on my Instagram @cupofdecaf if you want to see how they all flow together in my feed. (This is me practicing some photography and editing skills during the quarantine!)

I have been so fortunate to visit Belgium twice because we have become a true family with our daughter’s study abroad host mom and crew. Our daughters each spent a high school semester abroad during their junior years. The oldest ventured to Vannes, in the Brittany region of France, and our youngest lived in Jurbise, Belgium. She attended high school in Mons at the same high school where her host mother attended!

This shot is of the charming medieval city of Ghent, home of the sixth century Flemish painting, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb Altarpiece in St. Bavo’s Cathedral. Ghent is a must, any time of year, complete with market square, a 14th century Belfry, and a fortress. Great food, wonderful people, and photo ops a plenty!  

This beauty lives down the street from our Belgian family in the sweet town of Jurbise near the city of Mons. The farm at the end of their road is covered in mist in the mornings while the horses graze. It was so lovely to walk out the door and find these sweet creatures. This is the path our daughter walked to the train station each morning to get to school. Lucky her!

This is a moment in Ghent along the canal. Not sure if you are aware that many Belgium cities are built along canals and rivers. This Flemish port sought a connection to the sea and started digging canals in the 13th century. Roaming around Ghent in winter or summer is a delight and offers many quiet spots in spite of the tourism.  

On a rainy Tuesday there were no visitors at the Gravensteen Castle in Ghent. It was built in 1180 and has housed the Count of Flanders, prisoners, a mint, and a cotton factory. My daughter and I had the place to ourselves – what a treat! Speaking of treats… we ate delicious traditional waterzooi stew in a charming pub across the street from the castle and stayed until the rain stopped. This is a pic from the top of the castle, looking over the city and it’s canals. Don’t miss this fortress when you go! 

As you drive from Jurbise, the roads wind through little villages peppered with farm houses and villas, stone walls, and rod iron gates, like this one. People care for their property so well and seem to protect the old designs, maintaining all the charm and wisdom that came before them. It is very easy to take trains to travel around the country, but, as you know, renting a car allows you to see much more of the countryside. Because Belgium is so small, it is quite easy to drive on the roads and stop along the way!

I like this shot because it captures a lot of the tones of rusty reds and contrast blues I saw throughout the country. The crane in the background is a reminder of how medieval cities are constantly having to incorporate the new and modern, while trying to preserve the ancient history. I think Belgium does this very well. 

This picture was taken on a cold and rainy day in November of 2015 in the beautiful town of Koksijde on the North Sea coast in Belgium. This is where the famous horseback fisherman go shrimping. While I didn’t have the opportunity to see them, I did witness the most unusual Xmas parade and celebration I’ve ever seen. I mention this because the celebration included many people dressed as Zwarte Piet, also known as Black

Pete, the servant companion to Saint Nicholas. This tradition, stemming from a children’s tale written in 1850, encourages depicting the character, by dressing in black face and wearing renaissance clothing, black wigs, and red lipstick. We were both alarmed and embarrassed by not knowing how to react as the children flocked to these characters from their beloved Dutch legend. It was definitely one of those culture shock moments in which I was both offended and didn’t want to offend. I learned more of the history and discovered that there is A LOT of controversy over these kinds of celebrations. The Zwarte Piet character is reportedly being phased out in some regions. But certainly not everywhere, and not by everyone. I will be curious to know if the new wave of the Black Lives Matter movement shifts people’s views of this tradition in the coming Xmas season.  

So many photos, so little time! I chose this one in Brugge because it really highlights the traditional stepped gable architecture of Belgium. Some of these building date back to the 12th century! Do you know why they created these roof designs? Apparently, it allowed for easier access to the roof for chimney sweeps.  Brugge is among the best that Belgium has to offer. Having visited in both winter and summer, I can firmly say you can’t go wrong!  Fries, waffles, chocolate, and cuberdon (a traditional Belgian candy)! Eat them all and drink beer. Wander around, take lots of photos, and just relax. I really love it there!

This pic was taken on one of our best family days ever. This was the summer of 2018 in which we took many day trips from our Jurbise home. You only need to travel for an hour or so to get to all the wonderful sites around the country because Belgium is so small. “Let’s go to Dinant,” we said, meaning the village on the River Meuse in Namur where the homes were built tucked into the steep rock that walls the river. This is a spot our daughter hadn’t seen during her high school home stay a few years earlier. Great– it will be a surprise for us all!   You can’t imagine what a surprise it really was! My husband, the renowned sax player Dann Zinn, forgot the name of the birth place of Adolf Sax. As we drove into Dinant and saw dozens of giant saxophone statues lining the streets and bridges, you can’t imagine how we all started to hyperventilate with excitement.  Honestly, we were all so thrilled to be at the place where it all began. Yes, it is breathtakingly beautiful there and we roamed for hours. But the fact that we “happened upon” the place where the saxophone was invented was about the best thing ever for my husband and all of us!

Torrential rain, impossible wind that instantly broke our umbrellas, and nothing to do but sit in a cafe for hours and hours along the canal. We started with a cup of decaf and ended up with breakfast, and stayed for more coffee, and then got hungry for lunch! It was awesome! 

Winding down from this series are the goats of the chateau. I love how they peeked out to say au revoir on our day of departure. We stayed at the Le Salon Des Lumières chateau. A 16th century villa just down the road from our family’s home. The chateau hosted royalty in its heyday, is now a bed and breakfast with a full restaurant, and is surrounded by gardens complete with goats, chickens, birds, hedgehogs, peacocks, and more! 

This is a pic of the barn at Le Salon Des Lumières from our room in the main house. While we visited Brussels, rode trains, and did many tourist and city things during my trips to Belgium, the best part of that country is the family we gained when we allowed our daughters to learn a new language and culture and become part of another family on the other side of the world. I can’t emphasize enough the value of teaching our daughters, at a young age, the important lessons we learn by leaving the nest and traveling. 

We so look forward to a time when the world changes and we can visit Belgium again!

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