Travels in Belgium


I was in Belgium recently for a bit of an escape.

That’s the thing about living on a small island. You’ve gotta get away on a regular basis or the walls start to feel like they’re closing in.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy living here. The weather’s perfect, and things are easy. But an island is always a self-contained world. An extreme micro-universe. It’s necessary to get out of that setting every couple months to renew your perspective.

I was craving art museums. Some non-Mediterranean food. New regional drinks. And a completely different landscape. I also wanted to drop into a country I’d never visited before — even if only for 5 days.

Belgium seemed like a pretty good choice.

I have to say I wasn’t much on Brussels. It was surprisingly down at heels for the capital of the European Union, with a lot of graffiti, and thief infestations in every station and train. But I guess it’s really a government town, with some of that government town atmosphere to dull its shine.

I preferred the winding cobblestone streets of Ghent, with its merchant houses and the stoney grey stolidity of its many churches. Shuffling past moss covered buildings along the Leie River. And getting lost for hours in the Museum of Fine Arts.

The food in Belgium was outstanding. Mussels, of course. A delicious skate fillet cooked in butter to a consistency so soft and delicate it practically dissolved on my tongue. A rustic sausage stew with mashed potato and leeks. And crisp Belgian waffles topped with berries and fresh fruit, and whipped cream braced with a hint of Grand Marnier.

And the highlight?

Belgian beer is quite possibly the best in the world. The Trappist and Abbey beers, loving crafted over hundreds of years, are enough to make you bring back things you never knew you stole. From the delicious archetypal blonde ales to dark brown brews and delicately fruit-flavoured Lamvbic beers, I did my best to try as many as possible. It was just the thing to take the edge off those cold rainy northern late Fall days.

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment. They’re just snapshots from my phone, so please don’t judge the tech stuff too harshly!

A blurry camera photo of Ghent by night…
Yes, I really am chilled to the bone – I forget sometimes that other places have weather…
Who is that grouchy looking old man in Brussels Grand Place…?
Tourists gather around the Manneken Pis – yeah, it’s a statue of a small child taking a leak.
Democracy locked down – a protest outside the EU Parliament.
…ahhh Tintin… I read all those books as a child. I think they helped shape my curiosity about exotic places, and my love of adventure.
High level EU meetings in Brussels with Mr. Chimay and Mr. Leffe.
The high level EU meetings continued in Brussels, this time with a Monsieur Duvel. Delightful fellow.
…and an emergency late night session with Dr. Maredsous, to discuss the Greek bailouts.

About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


    • Hi Ryan,

      Love your blog, I really enjoyed my travels in Belgium, Ghent, and on the border of France as well. Great food, good friends and of course beer!

      Travel on!


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