CHOCOLATE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, PEOPLE. I’m actually surprised I wasn’t detained at the customs for filling my suitcase in various declinations of the stuff…
What I found was not only the best chocolate of my life but also a welcoming community who was eager to learn more about my life as a French Canadian in France and our respective countries’ constant fight for independence, as well as strikingly beautiful architecture and all-around fantastic region.
Belgium is, in overall, largely underrated in guidebooks and by Euro-specialists – because of its size and lack of geographical landmarks, a lot of people skip it altogether to visit France, Switzerland and even Germany. But now that I’ve seen what Flanders is all about, it now ranks very high up in my list of quaint European experiences.
Photos of Flanders: Brussels
The ideal place to start any itinerary in Flanders is in the Belgian capital, Brussels. Often cited as one of the most boring cities in Europe, I can’t help but beg to differ – sure, it doesn’t have the vibrant atmosphere of London or the quaint alleys of Paris. Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to be – if only for its incredible comics scene!
Photos of Flanders: Ghent
Ghent, without the shadow of a doubt, was the biggest and most positive surprise of my trip. I really didn’t know what to expect – university town, good energy, yada yada yada. As I usually do with places I haven’t been, I try to not read too much into what people tell me about these places, just so I can make my own opinion.
Ghent is the more modern equivalent to romantic, Disney-like Bruges, with its fun atmosphere, unexpected pops of colour, and lively restaurants. I didn’t need more to be convinced.
Photos of Flanders: Antwerp
Since I’m a big fan of Top 10s, Best ofs and other popular travel lists – very fun to read during lunchtime!- I was mostly excited to visit Antwerp because of its world-known train station. I wasn’t disappointed, and it was even more impressive in person than on photographs! The old squares are like miniature version of the Grand Place in Brussels, minus the massive crowds.
The best of both worlds, if you ask me.
Photos of Flanders: Bruges
And last, but not least, Bruges.
I’m still undecided on this place – it is too cheesy for its own good, or is it really that pretty? Did it try to capitalize a bit too much on its fairytale feel, or is it simply Europe’s most quaint village? I still can’t tell.
What do you think? In any case, I’m ready to forgive the tourism-oriented faux pas for a few pounds of this sweet goodness. I’m very easy to convince. ;)
[disclaim]Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Flanders & Eurail.com. As always, all opinions are my own (but for the sake of full disclosure, I was given chocolate several times during the trip, but I swear I’m being completely objective in my writing. Yes, yes I am).[/disclaim]