We are back from this awesome event, 2nd time for us and 1st for our friends. The verdict – Still awesome !!
This is mainly an update to this blog Gent 6 Day 2011 as a few travel things have changed, if you want to read about the event, pop to the 2011 entry, that hasn’t changed. Its still beer, cycling, food, great fun, oh and more beer.
Ryanair again, flight price = £60 per couple RETURN
Train fare from the Airport in Charleroi to Gent St Pieters = 40Euros each (round trip – more on this later)
Hotel 2 nights at the De Flandre = £158 room only (more on the room only bit later too !!)
Flying into Charleroi meant we had a chance to return via the same route, this time the drinking started a little earlier and to be fair, never really stopped.
At the airport, we immediately tried to go outside and find the bus to the train station, this now works as follows.
Turn left, go to end of the concourse and look for the yellow coaches indicated by the company logo
Buy a ’round trip’ ticket to Gent St Pieters, the ticket machines take cash and cards and the amount was 40.50Euros for the ticket, the date you punch in is the return date, it automatically knows the outbound date as its the day you buy the ticket.
At least 15 people did what we did last time and bought a ‘return ticket’ for 21.50Euros – beware, this is JUST THE RETURN JOURNEY and the bus driver will check the tickets and then make us all wait while you go back to the machine and buy another ticket for the journey outbound.
So, first part of the journey is a bus to Charleroi Sud – about 20 mins. When the bus stops, get off and follow the crowd to the train station terminal. The next stage is to find the train heading to Brussels Zuid or Brussels Midi, this is the central hub stop for all travel in this area. takes about 50 mins, and if you were going to Bruge, you would be heading for this too.
Get off at Brussels Zuid/Midi, look for the next train for Knokke or Gent St Pieters. Job done.
When we got there we headed straight for our favourite food place of last years trip opposite the station, it had changed hands and wasn’t doing food til the grand opening on Monday, however, it still served beer, that will do nicely.
It was here that we decided as a group to walk to our hotel and pub crawl it for the rest of the day, the cycling didn’t start til 7pm and we couldn’t get into our hotel til 3pm and it was still not lunchtime.
First stop – student district and De Robot where we found the image of the weekend, and no, its not me, but it was taken in the actual bar.
Our hotel was right in the centre of town which meant a walk along some great views of the city on the way there providing us a self organised tour of sorts. Gent is a beautiful place and has a lot to offer, so even if you aren’t interested in the cycling, go another weekend and just see the sights of the city.
Our hotel was excellent, the De Flandre, booked through Thomas Cook was bang in the centre, 200m from the river and city square. These scenic sights only minutes away.
For the cycling, we had tickets for 2 nights of racing, Friday and Saturday. We did want to blend culture as well as indoor track racing so we took our time to get there on the Friday. It was centre track for us on the first night but in hindsight I reckon we would buy seats for all nights next time and then just go to the centre if you want to walk around.
If you only buy track side tickets, there is nowhere to sit down if you want a rest, can get a little exhausting when you have been up for almost 20 hours.
Saturday saw us get up for breakfast for what turned out to be the biggest mistake of the weekend and one of the most expensive. While we were booking all of this a few months previous we searched for the hotels in the city centre for a reason, the ability to not have to pay for hotel breakfast and get out and find a bar, patisserie or similar to start the day.
We seem to have forgotten this in the haze of alcohol and happily sat down Saturday morning to an amazing array of food, the downside, it was costing us 20Euro each per day, we didn’t realise this til the Sunday morning, the 80Euro bill per couple when we checked out was just met with grunts of displeasure and the realization of the stupidity of beer !
Anyway, back to Saturday, we headed for Bruges Christmas Markets in our silly Xmas jumpers and cloudy heads. Probably just as well that a bar wasn’t far from the train station as hair of the dog was definitely needed.
Bruges is also a wonderfully scenic and vibrant city, 2 Christmas markets, loads of grand architecture and the sun shone all day. Neither of the markets was what I would call big but they had what we wanted, shopping tat, ice rink and alcohol. Perfect.
By the time we headed back to Ghent and the racing I was certainly flagging so something was needed to perk us up. Ask a barman a silly question and you get a silly answer, ‘what do you have that will wake him up ?’ ‘I’ll bring it over’ was the reply. That’s the first picture.
I think we got home around 4am after we ran out of cash and the bar refused to take sterling, even after Kelly tried to point out that we were in the European union and it was worth more than the Euro. It was probably for the best.
On the Sunday we managed to exit the hotel, 90Euro lighter (80 for breakfast and 10 for city tax) and head for the river, carrying our bags and nursing cloudy heads again we did the only thing sensible, had another drink while waiting for the next boat trip. The flight wasn’t leaving til 8pm so we had plenty of time.
I wish we had done the boat trip on the Friday before we started drinking, the guide told us loads of places to go, cheap drinks, expensive drinks, 150 beers in one bar, it was informative, fun and the whole tour translated into 3 languages for each part of the explanation, impressive. Well worth it, for info, we did the tour on the opposite side of the river to the Marriott which costs about 7Euro.
If you are traveling on a Sunday home, its not a long trip to get back to Charleroi but remember there are less trains, most run hourly and if you miss one, you keep eating into your spare time. Be warned, they don’t wait 🙂
Head to Brussels Midi from Ghent St Pieters, then get a train to Charleroi-Sud, then the bus at station stop A outside the train station.
Again a wonderful trip that I am sure will become a yearly pilgrimage, getting bigger each year 🙂 Thanks to Angie and Jon, our traveling companions and track cycling/Xmas market/drinking converts (although the alcohol bit didn’t take a lot of persuading !!)