Euro Trip Part 8 – Belgian Finale

By - May 17, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

All dressed up with somewhere to go

Finally back in Belgium for good, I had less than a week to show my parents my new home. Friday was spent relaxing at home and exploring Everberg. Saturday we were on the road again.

We went to Ghent, which in retrospect probably wasn’t the best choice. I love Ghent but this was the first sunny and warm Saturday Belgium had seen in months. Ghent was packed. It was impossible to find a seat at any of the restaurants and the canal side was overrun.

We did make a visit to the castle but after that we headed back home.

A tiny section of the Royal Greenhouses

Sunday was much more eventful. We started the morning at Laeken. The Royal Greenhouses are open to the public for only a few weeks each spring. This had fortuitously coincided with Mom and Dad’s visit and we were all keen to check them out.

I had heard good things about the greenhouses but had no idea of their actual size. The large domed building, often seen in photos, was just the beginning. We spent hours strolling through what seemed like a city of glass. The plants were stunning and the colour in some of the rooms was nearly blinding. If you have the chance to see these greenhouses, they are not to be missed.

Inside the Royal Greenhouses

Our second stop was in keeping with the botanical theme. We drove to Hallerbos, south of Brussels to see the blue forest. Unfortunately, as with the tulips in Keukenhof, the bluebells (that make the forest appear blue) were not quite in bloom. There was evidence of future blueness and there were also some white and yellow patches of wildflowers. In any event, we had a nice stroll through the woods and then we were off on our next adventure.

While my Dad (and Andrew for that matter) can appreciate a good garden, I knew I had to throw something into the mix that would interest his mechanical sensibilities. So our next stop was Ronquières, site of the famous canal locks.

Boat on the lift at Ronquières

Andrew and I had visited Ronquières before and remarked that my Dad would be very interested in this sort of thing. We were right.

First we took the lift to the lookout area. We were lucky enough to see a boat being lifted and watched it pass through the lock. By this time the sun had come out in full force. It was a beautiful afternoon. So much so that Mom and I identified with the Lemurs from the weekend before.

After watching the boats and soaking up the sun for a good hour, we went to the barge museum inside the lock. It is an animated tour through the life and times of the barge drivers and, although a bit hokey, is very informative and eye-opening.

We had had a busy day and it was time for some good food. We got ourselves dolled up back at the house and went to the Star of India for supper (this is becoming a favorite weekend spot for Andrew and I). The food was super as usual and Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy it too.

Chillin’ like Lemurs

Our final excursion turned out to be Antwerp (sadly the rest of my parents final week was spent with a very sick dog).

No trip to Antwerp is complete without a (only slightly lost) Kiwi guide.

We hit all of my favorite sights: the Cathedral, the Castle, the waterfront and of course the Grote Markt. My father was quite taken with our chosen lunch spot – Het Elfde Gebod (The Eleventh Commandment), affectionately known (by me and Di anyway) as the Saint’s Pub.

Inside the Eleventh Commandment

The Eleventh Commandment is a typical Dutch pub – it’s dark, it looks like it was built at the beginning of time and it is warn and well loved. There is one little thing that sets it apart – it is entirely filled with religious icons. There are flying cherubs, monks, saints and more Virgin Mary’s than you can shake a scepter at. Some may find it a bit creepy (I assure you I didn’t burst into flame), others may find it sacrilegious (but honestly it doesn’t seem to be poking fun at religion in any way) but I find it unique and rather amusing. Oh, and the food is really good too.

Inside the Cathedral

After a good long stroll about Antwerp, we hopped on the tram and out to the war cemetery. Mom wanted to see where her uncle was buried and I actually found it with very little trouble. (We didn’t have to jump any walls this time.)

After that trip, we went back to Di and Gert’s place for coffee and then hopped back on the train. (The train God’s had smiled upon me that day making me look like a Goddess of the Rails…) We made it home for a few low key days before my folks flew back across the ocean. (The coo-coo clock only caused minor problems at customs).

So here endeth the excitement of my parents visit. Andrew and I had a fantastic time hosting them. We never would have done half of the travels we did without them and we hope they were able to get a good sense of Europe and our new home. Hopefully we showed them enough to want to come back and see some of the things we didn’t have time for.

Thanks for coming Mom and Dad we had a fantastic time! xox

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Di

    Di May 17, 2006 at 18:43

    ‘Slightly lost’ but prepared to jog back and read that troublesome street sign 😉
    It was a nice day out though, and lovely meeting your parents.

  2. Comment by Mom

    Mom May 18, 2006 at 02:37

    Just want to thank you both for making our ‘trip of a lifetime’ absolutely wonderful. Alison, you did a fantastic job as trip planner and tour guide (even though you did give us some creative answers to our questions occasionally) Andrew was chauffeur and interpreter extraordinaire(although I admit to closing my eyes in some of the narrowest streets).Everyone asks what my favorite place was and I have to tell them that I loved them all, as every place was so different and lovely in its own unique way.Hope to get back again some day and explore each country more thoroughly. Thanks for putting up with us old folks for the month. Love you both.

  3. Comment by dARK sIDE dAD

    dARK sIDE dAD May 18, 2006 at 23:12

    We’re back … safe and as sound as can be expected! It was a great trip but pales in comparison to the Cornford’s most excellent yurapeen adventure. Soooo glad you all made it safely off the mountain and out of the dark forest and across the dam … has to be to the immeasurable credit of a guide-extraordinaire (I would quickly accept the “creative answers” comment in the preceeding review as highly complimentary!)! It bears repeating, it is wonderful to be able to share in your adventure, thank you! As the fog rolls up the harbour to shield us from the sun we have been finally been able to welcome, I bid “Adieu” to yieu! I go to dream of our own yurapeen vacation …….z.z.z.z.zz.zzz.zzzzz
    love to all
    dARK sIDE dAD

  4. Comment by Jay

    Jay May 19, 2006 at 23:25

    I love teh exhausted photo – after such a whirlwind trip, no wonder!

  5. Pingback: Belgium in Summer – 5 Things We Love | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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