We start today with a stop in Ghent. We are fortunate to have been able to get on the tour to the Van Hecke Chocolaterie to learn how to make fine Belgian chocolate. This family run business is now in its fourth generation with a father, mother and son running the operation. The dock is a little ways from the city center so we are bussed to and dropped off near the Cloth Hall and the new subway station.
We meet our guide and are led several blocks to the Van Hecke's shop. They are expecting us (about 16) and we are given hair nets and led back into the tiny kitchen/work area. For the next 1 ½ hours we are shown the process for making one of their specialty chocolates and given the opportunity to try our hand at various the steps. When it is all over, including the tasting, most of us purchase samples to take with us back to the boat.
From here, we walk to our buses
and head for Bruges, a World Heritage Site. It takes about an hour to get to this "Venice of the North." Bruges is a very popular tourist area and is packed with tourist today. We were here back in 2006 and loved it. The bus drops us off outside the old city walls in a purpose built parking area complete with very nice restrooms. We meet our walking tour guide there; an older man who really should find a new job. He leads us into the walled city on the opposite side from where we stayed last time and we see a lot we did not see the first time staring with the Begijnhof with its flower filled courtyard and quaint old church.
The guide is a bit of a Nazi and is really pushing the group. After a visit to the Church of Our Lady, we decide to bail,
so get instructions where and when to meet back up for the canal boat ride at the end of the tour. We strike out on our own and by 2PM we are foot sore and thirsty. We stop at a small, sidewalk café along one of the canals for some refreshment and people watching.
From there we head to the Grote Markt and the City Hall for some pictures. In a little ally on the way, Carolyn spies a a lace shop where she buys two fabulous antique Belgium lace table cloths and a couple of small souvenir items including some lace Christmas ornaments for Dana. The Grote Markt is packed today, but we get some nice pictures as it is a beautiful afternoon.
It is almost time to meet up for the canal boat ride so we head that way. It isn't to hard to find and we have time for a coke before the group arrives. Again this is something we did before, but it is fun to see the city again from a boat.
After the ride we head back to the bus and then on to the boat arriving about 6:30 just in time for cocktails. It has been a great, but very busy day! Peter (he is so funny) does another short talk on the next stop and we head to dinner....tonight it is a Belgium dinner. These themed dinner have been surprisingly good...last time we remember the food was all white! The soups have been very tasty with two to chose from each night including several fruit soups which Carolyn loves. Tonight's entertainment is a Belgium desert buffet in the lounge. It looks good, but we ate a dessert with dinner so we pass in favor of a good book. At 10PM we sail for Willemstad 64 miles away.