canalWell following 6 months attempting to complete my law degree at the University of Ghent in Belgium I thought it was about time to do a wee update. You may note that for a few months the Sabato blogs have been rather quiet (using the whip and chain on my parents was a challenge from Europe it seems, don't worry though I'm with them for a couple of months now so the pressure will be on).

I lived in the very heart of 'studentville' in the Flemish city of Ghent. The city centre is beautiful with a large canal and gorgeous old buildings and every time I walked through the heart of the city both in the last sun of September and the snow of January I marveled at just how stunning it was. I wouldn't myself describe Ghent or Belgium as a culinary destination, however there are many great places and things to try when you visit. Therefore in combination with my wonderful exchange student friends (who I already really miss) we have compiled a list of 'must-tries'...

waffle1) Fries, Waffles and Chocolate

Skip the fries, I didn't try any that were amazing. Sampling fresh handmade chocolates in Belgium is rather fun, most do not compare to Valrhona, however if you are limiting your intake the one you must have is Neuhaus's violet. Also try a choc-o-lait hot chocolate stick, this company is based in Ghent. Belgian waffles were rather amazing, go to Mokabon (one of the only cafes where you can actually drink the coffee) and have a waffle and a coffee.

2) Beer

Beer really is something special in Belgium, there are so many to choose from and many local people as well as bar staff are happy to talk about them (a special mention to Tomas Dec who works at Club Reserva who introduced us to our first beer and had a huge knowledge base). Recommendations from my beer loving friends include - Tripel Karmeliet, Duvel, Westmalle, Orval and Leffe Blonde.

bar3) Bars

If you would like to get wild with the local 18 year olds in Overpoort then try out mine and my friend Chad's favourite Twitch (no, seriously don't - but if you want a 'cultural experience' which rivals Castle Street in Dunedin then try out this street any night of the week or even worse any morning). In the far nicer city centre go to Dreupelkort(the only remaining Jenever bar in Ghent which only serves drinks in shot form with a very entertaining owner), Hot Club de Gand, Bierhuis and Club Reserva (not only great drinks and atmosphere, also try the hot chocolate).

4) Eating Out

Ghent is a huge advocate of vegetarianism so eating well can be done by following this. Try Balls and Glory, Wasbar (do your washing in style and try their food on a Sunday morning, also one of the places to have drinkable coffee in Ghent) and for traditional Stoverij go to Du Progres.


Favourite find: Try Ghent's Tierenteyn Mustard from 1790. Go to the cute little shop and get the freshly made mustard from a barrel in your choice of jar size. It is really hot and flavoursome and beats Dijon hands down. It must be stored in the fridge.

My suggestion if you do go to Ghent is to get on your bike and grab some good international friends (Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and Spain would be my countries of choice thus far) and go and sit by the gorgeous canal and enjoy the most beautiful part of the city by day and night.

By Helen Dixon. Photos credited to Veronika Bekefy and Giles Davenport.