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OK, I've had enough. Never again drive in Gent

I've been driving (and taking the train) to Gent for over a dozen years. I've seen the redevelopment of the Korenmarkt, the redevelopment of the south, the redevelopment and building of the new strange building near the Belfort in what used to be the easiest and most convenient car park in the whole town.

Every project - and there are always two or three at a time - means major disruption and inconvenience to both visitor and resident alike.

Yesterday I wanted to pop in so that I could visit my favourite chocolatiers anywhere and buy my bride a box of their masterpieces.

This isn't a difficult place to find, right by the Belfort, and I know my way around the town pretty well by now, and I know the Vrijdagmarkt and other good places. Yesterday even the orange detour signs which so blight the town had crossouts on them with new even more convoluted detours above, below, to the side, or (often) missing altogether.

What should have been a simple 20 to 30 minutes took over 2 hours.

I have never seen the place in such a mess. One local shopkeeper I spoke to said that it is killing trade and making her very worried.

It is not only in the centre but as far as the medical centre.

That's my last trip into Gent by car - maybe at all - until they straighten out the mess.

Moral of the story - Gent is a beautiful place with a great feeling and with my most favourite chocolates by a mile, but it is not worth visiting by car, and maybe if you are on foot take extra care around the works.

Posted by
2051 posts

Thank you for the heads' up, Nigel. But more importantly, were you able to get your bride a box of chocolates?

Posted by
1683 posts

Nigel - sorry for the hassle yesterday. There are more projects coming so a spontaneous visit to Gent can turn easily in a very inconvenient experience. Detour signs....sometimes I can laugh about it, but sometimes.....
The local shopkeepers are right to be worried, it is not unusual shops become bankrupt as the works make them less easier to reach and therefore clients stay away. Even their most well known writer in town Herman Brusselmans complained about the roadworks too in Gent on a tv show last week, so you are not alone. But Van Hoorebeeke must be very honoured with a dedicated costumer like you, I hope the chocolates despite all the effort had made your day.

Posted by
700 posts

Whaaat! If such a circumstance can happen to Nigel....... (never drive in cities!) Sorry, for that frustrating experience, Nigel.

Posted by
28108 posts

Thanks, guys.

How did you know where I was, Wil?

Yes, they are phenomenal. The chocolate is so fine and so thin, the fillings so perfect, so melt in the mouth, so perfect.

We stopped near Lille on the way from Switzerland and the Schwarzwald on the way home, and drove to Gent just for the choccies.

The art works were to celebrate our 37th anniversary of the day we first met - both volunteering at a pledge drive (actually an auction) at KERA in Dallas.

Posted by
1683 posts

Just guessing :-) ,well you raved about their choccies in one of your earlier posts.

Posted by
5573 posts

I understand Nigel's frustration. On the other hand, my own country, the U.S. refuses to invest in infrastructure updating and improvements, because it requires levying ... gasp! ... taxes. So we have crumbling bridges, potholed streets, and missing parking garages (because older civic garages were sold to developers for one-time revenue gains, by short-sighted legislators.)

In recent years, the historic center roads in Leuven and Turnhout (just to pick the few places I know about and like ... ) have be completely dug up to build parking and improvements for the future health and growth of those cities.

I agree that small merchants suffer in the interim. And replacing them, later, with hideous international chains leaves you with interchangeable cities that have no reason to visit them. But as long as people (and I fault my fellow Americans, especially) want the freedom of their mighty steel steed ... a trap America fell into after WW II ...

Belgium, and other countries, are falling into the trap we did, that the car is king. I never drive to Gent, I take the train. It would be better if the lines for rail tickets were shortened, and (like at Centraal Station in Brussels) improvements were made to outdated stations. But politicians with chauffeurs, and businesspeople with drivers, control decision-making.

Posted by
351 posts

I'm sorry Nigel had such an annoying experience, but on the bright side I now have an addition to my chocolate shopping list! :-D

Posted by
3486 posts

Nigel , we spent the day in Gent today , and see what you mean about the redevelopment work . While a pain in the ... , Tim is right . Here in the States , it's a disaster . The brilliant governor of New Jersey managed to put the kibosh on a much needed rail tunnel under the Hudson River five years ago . The existing tunnels are a disaster waiting to happen , as they are 120 years old , and are sorely in need of electrical and structural upgrades . On the bright side , we stopped and bought chocolates today at your favorite place and they are patiently awaiting apres dinner .

Posted by
3486 posts

Dinner has come and gone , the box of chocolates is diminished by several , and my wife has an expression similar to Bernini' s Saint Theresa ;-)

Posted by
28108 posts

told ya that they were pretty good.

My wife says we should have brought home a bigger box....

Posted by
504 posts

Where were you driving from? Your profile says you live in England.

Posted by
28108 posts

Yes, we regularly drive into Europe from home in the East Midlands (Northamptonshire).

It is pretty easy, just drive up to the Eurotunnel entry near Folkestone, drive straight onto a train, sit back for 35 uneventful minutes, and drive off in Coquelles for an easy 90 minute drive to Gent. Brugge is even closer.

It is a tough job, but as I can I do. Somebody's got to do it....

Posted by
1683 posts

Gent is not an easy place to navigate through as there are a few two-way main streets, the rest meaning most, a lot though are one-way. So roadworks in one place can easily effect the route to follow, so how to drive around and easily get lost. As a regular visitor I know there are redevelopement works for over thirty years now and have to say that the city has really improved very much. In some places the city was literally a smelly dump like the Koren- and Graslei, neighbourhoods like Patershol were in decay. Cleaning up buildings and canals, building underground parking lots, the illumination plan, making the place more pedestrian friendly and so on has made Gent the attractive place now as we know. But they do the improvements step by step, meaning there are constantly projects going on, giving constantly inconvenience and have to agree for that unpleasant suprises occur.

Nigel - I guess you drove into Gent via the E17 – N422 (Koning Albertpark/ Gent-Zuid) – Keizer Karelstraat – Sint Jacobsnieuwstraat to parking lot Vrijdagsmarkt. You can also park the car in Gent-Zuid (+tram or bus) or closer to the Belfry in parking Reep (Seminariestraat) near the backside of the cathedral. And on sundays you can park the car for free on the street, this info in case you get back the motivation to come. If you can make a detour Lille – Gent – Coquelles......

Posted by
28108 posts

Yes, Wil, that's right.

I doesn't help when the P-route is part of the mess.....

I don't know how to go to Reep anymore, but that would have been my choice.

Posted by
1683 posts

Driving north through Keizer Karelstraat and after passing P-route sign “Reep” you have to turn left into the Lange Boomgaardstraat, quite a narrow inconspicuous one-way street. After 50m first (must) turn right into Seminariestraat, entrance parking lot direct around the corner at your right hand side, don’t miss it. The P-route sign on the sidewalk (Keizer Karelstraat) can easily be obscured by a parked lorry, so studying google streetview before can be very helpfull to orientate.
Exit of the parking lot is close to the end of the same street, turn left to drive to Brabantdam. There left to next crossing, turn right into first street (Kuiperskaai) directly on the right hand following green signs E17 – E40.

You can still go to Vrijdagmarkt. After Sint-Jacobsnieuwstraat you have to drive along the eastside of the church “over” the roundabout to Ottogracht. Turn left into Baudelostraat, despite driving the “wrong direction” you are aloud going to the entrance of the underground parking lot. Leaving the parking turn left for going back to Baudelostraat, Ottogracht etc. You can follow the above route along Lange Boomgaardstraat to get out of Gent.

All in all with that maze of one-way streets (and all those signs too!) makes Gent a bit complicated though and it’s very easy to get lost if you make a mistake or come across an obstacle. I understand your doubt to drive into Gent the next time.