11th December


Today was a purely tourist day with no commemorations or visits relevant to the war. We caught the train to Ghent early in the morning, succesfully negototiating a change of trains at Kortrijk, and arrived to meet my friend Patrick at the station. Patrick and his family were Hamish and my hosts when we were billeted out in the 2006 trip. We have kept in contact since then and Patrick now lives in Ghent. He suggested I bring the group to his historic home, and he would be our guide for the day. We started with a short 5km walk from the station to the centre of the town. After a quick orientation people went to find some lunch, then some were game enough to climb the ancient bell tower for a scenic view of the whole city. Others took the opportunity to satisfy their addiction to shopping. The town centre has many significant buildings and hosts three world heritage areas. It is certainly worth a visit if you get the chance. We all then went for look at the medieval castle that dominates the centre of the town. Some of the boys were looking less than enthusiastic about this until Patrick mentioned the torture museum, and then all seemed keen to have a look. From there we walked quite some distance to the Market square where there was ice skating and other amusements. Ghent is a university town and has over 70000 students living there. We walked through the student dominated area as we made our way to the markets and this area of the town was certainly more vibrant and lively than other parts. Although none of the students took up the chance to ice skate, we did watch some old folks being pushed around the ice on the wheel chairs. Some went on the rides, while others, you guessed it, went shopping!!! We then walked back to the station through a few parks. whene we arrived at the station Patrick told us that our scheduled train was delayed and if we waited for it we would not make our connection at Kortrijk. We checked timetables and decided to take the next available train which was also late and therefore had not left yet. We jumped on board tht one and slowoly made our way. It arrived in Kortrijk about 10 minutes later the expected and we didn't make our connection. the nexttrain was about 50 miniutes away, so we had a freezing wait on the platform, but eventually the train came and we made our way back to to Ieper. Just another 15 minute walk and we were back in the cantre of the town, where everyone raced to the takeaway for a hot meal!!!.

To December 12th