Getting to Ghent, meeting new friends and old!
The greetings were warm as we entered Shearings coach interchange in Normanton, West Yorkshire. A very early start, cool but dry outside. Rain was forecast later but now the sun shone. It shines a lot here in God’s own country!
Our cases were taken from us as soon as we arrived, not to be seen again until we reached our hotel. Destination later today Ghent. Our trip “Bruges and the Dutch Bulbfields”.
A good journey down. Comfortable, clean coach and adequate leg room. One “dash and splash stop ” on the way and then we arrived at the busy Hythe Interchange (stop 24) in Kent. This modern facility has all you need to while away time until the feeder coaches from across the UK arrive.
Wife Babs and I had a lovely surprise when we bumped into two of our closest friends – Janys and Ian – from Doncaster. They too were off on a Shearings tour. Not having seen a lot of them since our New Year dance it was great to catch up with all the gossip. We said our goodbyes as they set off before us. Another surprise when we met again on the Dover to Calais ferry. Laughing and chatting made the journey “sail by”.
The Holiday Inn Ghent Expo was our base for the trip. This is a lovely modern hotel, 15 minutes outside of Ghent centre. Check in was surprisingly easy. All staff on reception were very attentive and polite as you would expect of a four star hotel. High life in the Low Countries.
Our room was lovely. Spotlessly clean. Spacious and light. Modern wood furniture complimented the room. A massive TV and plenty of storage and hanging space. A beautiful bathroom, bath with shower above, bathrobes too. Superb! Five minutes after checking in our cases duly arrived-very efficient. I couldn’t master the coffee machine even when following the step by step colour picture guide. No point going to the massive IKEA just across the hotel car park then. Our room looked down onto the showpiece of the hotel-the covered atrium, glass-roofed, and where the meals were served. Elegant, breezy and bright.
A quick shower and then our self-service meal was served at 8.30 PM. The soup was hot and enjoyable though none of us could identify the flavour. Plenty of different bread rolls to choose. A well-stocked salad bar too. Hot choices, fish or kebab. We chose the pork which was tasty. Three choices of dessert. Help yourself. Try all three if you wish – which I did. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate to follow – as much as you wanted.
I tried the local Ghent “Gruut “beer. Looking like a by-product from a mad scientist’s all night experiment in the lab it duly arrived. Cloudy beyond belief ! Similar to the home brew Dad used to make. He never quite got it right. I sent it back but was told that it was meant to look like this.
It is always great to meet fellow travellers. Our group was small in number – 26. A general mix of Brits abroad. The Shrewsbury 4 were great to be with. As were Rick and Carol and John and Nora. We spent most evenings with them, chatting, laughing and swapping travel tales.
There is always a “know it all” on every trip. Fortunately he was sitting five rows behind us on the coach with his long-suffering wife – who wore the same cardigan every day. She couldn’t finish a sentence before he butted in. Highly critical too about everything.
Another couple “Posh and Becks” sat at the back of the coach. They sat alone, ate alone in the hotel and spoke to no one! Always last to get off the coach, they never showed any emotions at all.
Juliette was petite, single and from down “sarf” Living in a twee bungalow in two and a half acres, with a gardener called Pedro and a house rabbit called Peter, probably as tall as her. By the end of the holiday everyone on the coach and in Flanders knew about her dodgy painful knee. Yet she was always up first for the buffet. Still looking for her Romeo. But at 85 she had probably missed the boat-as she almost did with our coach in Bruges.
Eric wore a flat cap , morning noon and night and probably in the bath as well. He had a small holding in Littlehampton. You just knew he would! He wore two watches on his left wrist. One with a black strap and one brown. Both told the same time. He clearly had too much time on his hands!
The two Scottish couples from Dumfries and Galloway were lovely. Incidentally they spoke highly of Shearing’s Portpatrick hotel.
We are sorry to advise that the Specialist Leisure Group, which includes Shearings, entered administration on 22 May 2020. If you have booked a holiday with Shearings, or you have any questions please visit the Shearings website.