Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Living In Leuven: Week 4 | Weekly Food Shop & A Day Trip to Ghent


The start of every week, for me, begins with a lot of errands to run. This week, I had to pop into the bank to sort my card as I didn't set it up properly (I'm blaming the non-English ATM's!). My landlord also sent me an email asking for rent to be paid the next again day, which caused a lot of panic and frantic messages back and forth to my Mum for advice on how to pay for it. Thankfully, one of her friends recommended 'Transferwise', a peer-to-peer overseas money transfer service. After a lot of researching I discovered that (in very basic terms) the company have bank accounts all over the world - if I put money into their UK bank account from my UK account, using the real exchange rate, they will put Euros into my Belgian bank account out of their Belgian account, thus avoiding international transaction fees. Clever, right?

Thankfully, I managed to complete all of my errands before I unexpectedly became unwell during the middle of this week. At this point, I really missed having someone around from home to make my meals and keep topping up my hot water bottle, but I managed nonetheless.

Albert Heijn/Waterview, Vaartkom
After being unwell for three days, I managed to completely empty the contents of my fridge and cupboards, so a food shop was essential. Luckily, there is both an ALDI and LIDL within a 10 minute walking distance, so I've been going there for my weekly/fortnightly food shop.

Any other items, especially branded products (Heinz ketchup, Ben&Jerry's etc.), I've been buying from Albert Heijn. Albert Heijn is actually situated in between the tower and beam of Waterview Residence. So, if I take the lift down to the car park, there's another lift there which actually takes me straight up to Albert Heijn without stepping foot outside (essential when I'm feeling and looking slightly worse for wear!).


I'm still trying to work out what I can manage to eat on a weekly basis, but I successfully managed to make my way through most of my food last week without any wastage. As you can probably tell from what I bought this week, I'm extremely lazy when it comes to cooking. I'm happy enough to boil some pasta or shove a pizza in the oven, but anything beyond that and I'm pretty useless.

I've been living on croissants/strawberries in yoghurt for breakfast, salami and mozzarella sandwiches for lunch and pasta/pizza/lasagne for dinner. Every week I'm slowly branching out with my food choices - this week I was really craving strawberries, so maybe next week I may actually incorporate some vegetables into my food shop. We'll see.


After weeks of struggling with the washing machines and almost always leaving De Wastrommel in a grumpy mood, something brilliant actually came out of it. I made a very good friend! Whilst having lunch in College De Valk (Law School), I recognised someone who I had helped with the washing machines the previous week. We instantly added each other on Facebook and have planned numerous trips together in the future - how cool is that?!

Saint Nicholas' Church, Ghent
Una added me to a Facebook group chat who were planning a trip to Ghent and we ended up visiting on Saturday. I invited one of my law friends I met last month and we ended up meeting 3 other students at the train station prior to leaving. Impromptu trips like these have definitely pulled me out of my shell - I would've never agreed to a day trip without knowing anyone else beforehand - and half of our group didn't know anyone and just came along for the fun of it! We also bumped into another group from Leuven whilst in Ghent and I had such a great time getting to know other people. The trip definitely encouraged me to join future day trips on my own and totally immerse myself in the student life here - what's the worst that could happen?

Ghent (or Gent, in Dutch), is a medieval city in the north-west of Belgium. I'm aware of Ghent University, so I assume it's another student city like Leuven. Visiting Ghent was up at the top of my to-do of places to visit whilst in Belgium.

Gravensteen, Ghent
Our smaller group decided to leave slightly later at 10am, instead of with the larger group at 8am, and we took the 1 hour train from Leuven to Ghent. I bought a Go Pass, which allows for 10 train journeys within Belgium for 50 euros. The Go Pass is definitely worth the money if you're planning on traveling longer distances - a single ticket to Ghent from Leuven would've cost 12 euros otherwise!

Upon arrival, we walked into the historical center and accidentally stumbled upon the Gravensteen. From afar, we were betting on whether the attraction was a city gate or a castle (I won - it's a castle!).

We paid a small fee and walked around the exhibitions in the castle. Most of the information next to the swords/armour etc. was in Dutch, so it wasn't really educational for me, but I did enjoy looking at all the torture instruments and tools nonetheless.

Belfry of Ghent
After stopping for soup and a sandwich at a local cafe, we met up with the larger group who recommended we visit Saint Nicholas' Church. The church inside was absolutely stunning - it reminded me of Westminster Abbey with the rooms inside, closed with large metal gates. There was also an underground exhibition with robes and armour on display. There was no entrance fee and I thoroughly enjoyed taking photos and appreciating the stunning architecture - definitely a must see!

Korenmarkt, Ghent
It was fairly misty for most of the day in Ghent. As you can see from the photo above, it made the city look very eery and accentuated its medieval architecture. I also noticed the weather is dramatically changing in Belgium as a whole. I travelled to Ghent in a long sleeved shirt thinking it would be fine after spending the day before walking around Leuven with only a T-shirt on (typical Brit!) - it's absolutely freezing now! I'm not sure how the weather has changed so quickly, but my priority next week is to purchase a Winter jacket.

We rounded off the day trip with a quick drink in a bar before heading back to Leuven. I arrived back to my room beaming with happiness after having such a lovely day with new people in new surroundings. I say this every week, but things are only getting better here and I have (yet again) booked another trip next week! This time I'm going with ESN (Erasmus Student Network), so it'll be interesting to see how an organised trip is in comparison.
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