Published on July 28th, 2020 | by James Drew0
Staycationing this year? Try messing about on the river in Gent
Summer is upon us so thoughts naturally turn to hazy, lazy days out, the unpredictable Belgian weather permitting, of course, writes Martin Banks.
This summer, of course, is not like any other in living memory.
The crippling health pandemic, that is still spreading chaos, has sparked a renewed interest in that catchy phrase: the ‘staycation’.
To those unfamiliar with the concept, staycation, or holistay, is a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance of their home and does not require overnight accommodation.
With the imposition of travel quarantines in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, the surge in support for a staycation here in Belgium has never been stronger.
If you are among those planning to holiday at home in Belgium this summer, you will no doubt be looking for things to do to keep you (and the kids maybe!) occupied.
There´s nothing better when the sun is out than messing about on the river and, despite being landlocked, Gent offers some particularly great opportunities to indulge yourself.
With the Minerva boat company, you can rent a boat for different periods, be it an hour, half a day or whole day. You don´t require a boating license or experience so anyone over 18 years of age can take advantage of this excellent offer which is great fun and good value for money.
In easy-to-navigate and well appointed boats, you´ll peacefully pass beautiful gardens as well as the painter´s villages of St Martens-Latem and Deurle, as well as the historic centre of Gent itself. You will not encounter any swing bridges en route and qualified staff provide all the necessary info and advice.
The company has been run for several years by local man Andy De Kegel, who, like so many others in the industry, have had to adapt to the “new norm.”
That means each boat now has to be thoroughly cleaned every time it has been used. The welcoming lounges which used to greet customers at the entrance on Coupure Rechts, just a short walk from central Gent, have been removed so as to promote social distancing.
People are also asked to wash their hands on arrival and departure and also provide their ID card.
Andy lost out substantially, as so many others did, when the confinement started and has only relatively recently been allowed to restart the business. Andy will stay open, 7/7, until early November when he closes for a winter break which allows him to give all the boats a full maintenance.
The business, this year, is not seeing quite so many tourists as in the past but, given the travel restrictions in place still, that is to be expected.
Even so, there has been a surge in interest from people here in Belgium, including during midweek days when business is traditionally quieter.
That is a clear sign of the big increase in staycation holidays here this year.
Andy has 26 boats which range from a standard, four-seater to the largest which can hold up to ten people.All customers are given a full explanation of the rules and regulations they must observe before they set out on their journey. This includes having to navigate in the centre of the river so as to avoid any river debris which can accumulate along the banks.
Beware: Any wrongdoing on the river can easily be spotted by the police river patrols that regularly go up and down the waterways.
So, if you are looking for a great day out on the waterways of Gent, give it go – you won’t be disappointed!