Ganda, meaning ‘river mouth’ is the old Celtic name for Ghent whose origin is at the confluence of the two rivers Scheldt and Leie
Discovering Belgium means stopping by several minor cities, like Ghent. There, Ganda Rooms & Suites is nestled in the city-centre. «Ganda, meaning ‘river mouth’ is the old Celtic name for Ghent whose origin is at the confluence of the two rivers Scheldt and Leie, just a street away from us», explain Annik and Kristof, the hotel owners. Stepping out of this 18th century town house, visitors can reach the main landmarks of the city.
This house has been transformed into a hotel, counting eight rooms and suites that differ in colours, size and comforts. Hosting Belgian objects and furniture, the original authenticity, however, has been preserved: some rooms maintained the original chimney, others an antique wooden truss or patio to relax. But this very local atmosphere has an international appeal. «A Californian couple booked two nights but stayed for ten, cancelling their other visits in Europe», remember the owners. «A group of Russian home interior designers is always excited to stay with us and use Ganda as a starting point for their search tour for antiques in the whole of Belgium».
Annik and Kristof’s tale.
We met in 2012 and quickly decided to move in together in Ghent, having the idea to start our own business in the hospitality field. We both still had our job as employees in totally different businesses and we were both longing for independency. With Annik’s lifetime experience in the hospitality industry and Kristof’s experience in financial and project management, we decided to found our hotel and look for the ideal building to welcome guests in this beautiful historic city.
After a 9-month search period in 2013-2014 we came across a magnificent eighteenth century Manor House of over 400 square meters, already on sale for over a year waiting for us. Situated in a quiet street just around the corner of Saint-Jacobs church, this house with multiple authentic 18th and 19th century features would be the heart of our hospitality business, welcoming guests from all over the world in Ganda Rooms & Suites. The house as such was generally in good conditions but not good enough to welcome guests. It did not need much restructuring, but a lot of build-up and replacements.
We set up a project of renovation ourselves, without architects and without designers. We managed to finish the renovation in four months, so that we were ready to open up for our first guests in March 2015. Around this time, we contracted a bathroom specialist and added six modern bathrooms. We also completely renovated the electrical and plumbing systems, replaced the eighteen windows with high-quality wooden windows, and built a majestic staircase to the second floor. We also added all necessary fire-resistant material (doors, under the wooden floors…) but with great respect for the authentic material.
It was an eclectic process: gathering from grandparents, on auctions, in outlets like Flamant, commissioning tailor-made furniture and beds… We handpicked ourselves the finest wallpaint colours from the designer company Flamant, choosing almost different nuances for each room that still remain in perfect harmony.
The most important objective for us is to have our guests experience a special stay in a unique authentic place like Ganda, from where they can easily visit the historic but also dynamic city of Ghent. At arrival, we welcome them personally at the entrance and show them around the house –the guest salon, the honesty bar, the roof terrace, the breakfast area–, we provide them with a city guide, and if they wish we recommend and reserve for them our favourite restaurants, bars, activities. In their room, guests find a note with welcoming words, usually in their language or in English, and the local specialty cuberdons, called red noses, a cherry-like tasting sweet.
Our guest salon in the Flamant bleu-grey baleine colour, situated in the middle of the house on the first floor has a seventeenth century chimney, has a tailor made sofa and armchair, a rust-red seat from Annik’s grandfather, a Flamant salon and buffet table, still life paintings by the Dutch painter Pieter Knor, an owl and –worry not– dead piranhas on the chimney, a library full of art books especially from the Dutch and Flemish history. We offer an honesty bar in a black Smegg fridge full of Belgian beers, wines and soft drinks. The buffet always has coffee, a selection of teas and different home-made appetizers like cakes or macarons.
We have a big black guest book, offered by Annik’s father Paul, in which our guests describe their experience and leave reviews in different languages –Japanese, Chinese and most of the European languages. A lovely Russian couple left their books for our library. Sitting in our armchair, a famous Dutch writer wrote a personal text for one of our best friends Ann, who has read all his books at least twice. A famous saxophone player and his wife have already been our guests three times and once gave us a signed copy of his new jazz group’s album. Most artists, from painters to sculptors, whose works we expose in Ganda have presented about their artworks at the hotel.
Multiculturality is of utmost importance. Ganda offers the enriching experience of meeting great and interesting people from all over the world. One thing we adore ourselves, when we go on holiday, is to discover the uniqueness of the local culture. This is why we focus on books, guides and magazines that can illustrate to our guests the local history of Ghent, Belgium, Flanders and the Netherlands.
As we’ve gained extensive experience in the hospitality management field, we are considering the idea of offering a consulting service to small-scale start-ups like boutique hotels, bed & breakfasts and holiday homes.