Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gent, Belgium

Fred and I went to Gent, Belgium Friday. It was a national holiday called "Dag na Hemelvaart," which means the Day After Hemelvaart. Hemelvaart is Ascension. That was Thursday. We had dinner plans with some people in the south of the country (this country) so we rented a car and drove down.

I liked Gent...sort of. I mean I enjoyed being there and walking around. The Center is pretty nice, although Fred told me that everything was rebuilt in the early 1900's for a World Expo, so the facades of the buildings are not really real, although I guess that makes them about a hundred years old. But they're supposed to look like they're original.

The big canal (shown above) is nice. Very idealic, very "must take a picture."

Of course there are also old churches, one of which we visited. I've never seen a church so packed with people. Usually it's just us and a few Japanese tour groups. this church was teeming with people looking and completely ignoring the signs that indicated that there were to be no pictures taken in certain parts of the church.

But the light in the church was really beautiful, so I had a very difficult time resisting, as evidenced by the picture above. It was so low and difuse that I had to (gently) set my camera on some cabinet that was hundreds of years old in order to get a good snap of this reclining Bishop, or whatever he is. If I stood holding my camera, it was a blurry mess (sort of like the light in Carlsbad Caverns. Ever been there?)

We ate at a pretty decent restaurant. I had "Rabbit the Flemish Way." Fred had a beef stew cooked in beer. In fact, my rabbit was cooked in beer with a mustard sauce. We also had a couple of Belgian beers each. I'd never eaten rabbit. You know how you know your way around a chicken from having eaten chicken for the past [your age here] number of years? I was sawing away on that rabbit and I realized that I was sort of thinking "chicken" while I was doing that. They're not even that close. It was a good meal, but the "art" on the walls was hideous. And the service was sort of so-so.

Unfortunately, I always think of Belgium as a little shabby. Gent was no exception. We had a fairly non-descript twenty minute walk from our hotel to the city center. Lots of buildings that need painting and sun bleached houses with a tram running down the center of the street. That said, I'd definitely go back. The Center was so nice that it makes it all worth it. Plus there's some really good chocolate to be had there.

I always think of my friend, Bruce, when I think of Belgium. He's Canadian and he always jokes that the word "Canada" comes from the Native American word, "acanaca" meaning "there is nothing."

Belgium is my new Canada.

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