Sunday, July 4, 2010

We (heart) Gent Belgium part 1

FYI-if you know us or if we ever have the pleasure to meet warned if you consider extending an invitation to your home or country-we will most likely take you up on the offer. Take Goedroen and Harry for example. This is how it all went down. 
When: New Year's Eve night 
Where: Marrakech, Morocco 
Who: Goedroen, Harry, and their two children
The Situation: In walks a family and they are seated next to us. I observe them for a short bit and it looks like they are having the time of their lives. I was in a friendly mood so I stood up and walked over to their table and we started chatting about our respective trips. Goedroen tells me that they were from the greatest city in the world and pulled out a picture of snow covered medieval buildings alongside a canal. I was interested and maybe it was the wine but she casually mentioned that we should come and visit and wrote down her name on a torn scrap of a riad flier and told me to Facebook her. After a little research of her city of Gent, Belgium we were sold. On the way back to the states Ana and I agreed to take a side trip to visit them and what a trip it was...          
Mexico has Tecate and Belgium has Jupiler, an everyday favorite agmongst the locals. Harry, Goedroen, and Ana taking in the evening.  

The first night was cold and the sun was hiding behind low laying clouds. The shops had closed between five and six and life on the streets was sparse. It was decided that we would catch the South Africa vs Uruguay match in the square between Saint Bavo's Cathedral and Belfort/Belfry of Gent before hitting a handful of establishments, which meant a crash course on Belgium's finest offerings. One of the goals was to try the six Belgium Trappist beers that are brewed by Trappist monks. The breweries include: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Unlike in the states, it would be considered uncivilized to consume the brew straight from the bottle and thus each brand is accompanied by its' own goblet. For a more comprehensive listing and tasting notes on the Trappist beers please click here   

Orval on tap was next on the list while Goedroen enjoyed her bottle of Export.
Goedroen and Harry introduced us to their friends and local haunts-Bal Infernal, there was a live acoustic band finishing their set as we walked in. The setting was low key and friendly. Their stain glass window says it all. After a couple of beers we were off to the third and final stop-Charlatan which by the way have amazing and unorthodox graphics for their weekly events fliers. We took a photo of one and decided that it might not be suited for Camels and Tacos but if you really want to see it you can always e-mail me.  

Enjoying a bottle of Affigem at the Charlatan. It was a quite evening but we heard that is generally packed and a favorite in Gent. 

Goedroen and Harry's flat is located on the edge of Kouter Square and the literature states that it was a site of military parades and jousting during the middle ages. We missed the Sunday weekly flower market and the live music. Also located in the square behind the gazebo is Handelsbeurs concert hall (built in the 18th century). FYI this photo was taken around 10pm after a meal of Frieten (Belgium fries).   

The sun refused to cooperate the following day as well, but we made the best of it by hitting the streets. The above area is Gent's city center; the water of the Leie is lined on both sides with buildings from the Middle Ages. On sunny afternoons the banks are lined with groups of students and adults enjoying conversation and libations accompanied by light snacks. 


A window from the Carmelite Monastery

Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts). The original structure was made of wood during the 9th Century. The current stone structure was constructed during the 12th Century by Philip of Alsace. During our tour it was said that Gent begun renovation in the late 19th century and we don't know when it was completed or if it was, but there is evidence that crews are still working on the castle. It seems to be partially surrounded by a moat.

Views from the top.

Ana checking for flying saucers.

Another view from the top.

We checked in our IDs for a handheld video guided tour, which amounted to a 45-minute Middle Ages period sitcom of scandalous and cheeky commentary of the different rooms in the castle. Aside from the rooms that displayed the weaponry and body armor, there were execution and torture rooms.    

Waterboarding v 1.0

This is my ideal of a serial killer mask..."come here precious..."

All those executions and tortures can work up a mean thrust. 250 brands of beer conveniently located across the castle. 

Yours truly.

We love the buildings.

The real deal-a Belgium Waffle.

Yes-Gent is amazing
Stay tuned for Part 2