Monday, June 16, 2008

Ghent, Belgium

Mills and I went for a random weekend away in Ghent, Belgium. A beautiful city with medival/renaissance buildings. You can really see the French and Dutch influence... literally, one building will look like a Parisian home, the next has a pointed roof and gables.

The historic centre is really small, but has about 4 cathedrals and a castle, so plenty to see on the weekend. Ghent is often done with a visit to Brugge as well, but we decidedly to just relax and enjoy Ghent (it is half an hour closer to Den Haag and Brugge is apparently the European equivalent of a tourist village, and therefore more crowded. Ghent is more 'authentic', sneer the locals...)

It really was lovely - we stayed in a hotel just across from Castle Gravensteen, which used to house the Counts of Flanders and various other VIPs from the 1100s on. Every room in the castle seems to have some historic link to torture, even the abbey was at one stage used to 'contain' and get confessions from prisoners. There was a whole collection of medieval torture tools that absolutely turned my gut. Naaaasty stuff.

Walking through town was pleasant enough, although the weather didn't help, with random downpours that lasted 10-20 minutes at time. We tried to avoid them by stopping for a bite or some coffee each time it started raining, but our attempts were foiled by the rain gods - it would generally stop raining just as our food had arrived, then start raining again 5 minutes after stepping off on our walking tour...

It did not help that I had beautifully straightened my hair that morning, in an attempt to look nice for our planned romantic dinner later that day. Please understand that straightening my hair is not something to be taken lightly. It requires pre-preparation and reliable weather forecasts. Downpours of rain that wet the hair, then dry patches where the weather warms up, followed by downpour and dry patch (rinse and repeat) adds frizz upon frizz layer to my carefully 'straightened' hair, until eventually I look like a frothy capaccino. This weather led to a mild princess fit on my behalf, where I went off to the hotel room to regroup and Mills went off in another direction (any where other than where I was going) and returned with a placative offering of Belgium chocolates. Clever boy.

The next day was more of the same - more gothic cathedrals and medieval revisiting. More dry weather mixed with thundershowers. The fact that we had an umbrella with us did little to help our relationship... as Confucious would say, "one brolley a couple half happy does make". Or something similar. When Mills was controlling the umbrella, I had to walk with my body at 45degree angles and when I was controlling the umbrella... well, it was perfect, but he was muttering something and I wasn't really listening.

As the sky got darker and the rain got heavier, we decided to make our way back to the hotel for the final time. With the umbrella pulled as close to our heads as possible (TOO close - I felt like the spokes were growing out of my spinal column), and both of us trying to walk in different directions around puddles and piles of horse and/or dog poo, we were not making ground quickly. About 100m from our hotel it really started tipping down and we found shelter underneath scaffolding set up along the road. It seemed a good enough option, and we certainly weren't alone in our sanctuary. I noticed that we were actually down a slope from the road and even remember thinking that it was amazing that there was no water running underneath our feet....

...with that the weather gods weighed in again. The wind changed direction and rain started slanting directly into us. We had no where to go but sideways, and were now getting just as wet as if we had been standing in the middle of the bloody square opposite us. And it was now starting to flood under our feet. Quickly.

As the wind whipped around us, the umbrella went tits up (literally) and we decided we had nothing for it but to run to the hotel. It was just around the corner. Mills and I took off, to the delight of onlookers, safe in their residential shelter. Bastards. Halfway across the square, it started to hail. Hard.

By the time we squelched into the hotel we looked like we had just swum up the nearby river. But I'm glad we could amuse the locals as we squelched and squealed our way across that sodden square in the mother of all hailstorms.

Belgium - good food, good chocolates, shit weather.


kop said...

It's water! Are you a witch?

Koekie said...

I melt like a sugar cube.

Anonymous said...

I love a really frothy capuccino!
Thanks for the laugh.
Jouma x

Little Big Sis said...

Happy Happy to the Gingerbeard Man!

Sounds like a fabulous weekend. The photo of the castle brought back memories of when we were in Ghent!