Bet you didn't know that "ghent" in old French means "glove." They used to make those here, evidently.
It's not stopped raining since I arrived in Ghent, but I'm still getting around plenty. Everything is in easy walking distance and everything is charming. There are streets and streets of little shops that sell bread and cheese, milk and mussels and omigod-quality salad ingredients. The veg is amazing, probably due to the great acres of greenhouses that glow along the rural horizons. We ate a gang of those greens, grilled, for our dinner last night.
It's not all green perfection out there. Coming into the city we passed a huge coalyard and several refineries and truck and train depots -- under the gray sky it was a rather dreary New Jersey kind of place, but without the drifts of just plain litter that plague The Garden State. The Bad Part of Town is the usual gaggle of sagging two-story walkups and Doner Kebab shops, bars and lottery-ticket agent type places. (Probably a few bookies too, I bet.) Lots of immigrants, lots of people sitting on doorsteps. Still, no litter. It may be scruffy, but it's not dirty.
Once you get into the city you see what all that industry and outlying poverty is supporting -- it's a fabulous tourist offering, full of shimmering canals, charming bridges, inlaid-marble churches, and thriving shops. Yeah, there are a few big media department stores and clothing retailers, but most are little boutique offerings, in storefronts dating back to the 1700s. They specialize.
And yesterday morning we went shopping. I bought handmade mustard in the mustard shop, postcards in a curiosity shop that's crowded with angels and erotic French postcards, spices in the amazingly fragrant spice shop, drinks in a bar with a chandelier made of Barbie doll parts. Other shops we looked in, but I didn't buy. Like the lace place. Beautiful curtains and nightgowns, as well as tea-table fitments with little froufrou pockets for your knife, fork, and spoon, little ties to keep your napkin from unfolding at the wrong moment (I hate when that happens!), even tiny embroidered hats to keep your boiled egg warm and cozy. Somehow I must find a way to keep living without one of those.
Still I bought way too much stuff to get home in my single carry-on bag. What will I do, I wonder? (RyanAir's already cheesed me off by charging me an extra 10 Euro each leg of my trip... their way to quietly soaking everyone who dares to fly with them who is not a European passport holder. To check a bag costs some obscene amount, measured by weight. )
Everyone here speaks at least three languages, including beauticians, shop clerks, and small children. America has not excuse for ripping-off its children so sorely and educating them so poorly in languages.
And now I am back out to spend some quality time with The Mystical Lamb. Photos will be added when I get home.
I go home tomorrow. I am ready. I miss Paddy!