Monday, 16 February 2009

High the Low Countries

And so here I am in Ghent, Belgium, in a loft apartment high up in the rooftops of the city.
I've never been here before. It looks, from here, like a dandy place.
For some reason I kinda just want to hole up here in Filipe's garret and not go anywhere at all. It's COLD out there!

I've written before about Filipe and Dick. They came to visit a time or two at The Peaceable since I started blogging, so I won't go into all the background: just enough to say I met Dick in 2001, whilst walking the Camino de Santiago, and we became friends. Dick lives and works in Gouda, Netherlands, where we spent the last couple of days luxuriating and eating, mostly. Filipe I met via Dick. Filipe is a scientist at the Gent University Hospital bioengineering genetics lab, and what he does is so cutting-edge arcane I cannot even remember what it's called. Filipe's probably the smartest person I know, and I still like him very well indeed in spite of that. And today he will show me 'round Ghent, and continue the Let's Feed Rebekah regimen evidently agreed-upon in advance.

Filipe is Portuguese. Portuguese have a rep all over Europe for being amazing cooks, and Filipe is no exception. Even his "simple pick-up" meals after a long drive south include minted peas, rutabaga-mascarpone puree, lamb chops in balsamic garlic reduction, chicory and olive salad... yeah. You get it. He loves cooking for an audience, and I am always willing to fill that role. And my tummy.

Today we're off in search of a stylin' haircut, a Van Eyck altarpiece called "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb," some Lambic beer, maybe some Juan Munoz sculpture they keep in an old monastery. They have monasteries and churches all over the place here, right up there with Spanish preponderances. Apparently Belgium was once a major center of Catholicism... and every city also had a Beguinage, a sort of non-binding religious house for widows and unmarried women who wanted to live independant of their brothers and fathers. Pretty revolutionary for 500 years ago.

But all I think about Belgium is summed-up in touristic impressions of great beer, waffles, chocolate, and, um... Hercule Peirrot, the detective. Nothing really springs to mind, does it? There's not even a mean name you can say that means "Belgian." I wonder how they managed to stay so under the radar.

Maybe I will report back later with impressions of the place. If I don't eat and drink and shop myself into a stupor first.


Johnnie Walker said...

Gosh Rebekah you get around! I thought winters were quiet affairs? Enjoy your visit - how long are you there for? I'm just leaving for Stanstead to fly to Santiago. Neither of us can complain. Enjoy :)

Anonymous said...

Spain has been described as 100% Catholic. For Belgium, make that 110% Catholic !

Don't miss epending a day in Brugge ! Give me a day's notice and I'll have a tour guide meet you!


Gary White said...

Makes my taste buds sit up and take notice. I'm eating food from those gourmet chefs at Whole Foods, braving maddening crowds to find it and driving everywhere. Oh, for our little rural Spanish town.

Gary White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bridget said...

Reb - here in the UK we revere another famous Belgian as well as Hercule Poirot - Herge (with an accent on the e) the originator of Tin-Tin, his dog Snowy and Captain Haddock.

Gent folks like to think their city is a wonderful as Brugge, only less preserved in aspic! They may be right!