Friday, October 24, 2008

Shopping in Ghent, Belgium

Belgium compared to the Netherlands is a shopper’s sanctuary. There are more choices, better of course, and many popular designer shops abound. Moreover, the women in Belgium are better dressed than their counterparts in the Netherlands. The petite Belgians as compared to the gigantic Dutch women are in my opinion classier, elegant, and feminine.

Of course, it is not complete visiting Ghent without a souvenir foto, there must be! This is taken in Veldstraat shopping street and if I am not mistaken that is the Sint Bavo Cathedral at my back. Thanks Rich for taking this foto!

In Holland, I only see stylish women in moneyed suburbs, posh little villages, PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam and in Maastricht, but in Belgium these women with the élan touch are everywhere. They strut the busy streets of Ghent from 9 to 5 and till later. I just love to see well dressed women around me and I can’t help but admire these Belgian women, they absolutely have finer tastes in fashion.

Ghent (Gent) as a city is also very pretty; she is like a well dressed Belgian woman! I do not understand though why Ghent is often regarded as second choice by travelers opinion in travel forums over romantic Bruges (Brugge). Bruges is overly touristy and having been to both towns, I think I would prefer Ghent. She has this special allure and magnetic mystery in her. The old Graslei harbour is my favorite. The panoramic line up of beautiful and impressive medieval buildings is one great sight to behold.

The Graslei Harbour, a very popular attraction in Ghent. Boat tours starts from here too.

Biking is an everyday activity in the Flanders region which also bears the same flat landscape just like the Netherlands.

The buildings in Ghent are very similar to the Dutch architecture. Given the bond of history, Flanders or Belgium was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands until 1830 when the Kingdom of Belgium was born and separated from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The façade of the structures and the “trapgevel” are very familiar, you see the same thing as you go about in Holland, however there is a French flair into it, in the art work details, which makes the buildings very uniquely Belgian manner. You don’t see such type of art in France or in the Netherlands.

More fotos of Ghent here: Ghent, Belgium

For those who read the news dutifully, you might be aware that Belgium is currently torn apart by a serious national crisis: a country divided by two cultures and two languages, Flemish (Dutch speaking in the north) and Walloons (French speaking in the south) that resulted into not having an official government for more than a year already. Check BBC for more information.

Mrs. Rich and I having our warm choco and coffee drink. I like this cafe because they have plaids that you can drape your body or cover your lap as it was a bit chilly day.

The Belfry Tower, one of the striking structures in Ghent that dominates the city skyline.

Ghent is part of the Flemish region so I did not have to speak a word of French there. Yet the Flemish Dutch is always an interesting thing to me. I just can’t help but smile when I hear the locals, perhaps I find it amusing, but their accent is softer, milder, and it seems that they have this certain rhythm when they talk, like they are softly singing.

I find it droll too when Belgians quickly find my accent. Although I have presumably a distinct foreign accent when speaking Dutch, they just know I live in the Netherlands. I reckon the universal throat gurgling sound of G and SCH (that I have learned and gotten used to!) cannot be utterly disguised.

The Vleeshuis (Meat House), the place where meat was weighed and sold during the Middle Ages. Now it is used as a Promotiecentrum to promote events about delicatessen products.

In wrapping up, it wouldn’t hurt to cross over to Ghent (or even to Brussels and Antwerp) from time to time. The drive is around 3 hours only; definitely worth the trip – hey, it’s outside the Netherlands! However, I realized that shopping is a real chore, and believe it or not, it’s not always something that I look forward to. I’m terribly lazy and I prefer to stay at home if I am not working or traveling, but I don’t mind some sane periods of shopping in between, though I must insist, it must be scheduled. I am trying to control my spending! Given that I have come to a point in my life that I can pretty much buy whatever I want (that’s why I will never trade in my older years with my younger years), it is a challenge, and undeniably hard to keep the standards low in terms of spending. I am glad I have the Dutchman as my conscience and financial adviser.

Nevertheless, I would need at least 2 days to shop. So next time when I am in Belgium for shopping, to maximize and stretch my time I would need to book a hotel to stay and relax for the night.

The quality of my photos are not really great because they were all taken by my Nokia Navigator mobile phone.

Travel Period: October 2008
Destination: Ghent (East Flanders), Belgium

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