Friday, July 9, 2010

Fri 9 July - Sun 11 July: Ghent Revisited

Second trip to Ghent. Love the city even more this time around. I'm now desperate to go back to Antwerp as I have to decide which one I prefer. "Why can't you just really like both?", C wonders. Like both? Yes, I do, very much, but there must be a favourite. One I can proudly proclaim to be the best city in Belgium. It's in my DNA to have a best (and worst) of everything!

But yes, Ghent was wonderful again. We had 30 degree plus weather the whole weekend (save for the Saturday evening thunderstorm) so sweated and baked, rather than be forced to make the most of the 2 hour window of measly sunshine we had back in December. At night it looks magical, with all the buildings lit up and seen again through their reflections in the canals. Wherever you are you always seem to be able to hear the sounds of the bells of the tram. Ah, the tram. The presence of a tram system most certainly makes it into my 'civilised society' list.

Spent our first night here getting slowly, but unintentionally, sozzled at a gay bar. We had no idea what kind of bar it was until we went in, but were attracted to it by the tiny balcony it had which overlooked the canal. We were on the opposite side of the canal when we noticed a couple leaving and quickly dashed across to grab the free table. There were only 2 tables on the balcony, such was its size. The disco music that they played all night was naturally camp and dreadful. And not even in an ironic way.

Part of our visit here was to attend the Saturday night at the jazz festival which I'd mentioned last year. Unfortunately it turned out to be a distinctly underwhelming evening. The site with which it is held was much smaller than I had expected, but actually nice and compact. There were large marquee/gazebo type things dotted all around the site, which was handy considering it decided to bucket it down for most of the evening.

It cost €30 each for a ticket in advance, but that didn't stop the organisers charging you 50 cents everytime you wanted to use the toilet. I know, I know, I could moan about this all day and night, but it really does piss me off. A lot. It happens all over the country and people obviously think it's okay to have to pay to use the loo, whether it be at a bar, outdoor event, sometimes a restaurant. Just crazy. Charging to use the loo, anywhere, should be illegal. So that annoyed me right from the word go. The food was also overpriced, tasteless garbage. Had the worst, and most bland Thai chicken curry I have ever tasted.

There were 3 acts on over the course of the evening. Each given about an hour and a quarter. The first was not my kind of jazz at all. Too much showboating for my liking. No idea what kind of jazz they call it. 'Nu-jazz??' I guess I'm used to seeing very traditional, let me see either a saxophone or trumpet but preferably both on stage, and not forgetting that sultry female singer, kind of jazz. The second act were a lot better, especially when they were playing their up-tempo stuff. The female Japanese pianist, with the cool name of Hiroma, was superb and strange at the same time.

I mean, all of the most talented folk have something odd about them don't they?
What is it with jazz musicians and the faces they pull when they're performing? I guess they're just feeling and being at one with the music, and all that.

We didn't bother staying for the final, and main, act. We thought we'd take advantage of the fact that it had finally stopped raining and head back to our B&B, but not before we had taken another stroll along the canals, pausing every so often to admire the diners and drinkers who looked rather splendid as they sat outside one of the dozens of restaurants, on candle lit tables, looking at us, looking at them.

Quick correction from my comment about Ghent last time. The menus can be in English, and many are. They do not have to only be in Dutch. And they still haven't finished rebuilding their main city squares. Something that doesn't need correcting: the women are still ravishingly beautiful, elegant and stylish.

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