Saturday, May 18, 2013

more brussels, plus bruges and ghent

When my family reached a cafe for breakfast yesterday, all the booths except two were filled by people. One other place was occupied by a sleeping cat. When another man came in behind us, he attempted to work around the cat, perching his espresso on the table corner, since it showed no intention of moving.

After that entertainment, we spent the rest of the day with my oldest friend. She lived here for a year, and came to see me and show my family around some. She took us to see the Manneken Pis, a famous statue of a peeing boy that's reproduced into any bit of tourist-trap merchandise you can imagine. The real thing is more disappointing than the Mona Lisa. Not only is the Manneken Pis tiny, it's also high up and obscured by an outfit from its extensive wardrobe. So, here is a photo of a more entertaining reproduction, because what isn't better holding a waffle?

Around the corner from the peeing boy statue, in a dead-end alley across from a bar called Delirium Tremens, there is a complementary peeing girl statue. She is squatting shortly above eye level, trapped behind thick, jail-like bars in an alcove that's barely set back from the street. There's probably some art history/urban studies/gender studies thesis in there somewhere.

Here's another pretty picture, from a park elsewhere in the city:

Today, we had a private tour guide take us around Bruges and Ghent (or, as they're spelled here, Brugge and Gent.) He was a top-shelf guy, though obsessed with the minutiae of building facades. Bruges was gorgeous, a quiet city of cobblestoned alleyways and quaint bridges. We took a boat tour in one of the canals, where the tour guide ran through his spiel in German, English, and Spanish, translated jokes included. Ghent was quite like Bruges except bigger, and a college town, so it felt much more vibrant, and real, and full of folks with fashion sense. There's also a castle (built in the 1100s!) that dominates the skyline.

Here's a scenic side street from one of the cities; I've already forgotten which one, but it doesn't much matter:

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