Ghent, mon amour

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The sun is out and it’s Saturday, Vera needs shoes and I need Vera. We both need fresh air and something to feast our eyes and palates on. No place better than Ghent then.IMG_2076

First rule: Avoid the ‘dead men’s alley ’ (the Veldstraat and Lange Munt, that run from the Kouter, to the Korenmarkt and then onto the Vrijdagsmarkt. You can’t miss it, a thick crowd of tourists and teenagers in a zombie-like procession, stumbling from window to window past very last century shops) You can do so much better, as Vera will explain in below lines:
Well, OK. For some real shopping then: We started at Schleiper (Onderbergen 31), to have two canvasses we had bought during the holidays framed for us. Expensive…but these paintings have some value too and we’d rather have the job done by professionals than to clown around with it ourselves.

Onderbergen is a good place to start hop&shop: Take “A.Puur.A”, for instance, for shoes, clothes, jewelry, ceramics, and interior design. Or “Black balloon” (young clohtes label), “Art Nivo” (interior design), “Gallery Ilunga” (tribal arts), “Deco 48” (gifts and decorations), and “Surplus” ( young design in the Zwartezusterstraat, just around the corner). Feet hurt? Dehydrated? There’s plenty of places for coffee or a pint of beer, try “Petit Coeur” or “Het Brood-Huys”. Then, refreshed, turn into de Hoornstraat and discover the world of “Au Bon Marché” (all kinds of accessoires), “Javana” (more coffee and tea) and fashion designer “Jo De Visscher”. Cross the Veldstraat (don’t even look, but watch out for the passing trams) and continue via de Volderstraat (“G-Star”, “Sacha”, “Marc O’Polo”…) and follow the Sint-Niklaasstraat to the Korenmarkt and the Groentenmarkt. Marvel at the goodies in bakery “Himschoot” (the best mattetaarten and very good bread), at the musterd varieties of “Tierenteyn”, and buy a sachet of Gentse neuzen if you’re a sweet tooth, from one of the two little stalls on the pavement.(sworn enemies, competing for the right to call their ‘cuberdons’ the best. They taste pretty much the same though.)

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Take a right into the Hoogpoort, where you will find original gifts at “Huiszwaluw”, original jewelry at “Elisa Lee”, shoes at “Zoot” (where I bought mine), interior design at “Aksent”, urban fashion at “Cream”, and jewelry at “Mayenne”. Tired of looking at all these things you can’t really afford? Then turn to the other side of the road and feast your eyes for free at the most beautiful town hall of Belgium! (yep, that’s where we got married, a few years back.)
Walk into the Belfortstraat on your left and then left again in de Onderstraat and then right into the Serpentstraat where “Zsa Zsa Rouge” and “Petit Zsa Zsa” (great gifts), “Zoot” fashion (great clothes), “Studio Woot Woot” (retro interior design) are waiting for you. On the other side of the Vrijdagmarkt we found “Antiek-Depot” in the Beaudelostraat, a great place to browse for antiques, vintage and design stuff. Another store where you will surely find that exceptional present you did not find anywhere else: Pur Sens in the Meersenierstraat, a small cosy shop full of original clothes, jewelry and more. Thirsty? Try “Pink Flamingo’s” (Onderstraat), we didn’t, but it is on our list for next time!

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After Vera dragged me through all these place, we found ourselves near the Gravensteen and agreed it was time for good coffee.

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Well now; if you fancy a nice piece of cake, great music and a relaxed ambiance, find your way to the ‘Jardin Bohemien’ (Burgstraat). We rate it miles above ‘Julie’s House ‘ (Kraanlei). Julie’s House may have great ratings on TripAdvisor, but we’ve tried it twice, the first time it was so packed that we lost patience, the second time the staff was so rude that we lost intrest. 
Julie’s house is now earmarked in our book as just another ‘tourist trap’ and we advise it to move address and join the hodgepodge of other mediocre venues in the Veldstraat.

For ‘Le Jardin Bohémien’, we refer to a different blog with more detail on this Bed&Breakfast&Coffee&Cake heaven.

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Then we did more shopping, we bought a lot of things almost and Vera’s shoes at ‘Zoot” for real. So, Vera was super happy, which in turn made me super happy too and we decided to celebrate with a cocktail somewhere.

Somewhere is called “Bar Popular” and sits on the St. Jacobs markt. A great pub with a very cool looking barman who boasted he could make great cocktails. He didn’t exaggerate and I enjoyed my Gin Fizz while watching how – as she downed her glass – Vera’s cheeks slowly got the same color as her Strawberry Margherita. (Great prices too, all cocktails at around 6.5 euro’s a glass.)

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To round off the day, and after another brisk walk to shake off some of the alcohol, we ended up near the Vrijdagmarkt and took our table at the Marc O’ Polo Trattoria (Serpentstraat, 11).
We have great memories of this place. When we were students we already used to hang out here. It was then a Spanish restaurant (Sol y Sombra)with tapa’s and fusion, and it is great to see that the Italians who took over managed to keep the bohemian atmosphere and also put some very decent food on the plate.

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We both went for the tagliatelli with Ossobucco shank and sauce, but not before we enjoyed a Spritz Aperol together. They served it just right, with a lot of prosecco and not too much water. The Ossobucco was tender and tasty, the marrow in the bone succulent and yummy. What a pity that the tagliattelli was overcooked. But we didn’t let it spoil the fun. The Tiramisu (Vera couldn’t resist) was ‘Oh my god so good!’ and the ice-cooled limoncello tasted as if it was home made, which it probably was.

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Vera, Saturday night, Ghent, Vera, great cocktails, magnificent shoes, Ossobuco, Vera, Limoncello…Life is good.

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