24 December 2009

Notes from a potential mad bird lady

Okay, so I am seriously concerned about the lack of chocolate that is being consumed by me on this Belgian holiday.  I have to confess that, despite going into many chocolate shops, I have only purchased marzipan and HOT chocolate for my own consumption.  Mind you, the hot chocolate is incredibly wonderful and usually a work of art.  Yesterday we visited Daskalides Chocolate Room on Vrijdagmarkt where we were presented with a block of flavoured chocolate on a stick which was then to be stirred around in a cup of frothy, snow white milk until a delicious melted chocolate and milk beverage ensued.  Of course, a small glass of water on the side was required to cleanse the palate.  Seriously scrumptious! Today we visited the Design Museum, which was fascinating.  It houses an amazing display of art deco and contemporary design.  On they way there, we came upon a Pigeon in Distress.  The streets of Ghent are currently being torn up while the city is being renovated and they have found some foundations of archaelogical significance so there are boards and planks and holes everywhere.  I looked into a perfect foot-sized hole in the street (trying to avoid a potential holiday disaster) and there was a pigeon in there!  I am sure it could not get out because there was no room for it to open its wings to fly out.  So, I bent down and lifted him out, very easily because I think he may have been a bit tired (and cold). 

The museum housed some wonderful pieces of glass, ceramics, furniture and everyday items from the early 20th century as well as showcasing very modern design such as Alessi.  It was really interesting.  One of the really fun things about the museum was that dotted about amongst the displays were tiny little toys.  So, you'd be admiring a 1920's chair and suddenly, your eye would catch sight of a little penguin tucked in behind the chair leg. It was crazy fun! 

We asked about this as we were leaving and discovered it's a game for children.  If they spot  all the toys, they win some coloured pencils etc.  It struck me as a great way to keep idle minds "on the job".  I've never seen anything like that back home. 

See the little knight?  Below is an amazing Alessi merry go-round which featured all their products and which spun around every 15 mins or so like a carnival ride.  Best thing of all about the museum?  It was WARM in there!

Back out into the crispy, fresh air, it was off to visit the guild houses on the Graslei and Korenlei, two streets that line the canal which was the original medieval harbour of Ghent.  One of these guild houses dates to the 12th century and leans precariously forward...  We're going to take a closer look at these tomorrow, Christmas Day, when everything else will be closed.  Instead, we decided to take a walk around the Patershol, an area of medieval alley ways and tiny houses tucked away.  It was really interesting and I'm constantly amazed and how old everything is!
Of course, on the way to the Patershol, on Kraanlei, we happened upon a Beer and Jenever shop didn't we? 

This shop sold all sorts of Belgian beers, beer glasses and jenevers (pronounced liked "Geneva") and we learned a whole lot about this drink.  There were hundreds of beers too and mum stumbled upon one called "Mammelokker" with a Very Interesting label, which mimicked the fresco I'd seen on Monday at the Town Hall. 
Yes, that's right.  A grown man being nursed by a woman!  It was very reminiscent of Bitty from "Little Britain".  I was a bit shocked and now here it was again, on a beer bottle label!  So, with a bit of Googling, we found out that this man, Cimon, was condemned to death by starvation.  His only privilege was to have one visitor per day to his cell.  So, his daughter Pero (a wet nurse) would visit him and ... well, you know what.  The King was so taken by the story and the love of the daughter to save her father that he set Cimon free.  Now.... what any of this has to do with Ghent is still beyond me and we'll see what the beer tastes like tomorrow.  We're going to put it on the deck overnight to cool it as it won't fit in the bar fridge. 
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