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OK, “Ghentrified” isn’t a real word. But I would define it as “to make someone more refined by visiting Ghent.” Why Ghent? Maybe you’ve heard of the 12-panel painting called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, better known as the Ghent Altarpiece? Perhaps you remember George Clooney in “The Monuments Men” saving it from Hitler’s clutches in an Austrian mine? As the world’s first major oil painting, it’s arguably the most influential one ever. It’s also been dragged through Hell: “destroyed in a fire…nearly burned by rioting Calvinists…forged, pillaged, dismembered… stolen by Napoleon, hunted in the first world war…then stolen repeatedly during World War II.” One of the panels remains missing to this day. (Read about its death-defying soap-opera past here.) With all that drama over a piece of artwork, we just had to see it for ourselves!

Looming large: the 14th century belfry in the center of town. (This photo feels a bit Hitchcockian to me, like I’m oblivious to the sinister storm clouds gathering.)

Soaring heights: Saint Bavo Cathedral where the Ghent Altarpiece is housed in the chapel—and where you feel very, very small.

The world’s masterpiece from 1432: it looked pretty darn good, given its harrowing history. I won’t even try to describe the realistic details, vibrant colors, or Catholic mysticism depicted. (Btw, in case you were wondering, Hubert and Jan van Eyck didn’t run out of pigments while working on Adam and Eve; the black and white images are placeholders for the panels undergoing restoration.)

Heavenly sky: Saint Nicholas Cathedral with Andrew in the bottom left-hand corner. (Notice how his green Nano Puff jacket blends right in with the color scheme.)

Peaceful alley near Pakhuis restaurant: I liked how the red, green, and blue in this composition sort of echo the hues in the Altarpiece painting.

Four dudes under white nudes: Andrew chatting up strangers. This quirky photo makes me smile.

New meets old: fresh graffiti in the foreground with the Ghent train station’s century-old clock tower in the back. Nothing stands still.

We had planned on heading back to our Brussels home base but decided to make a detour to Bruges. When would we ever find ourselves in this part of the world again? Having never seen the 2008 movie “In Bruges,” I knew the town was famous for artisanal lace but not much else. Although I was bracing myself for an annoyingly touristy experience like Quebec, it was in fact pleasant and charming.

Panoramic shot of the Markt (“Market Square”), a UNESCO World Heritage site with the 13th century bell tower on the left.

Selective slice: here’s my Instagram of a cropped portion of the panorama above. It looks like a snow globe with figurines.

Darkness and light: ominous clouds over the sunbathed Provincial Court on the Markt. The contrast shows off the building’s architectural details.

For whom the bell tolls: the medieval belfry and Bruges landmark. I liked the little pocket of blue sky that opened up right on time.

Courtyard in the belfry complex: the light installations say Mind, Wealth, Belief, and Life (not pictured). They should add Love, Peace, and Happiness—and Chocolate.

Ta-da! Presenting a Wealth…of opportunities? experiences? Delvaux bags?

Capturing Andrew: we breathlessly climbed the 366 narrow, creaky, claustrophobic spiral stairs to the top of the tower. Andrew hates having his picture taken so this was the best I could do.

Steep, crisp lines: high above Bruges with the Church of Our Lady rising on the right.

From a different angle: Burg Square and Town Hall. And I think that’s a glimpse of the North Sea on the horizon.

Red accents and gray roofs.

Slipping through the canal: oh you know, just your typical, postcard-perfect kind of day in Bruges.

Check out my Pinterest board for more info and resources.

Next up: Antwerp, hotbed of the coolest fashion

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