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Published: November 2nd 2008
The night begins
In the Mini Coop, heading out of Lille
You would think that, being twenty minutes from the French border, citizens of western Belgium would speak French. But that would be too easy. Belgium splits itself up, linguisticall, by North and South. In southern Belgium, they do indeed speak French. But in northern Belgium, where I was in Gent, they speak Flemish. D'oh. The most interesting part was, after conveying the fact that I don't understand Flemish, people immediately switched to English, instead of French like I expected. It seems to be the second-most spoken language there. Odd, but nice for me.
The intent of the trip to Belgium was not for Jackie to be a tourist in yet another country. It was so some Lilliputians (hahaha) could go to a drum-and-bass concert. Europeans have a much different style to their night-life than American youth; in the US bars typically close at 2 am, depending on the state. Regardless, it's difficult to stay out much past 2 or 3. In France, Spain, and now Belgium, I've discovered that most people don't even leave their houses until midnight, and stay out until 5 or 6 am. It's a bit out of control for me, who likes sleep, and waking up while
it's still light out. Due to these odd hours of revelry, we didn't get to Belgium until 9 pm or so, and everything was already dark. I was still able to see the layout of the city of Gent, and found it whimsical, and very appealing. It was a lot like Vieux Lille, with its cobble-stoned streets, and sense of serenity.
The streets were quite bare, and as we were walking it felt like a ghost town, the way malls do on major holidays, when everything's closed. I think, partly due to the language barrier, partly because young men rarely know what they're doing themselves, I felt pretty confused and lost the whole time, but we stopped for some Belgian beer and Belgian fries. The bar didn't serve fries, and I became indignant. We had to go to a kebab shop, and they just weren't authentic. The fries at the Belgian-style friterie
in Lille were far superior. I didn't manage to get a waffle either, I think all the waffle stands close before 10 pm, silly things. It was a pleasant gastronomic experience though.
We eventually found the concert venue, after being told directions in Flemish and English, and it
There was a whole wall of really cool graffitti
had already been going for hours (and was going to continue for hours more). I was struck by the high amount of attractive people attending the concert, I guess this is where all the good-looking Europeans are hiding. They were also all very trendy, and very young. I felt frumpish in my two-day old jeans and unwashed/combed hair. I don't know if I've mentioned that I've let myself go quite a bit, hygenically. It seems to be the way to go here. I also felt like the majority of kids at this concert were not old enough be drinking, let alone smoking, even in Europe. I had a beer though, and let it go.
I'm not a huge drum-and-bass fan, but I love concerts of any kind (as long as live animals aren't getting their heads bitten off on stage). I really enjoyed myself, and the fans were remarkably respectful for a loud and crazy concert. I didn't get one drop of beer spilled on me, which is unusual. However, unlike in France (I love France), Belgians are allowed to smoke inside. Ugh. After an hour or two, every pore on my skin, and hair follicle, and fibre of clothes
Gaspard in the street
were saturated in smoke, and I started getting a headache. Plus, you had to pay for water, so I ended up waiting outside. I found it a bit Twilight Zone-esque, that people huddled outside to get away from the cigarette smoke, rather than the reverse in the US. Plus, it was 4 am, and I was ready for bed...or a mattress on the floor, as it has been here. I'm just not cut out for life as a European.
We did eventually leave, and I slept the whole drive home. If only I'd had some waffles...
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