Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: bicycles

Ghent, the better Bruges

What’s that? Annie went to Ghent and preferred it over Bruges?

Yes, I finally went. I’ve been saying I wanted to go to Ghent for the longest time, yet after two stays in Louvain-la-Neuve, it still escaped me. Most of the time it’s due to laziness that I skip out on trips. I mean, it’s a winter weekend and all you want to do is snuggle in the warmth of your bed in the morning instead of venturing out in the cold! I often give in to the temptation of sleeping in while forgetting that the joys of travelling and wandering are just a tug of an eye away.

And indeed, when you overcome the fatigue and drag your stubborn body out of bed, it only takes about 5 minutes to shake your head awake. Then you get dressed, fling your bag onto your back, leave the door behind for a day, and dive into a whole new world. Then when you see the beauty of the world in front of your eyes, you wonder why you were ever too tired to explore.

Ghent is, as best as I can put it, too beautiful to miss. Most people would want to see Bruges if they even stop by Belgium during their Eurotrips, but boy, Ghent tops Bruges in my book. I wasn’t a fan of Bruges when I visited last April, and truthfully, I don’t think I give Bruges enough credit. Ghent, however, deserves all of my recommendation for those planning to visit Belgium. It is as underrated a city as Belgium is as a country for travel.

I had the same problem with Ghent in terms of its name as I did in Bruges, only this time, it’s even more complicated. (Of course, Ghent is also in Flanders, the Flemish region of Belgium.) You see, Bruges is the same in French and English, and is only spelt “Brugge” and pronounced differently in Flemish. Ghent, being the English spelling, is “Gent” in Flemish and “Gand” in French. I’m actually still unsure about its pronunciation; I believe in English, it’s “gent” with the “g” sounding like “girl”. In French it’s more like “gone” without the ending “n” sound. (I’m no linguistic expert and I probably explained that very poorly…)

Onto the trip: before I visited I did some research to find out what I should see and do, and one of the things that I was determined to do was stay until the sun has gone down, as night in Ghent was supposedly stunning. Arriving in Ghent at around noon, that meant I had about 7 hours to spend in the city, assuming that it gets completely dark by around 18:30 and I take the 19:24 train. Let’s see how that worked out. (Full picture album here.)

The first thing I noticed when I got off the tram at Korenmarkt (Ghent town centre) were these strange dancing statues on top of a building. I realized afterwards that Ghent is filled with these figures on rooftops all around the city, and that became one of the things I really liked about Ghent.

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24 Heures Velo 2011

I always seem to neglect Louvain-la-Neuve in my blog. Well, there’s no excuse to ignore it this week as it was time for…24 Heures Velo!

As the name implies, it is literally a 24-hour bike race. With beer. Lots of beer. And people.

This year, the race happened on October 26th and 27th. Some sources say that this is the second largest beer event in Europe after Oktoberfest, which surprises me because it’s happening in a small place like Louvain-la-Neuve. In any case, I’m pretty sure it’s the largest beer event of the year in Belgium, and definitely THE festival of the year at Louvain-la-Neuve. Some 40000+ people are said to attend each year, many from cities all over Belgium. Beer and bikes – a good combo or not? You be the judge.

So how does this race thing work? I actually didn’t quite figure it out myself, but I know there are three types of races: normal bikes, “folkloric” bikes, and charity bikes. I think it works like a relay race where teams have racers that rotate amongst each other and go around the circuit x times in y amount of time. I can’t imagine one person biking non-stop for 24 hours – that would take endurance, heck of a lot of endurance.

Aside from the races that take place through circuits designed around the city (I still hesitate using the word “city” to describe Louvain-la-Neuve, but heck, it makes things easier here), there were a plethora of concerts and activities happening concurrently. As far as I know they lasted all night, and yes, there were beer stands. Lots of beer stands for your drinking pleasure.

Let’s see how it went down.

Some colleagues told me that a few people in our lab were racing in the normal circuit, so I decided to join the team…as a spectator, and part of the cheering squad! Here’s Remi in blue, heading off for his turn. It was my first time trying to shoot fast moving action with Mr.Nikon, and I really have to practise more and learn how to do it properly, especially in the dark! A tripod would probably help, but with 40000 people in a crowded place, I felt in danger even with Mr.Nikon around my neck that day, not to mention a tripod…

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