Here you are, a full ten days into your Big Europe Trip. No, that seems silly—calling it that. You have been ON your Big Europe Trip since June 24th, 2008. This is just another escapade; and this time, Alexis is along for the ride.
First, a disclaimer and a note to all readers… You apologize for your lack of internet access. It is at the lowest of lows, so any individual emails sent to you will likely remain unread for a long time, and then if they merit responses, those reponses will be short. No offense, but keeping in touch is getting more and more difficult. Second, this blog will continue to read as normal, but again may go long periods without updates.
And now, a brief play by play. You and Alexis landed at the Charleroi airport in the morning on the 21st of July. Once you’d found your bags, you sat on benches and slowly ate your egg and cheese sandwiches. This was it. You had no where to go. No plans. Nothing but time to chew on those sandwhiches.
The goal was to hitch hike up to Bruges that day. As you walked out of the airport with your thumbs out, you changed your mind and got a lift from a Polish guy to the outskirts of Brussels. After all, it was right on the way, and there was no point in missing it. You hoofed it for HOURS into the city center, feeling ill at ease because a teeny weeny old lady insisted on lecturing you on the dangers of gypsies and pickpockets, all the while touching and grabbing at your wristwatch. In your opinion, she was as suspect as anyone. You made it to the Grand Place, split your first Belgian Waffle with Lex, and had a Duvel. After all the walking and little food/water, you both got quite drunk off the one beer, marched another hour to a parc, and took a nap in the grass. You woke with just enough time to trek the 2.5 hours OUT of the city, to the ring, where you pitched your tent in a small wooded area next to the highway. It was a disaster. Two big ass girls, one tiny two-man tent. And the two of you were so exhausted that neither of you had the patience to discusss a more practical order of operations… you both dove in, changed awkwardly, fought for space, and passed out cold. Total expenses = waffle: 2.00; beer: 4.50 = 6.50
The following day, you couldn’t figure out how to get to the highway. Turns out you were on the wrong part of the ring. You tried to find your way out for an hour, but the locals themselves didn’t have a clue. Then you became more concerned with your hunger. Found a little neighborhood, bought some bananas and bread, and napped in Alexis’ lap on a parc bench. Then roused only long enough to walk a half hour to another parc, where you slept several more hours. Woke up ravenous, decided there was no escaping Brussels that day, and opted for Chinese food (most bang for your buck). It was a veritable feast. Pitched your tent in the same place, and feel asleep again. Food: 2.25; Chinese: 7.00 = 9.25
Evntually made it out of Brussels and into Ghent. Met up with a friend of a friend of a friend, Liesbeth (and Sven) and were overwhelmingly grateful for coffee, a bed, a shower, and carbonated water. Liesbeth’s hospitality was incredible. You toured Ghent, ate a picnic lunch, and slept early. Food: 2.68
First, bought a jar of peanut butter (2.00). Then, saw an exhibit in the S.M.A.K., which is Ghent’s modern art museum. Had a hard time there, trying to understand the meaning of Dara Burnbaum’s media work, especially after seeing an exhibit on The Picturesque. Noisy, full of images that mean nothing to you. Too much buzz. That is the world in which you live. Taken out of context, it’s joise noise. But if you understood the context of each selection… there would be a lifetime of meaning that interested millions of people. That goes to show you how temporal, how transient, how futile over-inflated images and media are. How much history, even recorded, is forgotten and ignored… How wasteful it seems to devote one’s time and attention to any particular issue or conflict when the themes inevitably repeat themselves. The media is fueled, perpetuated by this repetition, and people will always welcome the distraction of the well-timed, well-recycld content of their own humanity… this Climax of Intellectual Masturbation came at the pitiful cost of one euro. Afterward, you hitched to Bruges. Saw the town. Had a marvelous time in a coffee shop, sipping an espresso (2.50) and eating fine Belgian chocolate (2.50) (also, some plain brown rice out of a plastic bag). Good journaling time. Calm little town, but Ghent is more interesting. Made it back, worked out, ate dinner and had a few beers with Liesbeth and Sven, and hit the street for the 10-day festival in Ghent. Two beers later (6.00) you eventually caught the attention of a group of six guys when you begged a cigarette off them. Who knows what their names were? They went by Pimp, Cock, Weiner, Golden Penis… and you were dubbed Tra La La—Alexis, Ding Ding Dong. You stayed with them the remainder of the night, guaged the increasing advances of The Golden Penis (who eventually revealed himself to you) in order to secure more free beer and cigs in the Duvel party tent. Not a bad night, as it had been years since you have gone out of your way to get drunk and slutty with a bunch of guys for the sake of being drunk and slutty. Total cost of the day = 14.00.
Hangover the nex day. You said farewell to Liesbeth and Sven (literally, the most AMAZING hosts), and had a hell of a challenge getting out of Ghent. Finally did, and made it to Rotterdam. Your goal that day was to bring Alexis to the Keukenhof Gerdens to see the tulips, only you stupidly didn’t finish reading the guidebook, which said that the tulips were no longer in bloom. After reading that, you realized you plan was fucked—but since you didn’t have a backup, goddamn it, you forged on ahead. You were going to the gardens if only to see trees. A Turkish man slammed on his brakes when you saw the two of you trying to get a lift. He spoke Dutch badly. So did you. And well, you probably should have known your were making a mistake getting into the car with him, but the good news is that EVEN THOUGH he thought the two of you were prostitutes, and EVEN THOUGH he drove you right to the gardens, 50 kms out of his way, and got out of the car, donned his sweet (not) leather jacket and shades in order to go for a walk in the woods where he thought you would happily pitch your tent and have a threesome with him (yes, that was the ONE english work Alexis caught from the back seat, a few minutes before the guy copped a feel on yoru thigh), you managed NOT to get yourselves raped and killed. You actually found a nice Dutch group who happened to be at the Gardens (out of season) in order to set up a Midievil Fantasy Festival for that weekened. You explained to the lads that the man, you think, was expecting sex, and to please please make him go away. Turns out you found a use for men: to make OTHER men go away. And it worked. The group kept you safe, made the creep go away, and allowed you to camp with them for a couple days. You had a great run that evening, watching in incredble sunset, talked politics and drank beer, and started collecting your mosquito bitses. Total = 0.00
Dutch omelete = eggs slow cooked in bacon and cheese… and it was FREE, courtesy of your Dutch hippies. You left your stuff, went walking for hours to the coast. Sat on the beach for hours… beautiful fine sand, gorgeous day, NOTHING to do but forget what time it was and feel and listen. Totally relaxed. Food and coffee = 7.60
Last day. Spent no money again. Took nine cars to get you from the Dutch countryside to Orval, in Belgium, where you and Alexis are taking a break for a couple weeks to work in the kitchen and garden, pass time, ready, study Spanish and Dutch, and do FUCK ALL. Feels great.
Total money spent in 7 days = 39.02 euro.
Saw Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, the Dutch countryside, and Orval.
Drank coffee and beer. Had belgian waffle, chocolate. Went to 1 festival. Stayed up drinking 2 nights. Worked out almost every day. Saw one museum. Met… about 40-50 people???