Another busy week has passed; since we left Clermont-Ferrand we’ve been to Paris, Brussels, Gent, and now we’re in Bruges. Friday marked our fourth week of couch surfing, busking and lugging around of heavy things, and now we’re quite tired. Actually, I also seem to be fighting a cold, which has reduced me to a snotty mess and prevented us from busking today.
Anyway, the blog must go on, so let’s start with Paris. We were so excited to go to Paris, not just because it’s Paris, but because our couch surfing host there was David Abramovitz. Famous people couch surf too! David was a great host, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with him.
On our one full day in Paris (which clearly wasn’t long enough), we busked in La Place Igor Stravinsky (you know, the one next to the Pompidou Centre, with the really fun fountains), which was conveniently close to David’s place. It was also fun to busk there since the only other time I’d been to Paris, I had ended up befriending some other buskers and joining them for an afternoon for some impromptu busking. We were really surprised not to have had any hassle from the police or security guards by that point, and thought our luck must sometime run out, but I think we proved that France likes buskers (at least…the decent ones…). While busking in Paris we were passed by policemen, Pompidou security guards, and, slightly frighteningly, 3 pretty heavily armed soldiers marching in formation, looking for all the world like they were doing some sort of field exercise and got lost. Apparently that’s normal. Anyway, none of the above felt inclined to bother us, and some even looked favourably impressed (you can probably guess which might allow themselves that).
After dinner that evening David took us on a walk to show us the Eiffel Tower shimmering, twinkling and scintillating, which it apparently does for 5 minutes every hour. On the way, we came across this view, which made me really kick myself for not having brought my camera and having to use my phone’s camera…
After two nights at David’s, we were sad to be leaving, but we were lucky enough to be treated to a bit of Chopin (“what else?!”) before we left. Wow.
Our next stop was Brussels, which is only a short train ride away on the amazingly fast trains they have. Before we left France I just had to get a shot of one of these guys, again, on my phone’s camera (and through a train window), but these crazy robotic cat pylons really do tickle me.
Upon reaching Brussels we learnt a new verb:
Sometimes I feel like no-one ever listers to me… it’s probably for the best.
Finding ourselves with some time to kill before our new host would be home from work, we took ourselves off to the centre of town to busk, which we did to a mixed response, which was mostly a general indifference but with the added interest of a lone fanatic who kept giving us money and filming us and giving us more money. Although we are used by now to being given money in appreciation of our music, it was still a little bit odd. The rest of our time in Brussels was filled with unpredictable weather, and no more busking. As per usual, it’s ok if we get drenched, but our guitars are not so resilient (although they are lucky not being able to catch colds…). Our host in Brussels was our first vegan host, and being a keen cook, she made us a yummy dinner. Njom njom, as they say over here.
Our time in Brussels seemed to go pretty quickly, and before we knew it, we were on the train to Gent, with our new host Dieter. When we arrived at Dieter’s street, I immediately felt like I was in England: the buildings reminded me of the old industrial northern towns and mill buildings, but even more than that, there was an English sky. Needless to say, no sooner than we had bought everything we would need for a hearty picnic, the heavens opened. The weather continued in the English style for the rest of our stay with Dieter and Elke, which meant no busking, and we sadly didn’t have chance to compare Brussels’ reaction to our playing with Gent’s (Gent being the cooler town: fact). But we were able to give our hosts and their friends a living room concert, which I think we all thoroughly enjoyed.
Although there are lots of picture-postcard scenes in Gent, these bikes, dredged from one of the canals, were fascinating, as were the rather imposing red crows.
Dieter and Elke were our last hosts of our trip, since we are staying in more conventional accommodation here and in Amsterdam, which will be the last stop before returning to England. It’s been quite a crazy and surreal experience to go from town to town with an address and (sometimes) a phone number of someone we’ve never met, but we’ve met some amazing people, and it’s been so much fun! I am sure we’ll be seeing some of our hosts again. I hope so!
Anyway, let’s finish with a bit of a photo round up (this makes up for the lack of photos in my last post).
Here’s the English sky that we hope we left in Gent.
A panorama of Bruges (click on it to see a bigger version):
A message on a wall in Clermont-Ferrand, “Beauty is in the street”:
And the proof, in Paris:
Until next time!