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Archive for the ‘Cours de Perfectionnement de Français’ Category

Yesterday we went to Ghent and Bruges.

I’d love to give a deep and insightful review of these two magnificent towns, but I woke up about 15 minutes before the bus left and was super disoriented until about 2pm. I blame having only eaten an apple from the time I woke up until lunch at 1pm.

In Ghent, we visited the Saint Bavo cathedral and took a quick peek about town since it was raining. Inside the cathedral is a painting called The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. There are two versions of this painting in the cathedral, a copy and an original. The original costs 2.5€ to see and is housed in a silent room in a giant aquarium. If ever you’re in the Saint Bavo cathedral, don’t pay to go see the original, it’s literally the same as the copy (I’m sure art critics disagree) in a boring aquarium.

In Bruges, we took a boat tour and a little walk around town. I’d definitely recommend trying one of the super touristy boat tours if you want to see lots of the city in a short amount of time. Bruges is a very beautiful city and is worth checking out.

If you watch In Bruges, there's a shot of this dog in the begining montage.

If you watch In Bruges, there is a shot of this dog in the intro montage.

That night, a bunch of us went to the Delirium bar in Brussels. The bar not much to look at, but they’ve got the largest selection of beer in the world. On Thursdays they have a jam night in the basement, so that means live music (from reggae to funky jazz) and drinks are 25% more expensive. Definitely worth checking out.

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Yesterday there was a group excursion to Tournai and Lessines. First we visited Tournai; a charming town about 90 minutes from Brussels with a spectacular church and a nice art museum containing some great French impressionist pieces. If ever you’re in the area, I’d recommend checking it out. I’m sure there’s not too much to do, but the old architecture and general feel of the city is very welcoming. Word of warning though, if you visit the church, be careful not to get shat on by pigeons. I’ve seen it happen and it’s not a pretty sight.

In Lessines we visited an old religious hospital. It was an interesting journey through the evolution of the medical field. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in medical history and its intersection with religion.

As we were visiting the hospital, we saw a few fairly macabre items. From old bone saws to lobotomy apparatuses; a couple of the tools were a bit disconcerting. I thought I was comfortable with ancient medicals practices, having seen some saw and gizmos around the museum. I was wrong. I saw a full size mannequin of this and my heart stopped. The drawing doesn’t properly convey the terror that washes over you when you unexpectedly are faced by this demon spawn in an old hospital (which is already inherently creepy). I have a picture with it and I’m terrified to look at it, in fear that I’ll notice its position shifted ever so slightly from what I remembered. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Next to My Worst Nightmare was another mannequin of a man in a nice suit and a top hat, but with a bit of thought, I realized that this character was probably The Fear’s assistant and under his top hat is probably hidden a horrifying lobotomy device. Why would the Man from My Nightmares do this to this assistant? So he can’t object to the horrors he helps his master commit (obviously). Seriously though, how scary is the thought of a dude wearing a full leather cape outfit with a mortifying bird-creature mask? Add on top of that the fact that he has no objection to using outdated primitive pseudo-medicine on people who can’t defend themselves? Welcome to my nightmares.

TERROR!

TERROR!

Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

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We went to Anvers (Antwerp) yesterday with a guided tour. It was pretty good and the weather was nice, unlike the past 4 days. It’s been overcast and cold here. I don’t know if I’d recommend Anvers (Antwerp) to someone visiting Europe unless they’ve got a huge interest in art. I saw a few of Rubens’ masterworks, which, needless to say, is quite a sight to see, but I wasn’t impressed much by the city. I also made an important learning experience, bringing me to today’s travel tip.

Travel Tip: When visiting random churches in strange cities, make sure you’re not interrupting funeral processions. Try to notice if a hearse is sitting in front of the church and other such indications. If you happen to walk in at such a time (camera at hand), you will feel like a huge retard. Trust me.

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Saturday July 19, 2008

I finally know what’s going on.

The camp (cours de perfectionnement de français) is a language and culture course divided in three linguistic levels. Aquisition (people who are new to French), Perfectionnement 1 (people who are proficient) and Perferctionnement 2 (fluent speakers). This explains why I thought people were shy last night. Some of these guys don’t really speak French. Oh well, it’ll make for interesting conversations. The setup for the classes is a bit like a timeshare meeting. You get a sweet stay in Brussels with housing and a little cash bonus in exchange for attending French classes. Sweet deal.

I met some more people today and I really think this’ll be fun. People are super nice.

We went out for drink at a pretty classy bar, but since my objective was to get druuuunk for my birthday, I needed to find a cheaper spot. With 4 of my new friends, we hit up a bar by the ULB campus called Le Tavernier. Think Belgium’s answer to Moncton’s Navigator’s and you’ve got the idea. I introduced my fellow drinkers to Flip Cup and the rest of the night was spent dancing to a live latino band’s caliente sounds.

Clearly the Belgian Nav's

Clearly the Belgian Nav

When the latonio band wrapped up their show, we hit up the residence kitchen for one more drink for the road.

It wasn’t a Canadian birthday at a dirty bar with lots of beer (Rockin’ Rodeo), but that doesn’t matter. It was great fun.

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Tuesday July 15th, 2008

After spending around 14 hours in various trains (tired, hungry and hung over, mind you), I got to Munich on Monday night. The past two days have been good, but nothing worth typing about.

I went to Dachau with Alana, a friend from Bishop’s, her German friend (also from Bishop’s) and my bunkmate whom I met over breakfast. I didn’t take any picture. Dachau is a very imposing place. I wasn’t really sure how you take picture in a concentration camp. Though it’s hard to imagine the horrors that took place there, a sense of oppression seems to still linger over it.

After Dachau, we had lunch in Munich’s English Garden and then we went out our separate ways. I stuck with my bunk mate (Alex) and we went to the Olympic Stadium. Turns out Alex works for a travel book company (Let’s Go) and is doing research for the Bavaria part of the book. He’s also from Harvard, which was a big deal for Katia (Alana’s German friend).

Katia, Alex, Alana and me in front of the Chinese Tower in Munich

Katia, Alex, Alana and me in front of the Chinese Tower in Munich

Since Alex pretty much wrote the book on seeing Munich, he took me around to see some sights in the afternoon. Visiting with someone who speaks German and knows where everything can be found turned out to be much more efficient than wandering in a strange city by yourself.

After a full day of exploring, we went back to the hostel to drop off our bag and set off for supper. We got to our rooms and I noticed that the things I left on my bunk were all laid out on the table. Odd. Then I opened my locker to find all my stuff was missing. Shit. Alex and I went downstairs to the reception to figure out who had screwed up and what compensation I’d receive for this. My eyes were glowing green! I was hoping for a few free drink vouchers. The tables turned when I got to the desk, explained my situation, and got called “the guy that forgot to check out this morning”. Damn. As it happens (allegedly), I only booked one night at the Wombat (the hostel) and now they were booked solid for the night. Terrific. They called around and found another hostel close by with a vacancy. Alex and I set off to drop off my bag and I felt like an idiot. The second hostel (4you) wasn’t nearly as nice as the Wombat.

Totally my fault though.

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Saturday July 12, 2008

One of Maxime’s friends got hooked up with 3 tickets for an outdoor music festival called Musilac. Headlining the show is Mika, who is huge in Europe. The show was amazing despite constant rain.

Mika performing at Musilac

Mika performing at Musilac

In a related note, if a jacket says “rain repellent”, it’s not the same as “water proof”. Trust me. My jacket took 2 days to dry.

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Friday July 11, 2008

I got up at the same time as my roommates, refreshed and ready for adventure. After breakfast, the Scotsman and I went into town for some provisions for the hike: bread, cheese and bananas.

The hike was long and the day was hot, but the sense of accomplishment once we got to the top was worth all of it.

The view from the top

The view from the top

My hiking partner, Tom, was heading to his girlfriend’s house to finish a long backpacking trip through Europe. He could have gone around the lake in Annecy and it would have taken a couple hours to reach his girlfriend, but wanted to go the long way around, a two day voyage that led him up the Semnoz. I left him on top of the Semnoz to catch my 30 minute long bus back to town. It had taken us the better part of 5 hours to reach the top. Tom was hoping to find shelter within an hour and set up camp for the night. Parting with Tom was strange, we had spent so much time together and I felt we had accomplished so much and now, I would never see him again. I hope he made it to his girlfriend’s safely.

Tom and me on top of the Semnoz

Tom and me on top of the Semnoz

That night, I met up with a friend from Bishop’s to hang out for the night. Maxime (my friend) lives by a typical beautiful small village overlooking the Alpes in a stunning house. Everything is so beautiful here.

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