Yes, the sun shines in Leuven. A glorious Saturday, err… Zaterdag, sorry. I slept an incredible 12 hours, and stumbled out of bed at 10 am, amazed by the time. A quick breakfast, and a pot of coffee and I was off and running. Zaterdag is shopping day in Belgium, a country where the shops still keep bankers hours. And I know from experience that the whole of Flanders is awake early, and out shopping for groceries and the weekly essentials. As an American, I am always surprised to learn not everyone believe in 24/7 availiability of all things. In Flanders, only the bars, and perhaps the churches, are open 24/7. Read into that whatever you will.
First stop, the flea market, err.. vlooienmarkt. Where I found a nice Jupiler glass to add to my collection. I have to admit, the Jupiler pinche is nothing special or exotic, but I felt it was missing from the bolleke’s and trapistten that line the top shelf in the kitchen. A “pinche” is a local word for what I would call a lawnmower beer. Pinche means “pinky” and the pinche is a small 0.25 l glass of whatever basic lager beer the bar has on top. As bars are affiliated with breweries, you get whatever they serve. Stella, Jupiler, Cristal, Primus, Maes, etc… It’s the cheapest way to drink. Step into a crowded bar in Leuven, and all you have to do is catch the eye of the bar tender, and hold up your pinky. Flemish efficiency. When I came here in 2000 to see Paris-Roubaix we hit a bar that was selling them 2 for a dollar. Hard to beat a deal like that.
From the flea market, I made the rounds of the streets until I found a little comic bookstore, where I picked up a few Tin Tin comics for the kids. I’ve made it a tradition since they were 2-3 years old, and they love reading Tin-Tin. Comics are hugely popluar with adults here in Flanders. And not just the ponytail wearing loser types like on the Simpsons. The only other country I have found as fond of comics is the Japanese.
From there, I picked up a bottle of wine at the Supermarket to bring to dinner, with a collegue who has invited me over to her house tonight. If you like wine, you will be amazed at the prices for French wine here. Even with the ridiculous exhange rates now (about $1.40 to the Euro) it’s still a bargin compared to what we pay. Hard to imagine French and Spanish wine being cheaper than Australian, and American, but there you are.
Time for a pinche…
And from a quick break on the Oude Markt in the noonday sun, I made the rounds of all my favorite haunts.
The Oude Market is still, and will always be, my favorite place in town. It has many faces as the day advances and the clientele shifts. And the architecture is a feast for the eyes. Most of the buildings were put up after the first world war, when the Germans torched a large portion of the town. Hard to fault them for the indifference they show foreigners…
Bikes, err… Fiets, are ubiquitos in Leuven. Being a Flemish city, it is understandably over run with Dutch city bikes. You take your life in your hands walking the streets here, what with all the drunk college students on bikes, and beautiful Godzilla’s. It was however, the first time I saw one of these…
The Bike Snob would be horrified to learn that schluffing has appeared in Flanders.
And here, is the River Dijle, final resting place for most Leuven bicycles. I have a theory that every 10 years they dredge the river, and put them back on the streets.
All that talk of biking is making me thirsty, time to pop into the Erasmus, for a bolleke of DeKoninck.
And just since it was a nice day, I paid a visit to the Picasso for an Orval. I hated to think that the all that hard work by the trappist monks would be wasted.
and with that, it’s time to head back to the hotel and get ready for supper. Did I mention that I love this place?