Monday, February 6, 2012

January in Luxembourg Part II

The Sphere Room at the Trans Ardentes Festival, Liege, Belgium
The second half of January hasn't been particularly interesting, I caught a really terrible cold and spent the better part of two weeks either in bed or moping around the house. I did make it out a couple of times, mostly just to Liquid for live jazz during the week, and once on a Friday I went out with the intention of having a big night out dancing, but I didn't make it further than the free jager party at Scots.

Josh, me and Naz at Jager night at Scots bar, Luxembourg
The highlight of those last couple of weeks was going to Liege, Belgium for the Trans Ardentes electronic music festival. Josh and I drove up on Saturday afternoon, its only a little over an hour away, and after picking up Lena we headed just over the border to Maastricht in the Netherlands for a brief stop to go shopping and get KFC for lunch. I'd been to Maastricht once before, for a day, and it was freezing cold so we didn't stop to look around much.

The ceiling in the Elektropedia room, Les Trans Ardentes festival
Then we just headed home, fluffed around getting ready, and caught the bus to the festival. Having been sick, and being very tired from a couple of sleepless nights with crying children, I wasn't really amped until we got on a packed bus full of young people who were definitely much more in the party mood than we were! The festival is held indoors, at a big kind of hall, with concrete floors and steel sides and roof. It has separate sections, so there were four stages with different DJs performing at different times. Josh and I were both pretty into the Cube Room, which had kind of electro lounge music, more than the others, but the three of us, and Lena's friend Marion (who is awesome, I know her from past visit to Liege and the La Semo festival) and her friends, spent the night moving around quite a bit.

Lena, me and Josh at Les Trans Ardentes festival, Liege, Belgium
Like all the festivals I've been to in Belgium, you have to swap cash for tickets that you then swap for drinks. I guess it seems like a good idea, not having to mess around with money at the bar, but it really just means you have to join another really long line, and you can only get the tickets in preset amounts that aren't divisible by the cost of drinks, grrr. But, being sick (and broke!) I had resolved only to have a few drinks anyway. The other annoyance was having to pay an extra 2euros to be able to use the bathroom - not every time you went, you just had to pay for an armband that allowed you into the toilets all night. How stupid is that? Just raise the ticket price by 2euros! And sexist too, because there were free urinals outside for the guys. And even though it was smokefree, once the crowds built up everyone started smoking inside, so I was constantly afraid of getting burnt in the middle of the dancing crowds.

Boys Noize at les Trans Ardentes festival in Liege, Belgium
But, rant over, the festival was awesome, I'm now totally addicted to electronic music festivals. I don't think New Zealand has anything comparable, not with 12 000 people coming through the doors and with such high standards of DJs, like Birdy Nam Nam, Cassius and Boys Noize. The German DJ Boys Noize was the big drawcard for me, he's been my favourite DJ for about three years, and I was gutted to miss him playing at Rhythm and Vines back in New Zealand just after I'd flown to Germany last year! He played at 1.30am, and by that stage I'd been dancing for over five hours and I was dead tired and aching everywhere, but I stayed on my feet for the whole set, he was really amazing and actually better live than recorded. I couldn't say the same about Birdy Nam Nam, I thought they were terrible live and I didn't stick around! It must have been around 3.30am when we called it a night, Josh was really the worse for wear and Lena and I were both shattered. But, it was an awesome night, and one of my favourite experiences here in Europe.

Lena and Josh at "the cool bar" in Liege, Belgium
We slept quite late the next day, only dragging ourselves out of bed sometime around 1pm to find Lena's mum had laid that table with pastries and fruit for us for breakfast, so cute! We wanted to show Josh around Liege, but we were all so tired and it was absolutely freezing, colder than I've felt all winter so far, so we kind of dashed quickly through the centre into what me and Lena call "the cool bar" where we always go for a drink, and then we ended up playing a couple of games of pool before heading to Quick for dinner and then jumping into the car to head home. It was so cold I couldn't even bear to take my hands out of my pockets to take photos all day. An hour later with the car heating going full bore, I still couldn't feel my hands or feet, and just as we crossed the border into Luxembourg it started to snow.

Ollie playing dress-ups. Girly or what!
The cold weather continued the next couple of days, with highs of about -1 and lows of about -4, so even though more snow didn't fall, what we already had stuck around. I spent Monday recovering from the weekend, and running a ton of errands around the city. I babysat that night, putting the kids to bed myself which is uncommon. Unfortunately, Pepi's 'Baby Mozart' stuffed monkey was forgotten in Rogier's car and went off to him. Trying not to show my panic, I went through the whole bath/bed routine as normal, and it wasn't until he was lying with me in bed that he realised Baby was missing. I told him Baby had wanted to go to work with Papa, and he only cried for a couple of minutes before settling down, a pretty good outcome considering how attached to that thing he has been!

city hall buildings, Thionville, France
Tuesday I was up early and took to the bus to Thionville, 30km away in France. Remembering that international postage from France was quite cheap and knowing that nothing (ciggarettes, alcohol and petrol excluded) can be described as cheap in Luxembourg, I looked into the price difference last year and found that I could post up to 7kg in a pre-paid box from France for 40euros, compared to paying 160euros to post 7kg from Luxembourg. So, before Christmas I lugged 14kg of presents and crap I wanted to ship home over the border on the bus, discovered the handrawn map I copied of Google was useless and wandered aimlessly around town until I found the Tourist Office, and then spent a whole hour in the shop sorting everything out with a english-speaking man who told me that his daughter had gone to New Zealand on exchange, and reported it to be 'boring, with nothing to do'.

Thionville, France
I looked around me at Thionville, a town of 40 000 with nothing special and no exciting nightlife or activities of its own, and had to wonder where in New Zealand she had been living. Thionville was so unexciting, I didn't even mention going there in this blog. This time however, the town was covered in snow, and even the most boring and basic of places look pretty under snow, so I walked around for a hour or so taking photos, until the cold really got to me and I jumped on the bus again. Back in Luxembourg, I walked from the train station into the city centre to photograph the Petrusse Valley in between.

Petrusse Valley, Luxembourg Ville, Luxembourg
Arriving back home, I noticed that some of our neighbours had shoveled the snow of their driveway and the pavement. With it being sunny during the day, but still so cold, it was really icy and Rogier had hit the rubbish bin sliding while backing out the night before, and because I've never shoveled snow before I thought it would be fun to give it a go. I thought wrong! Shoveling snow is hard work, that stuff is damn heavy and it took me forever to work out how to break up the ice, rather than just trying to scrape it off the concrete. I won't even tell you how long it took me, but I was pretty proud of my effort.

So, not a very interesting blog post I know, I'l do my best to get out and about a bit more in February!

Photos from January are here. I've also just gotten into Twitter in a big way, you can follow me here.

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