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Saturday, January 07, 2012

Living on the border

Living on the border
Staying at Koksijde for four nights, could be a reminder of what it is to be marginal. Both Koksijde in Belgium and Dunkirque in Northern France, which we visited on Thursday this week for our first meal in France, appeared to be marginal places in some ways apart from the fact they are on national boundaries. This is symbolised by a number of things we noticed. The ambiguity of language is emphasised in Belgium, you are generally greeted in Flemish, but if you greet someone in French, they will often happily continue in French. There is a lot of French spoken, Koksijde also a place of holidaymakers, many French, with little or no Flemish. (Plopsaland is around the corner, for kids and teens including shows, roundabouts and thrill rides).

Both places also had a history of changing hands, from Spanish to Austrian to French, and to English rulers. Dunkirque was actually sold from the English to the French for a couple of hundred thousand pounds! Knowing that some people prefer French and some Flemish, and with our smattering of Dutch/French, sometimes we get away with pretending to be locals and sometimes we don't. The English spoken is generally pretty good, but sometimes non-existent! Those are the fun times!
Still, language wise, going to France won't be our first experience of the French language, after our gentle introduction of a couple of excursions to France as well as three trips to Brussels. Tonight we experience Brussels once more before our seven days in Paris starting tomorrow am. We arrive in Paris at 9am, so you can imagine what time we leave Brussels!

Ge and I returned the bikes this morning, at 8am still in darkness, and fought the winds to make it to the beach place we got them from. It was great to have the bikes for a few days and to experience another aspect of culture here, although for the most part we were the only ones on bikes, as it was cold, sometimes wet and we were in danger of running into dunes which had been blown onto the road.

We really enjoyed the tram ride halfway up Belgium to Oostende, before catching the train to Brussels. This is perhaps the equivalent of our "Great Ocean Road", but we decided we were in the more beautiful part down south, as much of the coastline is lined by tall apartment buildings. Looking to Paris early tomorrow!


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