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 Africa86 votes
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4.42%
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"Art is a lie that enables us to realize the truth." -- Picasso

391--Belgium: Tour de France 2007 , Stage 2 Gent (Gand)
@ CherieSpotting     Jul 10 2007 - 11:46 PST
cherie writes: Brian and I took the train to Gand, Belgium to see the finish of the second stage of the Tour de France 2007. The nice thing about being in Belgium is that each city has three names (a Dutch, French & English name). So depending on what map you’re looking at, you need to get off at Ghent, Gand or Gent which is fabulous for tourists.

At the train station, the ticket-seller said there was a “special price” to travel to see the Tour de France. Note: in Belgium “special price” means more, not less. “Are you going to see the Tour de France,” the ticket-seller asked. “It depends. How much is it going to cost us to answer that question honestly?”

Brian and I often joke about the things in Europe that cost money that shouldn’t. Ketchup and toilets, for example. Condiments and bathrooms should be free, especially when you spend the day waiting for 188 bikers in tight clothing to wiz by. The spectators end up drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of French fries during the “waiting process.”

“I’ve spent five Euros today just on peeing,” Brian exclaimed after a few hours. And I can vouch for that because I personally watched Brian pee and do did everyone else because the Belgian portable toilets are lacking (in a word) privacy. (And the walk-up-and-pee plastic urinals are the same price as the closed-door port-a-potty. As Brian says: “I don’t like to pay to drink water or to pass it.”

“I got this pee,” I said to Brian as I handed over one Euro to the toilet-attendant to cover the cost of both of our visits. “Thanks,” said Brian. “I’ll get the next pee.”

I’m not sure if I should let Brian get me anything because he thinks his Dutch is way better than it actually is. After bringing back fries loaded with white gooey mayo, I informed Brian that (like many Americans) I don’t like mayo on my fries. “I don’t like mayo, either. I ordered it on the side,” said Brian. I guess that gives you an idea of Brian’s mastery of the Dutch language. (Later we tried to order two waffles and almost got three because the Dutch word for two is “twee”, which sounds like “three” in English.) Brian defended his poor Dutch by saying: “Would it have really been that bad if we got three waffles instead of two?” Point taken.

Luckily we found the French-fry stand, otherwise Brian and I would have been stuck munching on snails. We couldn’t help but do a mini photo-shoot outside the “Escargot” stand, and the vendor kept asking us if we wanted any. “No, we’re Americans. We don’t eat snails; we just take photos of them.” Then Brian added: “And why would we buy them when we can pick them up off the ground for free!”

Brian and I made some new friends at the Tour de France (who were extra friendly and let me stand at the front of the crowd after they learned that Brian and I weren’t a couple.) We agreed that the “Caravan” portion of the Tour was going to be boring, but to our surprise we loved it. (Yes Eva, we loved it.)

The “Caravan” is the part of the Tour de France where the sponsors of the Tour drive by in a procession of colorful cars. The procession of cars promotes their products by throwing them at you. Now it’s cool when you get a packet or pretzels or a bottle of water, but who wants to carry around a sample of laundry detergent? Well, apparently Belgians because they leapt in the air as if the vehicles were throwing something more valuable, like chocolate. The “Caravan” was great until the “blue pig” (see photos) came by and squirted the crowd (and I had a front-row seat) with water. My camera didn’t appreciate the shower, but luckily the camera dried and lived to click another day.

Eva (Brian’s Belgian girlfriend) arranged to pick Brian and I up in Ghent (Eva speaks Dutch, so it’s Ghent.) after a hard day’s work (she worked hard, not us.)

“Let’s meet at the castle,” Brian suggested. That’s a phrase that can only work in Europe or Disneyland. Later, Brian and I found that it takes over one hour to walk the castle that is only 10-minutes away.

“Which way is the castle?” Brian and I repeated to friendly Belgians who responded by saying: “Which castle?”
“Is there more than one castle?”
“No, there’s just one,” the helpful Belgian would confirm.
“Then that one.”

Randomly Brian and I stumbled (literally since we had been drinking all day) into Eva on some side street. Eva claims she was looking for something to snack on (probably snails) when she found us. Brian decided he wanted a “free pee” at a restaurant, so he offered to treat Eva and me to a beer on him. “Don’t order one too expensive, because I’m paying.” Brian joked.

Then I ordered a big “Kwak” beer in a mini-yard glass, and Brian rolled his eyes as if to say: “that looks like an expensive one.” It’s like when you get a cocktail served in a pineapple; you know you’re going to pay for the presentation.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Cherie & <a href=http://www.4tttts.blogspot.com/>Brian</a> at the 2007 Tour de France.  Stage 2 ended in Gand (or Gent) depending on whether you speak French or Dutch.

Cherie & Brian at the 2007 Tour de France. Stage 2 ended in Gand (or Gent) depending on whether you speak French or Dutch.

I guess it makes sense that people would ride their bikes to see the Tour de France.

I guess it makes sense that people would ride their bikes to see the Tour de France.

Two bikers watching the tour (and wondering why I am photographing them.)

Two bikers watching the tour (and wondering why I am photographing them.)

Brian asked: "Should we push our way through the crowds and wait for 2 hours, or should we buy some beer and walk around and have fun?"

Brian asked: "Should we push our way through the crowds and wait for 2 hours, or should we buy some beer and walk around and have fun?"

By the billboards in Gent/Gand you can tell we're not in the USA.

By the billboards in Gent/Gand you can tell we're not in the USA.

Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.

Brian with our cardboard beer tray.  Why don't they have these things in the USA?

Brian with our cardboard beer tray. Why don't they have these things in the USA?

It's always a bit strange when people go to a "live" event and then watch it on TV.

It's always a bit strange when people go to a "live" event and then watch it on TV.

People stand all day just to get a peek at the riders as they wizz by.  (I said wizz.)

People stand all day just to get a peek at the riders as they wizz by. (I said wizz.)

Are we drunk, or is there a bunny at the Tour de France?

Are we drunk, or is there a bunny at the Tour de France?

Cherie at the escargot snack shop.

Cherie at the escargot snack shop.

No thanks, we don't want to buy any snails.  We can pick them off the ground for free.

No thanks, we don't want to buy any snails. We can pick them off the ground for free.

People hanging out of their windows to watch the Tour de France 2007.

People hanging out of their windows to watch the Tour de France 2007.

The crowds watch the end of Stage 2 in Gent, Belgium.

The crowds watch the end of Stage 2 in Gent, Belgium.

Snapping photos from the balcony.

Snapping photos from the balcony.

There's a chopper.

There's a chopper.

More strange advertising.

More strange advertising.

The caravan begins and the crowd goes crazy.

The caravan begins and the crowd goes crazy.

The sponsors of the Tour de France drive by in colorful "gift-bearing" vehicles.

The sponsors of the Tour de France drive by in colorful "gift-bearing" vehicles.

Hey, the Simpsons are at the Tour de France!

Hey, the Simpsons are at the Tour de France!

Suddenly I'm hungry for a pretzel.

Suddenly I'm hungry for a pretzel.

Does anyone smell Pooh?

Does anyone smell Pooh?

Blast off.

Blast off.

This kangaroo-car hops down the route of the Tour de France.

This kangaroo-car hops down the route of the Tour de France.

Excuse me, can I borrow your fox car for Burning Man?

Excuse me, can I borrow your fox car for Burning Man?

Are you in the mood for a picnic?

Are you in the mood for a picnic?

Make sure you have plenty of laundry detergent.  The Tour de France makes you sweaty.

Make sure you have plenty of laundry detergent. The Tour de France makes you sweaty.

Don't get run over by this car (or any car, for that matter!)

Don't get run over by this car (or any car, for that matter!)

Is that the professor from "Back to the Future" on a blue pig?

Is that the professor from "Back to the Future" on a blue pig?

This car went a bit nutty.

This car went a bit nutty.

Who needs to read the paper?  We're watching the Tour de France live.

Who needs to read the paper? We're watching the Tour de France live.

Don't read and drive.

Don't read and drive.

Now that's a trike.

Now that's a trike.

You little devil.

You little devil.

Those crazy cows.

Those crazy cows.

Brian orders fries without mayo.  Apparently his Dutch isn't very good.

Brian orders fries without mayo. Apparently his Dutch isn't very good.

Brian with the Flemish flag, Dutch beer and French fries.

Brian with the Flemish flag, Dutch beer and French fries.

What time is it?

What time is it?

One way to keep track of your kids (give them polka-dotted hats!)

One way to keep track of your kids (give them polka-dotted hats!)

The riders of the Tour de France 2007 are about to approach.

The riders of the Tour de France 2007 are about to approach.

The pink guys are leading the pack.

The pink guys are leading the pack.

Do you think the riders get a say in the color of their jerseys?

Do you think the riders get a say in the color of their jerseys?

There's a green guy.

There's a green guy.

Now a blue guy.

Now a blue guy.

This is a very colorful race.

This is a very colorful race.

The Tour de France runs from Saturday July 7th to Sunday July 29th 2007.

The Tour de France runs from Saturday July 7th to Sunday July 29th 2007.

The 20 stages include: 11 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 1 medium-mountain stage (whatever that means), and 2 individual time-trial stages.

The 20 stages include: 11 flat stages, 6 mountain stages, 1 medium-mountain stage (whatever that means), and 2 individual time-trial stages.

The Tour de France covers a total distance of 3,550 kilometers.

The Tour de France covers a total distance of 3,550 kilometers.

The riders are close enough to touch.

The riders are close enough to touch.

The orange guys.

The orange guys.

Where is everyone? (They might be ahead of you!)

Where is everyone? (They might be ahead of you!)

Ok, here's the plan.

Ok, here's the plan.

In 2007, the Tour de France started in London.

In 2007, the Tour de France started in London.

There are 188 riders in the Tour de France.

There are 188 riders in the Tour de France.

After Paris, which city has hosted the Tour the highest number of times? The answer is Bordeaux.

After Paris, which city has hosted the Tour the highest number of times? The answer is Bordeaux.

The loney rider.

The loney rider.

Who won the largest number of stage victories? The answer is Eddy Merckx.

Who won the largest number of stage victories? The answer is Eddy Merckx.

Almost there.

Almost there.

Big smiles.

Big smiles.

Are they telling secrets?

Are they telling secrets?

Which was the longest Tour? The 1926 Tour with 5,745 km.

Which was the longest Tour? The 1926 Tour with 5,745 km.

The 93 editions of the Tour de France raced between 1903 and 2006 represent over 350,000 km, or the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

The 93 editions of the Tour de France raced between 1903 and 2006 represent over 350,000 km, or the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Over 500 towns and villages have hosted the Tour (about 2,000 stages and prologues).

Over 500 towns and villages have hosted the Tour (about 2,000 stages and prologues).

More than 10,000 riders have taken their chance on the Tour and over 6,000 have completed the race.

More than 10,000 riders have taken their chance on the Tour and over 6,000 have completed the race.

Raymond Poulidor may not have won the Yellow Jersey, but he is the rider who stepped the highest number of times on the podium of the Tour (he finished 8 times in the Top 3!), more than Hinault, Zoetemelk, Ullrich and Armstrong (7), Garrigou, Anquetil and Merckx (6), LeMond and Indurain (5), Van Impe and L. Bobet (4).

Raymond Poulidor may not have won the Yellow Jersey, but he is the rider who stepped the highest number of times on the podium of the Tour (he finished 8 times in the Top 3!), more than Hinault, Zoetemelk, Ullrich and Armstrong (7), Garrigou, Anquetil and Merckx (6), LeMond and Indurain (5), Van Impe and L. Bobet (4).

Hey, let's ditch that guy behind us.

Hey, let's ditch that guy behind us.

The last few riders roll in.  Some are bleeding.

The last few riders roll in. Some are bleeding.

The crowd claps wildly as the last riders complete the last few kilometers of Stage 2.

The crowd claps wildly as the last riders complete the last few kilometers of Stage 2.

Watching the Tour de France.

Watching the Tour de France.

Brian can't let go of his beer holder...even for a pee.

Brian can't let go of his beer holder...even for a pee.

Look mom (Hi, Diana), no hands!

Look mom (Hi, Diana), no hands!

The parties afterwards have ice-sculptures.

The parties afterwards have ice-sculptures.

I think Brian is hungry.  Want a surly burger?

I think Brian is hungry. Want a surly burger?

Gent, Gand or Ghent welcomes the Tour de France.

Gent, Gand or Ghent welcomes the Tour de France.

Eva arrives after a long day at work.

Eva arrives after a long day at work.

Brian and Eva.

Brian and Eva.

Tour de France, 2007.

Tour de France, 2007.

Cherie and Eva in Gand/Gent.

Cherie and Eva in Gand/Gent.

Cherie and Eva in Gand/Gent.

Cherie and Eva in Gand/Gent.

The charming city of Gand/Gent.

The charming city of Gand/Gent.

The charming city of Gand/Gent.

The charming city of Gand/Gent.

Eva and Brian.

Eva and Brian.

Cherie and Eva.

Cherie and Eva.

Why is there a spider web on the castle?

Why is there a spider web on the castle?

Brian and Eva.

Brian and Eva.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Brian treats for a beer, so Cherie orders the "big one."

Brian treats for a beer, so Cherie orders the "big one."

Brian.

Brian.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Gand/Gent.

Brian gives Eva a kiss.

Brian gives Eva a kiss.