on the road, days 1-2: belgian breakdown.

I don't have a lot of time to write at the moment, so i'll instead do that thing where the picture speaks for the thousand words, etc. These first two images really crystallize what the tour has been about so far. First, from Neufchateau, Belgium:

and, in Nancy, France:

Yes, that's right, the van died (for good) in Neufchatel. On the upside, being stranded in Neufchatel looks like this:

That is, until you have to unload your van onto the side of the highway, and then it looks more like this:

That is, until an amazing rescue team swoops down upon you from three hours away, packs you into their van, and then hurtles back across Luxembourg at death-defying speeds to land you at the gig just before you're supposed to go on. The second picture is from the next morning when the rescue van itself wouldn't start due to a misconnected brand-new battery...


But everything worked out fine. Except for the yellow van being declared "a catastrophe" by the Belgian Volkswagen mechanic. There will definitely be more detail to come as soon as I have access to an internet connection for more than 30 minutes.

More relevantly for this page, on the eating front: I knew we wouldn't have much time in each city, but there has really been no time to do anything other than drive, break down, call for help, wait, get rescued, drive, load in, do the thing, pack up, find the hotel, find out that there aren't enough beds for all of you, toss coins to see who sleeps together, lose the coin toss, and then fidget until dawn.

What I'm saying is: it's been all petrol stations and backstage food. Add to that the fact we've only been in France for a few daylight hours so far, mostly Belgium and Switzerland.

But France is where the eating highlights of the trip thus far have occurred. It has illustrated that cliche of French cuisine "getting the simple things right": I had the best croissant I've had in a long long time at the hotel in Nancy, lightly toasted and crispy on the outside, chewy, airy, and lightly buttery on the inside. And the eating highlight of my trip so far has been an amazing grilled ham and cheese sandwich at gas station outside Nancy:

It might not look like much, but what appears to be an innocent ham sandwich is actually a perfectly crispy baguette that's been grilled like a bruschetta, given a good once-over with real butter, and filled with good ham and better Gruyere. It's like a dream version of a ham sandwich. (to give Belgium some props, I had a perfect braadworst in Antwerp the size of my arm, with sauteed bacon and onions, mustard, and ketchup...a manly breakfast indeed).


Other food notes: Let's see....in Opwijk I think a girl tried to hit on me by giving me a very tasty caramel (nice one) and then sitting on the CDs I was trying to sell (mmm...less good). It was hard to tell exactly what her intentions were because she was, I think, very drunk...after her first two sentences ("Would you like a caramel?" and "Parlez-vous Francais?") she became completely speechless (most probably because I don't parlez-vous Francais). But there is nothing quite like watching someone try to communicate while being doubly incapacitated by alcohol and a language barrier. Worrying and endearing at the same time, she was...I'm pretty sure she eventually found another target for her caramels of desire.

Speaking of incapacitation via language barrier, I will soon find myself in semi-rural France with not much French to work with. More on this in a bit. Til then, here's a picture of the rescue van hurtling through the Swiss Alps.

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