Tournai is a city quite like Mons: Pleasant, many cafe’s and restaurants with relatively few tourists and a nice ‘old’ feel to it. Again, many locals flock to the town square on weekends to enjoy the nightlife.
We had the pleasure of staying at a hotel, not a hostel. Affordable and besides our double bed we also had an extra single bed to play with. I guess for hauling in cute little girls, if needed. Belgium has a history that accomodates such thoughts. However, the beds weren’t quite as comfortable as in the hostel in Mons, the previous night. We decided to leave the cute little girls for some other night.
The next day, when we were just about to leave for Ath, my car decided not to start. Calling multiple insurance agencies which, when we took up insurance with them, claimed they would help us in just a situation like this, we ended up with the Belgian ‘Touring’, who help motorists stranded on the Belgian highways. Not only did we have no insurance witht the Belgian Touring, probably meaning high costs, we also had to wait for close to two hours before someone finally showed up.
Luckily the weather was good and there was a cafe on the corner.
It turned out my battery was dead and restarting it was a breeze. Just one thing: If I would turn off the engine, we would be stranded again. I made it clear to the mechanic I didn’t have enough gas to drive all the way to the Netherlands (were I would be able to get a free tow home from one the insurance companies that was supposed to help us in Belgium) and that I needed to get gas somewhere before not turning the engine off. His reply was simple: “Well, if you shut down the engine, you’re stuck”, not seemingly wanting to help us get some gas and restarting the engine once more.
What to do. What could we do? “Well, “, he said, “miracles only happen in Lourdes. And even there not all the time.” Great.
The only thing we needed was a drive to a nearby gas station, were I could fill up the car. He could then restart the engine and we could then drive of to Holland. He, however, wouldn’t hear of it. It would be too bad for the engine.
I asked what a tow would cost. “Sir, if I tell you, you’ll fall down on the ground out of pure shock.” Ehm… ok… What then….
Then he seemed to realise something: “Wait, follow me!” And we did. At first, we thought he was going to drive to a gasstation to indeed help us fill up with gas but after passing three gas stations we were left in the dark as to his intentions.
We ended up at a regular mechanic’s where, in just five minutes, the battery was replaced. They insisted I only pay for the battery and we were off. Finally, to Ath.
It seems Belgium has a weakness for Carnivals. In Ath too, every year, during one weekend in August, the city is all about one thing and one thing only: Giant puppets parade through the streets of Ath, to commemmorate something on which the locals don’t appear to be totally sure. It has something to do with Goliath, David and a marriage but the exact origins are slightly unclear.
However, the show is enjoyable. When we arrived in Ath, hours later as planned due to car problems, we figured we had missed the whole parade, but we were lucky: On Sundays, there are two parades, an early and a late one. We were just in time for the afternoon parade and really enjoyed the show.
Besides the dressed up horse carts and wagons, there are a total of 8 giants in the yearly parade. Up to six meters high, they are carried by big bellied local men, who carry the large puppet and, taking turns, take it out for a spin, a dance. Locals watching the parade throw small coins at the dancing giants after which kids pick them up.
We stayed for dinner and later, tired of the pleasant weekend, we drove home, hoping the battery would hold. It did.