South Park Self

into the woods

The faculty is apparently OK with me ambling off on about six weeks of leave. I'm a bit weirded out, frankly. In celebration, and because one of the few things I plan to do with this six weeks is a restful, non-deadline-driven spot of academic writing, have some random fairy-tale links.

  • Ursula Vernon does "Little Red Riding Hood". Very well. It's both creepy and down-to-earth. Make sure you read Part II as well.

  • Cat Valente, who is still my literary girl crush, does Coyote myth with high school American football. I am stunned by how brilliantly this works.

There's a big fairy-tale conference in Belgium in August next year, including possibly the two biggest names in my field (Zipes, and one of my thesis examiners). Exploding legs notwithstanding, I am totally going to be there, and am determined to give a paper on E. Nesbit just because. (Just because she gives Billy the King a Lee Enfield rifle and makes her prince into a lift-man. The phrases "prop shift" and "paradigmatic change" will almost certainly be implicated).

In the meantime, the apparent effect of being given permission to be tired and ill is to make me really feel tired and ill. Odd how that happens.
  • Current Mood: blank a bit ded
Good luck with travels! Belgium is doing quite well as European countries go at present, and also forgot to have a government for the last year or so. These may be related.

PS: Are you planning end-of-year activities yet?
I haven't even thought about the end of the year. I think it's probably safe to say I'll be on leave between Christmas and New Year, but after this giant wodge of medical leave, probably no more than that. But we must certainly do dinner or somesuch.
Quite a long reply about Belgium
Hooray for sensible decisions from your faculty! What a luxury to be able to engage your academic brain on paper writing for six glorious weeks. I hope you emerge fully rested.

Oh, yes, we like Belgium. Assuming Belgium still exists as a country by then, that is (friends in Brussels have told me the authorities have stopped accepting applications for BE citizenship, due to the uncertainty).

Belgium is a quietly psychedelic place. Some of the good things are lovely light, easy-going customs, fruit beer (you must try the cherry beer, or on a hot day the peach beer, even if you don't like beer), and excellent chocolate (go for Leonidas for everyday luxury, or for Neuhaus for top-shelf stuff with accompanying prices). And the food is generally of a very high standard. If you're going to be in Brussels, I can perhaps give you a few tips (including a top-notch sushi place that can rapidly empty your wallet). A sandwich in Belgium is a baguette with the filling of your choice. Some places sell them by the centimeter, and some will charge a hefty supplement for things like butter. And you _must_ have frites-fritten when you're there, ideally from a box-on-the-street. Good Belgian chips are likely to be noticeably better than any chips you've had before, and come with a dazzling array of sauces.

There are also bad things, but you're unlikely to encounter those in too much detail on a short visit.

Usually it's an anything-goes kind of place where rules are typically ignored (a German magazine carried an article a few years ago in which the author declared his love for "wild Belgistan").
However, there are in fact rules forbidding just about everything and sometimes an official will get all riled up and start to take every.single.rule.very.seriously. Which is tedious. This is more likely to happen in Flanders than in Wallonia. I'm just saying so you're not surprised if it happens.

Be aware that not everywhere will serve tap water. I was in Brussels over the (European) summer with a few people. We ordered various things at a brasserie, and also a glass of tap-water for the infant. What we got was a bottle of mineral water instead. In response to the complaint that we had wanted tap water, the waiter replied, "We don't have tap water" with a supercilious sneer (we gave him a 2c tip in response). (For full disclosure/avoidance, it was "La Rose Blanche - De Witte Roos" on the Brussels Grand Place.

The other things to look out for in August are festivals (Belgium is a good Catholic country in that respect: likes to enjoy life and live it up) and the "congée annuelle", or annual holiday. It's not unusual to see single-owner shops closed for three or four weeks in the summer, particularly August.

Finally, Belgium is small enough and the train service comprehensive enough that you can easily add a few days to your stay and day-trip to individual towns/cities. For example, Bruges is like a chocolate box and well worth visiting once, and Antwerp supposedly has some fabulous new museum. I have found that Ibis hotels tend to offer boring no-frills - but affordable and clean - accommodation and might be suitable for such purposes.
If you do travel by train, check out the special weekend fares (40% off for a day-trip IIRC), and there used to be a ten-journey ticket, from anywhere in BE to anywhere in BE for not too much per journey (you fill in the details prior to starting your journey). The ticketing staff will speak English, but will probably not tell you about special fares unless you specifically ask about them (typically Belgian). There are ticketing machines that communicate in English also, but you may not be able to use a non-Belgian bank card.
Re: Quite a long reply about Belgium
The conference is actually in Ghent, about which I know absolutely nothing other than a vague tendency to associate it with some sort of medieval religious fracas. Also, a treaty. Treaty of Ghent? American war of independence? Historian I am not... But it seems to be medieval and rather beautiful.
Re: Quite a long reply about Belgium
Sorry, bit sidetracked there, I meant to say thank you for the lots of input, and I'm now wishing I had unlimited funds and time to visit all these wonderful places.
The faculty is apparently OK with me ambling off on about six weeks of leave. I'm a bit weirded out, frankly.

I suspect they prefer having you back in six weeks, to not coming back, either on permanent disability, or not surviving your exploding legs. Goodness knows which I would choose in their place!

We loved visiting Bruges in 2009 - a 15th century city preserved in aspic - not certain what ordinary people do there, other than work for the tourism industry.

But the museums and the cathedrals sang to us, and we had excellent B&B experiences. Brace yourself for the food prices though.