My secret life
AN ALIEN IN BRUSSELS
My Secret Life :: my car-free hell
It seemed like a good idea at the time. My book had just been published in French so I was naturally flattered to take part in a bike tour during which I would talk about the book.
The tour was being organised by Vivacité radio station on the day before car-free day. It sounded like the perfect opportunity. I have loved car free day from the day it was launched. It turns the city into a wonderfully quiet place where people get around by every kind of transport except the car.
I was expecting that the interview would involve a gentle ride around town, with frequent stops to talk about Brussels. It turned out that they had something competely different in mind.
I arrived to find that I was going to join a peleton of serious Belgian cyclists who were about to set off on a 31 kilometre ride around Brussels. Now, I am a reasonably enthusiastic cyclist, but no one would call me the Bradley Wiggins of Brussels. My heart sank when I saw that the route involved the long climb up Boulevard du Jardin Botanique and another stiff heave up to the Parc du Cinquantenaire.
It got worse. I was given a bike that was the wrong size. Then told to put on a backpack which contained a radio transmitter and fifty heavy batteries. I was going to have to do the interview while cycling through Brussels, wearing headphones all the time so that I could follow the live broadcast.
We set off with two cool police cyclists leading the way, followed by a dozen or so cyclists, followed by the Vivacité broadcasting van. The interviewer cycled alongside me to ask various questions along the way. It was barely possible to hear the questions because of the loud French pop music that Vivacité likes to play. I was struggling to breathe on one steep hill when I was asked to explain the meaning of the Brussels dialect expression Schieven architek.
Anyone listening to Radio Vivacité at around 16.00 would have heard me say something along the lines of - C'est puff quelqu'un a qui gasp l'on ne oh thank heavens, someone is giving me a push peut pas we made it faire confiance.
You do not realise how many hills there are in Brussels until you have cycled through the city with a radio transmitter strapped to your back while trying to explain why you consider Flagey the best place in town for frites. Next time I have to do an interview, I am going to be sitting on a chair in a studio sipping a glass of wine.
The programme was presented by Adrien Joveneau who has written an excellent guide to cycle trails in Belgium titled Le Beau Vélo Ravel