Monday, April 24, 2006
'Doing A Terrace'
The first rays of sunshine have finally reached Belgian soil, after a long, cold and depressive winter. There’s a park right across the door of the office, so I ate my sandwich outdoors today, on a park bench in the shade, looking at the dogs play and smelling the fresh spring smell of the plants and flowers.
Belgians wait eagerly for these first moments of spring sunshine, because after a long winter stop, they can finally eat and drink outdoors again, on the terrace of a pub or restaurant. In the Flemish part, we call this ‘doing a terrace’. In fact, we’re so fond of it that it has become a bit ridiculous really. This weekend the sun was shining, but that doesn’t mean it was warm at all. Still, people were sitting on the terraces, dressed in coats and pullovers, or just huddling close together and trembling on their seats. The weather forecast said it was going to be warm (they were wrong of course), so we’re going to SIT OUTSIDE, even if our bums freeze off.
Another consequence of this Belgian terrace mania is that a lot of cafés and restaurants installed devices to allow their customers to survive the freezing cold and still sit outside. This starts with gas-heaters that make you melt at one side and freeze at the other. Then there are windshields at both sides of the terrace. Some will also make a roof to protect you from the rain. And finally, there’s the wind shield at the front, to make it nice and cosy. Now tell me, if you’re completely surrounded by walls, with a roof over your head and with a heating installed at the interior, why do people still call these ‘terraces’? In my dictionary, this is a building, or rather an add-on to a building. And generally, it’s an ugly add-on too. Plus, it blocks the sidewalks, often you have to walk on the street to pass these contraptions.
So, fellow countrymen and -women, make a choice: sit outside when the weather permits, or don’t if it’s too cold. But don’t pretend you’re outside when in fact you’re sitting in a damp, ugly, half-cold-half-warm dump without a decent view!