We Must Be Crazy, But Sometimes You Have to Be

Arras Travel Blog

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The Stage
Here we go.

The three of us trekked back through the streets of Brussels to catch our 11:00am train back to France. Here is what the agenda looked like:

11:00am: Train to Arras, France connecting in Lille, France
1:30pm: Arrive in Arras
3:00pm: Gates open for the music festival
Midnight: Concert ends
5:30am: Train back to Brussels via Lille
Noon: Train to Berlin, Germany connecting in Cologne, Germany
8:00pm: Arrive in Berlin, completely exhausted.

Our first train (a TGV, another high speed train) left on time and we arrived in Lille right on schedule. For some reason, international trains arrive at the “Lille Europe” station while most domestic trains arrive and depart from the “Lille Flandres” station.
The Main Square beginning to fill up
Luckily, they are very near each other and it only took us about ten minutes to walk between them.

The second train of the day was about an hour long and we soon found ourselves pulling into Arras. Arras, a small town in northern France isn’t known for much (I had never heard of it before). I had tried investigating the web for tourist information but I could barely find anything. It was almost like Metz.

When we left the station, it was pretty obvious that the music festival was the town’s main attraction. There were signs everywhere and tons of concert goers meandering around the city. We found a park bench to have another picnic lunch before heading into the main town square where the concert was being held.

Around 3:30pm, we made our way to the line.
Clark getting pumped for the concert
It was almost 90 degrees out with hardly any breeze or clouds. And unfortunately, the line moved about as fast as the wind was. It took nearly an hour before we were able to show our tickets and enter. We made our way as far forward as possible and set up camp for the next seven hours.

The square was lined with everything: shopping, food, games, and even those portable urinals that I had previously encountered in Amsterdam. We sent Sarah to go grab us each a beer because she could navigate through the crowd easier than us guys. Once she returned, it was time for the first band to come on. M. Ward, as they are called, played covers of a bunch of different songs. It wasn’t really my type of music, so I just sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of this massive, outdoor event.
More people packing in


After another performer, Amy McDonald, it was time for me to grab some dinner. It took me nearly 15 minutes to walk about 500 feet. I fought through droves of people, mainly my age, and French. I had to do the same thing on the way back, except this time with a beer and an “American-Saucisse”, also known as a foot long hot dog with French fries and ketchup pouring out of it. I had plenty of people yelling at me thinking I was sneaking my way to the front and I had to explain to them in French that I had friends up there and I had just got to get some dinner and that I had been there for nearly three hours already.

I finally made it back, inhaled the mound of food I had somehow managed to bring back without dropping, and got ready for the next performance. The band was The Ting Tings.
Just before Coldplay
I had only heard their hit song before this concert and didn’t really like it, so I didn’t know what to expect from them. At first, I was hot, tired, feeling extremely full from the beer and hot dog/fry combination, and was not really enjoying the music. It picked up about halfway through the performance and I actually enjoyed most of their songs they played after that. They were on stage until about 8:30pm. Then it was time for the highlight of the show.

An hour later, the square was way more packed than it had been all afternoon. Everyone had been pushing their way forward and we ended up about 200 feet from the stage. I had been to two Coldplay concerts previously so I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect. This concert surpassed my expectations. Just check out some of the pictures.
Here they come
People were going crazy, the sound and lighting were awesome, and Chris Martin (the lead singer) was interactive with the crowd and even tried speaking some French.

Some other highlights included: Martin singing Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean in tribute; the band coming out into the crowd and playing a few songs about 50 feet away from us; big yellow balls being bounced around the crowd during the song “Yellow”; A big rain shower that cooled everyone off while singing along with the band; and just the enjoyment and excitement I had watching my favorite band live, outdoors, in France. This will be one of the main highlights of this trip and it was well worth the admission fee.

After the concert, it was time to hit the streets of Arras. The crowd filtered out pretty quickly and we first stopped at a kebab stand for a late night snack.
Great concert
We were all absolutely exhausted from standing in the heat all day and night and we were covered in sweat (not to mention our clothes were wet from the rain as well). After walking past a few bars and in no mood to drink, we looked for a spot to set up shop for the night.

Arras only has a few hotels and only one hostel in the city. Needless to say, they were all heavily booked that night and we were unable to get a train out that late at night. We went to a well lit park right next to the train station. Clark somehow fell asleep on a bench and actually got a few hours of sleep. I’m a pretty picky sleeper, so I just listened to my iPod and watched all the other concert goers that had our same idea.

Sitting up all night in a park next to a train station in France really makes you think and appreciate things.
The yellow balls
I saw people from all walks of life, had a conversation with a couple drunken Parisian firefighters that went to the concert, and was approached by a few other drunk people who just wanted to chat. I felt safe the entire night being in a small town and I saw police almost every 15 or so minutes. The whole experience made me appreciate the fact that I have a place to sleep every night, a great life back in the US including family and friends, and the opportunity to be taking the trip that I was on.

It became pretty cold that night and a few thunderstorms passed nearby that worried me a bit. Finally, at 5:00am, the train station opened. Four hours on a park bench in France was something I hadn’t planned on doing this trip, something I will never do again, but something I will always remember.
jamesta917 says:
wow derrick. what a night!
Posted on: Jul 05, 2009
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The Stage
The Stage
The Main Square beginning to fill …
The Main Square beginning to fill…
Clark getting pumped for the conce…
Clark getting pumped for the conc…
More people packing in
More people packing in
Just before Coldplay
Just before Coldplay
Here they come
Here they come
Great concert
Great concert
The yellow balls
The yellow balls
The whole crowd going crazy
The whole crowd going crazy
Chris Martin
Chris Martin
Sorry its blurry, but this was how…
Sorry its blurry, but this was ho…
The park where we spent the night
The park where we spent the night
Arras
photo by: monitoringmedlow