post wp-admin edit 283521

Off-Peak Season: Best Time to Discover – A Visit to Ostend (Part 2)

We spent the late afternoon walking along Ostend’s beach promenade and staring out at the sea, happy not to have to keep a look out for kids on tricycles zig-zagging every which way and not to have to avoid puddles of melted ice cream that had fallen off some unfortunate person’s cone. Our stroll eventually brought us to the spot on the beach that the receptionist had told us about.

A small tent had been set up on the beach, under which there were food and drinks stalls. We were early by local standards and fresh oysters were still being shucked and laid out on plates for sale. Outside the tent, several fires were lit on fire-burners and fresh sardines were being prepared on a standalone griddle. As soon as a sardine was cooked and ready, a slice of bread was wrapped around it and the warm snack was handed over to someone.

We were curious and went closer – the aroma emanating from the grilled sardines was just too difficult to ignore. After I’d been handed two of the warm sardine bites, my husband proceeded to pay but was told that this was a local tradition and they were free. But this was “the only thing that was free – drinks and other food items still had to be paid for” said the woman behind the grill in a mockingly strict tone of voice, as a smile dangled on her face. We laughed and said that yes of course, we understood.

Standing on the beach, protected from the winds by the tent while the fires flickered in front of us, with a glass of crisp white wine in one hand and biting into a warm grilled sardine, while locals caught up with old friends, is a memory of the warm and friendly culture of the people of Ostend that I will long remember.

I’ve also noticed that one of the other lovely things about travelling in the off-peak season is that fellow travellers are friendlier as well as more relaxed and open to sharing their stories and insights into how things are done where they are from. This means that you can actually get to know about multiple cultures, often at a slower pace than if you were surrounded by strangers who were anxiously looking after their children while on holiday.

Remember that restaurant in De Haan? There were two other guests in there at the time that we were dining. I noticed that they were conversing in French, and as Ostend is a Dutch-speaking area, I assumed that they were not locals. The two women were friendly, and just as they were leaving the restaurant after their meal, our dessert-to-share arrived. One of the women walked over to us and passed a comment that we had picked an excellent choice for dessert and she had that every time. Surprisingly, she spoke to us in Dutch without a French accent. I smiled and thanked her, then asked her how many times she had been to the restaurant. “Oh I’ve been coming to this restaurant about once a month for the last year. Not in summer though – too many people! De Haan is a quiet and calming place, and I come to visit my old school friend who still lives here,” she replied.

At this stage, my curiosity got the better of me and I told her that I had assumed she was not local as I had overheard her speaking in French with her friend. “Oh yes, I was not born here. My family is from France. But my parents moved here when I was young and I went to school here. Funnily enough, I ended up marrying a French man but now I live in Holland. I come here for an escape from my husband and the kids – it’s also one of the few opportunities I get to speak French to someone apart from my family,” she told me laughingly.

So, whether it’s a holiday on a mountain or on a beach that you’re keen on, if you’re interested in finding out more about the local culture of the area that you are visiting – away from the ice cream cones of summer and the après ski evenings of winter – then choose, at least once, to visit a place and spend a weekend in the off-peak season. You’ll have more genuine and meaningful interactions with the locals that go beyond “Can I have the chocolate flavour, please?” and gain an insight into the local people and culture.

Monica Devi Lim

Hi, I am Monica Devi Lim, and I am originally from Singapore. I started my career in the television industry where I got to travel to a different country every few months, and then moved on to aviation in search of more of the world. During my free time, I love cooking exotic dishes and also reading for further travel inspiration. I speak several languages and now live between Belgium and Spain with my husband of Danish descent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Map - Greenland and Africa

Pondering on Our Own Truths

Since young, I was always drawn to ancient maps. When I was living in London during my undergraduate days, I enjoyed looking for old maps in the antique shops along King’s Road. Today, I have two world maps on my walls reminding me of my dream to travel the world. Now, what if I were…
Kendo

What We Can Learn from Kendo – “The Way of the Sword”

Few knew I’d practiced Kendo (劍道) during a period of my life. It all started with a Manga (Japanese comics) I read when I was little during a school holiday. I was intrigued by the self-discipline of this martial art and the tenacity of the main character. Years later, when I was working and living…
TCG Newsletter May 2021 - hand heart

Celebrating the World Day for Diversity this May

Last month, we talked about Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and the people we surround ourselves with within our spheres. This month, in celebrating the World Day for Diversity, I would like to share this clip (~ 2mins) from the United Nations.
globe-diverse flags

Enriching Our World through Diversity and Inclusion

Today, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) have become the buzz words. On their own, words are just an assembly of different alphabets/characters, insignificant and meaningless unless they lead to awareness and actions. Applying the famous idea: “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with,” let’s expand it and explore our “world.” Here…
TCG - child airplane pretend

Advancing Humanity through Exploration

Inspired by J.C. Maxwell (1831-1879), who published the Theory of Electromagnetism, my final year undergraduate project at KCL was to design and fabricate a Microstrip Antenna for satellite communication. Today I still remain on the mailing list of a group of British IEE engineers living in France. Because of that, I got to watch NASA’s live broadcast…
TCG inter-cultural - faces

Gaining from Cross-Cultural Experience

Regardless of the different colours of our hairs and eyes, or the different languages we speak, did you realize we all hold and bite into an apple the same way? My curiosity about myself being a human and what makes me a person resulted in watching several documentaries about our bodies and how our minds…
TCG 2021 January Kindness, virtues, connection

Kindness, Virtues, Connection

Raised with Eastern philosophical root, I always embrace duality (Ying and Yang) when examining life’s happenings. As Winston Churchill said when he worked with other world leaders to form the United Nations after WW II: ” Never let a good crisis go to waste!” How useful his insight can be for all of us, considering…