Mar 2, 2009

Les Giboulées de Mars

Last March I spent a day traveling across Belgium, from Maastricht to Brussels, to Ghent and ending in Bruges, following a group of art buyers while on assignment for a magazine. What I remember most, aside from the beautiful art I saw at TEFAF (coming up again this month) was the weather. In Belgium, talking about the weather is a national sport. If it's hot, it's too hot, cold, too cold and grey, well then it's of course, sunny somewhere else. On the radio, on the television, at the cafe, le météo is the topic du jour. Always. I ignore the weather now except when it comes time to decide which shoes to wear (I don't want to ruin suede you know). I can't do anything about the weather and I certainly can't let it hold me back, but I do admit, one time a year, the weather is my favorite pastime. In March the weather is as unpredictable and wild as...well, the weather. On this aforementioned day voyage across Belgium, I saw sun turn to grey turn to downpour turn to sleet and hail turn to snow and wind, only to have our day finish with rays of sunshine again reflecting off the canals of Bruges. It was bizarre but spectacular!

When I described this phenomenon to my Belgian friend she nodded knowingly. "Ah...Les Giboulées de Mars". By definition Giboulée means shower or soaking. I think the latter is more accurate but still, this one word description doesn't quite do it justice. In fact, there is really no equivalent in English except perhaps "April Showers". But shower sounds so pleasant. After all in English we shower someone with affection and/or gifts. We host a baby shower or a bridal shower. We shower to make ourselves feel clean and fresh. April showers bring May flowers and all that good stuff.

A giboulée is really not that pleasant. This is truly a sudden downpour, usually accompanied by wind, hail, or snow, shortly followed by sun again, and the cycle continues. It makes March very interesting here in Belgium and a time when I don't mind talking about the weather. March so far (only 3 days in) has been beautiful. I think Spring is taking her revenge for our long cold winter and I see sun, daffodils and meaty green leaves poking from the enriched dark soil. Of course in the distance I see black clouds moving by at a brisk pace. The game is on. Let the Gibouleés begin!

1 comment:

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

"March winds, April showers
Bring forth May flowers."
Summer arrives a month later in UK than in mainland Europe. Where we say "Ne'er cast a clout till May is out", the French say "Au mois d'avril, ne vous découvrez pas d'un fil".