Thursday, 1 August 2019

Our Tomorrowland Journey Part 3 - The Festival, The Food, and The Weather...

So, in part one of our Tomorrowland Journey I talked about getting tickets, Global Journey, and Dreamville. You can check that post out HERE. And part pwo was all about The Gathering, which you can find HERE. But today, I'm going to talk about the festival itself - the food, the stages, and the weather...

The Festival

From The Montagoe Area it's just a 5/10 minute walk - depending on the amount of people - to the actual festival gates, which was nice. And the good thing about Tomorrowland is that the walkway is boarded, which makes it much easier.

Anyway, once at the gates you have to pass through a security check which involves emptying your pockets, having your bag searched, if you have one, and then walking through an airport-style scanner. During weekend 1 there were a few reports of security being a little lax, ie: not checking bags, just waving everyone through, but I can honestly say that during weekend 2 that wasn't happening. Everyone in front of us had their bags checked, we saw people being patted down, asked questions, security seemed a little tighter to me. Which I'm fine with. 

So, once through security, it was just one simple swipe of our bracelets and we were in... Yes. Bracelets. You're sent a bracelet a month or so before the festival starts, which has a small chip inside it, and you're then required to activate this bracelet - via your Tomorrowland account - with the unique code that comes with it, meaning that that bracelet is then asigned to you and you only, giving you access to the festival. If someone tries to enter with a bracelet that isn't registered to them, it can (but shouldn't) be done, but should that someone then lose that bracelet, and they aren't the person it was originally registered to, then it will not be replaced. And that person would more than likely be removed from the festival. It's a security thing. Your bracelet gives you access to your camping area, as well as the festival, so, for example, people who were camping at Magnificent Greens couldn't enter The Montagoe Area, their bracelets wouldn't allow it. But those bracelets give everyone access to the festival itself. 

Tomorrowland is also a cash-free festival. You load your bracelet with Pearls - the currency of Tomorrowland - and this is what you use to buy food and drink in both Dreamville and the festival itself. This basically means you transfer money onto your bracelet, again via your Tomorrowland account, it's incredibly simple and makes life so much easier once inside. Every time you buy food or drink you just quickly scan your bracelet - pretty much like you'd scan a credit card - and the pearls come off your bracelet! It really does make the queues go down faster, and it tells you on the scanning machine how many pearls you have left every time you buy something. 

Oh, and if you have unspent Pearls left once the festival is over, Tomorrowland will refund them straight back into your account! It took just a couple of days before they refunded ours, and I think this is such a great idea, because we deliberately overloaded our bracelets rathre than running out and having to top-up on site, which is actuallt really easy to do, there are booths all around the festival where you can do this. But, if you top-up your bracelet at the festival itself, then you have to fill out a form to get your unspent Pearls refunded, as opposed to that refund automatically coming back into your account if you topped up before you arrived at the festival.

Anyway, the festival itself - what is it like? Pretty much mind-blowing, to be honest. We'd looked at spoilers before we came out so we knew what the stages looked like, including the Mainstage. The Book of Wisdom - The Return was the theme this year, celebrating 15 years of Tomorrowland, and even though we knew what to expect, when you enter the festival from the Dreamville entrance, the Mainstage is the first thing you see. It slowly starts to appear over the brim of a hill, and despite knowing what it looked like, seeing it for real is something else!

The Mainstage
It is absolutely HUGE! It's imposing, beautiful, intricate, and even now, back home, I'm looking at it and seeing things I didn't realise were there. It truly is stunning.

Getting around the festival site is also something pretty well organised by Tomorrowland, in that they have a one-way system, a bit like Ikea!! You have to follow certain routes to the stages, and this can take a bit of getting used to when it's your first time because, sometimes, if you miss the entrance to a stage you want to visit it can mean you have to go round again to get there, but it does actually work. It's still an incredibly busy festival, don't get me wrong, but organising the routes in the way that they do, it does help to keep the traffic moving in a more orderly way.

So, what about the other stages? Well, first of all, there was a slight disappointment when we got to the festival, finding out that The Freedom Stage roof had collapsed a couple of days ago. The Freedom Stage was one of the stages we'd really wanted to visit - it's like a massive indoor nightclub with lights and lasers, it looked amazing when we watched old sets back. 

The Freedom Stage, Outdoors!
But, due to the extreme heat Belgium had had (apparently, although my husband still blames Eric Prydz's Holosphere) part of the roof had collapsed, thankfully when no-one was inside, and they had no time to repair it. So, instead, Tomorrowland turned The Freedom Stage into an open-air stage, and with just a few days notice to do this, I think they did a pretty bang-on job, personally. And, to be honest, the atmosphere when we were there for A State of Trance was so good! It was like a big party! And because there are lots of food stands outside The Freedom Stage, and a big seating area, it meant you could eat, drink, and sit down while still listening to the music. We actually liked it that way, although, if we go back next year I would like to see the original Freedom Stage back! I still want to experience that!!

The Rose Garden
OK. Other stages. Well, I definitely wanted to see The Rose Garden, or the 'Dragon Stage' as we called it! 😀

And it was just as impressive in real-life! I actually found myself watching the dragon more than the artists because there are so many tiny little movements it does, all the time, it's quite mesmerising! My only regret is that i didn't get to see this stage at night. It looks incredible in the dark, all lit up, so, yeah. Next Year.

The Rose Garden has been a fixture at Tomorrowland for a few years now, but this year also saw a few new stages replace old ones. One of those being The Lotus Stage, which replaced The Organ of Harmony. Although, to be fair, The Lotus Stage isn't exactly new, it was used as the Mainstage for Tomorrowland Winter back in March and was adapted slightly for Tomorrowland Belgium. 

The Lotus Stage
It's a really impressive stage, to be honest. The photos don't do it justice, and when we went there one night, for a final beer before heading back to Dreamville, it looked even better in the dark! We caught the back end of Martin Solveig Live, and stayed til the end of his set to finish our beers, it was a nice stage to end the night at. And they've made some alterations to the grounds in front of it, too, making it quite a pleasant space. There just weren't a lot of artists we wanted to see playing that stage, unfortunately. But, again, maybe next year...

Another new stage was the Q-Dance stage. I'm not a massive fan of hardstyle, but my husband is, so we went there a few times, and this is the first year, I think, that Q-Dance have been given their own desingated stage

The Q-Dance Stage
It was always busy when we we there, so it's certainly a popular genre, and I have to admit, people always seemed to be having so much fun there! 

Youphoria - or 'the mushroom stage' as we've nicknamed it, was still the same as it has been for a while now, and again, this was another stage we didn't spend too much time at because there was no-one playing there that we were desperate to see, but we did hang around it a couple of times to grab some photos and listen to a little bit of whoever was playing there at the time. It's one of those stages that has a little bit of cover available, too, which was quite welcome on the Friday when the heat was almost unbearable! 

Youphoria Stage
One of my favourite stages, and another new one, was L'orangerie, another stage that was used at Tomorrowland Winter and brought over for Tomorrowland Belgium. It's basically a huge greenhouse, but a very beautiful one. We only popped inside a couple of times, but this is another stage I'd like to spend more time in next year. 

So, that's just some of the stages we visited. We spent a lot of time at The Garden of Madness, which for some reason I forgot to take a picture of! And the Mainstage. Most of Saturday was Q-Dance and Mainstage, Sunday was Freedom Stage and Mainstage. We'd spent most of Friday sheltering from the heat, but did spend some time that day at The Freedom Stage (there was shade there!!), and the Mainstage. We also popped our heads in at The Core Stage, but we didn't really like that stage much at all. And my biggest regret is not spending ANY time in the Atmosphere Stage. This is a massive tent-like structure with the most incredible light shows inside, and I think we didn't really go in there because it was very much techno-themed on our weekend, and techno isn't a genre either me or my husband are really into. But, I wish I'd just stayed for one set, to experience the light show. I guess this is another one for next year! 

However, ALL of the stages are super-impressive, beautifully built, and all very, very different. And I don't, personally, think there is anywhere near enough time to visit them all in a single weekend. That's why we need to go again next year! 😉

A closer look at The Mainstage
Oh, and another, quite important thing, about the festival. The toilets. There are a lot of them dotted around the festival grounds, and every single one I went into was always clean, always had toilet paper, and very, very short queues. 

The Food

Couldn't fault it. There is so much choice, and for a festival the quality is top-notch! The Belgian fries were, of course, REALLY good! As were the HUGE Korean pulled pork or chicken sandwiches, the lasagne I had at the Freedom Stage, and the pizza was SO good! Oh, and the burgers - not the premium burgers, just the standard ones - they were FAB! Loaded with salad, cheese, gherkins and a lovely spicy relish, we only wished we could've had more of those. 

There's everything from grilled chicken, to kebabs; fish and chips, hot dogs, Indian food, pasta, waffles, ice cream, meatballs, beef stew, Thai food... there really is so much choice, and it's really good value for money, too. The portions are big - for festival food - and the average cost of a burger or a plate of pasta was about 7/8 Pearls - which is about 10 euros. Possibly a bit less, but worth it. I can't wait to go back and try more of the stuff I didn't get a chance to try this year.

The Weather

It wasn't good. The Thursday and Friday was the tail end of a Belgian heatwave and, quite honestly, it was just too damn hot to do anything. We spent most of Friday trying to get out of the sun, constantly having to sit down because the heat was just too much. It, thankfully, started to cool down a little by early evening, and by late Friday night/early Saturday morning it had actually started to rain. The things was, though, it didn't stop raining until about lunchtime Sunday! And yes, unfortunately, this did impact on our enjoyment of the festival. We stayed at Dreamville way longer than we'd wanted to, waiting to see if the rain would stop, and when it didn't we just put on our raincoats/ponchos and braved it, and while you try to make the best of it - as a LOT of people were doing - I think we'd all rather have had some dry weather. I wouldn't say it ruined it for me, but it did spoil the whole experience a little bit.

Saturday's not-particularly-attractive festival attire!
Sunday afternoon was dry, thankfully, and a perfect temperature, really. If it had been like that all weekend it would've been amazing! But, you know, you can't blame Tomorrowland for the weather. We still had a good time. 😊 And it did dry up for our afternoon at The Freedom Stage, which I was so grateful for, and the final acts on the Mainstage. So, it all ended on a dry note. But we really did have extremes of weather for our first Tomorrowland experience - record-breaking heat followed by below average temperatures and rain! But, what I would say is, don't let the weather spoil it for you. Embrace it. In the end I flung off my (wet) raincoat and danced in the rain (it was light rain, to be honest) to David Guetta on the Saturday night, by that time I didn't care anymore!! 😁 Just go with it. Enjoy it. Make different memories to the ones you thought you might make, I know we'll laugh about the weather situation in a few months' time!! 

Before I end this post, though, I should mention that mud isn't too much of an issude when it rains at Tomorrowland. The majority of walkways are either concrete or are boarded over, so no need for wellies! And any mud that appeared anyway was quickly dealt with by Tomorrowland staff, come Sunday we could sit on the grass at the Mainstage no problem. And even on the Saturday night - when the rain wa at its worst - the grass still wasn't muddy. There was just one really bad bit to the right of the Mainstage, and that had been sanded over by Sunday, and fixed! They're pretty much on top of everything, I have to say. And that's a big thumbs up from me for that.

Anyway, that's the festival, food and weather covered. Click HERE to read the next part of our Tomorrowland Journey where, this time, it's all about the music...

Michelle x

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