Author Topic: One Week in Belgium  (Read 2951 times)

Offline theoman

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2010, 12:15:55 AM »
A couple more tips on Brussels.

If you can't make it to the Dupont brewery tap (or even if you can), check out Nuetnigenough (25 rue du Lombard). It's a nice bar with decent food and all the Dupont beers on tap. Last time I was there, they still had the awesome dry-hopped Saison.

Absolutely visit Cantillon. It's a cool visit even if you're not into beer.

Just down the road from Nuetnigenough is the new-ish Moeder Lambic Fontainas. It's arguably the best bar in Belgium, at least as far as taps go. It was technically designed to deliver the best quality beer to the glass from the 40-some taps. All the staff is knowledgable and there is only "craft" beer (no InBev, etc.). When I go to Brussels for a beer, I usually go there. They were even going to look into giving AHA discounts.

Not beer related, but check out the area near the North Station. You're suddenly transported to another continent. Head up the hill to Chaussee de Haecht (I think), just behind the St. Maria church. There's a row of Turkish pizza restaurants and bakeries. If you've never had Turkish pizza, go treat yourself. It's dirt cheap and darn good. Our favorite is Kocak. You can get a low-end beer there, too. There's another good one across the street with just as good pizza and it's more traditionally decorated, but it's dry.

I like the Halve Maan brewery tour in Brugge. It's a bit long, but entertaining and you get treated to a nice view of the city from the roof.

Offline MDixon

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2010, 04:44:09 AM »
I cannot say I agree with going to the North Station. We stayed at the Hotel Albert http://www.hotelalbert.be/ in the heart of what is best described as a crossroads neighborhood and just down the street from St. Marie. If you head in the wrong direction you will be in the red light district which is not a great area. At night there is quite a bit of violence and most businesses close up shop according to the hotel. It is not a great area, nor neighborhood past dark. During the day, no problems, but I would suggest everyone skip that area at night.

FWIW the hotel is inexpensive and clean with a nice breakfast, but very, very small rooms. It's a downhill walk to the station and a horrible uphill walk to the hotel. Not a great place to stay with anyone who is really picky about accommodations or location.

EDIT: This might help in planning, it was where I mapped some places for a trip we took to Belgium in '06
http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=51.020589~3.856995&style=r&lvl=9&cid=EA201F43F82D186D!101
« Last Edit: August 12, 2010, 04:47:16 AM by MDixon »
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Offline jimmywags

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2010, 10:16:00 AM »
Awesome! A huuuge 'thanks' to all of you for your suggestions and tips. We've got a couple weeks to sketch up our plans before the long plane ride. I will report back when we return with the beery details of our stops and what we thought of everything. In the meantime, if anyone else has thoughts, do continue to share. I hope this thread can help other travelers in the future.

Proost!

Offline snowtiger87

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2010, 02:16:48 PM »
My wife and I went to Belgium for 10 days last year. We went all over the country - Brussels, Popperinge, Bastogne, Mechelin. We did miss Brugges.

We want to go back and this is how I will plan the trip next time. Fly in to Brussels and spend 1 night there. Stay near  the Grand Place and vist Beer Circus and maybe the Delirium Cafe. There is a huge catherdral right by the Grand Place. My wife spend half a day in there.

Go to Popperinge by train, then rent bikes there. Stay one or 2 nights in the Palace Hotel (great beer bar) - say hello to Olive'. There are a couple other beer bars in town. Tour the Hop Museum. Watou is close by. Spend at least one night in the St Bernardus Bed & Breakfast. Go to the Westvleteren cafe. This area of Belgium was prime WWI real estate. There are plenty of museums and historical areas around to explore and the bike paths in this area are really nice.

Spend the rest of time in Brugges. Other have offered suggestions here. Plenty do do and drink there.
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Offline gordonstrong

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2010, 08:43:32 PM »
Quick pedantic note: it's either Bruges (French) or Brugge (Flemish). Either works, but they speak Flemish there. People in Flanders are nice, but they do tend to get irritated with English-speakers who insist on using bad French with them. I know; they kept telling me that. They speak better English typically than French, so it works well.

If you're around in the area, Ypres (Iepr) was a pretty, if solumn, town. They still have remembrances for the 300K who died there in WWI.

If you can get to Esen, check out De Dolle. Worth a look too.
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Offline svejk

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #20 on: August 26, 2010, 11:03:48 PM »
Speaking of De Dolle, they do an English tour of the brewery every Sunday. If that fits in your schedule, I would highly recommend it. It is a great chance to visit a brewery and share experiences with other "beer-centric-Anglo-types".

One other stop worth mentioning is Kulminator in Antwerp. By far the best beer bar I have ever visited.

Have a great time!

Offline MDixon

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2010, 04:58:49 AM »
I'll never forget asking for a ticket to Roeselare and pronouncing it something like Rose-a-lair and getting a very guttural response do you mean Rue-se-larrrrrr. What is interesting is how the spellings of the cities change as you ride the rails from one part of the country to another. As Gordon said, English and a good intentioned try at the name seemed to work.

BTW - IME most of them love the American people, but hate our government. You may want to steer clear of political discussions, much like conversation on this forum. ;)
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Offline uthristy

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #22 on: September 03, 2010, 07:35:49 AM »
Just rent a car and drive, trains while very nice limit your travels & time. But if driving anywhere near Brussels then do it before rush hour! Its been voted the worst city to drive for a reason- took 1hr to drive 10 miles. The rest of the country is a breeze.

If you decide to visit the Ardennes area  the best place to stay is  Hôtel Panorama in Bouillon.

The view from our room> clickable pics



and looking up from a street pub(its the building on top)>

Sitting on the deck over looking the city at night>


This last trip completes the Belgian province of Luxembourg for us, such a small country but packed with great places.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2010, 07:58:03 AM by uthristy »

Offline jimmywags

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Re: One Week in Belgium
« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2010, 03:59:33 PM »
Well, we've been back in the States for three weeks, I ought to finally post my summary and suggestions to future travelers to Belgium.

We had a blast. It was an amazing trip. We spent a couple nights in Brugge, a few in Brussels, and one in St Hubert. That night was supposed to be spent in Namur on our way to Orval, but the hotel and Bookings.com didn't agree on the number of available rooms. Oh well. It worked out.

Our first day in Brugge, we stopped into a bar called Cambrinius, just off the Markt. They had a monster book of beer available (a trend we graciously got used to). Tried my first Westvleteren Blonde there. My wife had a Silly Scotch.

Next evening after some pomme frites, we stopped into 't Brugs Beertje. A little café with another huuge beer list. Out waiter was friendly, even with my absolute butchering of the Dutch language. I thought this was the best café we visited in Brugge.

Our last night, we ate at Den Dyver. And thank all of you who suggested it. We were both blown away with the food, atmosphere, and everything. We had a four-course dinner, each course paired with a different Belgian beer. Excellent "real honeymoon" dinner.

Overall, we really enjoyed Brugge. We did the Quasimundo bike tour. Our guide Jos was very engaging and fun. Did a canal tour, and plenty of just wandering. It's a charming little town, even if it's all touristy. We didn't mind it a bit.

We headed to Westvleteren by car from Brugge. We ate lunch at their café, In de Vrede. We each had a nice grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a salad. Since I was driving, I had but one of their blondes. But Jessica was nice enough to let me taste her 12. Both were outstanding. Unfortunately, they didn't have any bottles available in the gift shop that weren't packaged with glasses. We were reluctant to buy any glasses and have them shatter in the luggage, so we left Westvleteren with only the beer we drank.

From there we drove to St Hubert in Luxembourg province. Our goal was to go to mass at the Orval abbey the next morning, but that didn't happen. Despite missing mass, we both loved Orval. If any future travelers want to take the trek down that far south, I highly recommend visiting Orval. The ruins were very cool and quite picturesque. The monks allow visitors to join them for daily prayers. We were able to witness Hours, a 15 minute service in the beautiful church. They chanted and read scripture. My wife, who is Catholic, was quite moved. I am a former Catholic and still thought it was a amazing scene. The gift shop had a wide array of good produced by monasteries and convents for sale, from soaps and shampoos to cookies and cheese. We picked up some cookies made at a different abbey and a hand-thrown ceramic chalice with the fish-ring symbol. We ate lunch at a restaurant down the road, then drove to Brussels.

Brussels is like a lot of cities, full of people and traffic. But I liked it quite a bit. We hit the Musical Instrument Museum and the Magritte Museum and really enjoyed both. Wish we could have had more time in the Magritte, but we got thru all of it. Our beer-related highlights include the tour of the Cantillon Brewery and two famous cafés, A la Mort Subdite and Delirium.

Cantillon was interesting, since it was a self guided tour. They don't brew during the summer, so visitors are able to wander the amazingly small building and see how a spontaneously-fermented brewery works. The guide book was informative. The spiderwebs were plentiful. The machinery was antique. At the end of the tour, we each were given two samples, one gueze and a choice of kriek or framboise. All were excellent. The gueze was significantly more palatable than the bottles I've had here. Still some residual sweetness. I enjoy the complex sourness, but I was waiting for the inevitable recoil from my wife. It never came. She enjoyed them. I was really impressed with the brewery. Other than the tiny, tiny bottling line, nothing looked modern. Or even from the last 50 years.

We went to Mort Subdite after an afternoon in the excellent Magritte Museum. I had their gueze; Jess had their faro. Both were very good. I did like Cantillon's better. The bar is different than any of the other places we visited. "Classier" maybe. Don't have a good description. More expensive, too. We had a sandwich, then headed for Delirium. But it was packed and very smoky, and we were tired. So we saved Delirium for the next day.

The Delirium Café ("Beer Cave") is in the basement of the Delirium Taphouse. I say this because we missed the sign in the alley and were confused for a beer or so. There are about 20 taps upstairs and about 2,000 different bottles downstairs. The place has a college bar atmosphere (without TVs), in a good way. It's loud. You have to order from the bar, which can be annoying. But we drank well. We left happy and tipsy.

All in all, we both loved Belgium. We never had a bad meal (or snack). And many seemingly mundane lunches turned out to be fantastic. If we were to return, we'd definitely expand our meager Dutch and French vocabularies. It was an issue now and again. But never a crippling one.

Thank all of you for your suggestions and tips! It definitely made a positive difference in our adventure.

Proost!

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I've posted some photos of most of the beers we enjoyed on Picasa.
http://picasaweb.google.com/therealjimmywags/HoneymoonBeer