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