Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sampling the good stuff in Belgium

Next and final stop on our round the world trip was the country of Belgium. We spent just 5 nights in Belgium. We visited the capital of Brussels and the city of Bruges. For me it was the first time I had really been in Belgium. In 2007 I took a high speed train through it from Rotterdam to Paris. Alethea had been to Brussels many times from her flight attendant days. The sights of Belgium weren't the reason we were there for the most part. We were primarily there to taste numerous types of beers that Belgium is famous for. Belgium has a reputation as making some of the best beers in the world.

The fist stop was Brussels. Getting to Brussels was somewhat interesting. It was interesting because we took a high speed Thalys train from Paris. The train ride only took about 90 minutes to travel 200 miles. It would take 3 hours to drive this route per Google Maps. The train zipped through the French and the Belgium countrysides at a top speed that I saw of 296 km/h (184 mph). Not as fast as trains in China but pretty fast. One cool thing was that you could log onto your laptop or wi-fi enabled phone and see in real time where you were at on a map and how fast you were going. I will not preach too much but the US could really use high speed rail corridors in certain parts of the county where it makes sense. We need competition to flying. Traveling by rail is so easy and enjoyable compared to flying.

drinking lambic beer at Cantillon Brewery in Brussels

We essentially spent a day and a half touring Brussels. We didn't get to our aparthotel until around 6 pm on the first night. We slept in the next day due to feeling a little under the weather. We then spent the afternoon touring the Cantillon Brewery. This brewery is a little over a hundred years old and makes beer the old fashioned way. The beer itself is of the lambic variety that taste essentially like champagne. I wasn't a real big fan of the beer I tasted but I did enjoy the tour. The next day was spent doing a walking tour that we had downloaded off the internet. We walked from our aparthotel to the Grand Place. We also toured the Brussels Cathedral. We decided to skip the museums primarily because we had been to so many others in Italy and France. We did somehow manage to stop at 5 different places that served beers (including our lunch stop) throughout the day. We tasted a good variety of different triples, IPAs, dark beers, and even a pilsner.

City Hall of Brussels in the Grand Place

My thoughts on Brussels are that it is kind of average. It is nothing too spectacular but has some unique places to visit. Of course we didn't visit the museums, EU, or NATO facilities but none of those get that many stars in the travel books. We had a pretty good time visiting some interesting bars and a beer store in the city.

Experiencing Belgium culture in Bruges

The final stop in Belgium was the city of Bruges. Bruges is a very picturesque city. It has many well preserved old buildings and even the new ones blend in to the city's architecture. It is a city that definitely has a lot of Dutch influence especially since it is located in a Flemish (Dutch) area of the country. We spent just two nights in Bruges. We spent our time on foot wondering around the city. The attractions we saw were the Our Lady of Bruges church which houses one of the few sculptures of Michelangelo outside of Italy. We saw the Basilica of the Holy Blood which houses an alleged vile of Christ's blood brought back from Jerusalem in the 12th century. We visited the main town square and toured the De Halve Maan brewery. We of course stopped at quite a few establishments that served Belgium beer as we continued to sample various kinds of local beers. At the bottom of my Daily Log at the end of the blog post is a list of the beers that I drank in Belgium if anyone is interested. I really liked Bruges. It is a interesting town even if it is quite touristy. I would actually recommend spending more time in Bruges than I would in Brussels.

1.5 liters beer glasses in Bruges (no we didn't order this size)

Well that wraps up our quick tour of Belgium. I think it was a good way to conclude our trip by taking it somewhat easy enjoying one of our favorite activities of drinking good quality beer. As I mentioned at the top of the blog post Belgium was our final stop on our 9 month, 23 country, 5 continent around the world trip. We seriously considering continuing on to Scotland and Ireland for another three weeks but decided only a couple days before we came home against it. We were pretty much ready to conclude this wonderful trip for now. We were both in need of some rest. I was feeling somewhat fatigued with allergies. It's been a wonderful trip. We're both back home now in Tennessee and are going to spend some time resting and visiting friends and families. This will be my last post on individual countries but I plan on writing a few summary blogs on the trip over the next week or two before I shut the blog down until the next adventure :-).

Us on our final night in Bruges

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log:

Friday, April 29th
Train arrived on time close to 5:30 pm.
Walked from train station and checked in to apart hotel
Scouted out laundry option a few blocks away
Walked to grocery store which is in the train station
Bought groceries and walked back to apartment to eat dinner.

Saturday, April 30th
Slept in until after 11 am. Both of us were tired. Alethea hasn't been feeling well with a soar throat.
Having numerous problems getting online but Alethea isn't. I'm using a different OS and browsers. Can't figure out what the problem is. I've tried everything that I know of so far. Very frustrating.
Walked to train station to the tourist info office and picked up a map.
Walked to Cantillon Brewery. Went on a self guided tour and tasted two beers. Their beers are traditional Belgium beers. They are the last independent brewery in Brussels. They've been in business for over 100 years. Beer tasted like champagne beer due to the type they make. They make rare beers called lambics or gueze.
Walked back grocery to pick up supplies for tonight. Discovered laundry mat that is closer with better machines. Took groceries back to apartment then went to laundry mat.
Ate dinner
Finally got online by disabling my IP version 6 ip address option.

Sunday, May 1st
Day of walking around Brussels. Followed a .pdf map Alethea had downloaded. Combined sights with beer drinking at multiple Brussels pubs.
Stopped at 5 pubs plus had a beer at lunch.
Saw the Grand Plaza and the Brussels Cathedral which were neat.
Saw the infamous peeing man and peeing woman statues.
Rode metro for free for some reason.
Stopped at grocery store and ate dinner back at the apartment.

Monday, May 2nd
Woke up about 8:30 even though alarm was supposed to go off at 9 am.
Got online just to check email real quick to make sure there wasn't anything wrong with plans to get home the day after next and saw a couple comments about Osama Bin Laden then immediately switched to reading NPR to find out that OBL had been killed. Great day. I am glad he is dead. Be interesting to see how it all played out.
Ate breakfast and checked out of our hotel at 10:30.
Walked to train station and caught 11:05 train to Bruge. It was a few minutes late.
Train took about a hour and only made one stop in Gent before Bruge.
Left train station and found our hotel which is connected to the train station.
Checked in and then mapped out our itinerary.
Walked into town and ate lunch.
Walked around Bruge for the next couple hours. Very picturesque city. Feels very Dutch. Saw some windmills then started a mini pub crawl. Stopped at Bauhaus Bar then BeerTje and had some good beers. Also had a good beer at lunch.
Stopped at Subway for dinner.
Came back to hotel and ate and caught up on stuff. No internet here. It cost 4.50 euros a hour. Way too expensive. We got online on our phones at the one of the bars use wi-fi.

Tuesday, May 3rd
Full day of sightseeing in Bruge.
Went to church with Michaelangelo Sculpture.
Hour long tour of Half Man Brewery. Drank one blonder unfiltered unpasteurized beer as part of the tour.
Stopped at at bar and drank a De Gare.
Went to the church of the Holy Blood and supposedly saw a vile of blood from Jesus. It came to the current church from the crusades in the 12th century.
Ate fries form a frite stand in front of the Belfry.
Bought chocolate from the Dumond Chocolate store.
Walked around. First bar was closed.
Stopped at the bar we finished at the night before. Had two beers including a quadruple beer. Met a very nice couple from Colorado. They bought the second beer for us. We talked about traveling mostly.
Went to Caraffour at the train station to get dinner supplies.
Came back to room to eat dinner and pack

Friday, May 4th
Alarm went off at 5 am.
Left hotel at 5:30.
Caught the 5:56 train to Brussels North train station.
Changed trains in Brussels and arrived at the BRU airport at around 8 am.
Checked-in in with Delta and passed through passport control and security.
We were able to fly in 1st class from BRU to ATL. It was real nice. Watched TV and the movie the King's Place. Also slept for a couple hours. Left 30 minutes late.
Plane arrived on time after 9 plus hours in the air.
Cleared immigration and customs with no issues and no questions about being out of the country for 9 months in 21 countries.
We waited a little over a hour and flew standby to Nashville. We were the last two people to clear for the flight on the standby list.
Unfortunately, Alethea got sick to her stomach on the flight back.
Arrived back in Nashville on time.
Visited with Alethea's mom for a few minutes before grabbing our bags.
Met mom and dad who took Alethea to her Grandma's and me home.
End of RTW trip after 9 months in 21 countries on 5 continents.

Beers I drank in Belgium:

Val-Dieu Blonde
Marsedsous Brune
During pub crawl:
Aderlardes Triple (Moeder Lambic) 9% alcohol 30 cl, 3.60 euros
Arend Triple (beer of the month) – 4.90 euros
Chouffe Houbon IPA (Delirium Tap House) – 10%, 3.50 euros
Maes (Celtic Bsr)
Dark something (Les Brasseus) 4.50 euros
Brugse Zot Blonde
Leffe Dark
Saison DuPont
Chimay Brown
De Halve Maan: Bruge Zot Blong
De Garre: Garre
Achel Blong
Straffe Hendrick Quadrupel