No this title is not just hyperbole. I truly feel that I have now experienced this. At least by popular voting.
Mit and I got off the train and headed to Enterprise to pick up our car. We were in quite a hurry since our first stop has a very small window of time for its operating hours. Having status with National, we got hooked up with a brand new Mercedes E-class. Not too shabby. It has some weird features, but it will do.
We plugged in the address and zoomed off. This place is out in the middle of nowhere. That is for sure. My friend, Stephen, had recently visited Belgium and confirmed that this place is a must. They are only open on Sundays from 11 to 13:30. Whatever. We parked and went inside. It was packed with elderly customers. There were two younger patrons at the bar, but I couldn’t catch their accent. So I went to the menu. We needed to make up for missed time. This menu is absolutely crazy: Cantillon vintages, 3 Fountainen, Westmalle, and Westvleteren to name a few. We grabbed a table outside and enjoyed our 2011 selections.
This place had a winning formula. Some of the other guests told us we should check out De Cam down the street. Sure, why not.
This was in a quaint little town. They were hosting a folk festival out in the mud, but sadly, we did not bring any rain boots. Inside we were greeted with a menu only in Flemish. Well. I guess it was time to guess. Luckily, one waitress saw our struggle and brought us a picture menu. Thank you.
This food was delicious and served in huge portions. We split a couple sampler platters of geuze and kriek. Needless to say, we were stuffed to the rafters.
We got to our hotel and had the car parked. The location could hardly be beat. The front desk lady helped point us to some cool spots for food and music. We were off. Our first stop had to be Delirium. It is hard to understand this area without seeing it. Basically, Delirium took over a whole street. All the bars are owned by them. The downstairs location is the place with the most beers in the world. At first it seemed underwhelming… then something clicked and people began pouring into this small underground room. Women dressed in heels. Guys in the hipster gear. Beer nerds and novices shared tables and glasses. It truly was a thing of beauty.
From there we wandered around the city. We found the Grand Palace, and it is no wonder why it is a UNESCO site. I picked up some chocolate and more beer. I mean “do what you do best,” right? We then headed over to Bonnefooi. From the outside, this place seemed boring and unassuming. Walking in, our minds were blown. It was Afro-Jazz night. So we heard some awesome music and drank Belgian beers. Perfect. From there, we had a nice little night walk to see the town.
In the Countryside
The next day, we grabbed Kobe (our car) and headed out on an adventure. In the world of beer, one of the first whales people go after is Westvleteren 12. For years, this was ranked as the best beer in the world. It is still highly regarded even. There is also a shroud of difficulty to acquire this beer. Granted, recently, online vendors have made it accessible (still costly). This beer is produced in limited quantities. Well, it was time to visit. The beer is produced in the west side of Belgium, near the French border in an Abbey. Visitors are not welcome to see the brewing process, but there is a café next door where you can sample it fresh. Mit and I arrived and parked then headed in to taste the liquid goodness. It was perfect.
Sadly, we had to wait to purchase bottles to go, so we went into a local town to keep exploring. After killing some time, we picked up our cases and headed to France. We figured we could have lunch in Dunkirk. This is the location of a famous military battle from WW2. Also there will be a movie out next year by Nolan. Cool, why not visit.
By the time we got there, the whole town was basically closed. When you look this city up, there are multiple Michelin star chefs… all of them have restrictive hours. We lucked out and found a place that was open, La P’tit Dunkerque. One lady did it all. She showed us our table, took our order and made our food. The food was perfect.
We then headed back to Belgium, to Bruges. If you have seen the movie, you will know why I wanted to visit. I had heard such awesome things and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We picked to stay in this hotel, The Hotel Dukes Palace, and I cant give this place enough recommendations. It is a castle or palace. Apparently, Mit and I have good habit in finding these things.
The city is difficult to enter during rush hour, but once inside, it felt empty. I had read complaints about tourists and crowds. But I guess we lucked out. We saw nothing of the sort. I had some recommendations for beer cafes from a friend we had met in Zimbabwe, so I mapped them out and plotted an optimal course to hit them all. First stop was ‘t Brugs Beertje. We enjoyed a couple delicious beers and then added a Saudi Riyal to their world currency wall. I think it ironic that that money is now on the wall of a bar in Bruges.
From there we headed to the Belfry of Bruges. In my current athletic state, I did not have any aspiration of climbing the stairs. But I definitely wanted to see them. The whole area is beautiful. It feels like you have stepped into a time warp. Inside the square we heard traditional folk music and watched some dancing.
Then it was time to push onward: next stop Cambrinus. This place was absolutely packed. We saw two stools and the guy, Billy, told us we better grab them before they get taken. American. Okay sounds good. We introduced ourselves and met his girlfriend and her daughter. We talked about travel and beer. I ordered him a Westy 12. He seemed to love it. After dinner, the girls headed to bed and we kept going. Unfortunately, Café Rose Red was closed, so we headed to the next recommendation: ‘t Poatersgat. This place had come recommended highly from my buddy, James. It was cool indeed. Located in the basement of an old church. It was dark and felt medieval. We kept the good beers flowing and the jokes rolling. Next stop was Le Trappiste. Some point around now, Billy decided he had enough. We bid him adieu and kept going. Here we met a new friend, Derek and some cute girls, Julie and Shari. I was loving Bruges.
It turned out the Derek was staying in the same hotel. We found this out when we bumped back into him at Best Frit getting late night grub. It was nice to have friends to walk back with to the palace. Alas. It was time to sleep.
Back to Brussels
After breakfast, we grabbed the car and started back on the road. We had to make a quick pitstop in Antwerp at Belgium in a Box to meet Kurt. I had been told by some of my beer friends in Memphis that Kurt would ship beer back to the states. I brought my Westy and planned to pick up some Cantillon. Wow. Kurt’s products are impressive. Racks and racks of Westy and Cantillon. I could drink bottles there all day for a month and barely scratch the surface. I picked out around 80 KG of beers and memorabilia.
Back to Kobe! Coming in from the north, we were able to stop by Atomium for a picture. I had heard the inside wasn’t worth it, and we were in a hurry.
We made it to our next hotel. The Renaissance Brussels was not as well-located as the Grand Place. But we made our way to the Magritte museum before they closed. Surrealism isn’t really my thing. But One museum per country. After the exhibit, I had some streetfood: WAFFLES!!! woohoo.
Mit finished, and we headed through town. Apparently they were having some kind of renaissance fair in the square. We picked a restaurant called Nuetigenough. Turns out the young couple from In de Verzekering was inside. Small world, right? This food was absolutely delicious. I was ready to keep things going, so we headed over to Moederlambic. They had Tilquin and Cantillon on tap. Heck yes.
I always loved live music, so we chose to hit Bonnefooi again. Nope. not this time. We settled for Music Village. They had some slower jazz which was nice, but I didn’t want to fall asleep.
So I chose to go back to Delirium Street. Mit cashed out for the evening after a couple beers, but I wasn’t ready to go home. I met a couple college kids, and I realized how old I am. It was fun, but I really just wanted to get some Moules Frites before leaving Belgium. I walked next door to La Terrasse, where I met Lucienne and Dalcio, a lovely Brazilian couple. While we could barely communicate, we had a great meal together. This was living for sure. We decided we needed one good selfie at Delirium before we could leave.
The next day, we woke up and headed to the airport. Our adventures were not over. We still have Italy.
Belgium lived up to every expectation I had. Beer, waffles, chocolate, mussels. SO DELICIOUS. The countryside was perfect. The Buildings are awe-inspiring. Bruges was perfect. This is a must stop for any beer fan.
until next time.