Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beguiling Brussels Summer 2013

It's been far too long since I had an excursion out and about, so I decided to head to Brussels for the weekend with a few of my friends, and some new friends. This turned out to be a decent trip though it did have one or two disappointing aspects.

We drove to Brussels and arrived just in time to attend the New Sandeman's Walking Tour of Brussels. As usual, this provided a great introduction to the history and sites available in Brussels. From Grand Place, to le Manneken-Pis, Cathedrals, Space Invaders, and even the Musical Instrument Museum. All in all, it proved to be another winner in my trip through Europe and it's history.

  In the middle of the walking tour, we took a break in a central market area near Grasmarkt to grab a snack and a break. We decided to try some Belgian Fries at Belgian Frit'n Toast, and I have to admit they were the best fries that I have had in a long time. Apparently the secret is to fry them once, at a lower temperature until cooked and then flash fry them at a higher temperature for the crispiness right before serving (or something like that). Fantastic.

Once we finished with the walking tour, we went to check into our hotel room. This time we stayed at an interesting hotel only a few blocks from Grand Place. It was called B-Apart Hotels. This hotel is intended to be a long term stay hotel, and it doesn't actually employ any desk staff. They email you an access code for the front door, and a code to retrieve your key from a key box in the main lobby. They do employ a cleaning staff that does not work on the weekend. So if you're staying from Friday to Sunday, don't expect your towels to be cleaned on Saturday. All in all, I thought this was a very good venue, with decent access. One of our group used the attached car garage for their parking, where we decided to park in the parking garage at Grand Place. This is easily able to fit small pickups if you need that. The parking garage at Grand Place was definitely cheaper than the attached garage, if you don't mind having to walk a few blocks with your luggage.

Once we checked in, we all went to Drug Opera for a quick beverage before continuing to wander around Brussels. As with everywhere in Brussels, if you like beers this is a pretty good place to visit. I can't actually comment on the food at this location since I wasn't hungry after those amazing fries. But the location and atmosphere was pretty good.

Following that we decided to try a local brewery Cantillon Brewery and go for a tour of the brewer as well as sampling of what they provide. The tour was actually pretty neat, they basically do a self-guided walking tour of the brewery. You buy a ticket, receive a brochure and you can walk around at your own pace and see how they do things. Not as informative as some breweries I've done a tour, but it is a neat change of pace. This brewery focuses on lambic style beer, so if you like really sour beer then you will really enjoy what they provide. Unfortunately, my friends and I weren't all that into this sour of a beer and did not really enjoy the samples. The lambic what I imagine a really sour, wheat wine would taste like. I also tried their Cherry beer, and while definitely tasting like cherry it was also very sour. So, I wouldn't suggest this brewery unless you have a taste for sour beers. A neat experience though with the tour, but a long walk away from the center of town.

After the brewery we walked over to Moeder Lambic for another beer or two, where I was introduced to Val Dieu beer. A very tasty beer if you like the standard Belgian style beer, but we'll get to that later. This Bar again, had a very nice atmosphere and was a pleasant break from our walking around Brussels to chill until dinner. Unfortunately I can't remember where dinner was at the moment so I'll have to provide that later. Needless to say it was very good :-)

After that we tried out Delirium Cafe. While not a scene I like to go to a lot, if you like bars than I could see it being a very good scene. They have a good selection of tasty beers to try from around the area. It will be very busy though. On our way back to the hotel afterwords, we stopped at one of the many Belgian Waffle stands around the city and had one. They make two styles, one is heavy and sweeter while the other is lighter and more like your standard waffle. You can put toppings on, but if you want to eat it like the locals do than stick with simply powdered sugar. Definitely something delicious to try.

The next day we wandered around Brussels and picked up souvenirs, Belgian chocolates, and tasty things to drink that we wanted to bring back home from our weekend excursion. All of it turned out to be amazing when I got around to trying them. We had breakfast at a local stand called Panos which is your basic European cafe with pastry treats. A great way to start the day or take a simple break.

After eating some breakfast and picking up somethings to take home, we started our trek back. This is where we headed to the Belgian Abbey I mentioned earlier called Val Dieu. We wandered around, explored the grounds and even stopped for some food. The food there is fantastic, the Abbey is amazing at making beers as well as cheeses. I ate Cheese Croquettes that were perhaps the best "cheese sticks" (OK not really cheese sticks, but an OK description for those that don't know what Croquettes are :-) ). 

When we were finished we picked up some cheese and a few more tasty things to drink and drove home.
While not my favorite trip in Europe, I did enjoy my stint in Belgium. There is a lot of history there, and a large number of museums that I would like to see so I plan on going back. Luckily for me, you don't have to be a big drinker to enjoy Brussels. There is a lot to do, and a lot of great food to try. Enjoy! :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment