Belgium, part 2

Steven graciously ceded part of the weekend travel to me (because he was too tired to write about the whole thing — yes, I was too tired to write the rest, but I will certainly take the compliment), so I finally get to tell you about something more interesting than a trip to the grocery store. So, where did he leave off? Oh yes, Brussels.

I like this statue better than mannaken pis and she’s just on a Brussels street we happened to walk down.

We did not have a great desire to go to Brussels, it was just closer to our next destination: Chimay Brewery at Scourmont Abbey, a Trappist monastery. I have to say that it started out as a comedy of errors. Once again, we were driving on streets that seemed perhaps as if they were not intended for cars. I thought I had asked about parking, but didn’t get a reply so we passed by the B and B and followed parking signs. Alas, all they meant was that there was potential parking on the street (and when we found a parking lot on Google, it turned out not to be a public lot). To compound the problem, there was a parade. Streets were closed. Traffic was stopped. Then traffic was terrible. No street parking. I called the B and B and he directed us to parking around the corner, but we had already passed the corner and couldn’t easily get back. One-way streets! With all I just mentioned, it took about 40 minutes to find the lot and then, and THEN. Well, he did ask how big the car was before he told us about the garage.

The spiral was tight, the ceiling was low (the scrape marks on the ceiling and sides were a wee bit worrisome) and we had a man who worked at the hotel that owned the lot running behind us yelling, “Slow. Slow! SLOW!!” and pointing. Then he would run ahead and gesture us forward into what maybe was a spot? Well. Luckily, Steven is a great and patient driver. (Two compliments! I wonder what she wants.) We finally parked and got to the Art de Séjour bed and breakfast. We temporarily breathed a sigh of relief. And then, and THEN, the host told us that Sunday was “no driving at all in the cities of Europe including Brussels” day. All the streets would be closed from 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. and wouldn’t that be great! Well … it would have been great except we had reservations at Chimay at 12:30, so we scheduled an early breakfast and headed out the door to see some of Brussels.

Happiness is beer amid the skeletons.

I think I am spoiled because Brussels was just … fine. We walked up to the best view of the city and it was … nice. I did get to have a waffle for a snack, so there’s that.

The best part of Brussels was the two bars that Yves (remember him from the last blog?) recommended. The first, Le Cercueil (The Coffin) looks like a great Halloween house. The tables are coffins complete with skeletons. There’s blacklight and creepy-sounding drinks. Steven was in heaven (no pun intended) when he realized they had Orval, which continues to ferment in the bottle. The bartender came over with the bottle to show Steven that it had truly been sitting around since 2013. (It had a fabulous, deep rich flavor.)

From there we wandered some more looking for food that wasn’t Flemish (read: heavy and meaty). In keeping with the theme of Asian food in Belgium, we ended up eating some baos. (Here’s a tip: always ask how big things are. I assumed they were small like the ones in the States so we each ordered two and they were not small.) Oh, and frites (NO MAYO! Mayo on frites is just plan wrong, curry sauce in an English or Irish pub is fine, Ketchup anywhere is fine. Mayo – no. Just. No … What about sriracha?). Because you have to. I don’t think you are allowed out of Belgium without having eaten frites. After a fruitless search for a bar recommended by the B and B owner (it was closed), we headed to another of Yves recommendations: Poechenellekelder, which has a huge beer menu and is across the street from the puzzlingly popular manneken pis.

Back at Art de Séjour, we watched Ocean’s 8, because sometimes you just need an American movie. In the morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the B and B. I don’t know what it is, but the fruit in Belgium is DELICIOUS! So flavorful and juicy. (I know I mentioned this before, but it was really good!) Plus, homemade croissants and excellent coffee!

And then, and THEN, we had to get out of the parking garage. I’ll just put up the video and you can see for yourself. Watch it full screen to get the true effect (although sorry for the poor video quality). The white at the top is the very low concrete ceiling.I think Steven had the steering wheel pulled all the way right around the curves.

Phew. And then we were off to Chimay. You may have remembered that we had 12:30 reservations, but we had to leave town by 8:45 for a drive that was less than 2 hours. Well, here’s where a mistake I made came in handy. I accidentally bought 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. tickets. Voila! We made the 10:30 appointment time. They kindly realized my mistake and gave us two extra beer tokens, because we both needed to drink two beers before noon. (I could have had a third to lighten your load.) Chimay is run by monks, and there are no tours of the actual brewery. They brew in peace! They do have a nice little museum-like exhibit that explains the history and process, so we did that. They also make cheese, (well, they don’t really make it at the abbey any more, but it’s still Chimay cheese) so we learned about that process too. Right outside sit some forest paths that lead to the church, garden and cemetery (yes, another cemetery, but no one famous), so we did a little walking before our beer tasting.

After a couple of hours, a couple of beers (and a couple of souvenirs and some beer to take home), we hit the road for the 4-hour drive back to Clamecy. As you know, there are no border controls between EU nations. Heading into Belgium on the A6, we passed a sign that reminded me of crossing state borders in the U.S. On the way back, on a smaller road (the N964 in case you care), we passed a border control booth. We couldn’t resist the photo op, so I quickly (Steven would say too quickly) pulled a U-y so we could get these:

Note the fake guards. We’ve seen them in a few spots, including at a winery. Give them props; they look as bored as real guards.

Finally, it was home sweet home and a moratorium on beer drinking for awhile — at least for me. (I guess the ones we took home will last a bit longer than expected.)

3 thoughts on “Belgium, part 2

  1. DAVID I GOLDSMITH

    reminds me of my parking in the center of Saville, but the street to the lot was so narrow the right hand tires had to be on the sidewalk (actually no sidewalk just a curb). The hotel promised a parking lot underground, but the rental car we had was too big for their lot so we needed to go to the public lot.

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  2. Robin

    Scary steps scary parking. Yikes. Reminds me of the 5 km long one way tunnels in Iceland. What to do with a car heading out way in our lane. Freak out! Glad your having fun!!!

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  3. Tamara Jaffe-Notier

    Yay, intrepid travelers and writers! Susan, you rescued Brussels from the maze of concrete and underground expressways it had become in my imagination. Thank you. Plus, now I want to taste Orval. I hope the beer moratorium lifts soon.

    Like

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