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The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale

Posted by Joelle on 07/28/2002 05:21:32 PM

Part 3: Antwerp and Brussels

We're in the home stretch now! We parted ways with Jeremy and Theresa in Brussels and headed up to Antwerp. Our hotel, the Postiljon, was right next to the cathedral, and about three doors down from the Paters Vaetje. Once again we had three flights of steep, narrow stairs to navigate with all of our luggage, but our room was quite nice although a little on the small side. Dan headed out to get some more money from a nearby ATM, and you guessed it, the machine was out. Our hotel manager told us about another one nearby, and after a few wrong turns we finally found it and managed to pick up some cash. Whew! After a refreshing nap Dan and I made our way to t' Waagstuck to meet up with Joris for dinner and a few brews. Luckily the bar wasn't too crowded and we were able to locate Joris with a little help from the owner, Hans. We commandeered a booth from a 5 year-old who was playing with his trucks. "Sorry kid, but we have some drinking to do, and you have the only booth left." I started with a Het Kapittel ABT, and Dan had a Westvleteren Blond. Both were very tasty. After that big beer I was in serious need of some food. Joris sheepishly confessed that he had indulged in some fast food on the way over to the pub, so he didn't need anything. I ordered the seafood pasta and Dan had croque monsieur with lobster bisque. I'd say the bisque was the star of the show, but the other two were O.K., and a big plate of pasta was just what I needed. We all managed to squeeze in another beer before heading off to our next destination. I had a St. Bernardus Tripel (I think), and Dan had the house beer Zeppelin. Both were excellent, and being a dark beer lover, Dan was in heaven with his Zeppelin. Hans kindly gave us a bottle to take home on the house for bringing him an Old Rasputin. I hope he enjoys the OR as much as we have the Zeppelin. After some debate we decided to head over to the Kulminator. It was a close call as Joris almost had us convinced to hit the Highlander for some single malt scotch, but we finally settled on the Kulminator since we didn't want to kill ourselves on our first night in Antwerp. We made our way very briskly over to the K because Joris had to catch the last train home very shortly. There were only one or two tables occupied when we arrived around 20:30. After a quick perusal of the menu, Joris suggested that we share a 1972 - 74 Rodenbach Grand Cru. He cautioned that is was a little pricey, 30 euros for a 750ml, but well worth it. Apparently he has some of this in his cellar at home (don't worry Joris, I won't give anyone your address!). Time was growing short, and we were afraid Dirk had gotten lost in the cellar when he finally appeared with our treasure. This beer was everything Joris had said it would be, a great balance of sweet and sour. We even thought about ordering another bottle, but decided to try some of the other great beers they had to offer. Unfortunately Joris had to take his leave and run to catch his train…probably literally. We had a wonderful visit, and look forward to doing it again on our next trip. Next it was a 1980 De Dolle Oerbier Verjahrdagsbier. We'd heard a lot about this beer on the BBB, and it didn't disappoint. I thought that it tasted very much like liquid blue cheese when it was cold, and it gained some extra sweetness as it warmed up. It was an excellent beer, and it was only 5 euros. What a deal! Leen surprised us with a 1983 Courage Russian Imperial Stout on the house to compliment the OR we brought for her and Dirk. Jean is right to wax poetic about this beer. It really was remarkable. We decided to call it quits for the night and stopped by a frite stand in the Groenplaats on the way to our hotel. Ordering a large at this particular frite stand (the one with the huge cone of fake frites outside) isn't a good idea by the way. Talk about overkill! It must have been about 3 pounds of fries. Needless to say, we didn't finish them. Walking to the hotel we noticed that the Paters Vaetje was still going full swing, but we resisted the urge and headed for bed.

Around 8 AM we were awakened to a loud banging sound out in the street. We didn't get up, but decided it was either tables being moved around on an outside patio of one of the restaurants nearby, or maybe kegs being delivered to the Paters Vaetje. This could be a problem if you get one of the rooms on the street facing side of the Postiljon. Thankfully things quieted down after a few minutes and we slept until late in the morning. We decided to try one of the restaurants right next to our hotel for lunch. The restaurant we chose, Bacino, served the best mussels we had the whole trip. Learning from the last mussel experience we decided to split a Mosslemenu this time and add on an extra bowl of soup. It was more than enough. Another nice feature of eating by the cathedral at Noon is that the bells play continuously during that hour. We were serenaded three separate times with the Muppets theme song. Talk about quirky. Properly fortified we were off to the Kulminator for another session. What do you know, when we walked in the door there was Priscilla quaffing a Bornem Tripel. She had decided to take a break from her errands to see if we’d show up there, and her instincts were right on. Are we that predictable? Leen greeted us heartily and passed on the message that Joris sent us his regards. Apparently she had called him up that day to schedule some work on her teeth. Dan decided to use his birthday coupon and ordered a Kasteelbier van ‘t vat. I opted for the highly touted 1998 Westvleteren red cap. The Westvleteren was very good, but it didn’t knock my socks off like the Rodenbach and De Dolle did the previous night. I guess I’m just a sucker for sour beers though. We also ordered a 1981 Bass King’s Ale Barleywine and a 1998 Christmas Weihnacht from Verhaeghe. Everyone here knows how much I love Vichtenaar, so I was really looking forward to this new beer I hadn’t tried before. Unfortunately, it wasn’t anything like Vichtenaar, and wasn’t really all that good in its own right. The Bass barleywine wasn’t all that special either. It was overly sweet, without much else going for it. Ah well, you win some and you lose some. We decided to cap the session off by sharing a 1980 De Dolle Oerbier Verjahrdagsbier with Priscilla. She enjoyed it quite a bit too, but didn’t really think it tasted much like blue cheese. Before heading off to finish her errands, Priscilla was kind enough to lead us to her favorite chocolate shop so we could buy some gifts. It was very good chocolate by the way, thanks for the suggestion Priscilla! After another nap and a quick sandwich for dinner (see Joris, we like fast food too!), we went to Oud Arsenaal to meet Podge and Siobhan. Oud Arsenaal was packed, but luckily they had managed to snag a table for us. I ordered a Drie Fonteinen Gueuze and Dan had a Hoegaarden Wit van ‘t vat. The pub was very cozy albeit a bit smoky. Next it was off for Podge’s long overdue reunion with the Kulminator. It was very full, so we had to take a table in the courtyard out back. It had been drizzling on and off all evening, so we were a little bit worried about getting rained on. Oh well, we’d have a beer in hand so everything would be O.K. I ordered a Het Kapittel Prior and Dan had a Witkap Pater. Both were great. Siobhan didn’t really enjoy her only deviation from the bolleke theme of the evening, which was a somewhat stale Maredsous 6. As we were finishing up our first round we noticed that the inside tables had cleared out. Must have been a tour group or something. We gratefully took a seat inside and ordered a Belgissimus for me, and a 1981 Watney’s Christmas for Dan. I really enjoyed the Belgissimus. Thanks for the recommendation Mark. Dan also liked his Watney’s, but I was put off by the huge globs of sediment that made their way into the glass. I guess it wasn’t a very good pour, or maybe it just has a ton of sediment. While we savored our beers Siobhan regaled us with stories about writing her thesis on taxidermy during the Victorian era, why was it popular then, but not so much today. We told her it is alive and well down in the border towns between Mexico and Texas. Has anyone else seen the stuffed frogs doing everything from playing pool, to drinking at a bar? We’ll have to take them down there if they ever come to visit. Not to mention all of the stuffed deer, elk and boar heads we saw this weekend on our tour of nearby BBQ joints. I’d say Siobhan would be in hog heaven here in Texas. We decided to call it quits at the K and head out to some other Antwerp pubs. Podge did agree that the Kulminator really wasn’t as bad as he had remembered it, so maybe he’ll put it back on his list of places to hit when he comes to town. The fact that aged beers aren’t really his thing probably has something to do with his earlier ban on the place. Next we went to De Herk where I had an Orval and Dan ordered a Rodenbach. It was a nice little pub, but Siobhan warned us not to get anywhere near the house cat. Apparently he gave her a few scars on a previous visit. We finished our little pub crawl at t’ Stamineeke. It took a little while to get our orders in, but we finally received a Rochefort 8 for me, and a Duivelsbier (Oud Bruin) for Dan. Podge ordered a beer that was new to all of us, Vlaamsche Leeuw. He said it was tasty, but that’s all I remember. Maybe he can let us in on his tasting notes. This pub was appointed with very dark wood, and the music was very bad disco. It was getting pretty late, so we decided to forego visiting the De Groot Witte Arend with Podge and Siobhan. Dan and I headed off to our favorite frites stand, ordered the small this time, and went back to our hotel. As we passed the Paters Vaetje we noticed that there were a couple of police cars down the street next to it. I guess some of the patrons had gotten out of line. We were too tired to check it out.

We left the TV on all night to drown out any street noises, and by some miracle at 7:30 the next morning we heard on the BBC that there was flooding in Central Texas. Well, that got us up in a hurry. We watched as the video showed some houses being swept down a river somewhere in “Central Texas.” Our house is in Austin right in the middle of Central Texas, so, Dan ran out to a payphone and called his parents. We were happy to hear that the flooding wasn’t in Austin, but rather a little bit to the south of us. We managed a little more sleep, checked out, and headed to Brussels for our last day in Belgium. Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at the Hotel Welcome, so we left our bags there and headed over to the Grand Place to take in the sights. It was spectacular as usual. We decided to try out the brew pub there in the Grand Place. It was very American in its décor, with big copper fermenters at the front, a nice wooden bar. The thing I really liked about the place, and no, it wasn’t the beer was the staircases that took you to different landings where there would be a sitting area off by itself with sofas, or tables depending on which landing you came to. It was cool. We only tried one of their beers, the wit, and it was O.K., but not too exciting. They also gave us a little bowl of peanuts which was a nice treat. I took a picture of Dan while we were in the bar, and of course that was the time our camera decided to run out of batteries. Luckily the waitress was able to direct us to a nearby camera shop where we found a replacement that was amazingly cheaper than the ones we get at home. You know what’s coming next don’t you? Yes, we decided to got to an ATM on the way back to the hotel, and it was out of cash. Oh well, certainly we’d find another one later that was working. We decided to take a quick nap before meeting Jeremy and Theresa for a drink at their hotel before dinner. Along the way to t’ Spinnekopke eagle eye Theresa spotted an ATM for us, and we were back in business. We had reservations at 18:00, which must be when they open because everyone was still setting up when we arrived. We had a wonderful meal and the waiter was a very nice Frenchman. I guess Dick just drew the short straw on his visit. The only low light of the meal was the cask Cantillon Faro that Jeremy and I split. It tasted really off, and no, it wasn’t the sweetness that bothered us because that was to be expected. The cask Cantillon Gueuze we split was much better though, although not as good as the bottle we had earlier during the dinner. With our bellies full we headed out to meet Mark for our pub crawl. Our first stop was at the Port Noire, which was my favorite of the whole evening. It was a really great cellar pub with stone walls and additional rooms in the back that were only lit with candles. Very cool! The beer list was quite nice also. I had a Zottegemse Grand Cru while Dan opted for the Boon Kriek van t’ vat. That Grand Cru was one of my top 5 beers of the trip, and yes, it was a sweet/sour beer. It’s a shame that the Crombe Brewery is no longer brewing. Dan also tried a Ambiorix Dubbel that was very nice. I wouldn’t mind having that one again. The next stop was the Poechenellekelder. It is a little spooky with all of the marionettes hanging from the ceiling, especially since some of them look like the grim reaper. We all noticed that they had Achel Blond on the menu, and when we tried to order it we found out it was out of stock. Bummer! I decided to go with the Gouden Carolus Tripel and Dan selected the St. Feuillien Blonde. The tripel was very highly spiced for a tripel and I thought it was delicious. The St. Feuillien was a winner too. They have a nice little courtyard that you can see from the stairway on the way down to the restrooms at this pub. There are a ton of little garden gnomes interspersed amongst the vegetation. I guess Chad would be in good company here, huh Cornelia? Our last stop of the evening was theater Royal de Toone Bruxelles. A very nice cozy pub with a decent beer list. Mark could only have one more beer before catching the last train home, so of course he opted for a Duvel. Dan and I split a Bush, since we didn’t think either of us could finish one by ourselves. It was a great evening, and we were sorry it had to end so soon. Unfortunately, Dan and I had to catch a relatively early flight home, so we parted ways with Jeremy and Theresa at the Grand Place and headed for our hotel, with a quick stop for a waffle on the way. Man cannot live on frites alone you know… Thanks again to all of the Babblers we met during our whirlwind tour. It was wonderful to finally put some faces to names, and we enjoyed your company tremendously. Until next time!

Joelle & Dan

The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - Joelle, 07/28/02 05:21:32 PM
        Great report. Makes me thirsty. NFM - Cornelia, 07/30/02 10:22:53 AM
        Re: The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - podge, 07/30/02 07:17:19 AM
        I'm bringing a map of all Belgian ATM'S next time I visit... - Perkeo, 07/29/02 11:40:46 PM
                Re: I'm bringing a map of all Belgian ATM'S next time I visit... - Fred, 07/30/02 03:06:54 AM
                        Belgian ATM'S - Jeremy Gray, 07/30/02 02:55:07 PM
                                Re: Belgian ATM'S - Chuck Cook, 07/30/02 09:47:21 PM
        Re: The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - Chuck Cook, 07/29/02 03:33:02 PM
        Thanks for the nice comments. Glad you guys enjoyed it! nfm - Joelle, 07/29/02 12:59:32 PM
        Wonderful!Great Job!NFM - Priscilla Estes, 07/29/02 12:31:32 PM
        Tremendous!, nfm - Aaron, 07/29/02 12:22:00 PM
        Thanks for the great write up. Excellent! NFM. - John Sturm, 07/29/02 11:13:14 AM
        Great report Joelle... - Bob Johnston, 07/29/02 09:43:16 AM
                Re: Great report Joelle... - Ksq Domer, 07/29/02 11:17:54 AM
                        No, not yet... - Bob Johnston, 07/29/02 11:27:39 AM
        Great article Joelle !! This is Belgium at its best (nfm) - Filip Geerts, 07/29/02 03:54:20 AM
        Re: The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - Joris P., 07/29/02 12:33:47 AM
                Re: The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - Mark, 07/29/02 03:47:47 AM
        Faro disappointment - Dick, 07/28/02 10:08:24 PM
                Re: Faro disappointment - Priscilla Estes, 07/29/02 12:30:37 PM
                        Re: Faro disappointment - Joelle, 07/29/02 02:10:05 PM
                                Re: Faro disappointment - Jeremy Gray, 07/29/02 03:22:45 PM
                                        Dessert at In't Spinnekopke - Joelle, 07/29/02 03:39:03 PM
                                Re: Faro disappointment - Joris P., 07/29/02 03:00:26 PM
                                        bottle bombs - Joelle, 07/29/02 03:08:46 PM
                                                Re: bottle bombs - Joris P., 07/29/02 03:21:23 PM
        Re: The Mother of All Trips, The Grand Finale - John White, 07/28/02 05:41:54 PM
                I thought that they were reasonably restrained!!! nfm - Mat, 07/29/02 08:27:43 PM

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