Another Weekend Babbling in Flanders
Posted by Thom Aikman on 09/22/2002 07:09:40 AM
Another weekend in West Flanders
This was our fourth trip to Belgium this year, but the first where we had arranged to meet fellow babblers during the stay. As we had had travel problems last year via Eurotunnel, we had been offered a free weekend trip within a twelve-month period. We decided to use the trip to stay in Ieper and visit the Hop Fest in Poperinge.
We were staying in the Novotel, Ieper. Entry into Ieper was complicated by the fact that there were major roadworks on one of the main roads into town as so we had to improvise and extend our knowledge of the ring road.
We quickly settled and then headed for the train station to take us to Poperinge. We had an hour to kill in the Palace Hotel before our meeting with Cornelia and Ray. The staff and customers were very friendly as they were coping with visitors from Germany, Czech Republic, England and the US. We had arranged with Cornelia to meet in the marquee at the Paardenmarkt to sample the beer fest. We met and introduced ourselves over a very quick half of corporate pils (enhanced with Cornelia's beer repair kit).
We then moved on the Grote Markt and the Café de la Paix and after a few drinks headed back to the Palace Hotel where the sampling continued. Ray and Cornelia offered us three beers from home:
Cotton Wood Endo India Pale Ale
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
Ray's home brew - Bullshit IPA.
We are still to sample them, but look forward to trying them all soon.
Return to Ieper by taxi cost 25 EUR, as there is no taxi service in Poperinge, as all taxis have to come out from Ieper. A town the size of Poperinge in the UK would have at least 1-2 taxi services. There does not seem to be the taxi usage culture here.
Saturday was the day to explore the Heuvelland.
We planned initially to stop at the Vanuxeem drinks warehouse at Ploegsteert. We cleared our return bottles and crates at the entrance. Now this is one the best warehouses we have come across in West Flanders to date. The choice of beers is arranged in alphabetical order, with tables upon tables of special packs and oversized bottles. When we arrived at 11am it was also nice and quiet with an empty car park.
We found the prices excellent, with many French bier de gardes, Wallonian beers as well as a good choice from all provinces in Belgium. We bought 99 bottles, 10 of which were 75cl. Standouts were two bottles of Boon Framboise 97 and a case of Cantillon St Lamvinus. We also found some beers we had not come across before, eg Livinus (Van Eecke), new Grottenbier (St Bernardus), Fromulus (Biere de Steenvorde, brewed by Kapittel!! - see more on carrying giants http://www.les-amis-de-fromulus.com/entrer/hello.htm).
There was plenty of choice of Ellezelloises, Queue de Charrue, Rochefortoise and Cantillon among others.
Two hours later, we left after paying 177 Eur, which included chocolates, biscuits, glasses and tequila to find a full car park.
After driving around the Heuvelland, we stopped at the Hellakapelle, Loker for lunch where we enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours enjoying the De Bie beers and an excellent lunch. Our final stop of the day was by driving over Kemmelberg to Kemmel. This an amazing hill, in fact it is a hill, 17% incline, then a steeper 23% incline to reach the top where there were few houses but a least 2-3 enormous cafes. See Podge's June trip for a complete list. We were heading for the Het Labyrint, Kemmel. The square in Kemmel is like an English village green. The café was a gem, all you need in a café: labyrinth, decoration of handbags, pipes, Jesus statuettes, rail memorabilia, Plates, wooden games on each table. In the yard, you could even practice your stilt walking.
The evening started at the Het Posterie. Now this bar has the best beer list in town, bar none, but is always so quiet. For the second year running, when we arrived at 8:30pm, we were the only customers. The owner obviously remembered us, as she asked us if we were there last October. We enjoyed some Achel Blond, Caulier Ambree (excellent and untried before, St Bernardus Tripel on draught, Malheur 10 and Queue de Charrue Brune.
Others did arrive within the next 2 hours, but all were either from the UK or US. There were no locals at all during this Saturday session. Maybe they come out when the beer tourists are off to bed.
Sunday was our last day. We drove out to Westvletern to pick up 4 dozen beers from the café as the drive in at the abbey did not have any beers for sale. Bear in mind that In de Vrede is now closed from the 16-30 September.
We then headed to Poperinge to spend a lazy afternoon watching the Hop Festival parade march past the Palace Hotel, where we were meeting up with Cornelia and Ray. We had bought them a Malheur Brute Reserve, Grottembier and an Yperman as our return offerings.
Basic facts of the Hop Festival
< it is not a beer festival
< Town is decorated with hops with 3 EUR entry into parade area
< 55 floats which detail the history and the seasons of the hop, very colourful
< Largely surly and unsmiling adult marchers, the kids and Hop Queen seemed to be enjoying themselves
< Were the Native Americans the early US hop pickers? (some US claims of poor research!!)
< Enjoyable Japanese beer lovers who livened up proceedings
Priscilla and her husband joined us as we were about to leave for a quick stop in the Flandria in Veurne, before heading back to Calais and then the UK.
Home by 10:30pm.
This was an excellent weekend and thanks from Paulette and Thom to Cornelia and Ray for helping make the weekend so enjoyable.
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