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European Vacation Part I (warning - long post)

Posted by Cornelia on 10/02/2002 09:40:00 AM

We left home on Thursday, September 12, and after a couple of wonderfully uneventful flights arrived in Belgium Friday morning. I hit the airport ATM for some euro, we picked up the rental car and drove to Poperinge without any optional excursions (wrong turns)! We checked into the Palace and determined our room would be ready in about an hour. We immediately retired to the hotel bar for a draft Hommelbier, after all we were there for the Hop Festival! After a short stroll, we returned to the Palace for lunch with Urthel Triple followed by our usual three-hour nap. Up, refreshed and ready, we once again strolled around the square stopping in at the Café de la Paix for a St. Bernadus Triple accompanied by soup and bread. Next it was the Belfort for a Kerelsbier and Passendale. We found the Kerelsbier quite refreshing. We then went to the festival tent, met Thom and Paulette Aikman, had ONE Stella with beer repair and took one photo. We all left and went back to Café de la Paix for Burgogne de Flanders, Zulte, Guldenberg and Grottenbier. From there we wended our way back to the Palace for Duchesse de Burgogne, Kerstbie, Triple Karmeliet, Noel Christmas Werhnact, Gueuze Girardin and Malheur Millennium. We finally made it to bed about 2:30 AM.

With a bit of a late start, leaving the hotel at 12:15, we drove to Watou for lunch at ‘t Hommelhof. A great meal accompanied by Watou Wit (not one of my favorites), Het Kappitel Prior and Het Kappitel Blonde. From there we went to Wally’s Farm – combination hop farm and Elvis shrine. We sipped on a Hommelbier and just took in the atmosphere as well as snapping a few pictures. Our next stop was De Vrede across from Westvleteren where we each had a blonde and split a 8 bruin. We restrained ourselves and passed on the 12 as Ray was driving. While there we spied several folks we knew from the US, a group of travelers from FOSSILS (Fermenters of Special Southern Indiana Libations Society – a beer appreciation and homebrew group). We had met some of them three years before at the Hop Festival. We renewed acquaintances and made new ones while enjoying the Westvleteren brews. One of the group, Kim Anderson from Denmark, was also going to the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. It’s such a small world. From De Vrede we had intended to go to the new De Bie pub in Loker but opted for the original at Stoppelweg as it was much closer. Here we had the wonderful Helleketelbier, Zatte Bie and Plokkersbier and the OK Kriek de Bie. And right behind us followed the FOSSILS ensuring more catching up. After De Bie, we headed back to Poperinge. Once parked it was off to Amfora for a very nice dinner and more beer (Kerelsbier, St. Bernardus Triple, Kasteelbier Blonde and Augustijn). We dined in the beautiful bar filled with teddy bears!? After dinner, we went back to the festival tent where we each had ONE repaired Stella and voted for our Hop Queen choice, Katrien. Katrien was later announced the winner – can we pick ‘em or what? We ended the evening back at the Palace with a Malheur Brut Reserve.

Day 3 and we still aren’t up and out until 12:00. We had lunch at a nice café, Poussecafe, a couple of doors down from the Palace. They had a small but nice beer list from which we chose a Hommelbier and a Westvleteren 6. The food was good as well. We took a short stroll around the town and upon returning to the Palace ran into Thom and Paulette. We secured ourselves a front row table at the Palace to watch the parade and enjoy selections from the Palace cellars. Thanks for Thom and Paulette for the gifts of Malheur Brut Reserve, Yperman and the new Grottenbier. My beer notes list Malheur(?), Kerelsbier, Noel Christmas, Cantillon Gueuze, Zatte Bie, Orval, XX Bitter, Helleketelbier and Oerbier for the parade session. As noted in Thom’s post, the parade was quite entertaining and the Japanese crew in attendance even more so. The Japanese were having such fun, I dropped some Hop Union “I’m Hop Blooded” fake tatoos on their table and they proceeded to adorn themselves. After the official parade, another parade of thirsty beer drinkers proceeded to arrive at the Palace. Priscilla and Paul with friends Payton and Pam from Georgia arrived just as Thom and Paulette had to bid their adieus. Once again we saw the FOSSILS group – our last FOSSILS siting this trip. After things slowed at the Palace, Ray and I went to the Café de la Paix for a great dinner complimented by Grottenbier and Oerbier. Back at the Palace for the finale, we had a Serafijn Kerstlicht from Achilles and something else we failed to note. Thus ends another Hop Festival visit.

I’m inserting Ray’s “Presidential Ponderings” for our homebrew club’s newsletter here to tell the story of the next 48 or so hours.

What's wrong with this picture? I am in Antwerp, Belgium, with one of my favorite beer cafes four doors away, and I am sitting in the room pondering. Cornelia and I are raiding the stash of beer we got to take home with us and cooling it a bit with running water in the bathroom sink. It would be nice to have a few Euro to go out for a beer but Wachovia, in its infinite wisdom, has put a stop on our ATM card because of unusual activity. Yes, we used it once when we arrived in Belgium. I guess they expect us to go back home now. We have gotten disconnected on our first three attempts to call the bank. If no one hears from us before the next meeting, Please call Wachovia for us and inform them that not everyone lives in their little world.

Okay, that's enough complaining. We don't really have it that bad. The banks will be open in the morning and I'm sure we'll manage. This is such a contrast to the prior 24 hours. Yesterday we stopped by Brasserie d'Achouffe in Achouffe for lunch before finding our hotel in nearby Houffalize. After check-in we walked about three blocks before thirst set in and lured us into Le Statu Quo for a quick beer before continuing our site-seeing stroll before dark. Well, so much for those plans. We ended up talking with several locals at the bar and someone bought a round of beer. Then there was another round from someone else. Then I bought a round... At some point during the evening a rather distraught gentleman from the hotel seemed quite relieved to find us. They were locking up the hotel and going home. He gave us a code for the lock to get back in, so we celebrated with another few rounds of beer.

Today started out just as good. After a power-walk around Houffalize so we could say we had seen at least a bit of the city, we made our way to Brasserie Fantome in Soy. Dany, the owner, brewer, bottler, label artist, and everything else, gave us a brief tour and told us a great bit about the brewery and new mash/lauter tun that would be installed soon. While we sat sampling beers, he kept dashing back to tend to the brewery. He was brewing today and can only brew once a week (900 liters) because of limited fermenting and conditioning capacity. Before leaving, we intended to buy a few bottles of his beer. Not only were the samples complementary, he wouldn't let us pay for the three 750 ml bottles either. To top that off, he threw in two t-shirts. Jeez, no wonder I like Belgium.

Fortunately, we have many more great stories like this from Belgium than the ugly one I opened with. If you are interested in beer I can think of no better place or people to drink it with than in Belgium, and there is no need to worry. There will still be some beer left when we leave. Belgium. What a country!

Proost!

Ed Note: A follow up message from Ray assures me that all is taken care of and there is no need for our masses to picket Wachovia (or “walk-all-over-ya”) to get our President back.

Now back to my less entertaining narrative…..

Ray did leave out a couple of things. After leaving Fantome, we stopped for lunch at Quartier Latin in March-en-Femme accompanied by the Super des Fagnes Blonde and Bruin. It was a nice lunch spot but we couldn’t linger as the car was due in at 4:00 PM at the Brussels airport. Upon returning the car, I noticed our coats were missing. As we had not needed to wear them yet we were really uncertain where they may have been left – we knew we would need coats in Sweden so were a bit dismayed that we would have to spend time in Antwerp shopping for coats. We proceeded from the rental car area into a doorway that Ray thought was the way to the train station. We did find a rail track with every indication the trains went into Brussels but could not find anywhere to purchase tickets. After much walking, I finally found where we were supposed to be and got the tickets. We hopped aboard as well as one can hop with 2 rollaboards, a cabin bag, a box of beer and a bag with laptop. We changed trains at Brussels North headed to Antwerp – or so we thought. Alas, we had taken the wrong train. A fellow passenger overhearing us, gave us perfect instructions on how to correct our mistake. We had about a one minute window to switch trains at Lier which would get us to Antwerp Berchem. We then caught another train from there to Antwerp Central. It took us about 45 minutes to find a taxi area near Antwerp Central due to all the construction around it. Nothing like hauling luggage around for three hours to put you in a super mood. Once at the Hotel Postiljon, the hostess indicated that while they did take credit cards they really preferred cash and wanted it in advance. We obliged as we assumed an ATM was near and we would replenish our coffers soon. The closest ATM to the hotel is only in service during certain hour, so we spent quite some time trying to find an ATM in service. Here we discovered that Ray’s ATM card wasn’t valid at that bank as it is not also a Visa Debit card and mine was “temporarily disabled”. We went by the hotel to see if we could use a phone only to find that we would need to use the public phones on the Markt. At this point, we went to Pater’s Vaetje for a much needed Dulle Teve with soup and bread for dinner. The botched attempts at phoning Wachovia occurred and we gave up and retired to the hotel for the evening. Chilling beers in the sink, we enjoyed an Yperman, Grottenbier, La Gourmande and Pissenlit while getting things repacked for better traveling. While repacking I discovered the US dollars I had put away. We had forgotten about them in our distress but at least we could exchange them in the morning. We had also intended to use the morning in Antwerp for a much needed laundry break but had to put that off until we reached Sweden as it appeared we would spend much of the next day straightening out the financial issues. Oh well, as the saying goes “the best laid plans….”.

Wednesday, September 18, and we start day 6 of the trip with a stop to exchange US dollars for Euro. From there we found an internet café (no phone at the hotel for dialing up using the laptop) and got a Wachovia branch phone number. We couldn’t call for a while as we needed to wait for branches to open. We did call the Hotel Palace and were assured our coats weren’t there so we finally decided they had been stolen from the car that I had left unlocked over night in Houffalize.

We met Joris at the Kulminator at noon. We started the session with a bolleke using our birthday cards. While enjoying the first beer and starting to relax a little (we had some money!), Joris, Ray and I traded beer treasures. Thanks, Joris, for quite a selection. Priscilla arrived with friends Payton and Pam in tow. We all enjoyed the conversation and the new Kulminator kitten, Russputin. Other beers Ray and I had were a Courage Imperial Stout (not as good as the one I had during the 24 Hours last year – are they possibly going over the hill?), draft Bornem Triple and Drei Fontienen gueuze. Also, Priscilla gave us directions to a second hand store to look for coats. After leaving, we finally got in touch with a PERSON at Wachovia. I waited about 30 minutes after hanging up and tried my ATM card. Success!! We then went to the second hand store and found perfectly acceptable coats at much less what new ones would have cost. Thanks, Priscilla! Things are looking up here, even the waffle shop where we wanted waffles with cream and fresh fruit was open – we have tried two years running to get a second one there and it never seemed to be open! After the waffle break, we toddled off the 't Waagstuk for Bieken, Gulden Drak and Augustign Triple. We later joined the 4 P’s to celebrate Paul’s birthday and share some pizza. After dinner, we walked with them to the comedy show they were attending and said our goodbyes. We headed off to Oud Arsenaal only to find it in the process of closing so went back to the Kulminator where we had an Abbaye de Rocs Speciale Noel and a Brigand Christmas beer accompanied by a huge plate of abbey cheese and bread. It was pretty empty for a while but then a large tour group showed up almost filling the place. I think we saw the same group at De Vrede. We struck up a conversation with a local couple, Gite and Bart, who were celebrating Bart’s birthday. We ended up strolling back to the center and buying Bart a birthday beer at Pater’s Vaetje. We finally called it quits about 2:00 AM.

We started the next day with a breakfast omelet and a Troubadour at the Troubadour. We then walked along the waterfront and stopped in at Joris’ practice to drop off a bottle of Bullsh*t. He suggested a quick beer at Horta and led us quickly to the café. We had an unfiltered Palm on cask before Joris had to head back to work. Before leaving we also had the cask Gueuze Boon Lembeek (I hope I got that name right). We retrieved our luggage, caught a taxi to the train station, made our way to the Brussels airport, had two Duvels each, flew to Stockholm, exchanged Euros for Krona, successfully used an ATM with Ray’s card, caught the train to city center, caught the metro to Nacka and checked into our hotel with NO mishaps along the way. Wow, we even had a refrigerator in the room and promptly placed a Fantome in to chill.

The Swedish adventure…to be continued.

European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - Cornelia, 10/02/02 09:40:00 AM
        Re: European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - Mat W, 10/03/02 10:56:33 PM
        Great write-up. Glad you liked the beers. NFM - Joris P., 10/02/02 03:14:58 PM
        Re: European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - Jean H, 10/02/02 02:38:43 PM
        2005 Hop Festival Reservations - Logan Perkins, 10/02/02 01:48:04 PM
                Notifying card issuers - Cornelia, 10/02/02 01:58:07 PM
                        Re: Notifying card issuers - Dick, 10/02/02 03:37:08 PM
        It's Deja Vu All Over Again! - Joelle, 10/02/02 12:20:23 PM
        Re: European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - Thom Aikman, 10/02/02 11:06:12 AM
        Re: European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - podge, 10/02/02 10:16:46 AM
                Wally's Farm - Cornelia, 10/02/02 10:57:12 AM
                        Re: Wally's Farm - Thanks Cornelia NFM - podge, 10/02/02 03:13:30 PM
        Re: European Vacation Part I (warning - long post) - SDS, 10/02/02 10:05:19 AM
                Bloody Hell !! - Mark, 10/04/02 08:38:42 AM
                        US/Europe (a bit of fun) - Ian, 10/04/02 11:45:58 AM
                                Re: US/Europe (a bit of fun) - Cornelia, 10/04/02 02:48:44 PM
                                        Re: US/Europe (a bit of fun) - alanC, 10/04/02 04:18:48 PM
                        Re: Bloody Hell !! - SDS, 10/04/02 09:28:14 AM
                                Re: Bloody Hell !! - Mark, 10/04/02 10:56:13 AM
                        Re: Bl... 'ell !! - Joris P., 10/04/02 09:15:50 AM
                                The Flintstones - alanC, 10/04/02 04:21:07 PM
                Whoa!!!! - Mat W, 10/03/02 10:51:51 PM
                        Re: Whoa!!!! - Jean H, 10/04/02 02:15:40 PM
                                Don't feel so bad - Cornelia, 10/04/02 02:40:10 PM
                                        Re: Don't feel so bad - Jean H, 10/05/02 05:45:03 AM
                                        Re: Don't feel so bad - Bill Coleman, 10/04/02 02:58:06 PM
                        Whoa!!!! Europe was first with ATM machines - Thom Aikman, 10/04/02 05:57:34 AM
                ATMs in Europe - Cornelia, 10/02/02 10:41:32 AM
                        Re: ATMs in Europe - MikeK, 10/02/02 01:41:04 PM
                        Re: ATMs in Europe - another caveat - Dick, 10/02/02 11:27:06 AM
        Well done Cornelia! - Bob Johnston, 10/02/02 10:00:58 AM
                Malheur - Cornelia, 10/02/02 10:39:38 AM
                        Re: Malheur - Mark, 10/02/02 11:17:26 AM

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