Amsterdam/Belgium Part Two of Three
Posted by Jim Keaveney on 10/12/2004 10:10:45 PM
Sorry this is so long. I am apparentely a babbler!
The next day we traveled to Brugge and checked into the Erasmus. This is a very nice little hotel, centrally located and run by nice people. The owner was very excited that Michael Jackson is coming to visit in a couple weeks. They have an excellent beer selection. We checked in and went around the corner to DeGarre for a couple of beers before returning to the Erasmus to meet friends. We had met a nice German family (Jochen, Silke and 1 ½ yr old Luzie) at the Oktoberfest last year and spent some time with them in Dusseldorf. They planned their vacation around ours and stayed in a coastal town in East Flanders (the name escapes me). They drove into Brugge to enjoy the day with us. We found it interesting that our German friends had some difficulty speaking with folks in Brugge who seem much better with English than German.
The Erasmus had Zatte Bie on tap which I enjoyed and a Westmalle Dubble on draught for my German friend. His wife is pregnant with their 2nd so she could not indulge - designated driver for him - yahoo! He never had a Belgian beer before so we had a fun day. We showed them around town (Me, a Belgian tour guide! Maybe someday) stopping for a beer every now and then and wound up at Dickies for dinner. I had a wonderful beef fillet with 3 jumbo shrimp all grilled to perfection. Silke had a steak w/ Blue Cheese which she enjoyed very much. All were very satisfied. Dickies also has an excellent beer selection. We strolled around and Jochen and I talked politics (we are opposites) while the women window shopped. We then stopped in Beertje so Jochen could have one last beer, a Rochefort 10 and I had my second oude gueze beer a 3 Fonteinen.which gave me instant credibility with owner Jan who was smirking at several of the folks around us (the lovely bride included) who had taken to drinking some banana syrupy lambic. “That’s the real stuff” he said. Indeed, I found a new style to enjoy (like I needed one) and had several more throughout the trip. Our German friends departed and we hung around for a couple more. We met a nice young couple in from London. They were unfamiliar with Belgian beers but it is pretty hard to “miss” and he had stumbled across a Rochefort 8 which he enjoyed. We became the “expert beer consultants” for the rest of the evening (It is always funny to me that if you know anything at all about beer you are instantly an expert to those who are unfamiliar).
Early the next morning the town square was bustling with vendors who set up tents and trailers to sell all sorts of pastries, cooked and uncooked meats, produce, etc. Maybe somebody reading this knows: where do these vendors come from and why are people buying whole cooked chickens at 8 am? It is like a giant traveling food market. Do they move frm town to town? The square was packed and when we stopped back later it looked as if most of what was brought was sold. We had lunch at the “Matinee Teahouse” which is a somewhat fancy lunch spot with outdoor and indoor seating just across from a beautiful section of the canals where many of the tour boats launch. It has wonderful but pricey salads and a short beer list but you are in Belgium so unless you are in an Interbrew café you are sure to score something nice. We both enjoyed a Duvel. We wandered around lovely Brugge on another beautiful day and popped into DeGarre when a quick shower started. It was done after just two beers. What a shame. Off to the train station.
Our next destination was the St. Bernardus Brewery’s B&B. We took a late afternoon train to Poperinge which is a small, very friendly town. We inquired about the Bellbus and the nice gentleman at the station made some calls for us and reported that Claus of the B&B was on his way to pick us up. He also told us that he and his wife have a café in Poperinge called Niewen Haene which carries all of the beers made by the other brewery in Watou, Van Ecke (Kapitel beers) Bernadette and Claus Deconinck run the B&B and I don’t think you could find two nicer, more accommodating people. Upon arrival Bernadette offered us choice of house beer or a glass of wine. I went right for the Abt 12 and Michele had a Tripel. We relaxed in the beautiful parlor. We felt right at home (I only wish my home was like that!). Claus came in a bit later and asked what we had planned for dinner. I told him that we were going to take the Bellbus somewhere and he offered to drive us to a local restaurant called Terminus which he said was simple but had very good food and not very expensive. We went to our spacious, very nice room, changed and returned to the Parlor where Claus was waiting. He drove us to Terminus which is right on the French border. He introduced us to the owner who spoke very little English. We were having some difficulty understanding her description of the menu items so she ran into the kitchen and brought out a huge platter which contained a local fish, Jumbo Shrimp, tiny shrimp and scallops. Michele ordered the fish and I the Scallops which were broiled in a dark, mustard gravy. The food was very good. That local fish (whose name I will probably never know) was excellent. After dinner a nice young guy who turned out to be the son of the owner came to our table and said he would drive us home whenever we were ready. This was a recurrent theme in this wonderful corner of the universe.
The next day we took the Bellbus to St. Sixtus. There was a lot of construction going on at the Abbey and I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see much of it. We went to the official cafeVrede across the street and enjoyed cheese, bread and mustard along with one each of the 6, 8 and 12. I bought 8 bottles of the 12 and some glasses. We were then very fortunate when an English couple who was staying at our B&B happened by. They were glad to drop our items off at the B&B so we would not have to lug them around on our disorganized, sketchy journey. We took the Bellbus to Poperinge and visited several cafes. First the front bar at the Palace Hotel which is lovely and has a good variety. We were the only patrons. I wanted something light so I had a local dort on draught called Kerelsbier(Leroy) which was a nice, refreshing beer. I had just started a Hommelbier. when the owner of the Leroy brewery came in with a wild character from Interbrew who called himself King Noel and his sidekick. King Noel wore a nice suit, a multi-colored tie and big read sneakers. He entertained the heck out of us and sent round after round of Kerelsbier to our table. I know what a lot of people think about Interbrew but his guy was awesome. He wanted to know all about our journey and where we were going next, where we were staying, etc. He actually stopped by our hotel in Izegem before we arrived the next day and dropped off a package of shirts, caps and a backpack for us. Unbelievable.
We then went to Niewen Haene and met the wife of the friendly railway employee. She was worried that she had not opened at her regular time and thought she may have missed us. Apparently she was expecting us first thing in the morning and we kind of felt like we were late. We had not even said for sure that we would be stopping in. Anyway I enjoyed the Kapittel Abt, a blonde, potent ale with good character and the Prior which was dark and medium-bodied and fairly complex. Our next stop was right across the square to Paiz which has a big beer list. I ordered a Grottenbier and was served a Hoegaarden. Had King Noel implanted subliminal messages into my brain? No, I think that in this rural, wonderful area some people are not used to speaking English very often. Please don’t let that discourage anyone from traveling to this area. Trust me, if you are a one-language wonder like myself, you will get by. The people make every effort to make you feel comfortable unlike some other places I have visited.
Off to Wally’s’s World! There is a small mention in Tim Webb’s wonderful Good Beer Guide to Belgium and Holland of Wally’s’s farm. Wally is a huge Elvis fan and impersonator who runs a farm and puts on Elvis shows in full regalia, serves dinner and has a list of about 50 beers. We are Elvis fans and we just had to see this so we had planned dinner at Wally’s that night. The Bellbus dropped us off at the farm in the middle of nowhere (and everywhere) and some children on the bus where laughing as we climbed off. As we approached the restaurant it became quite apparent that this place was not open, (Note to self: call ahead if you are going to be dropped off in the middle of vast farmland with no telephones or means of transportation). The door was locked. Maybe we are a little early? Maybe they will be around and let us use their phone? We had to knock, we had no other choice. Wally’s wife Patty answered and explained that they are only open on weekends. You know, that really makes a hell of a lot of sense in such a sparsely populated area. How many Elvis shows per week can you put on in a town of 19,000? They invited us in and we chatted and drank Orval. We told Wally’s how I gave Michele a Christmas Ornament on our first Christmas together that was Elvis singing Blue Christmas. The next thing you know, Wally has the sound system fired up and is on stage (ok no costume) singing Blue Christmas for us. I’ll tell you what — he gives the Vegas impersonators a run for their money – actually his voice is much better. He then had us join him on stage. Patty took pictures and he did a Jerry Lee Lewis song for us. He then offered to drive us to a place for dinner. I wanted to buy them dinner but they had just eaten. Wally drove us to a place called In De Vette OS in Poperinge just off the main square. He said that he would come back later and get us if necessary. He spoke to the owner who agreed to take us back to the B&B after dinner. We had a beer with him at the bar and then we were escorted into the dining room where I had a scrumptious steak with pepper sauce. Michele was equally impressed with her steak and she is not much of a beef person. After dinner, we went back to the bar and had another beer or three. The people at the bar were very friendly and easy to talk to despite some minor language issues. When things slowed down a bit, the owner drove us back to the B&B.
If you have ever seen the movie “Funny Farm” with Chevy Chase you will appreciate this. The movie is about a big city couple who moves out to the country to start a new life. They find themselves in a town full of mean, nasty people. In order to sell their house and get out of town, they have to bribe all of the townspeople to behave like super-friendly, small town charmers to the prospective buyers. It is comical because they so overdue it, all the while reminding the couple how much it is going to cost them. We felt like we were in that movie. Only nobody was paid.
Next is off to Emelgem and Brussels. I promise it will be much shorter!
|Amsterdam/Belgium Part Two of Three - Jim Keaveney, 10/12/04 10:10:45 PM|
| Re: Amsterdam/Belgium Part Two of Three - cad, 01/18/05 11:00:40 PM|
| Excellent Jim, keep it coming. nfm - Bob Johnston, 10/14/04 06:57:22 AM|
| Excellent stuff, Jim - Jeremy Gray, 10/13/04 03:44:45 PM|
| Re: Excellent stuff, Jim - Jim Keaveney, 10/13/04 04:40:10 PM|
| Re: Excellent stuff, Jim - Jeremy Gray, 10/13/04 04:48:35 PM|
| Re: Amsterdam/Belgium Part Two of Three - John Sturm, 10/13/04 11:27:57 AM|
| Re: Amsterdam/Belgium Part Two of Three - Loren, 10/13/04 08:41:09 AM|
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