Trip Report part two: Watou and around
Posted by Jeremy Gray on 02/13/2005 11:10:32 AM
Our fourth visit to the wonderful B & B at St Bernardus in Watou followed 6 days in Brugge and a superb night of beer tasting with Joris, where we ran through a few treats:
Acryl, from Br. Debeccha (75cl, bottled 10/91)
Whitbread Celebration Ale (1992)
Thomas Hardy’s Ale 1987
Avery the Beast
Cantillon Cuvee des Champions
Rosalie de Rauw Geuze (early 1960’s)
Petrus Aged Pale
To give us a break from all the Flemish cuisine, Joris had kindly cooked a traditional British meal for us – Indian lamb curry – which was excellently prepared and very very tasty, with meat falling off the bone. Needless to say, with such a great line up of beers, an excellent night was had by all, but perhaps surprisingly on a night of such big beers, my favourite two were the two geuzes – one old, one new, both sublime.
Next morning, we set off bright and late for the easy drive across West Flanders, stopping in Ruislede and Tielt to collect two more Bob stamps for the 295 book, and then we had lunch in a Bob Eetcafe in Tielt, the relatively new bar called Pado.
We had been here before, with Joris and Lut, but this time I have to say we were very very impressed. We had a really good lunch of various tapas and a hearty soup. The beer list is getting more impressive all the time, and is now up to the mid 90’s with a separate list of new beers featuring about 10 additional beers. They have several beers from the nearby brewery Alvinne, including a new house beer which is mighty tasty; Malheur Brut Reserve; Deus; three beers from Rochefortoise; two from Troubadour; most of the Trappists; five beers from Boon including Mariage Parfait, and some of the large bottles from Dupont. All in all it’s a great selection. Its very close to Tielt station, and is open from 11 each day, except Tuesday which is their day off. I am increasingly impressed with this one and will definitely be back.
Arriving in Watou around 3pm, we were quickly ushered into the lovely sitting room where we had the first of the many St Bernardus beers that we had over the weekend, before setting off for dinner at a restaurant in Ieper – Pacific Ieland – which had been recommended by Bernadette. Like most of her recommendations, it was a good one and we ate well.
After dinner, we attended the incredible ceremony of the sounding of the Last Post under the Menen Gate, our second time at this simple but very moving act of remembrance. Being a Friday there was a much bigger crowd than on our previous visit. I really think its amazing that they continue to do this every night without fail, almost 100 years after WW1.
From here we took a detour south to collect an outstanding Bob stamp at the Hellekapelle, Loker. I am sorry to say that this place now only sells about 20 beers, mostly from De Bie. We had half a Zatte Bie but didn’t like it and quickly left, to head for the incomparable Wally’s Farm.
Wally’s Farm, Abele: wow! What a place. Arriving at 9.30pm or so, there were about 50 people seated waiting to eat in this great barn of a place just off the Abele – Poperinge road. There was no singing, and Elvis was nowhere to be seen. We ordered a beer from the decent list of about 40 beers – a tasty Gouden Carolus – and sat down to enjoy the fine surroundings. However, despite being impressed by the place itself, we were slightly disappointed that there was no live singing. We had no idea where Elvis was, the only bloke in the staff was this guy tending the huge indoor barbie cooking gigantic sausages and steaks for the waiting hordes.
After nearly an hour nothing had happened, and we had finished our beers, so we got up, paid and went to leave. As we were on our way out the door, the guy from the barbie came over, established that we spoke English (he spoke French, Flemish, English and no doubt other languages too) and started to talk to us.
We soon realised that this very friendly guy was none other than Wally aka Elvis! To avoid our being disappointed, Wally immediately jumped up on the stage and started to sing. He ended up doing a full 45 minute set and I have to say his performance really is superb. All the diners were soon up on the floor dancing away and the atmosphere was great. The décor is superb, the whole place is very well done indeed and is one of the most surprising finds in this area, which is chock full of surprises. But this one is one of the best.
We’d now been there for the best part of two hours, and as I was driving and wanted to get back home safely and have a beer at the B & B, we decided to make a run for it during the break. Wally had promised to return later in his white Elvis suit, but we figured that if we didn’t leave then we’d be there for the duration.
Next day it was the Belbus day, with a trip round some of the best beer places in the local area. We had booked the busses the night before, and three out of three turned up not just on time but early. The service is cheap, efficient and overall provides a superb way of getting round the area quickly without drinking and driving. I would recommend this service to anyone.
First stop was Poperinge, where we visited St Bertinus Church, then the fascinating Stadhuis, where we saw the cells that were used to hold the young soldiers that were ‘shot at dawn’ the next morning, after having been ‘convicted’ of desertion or whatever. The shooting post has now been restored and you can see it in the courtyard outside. A very sad and moving memorial to a very sad chapter in the history of the war.
After the cultural stuff, we retired to the Palace Hotel for lunch and a very relaxing couple of geuzes – Drie Fonteinen and Girardin – from their excellent list of over 100 beers.
From here, it was back on the Belbus and up to Westvleteren. As everyone knows, the beers taste best on home territory, and it was a luxury for once to be able to indulge in a couple of beers knowing that a handy little bus was going to be waiting to pick us up outside when we were done. In de Vrede was doing its usual brisk business; the drive in was also open, serving Blonde and 12. I counted 16 cars in the queue when we arrived, but just a couple when we were leaving – both beers had not yet sold out and were still available.
Right on cue our Belbus was waiting for us and we were soon back at the B & B. After a couple of St Bernardus beers, we set off to walk up to Watou and dinner at the Hommelhof. The walk took 35 minutes each way, and was ok, but it was very cold and it is very dark on that road, so its not the easiest or most pleasant of walks on a winter night.
Anyway, the Hommelhof was completely over run with customers – a special function down the back appeared to be hosting about 300 people – and both front rooms were packed to overflowing – but luckily Bernadette had booked a table for us and we were soon sat enjoying more excellent fish soup, after which I had a delicious rabbit stew. This was full of flavour, the meat was succulent and tasty, and I thought that overall the meal was superb.
After dinner we had a quick one at the Van Eecke brewery tap – the unimpressive Het Brouwershof – then it was time for the long, cold walk back to the B & B.
Next morning after the usual sumptuous breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Bernadette and set off on the scenic route to Calais. Yes, the route that goes via Dikkelle (East Flanders) for the lovely country café, the Poezenelle; Brakel, for the excellent Tim Webb entry De Louvre, which has over 100 beers on a very good list, plus an additional 30 or so Christmas beers, a very friendly guy and a decent lunch.
Next stop was Zottegem for another tick at the Luchtbal, which is a smart town centre café with about 40 beers, then it was a very quick stop at Burst for ‘t Schuurken, followed by Bob tick number 200 at Hof te Roellegem in Herzele. A quick celebration was had to mark the 200th tick with local favourite De Ryck Speciaal, then we were off to the motorway junction near Aalst, stopping only for one final tick at ‘t Hoefijzer in Aaigem.
The end of another superb January trip to Belgium!
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