Our Belgium trip was all about the beer, baby.
We arrived in Belgium and headed off to our lovely hotel east of the city center, which turned out to be in the heart of the European Union buildings. What a pleasant surprise! Also, it turned out to be amazingly close to one of the best Belgian fry stands in Brussels. (We went twice).
After checking in, Brian and I decided to wander to a bar recommended to us by the hotel. On our way we noticed a stand in the middle of the square, with a huge line outside. It was almost freezing outside and it was dark – what were all these people waiting for? It turns out it was Maison Antoine, a Belgian fry stand. When I googled it, it had been written up by the New York Times as a good place to visit. So we had to go. We decided to split the fries (they were large portions) and a Andalouse sauce. All of the surrounding bars had helpful signs above their doors: “Fries Welcome.” We could eat our delicious fries paired with a nice beer from the bar, so we did! It was great to not have to stand in the cold and eat our treat.
The next morning we woke up early to start our day – as it was our only full day in the city. We walked over to the Parc du Cinquantenaire, which was beautiful but cold. Just know we were constantly cold pretty much our whole trip, reliving it in cold, grey Hamburg does nothing for my sunny attitude. At the end of the park was a large auto museum Auto World, and the entire parking lot was full of BMWs for us to look at and steal for parts. How else do you think we funded this trip?
Next, it was time to visit the brewery that we had learned about from our lovely friends in Amsterdam. Cantillon Brewery no longer ships its beers outside of Brussels, so you must be in Brussels to experience the taste. And what a unique taste to have! Founded in 1900, it is the last brewery to have survived into the 2000s. They brew lambic beers here, and are one of the only breweries to still do so. We took a little self-guided tour (which included two beers at the end) and learned all about the brewing process, which takes over a year. The beers are a bit sour, and are often flavored with fruit. Maybe you’ve heard of a Kriek, which is a lambic with cherries? We met a great guy who was traveling around and split a bottle with him after the tour. He has been to breweries all over the world, and was surprised we sort of just stumbled upon this sort-of unknown brewery!
After we parted ways with our new friend, of course we had to make a detour and see the Manneken Pis, which is the little peeing boy. He’s a very small statue that has become famous over the years, and a symbol of the city, because of the many legends behind the statue. There were a lot of tourists crowding around and attempting to get pictures of such a small little guy, but he was pretty cute. There is also a girl version elsewhere in the city, near our next beer stop.
It had been a little bit of time since our last beer, so we needed to refill – time for another beer at Delirium Cafe! It became famous in the early 2000s for setting a Guinness Record for the most beers available at over 2000 brands. The bar is a labyrinth of rooms that each have a bar serving different types of beers. We started in what seemed to be the typical pub beer section, but also found the IPAs and Pale Ales, the Porters and the Stouts, the craft beer, and even more unknown beers. It was even possible to get a two liter glass of beer! Of course, the deposit for the glass was 40 Euro, making this incredibly expensive, and who wants 2 liters of the same beer? We want two liters spread out through different types of beer!
It was just after Christmas day, so Brussels still had it’s Christmas market going strong. And it was surprisingly massive and beautiful! There were light shows on the cathedral set to music, a massive ferris wheel, carousels, and all sorts of games, food, and stands. We tried a Belgian waffle (obviously) and it was delicious. There was a great light show on the Brussels town hall building that we made sure we could watch. We clutched our gluhwein and attempted to keep our toes warm. We visited Delirium Cafe for a nightcap and to warm up before the train ride back to our hotel. (This is where we decided to get fries. Again. My stomach hurt from so much goodness in my life).
The next day we had our bus to London – a seven hour jaunt through the countryside, customs leaving the EU and entering the UK, driving the bus on and off a ferry, and arriving at Victoria Coach Station! Fortunately Brian at this point had discovered the app Hungry Cat to keep him occupied, and I was deep into rereading The Goldfinch, so it wasn’t too painful.
Next Stop: London!