Friday, January 20, 2012

Brussels

Knocked off another "B" here in Europe last weekend; Brussels. It's just a three hour drive from our home so an easy trip. We've been to Brussels before but always quick trips and didn't get to see too much of the city. So here's some of the stuff we saw this time.

Crossing the border from Germany into Belgium. Interestingly, although there's no longer a checkpoint at these European Union member borders, the buildings are still there which would indicate that should there be a need, their operation could be quickly reinstated.

After the drive, snaking through Brussels traffic and checking into the hotel it's time for some Belgium libation. In Brussels, and most of the country, that means beer. Conveniently, just around the corner from our hotel was A la Mort Subite (Sudden Death). Used to be that the lunch hour patrons played cards in the bar's old location. When it was time to hurry back to work they would play one last round of their game and call it Mort Subite, sudden death. When the new establishment was finished and operations were moved here the name stuck.

Inside the bar is a magnificent example of what they call Art Nouveau. It really is a pleasant place with lots of old charm.

In addition to providing a variety of Belgium beers Mort Subite also brews their own brand of lambic beers, one type being Gueuze. More on Gueuze later. This man on his horse is their logo.

We wanted to sample a lot of the very different kinds of Belgium beers and we started with probably the country's most famous Trappist beer, Chimay and a Maes pils.

Now this was an interesting translation error on the Mort Subite menu; TITBITS. You'll also notice Kip Kap on the menu, pig cheeks.

For a second round we orderd a Mort Subite lambic and a Grimbergen Triple. Lambic beers aren't unique to Belgium but more are made here than anywhere else in the world. Lambic beers use a process called spontaneous fermentation by introducing only natural airborne yeast to the brewing of these types of beer. You can see we ordered some titbits but all we got was some salami.

Across the street from Mort Subite is the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, a beautiful glass covered shopping mall. It was built in 1846 and at that time it was the largest covered mall in the world. Very nice stores.

Very near St. Hubert and Mort Subite are a number of meandering lanes known as Ilot Sacré. It's very much like the Latin Quarter in Paris, restaurant upon restaurant, mostly seafood.

A very artistic display of seafood in front of one of the restaurants in Ilot Sacré. At the top you can see a replica of the Mannekin Pis; gotta get him in there.

Now, really, if you don't have a beer temple in your town your city just doesn't rate.

We had to knock off a visit to the Mannekin Pis right away so here we are. This has got to be the strangest symbol of a major city anywhere in the world; a little, naked peeing boy.

Me and the Mannekin Pis.

Close up of the Mannekin Pis. He's just two feet tall.

We walked by him the following day and on this occasion he had on a little uniform of some sort. There's actually a museum on the Grand Place which houses over 800 of his previous costumes. See, you gotta make the costume so that he can still pee.

OK, back to more serious business. Right across the street from the Mannekin Pis is Poechenellekelder, Poech for short. A very interesting place with all sorts of things hanging on the walls and ceilings, especially marionettes.

At Poech we tried a Kriek beer, cherry, and another Trappist beer, Westmalle. There are 174 Trappist monasteries around the world but only seven produce Trappist beer, six in Belgium and one in Holland. The Kriek was pretty good.

Kitty corner from the Mannekin Pis is the Mannekin Pis bar.

The Mannekin Pis bar was very interesting. You can see the Mannekin Pis replicas around the front. Although it's not functioning, each one of these replicas originally peed into a trough at the foot of the bar which you can see here too. Kind of a cool idea but I'm sure folks got tired of the pee splattering on their shoes.

One last Mannekin Pis and a big one. Outside a Belgium waffle place.

On the way to another destination, we walked back through the Grand Place, Brussels' main square in the city center. It's a very impressive place!

Some of the bars in Brussels are located down very narrow walkways. A La Becasse is one of them. Not exactly the most appealing presentation from the street, a flashing neon sign.

This way to A La Becasse.

Even the walkway is rather cheesy. Porcelain tiled walls.

But once inside, A La Becasse (In the Snipe) was very nice and cozy. The place has been owned by the Steppe family since 1877. There's our waiter with his rather strange outfit.

Here's his outfit from the back. Couldn't quite figure out why. 

We ordered a Kwak and Maredsous. Many Belgiums beers are quite high in alcohol content, Kwak is 8.4%. Maredsous is an abbey beer, brewed under license of the Maredsous Abbey, however, it is not a Trappist beer, but still very tasty.

Kwak is served in this round bottomed glass, placed in a wooden holder. Here's Jeff demonstrating how to drink a Kwak.

For a second round at A La Becasse, we had a Timmerman Sweet Lambic, served in this small pitcher that they call a jar. We also had another Maes pils to kind of cleanse our palate of some of these strange Belgium beers.

Last place for the night was Delirium Tremens (delirium tremors, you know, like DT's) complete pink elephants. Delirium Tremens is actually eight establishments in a little dead end alley in Ilot Sacré, what they call Delirium Village; Delirium Cafe, Delirium Monasterium, Delirium Taphouse, Delirium Hoppy Loft, Little Delirium Cafe, The Floris Bar, The Floris Garden and Floris Tequila. With all these places Delirium Tremens offers 300 whiskies, 400 absinths, 800 rums, 500 tequilas and Mezcals, 400 vodkas, 2400 beers with 100 Abbey and Trappist beers.

So here's our first round at Delirium, our last square-filling beers of our Brussels trip.  The beer Delirium Tremens which they claim was "Elected the best beer in the world" and a Gueuze. The Delirium Tremens beer was fine but it certainly would not have gotten our vote for best world beer. Now, Gueuze (pronounced, gooz) is a whole other animal. Jeff says they got the name for this beer from the sound that people make after tasting it. It's hard to describe other than a distinct sour taste. Like I mentioned, last square filled.

The sampling of the Gueuze. Listen to me crack the whip at the end of this video.

Next day we started with a walk about of the city center. Here's what's described as Brusselization, a rather hodge podge mixture of old and new architectural styles. This is the Belgium Parliament building.

Part of Brussels medieval city wall.

Kapellekerk, a 13th century Catholic church in Brussels. It was damaged during the French bombardment of the city in 1695.  French . . . always causing problems.

Kapellekerk nave.

Amazing carved wood pulpit in Kapellekerk.

The Apse of Kapellekerk.

The Palace of Justice at the western end of Regentschapsstraat. There's some sort of expo in Brussels this year so I assume that's what the big 2012 is for.

Didn't we see this same piece of "art" a couple weeks ago in Paris? Yes, we did.

The Royal Palace in Brussels.

Brussels is proud of the country's comic/cartoon history. In fact, there's a comic museum in the city. Also, at various places around Brussels you'll find large murals of many of the famous Belgium cartoon characters. This one is about Tintin.

There is a little female version of the Mannekin Pis. It's called Jeanneke Pis, a rather happy little girl squatting to pee. It was first put on display in 1987 to raise money for cancer research.

OK, all that sightseeing made us hungry and we had just one gastronomy square to fill, Moules-frites, mussels and fries. Very good!!

Of course, after mussels and fries you've got to relax in a nice Brussels establishment. This one, Au Bon Vieux Temps (The Good Old Days), is another one that's down a small walkway. Of course, this one is a little more pleasing.

The is the little alley way leading to Au Bon Vieux Temps.

Very dark wood interior in Au Bon Vieux Temps makes for a quite cozy feeling.

Just one round here at Au Bon Vieux Temps, a Corsendonk and a Duvel. Corsendonk refers to the Priory of Corsendonk but it is not an abbey ale but still quite good. Duvel is a very popular beer in Belgium and tastes great.

Oh, wait, one other gastronomy requirement before we're done in Brussels, a Belgium waffle. We just had a simple chocolate syrup and whipped cream waffle. It was scrumptiously, light and delicious.

We had read that Dandoy serves the best Belgium waffle in Brussels and they certainly get our vote.

Here's some street signs in Brussels. Everything is in French and Dutch. Those are the official languages of the country and that causes considerable problems. Amazingly, in Belgium, there is the country's Parliament but because of the language issue there's also a French Community Commission and a Flemish (Dutch) Community Commission, both with some legislative capabilities. The system is so stressed because of these language and other issues that the country has had no formal government for almost two years.  Many feel there is a real possibilty of the country splitting in two.

We're on our way home but we had to stop by the Atomium. It's an odd structure that was built for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. There's a escalator that will take folks to the top sphere.

Had a nice leisurely drive home on Sunday; light traffic. Stopped at Spangdahlem for gas and a snack. Another great weekend and wonderful visit to Brussels.

3 comments:

  1. Belgium libation...means beer? I think that is Wickstrom libation...means beer!

    I just tried Chimay a few weeks ago. I really liked it. I've become a huge fan of Belgian beer. HAHA Titbits...I'm dying laughing.

    I saw the picture of you with the Mannekin Pis. I can't believe he is only two feet tall! I love his costume too. Interesting how they make it so he can pee still lol.

    I love the video of the Grand Palace. That is funny how they put a picture over the scaffolding. I feel like I have seen that before on one of our European trips. I love how mom always has to jump up and wave in the videos haha.

    That is so cool that Delirium Tremens has so many establishments in a row like that. We all loved our shirts from there!

    The Belgium waffle at the end looks amazing!

    Glad you guys had such an awesome trip!

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