Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Muscles in Brussles

Bonjour! I've just returned from my first holiday since returning from Seattle. 'Holiday' in the sense that I actually took two days off work. Woo hoo! It's been two months since I've had a day off, and it was high time.

I think I mentioned several weeks ago that this trip was booked-Brussels. So, Simon & I depart by Eurostar on Friday morning, and two easy, comfortable, non-turbulent hours later, we arrive in Brussels. It doesn't get any easier than that!

Getting from the station proved to be a bit of a challenge (a small bit...), but I could tell it stressed Simon out a bit. When we finally got near the vicinity of our hotel, he somewhat grumbled, 'we're taking a taxi back to the station on Monday.' Poor bunny. 30 minutes of effort and he's already ready to throw the towel in. At any rate..

We arrive at our hotel around noon, quickly check in, drop off our bags, freshen up, and head out. After puttering around for about an hour-and ducking under a tree for 15 minutes to avoid a downpour, we stop for lunch at Le Chappilers (The Hatmakers). In a word, yum. It was so good, this is where we return for our final lunch on Monday!

Friday was spent puttering around, checking things out, stopping for an occasional beer, and just enjoying being on vacation. We found a great beer hall (conveniently around the corner from our hotel) called 'a la Mort Subite' (By Sudden Death). There's a series of beers named after the beer hall. Simon & I both love the Lambic. Framboise. Yummy Raspberry. I also tried a 'Geueze'-pronounced girs (rhymes with 'firs'). ick. It was like an extra bitter cider. ick. Then I had a Faro beer. Yum. Amber, mellow, honey, and super light. Simon had the rest of my Geueze and several Lambics. Good thing we were just a two minute walk to the hotel that nite! :) So many Belgian beers are so yummy, you forget about the super-high alcohol content! Here's a picture of the beer hall. It's not that great, but you'll get the idea...

Saturday was spent puttering around some more. After a late breakfast, we took a walk to find the last brewery-Cantillon-in Brussels. It was quite a walk, but well worth the effort! The owners of the brewery were super nice, and their Geueze was much better than what I had Friday nite. After this walk, we came back to town & had a late lunch, and a few beers. Then we decide to take a stroll to find the sound of the brass band around the corner we had been hearing at lunch. Turns out it's a holiday in Brussels-Maipole Day. Lots of brass bands & lots of people celebrating. We just ambled and followed the random crowd that seemed to assemble to listen to the band as they marched to some random spot in town. From what we could gather, the Maipole is actually a tree-lots of folks were walking around with bits of branches in their hands. Neither Simon or I were sure what it all meant, but it was fun just standing around watching people celebrate!

Dinner Saturday nite was in a restaurant on the Grand Place. Lunch was so big & so late, that it was a fairly light meal. But, the restaurant was definitely 'quirky.' Yes, those are pigs bladders attached to the light fixture above Simon's head. I'm not sure what the significance is of those things either...

On Sunday, we hopped a train to Brugge for the day. Brugge is a small, cute, well preserved town about an hour from Brussels. Unfortunately, it's also fairly overrun with tourists, but oh well! We started off at De Halve Maan-the last brewery in Brugge. Their Zot Blonde is *amazing*. Probably my favorite beer on the trip. And, the courtyard at the brewery was the perfect place to sit outside & enjoy the day. We eventually wandered into town and into a little chocolate shop. Oddly (or so I thought for the moment..), they had a picture of Rick Steeves, the travel writer, posted. I pointed the picture out to Simon & told him who he was, and the lady behind the counter asked if I knew him-turns out he had just come in the store not 30 minutes before we had! Apparently, he was on one of his self-guided tours of Brugge, and had stopped off at his favorite chocolate shop! Small world. I didn't see him that day, though. Dang...

After puttering around town, we decided to meander back to De Halve Maan for one last beer before hopping on the train and calling it a day. We arrived back in Brussels around 8p, popped out for a nibble and a few beers more, and decided to call it a day.

Monday, our last day, was 'chocolate day.' We spent the day wandering around town finding all of the chocolatiers that I had been reading about. Yum. The obvious places aside (Godiva, Neuhaus, Leonidas..), we opted to find the smaller places-where, after tasting, I do believe quantity and quality do not equate. Pierre Marcolini for champagne truffles, Wittamer for the 'holy cow can I afford this' experience, and Debailleul for the 'down-home, I'll be happy to talk to you for 30 minutes' experience. YUM. Simon & I were actually tossing around the idea of a quick day trip back down to Brussels a week or so before Christmas to pick up presents. Not a bad idea!

Anyhoo, after overloading our tummies and our bags on chocolate, we decide to pop back into Grand Place for one last look around, one last yummy lunch, and then go to the hotel to grab our our bags & head to the station for returning to London. And, we didn't even take a taxi to the station!

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