05 April, 2009

Ten Hours in Brussels



What to do on a nice Spring Saturday? How about a day trip to Brussels. It is only a 3 hour train ride and the weather was going to be pretty nice so we decided to taken an 8:20am train that got us into the center of town at 11:23. We had planned to take a 9:37 pm train back to Luxembourg so that gave us just about 10 hours to roam the streets of Brussels, shopping, eating and have a few nice Belgian beers. We had a nice train ride up including a couple that got on with a beautiful golden retreiver that was very friendly and came up to us a few times to lick us and let us pet her. She eventually went to sleep in the middle of isle and didn't get up much, even when people entered the car and were stepping over her. That is what I love about Europe, the friendliness to pets. Even the train conducter that came to check tickets stepped over the dog and didn't make a big deal about it. We would see a bunch of dogs of varying sizes on our travels through Brussels on this day.

Here is how our day unfolded:



As we had just arrived on time from a 3 hour train ride, we were in need of some refreshments so we headed right down to Morte Subite which was already opened. We entered this huge bar and were greeted by a nearly empty place which was nice, less smokey. We were very pleased to also be greeted by our favorite waiter who was featured on an episode of Three Sheets with Zame Lamprey so we knew it would be a good day. Paula ordered a Mort Subite white lambic and I ordered a MS Gueuze. Both were very nice and refreshing. We later ordered a mixte of cheese and salami...yum. At the same time I ordered another drink, a Mort Subite Faro. Yum as well. While sipping on our drinks and doing some people watching on the street, it was amusing to see a few groups of people come inside the bar to take pictures and just leave..without having a drink. Although we enjoy Mort Subite, we had too many other places to visit so off we were....

..to Delirium Cafe. Delirium is a beer destination as they have reportedly over 2,400 different beers, many from countries or breweries you may have never heard of or would not want to ever try but it is still worth a visit. This bar can get really really busy, noisy and smokey but I really enjoy their selection and checking out all the old beer signs and beer trays throughout the place. When we arrived there were only about 15 or so people in the whole bar so we were able to get a nice table (which is a huge wine barrel standing up) and we quickly dug into the massive been menu and order a 75 cl bottle of Fantome Pissenlit to share. I was very happy to find this beer as it is not usually available and was very fresh tasting for a beer from 2003. A nice afernoon treat. Although there were many more beers to drink, we had to move on....

Our next stop was for a quick lunch at Fritland for some Belgian Frites and some sort of burger hoagie thing. Good food none the less. And then we were on...

...to De la D├ęcasse, a well hidden and more local bar that serves mostly lambic beers from Timmerman's. I had heard good things about this place but have never visited so we gave it a try. It is off a very busy restaurant area but down a non-descript alley that is easy to miss. Upon entering, we realized it was mainly a local spot as there were several families in there enjoying some jugs of lambic and everyone turn their hends when we talked in but we still felt very welcome. There are a good number of old wood tables with a mix of different chairs throughout the place and then a tiny bar in the corner where they serve 3 different lambics from tap and then a few more in bottles. They offer the beers in about 6 different jug sizes from a single serving up to a jug that seems to be about 2 litres or more in size! we order a jug of the Timmerman's Doux lambic from about a 75cl jug which was enough for 2. The beers were served in little tumbler glasses which fit in with the atmosphere of this place. The beer was refreshing and worth a try and the bar was definitely a good visit and we will come back on future trips but we only stayed for this one drink and then we were off again...

...this time to Toone, the bar and marionette theatre right off one of the main shopping streets and not far from Delirium a stretch of touristy restaurants where the waiters stand out from and beg you to come in to eat their cheap food. We always pass up on the offer and head to Toone. Paula was lucky enough to see a marionette show when our friends Heather and Ray came to visit in 2008 but I have yet to see a show. Someday. Toone is down a long alley that opens into a courtyard where there are 5 or so tables but it was a bit chilly so we went inside to one of the 3 or 4 rooms on the ground floor. It was fairly empty so we had no trouble finding a seat and took up the menu to decide what to drink. At about 4:08 pm we got our drinks, a Mort Submite Kriek for Paula and a Vieux Temps for me. Both decent beers. In addition to having some old marionettes hanging on the walls and various posters from some of their shows, we were also in a room that served as the old stage and seating areas for shows but apparently they now have the nightly shows at the top floor of the building which is several flights of stairs up, almost in the attic! Toone also has 2 cats that roam around the place and last time we were here, one came crawled onto Paula's lap and slept there for awhile. This time we saw one of the cats licking itself in the distance but he or she didn't come to talk. We did get a chance to pet the other cat, a black one, on our way out and onto the next destination....

...Delirium Taphouse. I know what you are thinking...back to Delirium again..in the same day? Well this is not exactly the same thing as Delirium Cafe although they are in the same building and owned by the same folks. The Taphouse is on the first floor and the Cafe is in the basement. We were visiting the Taphouse for one reason...they had De Dolle Cosmos Porter on tap. A very special new beers from De Dolle that is not in bottles, only on draft at select locations. We had it at the Zythos beer fest last month and when I found out from a bartender at the Cafe that it was upstairs, we had to come back when the Taphouse was open. Although it was a bit smokey when we got there, we found nice seats at the back of the bar in a new area that was opened up since our last visit. I of course had the Cosmos Porter and Paula had a nice glass of Houblon Chouffe which is one of her favorites. After one drink each we were off for more shopping and then to....

....the Poechenellekelder, a really nice bar right across from the Manneken Pis statue that draws so many crowds of tourists and gawkers. Because of the proximity to one of the most popular destinations in Brussels, the bar gets very busy with folks stopping in to take a look around and have an innocent beer so it is ofen hard to find a seat but since they had the tables out at the terrace in the front, I thought it would be easier to find a seat. When we entered the first floor was completely packed so I quickly headed downstairs where not everyone knows there is seating. I had a couple right on my heels but I was able to find us a cool little table in the basement with a nice view of some beer signs on the walls and a cabinet full of beer books. We each ordered a beer from the draft special list: Paula ordered the Gouden Carolous Hopsinjoor and I ordered an Easter beer, the Slaghmuylder Passbier which was ok but nothing special. Paula's beer is very good and another of her favorites. After that we ordered a treat, a 75 cl bottle to share of the De La Senne Jambe de Bois which is a hoppy tripel beer and one I have been trying to find for several months. It proved to be worth the search for this one! After the Jambe de Bois we moved across to the street to...

....Taverne Manneken Pis which is also busy due to the proximity to the Manneken Pis statue but not as busy and it has a less extensive beer list but still is a charming corner bar. We easily found a table and each had one beer before hitting the road. Paula had a Tripel Karmeliet and I had a new beer, a Hopus, which was a nice hoppy pale ale served in a nice flip top bottle and in a huge glass with a huge head to match!

After these last drinks, we headed to get a waffle for the road, a real waffle, not one with all the creat and chocolate and strawberries on them. just a plain sugar Liege waffle. We packed that away for the train ride home and headed over the Greek area for a chicken pita each for the walk back to the train station for dinner. This is an odd street with a guy standing out in front of each trying to entice you into their restaurants. We went to the least offensive one and got some tastey pitas for the walk! Our train left Brussels at 9:37pm and got us back into Luxembourg at 12:40 am and we were back to the apartment with Molly at about 1am and then off to bed!

02 April, 2009

Concert Going in Europe....

When living in the U.S., Paula and I would see a few concerts a year...usually the Dave Matthews Band or G. Love or Matchbox Twenty or something along those lines. I have personally seem DMB 33 times in my 33 years....Paula has seen them about 8 or 10 times and we have seen U2 once together in the U.S. but we have only seem a few shows so far in while living in Europe.

Our first European show was the Counting Crows in Luxembourg and then this past summer we saw Ben Harper/G. Love / Jack Johnson in London and we actually met Jack Johnson in the park before the show and had a great time.

We this year we are really packing in the concerts! We finally get to see DMB in Europe. About a month ago I heard that DMB was coming to Europe so we found tickets online for a DMB show in Hyde Park in London playing with Bruce Springsteen! The show is sort of a festival in Hyde Park with nearly a days worth of music so we are really looking forward to that. Being in London is great as they speak English which feels good every now and then. Plus we have some nice bars and restaurants to visit so it will be good to be back there.

It just so happens to be that while we are in London for the DMB / Boss London Calling show, DMB is also playing earlier in the weekend at a smaller venue and we found tickets for that as well. The London Calling show is in a huge park so it can probably hold 20 or 30 thousand folks or more but the smaller DMB show can hold maybe 4 or 5 thousand which is nice!

Then next show on our musical tour through Europe is to see....wait for it.........U2 in DUBLIN! I waited and waited for this to happen and finally it came about that U2 announced the dates for their new tour to support the recent album No Line on the Horizon. I managed to get decent seats for the Saturday, 24 July show in Croke Park. It turns out that U2 is playing 3 shows over the weekend in a huge stadium that holds about 80,000 folks and all 3 sold out quickly!!!! We now need to get some flights and a hotel in the city. We are also thinking of taking a day trip to Ballina in County Mayo where my family is originally from. We will see if we have time.

The last show we have booked just came up today. I found out that tickets went on sale for the Montreux Jazz Festival which is right on Lake Geneva in a wonderful location and it turns out that the Dave Matthews Band is playing on the 4th of July so we scooped up 2 tickets today! DMB is playing along with Steely Dan so that is nice as well.

Shortly after I turn the big 3-4....I will have seen DMB 36 times!!! woo hoo...