31 March, 2010

Easter in the Netherlands

This Easter Paula and I are going to spend a longish weekend in the Netherlands..more specifically my favorite city, Utrecht for 2 days and nights, then Delft for an afternoon and then Amsterdam for the last 2 days and nights before returning to Luxembourg in time for the annual bird whistle festival.

This will be the last trip that Paula takes in Europe before heading back to the U.S. next week and what better place to make her last trip than one of our most favorite destinations...Utrecht! and the rest of Holland for that matter.

We are going to drive up to Utrecht and enjoy the shopping, eating, drinking and people watching that the city has to offer. It will also be nice to visit a few of my favorite hangouts from back in the day (circa 2000) as this will also be my last trip to Utrecht for several years I would guess.

After a few days in Utrecht it is off to Delft just for a few hours to pick up some cool Delft blauw tiles and other items we have been thinking of for some time but never purchased before.

Then we are on to Amsterdam for 2 days and nights of roaming around shopping, maybe taking in a slow canal cruise or anything else that comes to mind. We have dinner reservations at a cool farm/nursery restaurant on the outskirts of Amsterdam that serves only things grown on the farm and surrounding area. Should be a great dining experience.

More to come....

16 March, 2010

Brussels....Cantillon Open Brewing...Moeder Lambic oh my!

As if the Pre-ZBF was not enough on Thursday and Friday, were trekked on to Brussels for a Saturday of fun starting off with a visit to De Heeren van Liederkercke, our favorite resturant in Belgium, for lunch and a few beers. Usually a stop at De Heeren could be a full day itself with the gourmet food and extensive current and vintage beer listing they have but we had a full day ahead.

When we entered Brussels, after dropping bags at the hotel, Keith and I were off to Cantillon and Paula was off to some last trip to Brussels shopping for goodies.

The trip to Cantillon was to see what we could see for their bi-annual open brewing day where you can wander around the brewery while they are doing everything in the brewing process from boiling, to pumping the wort in the koelchip which is really cool to see. They also clean barrel, kegs and everything in between. Although we got there later in the day, we were able to jump on an English tour and got to roam around the brewery, sample some beer at the end and buy a few items on the way out. We also chatted for a few minutes with the brewer Jean who is a really nice guy and a guy that is passionate about authentic lambic brewing.

After Cantillon, our next stop was to the new location of Moeder Lambic right in the heart of Brussels and conveiniently right across the road from our hotel. Great planning by our travel agent I must say. A trip to Moeder Lambic is a must on any visit to Brussels but this Saturday trip was extra special as it turns out.

First, Moeder Lambic having a mini-Cantillon festival with 12 of their beers on tap which is just unheard of but not for a bar that is about 2 miles from the brewery. In addition to several rare beer you usually only get in the U.S. in bottles (Iris, Saint Lamvinus, Fou Foune, Vigneronne) we were also lucky enough to try Zwanze 2008 with rhubarb and Zwanze 2009 with elderflowers. Both beers were wonderful on tap...in fact all the beers were wonderful on tap but the Zwanze 2009 really stuck out to me.

After being there for a good hour or more, the Cantillon family arrived as the guests of honor for the night. It actually seemed to be a bit of a beer industry party as Rob Tod from Allagash was there, Tom Peters from Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia was there and several other Americans that looked familiar but I did not know were there. We had a great night of Cantillon's, fantastic cheese and we even had a bit more conversation with Jean from Cantillon.

All in all it was a great night and a great cap to a beery weekend in Belgium that was also a sort of beer bachelor party for Keith!

Check out our fun.

Pre-ZBF 2010 Edition

The Pre-ZBF festival 2010 edition could not get here soon enough.....and now it is sadly over and I am already looking forward to 2011. Now I just have to figure out how to get back to Belgium next year...

This is a wonderful festival that is put on by the great folks at Picobrouwerij Alvinne (Glenn, Davy and several others) in Heule, Belgium. Pre-ZBF is held a day or so before the much larger and more mundane Zythos Beer Festival that is held each year around the first weekend of March. Pre-ZBF is in my mind the festival of the year in Belgium as it is much smaller that the big boys but pound for pound the quality of the brewers and the beers served is second to none.

Paula and I took in our first Pre-ZBF in 2009 when it was held at the Alvinne brewery which is housed in a sort of farm house in a residential neighborhood and is very charming. The 2009 fest was packing with fellow beer geeks from all over the world and certainly packed with fantastic and rare beers.

Although I thought it would be hard to top the quality of 2009, the 2010 did indeed top the prior year. Firstly, the festival was moved to a larger location just outside of Brugge, Kasteel der Lakebusschen. We had to get transportation out to the kasteel from our hotel in Brugge but Glenn and Davy at Alvinne helped to arrange all of that so things ran smoothly on that front.

The actual Pre-ZBF festival was held on a Friday from 10am to 8pm. This part of the festival was open to the public so you could have ordered a ticket ahead of time or just showed up that day and got in for a reasonable entrance fee which included a tasting glass and some tokens. As with most beer fests in Belgium, you typically pay a small upfront fee and then each beer sample costs you a token or more and each token usually has a value of €1 or €1.50.

For a lucky few (about 50 or so which included Paula, my cousin Keith and myself) there was also a special beer and whisky night on Thursday. This included a meet and greet tasting which each brewer for about 2 hours where we were allowed to sample one special beer from each brewer but it ended up being that we were able to sample several different beers from each brewer...and all this before dinner! Dinner was served inside the castle in a fantastic space that is hard to describe but the setting was perfect for the damn fine food that was cooked up by Glenn from Alvinne and paired with 5/6 beers and whiskys.

During dinner we were lucky enough to sit at a table with some fellow beer lovers from the U.S. so the conversation was flowing all night. Sometime during the dinner we were suprised when Glenn from Alvinne annouced that there was a person in the crowd that could not drink because she was pregnant ant that just happened to be Paula. Glenn was so kind to present Paula with a nice set of baby bibs. It was a wonderful gesture from a wonderful friend, something we will always remember. In addition to the gift for our baby, Glenn also presented my cousin Keith and I with a huge 1.5 litre bottle of a new Alvinne creation, Cuvee de Freddy, as a sort of congrats on the baby present for me and a congrats on getting married for Keith! Now I just have to figure out how to transport the big bottle home to Paoli.....

After a wonderful night at the beer and whisky tasting...we were back to our hotel in Brugge and after a few drinks out in the city at the Bruge Beertje for Keith and I, it was off to bed to get ready for an early rise for the actual Pre-ZBF fest on Friday.

The brewery listed was expanded in 2010 to include Alvinne, Struise, De Molen (all of which were there in 2009) and there were the additions of Brewdog, Thornbridge and Urthel which were much appreciated.

The listing of beers was expanded to something outrageous like 70 beers, several of them collaberations between the various brewers, several of them draft only and only for the festival and every beer I tried was a winner and worth the few tokens they cost.

I could not say enough about the quality of Pre-ZBF and about how much I will miss it if we are not able to make it in 2011 since we will be living back in the U.S. by then. If we don't get back next year or for several years...at least I these pictures to bring back fond memories...

13 March, 2010

A Long Weekend In Munich

A few weeks back Paula and I spent a long weekend in Munich to visit the city, take in a Dave Matthews Band concert, visit a beautiful castle and to visit the sad history of the Dachau WWII concentration camp outside of Munich.

We also got to visit a few brauhaus' in Munich including the famous but very touristy Haufbrau Haus. Did I mention we got to taste some wonderful and very affordable Bavarian food?

Being that Munich is the home of some wonderful German cars...we visited the BMW museum to dream a bit...

We also made a day trip out to the sad yet historic Dachau concentration camp and one of King Ludwig's castles.

Andescher Monastery

BMW Museum

The city of Munich

Dachau Camp

King Ludwig's Castle

12 March, 2010

Where have all the posts gone?

I know, I have become really lax in posting about our travels in and out of Luxembourg but that is not for lack of activity! Since my last post many moons ago we have traveled to Munich and Cologne in Germany take in the historic sites and a few Dave Matthews Band concerts. We also spent a weekend in Brugge and Brussels in Belgium for a beer festival / bachelor party of sorts with my cousin Keith.

There have been other interesting adventures along the way including a quick stop in the U.S.

Hopefully this weekend I will get a few minutes of time to jot down some words and to upload pictures which are always more interesting than my words!