Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mmmmm, beeeer.

Belgium: 4 days, 3 cities, and more waffles, beer and chocolate than I could even begin to put a number on.

Our journey starts at St. Pancras International station where the Eurostar is now located. And despite my never-ending whinging about it moving from Waterloo station, it actually was not too terribly bad getting there and it is quite a lovely station.

We start by admiring some typical Belgian architecture...

And quickly move on to more typical Belgian pastimes.

And what better to do after getting all liqoured up than hit up a 3 storey antique shop?? I walked away with a rather impressive haul of vintage jewelery.

Afterwhich Jason had to drink away his financial woes with a Kwak beer.

Grand Place lit up in the evening.

Side note here if anyone reads this in a "travel guide" capacity - Later that night we went to an amazing jazz club called The Music Village and listened to a really great quartet. If you go to Brussels and like live music, I would highly recommend it.

The gorgeous train station in Antwerpen, where we spent day two. (In Antwerpen, that is. Not the train station. Just to clarify.)

The Brabo Fountain that stands in the center of the Grote Markt. You may notice he's throwing a hand that he's torn off his opponent. Fun fact: The Flemish translation of "to throw a hand" is Hantwerpen. And there you have it.

The massive Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathredal.


Ummm, I think these frites are stale...

Therefore, chocolates are certainly in order.

The Grote Markt at night. Time for another fun fact. You may have noticed that I captioned the photo of Brussels's main square as "Grand Place" while the square in Antwerpen is referred to as "Grote Markt". Well, I don't know why I didn't know this prior to this trip but in Brussels, French is spoken, while elsewhere in the country, the language is Flemish. So, essentially, "Grand Place" and "Grote Markt" are the same thing, just one is French and the other Flemish. They mean "Great Square" in English.

Day three was spent in Gent. I think we decided Gent was our favorite place on this trip. (Although Brugge is still the number one Belgian city in our book.) This is Vrijdagmarkt, which is essentially Gent's "Grote Markt", although it's not called that.

Gettin' this party started proper. It was after 12:00 noon so beer was certainly acceptable at this late hour. (We saw locals partaking way earlier than that...) Also? "250 Soorten Dranken" = Hells yes please!

The truly massive beer list. My favorite thing about this pub is that if you order the Kwak (the beer with the wooden holder like Jason had above - but twice that size at this pub) they make you give them one of your shoes so you can't walk out with the glass and holder. Apparently, they're very popular items to get your mits on and used to get stolen all the time. They actually ring a bell, someone runs a pulley that lowers a basket, you put a shoe in, and they raise the basket back up to the ceiling. Hysterical! We saw them do it while we were there.

The river Leie that runs through town.

And another pub in quick succession.

Where I was harrassed by the waiting paparazzi...

When we got back outside, I hadn't turned my head for five seconds and Jason was buying a waffle with chocolate sauce.

Which was just the sustenance we needed to fortify ourselves for more beer. It was so smoky in this pub that I sat there with the window propped open so I could get fresh air.

More riverside loveliness.

And back down to business with another pub. In fact, this turned out to not be a beer pub at all but a Genever bar. Genever is flavored Belgian gin and is the "National Spirit". I feel a fun fact coming on... Genever was discovered around 1580 by the British troops during the Dutch War of Independence. And that's where the phrase "Dutch Courage" comes from. The guy painted on the wall is the owner, Pol, and he's always there. When we came in, we asked if he served beer and he goes "You want beer. Next door." Classic.

The menu had a huge list of flavors.

Bottoms up!

Uh-oh. Perhaps the genever was a bad idea.

The last day we spent the morning at a huge jumble sale and scored a few more antique finds. Then we just hung around Brussels a bit more. This is the fountain in Place du Petite Sablon. It's surrounded by statues representing different trades.

The tradesmen statues with l'Eglise de Notre Dame du Sablon in the background.

The view down rue de l'Etuve with the spire of the Town Hall in the background.

Ok. This. This little guy has quite a history. It's called Menneken-Pis. You can surely work out why on your own. He has amassed a wardrobe of about 760 items and is often dressed in one of them. He even has a Santa outfit. The first one was given to him in 1698 by the Elector of Bavaria. He was kidnapped by the English in 1745, returned, and then stolen again by the French two years later. (For which he received a gold brocade costume from Louis XV in reparations.) In 1817, he was stolen again by a French convict and was found broken in pieces. The fragments were used to make the statue that stands today. That's quite a lot of information about a tiny little statue which does nothing but pee nonstop.

Oh God. I begged Jason to do this. Begged. He would have none of it. So, for the sake of the blog, I sacrifice myself.

After that, a visit to the Brewers Museum was in order. The highlight being, of course, the free beer at the end.

Time for one last waffle...

And one last pub. This was my favorite beer of the whole trip - Delirium Tremens. I don't know if it tasted that good or if it was the pink elephant logo. Either way - thumbs up!

As of January 2004 they held the Guinness World Record for the most beers commercially available - 2,004 of them to be exact. Not to mention that they also offer 500 different flavors of genever. Yowza.

Bro-kay. That's it. I'm setting about with the studiare-ing Italiani now. Because Mio Dio - this class is going to beat me to a pulp if I don't start memorizing molti molti verbi conjugations.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

E tu?

Me? Well, I'm back from Belgium and I'm tired and fat and tired. And I have Italian class tomorrow so I guess I should probably say "Sono ritorno da Belgio e sono stanca e grassa e stanca."

I started a post about our trip but then I got the shit beat out of me by iPhoto so I gave up for tonight. Sometimes I love being a Mac person but other times, like tonight, well... Let's just say "I'll get you my PowerBook G4. And your little photo application too!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From wholesome to raunchy in 3.2 hours

Wednesday, Beth and I had a girl's day out which started innocently enough with a nice wholesome matinee showing of The Sound of Music.

We were almost certainly the only 30-ish people there as we sat pretty much in a sea of tiny tots and old ladies.

Afterwards, we made our way to Sketch, probably one of the quirkiest restaurants/lounges in London, where we drank lots of wine and attempted to solve the UK's and US's respective health care crises. We'll get back to you on that one...

The cocktail napkins at Sketch could get you in trouble at home if you accidentally leave one in your pocket.

The brownies at Sketch will definitely get you in trouble.

But my favorite thing about this place is... wait for it... the loos! I have never seen a stranger bathroom in my life. You basically come up to this big staircase that's split and the lights going up one half are pink and the lights up the other are blue. Then, when you get to the top, there's all these pods and that's the actual toilets. It gets weirder. When you go into your little pod to do your biz-nass, there's barnyard sounds. Literally, like mooing and crowing and whatnot. Anyways, I had to take a picture. The best way to get a feel for it was to take the photo into the mirror... (See the boys' side at the other end of the room, where the ceiling is lit blue?)

Now. This.... Well, this was our entertainment for the evening. See, I check my mobile sometime at the theatre, maybe during interval or something? Anyway, I have this text:

I show it to Beth and tell her they must have sent it to the wrong number. We laugh and say we'll mess around with him after a cocktail or two.

Fast forward to just after 5:30 pm and here's our wine-induced reply:

He replies almost immediately with:

And we nearly spew wine across the room. After regaining composure, we come back with:

And he starts to get serious:

So, naturally, we decide to screw with him a little more while still being ambiguous:

And then he has to go and make it personal by bringing names into the picture:

So we figure the best way to freak him out and shut him up is this:

Rob, if you're out there, we're sorry. You were just such an easy target and quite good entertainment for a couple of married gals out on the town.

Jason and I are off to Belgium tomorrow. Back next week with photos...