Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another weekend, another beer (or ten)

Well, we thought last weekend was a sight to see but, turns out it had nothing on what was in store for us. Ladies and gentlemen, behold... Ilot Sacré.

Do I know what it means? No.

(But I love what turned out for me: Sacred Ilot. Thanks for that! Considering most people know that sacré means sacred, that was probably the most useless information ever.)

Despite much googling, all I can figure out is that it's an annual festival celebrating the heritage of several different Belgian cultures. If any of my fellow Belgian expats have more insight, please feel free to holla.

Anyway, I imagine it was a great excuse for this guy to cart out a Menneken Pis on wheels that shoots water (dear god, please let it be water) from its well, you know...p-e-n-i-s and stroll around the Grand Place squirting people with water-dear-god-please-let-it-be-water. (The girl in the red shirt and white shorts looks suitably wary, no?)

Oh my. And then came these guys. Well, they were just my favorite part of the whole dang thing!

What's not to love?!? Guys in bonnets and ostrich plume headpieces with what appeared to be pillows on their fronts and backs stuffed under their costumes, creating music with their their wooden clogs and bells attached to their belts and throwing oranges at to the crowd! ZOMG!!!!!1!!11

Jason and his prize orange.

This gentleman, who I assumed was an oft-humiliated groom-to-be on his stag do/bachelor party, was the life of the party. And since you asked, why yes! That most certainly is a spandex wrestling onesie he's wearing with a pink lace garter, a feather boa, a lei, a pink wig, pink lace fingerless gloves, a baby blue hardhat with beer and flexi-straws attached and an I heart Beer flag.

Sunday, after a hearty breakfast, we headed out for some more exploring while waiting for the Ilot Sacré festivities to recommence. And damned if we didn't run smack into one of the cafes featured on one of our most favoritest shows ever, Three Sheets. In fact, Belgium was the very first location featured on this series and Brussels remains, to this day, the host's number one ranked place to drink in the world.

In this episode, Zane went to both Delirium (I think we're all well versed on how much I lurrve that place) and A la Mort Subite, which translates to "sudden death".

Not to mention, we were waited on by the very same gentleman with whom Zane chatted on the show. Why, we're practically celebrities.

Then it was back to the Grand Place to take in more culture and stuff. By "and stuff", I of course mean one of these bad boys...

While very lovely, Sunday's entertainment was rather tame compared to Saturday's. How can you possibly compete with guys in bonnets and ostrich plume headpieces with what appeared to be pillows on their fronts and backs stuffed under their costumes, creating music with their their wooden clogs and bells attached to their belts and throwing oranges at to the crowd?

Well, to be fair, there were the waiter races... Yet, though he wasn't a part of the scheduled festivities, the waiters could hardly compete with the oft-humiliated groom-to-be on his stag do/bachelor party wearing a spandex wrestling onesie with a pink lace garter, a feather boa, a lei, a pink wig, pink lace fingerless gloves, a baby blue hardhat with beer and flexi-straws attached and an I heart Beer flag.

So, all in all - Saturday, you win. Hands down.

But, the day was not over yet. We managed to squeeze in a trip to...SURPRISE!!!...Delirium. (Not surprised, you say?) But, real SURPRISE!!! - I did not order the Delirium Tremens. I thought I should branch out and try something different. So I let Jason take charge and "order me up somethin' real nice". He came out to the table with this elaborate setup. I knew not what to do.

This cracked me up real good. I love the little pregnant lady drawing with a big red "NO" slash over it. It's not a half bad idea though. If one is stupid enough to drink strong Belgian beer while they're baking a bun, perhaps one needs illustrations instead of words.

Well, that's a wrap on another weekend in our new home. This coming weekend, we're planning to take off on a little adventure of some sort. Don't know what yet. But that's the great thing about Belgium. It's such a compact little country and there are loads of little towns and villages and plenty of countryside to explore. Drive for 20 minutes or drive for 2 hours... Either way, at the end will most definitely be something worth checking out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Drinking buddies. We haz them.

Poor Suze and Phil's trip didn't get started on the best of terms. I won't go into all the gory details but here are some key takeaway points:

1. Our guests from England were meant to arrive at something like 10:45 am
2. Ryan Air are a bunch of idiots.
3. No matter how big a strop Suze managed to throw, Ryan Air insisted on carrying out their Campaign of Stupidity.
4. Our guests actually arrived at about 6:30 pm. On a totally different airline.

But they did finally arrive (with a housewarming gift of a twinset of Veuve Cliquot no less!) and we decided to get right to work. So an Aussie and a Northern Irishman who both reside in England and two Americans who live in Belgium walk into a bar... Not just any bar though. Delirium. Jason and I visited this place when we visited Brussels in January 2008. They have over 2,000 beers here. It matters not to me. I will order the Delirium Tremens every damn time.

Then it was on to a moules et frites extravaganza for dinner. But the highlight of the dinner hour for me was afterwards as we were leaving. We saw this bunneh in a cage at a neighboring restaurant. I was scandalized. "How can they put the preshus bunneh out there for people to order up?!?" But fear not. The sign below him says: "Je m'appelle Lola. Je ne suis pas a manger." Basically: "My name is Lola. I am not to eat."

Ok, we've done bier. We've done moules. We've done frites. What's left? Chocolate. Suze is clearly very excited about scooping up some treats for herself.

Then it was on to a jazz club for some tunes. Shhhhh.

Do not want!

Sometime around 1:30-ish we called it a night. We had a big day planned for Saturday. A day trip to Ghent. Where we wasted no time recommencing the festivities. (Of course that's a Delirium Tremens. What else?) (Suze's camera got accidentally switched to b&w...)

After booze and a massive bowl of frites, we hit up the much-raved-about mustard shop for a souvenir.

They scoop it out of a big barrel and fill your little pot right in front of you. This is no ordinary mustard...

However, mere moments later, tragedy struck. We were standing there taking some photos when we heard the awful sound of pottery smashing onto cobblestone. Jason had lost his grip on the bag and, let me tell you, it was a massacre.

Poor Jason. He made the best of the situation though and managed to get a couple of swipes out of the bag with his finger. (And if you want to know what an awesome guy Phil is, this about sums it up. Later in the day, Jason popped into a shop for a bottle of water and Phil took this opportunity to sneak away and buy us a new pot of mustard.)

After lunch, we had booked ourselves on a boat tour for 4:30 and by this time, we had about 20 minutes to spare. We were told to be there a few minutes early because the boat departs "right on time". And as luck would have it, the departure point was right outside the little genever bar (flavored gin) that Jason and I had visited last time we were here. Perfect. We had just enough time for a quick tipple. So Jason and Phil discuss their selections with Pol, the ever present owner.

He fills the little glass right up to the rim and you have to take a sip like this before you can pick it up and carry it to your table.

In fact, I think he does it just to make us all look like idiots.

We took three stabs at getting a decent shot here and even though we did get one where we both looked normal, I'm using the first one - in which, for some odd reason, Suze and I both overarched our eyebrows and stuck out our pinkies.

So, we all finished our drinks in just enough time to get out to the boat five minutes early. And then we stood there and watched it pull away. Five minutes early. (Not to mention the boat was jam packed and even if it had still been docked, there would have been no room for us.) We immediately let the boat ticket lady know that we were displeased and she offered to put us on the next boat at 5:00. We agreed.

Hmmm, what could we do for another 25 minutes? Can you think of anything? Anything at all? Wait, I know!


(Not one, but two more rounds of genever. Yikes. And there is a pretty hilarious video of the three of them trying to get me to knock back my last one because we needed to rush out to make the boat and me just shaking my head and saying "I can't. I really can't y'all. Seriously. I can't. I'll gag. Seriously y'all. Seriously.")

Finally, we make it onto the boat. We felt we got a bit short changed though because our guide would go on forever in Flemish and all the other people would laugh and laugh... Then when he did it in English, it was all "On the right, there is very old church."

Some canal-side scenes...

Umm, thanks?

I figured if we weren't getting the comedy routine from the guide, I would step in with a little joke for the English speaking population on the boat. So I handed them the guide book and pointed to the street at the bottom center and said "How would you guys pronounce this?"

Worked like a charm.

I really don't know why us southern-Americans get picked on so much. Why, tractor pulls are apparently the height of chic in Europe!

I also don't know why more places don't dangle hams from the rafters...

Our final stop in Ghent was at the place that serves up the giant Kwaks but makes you give them a shoe to put in a basket (which they then pully up to the ceiling) so you won't steal the Kwak apparatus. (Again, you may remember this from our previous trip.) Phil decides he must conquer the giant Kwak. So there goes his shoe...

Jason tries to be good and only has a small beer. Which we soon realize is something like 12% ABV. Which is like drinking an entire case of Miller Light.

The Kwak arrives and Phil sizes up the opposition.

He goes for the gold.

And he's drunk. (I kid. But that makes the series of photos more hilarious, no? So just play along.)

While I apparently look on in shock and horror. (Somehow Suze's camera got switched to b&w again.)

The next morning, we go for breakfast in the Grand Place. You really have to love a country that gives out chocolate with your coffee. Standard practice.

I can only imagine what this conversation was. "Ew. What's that on my hand?" "Forget your hand. You've got pain au chocolate in your teeth."

Me and the guests of honor in the Grand Place.

We decide to make our way up to the Notre Dame du Sablon and Petite Place du Sablon. (Sablon!) But get sidetracked by the parade that happened to pass right in front of us. Apparently it was some sort of military appreciation day... I asked Suze how much she would pay me to start pumping my arm and yelling "USA! USA!" when the American jeeps went which she replied "Team America, f**k yeah!" (As a side note, I can't be friends with anyone who hasn't seen that movie.)

A lovely alleyway en route to Sablon. (Sablon!)

RAWR! (Seriously, what the hell is this thing? We saw him at an antique market and, best I can tell, it looks half cat, half racoon. A catcoon, if you will.)

The insanely intricate detail on the church of Notre Dame du Sablon... (Sablon!)

Jason and I captured in a moment of intense internal reflection. Or maybe we were trying to work out whether the two men depicted in the statue appeared to be gaying it up. (Yes, I'd say it was probably the last one.)

A quick stop at a faaaaannnnceeeeee patisserie for some ice cream. Nom nom nom.

Jason and The Boss

The Banksy-ish graffiti of Springsteen seemed a bit random until we rounded the corner and saw that this was a record shop.

And after a quick stop at Menneken Pis (Where I came so so close to getting a shot in which little Pis was, well...pissing on Phil's head. Alas, he must have sensed evil because he moved at the last second. Damn Phil!) it was time to say goodbye.

I'm happy to report that Suze and Phil made it home without incident.


Oh yes, and a big thank you to Suze for giving me some of her pics, which I used shamelessly in this post. Hers are the ones that are skinnier if a vertical shot or shorter if a horizontal. (Sablon!)