Brussels, Belgium – Day one

We flew from Denver, CO to Philadelphia, PA where we had a layer over on our flight to Belgium. We figured since we had so much time that we’d find a nice restaurant, order a couple of beers and some dinner. Just after ordering, hubby realized that we messed up our times for our next flight. We asked the waitress to wrap up our un-eaten meals and slammed our beers. We had to run through the airport to get to our gate (que OJ commercial). Everyone had already boarded and the person at the gate said “we were just about to start making announcements for you two.” Great. We almost missed our 9 hour flight overseas.

We arrived in Brussels, Belgium around 8am. Our goal had been to sleep on the flight over but sleep eluded us for the most part. Sleepy and disoriented (jet-lag) we had to find the train to the center of Brussels.

It’s a really different experience to look at schedule boards, signs, and maps and not be able to read them. Between what we had learned about the city before the trip, my very broken French, and the ability of others to speak English we made it through quite well.

We grabbed a very nice and clean train to Brussels. I had read in a guidebook not to get off the train at Gare Nord (north station) because it was seedy and schetchy so we opted to get off at Gare Centraal (central station). The next day we would end up at Gare Nord anyway and we thought it was hilarious as to what the guidebook would call seedy. If you’ve spent any amount of time in a big American city (New York, Chicago, Oakland, Kansas City, LA) then you would not call this seedy. There was one homeless person outside the station and that was it. There was no graffiti, the trash was picked up, there were no police outside the station keeping order. This station was fine.

After getting off the train at Gare Centraal, we had to find our way through the heart of the city to our hotel. We had only packed a backpack for each of us so that foot travel would be easy. With our backpacks strapped on, we navigated the curved and narrow cobblestone roadways to our hotel. Hubby and I are generally really good with directions and maps but this city gave us a run for our money.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza Brussels, Le Palace, in the business district. The hotel stay was great after we figured out how to turn on the lights. We were able to find rocker switches for the lights but they wouldn’t come on. We tried this with almost all of the lights around the room and we got nothing. I knew we were tired but how come we couldn’t figure out how to operates the lights. Finally, we saw a black card holder looking thingy near the front door. Hubby sticks our room card in it and suddenly all of the lights come on. We realized there was a lot we were gonna have to learn.

We decided to skip any sort of a nap and just head out into the city. Breakfast does not seem to be that big of a meal in Belgium unless you want just a pastry, which we generally don’t care for. Since we couldn’t find anything to eat so early we opted for beer. We walked all the way from the north end of the city to the south end to find a brewery called Cantillon. The owner was there to give a tour of the brewery and it was in English. The brewery was amazing and we sampled plenty of the beers afterwards.

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We had the Lambic, Kriek, Gueuze, and then we got a bottle of the Grand Cru Bruocsella. The Grand Cru was our favorite but overall these beers were very bitter and dry which is not usually what we gravitate towards. The experience was still very unique and I would suggests anyone traveling to Brussels make a stop at this brewery.

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We were definitely getting hungry by this point so we stopped at one of the little frites (fries) vendors. This would not be the only time that we ended up eating frites on the side of the road in the blustery cold. Brussels is known for their frites and you can see people eating them all the time.

To warm up we ducked into a tiny little cafe, Cafe Bebo, for a couple of beers. Hubby had the Maredsous brune, a brown beer and I had the Moeder Overste a tripel that was light in color with a bitterness to it. I’d have to say that I liked the brune over the tripel. This was good, we were learning about different Belgian beer styles.

We walked around the Grand Place and followed all the little side streets to whichever random direction they took us to.

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We found the Manneken Pis which is one of the best known tourist attractions in Brussels. We didn’t understand the attraction to it but took a photo of it anyway.

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The next cafe that we stopped at was outside of the Hotel Orts. They had a great little patio with heat lamps. Hubby ordered the Pecheresse lambic which turned out to be a peach flavored beer with 2.5% alcohol. It was quite fun to rib him about his “girlie” beer since I had ordered the Trappistes Rochefort 10 a dark a flavorful beer containing 11.3% alcohol. Needless to say, he liked my beer better.

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We walked around experiencing more of what the city had to offer. All over they were decorating for the upcoming holidays. The lights were beautiful. Too bad we would miss the weekend festival.

What is a trip to Brussels if you don’t check out the Delirium Tremens Cafe? They serve close to 2500 different beers. The upstairs part of the cafe serves about 20 different draft beers so I had to try their signature beer: Delirium Tremens. It was light in color with a certain bitterness and uses Belgian yeast. It was not my cup of tea (ha ha) but I still had to experience it. Hubby had the Charbon vanilla stout.

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We headed downstairs to where they only serve bottles. The bartenders will help you pick out what kind of beer you would like. Our bartender served me a Gouden Carolis classic and hubby a Monks stout Dupont. Both were pretty good and we were realizing that when it comes to Belgian beers we prefer the darker ones.

Brussels is also known for it’s Belgian chocolates with Godiva being the most well known one. They basically have two styles of chocolates: pralines and truffles. The pralines are different than the french ones. I stopped into Neuhaus for a praline made with hazelnuts and dark chocolate. It was pretty darn good.

We had a long full day and were extremely tired and jet-lag so we headed back for some sleep. And sleep we did (14 hrs)!

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~ by willtriforbeer on December 26, 2012.

One Response to “Brussels, Belgium – Day one”

  1. I’m glad somebody warned us about the lights! That city was a nightmare in a car, in just glad we found it again! More explanation marks!!!

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