Belgium, Beer and Food: Part 2

Holidays

Belgium, Beer & Food

(Read Part 1 here)

The next day we planned to get up early and head to Bruges, followed by Ghent. Ambitious? Yes!

Getting the train to Bruges and then to Ghent was incredibly simple. In Belgium they have these fantastic bulk buy tickets, which are eligible for multiple journeys. In our group of 7 we just needed a couple of them and we were sorted. Also, massive kudos to the guys working in the ticket office in Gare Centrale in Brussels. Not only do they speak pretty amazing English, but overheard the line next to me and the ticket officer was speaking fluent Spanish! Imagine that in London? Yeah, didn’t think so!

Bruges

The main square in Bruges. (I said IN BRUGES!)

So Bruges. What can I say about Bruges? To be honest, it wasn’t on my to-see list. Well, to be totally honest, when we settled on Brussels as our holiday destination it was the one place I really wanted to go to. But after a bit of Internet sleuthing, all I read were things like, “Bruges is pretty, but very touristy”, or “It’s like a well-kept Disney land.”. Which it is. It’s very pretty. If I had more of an interest in history maybe I would have enjoyed it more. But it was incredibly touristy. Not my cup of tea really.

Bruges

Bruges does have some pretty spots though.

So was very happy to be leaving Bruges after a quick lunch and heading to Ghent.

Ghent

Walking to the main historical area of Ghent along the canal. Really was very nice walk.

Ghent… If only we could have spent more time there! Very different to Bruges and Brussels. It’s got a calmer feel to it than Brussels and more of the “prettiness” that Bruges has. Cyclists all over the place. Something we had to get used to being careful of pretty quickly, when walking from the station to the main historical centre of Ghent.

Ghent

Got lucky with the sun shine here!

Speaking of that walk – it is a pretty long walk from the station to the main part of Ghent. But a pretty walk. Following the canal all the way you see some wonderful buildings and houses and general awesomeness. And then you hit the main square in Ghent and it’s pretty damn beautiful. Maybe it was our timeliness of hitting the main area just as the sun was breaking through the clouds. Maybe it was just that we were tired and finally had somewhere to rest our feet. But it was lovely.

Ghent

Ghent – I wish I could have spent just one more day!

As is the pattern for this holiday, we had a place in mind to eat dinner in Ghent. We’d found quite a few but had to disregard lots, mostly because of the prices. Ghent seems to be a somewhat pricier city than Brussels. But it’s holiday, so … throw a bit of caution to the wind!

Bit of a bummer when we got to the place – it was shut! Closed for holiday or renovation or something. And the OH and I were pretty damn excited about this place. So plan B? Walking back past another Internet find which we stumbled upon – eat love. GREAT DECISION. Though almost didn’t happen. With there being 7 of us, initially we were placed on a list and told we have to wait. The place was full. But someone convinced them we could squish around a smaller table and that would be fine. And it was.

Not only did eat love have some incredibly tasty pizzas, the people who work there were brilliant. Very amicable. Warm. Friendly. They hadn’t heard of the cocktail Negroni before, but made it none the less when we asked for it. They very kindly ordered a cab for us to get back to the station, because we didn’t really fancy that walk back and guess what? It was raining again! The only thing I could say that would be negative about eat love are the starters/bar bites. They are TINY. A fairly pricey for the size of them. The pizzas though are fantastic. The decor of the place is so simple but we all liked it. Another solid choice, food wise!

And another day was over, just like that.

With it being our final full day in Brussels it was time to hit some places in Brussels itself. Not to mention, getting some Belgian chocolates!

Grand Place, Brussels

Got to check out the buildings around Grand Place in the daylight!

I missed out in Ghent. In Ghent I wanted to go to Yuzu for some lovely chocolates. It came highly recommended and figured be a great place to get something yummy. But it was closed on the one day we were in Ghent! CLOSED! So, second choice for chocolates? Pierre Marcolini in Brussels. Located in the Grand Place du Sablon, it was a fair bit of a walk away from our flat. But walking there we got to see more of Brussels we hadn’t seen yet.

The final destination was worth it. Okay, I knew I was going to walk out with a box of chocolates from that place, no matter the price. I had prepared myself. And boy did I walk away with a box of chocolates…

Pierre Marcolini Chocolates

This box is approximately 1kg. Yes, I walked away with a kilo of chocolates.

On our way back to our holiday flat, we stopped at this little fromagerie called Chez Catherine for some cheese. A little bit worried that our French was useless, but thankfully Catherine spoke a little English and was more than happy to help us pick some nice cheese. Seriously, this woman was so lovely and friendly. Explaining what she could with our little understanding of French and hers of spoken English. Wish I’d taken a photo of the place!

So lunch fell through. Our chosen lunch spot, Toukoul was shut during lunch. (Honestly, do not get the opening times of places in this country!) So quick snacky crepe at Maison du Crepes and then we were off to Cantillon Brewery – a brewery where they brew traditional lambic beers.

Cantillon Brewery

Walking around the Cantillon Brewery was pretty interesting.

The Cantillon Brewery is a little bit out of the centre of town. Perhaps a half hour walk at a leisurely pace.

We got to the brewery just in time for the last tour. Phew! We’re given a nice introduction to the brewery and what a lambic beer actually is. We get to walk around the brewery ourselves and we end the walk around with a couple of samples. FREE BEER.

Lambic beers

Traditional lambic beers at the Cantillon brewery.

It’s lucky. Lucky that we didn’t buy any lambic beers in our previous travels in Brussels. Why? Because it is probably the least tasty beer I have ever tasted. Why? They don’t add any sugar to it. And some other processes. Which means it is incredibly sour. Massively sour. And the smell isn’t all that favourable either. But it’s the sourness that really got me. WOAH.

Lack of beer meant there was plenty of space for dinner. Dinner at Toukoul. An Ethiopian restaurant which just happened to be a couple hundred metres from our flat.

Toukoul in Brussels

The absolutely fantastic Ehtiopian restaurant, Toukoul, in Brussels.

Getting to Toukoul early, at 7, was a good idea. Before long it was getting packed. I took a night off from beer and opted for a sublime cocktail; a Pisco sour.

If you’ve never had Ethiopian food before, do yourself a favour and go get some! If you’re in London head to Gojo near Ladbroke Grove. The fab thing about Ethiopian food is not just the food but just the way you eat. All together. You share from the same plate. A massive plate of injera covered with all the foods. And it’s so easy to over eat!

Toukoul, Brussels

Toukoul was pretty cool on the inside too.

Toukoul didn’t disappoint. The food and the atmosphere was nothing like I’d expected. But in the good way. There were some chicken things, fish, lentils, salads – so much food and all of it incredibly tasty. If you’re in Brussels, you need to check this place out.

And then just like that it was our last day. Our flight back to Bahrain wasn’t until the evening so we had the day to pack and mooch around. After packing there was one place which we needed to go to which we hadn’t manage to hit yet – Moeder Lambic. A bar with a huge variety of beers. Good beer is almost impossible to come by in Bahrain, so we have to make the most of it while away!

Do you ever get those places when you’re on vacation. Amazing places. That you only find or visit at the last-minute, for whatever random reason? Places you wished you’d been to earlier in your holiday so you could have spent more time there. Gone back again. Moeder Lambic is that place for me in Brussels.

Moeder Lambic

The very very amazingly fantastic Moeder Lambic in Brussels.

It is just another beer bar. And there are so many beers! Not just Belgian beers. Beers from all over the world. But it wasn’t just the beer that made this place. We were very lucky to have an awesome waiter – Guillaume. OH was keen on trying different beers. And he did. Aside from the first one, I think they were all picked out by Guillaume and every single one of them were fantastic. This guy knew his stuff! So thanks Guillaume for making our last day in Brussels awesome.

Grand Place, Brussels

Goodbye Belgium, you treated us well, and one day, I’d like to be back.

The hours skipped by and before long we were heading back to the airport.

There were a tonne of things I wished we’d been able to get around to doing and seeing. Like going to see the Atomium. The Cloudenberg Palace. Going on a tram ride through the city to the suburbs. Spend more time wandering around Ghent. Actually get to go to Yuzu when it’s open. Eating a bagel!

I would totally recommend Brussels for a short trip or even something a bit longer. There really is a lot to do there!

So… just to sum up.

  • Brussels is a brilliant European city to visit.
  • You can definitely skip Bruges, but don’t skip Ghent.
  • Take in the architecture and buildings.
  • Staying in the centre of town was one of the best decisions we made.
  • Don’t let one experience of a horrible person make you think everyone is like that.
  • Lambic beers aren’t for everyone.
  • Belgian beer is tasty as HELL.
  • Went the whole trip without seeing Manekin Pis. Even accidentally.

On the topic of beers, here’s what we had and what we really liked while we were in Belgium (But not necessarily Belgian):

  1. Rochefort 8
  2. Le Chouffre
  3. Orval
  4. Sang D’Encre
  5. Zona Cesarini (We liked this one so much, we brought back a bottle!)
  6. Bink Bloesem
  7. Belle Fleur IPA

And if you’d like to see more photos from the trip, You can see them all up here.

10 thoughts on “Belgium, Beer and Food: Part 2

  1. Looks like you had a great time. Being a chocolate addict myself I kind of envy you for that box of chocolates…looks amazing.

    Am planning to surprise my wife with a trip to Gent somewhere the coming months. Have been there before myself and it is great (only was there for a part of the day visiting a friend, so didn’t walk around as much as I’d liked). Have found this hotel which is inside a building which used to be a monastery.

    From where I live it is only a couple of hours of driving, so am looking forward to it.

    1. That hotel sounds amazing. Hope you enjoy Gent as much as I did. And do check out Yuzu, if you’re as much of a chocolate addict as I am 😀

  2. Wow, this sounds like an awesome trip! I really enjoyed the commentary and all of the pictures – the area looked beautiful, Jaina!

    I was cracking up a little bit at your comments about how places would be closed or shut down when you visited, and in the middle of the day! I know every country is different about those things. I had some good friends who recently visited Budapest, and they said literally everywhere is shut down on Sunday, so they couldn’t find a place open with any food (stores or restaurants), and they almost just starved that day! I guess everywhere is different!

    1. It’s funny you mention Budapest, as that was our first choice destination! And the whole of Sunday and everything being closed? Same in Brussels! Do not understand! lol.

      Thanks, Kristin 🙂

  3. Sounds like you had a nice trip, even though Bruges was a bit touristy. Seeing the city in the movie certainly has me keen to go there at some point. Ghent I’ve not been to either. Haven’t tasted a lambic beer, I wonder if they are all sour? Good thing you had that helpful waiter in Brussels so you got some tasty beer!

    1. Yeah, all lambic beers are sour, due to the nature of how it’s made and the fact that they don’t put any sugar in! *shudder* so sour!

      I was hoping the Bruges I’d see was the same Bruges from the film…. it wasn’t 🙁

    1. Oh 🙁 Shame! The light show they had in Grand Place, with the Flower Carpet, was pretty damn impressive. I want to go back to Ghent! Actually, I just want another holiday.

  4. So cool that you made it to Ghent! We were going to try to stop by on our way back from Bruges to Brussels, but we didn’t have enough time. Those are some pretty amazing pictures you took.

    I agree with pretty much everything you said about Bruges. Too expensive, too much of a tourist trap. However, surprisingly enough, it was home to one of my favorite memories of our entire Europe trip. We stopped in at an acclaimed beer bar that was down a random alley — way off the beaten path. The place was small and also very packed, so there weren’t any open seats available. This incredibly nice elderly couple let us sit with them, and we bonded over dinner and drinks. By the end of the night, we were all buying each other beers. We met a lot of cool people on our trip, but they were two of my favorites.

    Hehe… Mannekin Pis. You didn’t miss much by skipping that, though we couldn’t resist getting pictures with the little guy.

    I’ll have to keep an eye out for Zona Cesarini. I’ve had the first three beers on your list, and they are all so good. I picked up a bottle of La Chouffe because of the little gnome on the label, and it did not disappoint. 😀

    Oh, and if you ever see it around, you’ve gotta try Kwak. Make sure to get it served in its traditional glass — I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s an incredible Belgian beer.

    1. Amazing story from Bruges, Eric! It’s those random moments that can absolutely make a holiday. We were trying to find somewhere away from everything, like that, when we were in Bruges, but to no avail. Clearly didn’t look hard enough.

      Shame you didn’t manage to get to Ghent. I could spent days there. Really wished we had. But you never know what a place is like until you go there. For all we knew, Ghent could have been a bore! Now we know better 😉

      We’ve kept the, now empty :(, bottle of Zon Cesarini. The smell of it is amazing. Nothing like what you would imagine a beer to smell like. It’s an Italian beer made with American hops. Imagine that!

      I will definitely keep an eye out for Kwak. Unfortunately, there’s not a chance in hell I’ll be able to get it here in Bahrain. But next time I’m Europe bound or further afield, will be keeping those eyes peeled!

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