Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Summer Snapshots 2011 - Belgium with the Brazells

We kicked off the Summer tour this year with a visit from our friends, Andrew and Meredith. They stopped by for a whirlwind day trip in Frankfurt before taking a train with us to Ostend, Belgium for a couple of days. We always stay with them whenever we're in Atlanta, so it was nice to turn the tables and host them for a change. It was their first exposure to Germany and we only had one day, so we had to make a good impression quickly............

Seemingly unaffected by jet lag, Andrew and Meredith jumped right in to German culture and cuisine by savoring bratwursts from our neighborhood farmer's market.

We had to get these jokers some Euros from the European Central Bank - despite some protests outside which seemed to push for the dissolution of the use of the Euro (probably not a great idea, but I don't know much).

Signature shot of the famous "Pfifferlingen Schnitzel" at zur Sonnenuhr. I don't think Andrew has ever been more satisfied........gastronomically speaking.

I was pumped to return to Belgium - mostly to sample more of their tasty beverages, but also to see the port town of Ostend and enjoy the city of Bruges with friends. The only disappointment was the awful weather that we endured for practically the entire trip. Seriously, it was cold, cloudy, and rainy for all but one day on a week-long trip. Europe did not deliver on that end, but we had a great time despite it all.

Our view from our apartment in Ostend.

I jumped right back in to the Belgian beer sampling from day one. This one was enjoyed at a neat bar in Ostend called "Bottelje", which served over 300 Belgian beers.

On our last trip to Belgium we missed out on sampling mussels. This time we couldn't pass them up since we were staying on the coast. This mountain of mussels could be ordered with various sauces, such as white wine cream and a house special pepper sauce. It was massive and came with a pan of fries which are Belgian in origin (not French). It was all cooked in a tiny little restaurant where the kitchen was only a few steps away from the tables - now that is integrity! Oh, and the mussels were delicious by the way.

If we hadn't had our fill on mussels at the restaurant you could always buy them from vendors by the kilogram.

We found this little beer shop on the street and came across this gem. The "Trappist Westvleteren 12" is a Belgian quadruple (10.2 %) is rated the #1 beer in the world by Beer Advocate. Trappist beers are made by monks in actual monasteries in Belgium. This one is no different but it's terribly difficult to come by. You have to make an appointment with the brewery and you may only buy one case per visit and the supply is very limited. That is why is cost me 9.50 Euros for ONE bottle (a new personal record). Of course I had to have it to say that I had "the best beer in the world".........which, as it turns out, is not my opinion. It's good, but I've had better.

Belgians love to make chocolates and when they're bored they like to make chocolate in interesting shapes.............like vaginas, for example. You can get them in dark, milk, or white chocolate if you're curious. Of course bachelorette parties would be totally set here as well as they have a fine selection of choco' cocks (not pictured to keep this blog PG-13, and because we didn't buy them).

The North Sea, as seen by Ostend's coast.

Fun group picture in Ostend.

Meredith and Marisa

The one beautiful day we had was in Bruges, which completely enhanced the experience.

I totally recommend the bicycle rentals here as a cheap way to get around for the day.

Ladies enjoying the ride up to the old wooden windmills.

Oldest bar in Bruges - founded in 1515.

Our tour of "de Halve Maan" Brewery, makers of my personal "best beer in the world" - the Straffe Hendrik Tripel (9%).

Lovely view of Bruges from the rooftop of the brewery.

While Andrew and I experienced more Belgian "culture", the ladies got to watch a lace-making demonstration. Although I'm content with my decision to have another tripel, check out the bobs on this ol' gal. There's a lot of coordination going on here and I don't see any kind of color code or anything to keep it straight. "Looks like we're going to extend arts and craft time for another two hours! What's that? Your fingers hurt? Well now you're back's gonna hurt cuz you just pulled landscaping duty!"

Meredith loves flowers and apparently this one is a "snowball", or so I'm told.

One final taste of Belgian cuisine that we missed before was the waffle off of the street, covered in dark chocolate! More than enough to hold you over for a few hours.

As you can see the return to Belgium was a hit. Now we feel like we've covered all of the famous things to consume in Belgium............too bad that Germany still doesn't sell Belgian beer within its borders. I'll have to keep coming back.

-- Justin
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