Brussels Taffic Nightmares and land of windmills

Trip Start Jun 17, 2010
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Trip End Jun 28, 2010


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Where I stayed
Het Bintjeshof

Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Friday, June 25, 2010

After one last European breakfast and delicious pot of coffee at Brasserie Meyer, it is time to leave Luxembourg and return to Belgium. Marshall wants to stop at the big grocery store, Cactus, as he noted a Cactus "Drink" next to the Cactus “Restaurant” next to the Cactus “market” where he might find some more beer to add to his collection.  We have no idea how we are going to get this stuff back.  We came with 6 large beers and now have 15 or so already.  Dang the economy and the airlines issues that caused luggage restrictions.  Used to be when you flew to Europe you could have two bags each.  Kind of defeats the purpose of finding great beers at local prices when you to pay baggage overage fees or additional luggage fees, which might be in our future.

We strike out at the Cactus, nothing but some commercial beers we can get at home and more Pils which isn't worth paying more for in my humble opinion.  As we leave Bascharage towards the expressway, I spot a GIANT IKEA store which beacons me with its bright blue and yellow box store.  I have to go through it as it is twice as big as the one in Orlando.  It had even more amazing stuff than the states and once again I hate that it costs so much to ship stuff overseas.  There was the coolest living room suite that would look awesome at our home at the beach. Rats!

We head on towards Brussels.  I finally figured out that laundry is 'salon lavoir’ and have found one in downtown Brussels.  Gertie takes us right there without issues.  We double park (as we have seen many other people do) and I hop out, get the laundry and go in while Marshall finds a parking spot.

It takes me a good fifteen minutes to figure out how to work everything.  I spend £10 and get 2 special tokens you use for wash and 3 special tokens you use for the dryer and maybe £2 in change which £1 went to laundry soap.  By the time I have everything loaded in one of those big washers (mixing whites and darks oh my) Marshall has arrived.   It is time for lunch so we luck out and right across the street is a little café with outdoor seating.  We like what we see and sit down so we can keep an eye on our laundry. There is only one other person in the laundry and she is reading a book so I am not too worried.

We are seated at La Cottalion a tiny little bistro with maybe 10 tables inside and 3 outside.  Marshall orders a croquet monsieur again (ham and cheese grilled sandwich) with side salad and I pasta carbonara served with the traditional raw egg yolk on top (I’ve never been able to bring myself to eat that and set it aside).   Marshall tries a Jupilier Pils and me a Cabernet Sauvignon.  All the beer drinking has been disaster on my waistline so I am trying to mix it up.  It is very pleasant and even though traffic goes by on the street, you still here birds.  Seems like everywhere we go birds are singing.  I check on the laundry a few times and keep it going while we relax and enjoy the beautiful day.  Again it is short sleeve weather and warm.  We are seated on the shady side of the street and are quite comfortable.

Laundry cleaned finally and we are on our way to Bellegem Belgium for our next stay or are we?  It is now rush hour (at 4pm?) in downtown Brussels.  Driving in Brussels is a series of one way streets ending suddenly onto other one way streets and people drive like maniacs trying to avoid the massive traffic jam as everyone tries to leave for the day.  We literally drive around for 1.5 hours even with Gerties/GPS help only to discover we are still in the middle of downtown even though we didn’t drive down any of the same streets.  I am finally so frustrated I give Marshall the order to start jap’ping people off and I use Gertie as a map rather than a path finder and we finally make our way into the northeast quadrant into some long ass tunnel that is moving at a snail’s pace.  I do my best to squelch my claustrophobic tunnel fears as we drive for what seems like forever in a tunnel, bumper to bumper.  Since Gertie doesn’t work in tunnels, we have no idea how long the tunnel is or where we will end up.  We finally emerge 20 minutes later (thank God) and appear to be on an expressway inching its way west out of the city which is luckily where we want to be.   This is why I HATE big cities.  We both decide small villages suit us just fine and public transportation into big cities will be a method of attack.  When we go to New York City for example we stay just across the border in New Jersey and take the bus into the city.  It is much cheaper and only a 10 minute bus ride.

We are headed west towards Kortrijk Belgium to a small outlining city called Bellegem.  We will be staying two nights at Het Bintjeshof (www.hetbintjeshof.be) a B&B with 8 rooms.  As we drive the signs change from French to Dutch.   I do pretty well with deciphering French and German, Dutch is a whole different language, hard to spell and harder to figure out how to say.  Fortunately we find many people speak English so we haven’t had any real issues.  We come down out of the mountains into lower hills and eventually flatlands as we make our way west.   We arrive to an easy to find B&B in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farmlands.  We meet our charming hostess, Elke, who gives us the lay of the land. There are two terraces outside for seating as well as tables and living room area inside for common seating.  There is WIFI here and even a self service honor bar with beer, wine, and sodas/water.  Even though our room is small, it is modern, very clean, and tasteful.  We have our own bath which has all the necessary equipment so we are quite content.

We have booked our room with a package and have dinner scheduled for 7pm at a local restaurant just 3 minutes away, Restaurant De Geit (www.degeit.be ).  We are the first ones there (at 7pm?) and are graciously welcomed in English and taken to a charming outdoor courtyard with teak tables and chairs on a large tiled terrace.  We are surrounded by fields of corn, potatoes, and romaine lettuce, huge trees offering shade, and off on the next plot I see a traditional old fashioned Dutch windmill.  Off to one side is a children’s play area including a big bouncy house which we later see diner’s children taking advantage of.  What a perfectly charming Dutch setting to enjoy our dinner.   We are offered a choice of beers and decide on the local beer, Bellegems Flander Style Ale and were rewarded with one of the best sour beers I have ever tasted.  Malty sweet with a sour bite we savor it slowly and enjoy the experience.

First up with a amuse buche of two fresh mozzarellas balls about the same size as the accompanying cherry tomato which are drizzled with a pesto garlic oil and roasted pine nuts.  Marshall is oohing and aweing so much over how good it is I decided to live dangerously and take a small nibble.  I am shocked that not only does it taste great; the texture is not the dreaded slimy texture I hate of cheese but more like the texture of boiled egg whites.  I eat every bite and love every bit of it.  First time in my adult life (I’m 52) I have ever done that.  It was that good.

After a long, a tad too long, wait we are served a salad.  Both with fresh mixed greens, deliciously salty fresh cooked bacon bits, and for Marshall a raw quails egg on top.  Hey, I can only put my foot out there so far –don’t want a bad stomach reaction to mess up a sublime experience.  He loves it and says I should have tried it with the egg but my salad is fantastic without it and I don’t feel deprived at the slightest. 

We believe we are having the first REAL farm to table experience as I see a gentleman come out with scissors and clip herbs from the garden and on the road farmers on tractors are returning from their days work.  By now the tables are beginning to fill up as diners start to roll in at 8pm and later.  I guess people eat late here.

We order a Westmalle Bruin to have with our dinner.  It is deep and dark and earthy and very full bodied.  It is a perfect fit with our entrée course of roasted pork tenderloin served on an apple brown butter sauce with roasted vegetables, tomato/zucchini/onion relish and pommes tots (mashed potatoes shaped like tater tots and fried).

We pass on dessert and settle on a cup of coffee. The temperature has begun to drop quite a bit since we arrived.  It is now 9 o’clock at night and still bright as day.

We head back to our room and slip back into jeans for comfort and check out the honor bar to inspect their assortment. We enjoy a few nightcaps on the terrace and watch the other guests arrive, mostly men.  Our host Elke had informed us there was a group here in town for a rally of some sort.  They are all ages of men so I don’t think we are in the middle of some party zone.  We hear them at 11pm but are soon rewarded with a blissful sleep in our first real King size bed since we got here (most are two twins pushed together which has its pluses and minuses).  Tomorrow Alvinne Brewery tour and tooling around Kortrijk.  Welterusten!
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