Posted by: vlibrizzi | June 7, 2009

“Foamy Beer was had here”: Our weekend in Bruges

DSC_0324On Saturday morning, C. and I hopped in Francois (our gold Citroen) and drove 3.5 hours to Bruges, Belgium. We were a bit worried about crossing the border (especially since we forgot to bring our passports with us! Yikes!), but we soon came to realize that traveling between European countries is a lot like traveling between US states. At one point you’re in France, and then you see a big sign that says “Welcome to Belgium,” and then, presto, you’re in Belgium. I was hoping for a bit more hype and fanfare, but alas…

DSC_0301We had been hearing about Bruges from friends since we moved here and so were really excited to get to visit it this weekend. It is a small Flemish city, surrounded by ramparts, and within which, there are many little (and large) squares with French cafes, Belgian mussles, frites, and waffle stands (yum!), and, of course, Belgian beer halls!

DSC_0317We started our trip by going to the main square called Market Square (photo to the left) to have a quick lunch. We stopped at one of the trucks/stands and had yummy hamburgers and french fries with “special sauce” which consisted of mayonnaise, barbeque sauce, ketchup, and garnished with onions. Honestly, it was absolutely wonderful! It was a heart attack in a plastic bowl, but it was wonderful nonetheless. 

DSC_0290We then spent our afternoon walking around the city, admiring the myriad canals and the quaint architecture. Some of the highlights were the swan park where there were a bunch of newly hatched “ugly ducklings” (photo to the left) and the Church of Our Lady which houses Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child.

DSC_0296Once we tired of walking around, we stopped into a dark, dingy beer hall where we had some amazing Belgian beers. We had been craving Belgian beer (of which there are literally hundreds of different varieties!) since we were last in Belgium in January, so we made sure to get a full helping of it on this trip 🙂

The photo to the left is of C. drinking one of our first glasses. I think one of our most favorite things about Belgian beer (besides the taste, of course!) is that every beer comes in it’s own, unique glass. So cool!

 

 

DSC_0293After a few beers each (some of which were more than 9% alcohol…sheesh!), we had  diner at a wonderful Flemish restaurant called Restaurant de Koetse. We each had moules frites—another thing we’ve been waiting to have since our last trip to the country. I had traditional Belgian mussels in a light cream sauce, while C. had his mussels a la provencal, which meant it had yummy spices and tomatoes. 

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After dinner, we were ready to try some more Belgian beers, so we headed to a youth hostel around the corner from our hotel to listen to some good old American music (think “November Rain” and “Eye of the Tiger”) and have a few drinks. 

The hostel even had license plates from almost all 50 US states. You can see C. and his beer posing next to the New Jersey license plate in the photo to the left. 

 

 

 

DSC_0299We woke up this morning to a pretty dreary day. Although it rained most of the day and was pretty chilly (in the 50s….in June!), we made the most of it by walking out to see the town windmills, huddled under our one umbrella, and then quickly dashing into the Groeninge museum to see an exhibit on Charles the Bold (a Burgundian king who controlled what is now Belgium for a time) as well as the famous Flemish paintings by artists such as Jan Van Eyck. 

The exhibit on Charles the Bold was fabulous. I think it is going on throughout the summer, so if you can make it to Brugges (something I highly recommend!), make sure to check out the exhibit. We knew nothing about Charles’ reign, and came away from the exhibit learning a lot about history and seeing some pretty amazing art. 

DSC_0316After a quick lunch of traditional Flemish beef stew, the sun came out and we walked around the town a bit more. We then went on a tour of the Halve Maan Brewery (Half Moon in English) which makes the famous Brugge Zot beer (you can see a photo of our complimentary glass of beer with the tour of the brewery to the left). The tour guide was a bit curt, but we warmed up to her and learned some really interesting things about Belgian beer in the process. For example, in Belgium, they purposely put a lot of foam on the top of their beer. To them, it makes the beer taste better. When C. and I heard this, we both looked at each other and remembered our conversation from the night before in the beer hall when I thought that the bartender had poured my beer wrong because it was 3/4 beer and 1/4 foam. Clearly, she knew what she was doing. I’m glad I didn’t say anything to her 🙂

DSC_0307Here’s a photo C. took from the roof of the brewery of the city of Bruges.

 

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So, although we loved learning about Brugges through exploring it’s windy streets,dining on it’s great food (you can see me and a chocolate covered waffle in the photo to the left…yum!),  and learning about the city’s history through the Charles the Bald exhibit at the Grueninge museum, the thing that I’ll take away the most from this weekend is that sometimes, foam in beer is not so bad. 

Now, if we were ever going to put a bumper sticker on Francois, it would have to read “Foamy Beer was had here”…not by Francois, heaven’s no! But, by the two of us who are now knowledgeable about Belgian beer etiquette.

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