Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I am alive

Hello my one or two readers. Sorry that I have not written for a long time. I will give the cliched excuse that I have been busy. The time just flies and every time I think about writing an entry into the blog, my kid either distracts me with her impish smile or I need to change a nappy. But I am still around quietly observing Brussels in its glory.

Winter has started really early. The streets have already been dusted with quite a bit of snow. The days turn dark at around four in the afternoon and the sun rises at 8:45. Between the sun rising and setting, the days are mostly a sickly grey. It is depressing and I often crave sunlight. Now is the time of year where drinking would come in handy.

I hope to review some Christmas beers as this is the time of year to eat, drink and be merry.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Give a hoot don't pollute! Or at least keep your garbage orderly

A black cat staring down a garbage bag in Brussels

When I describe Brussels one of the adjectives I use is dirty. I often write about the Brussels garbage problem. Basically many residents use the city as their personal garbage can. In one of my last blogs, I mentioned how one brave Bruxellois told people not use the trees as garbage cans. Kudos to this person but in general people tolerate dirty streets.

When I was little, there was this public service announcement with a catchy slogan "give a hoot and don't pollute." Years later, this slogan sticks in my head and whenever, I am out and about. In major cities it is always more of challenge to keep the streets clean and tidy. However, Germany and Switzerland seem to do a good job in keeping their cities clean. In Germany, it is common to see someone scrubbing a garbage can in a train station. When my husband and I were vacaying in Switzerland two summers ago, one of the locals told us that Switzerland is very clean because cleanliness and respecting your surroundings is taught to children at a very young age. Swiss parents teach their kids at a young age not to toss their garbage on the ground but rather hold it until you find a rubbish bin. It may seem annoying to carry an empty water bottle but your surroundings should be treated with respect. I am not sure this is taught in Brussels.

A small disclaimer: I don't want readers to think that Brussels is the dirtiest city on earth because there are other places that are just as dirty. Many times, the subways in NYC smell of urine or people just spit on the Staten Island ferry. Even Paris which is known as one of the most gorgeous cities is fully of dog poo. So I guess there is more to a city than cleanliness.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brussels gets quirky on me!

A birdhouse made of old VHS and music cassettes
A side view of these wonderful birdhouse I discovered the other day on Rue Troon in Brussels, Belgium

There are many times when I get really bored with Brussels. While Brussels is considered a city and not a town or village; it lacks the hustle and bustle of New York City or London. Others may disagree with me and they are entitled to their opinion. I also find Brussels to feel empty at times as you never really see throngs of people running to the offices or feel surrounded by tall buildings. I live right across from the European Parliament and Luxembourg Train Station and while this this the pulse of Europe, I still feel don't feel claustrophobic.

Occasionally I do find some quirky things that make me think Brussels is sort of okay. For example, my last post about someone requesting that the trees not be used as a garbage can was pretty random. Things like this break up the Brussels monotony. I actually paused and smiled. For past few days, I found stumbled upon these unique birdhouses made of VHS and audio cassette tapes. I stumbled upon this treasure on Rue Troon (Throne Street) right by my apartment. When I first saw the birdhouse, I thought it was very interesting. It seemed sort of random, like someone posting a bumper sticker with a political message and running off. Upon further inspection, I saw a web address. I jotted it down and took a snap shot.

Today as I was walking up Chaussee de Wavre, I saw another one of the birdhouses. I then thought, this can not be very random. When I returned home I went to the website and discovered that there are birdhouses like this all over Brussels. Very cool, I thought. Something fun to look at for. Check out the website
I have yet to see a bird visit these little black houses but it's definitely fun to walk around Brussels and discover the birdhouses.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is a tree supposed to be a garbage can?

Our trees are not your garbage cans. Please respect.
A sign pointing out that this is not a garbage depot and will you put your garbage with you (a rough translation but you get the point). Thanks

Brussels is not the cleanest of cities. It's not full of dog poopy like Paris but it's far from immaculate like Zurich. On any given day, you can find garbage bags on the curbs tossed on the curb haphazardly waiting for a pickup. Crushed beer cans are often found on window sills or carelessly thrown on the ground. Even some cleaning people do half assed jobs (like not picking up the baby's ball and leaving it under the table). Is it laziness? Not sure and I don't want to make any stereotypes (I am just speaking from experience). Welcome to Brussels. This might also explain why one of the country's most famous symbol is a pissing boy.I think the Belgian mentality is that it's our country and we can treat it how we please. I am not going to argue with this because frankly I don't care. I am not Belgian and I was not raised to through Jupiler beer cans in some one's doorway.

The walk to my daughter's creche (aka daycare) is one of those walks that I detest. It feels long and even in broad daylight, the street feel deserted. When it is cloudy or rainy, the walk is so depressing, I feel like drowning my sorrows with some alcohol. But I hold back because I am a mum. The walk is far from exciting and all I can think about is my little girl. On one lonely corner, there are the typical city trees. You know those trees, a skinny little thing on a small patch of dirt usually surround by stones or some wire to make it clear, this is nature, respect it and don't throw your crap here. This all seems so elementary and logical. Keep your city clean. But guess what? Apparently in Brussels, tossing trash at a tree and using public spaces as garbage receptacles is common.

How bad does the garbage situation have to be before someone from the neighborhood puts up signs? He leaves a note on the tree trunk. I wonder who this person and how dirty did the tree have to get before posting these two messages. Do people walk by and take notice like I do? Do they chuckle and think, this person is on crack?Why would he care about a tree so much? I give this person credit for trying to clean up Brussels. Bonne Chance!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Do you really want to see the Mannekin Pis's sister?

One of my favorite pictures of a tourist. She is trying to get a close of the statue while smoking a cigarette. Hope she does not burn this landmark down. Hehe
Gender equality is alive and well in Belgium with the Anneke-Pis
And the squatting pissing girl. Not sure why she is under lock and key. Could someone really want to steal this statue?

Anyone who reads my blog, knows that I mention the Mannekin Pis quite often. In a lot of ways it is Belgium's symbol. I am not sure why a country would want to adopt a little boy pissing as their "national symbol." If anything Belgians should try and find some other "tourist" landmark that draws flocks tourists. It is quite a sight to see tourists snapping away at the pee pee boy. You almost get the feeling that these tourists are snap happy papparrazi. I admit that when I visited Brussels years ago, the Mannekin Pis was our first stop. Then the chocolate museum and after the beer museum. Classy and cultural destinations. Since these were all at Grand Place, it made sense. Pretty much that was my first exposure to Brussels.

I never tire of the Mannekin Pis because he is so absurd. It really says something about a country when this little bronze statue is everyone's first stop (me included). If you visit any touristy shop you will see souvenirs modeled after the Mannekin. My favorites are a life sized version of the statute that would look so classy on your desk at work. Imagine talking to some really important clients and offering them some water from your own Mannekin Pis's peepee. A class act. If that is not a deal break don't know what is. Also there are these cork openers where the spiral thing used to open corks is actually the Mannekin's penis. Very phallic and a great souvenir for your mother-in-law.

This past Sunday, I sunk to an all new low. We went to Grand Place to see the flower carpet (which was not up as of this past Sunday). On a whim, I decided that I wanted to pay homage to the Mannekin Pis's counterpart- The Anneke Pis. Trust me, I am not that creative to make this up. There is actually a female version to the Mannekin Pis. Something to do with gender equality.

Believe it or not but there were some tourists there snapping away. I was pretty revolted as I watched the bronze statue of a little girl squatting and pissing. Pretty classy. At least, she was semi- modest as she was found down some random alleyway. What amazed me was that this statue was literally under lock and key. I can not even imagine who would want to steal a squatting girl! Any way I took my obligatory picture for this blog and decided never to visit this landmark again.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wine =France and Beer =Belgium

Moet is the bubbly of choice of the Belgian Royal Family

Two weeks ago, we ventured into French Wine Country. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to drive over the border, into another country. The equivalent would be driving from New York into Connecticut or Pennsylvania into Delaware. There are cultural and regional differences in the States but driving from Belgium into Holland or France is really going "international." Luckily for me, Brussels is so central and it is easy to hightail it out of here.

During our excursion into France, we went to visit THE CHAMPAGNE MECCA, Moet. We chose Moet because we were in Epernay and decided to do the really touristy tour. I am not a bubbly drinker. If I indulge in wine, I enjoy the sweet dessert wines like Hungarian Tokaj or red wines. Also I am NO wine expert. Whenever, we order wine in a restaurant, I defer to my husband. He acts like he knows a little more than I do. He swirls the glass and swishes the wine in his mouth. I am more uncouth as I guzzle it down.

So as we were paying for our tickets to tour the Champagne Temple known as Moet, my husband pointed out the picture featured above. Apparently, King Albert, Queen Paola and their family enjoy this particular French Champagne. I was sort of surprised. Of course I figured that the Belgian royal family are going to drink other beverages other than beer. When they toast Kingdom of Belgium are they going to do it on some Jupiler or Maes beer? The drink of their subjects? Probably not. No, they are going to drink the best money has to offer even if that means drinking something that comes from France.

What did I think of the Moet Champagne? Dare I say it was okay. Like I mentioned before I am not really a Champagne drinker. I would have liked to have tasted the rose Champagne but since we only bought the ticket with one free sample, we only got to sample the standard white tipple.

In Belgium, people drink wine but I sometimes feel that beer is the standard drink of choice. I also enjoy beer more than wine. To me, beer has a depth that you can not find in wine (or maybe I am just clueless about wine). I can never detect the tannins or woody and fruity aftertastes. But in beer, I can now tell if it is a winter brew or bitter or blond brew. That is one of the benefits of living in the beer capital of the world!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hightailing it out of Brussels

Check Spelling In 1000 meters, you are in Belgium

Everything in Belgium (and all over Europe for that matter) seem to stop during the summer. Many people decide to hightail it out of Brussels for warmer weather, cleaner surroundings and quieter times. The Brussels' hustle and bustle quiets down as the city becomes more and more deserted with each passing day.

The local baker, the baby's pediatrician or the dry cleaner may decide to take a month long holiday and leave you in the lurch. As life would have it, that could be the time your baby gets really sick or you need fresh baguettes and clean shirts. It is common to see scribbled on a piece of paper the words Ferme (closed). With each passing day, store fronts are closing and owners and workers are taking a well deserved break. My favorite coffee shop, Karsmakers is closed for TWO WEEKS! Where am I going to get my latte to go for the next two weeks?

I am one of the few that are stuck in the city. Due to various circumstances like moving and work, we are spending the summer in Brussels. Does it sound like a horror film? Summertime in Brussels? That is just me being cynical. I like to think of myself as guarding the Mannekin Pis. We were lucky to take a long weekend and get out of Brussels. We decided to go into France and visit the Champagne region. It was lovely but like everything in life, eventually it was time to get back to reality. As we were driving over the border into Belgium, we saw many cars driving in to the country with us. While many people staging an exodus to get out of Belgium, many French, Dutch and Germans are driving into to the country to spend some time. I personally want to welcome all the people that are coming to spend some holiday in Belgium. You will be charmed by Brugges, Liege, Ghent, Antwerp and even Brussels.

Where am I during all this time? I am the girl who is in Brussels. I am dedicated to the city. Why would I want to desert the city in the summer? Someone needs to stay and watch the Mannekin Pis! This is me being sarcastic of course. I was fortunate to enjoy a long weekend in
the Champagne area of France. It was beautiful and nice little interlude. More on that trip in tomorrow's entry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

...and they also speak German in Belgium!!

Above: A schizo looking building in Eupen. Reminded me of Belgium's identity crisis. Are we Flemish? Wallonian? Or German? While the street names are %100 percent German, Jupiler is %100 Belgian. FYI: Jupiler is brewed in Jupille, once a former Belgian municipality is now apart of Liege.

Government offices are all German.

Many posts on this blog discusses the Flemish-Wallonian divide. It is easy to get confused. One often wonders, do they speak French in Waterloo or Flemish? Is Antwerp in Flanders or apart of Holland (because they speak Dutch in Antwerpen). Is Brussels considered Flanders or Wallonia? These issues are enough to drive any expat to drink (or a Belgian) and luckily this country is an drinker's heaven.

Did you know that there is a sliver of an area in Belgium that are German speaking?? If you say no, I won't berate you and call you ignorant about Belgium because before I came here, I also had no idea. I first heard of Eupen in my Belgium guide book. I added Eupen to my list of towns I wanted to visit.

According to Wikipedia, Eupen is a municipality located in the province of Liege (Liege is French speaking). It is 15km from the Dutch border and German border. At the end of WWI, Eupen was transferred from Germany to Belgium as was stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles. There
are about 17,000 living there. Eupen is the seat of the German speaking community in Belgium.

On our way back from Liege in June, we stopped off in Eupen. I was fascinated that here I am in Belgium, a country that is bilingual (even if many Belgians don't speak the other official language) and there is a population that speaks German. Actually German is the third official language in Belgium but I don't think many people speak it. Eupen had all the German sensibilities like punctuality, cleanliness and politeness. Walking down the small streets a warm drizzle fell, I could not help but think how complicated politics is here. Even though Eupen is part of Belgium, do these Belgians identify with Wallonia? Eupen is in Wallonia but it is not French speaking and nothing there looked remotely French.
Again this is one of the many Belgian contradictions.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Typical Belgian? Buying Beer from a Vending Machine

A vending machine at Gare Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Europe. Before boarding the train you can buy yourself a can of Cola or beer. The Jupiler beer cans are located on the far right.

While this blog is supposed to be about beer, it often veers off to other topics. So today I am returning to my roots. I am going to talk beer!

In previous posts, I have written about how ubiquitous beer is in Belgium. Every brasserie, kiosk, supermarket and fast food chain offer beer. You can order beer in the bottle or beer on tap. Supermarkets such as Delhaize and Carrefour even brew their own beer. There are private labels and the famous labels known all over the world like Stella and Left. There are the every day beers like Jupiler and Maes that are decent and are pretty local to Belgium.

As you can see beer is easily accessible wherever you go in Belgium. It should be considering that beer is one of the many food related items that the Belgians do extremely well and should be proud of. Even the Mannekin Piss will occasionally urinate beer on special occasions!! Beer drinking is even easier now that I discovered that you can buy a can of beer from some vending machines! A coke? bottled Spa water? An orange Fanta? Or a can of Jupiler? From the vending machine at Gare Luxembourg in Brussels, you can purchase all three.

I was a bit perplexed when I saw beer cans in the vending machines. How does that work? Meaning, how do you make sure that minors are not buying beer. In addition to a coin slot, there is a slot for you to put your identity card. On each identity card, there is a microchip with all your information. Problem solved! I love European innovation and convenience!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Smoke break at the Ziekenhuis

For those readers who don't speak Flemish or Dutch, Ziekenhuis means hospital. When I think of a hospital, images of white sterile halls, IV drips and painkillers come to mind. Hospitals today are smoke free. There was a time when I think it was allowed to smoke in hospitals. I recall watching an episode of St. Elsewhere, where one of the doctors was actually smoking in the hospital. This was all before people were ostracized for smoking. Today, you would extremely hard pressed to find a doctor lighting up in a hospital. I don't even think you can smoke within a certain radius of such a place. Signs are plastered all over the place reminding you over and over again not to smoke. Do you really want to stand out and be the only one smoking?
I walked past Clinique Parc du Leopold on Rue Froissart in Brussels. The non-descript brownish looking building is ugly yet benign. I would always glance at the building and think to myself, "luckily there is a hospital near my house in case I need to go somewhere ASAP." Today, I am not so sure. What I saw outside on the steps was absolutely horrifying. I saw many people smoking. Fine, people need a place to smoke but I saw patients puffing away. How did I know they were patients? Well, the hospital gown, the wheelchair, and the tubing in the nose gave it away. Oh, I don't want to forget to mention the can on the back of the wheelchair that looked like an oxygen tank.
Shocked, disgusted and surprised were some emotions that were coursing through my mind. I believe it is some one's own personal choice to smoke. If you want nicotine, fine. Smoke, I could not care less but should a hospital let its own patients smoke out front? What kind of example does that set for the hospital? What does this say about the health care system in Belgium? Belgium is supposed to have one of the best health care systems in the world but does that mean patients should take advantage of that and smoke while under hospital care? Should my tax dollars go towards the hospital taking care of someone who smokes on its premises? Shouldn't patients at least wait until they are discharged before they rot their lungs out some more? I don't have the answers to this.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

King Albert's message: Can't we all just get along?

Picture taken in Liege on June 6, 2010. "A" with a crown on top stands for King Albert! "B" stands for Belgium.

I just found out today that King Albert, King of Belgium and I have the same birthday. Does that make me special?

I just saw on my facebook news feed, a small article from
On Belgium's National Day on July 21, the King made a speech speaking about Belgium's challenges and that the Belgians need to find ways to live together and get along. Belgian's getting along and the country staying intact, is always on the King's mind. I am guessing that he prays for his kingdom's unity. The King has a lot at stake. What would happen if the country would split up? Which side does the King take? Is he King of the Walloons or King of Flanders? Or would he be supreme ruler of Brussels? I have no idea. is a wonderful news resource. Granted it is a bit biased towards Flanders but the news is in English. I feel like sometimes, Flanders cares more about me than the Walloons. While I don't speak Dutch, the Flemish wants me to know what is going on in Belgium. I have yet to see a Walloon weekly English newspaper. I guess Wallonia does not care much about me. That's fine, I am not losing any sleep over that!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fewer prisoners manage to escape.

Are window gates necessary if you live in Brussels?

According to the article, only 8 convicts managed to escape the police. This is very exciting news for Belgium. The good news is that only 3 of the 8 jailbirds actually escaped from prison. The other three escaped while being transferred to another prison or hospital. My question is how careless could these policepeople be? Yes, the number is pretty low but even one escaped convict is one too many.

My question is how does even one jailbird manage to escape police custody? Aren't these criminals in shackles? Is the guard transporting the convict, drinking a beer? Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck, is happy with the statistics. Now lets deal with the notorious overcrowded jails.

I wonder if prisoners get some beer to accompany their meals?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's easy to drive to the border and get the hell out (if you want to leave)

A street sign in Liege points you in the direction of three countries

Belgium borders on France, Holland, Germany and Luxembourg. One of the redeeming qualities to Brussels is how it is so easy to hop on a train and leave the country. Hop on the Eurostar and you are in London in no time. Thalys will get you into Paris in less than two hours. Drive to Cologne, Germany also in under two hours. If you want to enjoy Amsterdam in all its glory, you can either drive or take the new high speed train. It is that easy.

Is going to Luxembourg from Brussels considered going abroad? Just some food for thought!

180 years plus 1 day

Alley way in Liege
A Belgian postbox in Liege

The bandstands are being disassembled. The white lawn chairs are being stacked. The red carpets are being rolled up. National Day is over and Belgium is back to normal. No one seems to be hung over from last night's festivities. The streets and sidewalks don't look any dirtier and the random Belgian flag is slowly waving in a summer breeze.

This is a sleepy Brussels. Many people decided to desert the city. Lucky for them. I am stuck in Brussels with the baby. My husband is in the States taking care of business and probably enjoying a bagel and lox. My baby is on vacation which really means that her daycare is closed so the minders can get a well deserved break. It is hard work being with the baby all day. Since she is only 16 months, I am limited in what activities I can do with her. For the past week, we have gone to Rue Nueve which is the shopping pedestrian area in Brussels. It is not a particularly pretty area. In fact it is quite ugly. Rumor has it that the government wants to make it even uglier by adding some sort of roof over the stores and make it into a covered walkway. It's a dumb idea because on the odd nice day, people want to shop in the sun. Don't do it!!!

As I was walking with the baby at 11 am, I saw people sitting in various brasseries drinking beer. Yes, people do drink beer that early. My brain is still foggy at 11am and a beer would just knock me out. But I guess Belgians have something to celebrate. The sun is shining, the weather is nice and warm and the country is one day into a new national year.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HAPPY NATIONAL DAY BELGIUM. Surviving 180 years is no easy feat!

Flying the flag on top of the palace

Some random Belgian showing their patriotism

HAPPY NATIONAL DAY, BELGIUM. YOU MADE IT TO ANOTHER YEAR WITHOUT IMPLODING!! I think that could be the biggest reason to celebrate though I am guessing that die hard Wallonians and Flemish might disagree.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, sent her best and other dignitaries are also probably sending their obligatory congratulations as well. Belgium's special national symbol, the Mannekin Pis will be dressed up as an accordionist (not sure why). Beer, frites and Belgian waffles will inevitably be flowing all over the place.

The Royal Family, will do their ceremonial and probably give speeches on how wonderful the country is, how Belgium despite its linguistics and cultural divides has managed to stay intact and not to forget that Belgium has the EU presidency for the next six months. So Belgians better be on their best behavior!
I wonder if celebrating National Day has the same feeling as celebrating Independence Day. If any my Belgian readers can comment on this, I would be very thankful. As an American, the 4th of July is a chance to party but its essence is American celebrating their physical, emotional and religious freedoms. Is Belgian National Day just a celebration of the country or do Belgians celebrate what it means to be Belgian?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rantings and Musings on the the eve of Belgium's national day

Tomorrow is Belgium's National Day. On this auspicious day in 1831, Leopold Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld takes the oath as Belgium's first king. Since this is my first national day here, I am not sure how people celebrate. Do people become patriotic and wear Belgium's national colors- black, yellow and red? Do people BBQ hot dogs and hamburgers? Do Belgians give thanks for another year the country is still intact albeit with just a band aid? I am not sure.

The royal family, I believe comes out in full force paying homage to their subjects. Several times in the past week, I passed by one of the ugly palaces and saw a band stand set up with white plastic lawn chairs. There is most likely some sort of ceremony taking place.

As an American, the fourth of July is a special day. Aside from the annoying fire crackers that get fired off and ant infested picnics, Americans in their own way celebrate gaining their independence from the British monarchy. It's an extremely patriotic day. There is lots to celebrate as an American. What do the Belgians celebrate? I am really curious.

Never in a thousand years did I think I would end up in Belgium. I remember the first time I visited Brussels. My husband and I were living in Fontainebleau, France, and we always passed through Brussels when we took the Thalys to Amsterdam. There was the joke that we knew when we left France, because the weather felt gray, the land looked dull and the city outskirts looks ratty. We knew when we entered The Netherlands because the land looked greener and cleaner. Is this a fair observation? Probably not but these were my amateurish first impressions. So on one summer day, my husband and I hopped on the Thalys and took it straight to Brussels.
We went immediately to Grand Place and did the typical touristy things. We went to the beer and chocolate museum, had a waffle, drank beer and saw the Mannequin Piss. Then it got cloudy and rained. We ran for cover in one of those double decker tourist buses that drives all around Brussels. I think I fell asleep. That was my first time in Brussels. I think I said, I came, I saw and never again. LOL LOL LOL.
On the eve of these celebrations, I am neither excited or jubilant. I am just here and will most likely take in some of the festivities and observe the Belgians. Are they happy or dour faced today? Do they even care? After that, I will drink some of the national brew.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brussels isn't in Switzerland (yet)

Picture this conversation:

My husband: I am living in Brussels right now (assumption was that people know that Brussels is a city in Belgium)

Person my husband was talking to: have fun in Switzerland. I have cousins that live in Zurich.

This little conversation was similar to one I had several months ago when some American thought Brussels was its own country. I can not make this stuff up no matter how drunk I get on Belgian beer. There are actually people that do not know Brussels is in Belgium or that it is the capital of the European Union. I also remember that years ago, my husband and I were on line waiting to visit the Anne Frank House and I heard someone behind us say, I thought Anne Frank hid in Copenhagen. Well, she hid in Amsterdam (the city), The Netherlands not Copenhagen, Denmark (in Scandanavia). I bet there are people that think Brussels, the country or city is paved in chocolate and diamonds.

Trust me, I have wished more than anything that Brussels was not in Belgium but in some sunny country like Spain or Florida. But every time I open my eyes, I am still in this rainy place. Though the weather for the past couple of days has been REALLY nice. And that is something to be thankful for.

But back to the geography topic. It is amazing how people don't know which country major European cities are. I don't expect many people to know where Eupen is (Belgium) or Oerlikon is (Switzerland). But Brussels? The capital of the European Union? How could you not know where that is? Are you drunk on Belgian beer?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chi Chi's, Mullets and Winos can be found in Brussels

In previous posts I mentioned that sometimes I feel like Belgium is stuck in the 1980's. You can hear '80's music being piped into the metro stations, the random person wearing acid washed jeans and Rick Astley concerts.
Today, I went to De Brouckere, a shopping district in "downtown" Brussels. There is a variety of stores such as H & M, Benetton, Zara and various other clothing stores and speciality shops. When I get homesick I can walk down De Brouckere and pass at least 4 Pizza Huts within a street of each other. At the corner is the Chi-Chi's, the bastion of tex-mex food. Every time my husband and I pass the restaurant, we chuckle because out of all the American chain restaurants imaginable, Brussels has to have a Chi-Chi's. What about the Olive Garden? I think everyone loves Italian food. I am not sure how popular re fried beans and margaritas are here but whenever I see the place, the commercial's jingle- Chi-Chi's, it's a celebration of food plays in my head.

A few months ago, my husband and I were in the car right near the Chi-Chi's when we passed a driver with a wonderful 80's style mullet. I am not sure how stylish mullets are in Belgium or if there are any trailer parks in the area but I always get a kick out of a European sporting a mullet or rat tail. It makes me homesick. For some reason these hairstyles are so American and seeing a European sport when makes me think of greasy fast food, Miller Lite beer and pork rings.

Lastly, I mentioned that the alcohol of choice for most Belgians is beer. Beer is the occasional thirst quencher of police officer, a midday tipple for the bored office worker and choice for vagrants hanging out on the street with the sign, "j'ai faim," (I am hungry) but never I am thirsty "j'ai soif." No one is thirsty because a small can of Jupiler is cheap and has some carbs. However, on Friday, I saw some raggy looking person on the street swigging a bottle of red wine. He must of been French, I thought to myself.

These are just some Brussels' charm.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Belated Bastille Day.

Traffic passing through Paris' famous Arc de Triumph
Belgians decide to have three arches in their look alike Arc de Triumph in Brussels' Parc Cinquantenaire.
Happy belated Bastille Day!! I had no idea that yesterday was a major celebration in France. I guess I am in my own little world called BELGIUM. However, coincidentally yesterday I went to Parc Cinquantaire (Park of the Fiftieth) or Jubelpark (Jubilee Park in Dutch). As soon I entered the park, I thought Paris. I am sure the Parisians would be pissed that I would compare anything in Brussels to their beloved Paris but it is a compliment. The arches reminded me of the Arch de Triumph times three. In 1880 the park was built to commemorate Belgium's fifty years of independence. The actual arches were built in 1905.
I was pretty impressed with the park. It was vast, green and clean. Of course there was the occasional crushed beer can on the ground but it's Belgium. There needs to be beer everywhere.
I would like to wish France a happy belated Bastille Day. I will have some french pastries in honor of this momentous occasion.

My kid is a Belgian until December 2010

As I always say to my baby "hip hip hoorah!!" Finally after almost a year, my little baby finally has her certificat d'identite. I should probably pop open a can of beer and celebrate. It only took almost a year, four hundred copies of her birth certificate and countless visits to our local commune. The ironic part is that the card expires in December. What does that mean? Do we need to go back and file more paperwork? To be honest, I am too hot and tired to even think about revisiting my local commune to find out. Belgians are notorious for their lengthy paper trail. Why create more paperwork by having me go back to the commune to renew my daughter's identity card. I know this all probably has to do with my husband's work visa.

I honestly shirk from anything bureaucratically Belgian. But to be fair, there is a lot of bureaucracy in the United States. Going to the Department of Motor Vehicles, getting a passport, a social security card or official copy of a birth certificate is no walk in the park. People who need visas to come to the States also have hellish stories.
To celebrate Lorelei's little identity card, I am treating myself to a glass of Tokaji, a Hungarian sweet dessert wine. As I conclude this short entry, I am sipping this delicious sweet wine in a plastic cup! Very lazy of me!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pop open a beer can, it's finally summer

People milling around Grand Place, Brussels

Finally, summer has hit Belgium. June was touch and go but finally the weather has really warmed up. It is amazing how different summer is here in Belgium. The biggest difference is the lack of air conditioning. Last Thursday was extremely warm and we went to the Carrefour (Europe's version of Wal-Mart) and it was hot in there. This big warehouse had no central air. The cashier was fanning herself as if she was having hot flashes. Most people here don't have central air because it is really only maybe ten days during the summer that feel like you're burning in hell. For me that is ten days too many. I hate the heat. I hate to sweat. I also hate the humid heat. Luckily we have air. Someone told me that Europeans are more energy conscious. Maybe that is the case but I have to tell you when it is 40 degrees outdoors, I am glad to have the central air.

When it is so hot, it is important to drink a lot of fluid. You don't want to dehydrate. Does beer count as a fluid? Well, water is a key ingredient to beer and there is nothing nicer than an ice cold Hoegaarden beer served fresh from the top with a lemon wedge. That hits the spot. But my advice, enjoy an ice cold Belgian beer but always chase it down with water. It will keep you hydrated.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hungarian Beer

I was fortunate enough to get out of Brussels and visit Budapest. It was my first time visiting that part of Europe and I am enthralled. I will write more about Budapest/Brussels later but since this is supposed to be a beer blog, I am going to give a review for one of the local brews.

Dreher is one of the Hungarian beers that I drank while over there. It is a light beer with a bitter finish. I was able to taste the yeast and the aftertaste reminded me of the smell of kneaded dough. Dreher is a wonderful beer and I enjoyed it with hungarian noodles, paprika mushrooms and sour cream. My meal was so filling that I barely had room for dessert!

I found this cute t-shirt (picture above) at one of the many stalls in Buda's old city. While I think it is a noble thought to save water by drinking beer, you can not forget that you need water to drink beer so in the end you are not saving any water but it's the thought that counts!

Monday, July 5, 2010

City of Brussels - Belgian EU Presidency. Opening concert I love EU

Proud to be Belgian!

Imagine Lionel Ritchie's song "Celebrate good times, come on" is playing in the backround and confetti is being thrown all over the place. These images are going through my head as Belgium celebrated its six month stint as President of the EU. It is a big deal, I guess. On Saturday night, a celebretory concert and fireworks show took place in front of the EU Parliment. Signs were plastered all over the place inviting the public to come and party like its 2010 and Belgium can actually make a difference for the EU. I am a little skeptical but I think the country will keep it together.
It was interesting that the theme of the concert is loving the EU. Sounds to me like the saying "I love NY." People truly love New York. Do people love the EU? I am not so sure. I know that all the member countries are not cozy or kissy kiss with each other.

I did not attend the concert because I needed to be responsible and stay home with my baby. My main concern was her sleeping through the music and fireworks which she did. She is such a trooper. I was so proud of her. Believe it or not but I also fell asleep during the fireworks. Call me a bore but I can not stand fireworks. They are loud and usually I am in bed when they happen trying to sleep.

My assumption is that Belgian taking the seat of the rotating EU presidency is a big deal. Maybe it will force the Wallonians and Flemish to put on some sort of appearance and get along. I am hoping that this stint will also give Belgians a renewed sense of joy at being Belgian.

No concert or gathering here is complete without beer. Now beer is something the Belgians have a lot to be proud of. From past experiences, I am sure Place Luxembourg was littered with crushed Jupiler beer cans, plastic cups with the Maes logo and dark brown beer bottles.
PS Isn't it amazing that I can link beer with anything having to do with Belgium?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beautiful Budapest trumps Brussels. Also I drank Tokaj wine

These are just two of the many pictures I took during my little Budapest interlude. I was fortunate enough to get out the drab Brussels and a new place. While I complain and moan about Brussels, I am the first to admit that it is so centrally located that within hours, I can find myself in a new country. The flight to Budapest was so short that I barely had time to freak out about turbulence or plane crashes. My baby and I met accompanied husband for a conference so we were fortunate enough to stay at a prime location. Our hotel was directly across from the famous Chain Bridge. Every time, I left the hotel, my eyes feasted on this majestic bridge.

Budapest, is one of those cities that is still being discovered by tourists. People flocked to Paris or London for decades but it is only in the past couple of years, people are discovering the countries that for so long lived under communism's dark veil. I believe Budapest is one of those cities. The city felt so regal and its buildings especially the bridges were befitting of a city that was once the capital of an empire. The bridges spanning across the Danube connecting Pest to Buda reminded me of Paris. Paris has many small bridges connecting the Left and Right banks. However, unlike Paris, Budapest's bridges were massive, with traffic flowing from one side to the other. All hours of the day, tourists and locals alike walk from one end to the other. What a lovely way to get around the city, especially when the sun is shining and a soft breeze is coming from the Danube.

While there is no more Austrian Hungarian Empire, Budapest proudly shows off its vestiges of an era ruled by kings and emperors. I mentioned in a previous blog that I sampled some Hungarian beer which was delicious. During this trip, I learned that Hungarian wine is also pretty damn good. Apparently, there is a rich and fertile wine region. Many people are not familiar with Hungarian wine but I think that will change in the near future as more and more visit the country and request their spirit shops to carry the wines. Tokaj is a famous wine region in Hungary. The wines are wonderful. I enjoyed a wonderful Tokaj sweet white wine. It was delicious. Highly recommend a nice glass of Tokaj.

As the French say, Chink chink.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Do Belgian's have harder heads?

What makes this sign particularly Belgium other than the graffiti? The bicycle. Many people here ride bicycles as a form of transportation. Bicycles seem to be everywhere in Brussels. You can even rent a bicycle from Villo! ( According to Villo!'s website there 180 Villo! stations every 450m. You can't miss these stands with all the yellow bikes neatly locked up. These can be very convenient for tourists that would love to tour Brussels like the "locals."

My question is how many people actually wear helmets? I am guessing not many. Today was unusual as I saw about 4 or 5 cyclists actually protect their head. Many bike riders are dressed for work. No spandex a la Lance Armstrong. I have even seen some men dressed in suits ride their bicycles. While I don't stay up all night worrying about all the helmet -less cyclists, I do wonder how many Belgians have actually damaged their brains by falling off their bikes without a protective covering. Belgian drivers are not the most patient or most careful.

Another question I have is how many Belgians ride their bikes after drinking a few beers? Since drinking a beer alfresco is quite common, I would guess a good many. On the Villo! website, there is a picture of a bike rider wearing a helmet At least the company is aware that cyclists should wear a helmet. I am not sure if you can also rent a helmet but am not sure if that would make sense. Would you want to wear a helmet that a previous customer sweated in?

In any case, since the weather has been nice here in Brussels for two days in a row, riding a bike through its streets may be a nice way to see the city.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Smoking Mamas pushing their prams

(If this does not scare the F out of you to stop smoking then you are a brave soul!)

I personally don't care if people smoke. Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Since everyone presumably pays exorbitant taxes, you get pretty decent health care. And since this is Europe, everyone seems to smoke. High school students smoke with their teachers and coworkers enjoy smoke breaks in rain. What is disturbing is that I see mums pushing their kids in their prams puffing away. An even more bizarre scene is watching two generations of women smoking as the little tyke just sits and inhales the second hand smoke. Once I saw a mother and daughter light up together as the kid was forced to inhale the fumes. There is somemething wrong with that!

In the States people would just stare at the smokers and give them a look that says, "how dare you subject this innocent child to this toxic smoke!" Here in Belgium, people don't think twice. I feel bad for these little kids that are being subjected these fumes. Second hand smoke is harmful and even though Belgium has socialized health care do you want to use the system to treat your child's asthma? What is interesting is that I have never seen someone drink a can of beer and push their child. Is drinking beer and pushing a buggy socially unacceptable? Would a stranger worry more if they saw a mum pushing their baby while chugging a can of Maes? Probably, because they may crash the carriage.

My wish is that parents would exercise restraint around their children and not smoke in front of them. Don't the little babies deserve a smoke free environment?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How not to weigh 800lbs in Belgium

Homemade chocolates at a chocolatier in Brugges

Just looking at these chocolates are making my mouth water. Anyone who has been Europe has been easily seduced by the crusty baguettes, flaky and buttery croissants and custard filled pastries. Just looking into a patisserie's window is enough to add 10 pounds to your thighs. When I was in Maastrict's Christmas Market it was hard to just eat one freshly fried warm apricot filled beignet (jelly donut) but willpower and an imaginary calorie count stopped me.

As I walk around this maze of a city called Brussels, it is hard not ogle the baked goods loving set out in the window. Fruit tarts, chocolate mousse and various custard filled treats are tempting but I just walk on by. When I go to my local bakery to buy fresh bread, my mouth always waters at the small little fruit tarts or eclairs filled with fresh vanilla custard. I sometime contemplate buying a small little pastry but I just take a deep breath and leave just with the bread. I do indulge but if indulging every day would be so unhealthy.

In Belgium, people eat pastries for breakfast. You often see people munching on pieces of a croissant or waffle from a paper bag as they wait for the bus or tram. Bacon and eggs or pancakes are not the breakfast norm. Which is healthier? Not sure. Bacon is loaded with fat and one can make the argument that if the croissant is "homemade" it could be healthier. Whatever....

Even going to the supermarket, you are tempted with cookies, freshly made packaged pastries and mousses and puddings. Again, it is easy to be tempted to fill a wagon with these goodies but the voice in my head tells me not to. Most of the time I listen. I believe everything in moderation. Depriving yourself will just make you gorge so if you want a little pastry, eat it but then eat healthy later on in the day. Life is too short to deprive yourself from freshly made Belgian waffles all the time!

How does beer fit in? Beer like other alcoholic beverages like wine and mixed cocktails has calories. I don't have numbers readily available but beer has sugar and carbohydrates. Beer is definitely a no-no when you diet unless it's lite. Like with chocolates and pastries, I drink beer in moderation. Since I live in Belgium it would be horrible if I had to give beer up so I don't drink it everyday but rather two or three times a week and never a whole bottle. This is my way of not weighing 800 pounds or about 400 kilos.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Today is the first day of summer and the weather here STILL sucks

Drizzly on our way to Brugges. This type of weather is typically Belgian!

Greetings to my fellow reader(s). After being here for more months than I care to count, I still can not get over how crappy the weather is. Today is the first day of summer and it felt like October for a good chunk of the day. I hear that the typical Belgium summer. No wonder people here drink beer like it's water. The weather is down right depressing! In the span of one day, the sky was gray and cloudy, drizzly and then sunny. I have yet to wear a tank top or a pair of shorts. I am not a fan of the heat but some sun and warmth would be nice.

Right now my husband is traveling in the Middle East, he told me the weather is a sizzling 115F. That is too damn hot. With weather like that, one needs an ice cold beer!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Wallonian Cock

The rooster is the Wallonian symbol (picture taken in Liege)

It may seem that I diss on Belgium a lot but the country does have wonderful redeeming qualities. Belgium has wonderful food, produce, chocolate and beer. You are almost guaranteed a good meal at the corner brasserie. The ingredients are simple. Even produce at the local supermarket is beautiful. It is wonderful to see how much is actually grown in Belgium. You can get locally grown strawberries, lettuce, cucumbers, chicons, potatoes, onions, berries, brussel sprouts and green and white asparagus. For such a small country, Belgium really wonderful produce. Of course, the rainy weather plays a major role in the country's rich and fertile soil.

About two weeks ago, we ventured into Liege. It was our first time in Wallonia and we were charmed by the city. Liege has a river which reminded me of the Siene in Paris, beautiful architecture and charming little alleyways that lead to courtyards of tiny houses that reminded me of dollhouses. Liege is also known for its food. Sirop de Liege and waffles are local foods.
What really shocked me about Liege was that, we were really in Wallonia. Unlike Brussels which is French and Dutch speaking, Liege was very French. Kids, we were not in the Brussels Capital Region but hard core Wallonia.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Who won and do people care

Antwerp's old city.
Add Image

Two days after Belgium's election, I decided to find out who won. I heard that the New Flemish Alliance led by Bart de Wever won 27 seats just one more seat than the francophone Socialist Party led by Elio di Rupo. Since I really know nothing about Belgian politics, I can not say I am all that surprised. The Flemish are sick and tired of propping up Wallonia and want to eventually separate. The results just prove how contentious the divide has become. For the average person living in Brussels, all this may not matter because if Belgium splits up, Brussels may just become like the Washington DC of Belgium. Would that be so bad?
Here is my proposal for Belgium, Flanders and Wallonia should just shake hands and go their separate ways. Maybe build a wall to keep the other out and declare Brussels a neutral zone or maybe Brussels will become its own country. Wouldn't that be cool?
My question is which side has the better beer? Flanders or Wallonia?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Elections and crazy Asse Belgium towns

Today, Sunday 13, 2010, is election day for Belgians. It is also Father's Day. Most Belgians seem pretty apathetic about voting because they do it so frequently. I hope Belgians care more about their fathers than who become Prime Minister. Since I can't vote, all I really care about is that buses run on time and the garbage gets picked up.

We spent the day in Antwerp. Antwerp is a really lovely city on the water. The Grand Place reminds me of Brussels but it seems that Antwerp had more life. People were enjoying the lovely weather and after casting their vote, went to enjoy some beer. It's Belgian, people here love their beer!

One of my favorite beers is La Chouffee. I reviewed it in a previous post and despite the hundreds of beers one can drink in Belgian, I always come back to this one. It is a fun little elf/troll always brings a smile to my face. However, with my lunch, I enjoyed a brown Leffe on tap. I am usually not a big dark beer fan but the Leffe bruin was quite enjoyable. It had a nice foam head with a slight bitter aftertaste. I also like the fact that it was not thick or heavy like some brown brews can be.

On the way home from Antwerp, my husband and I like to make fun of some of the towns we pass. One town in particular was Boom. Yes, there is a Boom, Belgium. Sounds comical? Imagine telling people you are from Boom. Would people joke and say, "do you hear big booms over there?" I decided that I would look into this little town so I can at least be a little educated about small Belgian towns and sound like an intelligent expat when someone mentions the town of Boom.

According to Wikipedia, Boom is located a municipality in Flanders with a population of 16,096 (as of 2006). The area is known for its clay open pits and brick factories. The founder of Bobbejaanland theme park hails from Boom. I wonder if this is Belgium's answer to Disneyland? Personally, Boom does not sound very exciting and it is not a town I am planning on visiting anytime soon.

One other town I would like to mention is Asse. This charming sounding town used to be spelled Assche is a Belgian province in Flemish Brabant. The municipality comprises of Asse proper, Bekkerzeel, Kobbegem, Mollem, Relegem and Zellik (all towns that ARE not mentioned in my Belgium guide book). As of 2006, Asse had a population of 29,191. Asse never really developed into anything important (take out the violin) but the town did have some brewing and local hop production.

Boom and Asse probably got more coverage in my blog than it has gotten in years. Some people yearn for the hustle and bustle of Brussels or Antwerp and others seek the calm life that Asse and Boom could offer.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Wallonian Rooster, Secession and a boozy Policewoman

The Rooster is Wallonia's mascot! Are Wallonians stubborn and proud like a rooster?

Hello loyal readers! Sorry it has been eons since I last wrote. No excuse. Life in Brussels has been pretty much the same which is a good thing considering there is no federal government. But tomorrow that is all about to change. June 13, 2010 is election day. I am not going to pretend to understand Belgian politics because it is damn confusing. There is the government in Brussels, Flanders government, Wallonian and a couple of others as well. It boggles my mind. Since I live in Brussels, I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to both Flemish and Wallonian candidates. Who would I vote for if I was able to vote? Don't know.

Last weekend, we went to Leige for the weekend. It was our first time venturing into Wallonia and it was not as scary as I thought it would be (just kidding). Liege was a beautiful charming city with quaint little alleyways that led to dead ends with charming old houses and a river that reminded me of the Paris. It was interesting to see the Wallonian campaign posters. The above poster was plastered all over Liege. Apparently there is a party that wants to return the Wallonian region to France. Funny? Will it ever happen? Probably not but maybe wishful thinking for some Belgians!
On a lighter note relating to beer, my husband told me that on his way home from work yesterday, he saw something disturbingly funny. He saw a policewoman in full uniform, gun in holster outside her police car chugging a large can of Jupiler beer. Instinct told him not to take a picture of the policewoman for fear that she would arrest him. I am not sure if drinking beer in Belgium is considered really drinking since beer is considered more of a thirst quencher than something to get sloshed on. Any thoughts???

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are you missing me?

Hello readers if you are out there! Sorry I have been missing these past couple of weeks but I have been abroad. Brussels seems very far right now as I sit here in Brooklyn. Do I miss Brussels? Hmmm, let me think about that one! While Brussels is a pretty cosmopolitan in many ways, it is very easy not to miss the city. I do miss the wonderful food and beer! However, since New York is so international finding beer and many other European delicacies is not that difficult if you are willing to pay a little premium.

The other night, my husband, baby and I went to our local pub. On tap was the Mannequin Pis beer. It made me feel a little nostalgic for Belgium's national pissing boy. I also went to a cook out the other night and brought a big bottle of Corsendonk that I bought at my local supermarket. So you see, it is not difficult to live la vie de Belgique in the US.

I have also been trying to find out what is going on politically over there. It seems the world does not care about Belgium's upcoming elections. Current events in England, France, Germany and Greece seems to make the headlines. Yet no one cares about little Belgium. What if one day the country would implode and there would be no more beer, chocolate or waffles? Would the world then care? I am guessing apparently not.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Is Belgium still around

Right now I am in the States and am wondering if Belgium still has a government. It is interesting that you really see no coverage here about the dysfunctional politics that is so Belgium. News about the hung England's hung Parliament made the news over here. News commentators actually air time discussing the situation. But Belgium? Nada. Zip. Nothing. Isn't Belgium important to the world? Or rather, isn't the state of affairs important in Brussels? After all Brussels is the capital of the European Union. The Parliament is is right across the street from me. Special interest groups and lobbyists flock to this city. Yet no one cares all that much.

What if one day Belgium splits into Flanders and Wallonia and Brussels remains some sort of neutral territory. If this should happen, don't worry, both Flanders and Wallonia brew some awesome beer

Friday, April 23, 2010

Political chaos or just another day here in Brussels

The Antwerp train station. Don't speak French here!

I am not sure why the Belgium's Prime Minister resigned. I think it has something to do with the everyday battle between the Wallonians and Flemish. It is all so confusing. But here is what I know. Brussels which is the capital of the country is officially bilingual, even though most people here speak French than Dutch. The suburbs around Brussels are all Dutch speaking. The French speakers living in these Dutch speaking areas want to be able to communicate with their local government in French. Apparently that is not possible. Since this is just a new grievance to an old argument. I think the Prime Minister just got pissed off and wanted to resign.

Little did I know Belgium is such a fragile country. It could implode any day and would anyone know? The government is in crisis mode and the buses are running on time, garbage gets collected and school are open. Anarchy has not ensued. Life goes on. No one is hoarding food and loading their rifles. I must say I am not worried because I know somehow like hump dee dumpty, Belgium will put itself back together again.

What I don't understand is why both sides can not get together and share a beer and just air their grievances. What beers would I personally recommend? I would any Belgian because its about the company and bridging differences.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just when I become one of them, the Prime Minister resigns

King Albert eagerly awaits by window for Prime Minister Leterme to show up and give his resignation

Just when I receive my Belgian identity card, the Prime Minister decides to resign! Coincidence? Probably not. Ironic, just a little bit. This is actually a blessing in disguise since it forced me to google and check who the Belgian Prime Minister is (or was). His name is Yves Leterme. This is the first time I heard of his name. So I googled Belgian Prime Minister. I definitely had a little politics lesson today. Apparently, he went to King Albert to give in his resignation and the King refused. While I am not sure why Prime Minister Leterme wants to resign, I am guessing it has to do with the whole Wallonia/Flanders rivalry that rears its ugly head all the time.

Belgium is one of those countries that is divided linguistically and socially. On one side you have the proud French speakers or Wallonians and on the other there are the prouder Dutch speakers or Flemish. Both sides live their lives as if the other does not exist. There are separate governments, villages, news and even cable channels. Go to Antwerp and try and speak French. It won't get you anywhere. While Brussels is supposed to be the bilingual city, finding a Dutch speaker is like finding a needle in a haystack. It won't happen even though everything from street signs to menus are in both languages.

Back to my new card... It was a very exciting day as I became sort of Belgian. To celebrate I bought myself a delicious waffle at Belgafura. The waffle was warm, dense and chewy. It was the perfect way to celebrate my new Belgian identity. Now I just need to wave the flag from my terrace.

With these uncertain political times here in Belgium, sometimes you need a father's guidance to get you through the day. So I am reviewing a trio of beers from Witkap Pater. Just looking at the old wise man on the bottle should comfort anyone who is scared that Belgium will implode. Remember that we have beer to keep us sane and safe!
I discovered these beers at BeerMania, my favorite beer shop a few streets away from my house. I purchased all three at one time because they looked like a nice little family. The Witkap-Pater Dubbel is a dark abbey beer. While I am not a fan of the dark beers, this one had a nice earthy bitter taste. What I thought was interesting about this beer was the color. It was a dark brown beer with a nice reddish hue. The Witkop-Pater Tripel is a blond. The beer has a nice froth and tasted very earthy. The last in the trio the Witkop-Pater Stimulo is a blond abbey beer that tasted also earthy almost reminding me of chamomile. According to my beer bible All Belgian Beers, the Stimulo is one of the few abbey beers that are not pasteurized or re-fermented in the barrel. All three beers tasted delightful and are great served together so you can get the whole Witkop Pater variety effect.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Belgium dresses up its National Symbol today

The Mannequin Pis all dressed up.

Today was one of those days where I just decided to take the baby and walk. I had no idea where I wanted to go but knew that I was in the mood to see something. The baby and I set out from Place Luxembourg and just walked (or rather I pushed the baby in her pram). After reaching the end of Rue Luxembourg, I crossed over and began walking towards the Royal Palace. The Palace is smack in the middle of the city and traffic drives nonchalantly by this big house. The building as you can see is not the prettiest. To me it looks more like a parliamentary building than the King's house. The gardens looked as if they were on the verge of blooming.

The King's house

After the Palace, I made my way down towards the old city. The old city is always a fun place to visit, as it is always filled with tourists and there is a certain vibe that you don't find anywhere else in Brussels. The Grand Place with its big cobble stoned open space surrounded by typical Dutch buildings always seduces tourists. I think this is because it is one of the nicest places in the city to visit. After Grand Place, I decided to visit the Mannequin Pis. It is always fun to watch tourist snap pictures of a little urinating boy. Trust me, I was one of them when I first saw the statue. Now I just chuckle. Today was a lucky day because the statue was all dressed up.

To be honest, I had no idea who the statue was supposed to be. He looked like a bell hop. Readers, do you know who little pee pee is supposed to be? In any case, it was a nice surprise and of course I had to snap some shots.

When I first came to Belgium, I tried a beer called Mannequin Pis. Since I was not keeping the blog or recording my drinking then, I did not take notes but I thought mentioning this brand would be appropriate because of today's entry. Next time I go to my local Delhaize I am going to buy some bottles and review it in honor of the Mannequin Pis being all dressed up.