October 30, 2012
A girl, her hubs and a suitcase…………..
Some interesting facts about Belgium………
- There are over 800 different kinds of beer in Belgium
- Belgium claims to have invented the French fry
- Belgium has the least amount of McDonald’s than any other country
- Belgium has legalized euthanasia
- Belgium has mandatory voting and education up to 18 years of age
- The Belgium highway is the only man-made structure visible from the moon due to all the lights
This morning we left Crupet and drove towards our final destination Brussels-where we will spend the rest of our vacation until we leave Monday morning. Except we had one last stop we needed to make in the region. Somehow, I got it in my head I wanted to visit the Bister Mustard Company.( http://www.bister.com/EN/index.asp) In my research I had read something regarding a tour of the Mustard factory, and in my delusional fantasy I pictured an abbey or a monastery deep in the woods of Belgium. Monks crushing mustards seeds with a mortar and pestle, walking barefoot with Gregorian chants harmonizing in the background, soothing waterfalls flowing with gardens of orchids and flamingos walking through the sacred grounds. I pestered Frank to the point of harassment , whining and moaning until he relented. We drove our 7 miles to Namur Belgium-to the industrial park, that housed a red brick building that resembled an old school house. Workers wearing hair nets, resembling Laverne and Shirley took smoke breaks. I knocked on the door, and a bewildered woman questioned what we needed (in French). I told her I was here for a tour. She said this was not possible-that only groups of 15 or more could obtain such a privilege. Groveling and disappointed I inquired about a gift shop, and she escorted about 5 feet where a shelf of mustard sat. Excited with my findings (even though there were no monks slaving over my jar of liquid gold) I was still happy.
After my enticing acquisition, we preceded our journey to Brussels. Entering Brussels around noon, the city was swelling with people, traffic horrendous and a very confused navigational system. The plan was for Frank to drop me off at the hotel with all the bags, Frank would drop off the car, and meet me at the hotel. During the car exchange, somehow the Garmin was lost. The good news is we had it during the much needed driving excursions. The bad news is some worker at Avis Rental Car is now driving around with our Garmin. This cannot be proved, so we will not dwell on it. Plus, Christmas is right around the corner. A casualty of travel , a minor one in the scheme of things. Having had a wallet stolen in Madrid, a jacket lost in Venice, a camera bag in Rome, and most recently a converter 2 days ago-it is the way of travel-it happens.
Our exquisite hotel Le Dixseptieme (http://www.ledixseptieme.be/) is located in the hub of the city. It is finely decorated, very cozy, centrally located, and has very friendly staff. We ventured out to explore the city, walking the cobblestone streets, with the scent of French fry grease wafting through the air. French fries and waffles are the bookend carbohydrate staples of this culture. Although, I have not seen any obese individuals-oddly enough. We attempted to stop for an indulgent waffle-tempting pictures of ice cream melting over the doughy sweet delight. But, the tacky tourist task seemed gluttonous. There was no food group we could place this-so with whatever discipline we had left we exited the overpriced crowded establishment. We stopped for coffee later on to refuel.
For dinner we took our hotel hostess recommendation and went to a lovely place named Restaurant de L’Ogenblik (which translates to “The Moment”). To get there, we had to walk through an intimidating area-where restaurant owners groveled for patrons-like desperate car salesmen. Menus colorful and deceptive displaying all of Belgium’s finest delicacies. Pink tablecloths adorned the outside tables, as hungry tourists eager to throw these vultures their money -sat anticipating their $40 euro appetizer. We scurried past these money traps- to our suggested restaurant. It was a beautiful establishment , Michelin rated and very popular. It had a Belgium charm, sand lay sprinkled on the floor –an old Flemish custom dating back to the days when patrons chewed tobacco and spit on the floor.
Dinner started with crunchy, crispy French bread with an alarming size slab of butter. I ordered the “flower pot” which was a beautiful mosaic of vegetables seasoned to perfection, with potatoes au gratin- cooked to precision-that has caused me to raise the bar quite high. Frank had a steamy seafood bouillabaisse that he seemed to enjoy. It was an expensive meal- but very special and delicious. After dinner, we strolled the streets, kids and teenagers following the traditions of their U.S neighbors decked out in their Halloween duds.
Stay tuned for more Belgian adventures……………..
Love and overpriced, greasy ,artery- clogging French fries,
~Brooke and Frank”