Where in the World Wednesday

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Bruges, Brussels; August 7, 2014

Bruges, Belgium; August 7, 2014

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The Four Food Groups in Belgium

I spent most of the last week in Belgium with my cousin; we wandered the medieval streets of Bruges, hauled ourselves up the monument at Waterloo, and sought out the major buildings of the European Union in Brussels. It was a great time, and we did a lot. But just as importantly, we made sure to sample from each of the four major food groups in (tourist) Belgium: beer, waffles, frites, and chocolate.

?, Bruges (only found in Bruges--this one was my favorite)

Ongerfilterde Palm at the Bruges Beer Museum, Bruges (only found in Bruges–this one was my favorite)

Zot, Bruges (one of two beer companies still brewing in Bruges city limits)

Zot, Bruges (one of two beer companies still brewing in Bruges city limits)

Most beers brewed in Belgium have their own glass, and woe to you if you use the wrong glass for your beer. Apparently, it actually causes the beer to taste different. I didn’t test this theory, but anyway you can see that most of the time I had a glass, but occasionally I had to be a philistine and drink from the bottle.

Garre, Bruges (the house bar, which isn't just found in Bruges, it's only found at this one bar--it was my second favorite)

Garre, Bruges (the house beer, which is one of the most rare–it’s found in just one bar in the entire world; it was my second favorite)

Hoegaarden, Brussels

Hoegaarden, Brussels (this is the only beer I’d ever had before–we’d just arrived in town and the restaurant’s beer list was surprisingly limited, otherwise I would’ve been trying something new, like I did everywhere else)

Grimbergen, Brussels

Grimbergen, Brussels

I skipped the shitty-beer-drinking part of college and went straight to being a beer snob, since my boyfriend at the time introduced me to expensive imports and I couldn’t go back. So I was in heaven in Belgium, surrounded by trippels, dobbels, blonds, weisses, and other delicious varieties of beer.

Caulier, Brussels

Caulier, Brussels

Orval, Brussels

Orval, Brussels

Westmalle, Bruges

Westmalle, Bruges

Vedett, Bruges

Vedett, Bruges

Belgians eat waffles plain, no chocolate or whipped cream or anything. Well, sort of plain–they coat the waffle lightly in a sugar syrup that dries quickly and gives it a sweeter taste. The waffles I grew up eating for breakfast were much lighter than the ones here, which are denser, more like cake. Delicious waffle cake.

The Full Tourist--don't care!, Bruges

The Full Tourist–don’t care!, Bruges

The Belgian way, Brussels

The Belgian way, Brussels

I already knew I liked fries with mayo, from my visit to Amsterdam a few years ago. So I was able to confidently order frites with mayo here, although in some places there are a lot more sauces you can try. The secret to the tastiness of Belgian frites is that they’re fried twice, giving them the perfect crispy exterior.

Frites and Belgian beef stew (there was mayo too, didn't make it in the shot--and yes, we had frites properly in paper cones too, but never took a photo)

Frites and Belgian beef stew (there was mayo too, didn’t make it in the shot–and yes, we had frites properly in paper cones too, but never took a photo)

The chocolate in Belgium truly is divine. Every map and tour guide reminded us that Belgians normally just buy cheap chocolate in the supermarket, like everybody else; the fancy stuff is for tourists, gifts for aunties, and special occasions. I suppose that’s because if you were eating the real thing all the time, you’d stop eating anything else. The bonbons are called pralines, which initially confused me, as I looked for nuts, and indeed, pralines often have a hazelnut paste or ganache inside, but they don’t always. Confused? Don’t worry, just point blindly at the display case, and you’ll come away happy. (Um, unless you have a nut allergy, then good luck!)

Pralines in the Brussels airport--there are no photos of the other chocolate I ate, because I never paused to take a photo, but they are aesthetically pleasing as well as delicious

Pralines in the Brussels airport–there are no photos of the other chocolate I ate, because I never paused to take a photo, but they are aesthetically pleasing as well as delicious

Awesome August

Just a short update on how my August is shaping up (spoiler: it’s going to be great). Tomorrow, my 16-year-old cousin and goddaughter will join me on a short trip to Belgium. Neither of us has been before, and we’re excited to spend a couple days in Bruges and three days in Brussels. I figure I’ll eat and drink my weight in chocolate and beer, wander around the medieval squares and old canals, and check out some museums. I haven’t seen hostel lockouts in a long time, but all the places I looked at in Belgium seem to have them as a matter of course–from 11am to 3pm, you have to leave the hostel so they can clean. Most other places now are just cleaning around people, but I see why that would be annoying. Obviously, those are times you’d plan to be out sightseeing anyway, but if it’s a cold, rainy day, that’s less appealing, so wish us good luck with the weather.

On August 11, I fly from Brussels to London Gatwick airport. I have a seven-hour layover and then fly from Gatwick to Edinburgh. I’ll spend a week in Edinburgh, helping out at my friend’s Free Fringe show, seeing as many Edinburgh sights and Fringe shows as possible, and even performing! For three nights, I’ll be part of the Stand Up Tragedy lineup, telling the tale of how I was hit by a car in Vietnam. It’ll be funny and sad, so if you’re in Edinburgh during that week, stop on by. I’ve wanted to be in Edinburgh for the Festival (opera, theater, highbrow stuff) and the Fringe Festival (all types of performance art, much of it experimental or emerging)  for years, so I’m excited to be there, and it’s a bonus to perform. Stand Up Tragedy is run by my friend Dave, who interviewed me for his Getting Better Acquainted podcast last year.

Incidentally, if you have a few coins to spare, you can help Stand Up Tragedy keep afloat at the festival by going to the right-hand column on their website and donating via PayPal. Free Fringe came about as a response to the high costs performers had to pay to get a venue at the Fringe, so while performers don’t pay for their venue at Free Fringe, they still have to pay travel and accommodation costs.

After August 18, I’ll be back in London, job searching in earnest, keeping Stowaway updated, visiting with friends and family, and working on some longer travel pieces. The amazingly sunny weather I’ve experienced in England this year can’t last forever, but this August might be awesome enough to give me some warm days to close out the summer. Hope your August is full of fun and things you love as well!