Friday, May 12, 2017

Bruges, Belgium: A Solo Tour and All the Beers

It was a beautiful day in Bruges. Today I learned that I've been saying the word "Bruges" wrong for days like a doofus. Well not wrong, but French. Bruges is in the Flanders region of Belgium where they speak Flemish, and Bruges in Flemish sounds sort of like Broo-heh. Better late than never I guess.

Staying at the Hotel Karel de Stoute has felt a little like I'm visiting my Belgian grandmother.

For lunch I hit one of those restaurants that had been closed yesterday.
Brasserie De Torre had nice outdoor seating overlooking the canal. 

I went with the "Brugse Reien" which was a nice little set meal. The best part was the cup of carrot soup they brought out. It was sort of like if you took all the carrots out of a chicken noodle soup, then pureed them. I'm going to pretend like I don't know all the beers here are Budweiser's minions.

I had a free tour of the city booked today and I went to the Markt and hung out at the specified meeting place.

There were a few tour guides standing around with their requisite gaudy umbrellas open waiting for their groups to congregate. I never found mine and I don't think that they showed up. I spotted a girl with a Great Britain flag on her umbrella standing by herself so I jumped into her group. No one else ever came so I got a private tour! I don't recall the girl's name but she was Italian. I tried to get a little rapport going by telling her that my great grandfather was from the Calabria region of Italy but she was not impressed. "Yeah a lot of people left there for the US." But but I'm special!

I just want to eat mussels and fries every day.

I liked that this old water fountain for horses was still being used for its original purpose.

There is some legend about the emperor's loyal knight being murdered in Bruges, who had a swan on his coat of arms or something, and as punishment the emperor made the city keep swans everywhere forever as their punishment.

After the tour I stopped for a celebratory waffle. My experience is while in the US we eat waffles as a breakfast meal, here they are just a treat. As such they are often covered in chocolate and other awesomeness.

I went for this checkerboard white and dark chocolate one.

I stopped at a Neuhaus shop to pick up some chocolates to take back home.

You know you're somewhere fancy when they give you a little raincoat for your candy bag.

So I've been wanting to do a damn pub crawl in Belgium for 10 days now. My previous attempt in Brussels was ruined by the rain so I was looking forward to doing one in Bruges. Well, there isn't one. Not in the whole damn city! The closest thing I could find was a beer tasting at a hostel. Close enough!

It was at the Hostel Lybeer Bruges which had sort of a creepy vampire's sitting room vibe to it. The tasting leader dude Kai was fun and made it a lot more interesting than just sitting around and sniffing glasses. 

Speaking of which each of the beers we tasted had their own unique glass which I think is mostly advertising but is supposed to bring out the beers' flavor. Duvel's glass has a laser etched "d" in the bottom of the glass which causes bubbles to stream out from it producing a pretty cool effect.

We had a few of the fun Belgian abbey beers and I really liked the Chimay Blue. Apparently some of the abbeys' beers are near impossible to obtain with crazy waiting lists and weird purchasing rituals that have to be done at the abbey itself. I laughed a bit when he included Orval in the "hard to find" category because that was the one abbey we visited on my first trip to Belgium. I guess it's getting popular. I didn't super care for it. He added that the Abbeys are all nonprofit and donate their excess to orphanages or something.

Another fun fact was that the Chimays and I assume other beers have lower alcohol content when served on tap because the bottled beers ferment further in the bottle. Fun. Fact.

Our group was pretty diverse. There was a group of three Brazilian girls, a big pack of maybe 6 British people, an Australian, an American, and maybe 4 others mixed in that I don't recall. The British dude sitting next to me was apparently my biggest fan. He told me that he'd rather be bald and have a nice beard like me then the opposite. Later I was chilling on one of the couches and he exclaimed, "He's laid back. He's literally laying back!" I think I got more compliments today than I have all year.

Well I was hoping to make some best buds and then tear up Bruges with them but when the tasting was over people started to thin out. The staff demanded that we put on mardi gras masks because today was masquerade day at the bar. Ok? 

So I'm as laid back as one can be wearing a purple feathery mask, enjoying my abbey beer when one of the Brazilians comes over and asks if anyone wants pizza. I definitely do. I assumed we were going to order it to the bar. Next thing I know a big group is heading towards the door, I'm guessing to go to a pizza place so I follow.

Our group of pizza enthusiasts is 5 girls, myself, and Kai the tour guide. Kai went on and on about how he's and old man and he's been doing this forever blab blah. Finally he says he's 32. I hate you. I laugh to myself when we arrive at Kai's apartment. I'm wondering if he had really intended on me joining this particular part of the beer tasting experience.

The guy's place did have a killer view.

Kai gets a call and it's the bartenders at the hostel who are pissed because he just swiped all the girls out of the place. A very dramatic conversation ensued about including classics like "after all I've done for you" and "I'm never working with you again" and "you will respect me!". That sort of good stuff. A couple of us were exchanging amused glances during this long and loud yelling contest.

The pizza came and was devoured. Everyone was having good times. Then the Belgian roommate appeared and had several off-color sexist jokes that he wanted to spout. No one was laughing and it was really cringe-worthy. Well one of the Brazilians had enough, put on her shoes, and walked out the door. Everyone else followed. I thanked our hosts and made my escape.

Darts happened.

A Swiss dude popped into our group. He asked if I lived here and I said no. He said it seemed like I've been here a while. I'll take that as a compliment. I feel like my demeanor has been going over well around these parts. I'm just chill what can I say?

We continued on to a few more places.

It was loud enough here that I got to try my Belgian beer sign language that I learned at the beer tasting. Apparently if you hold up your pinky that means you want just whatever cheap light beer they have. Language savant over here folks.

There was dancing on the bar. I can barely dance on the floor so I did not partake.

The DJ played a bit of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats' "I Need Never Get Old" which I thought was really fun. I'm in Beligum and I'm listening to a band from rural Missouri that I saw perform on The Tonight Show. Awesome.

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