Brussels: More Seedy than Chocolatey

On a partly sunny late June morning, our redeye landed in Brussels. With dreams of chocolate and architecture, we waited in the immigration line, eager to hit the cobblestone, rather Belgian stone. Our plan, per Rick Steves, was to peruse the town for a few hours and later ride the rails to Bruges. We hopped the train to city centre, stowed our carry-on suitcases in a locker and approached our first outdoor look at Belgium with a warm welcome from…drunk bums. Upon exiting the main train station in Brussels, we found trash, drunk confrontational homeless people and open outdoor toilets. Yay, we made it!

Don’t get me wrong, we like to make our own adventures but since we were foreigners, I suggested we just keep walking toward the Grand Place or Grote Markt like Rick said and get the heck away from the train station. He did mention Brussels was a little seedy, but Brussels sounds so fancy and French, so the only seediness I envisioned was that of chocolate dipped strawberries. Still, each city has its less desirable areas, so we ventured on and found what our little hearts desired…cappuccinos and chocolate filled pastries amid tall and ornate structures.

It became more and more overcast and eventually started to downpour, but the flowers that lined the windowsills of La Grand Place were still beautiful. The architecture consumed hundreds of pictures on our memory card, with each angle or sculpted archway appearing more intricate and astonishing than the last. This was the Belgium I wanted to see, shortly followed by a little peeing baby. “Let’s go see Mannequin Pis”, I tell my husband. “A pissing mannequin? What? Why?” I expected a response like this, since the only portion of the Belgium book he read was on the beer. But we did find the tiny statue of the baby boy peeing into a fountain, which seems to capture quite the crowd of tourists. It is a national symbol afterall…and there are many different variations that poke fun at the original. I found these much more amusing and not quite G-rated enough to post for your viewing pleasure.

We continued to wander and saw a parade of Belgian police ride through the narrow streets on gorgeous horses. It was a procession that included drumming and what seemed like a ceremonious trot through the main square. And though it was raining and the sight was one that we’d remember, I remember most getting my jeans smattered by….”stuff” from a horse splattering on the Belgian stone. I think that is the most delicate way to put that. Wonderful, a post full of bodily functions. But luckily we had our handy laundry detergent and my husband stopped laughing long enough that I could get cleaned up and we could head over to Bruges, which would hopefully welcome our tired and cranky selves with open arms, clear skies and beer.

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An Ode to Past Presidents

In remembrance of past and important Presidents in our US history, I had a beer. Ok, I had a couple beers, but I didn’t celebrate with John’s cousin Sam Adams.

Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia makes a fine selection of beer, but my favorites are amongst the Ales of the Revolution. We first tried these at City Tavern in the Old City section of Philadelphia, where a replica of a past tavern now stands. Our Founding Fathers sought an ale and political banter at the old City Tavern before and during the country’s quest for Independence and they have appropriately served original and historic recipes brewed and re-mastered down the road by the Yards Brewery

Though I could’ve sworn I remembered an Alexander Hamilton brew in years past, the current selections of Revolutionary choices are as follows:

    The Poor Richard’s obviously represents traditional ale by Benjamin Franklin, who was not a President, but a Founding Father none the less.  This is my personal favorite. There is no doubt that his mind led to the formation of not only the United States, and thus American Presidents but also many of the institutions that still hold functional and historic places in our lives today.

    In addition to keeping the recipes traditional, Yards even finds their location to be relatively close to actual historic precedence: Our new brewery is located just blocks away from the site of Robert Hare’s brewery, where Washington’s favorite Philadelphia Porter was crafted.

    These are not your standard and typical beer selections.  Beer connoisseurs will appreciate not only the original recipes and unique ingredients that are traditional to the late 1700’s, but the flavors that rival consistent micro-brews. You’ll also find flavors that you would never find in the watered-down light beers, but this is true with all of Yard’s selections.

    If you’re in the Tri-State area and have a chance to either stop by City Tavern for a sampler or find the variety pack option at one of the local liquor shops, I highly suggest liberating yourself.