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Happy New Years Eve & Welcome to Day 5 of Janet and Randy's Brussels Adventure 2016

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

I was exhausted from the previous day of touring, so I slept straight through until 6:30am - which felt great.  Spent some time catching up on the travel journal, then we went downstairs for breakfast.

I noticed that just on the street it looked like there were crews setting up a scaffolding tower and getting lights and speaker setup.  We were a little concerned as it looked like it could be a rock concert outside of our hotel window.

After breakfast, we took the Metro to a sports store called AS Adventures in the Toison d'Or mall, so that Randy could look for some running gear.  There is this brand called Gore that he really likes, but it hard to find at home.  This store had a fairly good selection, and he ended up getting some running pants, running shorts and a jacket.  In the mall there was a Desigual store - where I found a new travel purse for myself.  Win-win !

Having waffles We took the Metro back to our hotel to drop off our purchases, then we headed out to pick up some souvenirs.  We were booked for a beer tour at 2:00pm, so we thought we would have a snack first.  We stopped at Le Funambule (near the pissing boy statue) and picked up some waffles.  Randy got one with bananas and whipped cream, while I got one with both white and dark chocolate sauce.  They were rather messy to eat on the street (especially with the teeny tiny plastic fork they gave you), but they were very yummy. Now that we are wound up on sugar !

At 2:00pm we headed to the tour meeting place at the Grand Place, where we met our guide, Mark.  It turns out that there was only 1 other couple with us (Katerina and Viktor from Stockholm), so it was going to be a nice small group.

We went off to our first pub - which was across the street from the Manneken Pis statue.  Our first beer was Orval, which I (as a non-beer drinker) actually liked.  The group spent some time getting to know each other, and our guide began one of many philosophical discussions where he shared (and sometimes over-shared) his opinions on various subjects.  This was not your typical tour guide banter.  So, we had an interesting tour ahead of us. Was wondering if Mark was doing some beer tasting before he met up with us.

The rest of the drinking establishments I could probably find again by retracing our route, but I don't know the names of any of them.  So, I'll just list the beers that we drank on our tour.  Also, I should note that almost every Belgian beer has it's own specific glass that it is served in.  So, our Orval beer was served in an Orval glass.  There were a couple beers we had that didn't have their own glass.  Here are the rest of the beers we had:

  • Hoegaarden Grand Cru - this was a wheat beer that Randy really liked, but I wasn't overly fond of
  • Bourgogne des Flandres - this was a fruit beer that was really tasty, but not too sweet - not my fave
  • Westmalle - this was a Trappist beer, which was a little too dark for me.
  • Troubadour Magma (this was served in a Timmerman's glass) - It was okay, but I think Randy ended up finishing up my portion
  • Westvleteren 12 (this was served in a no-name glass) - this is the beer that our guide hyped up to be the equivalent of "angels pissing on your tongue".  It was a really different tasting beer, and I actually liked it.  It is also an expensive beer at 15 euros a bottle. The owner of the bar also served some wonderful cheese with the beer and we all agreed it was the best one.  The unfortunate part of this is that this is a very rare beer, where current production is only 60,000 cases a year (or 475,000 liters).
  • Gouden Carolus Tripel - I don't really recall much about this beer.  I think it was okay, but being the 7th beer, I was starting to lose track.
  • Trappistes Rochefort - this was served in a wine glass, but I believe that this beer normally has its own special glass.  Randy and I had just had this a couple nights earlier, and we weren't overly enthused about it.  But, if you pair it with chocolate, like we did on the tour, it tastes much better. Still not as good as "angels pissing on tongue"

The tour description had mentioned that we would have food, such as sausage, cheese, chocolate and frites, paired with the beer tasting.  At the first 2 places, we did not get any food.  At the next 2 places we got sausage and cheese, and at the last place we had chocolate with the Trappistes Rochefort beer.  But we didn't get any frites.  Bummer.  They lied to us !

Belgian beerAfter tasting the last beer, our guide suggested we go somewhere else for one more drink.  We had walked maybe 50 metres when he changed his mind and decided that the 4 of us should go and have a drink, and he was going to go spend New Year's Eve with his girlfriend.  I wasn't overly surprised as earlier he said his girlfriend was making him supper, but our tour ran about an hour over the original schedule.  So, the 4 of us decided to go find another place to have a drink and discuss our beer tour and unusual guide.

We found a place near the Grand Place that Katerina had spent some time at when she was younger, and we had some Delirium beer.  By this point I was a little 'beered out', so didn't have a lot of it (Randy was kind enough to finish mine off for me).  We spent the next 2 hours talking and laughing with Katerina and Viktor - so it was a great way to spend New Year's Eve. 

Around 9:30pm we parted ways, and Randy and I went back to the hotel.  We hung out for a bit, then decided that we should probably go out and get some food as we hadn't had anything substantial since our waffle earlier in the day.  At 10:30pm we wandered down the street to a Thai place called Pataya and had some Pad Thai and spicy basil chicken.  It was tasty and filling, and hit the spot.

We got back to the hotel around 11:30pm.  The official New Year's Eve celebrations had been cancelled because a terrorist plot had been uncovered in Brussels, but there were a lot of people just milling around the street in front of the hotel.  So, we did some people watching until midnight, and then went to bed.  It was a little noisy because of people setting off firecrackers and just general shouting and whooping - but we managed to fall asleep and sleep right through until morning.  The speaker & light towers that had started to be setup earlier in the day were left half complete and it's unfortunate as there were supposedly fireworks that were planned but then got cancelled as well.   For what it's worth, it was disappointing but it was still great to spend the New Years in Brussels. 

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