Tuesday, July 29, 2008

65 Days To Go!

Just over two months to go before I set foot in Belgium and as you might imagine, I'm pretty psyched.

A few decisions on the itinerary for Belgium have been made:

Hostels/Campgrounds instead of Hotels/B&B's - I'm not going to Belgium for all the creature comforts of home; I'm going for the beer! I'm hardly a stranger to roughing it on vacations so I'm sure a hostel room, a trekkershut and a tent will be more than adequate. Not to mention, it's a cheaper way to go and I don't anticipate being in my room that much.

Only One Day for Brussels - Part of this decision is based on my travelling partner not getting to Belgium as quickly as we had hoped but really it just came down to robbing a day from Antwerp to spend a second day in Brussels. Antwerp and Brussels are the only cities in Belgium I have been to before and I have to say that as far as the beery experiences go, Antwerp wins hands down. There are better cafes and the prices are cheaper (or at least, they were). Also, Antwerp is a very underrated city for tourism, beer or otherwise. So, it will be parts of two or three days in Antwerp hitting the pubs and sightseeing and one very full day in Brussels seeing Cantillon, Bier Circus, Poechenellekelder and the like.

Renting A Car - This decision was really based on another one: Did we want to get out of the cities on this trip? We decided that we did. We'll be taking the car out to the Ardennes with the Achouffe Brewery as our primary target and do some camping. The car will also be handy to make a trek out to Westvleteren to visit In De Vrede. We won't have the car the whole time but it will make it much easier to hit some out of the way spots during the journey.

Not Buying Beer At Westvleteren! - To clarify, if they have the six-packs in the shop at In De Vrede, I'll pick a couple up. But I decided that to spend the time to make the reservations, wait in line at the brewery, potentially turn our itinerary upside down to get out there on the correct day and tote around a case of beer for the rest of the trip...well, it just isn't worth it to me. We will go to the cafe but no mass quantities of "the world's greatest beer". The American beer geek in me certainly wants to get as much Westvleteren 12 as I can...but there are so many other beers in Belgium that I can't get here in the U.S....can't sacrifice so much time for just one.

Eating on the Cheap - This is probably a big mistake and I will modify this decision once I get over there but eating out three meals a day is an expensive proposition. So I've got to pick my spots. Frites are a cheap foodstuff, supermarkets can provide an inexpensive light lunch and from what I can recall farmer's markets are fairly common for fruit and such. This doesn't mean that I won't be eating a few meals out in restaurants but I want to target food that is A) very good and B) preferably something uniquely Belgian, dishes I could not get here in the U.S.

So the rough itinerary is two days in Antwerp, a day in the Ardennes, two days in Brugge, a day in Gent and a day in Brussels. The trip will be quite slanted to hitting some great cafes but we are hoping to work in a couple of brewery visits (Cantillon, Straffe Hendrik and Achouffe) and hit a couple of Trappist tap houses (Westvleteren and Westmalle).

More to come...

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