Before arriving, I didn’t realize how similar the Dutch and Flemish languages are. Learning a little Nederlands has helped me in both countries. Simple functions like cancelling a reservation online, or logging out from a shared computer — these things are useful when you’re travelling.
The best bit of langauge I’ve acquired is “Spreken u Engels?” which simply means “You speak English?” At the very least it’s always caught the attention of someone that does.
My Airbnb experience has been fantastic so far. I used it last year in Dublin, and twice so far this trip. In Amsterdam, my place was a caravan that sat on a private lot behind a houseboat. From the patio I looked out on the city itself, across the river T’IJ.
Here in Brussels I’m staying with Elise and Iria, a couple that pride themselves on their gourmet skills. I’ve only met Iria so far, and she was rather disappointed to learn I was vegan because she picked up some really good cheese to pair with beer.
I learned from her about Bookalokal, which appears to be the foodie version of Airbnb. Do a quick search of whatever town you may find yourself in, and make a reservation online. The twist on this, is that you’re eating it in the residence of the person that prepared it, rather than at a restaurant. Does homemade Indian Hyderabadi Biryani sound good? Kiran, here in Brussels, is serving it for €20 per guest. Sign up, pay in advance (so Kiran can properly plan his grocery list), then — along with whomever else it booked it — show up at the appointed time!
Speaking of schedules, I still don’t know mine this week. I check out of Brussels, Monday morning, and plan to point my bike towards Eindhoven. If I can get most of the way there on Monday, hopefully I can make Nijmegen (the oldest city in Holland, dating back more than 2,000 years) by Tuesday night.
Until then, I’ll be enjoying my beer.
Today, while finishing off my breakfast (veggie burger, because I can’t stomach another falafel, and Europe is tough on those that don’t consume dairy), I heard a brass band coming towards the restaurant. My bill got settled just in time for me to get outside and witness a parade of brewers making its way toward Grand-Place.
I love these Belgians. They close down streets to applaud brewers. Hotel reception desks and coffee shops sell Maredsous and Duvel. Even my aforementioned Airbnb host, Iria, had plenty of different beers in her fridge. When I first arrived yesterday afternoon, I was greeted with a good selection of bottles, from which I opted for the Chimay Bleue. It was served in a proper Chimay glass. My next drink was a Leffe Rituel 9°, which appeared in a Leffe chalice! Good beer sure makes it easier to forgive Europeans their vegan shortcomings.
Back at the plaza meanwhile, the tents are set up in an area far too small for how many people want in. It’s packed inside the hop-adorned rails, and plenty of people are forced to line up outside until others leave. The queue for tickets is also huge, so drinkers that show up later have to have a lot of patience. Unlike Toronto, in Brussels they will issue refunds on unused tokens (beer caps), but that’s hardly an incentive to come in the evening.
Once you’re in, you still have to fight your way through crowds to get to the vendors. I’ll be going early, Sunday (and hoping for rain), to finish off the six or seven beers I still have credit for (don’t worry Mom, they’re small). Follow along, if you like, on my Untappd page.
It’s midnight in Brussels right now, and I’m nearly adjusted to this time zone (six hours off from home). Sleep take me and beer wake me.