After just over two weeks in Italy, we flew north to Brussels for the last of the trip – the Belgium/France leg! This post is a quick overview of some of the places we stopped in Belgium, and a few memorable food and watering holes along the way.
Orval | The Trappist Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval offers up a bit of everything to the road-weary traveller and is well-worth a stop. A ticket gets you entry to the beautiful ruins of the medieval abbey and adjoining museum, then you can stock up on biere and fromage D’Orval in the shop, and even stay in on-site accommodation. Just up the road from the abbey is A l’Ange Gardien, where we tried a couple of Orval beers on tap as well as a selection of Abbey-made cheeses.
Bouillon | This gem of a village is nestled in a tiny valley of the Ardenne hills between an incredible 8th-century fortress and the Semois river, and is just a stone’s throw from the French border. After travelling from Orval we hit up dinner up Brasserie de Bouillon for some local Ardenne pâté and a craft beer or two (both of which would be become something of a habit).
Poperinge | This pretty little town is surrounded by hop fields and some seriously cool places to taste the local brews. When in Belgium right? We borrowed bicycles from Bnb Hop Inn and made the 10km ride north to the village of West Vleteren to the cryptically-located De Struise Brouwers, a tiny brewery with some big beers, all housed in a series of old classrooms. From there it was a short ride to the Sint Sixtus Abbey and their adjacent cafe In de Vrede. Here we feasted on more cheese and the local pâté, as well as the pleasingly-named Hommelpaptaart, a hops and honey cake served with lashings of cream and ice cream.
Ypres | After taking in the excellent Flinders Museum and grandeur of the Menningate, Brasserie Kazematten was a terrific spot to stop for lunch. We opted for the Soup Of The Day with freshly baked bread, washed down with a couple of Trappist beers.
Brussels | Right next to our lovely Air Bnb apartment was the brilliant little restaurant Madame Chapeau. It’s a concept de Stoemp-Bar, Stoemp meaning sausage, where you pick your sausage, your sauce and your side. Around the corner is the awesome beer bar Moeder Lambic, housed in a bright and airy space undercut with an edgy dive-bar vibe. Here we snacked on barely while waiting for our food and beers, the latter chose from over 50 taps including a huge range from local brewery Cantillon. The former, not-surprisingly, was the cheese platter – six different types of cheese, a few varieties of pâté, various pickles, salami, and a huge basket of fresh bread. When in Belgium there is always room for waffles, and my flavour of choice was always speculoos, spiced biscuits crushed into a serioulsy delicious paste: kind of like peanut butter, but gingerbread-flavoured. I feel an attempt to make these biscuits coming on, so keep an eye out for the recipe!