The Flemish and The Irish!

Trip Start Sep 16, 2010
Trip End Oct 05, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Moon Eat and Sleep

Flag of Belgium  , East Flanders,
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Yesterday, lunch-time.
How cool are the Flemish people?! They seem to take great pride in appearances, but in also having fun doing it. The best example is their beers, and not just the beers but how they serve them. Every Belgian beer has it's own unique glass. Every bartender has his own little setup on how to pour the perfect beer, including cutting the head off; a quick dip in a sink of clean water; then it's own little coaster or even paper dressing around the bottom of the stemmed glass. They love it more when you take the effort to point this out. I said it's never seen in Australia, they're more interested in turnover and not taking pride in it and his response was simple "you have to have fun in whatever you do." He loved his job, but I loved the way he put pride and entertainment into what we consider a menial job in Australia. The fact that he's done it in a way that adds value to the customer is even better! It's making me re-assess how I will deal with my job. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but there has to be ways I can spice up the tedious paper work. I call myself a musician after all, so I have a creative streak in there somewhere to assist this process!

On a side note about the beers: They each have a different favourite and love telling you which one is better. I mentioned that there is the reputed "best beer in the world" about 150km from here (Westvleteren 12) and asked if it was worth the trip. "You can travel all that way for a beer sold in a little bottle in a little cafe… or you can have this one that actually won the crown last year for 2,90€" 2,90????  That's $4.00AU for a bottle of the beer that won the crown last year. I can't buy a schooner of VB for that in a pub in Australia and 2,90€ is also getting expensive in the pub. They start around 2 - 2,50€. 
Mum… Dad… I love you guys, but I'm staying here. You know, purely for economical reasons, like saving money while simultaneously enjoying the best the world has to offer for beer. It's perfectly logical, isn't it? It's like saying "pay $50,000 for a new Daewoo, or get this new BMW for $30,000… maybe pay another 5,000 for a Porsche?"

I'm on a train to Antwerpen right now to do some shopping and check out some breweries, bars and maybe even the nightlife. Let's see how the day rolls along. 'Winging it' has virtually been the theme of the trip. For example, I met a gent last night, Freddy (but only I'm allowed to call him that - supposedly it means something different in Flemish, even the bartender laughed when he heard it!), who has insisted on driving me  to the airport in his Porsche GT3. He was hanging in the same local bar as everyone else, very cool dude. Everyone is very cool here. The people seem to make a point of being adaptable to the world, therefore the English is exceptional, and they're welcoming of the world too. (The girls are cute also)

Today. Lunch time.
I got up an hour ago. Last night wasn't monumentally huge, as I was back in the hotel around 11:30 - but 8% beers have a certain effect on you. Yesterday, I landed at Antwerpen station and had a quick look around. The first thing I saw inside was STELLA ARTOIS in neon. Yes, they had a bar in the train station. Guess what my first stop was…. uh huh…. the bar. Was I blown away or what? It's lined with GOLD and I don't mean the bar, I mean the whole interior and ceiling of the bar. I had to take some photos of this. To be fair, the whole interior of the train station is marble with gold, they just put a bar in one of the flash areas. I can't get over how much gold I've seen over here on old buildings, cathedrals, clock towers, statues, etc

One beer down and I walk outside the station. Of course, he slugged me 3,10€ but it is a station full of tourists. It's still too cheap by Australian standards. I wandered out, had a quick look around outside and found the next Stella Artois sign and headed in for another beer. I walked inside, ordered a beer and then had a look around… probably not a pub I'd recommend. Full of barflies from the 1700's. No teeth. No anything, really. Quickly knocked down a 9.5% beer and got outta there. I then saw Kelly's Irish Pub in the same little area, which I do recommend stoping at. In fact, when in a foreign country the best bet is to find the Irish/Aussie bars as they'll probably have english speakers working in them and if nothing else, it's a good way to find out more about the local area and sights to see. The station side of Kelly's is surrounded by seeded peep shows and kebab shops. Thankfully none of this was open at 13.00. As it turns out, the other side fronted onto the main shopping drag. Fortunately for me, Kelly's was actually full of Irish bartenders (and a girl from Scotland and a nice bloke from Melbourne that we kept giving stick to cos he was only 19) who were incredibly friendly. A quick beer later and a bit of a chat and I was off again. Scored some new clothes, jeans, leather jacket then decided to find a bite to eat. I found a bar down near Grote Markt and the main Cathedral that had a nice menu outside. I went in and asked for some food and got "kitchen is closed until 5, you could always have a beer though" which is the unusual thing about Belgian ales. You don't really feel like eating when you drink them - they're packed full of flavour. So a beer, I had. Re-assessed where I was with another chat to the locals and had a bit more of a look around. After a few hours and a few more beers I headed back to Kelly's. This is where the night got really good (but wasn't the highlight, sorry Kelly's).

One of the bartenders from earlier in the day knocked off not long after I got there, but stuck around and I introduced him to a salted Guinness, his response was "fook, it's not bad!" and he showed me a Baby Guinness shot - Baileys floated on Tia Maria. Very tasty! A lot of laughs (and a lot of drinks) later and I was out the door, back to Sint-Niklaas. Last train was 11:30, so I couldn't stick around as late as I wanted. Unfortunately, I met and had to sit next to Samantha, a gorgeous model, on the train back to Sint-Niklaas. She'd just finished a long day of work as I had just finished a long day of drinking, so the conversation probably wasn't the best, but we'll keep in contact nonetheless.

The highlight of the night was completing one of my dares. Get a mug-shot in Europe. Upon getting back to Sint-Niklaas station, I saw a guy from the Belgian military. I thought "this is better than getting police to take a photo arresting me." After about 5-10mins of convincing, he very happily took me outside and… well… look at the photo yourself. By sheer coincidence, there was an empty bottle of Vodka sitting just outside the door also, so I thought I should use it as a prop too!

Now I sit in my hotel. Breakfast down. I need to pack and hit the road for the long haul home. I don't think this will be the last update, but it's been a pleasure sharing the experience so far. I've got a one hour train to Brussels, then another train to Köln (Cologne) then a high-speed train to München (Munich). I will arrive at 5.40 in the morning for my flight just after lunch. 
Looking around the room…. I REALLY need to pack. I'm going to miss this place and can't wait to spend more time in the Flemish region for Belgium.
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Mum on

Great Travel Blog Aaron! XX

Pauline on

Hope it's not the last blog Aaron, I have really enjoyed reading them. Have had a lot of laughs and this last one was the best I thought.

Stux on

" I said it's never seen in Australia"

You see it at my place when I serve Belgian beers ;)

Always in the right glass :)

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