Author Archives: beers on the road

DELTA – Belgian IPA

Hey everybody, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.. been busy lately, work, etc.  Anyhow, thought I’d introduce this great beer I stumbled upon in Brussels.  It’s called “Delta” … an organic IPA brewed right here in Brussels.  Yep, you did read I-P-A. I haven’t read those three sacred letters since the last time I was back home in Washington state.  But there’s a movement here in Brussels, the Brussels Beer Project, started by a couple guys here in town.  They’re brewing various prototype beers, raising funds hoping to open up a new micro-brewery in downtown Brussels.  Anyhow, Delta is just one of the few they’ve come up with… and being a major IPA lover, I had to try this when I came across it.

This beer is a clean, delicious IPA: bitter and sweet smelling.  The perfect yin-yang balance for my favorite type of beer.  It’s flavorful and took me by surprise at first – I didn’t think Belgians could pull off an IPA this well.  But I’ve got to give it to the guys down at the Beer Project.

I found the beer in “1180” .. a wine and sandwich cafe in the neighborhood of Uccle.  haha yeah, I know, wine and sandwiches right?  It works… Plus the owner has got at least 15 different microbrews available.  Delta stood out cause it was the only IPA.  Anyhow, you can only find this beer in Brussels.  Until next time..

Delta Beer 1

Delta Beer 2


Croatia: Rijeka to Okrug

What’s up everyone?  R and I just got back from one of the best trips we’ve had, to Croatia.  Also, it was a great way to say goodbye to my 20’s and bring on turning 30.  I’ll be breaking this post down into parts, cause really there was so much to write about this time, and we have some amazing photos to share.

R and I really wanted to leave as much to exploration, adventure, and uncertainty as possible.  Travel seems to be so structured these days.. we look online, browse pictures, read stories, and learn so much about the places we travel to before we even go there, that there’s little left to be surprised about.  No mystery = no excitement.  I’ve fallen into this category more than once – I’m not pointing fingers – but this time around, R and I really wanted to break the mold.  I mean.. we didn’t waltz into Croatia completely ignorant – we researched how to get around, but that was about it.

DAY ONE, HVARTSKA!

First day, what a day!  haha… First of all, our take-off out of Belgium was a great start.  When planes usually take off, they line up on the runway, probably run a couple more hydraulic/engine tests, hold the brakes, then give it throttle and let ‘er go.  But our pilot, before finishing the taxi way, GUNNED the engines, made a swerving right turn onto the runway, then gassed it like he was getting on the freeway!!  LOL it was awesome 🙂  I wish all planes did that.

A short flight later..we landed in Rijeka.  It was a huge shock stepping off the plane onto the Croatian tarmac into 80+ degree weather.  We’re not used to that coming from Belgium 🙂

We had no specific plans as to how to get to our apartment in Ciovo.  We only knew we had to get there within 24 hours.  I did read that busses are the preferred way to get around in Croatia.  It seemed easy enough – so we grabbed a taxi, and as I started to attempt pronouncing “bus station” in Croatian, the driver interrupted, “You wanna go to the bus station?”  in perfect English haha.. so off we went.  He dropped us off at a small town where we could grab the bus, and R and I were amazed at the views and how beautiful of a country Croatia was turning out to be.  Little did we know that this small town’s charm was nothing compared to what we were going to experience in the next several hours.

The bus ride is a post of it’s own.  What a journey.. We bought tickets to Split, which is in the ‘neighborhood’ of the town we were staying in.  We still didn’t have any place booked to stay the night, and figured the bus would get us into Split with plenty of time to find a place to stay.  But we didn’t realize the only road to Split was on the scenic route – Croatia’s equivalent to California’s highway 101.

The drivers were really helpful- we had reserved tickets for the bus, but we found out later that an older woman talked her way onto the bus for free, plus they picked up another extra rider before we boarded (= the seats that were reserved for R and I), so the backup driver gave up his seat at the very front of the bus to R.  I had to stand for the first 30 minutes until the extra rider was let off.  Was like riding a roller coaster standing up.  R, lucky girl, got to stay in the front of the bus the whole trip, with the best views.

The coastal route our bus took is nearly indescribable.  I mentioned it’s like Cali’s 101, but in reality blows the 101 out of the water.  Croatia’s coastline is entirely rock and cliff face.. but is like nothing I’d ever seen before.  That’s definitely one of the benefits of traveling to an entirely different region of the world – seeing something completely different.  The road is built just at the point where the sea reaches the jagged rocks of the shore.  The bus made wickedly sharp and windy turns around the rocks, left and right, at least a 1,000 times.  Sounds fun??  HA!  If you’re an adrenaline junkie – cause our driver was seriously hauling ass.  You’d think that on a dangerous road, you would drive a bit carefully.  Our driver – NOPE.  Dude took every corner like it was his glorious last.  A tour bus with 50 souls aboard didn’t even deter him.  haha what was funny the whole time, I was just thinking about R sitting in the very front row and how she was probably coming to terms with her mortality.. making peace with god.. etc!!  Especially that one BRIEF straight away where the driver decided to PASS somebody (!!) and as soon as he pulled out, an oncoming car came barreling around the corner.  The car flashed his lights, our driver flashed his (still hadn’t overcame the car we were passing), and at the last second whipped the bus back over into our lane… LOL, R said she let out a small little yelp, and it took all she had to keep it from turning into a scream.

Well, long story short: Eight hours of minute-by-minute near death experiences along the most beautiful coastline we have ever seen.

We made it to Split just past 11pm.  A few folks we talked to said “good luck” getting a hotel in downtown Split at that hour.  I kept reassuring R that we’d be good – sure enough we were.  Found a room right on the waterfront- it was the last room they had.  We slept like two bumps on a log that night, falling asleep to the Brazil/Colombia world cup match.  (I felt bad for Colombia.. they wanted it so bad, plus Germany took Brasil to SCHOOL the next game, so it was kind of a wasted win for Brasil.)  People were parting hard in Split well into the night – but we slept through everything.

 

SPLIT-OKRUG GORNJI

That bus ride took a lot out of us, but we woke up ready to go.   We were up at 6am by chance.. woken up by the sunlight I suppose.  We didn’t want to miss out on a minute of the trip, so got up and wandered around the waterfront and took in the fresh sea air.. damn it was refreshing.

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Breakfast was our first taste of real Croatian hospitality.  We grabbed a table outside on the boardwalk, and up came the waiter.  He apologetically said, that all the hotel could offer us for breakfast for the moment was an omelet with mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, cheese, plus jam, bread & honey.  He was especially sorry to say that all they had to drink was coffee and juice!  HAHA…  the dude must not have noticed our mouths watering 🙂  We both said at the same time “Perfect, we’ll take it!!”  It just showed us how warm Croatian folks are, and it started the morning off on a great tone.  Chow was served, we indulged, then moved on to find a bus to our main destination.

Split is so easy to get in and out of.  There’s an airport, ferry terminal, bus & train station.. probably a submarine if you asked for it!  So it was simple to find a bus to get us towards Trogir.  We narrowly missed the bus, though, cause the busses here are labeled only with the final destination city (duh!)   This time, no standing – R and I got to enjoy the ride together 🙂  What was even better, was that it was the same bus crew who originally drove us to Split!  They recognized us, and it was cool to be able to greet them in their language also.. I brushed up on a few words in Croatian before we left; a few friendly words go a long way on trips like this.

CIOVO ISLAND – TROGIR & OKRUG GORNJI

The bus took the freeway this time, so it wasn’t as wild of a ride as the day before.  We pulled into Trogir mid-morning.  Very busy, touristy, but a LOT of old-world charm (was founded in 300 BC, so I read somewhere).  We knew the general direction of our apartment, but specifically were clueless how to get there.  So we set to walking 🙂

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We wound our way through the city, over the main bridge connecting ancient Trogir and our island, Ciovo, and pressed on.  The locals were really cool about giving directions – although for locals, their estimations for distances were WAY off (??).  One gal was saying “just one kilometer”, and a TAXI driver (he knew the address exactly) told me not even one more kilometer about a mile after that.. Well, they both were considerably off, but it didn’t matter cause we were in exploration mode.  It wasn’t until we were about four miles into our walk, with temps now hitting 85+, where we said enough was enough.  I approached a tourist info booth, and showed the guy our address.  He couldn’t get us a taxi (I actually tried waving down at least four, but apparently taxies go on reservations in Croatia, not on wave-downs).  But he turned toward a table in the nearby restaurant and hollered at his group of buddies, and asked them who wanted to be a taxi driver haha.. one girl offered to give us a ride in her own car, which was really cool of her to do.  It was another great example of local hospitality.

Our apartment was in the town of Okrug Gornji, not even 100 meters from the waterfront, overlooking the bay.  For me, the best part was being right on the water.  For R, I knew the best part was pretty much everything about the climate lol… She felt right at home the minute we arrived.

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I’ll get to writing about the rest of the trip in the next couple posts.  Until then, as we say in the Marines, “Standby to standby.”  lol…

Thanks for reading.

-Phil


Resistance in Paris

_MG_6141What up everyone…  got a great post for you today.  So most folks visit Paris for the culture, food, history, architecture, or whatever dream they’re following about being in this city.  Granted, it’s one of R and my favorite cities in Europe – but we made a pilgrimage the other week for a completely different reason altogether:

Anyone remember the Modern Warfare 3 multi-player map, “Resistance”??  R and I found it, IN PARIS – it exists!

OK so if you’re not a hardcore Modern Warfare/Call of Duty gamer you’ll have no idea what the hell I’m talking about haha… but back a few years ago, R and I stayed up many late nights playing MW3 online with our friends.  We’d have such a fun, hilarious time with our friends from Washington, Dan & Marta, playing online together – terrorizing all the 10-year olds online!  haha oh what fun…  making loads of buffalo wings, pizza, beer, spending great times with our buds.

Anyhow, one of the best multi-player maps in MW3 is this Paris-themed area called “Resistance”.  I don’t think most (or hardly any) of the people who used to play this game would think anything about this map, or whether it might exist in real life – BUT IT DOES!!

Here’s a quick screenshot of the map:

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I’m telling you, it’s the most random neighborhood corner in Paris, located in the popular Montemarte district.  It’s about five blocks away from anything remotely touristy – so why the game developers chose to use it for their game, or how they (freakishly) coincidentally built a virtual map that looks exactly like this small square just blows my mind.  It was very cool to find it, in person 🙂  Here’s some of our photos of “Resistance”:

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Weird!! It felt like we were in the game haha….

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It’s the gate from the back corner!

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Even the big stairs exist!!!

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R’s favorite hiding spot in the game is just behind the gate to the right.

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Tell me this isn’t the map…

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So this is it: Place Dalida in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. The weirdest feelings of deja vu I’ve ever experienced.


Dinant, Belgium

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What’s up everyone – I just wanted to share a few photos of R and my latest tour of another interesting Belgian town, Dinant.  Dinant’s mostly known for being the early home of Adolphe Sax, the dude who invented the saxophone.  It’s also known for a bridge, a church, and a fort atop a cliff (sounds like just about every European town I’ve been to).  But we went to Dinant only because growing up, I was really into music – particularly playing my alto sax.  Jazz band, the wind ensemble, jam sessions with old high school buddies – I even composed a complete jazz piece for my band that was performed at our final concert.  I still have my old horn and don’t get to playing it as often as I like – but I had really been excited to visit the birthplace of the saxophone since the moment I (surprisingly) knew it came from Belgium.  Anyhow – I’m glad I got to check this one off my list…

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Overlooking the bridge from the fort

Overlooking the bridge from the fort

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The Dinant riverfront

The Dinant riverfront

Some street art

Some street art

 


Best meal I ever had

R and I went out to try this new restaurant the other night, and man alive did we get more than we hoped for.

The Brasserie Bavaria in Brussels is where we went, thanks to a recommendation from a colleague of R’s.  I’m telling you right now…. it was THE BEST MEAL I’d ever had in my life.  hands down…. can’t beat it.

So if you’re looking for some good Bavarian food- head to Brussels!  haha..

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We started the night off right with some drinks – it was the first bar in Europe we’ve been to that served R’s martini in a martini glass.  Like that’s asking a lot…lol

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I ordered the house special – the Koning Ludwig Weissbier – voted world’s best wheat beer in 2008, I think I read.  Damn what a good beer.  Highly recommended if you ever run into it.  It was perfectly hazy and smooth, served in a nice tall .5L.    Very delicious..  it’s making me thirsty again just thinking about it.

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For dinner, I had a steak with peppercorn sauce, R had the house schnitzel, served with roasted potatoes.  Holy **** the food melted in our mouths.  I think we were hypnotized and forgot to take photos, but then again the presentation of the food was quite simple, just like a home-cooked meal.  (lol) It was funny getting ready to eat; we could hear the chef in the kitchen beating the living hell out of the steak he was about to whip up to turn into R’s schnitzel!  He was really going to town, but it paid off!

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L’ambience etait extraordinaire….. HAHA

After dinner I ordered a random beer off the menu… ahhh I kind of regret doing that.  Wish I would’ve ordered another wheat beer, cause what I got was a classic pilsner..  Flavorful, but just plain for my taste.  It’s the Warfsteiner pilsner.

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That’s about it for this post.  For the best food ever, hit up this restaurant in east Brussels, and enjoy!

Gouyasse

3. Gouyasse – Brasserie des Legendes (Brewery of the Giants), Ath, Belgium

Hey folks – another weekly beer review.

This beer is a Belgian ale that is brewed just 15 minutes from where we live in the small city of Ath (pronounced “At”).  This city is known for being the city of the giants, here in Belgium, and hosts an annual celebration along those lines.

Anyhow, the beer is no real big surprise in terms of flavor or other unique quality.  It pours a bit hazy and golden, and is well carbonated.  The beer is very light and refreshing, and would be a great beer to put back after maybe a long day of work on a summer day.  The initial feeling is very crisp and fruity, light fruits that is.. apples, grapes, and such.  It almost reminds me of a sparkling wine, that’s how light at fizzy this beer is.  I prefer beers with stronger flavor, obviously, but this Gouyasse beer is pretty refreshing, but still, it holds its own.  I won’t necessarily go and seek out this beer for its own sake, and give it a 5/10 for my own personal preference.


Barbar

2. Barbar – Lefebvre Brewery, Quenast, Belgium

The second beer I’m displaying this week is another unique Belgian beer – a strong pale ale (8% abv) by the name of “Barbar” brewed in the Walloon region of Belgium.  I love this style of bottle – it’s sort of ‘corked’ by a rubber stopper that is held in place by a metal contraption that sort of reminds me of a puzzle.  The metal is leveraged perfectly to seal the stopper in place and probably works better than just a metal cap.
The beer pours a gold color and is nice and clear.  Foamy head..
First taste: sour, sharp edge.. yet tasty.
After flavor: the honey really sets in and rounds out the edge perfectly.  Really nice tasting beer.  R liked this one a lot 🙂

The alcohol content didn’t sway me at all from finishing this beer off quickly.  Despite the sharp taste at first, the flavor really smoothes out in the end – probably thanks to the honey.

I’d give this thing a 7/10 for my own personal preference, only because I’m biased towards more hop flavor in my beers.  (Back home I was crazy for IPA’s).  But Lefebvre’s Barbar is really worth trying – and I’m really curious how this beer turns out on tap.
Until next time…

De Verboden Vrucht / Le Fruit Defende

Here’s a list of the beers that I’ve tried around the world, and my stab at giving them all a decent review.  I will be neither scientific nor sappy with any of my reviews; I’ll just leave my best biased opinion.  I’ll keep a running list, so standby for updates.  Cheers, everyone 🙂

1. De Verboden Vrucht / Le Fruit Defende – De Kluis Brewery, Belgium

The beer pours with a dark caramel color, thick head with a swampy sediment at the bottom.  I realize the glass in the photo isn’t the proper medium to be drinking this beer out of, but ordinarily it is served in a “goblet” style glass.  It is very light and crisp at first, and sweet.  After a second, the true ale flavor and high alc. % sets in.

I read a review online about this beer and some person said “ginger bread cake, plum, and raspberry scone with a clove hit”  LOL that’s getting too much into the weeds for me.. Yeah the beer is a bit fruity tasting and you can pick up on a little bit of honey, but overall this is just a strong ale, and I’d recommend it.  I’ll try to find this on tap and provide an update.

Strong flavor… I give it a 7/10 for my personal taste preference.

Our Thanksgiving in Morocco

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I haven’t written a post in ages..  Well at least I have a good reason to now!  R and I took a trip to visit some of the family in Morocco over Thanksgiving and took a much desired break.  We went from the mid-30’s in Belgium to the 70’s in Rabat (where we stayed), so it was awesome.  I think we were the only people in the entire country wearing shorts and t-shirts haha… all of the locals (including our family) were in jackets and sweaters!

Morocco has always been a place we wanted to visit.  I’ve lived and traveled to several Middle Eastern countries, and Morocco definitely had it’s own unique identity and image.  Even though it shares common cultural traits with those other “Arabic” countries, it really had a different feel.  We really enjoyed it and will definitely go back to visit other places, like Marrakesh or the Atlas mountains.  Anyhow – no beer in this post – just a bunch of our photos.  Enjoy.   (FYI: the traditional attire in Rabat are Jedi Knight robes like the photo above.. freakin awesome).

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Our view from the plane.. wicked huh?

Rabat is right on the Atlantic.  It felt great to take in the fresh ocean air; it reminded me of home.

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The Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

Right at the edge of town, there’s this very elaborate mausoleum and mosque for one of Morocco’s former rulers. We had fun dinkin around, checking things out, climbing over all the columns, and chasing our nephew all over the place.

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IMG_4397Parkour!!  haha so respectful..  I’m not sure what’s up with all the columns, it was pretty cool though.

Chellah Roman Ruins

Some of the old ruins in town made for a fun day tour.  Lots of cool passageways and opportunities to chase around our nephew once again, haha.  He’s such a ball of energy.

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IMG_0225R: My gorgeous Chief Correspondent lol…

The Local Souq

This was one of the real highlights of the trip, getting to walk around the local markets and even do some bartering for a cool tea set we picked up.  There was some weirrrddd stuff there too – like one guy was selling lamb SHINS and FEET.  No joke.  I don’t even know what you’d do with that, cause it sure as hell didn’t look edible.  There were lots of spice stands, carpet shops, furniture makers, and shops selling every little Moroccan-style trinket you could think of.  Very fun time 🙂

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There’s a small neighborhood on a cliff just above the ocean, that is painted in the timeless white and blue motif, I suppose is characterizes Mediterranean culture.  The small alleyways zig-zagged and never seemed to end, and made for some neat photos.

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Us and the family in the photo above.  haha notice I’m in shorts.. I got plenty of looks for dressing like that.  The town behind us and the old city walls is where we explored for a bit.

FOOD.

One of the local dishes is called “tajin”, which is a big mix of meat, sauce, walnuts, and apricots.  Man oh man it was delicious.  It’s served in the traditional ceramic dish and cover you can see below.

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Besides all the walking around, touring the city and eating tajin, we really took advantage of just relaxing and staying in our sweatpants most of the day lol…  We drank Moroccan tea, caught up with the family, and felt really refreshed by the time we came back to Belgium.
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Moving out of Brussels

R is here writing today – it’s my first post.

It has been more than a week now since we moved out of our Brussels apartment, and relocated in the beautiful country side in Belgium.

After a year living in Brussels, life  started to become daunted. Brussels has a few things to offer, like any other major city of course, but what it’s known for becomes boring and repeatable after only a few weeks of living there.  It’s not like any feeling I have ever experienced in any other major city. Eventually, the list of cons became way longer than the pros.   That’s when we started to think that maybe there was another part of Belgium that we might enjoy more, and that offered the same (maybe more) opportunities but with less of the pollution, claustrophobia, and stress.  Don’t get me wrong- I’m speaking as a former resident of Brussels and not as a tourist. If you are ever in this part of Europe, definitely pass through for a couple days and see all of the best Brussels has to offer; entering the Grand Place for the first time is a breathtaking experience, especially on a sunny day.

I know, foreigners life in a foreign land can be a tragedy more than a comedy.. But it was a life-learning experience living in Brussels and was full of comedies with a few tragedies.

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