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2008 Charleroi, Namur and Mons

Travellers

JA, PC, TC, DF, MG, TM, RN, KOC, ROC & PV

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9 to 13 October


Thursday


We set off, bleary eyed, early, from Aldershot, and met up as an
eleven strong group in the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras.
(Despite one of us being unlucky, having caught the eye of Customs
and being subject to a search.)
Got into Brussels at 13.15, and having sorted out our bags in the
left luggage lockers, we headed via the underground system into town.
Our first stop was at estaminet A l’Imaige Nostre-Dame (Rue Marche-aux-Herbs) where we embarked on our 2008 liquid tour of Belgium. A couple of beers later in here, KO asked RO (whilst he was doing his David Bailey impersonation with camera), if he was OK. The reply was that he was still standing. Whereupon he turned around and nearly tripped down some stairs. We moved on from there to Toone (6 Impasse Schuddevelde) to resample the Kwak beer in its distinctive hourglass shaped glasses: It’s still good. Also, the place seems to have cleaned up a bit since our last visit. A few beers in there then we moved onto the Delirium Cafe (4a Impasse de la Fidelite) with its huge beer list (available only in the bar, in a bible thickness book.) Another few beers in here, then back onto the underground to catch our connection to Charleroi. – This turned out to be 20 minutes late – (but so what, we’re on a laid back trip!)
Got into Charleroi, and after a ten-minute walk found our base - the Hotel Leonardo. We met up outside the hotel later (KO & DF missing) and set forth to find the delights (?) of Charleroi. First, to find two bars with similar names on the same street. This was confusing, because the bar that we found had the others name and the other one didn’t exist. Thus the nine of us present visited Aux Mille Colonnes (6-8 Rue de Marchienne), an intimate two level bar with an efficient barman. We had a few different beers here and PC was given a free bottle to take with him before we moved on.
We then moved onto the Le Corto aux Caves Vauban (12 Rue de Montignies) bar in another street. This was a cellar bar arrived at by going down a long narrow tunnel. The Belgian Good Beer Guide had recommended this bar because of its large beer list. We discovered that they only had 5 beers, large TVs, loud music and a table football game. However, we did find our two missing travellers there playing the football. Apparently, they were losing the match until another two balls were mysteriously found and they won at the final whistle. Whilst chatting to the staff there, DF and KO had explained our trip and were warned off one of our intended bars because of it’s’ problems with drugs and knifings.
Leaving here, we split up into a few groups going in different directions, and eventually, nearly all meeting up again in the Irish Times bar near to the hotel. A few more drinks in here and then to bed. Two other notable events of our first night there were RN tripping over and damaging his glasses, and RN and TC catching a taxi from somewhere and being taken to the wrong Leonardo Hotel – all turned out well in the end.

Friday


Friday dawned and after breakfast, we set off by train for Namur. Firstly into Bouffon du Roi (60 Rue de Bruxelles). A long thin pokey bar with a reasonable beer list. We had a couple of beers in here and availed ourselves of the free postcards that were hanging there. RO also had the misfortune of accidentally taking a picture of himself whilst looking at JA’s camera.
We then moved on to a recommended bar, - Chapitre, but found it shut. Fortunately, twenty feet away was another listed bar, Brasserie Henry (3 place Saint-Aubain), which was open. This was a large airy place, which appeared to be more for the local University staff than the students. The staff seem to have a very clever ploy here of keeping you waiting so long for your beer, that you weaken and order food as well, which all bar one of us did. Thus, replete after a meal and a couple of beers we departed.
Then onto another bar twenty yards away: Café de la Fontaine (place Saint-Aubain). We sat outside the bar at the tables here in the sunshine watching the world go by. (Especially the female students who seemed to be numerous). We had a couple of beers here before our twenty-year-old waitress suggested a beer, which she thought, would suit us. So, nothing ventured … we tried it - regretfully. Shall we just say that the most memorable thing about this beer was the brown ‘skid marks’ left in the glass when we had finished. We are now wary about accepting advice on beer from 20 year olds.
After a while there, we moved onto La Metropole (1 Rue Emile Cuvelier). This was a smart bar, which looked (from the number of tables and chairs there) like it could at times get very crowded. We had one beer here and then moved to a local farmers market in the square beside the bar. Locals were seen drinking beer there, so we thought our luck might be in for an unscheduled beer fest. No such luck: It was only a couple of gas pumps selling Jupiler in plastic glasses. We then wandered off a little way for a view of the local river. This was a good move, as PV, much to his delight, found a model shop. Also, the less said about ‘the old cow’ the better.
Window shopping and sightseeing over, onto our next bar, Les Caves a Bieres (68 Rue Godfroid). This bar was decorated with stretched cotton wool to resemble cobwebs and hide its plastic furnishings. Here we sampled the Troll beer: All very fitting for a mock cave!
Then we all headed on back to Charleroi and the hotel, to get cleaned up and reassemble that evening.
So, Friday night saw us first visiting Les Templiers (7 Place du Manege). A quiet bar with wooden tables, decorated with etchings on the walls of Monks getting Knights Templar drunk. We had a few beers here: Some of which were served in what looked like giant earthenware eggcups.
Then a short stroll across the street to another bar, Terrasse (82 Boulevard Jacques Bertrand). Another quiet, ‘posh’ civilised looking bar. A few beers here and then bedtime for some.
Others of us then headed into the seedier part of town; to the Café Paris for one last drink (?). Thereafter, most of us headed back to the hotel for the night, where some found the beginning of a regular problem, which was that, the hotel door swipe cards didn’t work.
KO and DF stayed out until half past four surveying the local wildlife: Creatures in windows with massive udders and others with four legs!

Saturday


Saturday dawned and most of us descended for the hotel breakfast. This was notable because there was a local dog show on in Charleroi that day, and several of these dogs were actually being fed from the tables. This was a little disconcerting to say the least.
Only ten of us set off for the day’s outing, DF had not surfaced from the night before. We went by train to the small rural town of Binche. Our first point of call was to be a recommended bar in the middle of town. Thus, leaving Binche station, we wound our way down and up the hills, past the old ‘castle’ walls and buildings. We went through the local farmers market, which was selling live farm creatures. It was suggested that as PV’s mobile phone was playing up; he should buy a couple of the pigeons and let them loose with his messages. Anyway, after struggling through this market in the square, (who let PC have the map?), we arrived at La Petit Mousse (15 Avenue Charles Deliege) where we had a few drinks before our nearby brewery visit.
Leaving the bar, we went back down the hill to the Brasserie La Binchoise (31 Avenue Leopold III). This was situated in an old building at the foot of the ramparts and all doors in appeared shut. Nevertheless, after walking down a small cobbled courtyard, KO found a door that was open. He went through it to find himself in the actual brewery, not the tap. But he did manage to attract some attention, and we were let in through the only other door that we had not tried. We found ourselves in a large old barn type room and were amicably greeted by our host Nicholas. We were given a quick-guided tour and explanation of the brewery (in very good English). Then began our sampling of the numerous beers produced at this plant, these included some that were served in what appeared to be ‘champagne flutes’. During this session, we were served a very good meal.
Having spent a good couple of hours at the brewery, we moved onto another bar in town called the Du Cote de Chez Boule (13 Rue Saint-Paul), a small establishment redolent of the Moulin Rouge. After another couple of beers here, we headed back to Charleroi, a few to watch the England game in the Irish bar, the rest for a short break in the hotel.
We met up again outside the hotel at half past eight, to sally once again into town. DF had rejoined us, but KO, deciding that the previous night’s exploits had caught up with him decided to retire for the evening. We headed for a bar called the La Cuve a Biere (68 Boulevard Jacques Bertrand), which was very cosy and quiet when we arrived. (Belgium must be playing football on the box.) After a few beers here, we headed off back to Les Templiers for a few last ones. Thereafter, the group split. Most of us heading back to the hotel, whilst a few went elsewhere for more liquids.

Sunday


Sunday morning arrived with no apparent casualties amongst us. We all trooped down to the station and boarded the train to Tournai. However, before the train pulled away, it was raided by the Belgian Police chasing graffiti sprayers, whom they managed to catch. Excitement to start the day! We arrived at Tournai very slightly late, and consequently missed our connecting train, which was just pulling out as we disembarked. Thus we spent an hour in the station café drinking coffee in a town, which the Good Belgian Beer Guide describes as ‘officially the worst place for beer in Belgium.’- we could see why.
Eventually, the next train to Leuze arrived, and we departed. We got off at Leuze station and began a two-mile walk along country roads, through extremely tall and overly ripe cornfields, to Pipaix. (There is a station in Pipaix, but it is further from our destination than the neighbouring town of Leuze.)
It was a very sunny and warm day, and we were all glad to arrive at La Brasserie a Vapeur (1 Rue de Marechal). Unfortunately, the place was shut, but there were some people drinking outside a barn on the other side of the road. Fortunately, these people turned out to be the brewer with his wife and some friends. After a quick explanation of the walk we had just had, and a heartfelt plea to the brewer, they decided that they would open and give us a tour. However, because we were all so warm after our walk, we were ushered into the brewery shop, (which was the barn that they were sat outside drinking,) we were given a beer to cool down with. Whilst we were drinking this, the brewer’s wife (Vinciane) gave us a look at and smell of all the ingredients that the brewery uses in its beer. First beer over, and the brewer (Jean-Louis) took us over to the brewery. This is reputedly the last fully steam powered brewery in the world, with the only thing not powered by his steam engine in the building being the lighting. Although the beer is marketed, Jean-Louis only brews once a month, so it would seem to be almost a hobby. At the end of the visit as we were going back across the road to sample some other types of their beers, DF nipped around the back of the brewery and went car spotting, coming back looking very excited having found some rare motors. We thus went through their range of beers, and the general consensus was that although the beers were described as ‘Artisanal’, we thought that this could, (and perhaps should) be pronounced differently. After our final beer, Jean-Louis brought out a decanter and instructed us to help ourselves. This turned out to be a spirit, which he distils himself, from the dregs of his mash tub to strength of about 75%. It is then distilled again and ‘watered down’ with his beer to a mere 46%. Most of us tried a little of it, (some a bit more,) which we enjoyed. The total bill at the end of our unannounced visit and tasting session came to a total of €55, €5 each, which we thought was fantastic. An enjoyable afternoon was had by all.
Thus, onto Mons, and into La Cervoise (25 Grand’Place). We decided that food was needed, and we all placed our orders. This was served as a sort of DIY meal; raw meat (served on a baking stone,) that we cut up and cooked to our own specification on the stone. We had a few drinks here also. Then we moved across the square into L’ Excelsior (29 Grand’Place). This was very much a bar for the ‘jacket and tie’ brigade, and we only had one drink each there. Then, back across the square again, into Maison Des Brasseurs (3 Grand’Place) for a few more drinks. This bar was very quiet, possibly caused by the appalling smell coming from the toilets, which had saloon doors.
Then we headed back to Charleroi, some for a final drink in the Irish bar, but most back to bed.

Monday


Monday arrived, and we had all survived!!! Back to the Eurostar and home.


Created on 12/16/2008 08:36 PM by drinking
Updated on 01/11/2009 06:48 PM by drinking
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