We had the vote and who could resist the selling power of TM and the mysteries of Hasselt plus:
The 3 Gems:
A few brave men met in the Station Cafe for a full English, one went for a Set 3 and had a pile of chips he did not really want. It was pleasant to sit there watching the world go by, first PC then, after a short time, Maz and PV. This was a bit of a shock as she was pulling a suitcase (it turned out there had been a bereavement in the family). On a lighter note PV did take the right suitcase containing his clothes to Belgium and Maz was able to take a team photo prior to catching the train.
No major issues on the trains, although TM had to use his case to jam the doors open, enabling stragglers to board the packed tube. Of course the new ticket system would have worked well if we had been told that the little logo at the bottom of the sheet PC had given us was required. We all found our print out and managed to use them. In the end all very easy and this left us plenty of time to peruse PC’s stack of papers and have a coffee. PC purchased a couple of espresso’s which, as expected, lasted 2 sips. TM had to go up and get another round this time Americano.
A text arrived from our man in Brussels, “see you in 5 hours”, and just as PV said it should be 4 another text came through with the correct ETA. Talking about technology, PV was playing with his new Blackberry and as normal spent his time texting and, of course, comparing the sizes of phones; Blackberry against MG’s brick.
RO handed out the first pub crawl notes and the journey to Brussels was painless, except as could have been predicted, on arrival half the team went down some steps halfway along the platform. They felt they had entered a parallel universe, a train station but without any travellers. What to do? They walked toward the light and fell into the street some 100 metres from the main concourse. When we met up again outside Sam’s Cafe with JA ten minutes later we headed off to park our bags for the day.
Down into the tube and onto the Bourse exiting the correct side this time with some people already thinking about the first kitty in the first bar of the day! No worry, after using SATNAV and the locals we still could not find the The Greenwich – Rue des Chatreux 7. The write-up on the web said it would never be refurbished but the skip outside and the locals told a different story. One down but more to go (a few had already complained about the number on the list).
Onwards and back to the main drag and after a bit of “we want beer now” we passed the Bourse and, turning right just across the road is the Le Corbeau - Rue Michel 19 (The Raven ).
PV Comment: The Raven was a pleasant little bar – all wood and old beer signs. John, the nice lad behind the bar, was pleased to tell us it was one of 140 bars in Belgium to sell Chimey Triple on draught. The Scotch CTS was on promotion at 1 euro a glass.
Yes it was empty, possibly just after the lunch time rush. A typical Brussels bar set just off the tourist track. The first beer was excellent and CTS at 1 euro a shot could not be missed. There seemed to be differing thoughts on this brown beer; one end of the table said it was very nice while the other end didn’t like it too much.
Sticking to the plan ( we have done it before said the tickers in the group) but,as normal, A La Morte Subite - Rue Montague-aux-Herbes Potageres 7 proved to be worthwhile and we settled in for a couple. A Judas lager (8.5%) was had by one while the rest tasted an assortment of beer types. PV was well in with the Belgium waiter and, as they say, the place is steeped in history .
PV Comment: The “Sudden Death” was exactly the same as before but without the Russian. All Art Deco superiority but with crap beer. RO kept on about trying some Alken Maes which did faze us until we realized the big brewer produces the Morte Subite along with Pils.
Through the arcade with the sign “Chocolare Artisainal ” as over the weekend a few beers would be. Onto the street of restaurants and at the intersection we met a group, all dressed in a strange white uniform and we had to ask what they were doing. Like us they were on a team building day. Their task to do something as a team, RO suggested Delirium was just down the road, but all they wanted was a group photo. We did not think anything of it but it must have looked very strange.
Out onto the streets and past one old watering place, The Notre Dame, near a waffle shop with a large queue was a sign “Le Becasse” A la Becassia - Rue de Tabora 11 (The Lark) with an arrow pointing down a small passage. Slowly getting busier The Lark was just up our street: Linen Hosen and a taster set for 5.50E. This had to be done with four small glasses on a tray giving us a taste of the Timmerman’s selection. We all agreed that the selection was not as good as some of the beers we had tasted earlier but a good try.
PV Comment: Old bar down a short passage with plenty of panelling. The waiter did not have leather trousers but was well tied into his apron. We went for a degustation palette of the Timmerman’s available.
Back past the Notre Dame and up the passage to Delirium Cafe - 4a Impasse de la Fidelite, this time we went up instead of down into the Delirium Cafe with 27 beers on tap (heaven for one of the crew). Behind the bar, thin plastic pipes coiled everywhere giving a good view of the coming beer selection which turned out to be excellent. The only downside was the smokers who were sent to the bar if they put us off.
PV Comment: Ufortunately the upstairs tap-house with its twenty seven draughts was open. Mengo’s first entry into the Mecca of draught Belgium beer.
We returned to Midi and the usual issues for some with their left luggage, seems that they could open every locker but the one they wanted. All back together and the long dark journey to Hasselt entered history.
Besotted with the SatNav, some of us missed PC do the old fandango but the reports were that he hit the ground very hard. PV and RO had other issues, a double bed, and we are not even Conservative MP’s (like MG and FN). As others got sorted, every man and his motorbike turned up at the Hotel and finally our room was sorted, it had to do! The rest had moved to a bar across the square and were drinking Crystal Pils with the locals and their dogs.
Late and sober (again, as PV noted) something had to be done and quick. Het Hemeirijk, - 11 Hemeirjk was tracked down and we started on the extensive beer list and very good it was too. Arriving very late we left even later in different groups. PV and RO thought about ending the day with a few Jenevers, but on finishing off some of the beers that had been left and settling the bill, did not manage it. Looking for a watering hole on the way home proved to be wasted effort as everyone had gone home (Welcome to Hasselt as they say).
PV Comment: With a beer list of over 300, the cafe is described on their card as “A special place in Hasselt”. Little did we know then but it is the only place in Hasselt worth visiting. Although the bottled beer list is exceptional there are only 2 decent beers on draught. This evening’s quick drink deprived us of 109 euro’s plus tip. PC got a Black Hole for KO to try and apparently: 4 blondes don’t make a white.
The sun rising over Hasselt was very nice, then down to find breakfast. In the reception we were met by RN who stated that he had lost his wallet with everything in it! Had we seen it on the way home? What a question! We did not walk home with him, probably walking a different way and I am sure we did not see a lot as we stumbled back. What could we do for him? Well we asked the normal questions, ‘Had he searched everywhere?’ Anyway while he was in a mad panic we had worked our way up to ask for a map and where the local market was with the promise of breakfast. Ron went off attempting to trace his route last night. This did put us off our breakfast and all the market offered was cakes and we did not find a coffee shop until later.
It seems that everybody with the exception of JA (strange he had man-flu and hoped Belgium would clear it up) was up and walking around. PV and RO walked past the giant yellow duck on the way to the market and proceeded on into the centre and, by luck, back to the bar from the night before. Looking through the window to where we were sitting previously, the scene was like the Marie Celeste, empty and half full glasses in the exact position we had left them. PV must have got the tipping wrong and the bar staff had left to celebrate as soon as we went. Walking back to the hotel on wallet watch (no luck) and, talking about how the bank of MENGO would help RN, the rates to be charged were discussed. As luck would have it, RN was in the reception with a big smile on his face; he had found his wallet, it had been under his pillow. Where do we get them?
To the station and coffee and rolls while watching the buses go by. A couple went off to explain our days travel requirements. The guy behind the till warmed to our needs and seemed to enjoy saying not enough every time money was produced (about four times). We believe we got a good deal including a wedge of tickets for a day’s travel.
Earlier I mentioned RN and his wallet and walks around town. It seems that it may have been only the intrepid PV and RO out dodging the early morning muggers. PC’s foot must have been nearly a hospital job. TM spent the journey to Antwerp in the toilet or very near it, so he may have not ventured far from his room that morning. MG and FN did not mention any walks even with FN’s love of flea markets.
Another day and another pub list was handed out. Again the thoughts from some were ‘We can’t do that many!’ The reply came ‘They are on the list, so we will do them!’ Hindsight gives a little perspective to this comment, but more later. Antwerp Central station has to be one of the best in Europe – well not the new platform design but the old station could turn you that way .
A pleasant walk to Afspanning’t Waagstuk, Stadswaag 20 and Lucy (lumps in the right places) looked after us very well; the beer was ok but if I remember a bit strong. The pub, with a courtyard and back rooms, is very good and could be visited at any time of day. The barman said the Zeppelin had not landed yet as, at this end of town; winter does not start until November.
PV Comment: Old bar near the university area of the town. Made up of a number of rooms off a courtyard, this bar serves its own beer brewed by Van Steenberge. Despite the friendly bar manager and being well looked after by Lucy, we only stayed for one as we still had another six bars on RO’s list to get round.
A long walk out of the way, so the general thought was ‘let’s hit a few quick ones’. No! I am sorry to say we did look for the Aux Armes De Tiremont (looked like a camera shop now) and we could not find Taverne Bierland. We did find a model shop and our man went in the front door followed shortly by the shutters coming down; he was ejected out the back a few minutes later. Onwards to the Groot Witte Arend which was open but all set out for a lunch time party. Although there was the offer of beers across the road in their sister cafe, on hearing the beer list we decided to give it a miss. So three bars and no beer, drastic measures were required. One stop not on the RO’s list just had to be done – Paters Vaetje, Biawmoezeistraat, right by the cathedral. Seats were taken outside and beers ordered. Thirsts slaked, some required fritz and mayo Belgium style in a bucket and the group split as half went off to the next port of call. The rest followed with maps covered in mayo.
PV Comment: Remembered from previous visits the exterior seemed to be a new brick front but the interior remained the same.
Bierhaus Kulminator, Vleminckveld 32 – should we have let a set of boys buy the first beer at 6.50E a glass (it had to be done)? Would it be a normal Saturday afternoon? Definitely no! One would say a local bar, local people judging by the laughing and cackling heard when ordering the second, late group’s beers at 6.50E. I believe this was replaced with a bit of respect as we started to settle in to the other beers on tap and the beer bible on the bar. A few incidents should be noted:
PC’s bottle of Atomium and the goldfish shaped sediment and where the strainer came from.
PC in pain and breaking the 35 year old glass he had been given to contain the strained Atomium.
FN’s old bottle of ale (30 years old), first one had a label. 2nd could have been anything.
The pouring of FN’s beer from a great height to get a northern head on it.
Morte Subet bottles with pouring baskets?
Three Americans, one a brewer.
The mezzanine floor that never was (in a past life of TM)
PV’s picture with the landlady that he can’t remember
In Kulminator, at the other end of town, winter starts in October they had the N’ice Chouff (Christmas Ale)
In all, not an expensive session for the beers that were available and all in good nick.
PV Comment: The outside of this bar is unprepossessing but once inside its leafy interior you are in beer heaven as it is one of the top Belgium beer bars. The owners were dealing with the customers – well the wife did all the work while the man did the crossword and ate the cheese. TM’s recollection of the bar differed somewhat to PV and RO’s – he remembered a mezzanine floor while they remembered a few steps to the covered passage. On the way out met with Jim Jacobs from the Lagunitas Brewing Co. Petaluma, California who brews a 5.7% IPA. The beer list may be a bit inaccurate with the selection but you can be assured it set us back 130 euros plus tip.
We left and headed for the Café Old Arsenaal, Maria Pijpelinexstraat 4. MG had worn his special shirt (but it was not that type of bar). The beer was not up to the standards we had become used to in Kulminator, but the bar is good and the few remaining hard boiled eggs went down well. There is apparently some rule about not selling them but that’s the EU for you.
PV Comment: an old smoked stained café which spills into the street. Maintain the tradition (although now illegal) of selling hard boiled eggs. Crowded and boisterous it provided a counter point to the next bar.
Then across the road to The Grand Café Horta, Hopland 2 for an unfiltered Palm (quite nice). The location was an up market bar, I thought Hotel but no, we did look a bit out of place, but worth a visit.
PV Comment: Ultra-modern bar described on their literature as a ‘fusion of gastronomy and architecture’. Indeed the bar was very smart – all chromium and wood. The interest to us was the unfiltered Palm. What we missed up stairs was the art nouveau dining hall.
Onto Leuven but the afternoon’s drinking was taking it’s toll. One grumpy old man, one in pain, one whose knee’s were giving him problems (happy times) and our tour leader caught without a map. What was required was a nice long walk to a very strange bar and we got it. Into Den Domus, Tiensestraat 8 for a meal and here we met our first real Belgium waiter. Everyone had starters (thanks to FN) very surreal . The meal was good but ended in a bun fight over the waiter’s tip and at one point he was asked what value would he put on the lack of service we received? This visit had taken longer than required and it was swiftly on towards the next bar.
PV Comment: Opened in early 1980’s it is one of Belgium’s first brew pubs but unfortunately no longer brews on the premises. Our surly water hastened our exit after our meal and only one beer.
Leuven is a very nice place and the buildings worth the visit with the subtle lighting making all the difference . With only rough guidance to the next bar (just an address) we headed off. PV asked the way of two young lads seated on a bench (seems that one was just going to propose to the other when our wandering reporter butted in). All very strange and on we went, a normal day with Mengo. While the rest crossed a car park a light was noted, yes again down a long passage. Could this be bar Culturcafe Wentelsteen, Busleengang 6 with the seven beers on tap. Probably this was a decent bar but not up to a few of the Mengo team’s standards. So we were soon out of there and frog marched back to the station and the train.
PV Comment: Modern interior and nice waitress but can’t really remember much about it other than we were right by the cage with the barrels one of which had to be changed. Upset a gay couple on the way to the bar.
Some had a good night’s sleep, some didn’t. It could be that, being woken up at around 05:00 for a change of the batteries that were on charge, makes the difference or perhaps it is waking up and saying “that is not the door to the toilet”.
One man went to buy a map while the rest looked for breakfast. It was a late start and there were plenty of options. Many of us met at a nice little café on the road to the station, bacon and eggs were noticed on the menu and some had to do it while others hoovered up what was left. Three layers: toast, bacon and three eggs on top washed down with coffee, very nice! We met the others at the bus station outside the roll shop.
TM and RO went off and after explaining what was required in terms of destination and numbers managed to get a very good deal on the bus tickets (8 day cards at 5 euro each). We all gathered together at the 18A to Achels stand. A busy bus that performed a number of loops while heading to Achels, with a bit of off road driving thrown in and a visit to the depot while the driver attempted to fix his seat and massage a numb bum. As normal we were the last people off the bus at the last bus stop at the end of nowhere.
Luck would have it that no map, other than that on the bus timetable, was required; across the main road and head off onto a couple of very straight roads. A couple of cars passed along with many cyclists, some at great speed and others just passing the day. At the end, it was over a little river then left into the cloister of De Archels Kluis, Kluis 1, just before the Dutch border. One had to be held back from walking on into the beer desert known as Holland.
The large courtyard beckoned and while not full to start with, as the weather warmed up the crowds began to grow with groups of walkers, casual cyclists and real bikers turning up. The low gravity beers (5%) were excellent. Attempting to buy the white cap (9.5%) we were told that there was some rule that they would not sell it as you may be driving. What! The time was spent soaking up the sun, people watching and trips to the expansive bottle shop and the holy shop. None of them had a ‘touristy’ bottle opener for the man.
PV Comment: What seemed like old stables and yard have been changed into a modern cafe with large outside seating area. The brewery equipment, housed next to the café was also modern befitting a brewery which only started in 1999. Only two types of beer were available: Blond and Brune, but they were available in 3 strengths. The 5% on draught and 8% in bottles were available to drink on the premises but they would not supply the 9.5% to take away. It was one of those magical mengo moments – sitting in the warm sunshine, enjoying a good beer and watching the continuous stream of visitors, mostly cyclists. Truly a gem.
A couple shot off to take a rest on a bench at the first bend and just managed to get rid of a group of older cyclists. Most of the others caught up but a couple were missing; it was said later one had to take a last minute visit to the woods. A very nice walk back along the straight roads, though a flock of cyclists came out of a T junction at a great rate of knots and flew past us.
Reaching the bus stop, a beer was called for (Martins Pils) and a very pleasant landlady informed us her English husband had just left her, well gone off in the car! The Pils hit the spot on a hot day and we watched the 18A shoot past in the wrong direction. The last couple of walkers joined us and informed us of the reason for the lateness saying that x marked the spot on the map (as we were shown later). The man still did not bend and have a Pils. The Landlady, when asked when the next bus was, replied she did not know or care and said ‘Why worry, have another beer’. Just after that the bus came up the road in the correct direction. Our leader explained to the driver where we wanted to alight for the next brewery visit and we retraced our route of earlier, but no depot trip this time.
We all noticed the signs from the main road pointing to the next brewery and we got off the bus. A nice walk, through the woods followed. The noise of a football match far in the distance, all seemed very pleasant. Through the gates of De Dool, Elkendreef 21 we ventured into another courtyard. We settled down and ordered some beers and well, not a lot more to say. PV was given a brochure by Emily (yes forget Lucy) and RO would not believe there was a castle nearby. In fact it was right behind him. The beers again were excellent. The place was busy. A group of senior scouts were learning their trade and another group went on a beer tour. In the end it became a bit colder and we felt chilly. Even after a kilo of cheese the company was becoming hungry.
PV Comment: The microbrewery was set up in 1994 in the restored guesthouse of the old abbey of St.Truiden. There are a couple of seating areas inside but with the continued pleasant weather we stayed outside in the courtyard. The service from Emily (and her co-worker) was exceptionally good and, no doubt due to our tipping regime, even managed to get us a discount on the final round. This was another gem but not entirely due to the beer.
On that note we needed a steak house and one (Steakhouse De Kempen, 502 Grote Baan, Helchteren) had been spotted earlier and just up the road from the brewery turn off, At first they eyed us with suspicion but a seat is a seat, and we were taken into a large room with a very large table. Our own room and a large table, I am sure they did not want us to mix with the other diners. We each settled down to a bottle of Grimbergen and most had steaks. We all agreed it was worth every euro we spent. Young RN had a hot flush and had to get some fresh air; after being out all day and drinking, many of us were not far behind him.
PV Comment: The cars lined up outside should have told us this was not one of our cheap eateries and on entry PV’s worst fears were realised – this was an up market restaurant and we really dressed the part. However the place was divided into two – a busy restaurant and a darkened empty bistro. The maître d’ agreed the bistro could be opened and Mengo settled themselves around the large central table. Steak for most, a mixed grill for two – pasta was off.
And across the main drag, because yes, we had worked out that they drive on the other side of the road by now. The good old 18A came to our rescue and onto the bright lights of Hasselt we headed.
A pub crawl of this famous town had to be done but first a quick stiffener. This time right round the ring road and into Augustina Leopoldplien 23 (shame it did not live up to its name) where the coffee and Jenever were ok but not a place to get too comfortable in, being stuck out the back and given the eye by the two barmen/owners who knew we were off.
PV Comment: A drab bar with little on the beer list to entice us, so we had a coffee and a Smeets Extra to keep us going.
Into the town center and into the pub De Markt, Grote Markt 8 lit up like Blackpool (PC has a very god photo). I am sure we had a drink but what? We soon left there. Nothing else in the square beckoned us and we hit our old watering hole.
PV Comment: Like moths to a flame we were attracted to the bright neon and wandered in. This is a pleasant bar in the market square. Going by the signage we all thought it was called the Drugstore.
PC thought a beer named Pee Kluuk sounded just like him but when he had mentioned this about the 10th time we realised one too many PK’s. There did not seem to be a great deal of drinking going on but, on looking at the photos, how wrong that is and PV’s beer notes show a bar bill of 116.10 euros plus tip; guilty as charged.
PV Comment: Het Hemelrijk- well it really was the only place in Hasselt to have a beer. Just as well as it is reckoned to be the beer café in Limburg and in the top ten for Belgium. This being Saturday we were crowded into a corner at the back of the bar watching the visitors to the WC. This prompted questions such as ‘why do some women have very strong bladders?’ Our waiter for the evening Ruben, did not know the answer but was pretty good at understanding our orders. As previously, no guarantee on the accuracy of the beer list. The little lot cost 116.10 euro plus tip.
RO left followed by RN and then the rest. MG ad FN went off for a late one (but found Hasselt closed as normal), and when PV turned up at the Hotel they had not managed anymore Jenevers so he was at least talking.
A late start for all as St-Truiden was just down the road. Our normal watering holes were closed so into a typical Belgium station bar Marbo, Stationsplein 2 for a couple of coffees.
St-Truiden looked a nice place, RO purchased some water from a corner shop, and yes, as they were watching India playing cricket, he felt at home. Our rudimentary map pointed off to the right and led us to the edge of town and the edge of the map. There was a bit of confusion as we swarmed across a very open dual carriageway and onto a slip road, and then onto another very straight road. Soon the team began to split, line astern, with the pavement only on one side. Then with the cycle path finishing, everyone crossed the road and, into the teeth of what was oncoming, were left dodging the cars, tractors and Potatoes (ask MG). It was a very hot 5k hike, lucky we had plenty of water and did not require a call of nature.
Someone had the knowledge and we did not head off left to the village of Kerkom but went on 200m across the road and a slight right hand turn and the sign with Brouwerj Kerkom, Naamsesteenweg 469 beckoning.
As normal we settled in and, after a couple of liveners, agreed to do the card but in smaller glasses. As the beers got better and the cheese and crisps were eaten we did start to get louder. The courtyard had filled up slowly as the day went on and of course we got some looks. Probably all the people there spoke very good English and they could hear and see we were having a good afternoon.
PV Comment: Old farmyard brewery reinstated by Marc and Marina Limet in 1996. Indeed the dilapidated state of the buildings resulted in the authorities closing down the brewery so now the beers are brewed (still by Mark) locally in Brae. The farm courtyard was a very pleasant place to enjoy the lovely sunny day. Again watching the locals come and go whilst getting in a bit of plane spotting. Mark was nowhere to be seen and Marina was dealing with the customers with the help of a young lad behind the bar – perhaps their son. Latter a girl arrived to help out = Paris as her T-shirt proclaimed – who could have been her daughter. The first two beers tried blond and Brune, smelled Artisanal and if it smells artisanal it is artisanal. Indeed something must be wrong as FN preferred the blonde to the brune. However, after these two the taste got better until by the time we got to the final triple we were really enjoying them.
Thinking about the walk back, PV found a map and was now a happy bunny and pointed out we had missed the very large airfield that was on the other side of the road. Plan B could be to walk back along a country path that ran parallel with the main road but Marina booked us an 8 seat taxi (Jackie’s as per TM’s Itinerary so he was happy). This option was taken gladly and we were soon whisked to the train station. We just missing a connection and, as a recommended bar De Eglantier, Stationsstraat 21 was near, it needed a visit. The only thing going for this pub was the table football in the back. We had a go, nothing on tap, bottled Leffe was requested.
PV Comment: This was a recommended café but how! One will never know. Reminded RO of the last on round the world last year. – absolutely rubbish. Nothing worth having on draught so we played safe with a bottle of Leffe. Still the place did have table football which enabled the swift passing of an hour.
So where next? Hasselt? No! – our leader had another recommended pub up his sleeve Het Vijgeblad, Paalsesteenweg 8, Beringen. Beringen was a clue, if only we knew it, but through tickets were purchased to save time at the train change in Hasselt. This is where things started to go wrong for the Mengo team. When your best friend leaves you asleep on the train, who can you trust? It seemed JA boarded the train, plugged in his earphones and went to sleep, waking up as the train moved out of Hasselt. If we missed the change it would mean another hour’s wait so the decision was made, onwards.
Some wished they had stayed with JA as the train stopped and we got off in the middle of nowhere. Berlinger or Beverlo as it should be called, according to a man PV approached on the station. With no map, a few of us walked to the main road and faced the lonely choice of up or down the road momentarily lured by a bus stop across the road. Luckily for us there was one man ready to help us. ‘Roger’ stopped to ask us what we were doing but he had never heard of the pub we wanted to get to. Not looking good, though Roger proved to be a man of action saying he would go home, just down the road, find the location on his SATNAV and return. A man of his word he did return, with the news the bar was at least 6k away in a direction that could have been anywhere. We started to pile into his car and then realised he would have to make two journeys. A few were left at the lonely bus stop wondering how long to wait before reporting missing bodies. But, once again, Roger did return. All very unreal and the car journey will remain etched in our minds for some time. In the end we forced some petrol money on Roger and dived into the pub.
A very nice bar ( Het Vijeblad), the beer selection was good and the owner and barman were very friendly. Our main aim was to get a taxi back to the station to catch the last train around 21:20 (Sunday hours). We also used the pub’s computer to look up bus time tables but with no joy; it seems that buses went to the pub but never returned to the station (yes very unreal). As luck would have it the landlord grabbed FN while in the loo and said it was all sorted! A number of bus drivers were in the bar and said we could catch the last bus to Hasselt (again around 21:30) from a stop just a 3 minute walk away. 3 minutes yes if we knew where we were. And so a worried tour leader TM went off to track it down. He was gone some time visiting a bar to see if anyone spoke English. He returned and all was sorted, we settled down for a very good meal and a few more beers.
PV Comment: After the meal our thoughts turned on how we would get back to Hasselt. Philip consulted the time table on the web and found the last bus to Hasselt was at 10:15. One of the bus drivers (who happened to be in the bar) phoned the depot to sure it was running. TM did a reconnaissance to make sure the bus station was indeed up the road, which it was not. But it was found and the bus did run back to Hasselt where we met up with JA. RO, PV and FN went with him for a nightcap. The bar recommended by Philip, De Engle was closed se we ended up at our usual place.
The bus was just about 5 minutes away and we would never have got there in time without prior scouting. There must have been a university nearby as two buses passed us full of students. Our bus arrived and we were whisked off back to Hasselt and the refreshed JA. He had got off the train one stop out of Hasselt and had a pleasant walk back to the Hotel.
The De Engle (The Hedgehog), an Irish bar recommended by the landlord in Beringen, was closed so back to Het Hemereirjjk and a few beers plus Jenever’s but no coffee (the machine was broken). A final Smeets supplied by the bar staff for free as a farewell was welcome.
Confusion over the Hotel bill left each paying 6 euros and the rest was on RN (well his plastic). PV went off to purchase a map of the area (yes as we leave). He found his way to the breakfast café and a last ‘Spek mit eiren’ and very nice it was too. We left JA to look at the canals and the motorway (it’s a northern thing) prior to getting a mid-afternoon flight. The rest caught the train to Brussels.
After a fight with the left luggage boxes TM was sent to get tickets to Waterloo (aka battle of) and as we waited the board showed the trains to Charleroi delayed and getting later. TM’s bad news was that the train workers were on strike so plan B came to light. As the question ‘Where are we going now?’ was asked, RO pointed up into the sky towards the Palace of Justice. PV said it was handy as we could go for a coffee. We took the back lanes to the lift that completed the last leg up the hill, TM walked. PV was overjoyed he found map, ok it was in Spanish but a map is a map. A visit to a church and a pleasant walk back into the centre, preceded some lunch with a bit of time for a couple of beers off the Grand Place – Les Brasseurs
PV Comment: After settling the bill – E6 per room apart from RN whose bill was E1270 – and a last breakfast of Spek mit eiren, it was off to Brussels. Plan A was to leave the bags at Midi (which we eventually managed) and set off for Waterloo. This was scuppered by a strike by SNCB workers which meant no trains were running to Chaleroi . RO’s Plan B was to gain height for a view of the capital from the Palace of Justice and walk to the centre. After taking in the Church of Notre-Dame of Sablon, some lunch in a cheap café, we arrived in the Grand Place a bar just off the main square.
The last stop was the Delirium Café then a stroll down into the tube, back to left luggage and a bit of last minute shopping. A very easy journey took us back to the UK, across London and down to Aldershot for the normal farewells.