This was a 4 bed dorm, en suite so it had a shower and separate bathroom. I was on top bunk, but this had a unique to me, 2 small beds and 1 bunk set up
I was the last to wake up, likely due to a couple girls pre dawn departure.I showered and headed down for coffee while I figured out options.
There was a small art gallery a few steps in front of the hostel and it more importantly also had a small cafe.
Coffee and croissant is a good way to start any day, and they spoke enough English for me to have them add a little milk.
Things were finally a bit more afford able again so I got another cup.
I discovered I was a short walk to Cantillion brewery, a place I’d heard about and was reminded to go to by the Peticolas guys I knew. Thing was these guys made sours, naturally fermented. It was very similar to a wine, an old style of beer brewing.
I’d had sours before but I never enjoyed them and I was about to discovery why.
Along the river I walked but missed a turn and was walking through a predominantly Muslim area. Mosques, halal eateries, few women out and the ones who were out wore hajibs.
I didn’t feel unsafe but for sure I was watched as I walked. Clearly I was an outsider but some nodded, others stopped talking until I passed. Maybe my longish beard earned some respect, perhaps because I smiled, it wasn’t a big deal. Just passing through.
It didn’t look like many non residents walked in this area I would note later.
Cantillion doesn’t go out of their way to advertise or even indicate they are open so I walked passed their door a couple times before hesitatingly trying a large wooden door under a metal sign.
I felt this was somewhere special upon entering, it just felt cool, right.
A lady greated me in Flemish and seemed surprised when I responded in English.
No tour just wanted to have a beer, I explained.
I felt like I’d messed up as I ordered what I thought was a glass but he had already opened the bottle, dang that’s bold of me.
It was a bottle of Kriek which was aged with cherries and it was good, great even.
There was a small tasting area with a couple tables and a long pew on one side. Most of the room was occupied by staff eating lunch and having a beer.
I sat in the last open table, was hoping to get a seat with a barrel table cause I knew the place would fill up.
A couple joined another next me and one guy knew everything about beer because he made a point of saying so. I understand, he drinks a lot of beer but revealing all the subtle notes and how it’s like this other sour at oh you never heard of this small brewery in a tiny city outside….
It was on this trip I realized beer is subjective, just drink it maybe you’ll like it, but definitely try a taste. It’s very hard to make comparisons, it’s like beer X. Places will give you a sample and that tells you everything you need to know.
More US couples gather around the ones next to me. The room is full of Americans.
They are a bit older, mid 40s, kids at grannies or camp. They are all at the ‘we like, we usually don’t…’ Stage of life. Not having a lady to reach that stage I felt equally annoyed and sad.
Luck was on my side and a pretty girl asked to sit at my table, solely because it was the only empty chair but it was all I needed to start talking.
She was Italian and worked as a translator for a tourist company. She arrived to Brussels going to college and stayed.
She went here on her Friday lunch break, a reward for a weeks’ work.
She let me try some of her beer, a raspberry aged sour, also good.
We talked awhile, she tried some Italian out on me telling me it was similar to Spanish.
Suddenly she gesticulates and knocks over her glass, crimson beer heads my way but I’m able to avoid it.
Clearly embarrassed she left quickly, too quickly for me to remember to ask for her number or if she wanted to meet up again. Dammit man, that’s why yous single, slow to react, and I am very oblivious.
I headed back towards city centre, passing many roast chicken joints.
Once I arrived near city centre, I spied an Irish pub I’d seen on my map searches.
Who’s there but my English stag friends! They recognize me and chants of Sully ring out.
I grab a beer and sit with them. They are all mostly wasted already. It’s a bit past 1.
It seems they are ex military or firemen based on their tattoos. Several had the same poem about lost ones on their calves or shoulders but I didn’t want to stare to write the poem down.
I join a couple inside to get another pint and they proceed to make fun of each beer on tap. Carlsburg is shite, Heineken is piss water, not Guinness fans either. They drink cider, which is way too sweet.
We chat at bit and get caught up watching Tour de France, currently a Brit is leading the stage so we cheer him on.
After the tour leg ends we get a table and discuss Brexit. They are fans of the idea and voted to leave. They are the only once I’ve met with this view after talking with 20+ people.
They want to be free to trade, complained that EU has 5 presidents that no one votes for, they are appointed and they aren’t into forced acceptance of immigrants, trade requirements and monetary policies.
I point out that they’ll likely pay more to ship anything to/from the EU, which they say will go down in the long term, plus they figure it’ll be cheaper to get things from non EU counties.
‘The world is bigger than the EU, mate. We can get stuff from US, China, Australia, wherever, cheaper vs EU requirements. It’s a long term benefit to UK.’
I note the others not talking and solving world problems are cat calling any women passing. They try the waitress who berates them, she’s had enough. ‘Don’t tell me how pretty I am, that’s insulting. I’m not just pretty you know. There’s more to me! That line won’t work!’ They seem stunned that a compliment doesn’t go far.
One of the guys is passed out, head down but not on the table so they begin to stack menus and sugar packets on his head.
Another begins to get up on to tables and knocks glasses over but this doesn’t stop him from tea bagging another guys head. Fully whips his meat and veg out several times and rubs it on the backs of a couple guys’ heads.
I note we are next to a cafe with a family, children eating next door, everybody saw.
A military van parks in front of the pub, which is right in front of a subway exit.
Several English guys walk over and chat with some of the military personnel. The soldiers turn down requests for selfies with the Brits.
It’s now uncomfortable, any female passing by gets a comment, glasses are knocked over, everyone is staring as they pass.
I’m out, I don’t want to be associated with these guys, some are cool individually but together they are total cunts.
I’ve got to eat so I find a noodle joint. I’m shocked to pass by a Chi Chi’s, a Mexican restaurant I saw a lot growing up but never ate at. Why is there one here?
I’m now hunting Delirium Bar, supposedly the largest selection of beers in town, over 3000 on draft, bottles and cans.
I find a small inside pub, get a Tremens and chat a bit with bartendress, which is harder to do overseas, they are extra surly most of the time as they are often asked 20 questions before an order.
She seems to think I’m ok as I ordered straightaway and focused questions on their bar, not directions to get a waffle or landmarks.
‘Go upstairs next, cool quiet bar with rare drafts.’ She reveals.
It’s not actually that quiet due to a couple guys having a simmering argument at the table next to me over one refusing a beer vs the other containing to call him out on never returning the favor and buying him a beer. It goes on for 20 minutes or so, long enough for the group to tell both to settle it or shut up.
I head out but see an impressive line of taps, one more.
I’m glad I stopped as they had Delirium Red which I hadn’t seen before and it was amazing! Cherry flavored beer but well balanced so not just fruity, a beer with flavor.
An exciting walk back to the hostel, seems a guy fell down the steps of the Capitol and was surrounded by a small group of people giving him aid, water as well as cleaning off blood from his head and mouth.
I heard close sirens so ambulance was en route.
I see another large group gathered in a circle only a few meters from the injured guy.
Turns out it was a drum circle but with chanting and dancing. Actually I don’t know what sort of dancing it was, I cannot describe it other than to say 2 girls undulating with each other to the music in an alternately awkward and graceful manner.
I don’t think they were Krishnas but similar repetitive monotonous chanting but by more hippy looking people with long dreads.
After a few blocks from the chanting circle, I heard a lady yelling and crying. I look to see a lady on her cell near a small girl.
The small girl was holding hands with a 2nd lady who lay limp on the ground next to a parked car.
The little girl was also crying and seemed to be trying to drag the unresponsive lady out of the street and traffic, but with limited success.
I had a moment to think about helping, clearly someone needed to get this passed out lady from the street as she may be hit by a car, but fortunately an ambulance pulled up. I let the experts handle her.
It’s incidents like the 2 I walked pass that made me take a moment, breathe out, breathe in and think, ‘it can always get worse, in a second your life can vastly change. I could be injured or worst case scenario, die. Smile, you are still alive and can continue to do good things and see cool places. Keep moving, keep walking while you can!’
I slammed a bottle of water upon reaching my room. I decided a short nap was in order, then a shower before dinner.
I encounter a girl after my nap who had entered the room while I slept. She was on holiday from Australia, only 3 months this time, she usually goes for 6.
‘Got any books to trade?’ She asks. Seems it’s common to bring a couple paperbacks and trade while on the road as its a good way to discover new authors.
I head down to the bar for a couple pints and research other cities to visit whilst in Belgium.
Ghent was recommended and also home to Delirium Brewery. Bruges seems cool too. A brief search reveals both are 30 min train rides from Brussels
I overhead a conversation next to me about beer so I make a funny comment. I think it had to do with Budweiser tastes like water.
‘Haha, true, so you’re American. I’m from Columbia, MO.’ Andrew tells me.
We talk awhile over beers, he works in a beer store, brewery place that sounds very cool. He is over here trying new beers and planning on bringing a lot back with him.
We have another pint and he tells me he and his suite mate are going out. I invite myself as I tell him he should see Delirium Bar.
An English guy joins us, Andrew’s suite mate James.
Now when I was in the bar earlier it was empty. Now you can hear people from blocks away it’s super crowded.
All the bar entrances are down the same narrow street, it’s nearly shoulder to shoulder crowded. More than 1 person is being walked out, too messed up to walk.
We take turns buying a round and find a spot near a stairwell.
James is cocky and tries to chat up any female that passes as well as gives us some pointers on how to improve our looks.
James disappears when it’s his turn to buy a round. He returns without beer but does bring a tall guy with him who promises to take us to a popping spot with lots of ladies.
We snake around the streets and wind up at…the same Irish pub I was at earlier that day! It’s now not very Irish but more bass thumping, dance club.
There are indeed women here but older, middle aged MILFs and even GILFs. I begin to suspect our new friend is a gigolo.
Andrew and I split but James wants to give it a shot.
Back the Delirium bar for last pints.
It’s after 3am and I’m shocked I’m still awake.
We spy James making out with a girl as we leave. She was closer to his age than the ones at the Irish dance club.
Andrew decides he is hungry, I figure at this point it’s better to just sleep so I watch as he devours a fish and chips.
We exchange numbers and agree to meet at Cantillion in the afternoon.
I climb into my bunk just as the sun peaks out.
Beer: La Guillotine
Song: Rick Ashtley Never Going to Give you Up