Transit passes of Europe, UK, US

Here are all the bus rail tram and other transit passes I used on my trip.

I recognize London, DC, Mass, Budapest, Porto, Lisboa, NOLA and my beer ticket from a Bruges hostel hehe.

One thing to keep in mind is while there is usually a tram to the airport in all major European cities there can be 2 different passes you need to buy to get into the airport. There is a separate airport pass that must be purchased along with your regular train pass. I had previously encountered this nuance in Barcelona and Brussels so learn from my mistakes!

The one I want to especially call out is the airport bus ticket from Barcelona. There are at least 2 places in Barcelona that a bus picks up and drops you off at the airport, its the only stop. Dont waste € on a cab or subway that may not take you to the correct terminal. This bus goes to both terminals and it is under 10€. 

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Dream trip Day 55 Farewell Ghent, back to Barcelona, friends

I was awoken to the rustling of all the other guys packed up. Seems they were a group and all had to catch the early bus.

I groggily got out of bed and made my way to the shower which shockingly was open.

Barely made it down for free corn flakes and coffee. I dumped flakes into my bowl and they took the dispensing contraption away, I was the last one to eat.

I encountered 2 Canadian guys I’d met on the pub crawl in the lobby and talked with them a bit. I’m still not sure if they were a couple or just friends.

In the most Canadian of ways they asked me to join them, ‘So we all should go to the rail together yeah eh?’

I was grateful for the invite as I wasn’t so keen on a 30 min walk as I was when I arrived. Plus they knew how to buy a tram ticket.

On the way to the tram, we popped over to Facebook Street, which was the last thing they wanted to see in town.

Some guy renamed a small alley Facebook St so people would visit and take a pic.

While people did visit, they kept taking the sign. It wasn’t there when we visited, we all laughed at how ridiculous the whole thing was.

No issues hopping the metro, but I was running low on euros and still had to buy a ticket to the airport.

I had just enough euros for a ticket and we make the train easily. After a bit the conductor stops by and looks at my ticket.

‘English? Yes, you only have a ticket to get inside the airport. We tax everyone entering airport. You need another ticket to travel to the airport. I’ve brought this up to them before, it is confusing for tourists. 17€ please.’

Dang I felt bad but this guy was being cool about it even though he had to go through this a few times a day. I had only a 20€ note left, damn cutting it too close.

My Canadian friends were heading to Germany so they had to get out in Brussels. One of their family lived there so they had a place to stay and explore.

I waved goodbye and we shook hands as they left.

Alone again.

I was greeted at the rail station by a military guy directing me to a security check.

I wondered if this meant I wouldn’t have to do it again. Wrong.

Two security checks, one before entering the airport and then before the plane.

I made it passed the airport check and walked towards my gate, but I felt lighter. Doh! I’d left my bag at the security check!

I flew up the escalator convinced my bag was gone and I’d have 20 questions to answer before they gave it back to me.

I was relieved to see it was just sitting where I’d left it.

I swung it over my shoulder as nonchalantly as I could and walked to my gate.

It was a long walk to the gate so I stopped at an ATM for more euros, but was surprised when it spat out dollars.

I thought a moment and figured I had about 20$ in cash left so it was now worth exchanging dollars for euros once I got to Barcelona. Always one more thing to do.

About 10 minutes before takeoff, we see our flight was delayed. Then 30 minutes after that we learn the gate has changed, too, so everyone runs to the new gate.

No issues during the flight, but it was sold out so not as cool as the flight to Belgium where I got a whole row to myself.

I exchanged my cash at the airport, knowing that while the sign claimed no commission, they would give me a horrible exchange rate. I had euros now so I could get a metro ticket.

My hostel was near city centre this time, randomly selected as I was only staying 3 nights, long enough to see the rock festival tomorrow.

I got checked in and stowed my bags. I was staying in a 16 bed room and it was packed, no AC I noted.

Matt’s hotel was about a 20 minute walk away so we agreed to meet up later that evening for dinner.

We met near La Rambla and I was elected leader as I’d been there before.

I picked walking down one side as I knew the expensive places were in the middle, there were some side streets that should have cheaper options.

We soon had to pick quickly as it began to sprinkle. Always raining.

A waiter lead us up narrow stairs and we took over the top floor as there were 9 in our party.

It was a tapas spot so lots of seafood, sausages and salads soon appeared.

After a nice, light dinner 5 of us broke off from the bigger group to walk around and sight see.

A few turns and we were in Gothic quarter and I learned how the city was laid out.

We passed by the Arc, dildo building and we were near their hotel after a few blocks walking.

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The bar they wanted to show me was closed, but we located another one only to run into the crew we had just left.

This was a tourist bar, connected to a hotel and was full of students taking shot after shot: a hookup bar.

While waiting to order I noticed a very pretty girl next to me who took a shot with some bro before turning to me,

‘Nice glasses, very cool. What’s your story?’ she asked.

I told her what I was doing, backpacking through Europe and to my surprise the bro guy left me with her. I was talking to who I thought was the hottest girl in the room and doing well.

Turns out she was from SMU on semester abroad and was meeting her mom in Italy. I put her age at 20, maybe 21. We high-fived and she left.

I didn’t really had a chance, maybe if I bought her a shot and joined her group but the jig would be up as soon as I revealed my age.

She was better off with the bro dudes her age.

Still I was chuffed to have the exchange, I was gaining confidence, unfounded though it may be.

I stepped outside and talked with Chad a guy on the crew as he twisted up a spliff. I smoked a bit too much but luckily the night was over.

A nice walk coupled with a cool ocean breeze carried me back to my hostel.

Beer: Cruzial

Song: Orelha Negra feat. NGA & Prodigio   Ovelha Negra

 

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Dream trip Day 54 Goodbye Bruges, Delirium Brewery, ribs

Woke up in time for end of breakfast. Today, rice crispies and hot coffee.

My train trip was still a few hours away since you can’t check into a hostel before 3.

I still had 1 beer in my bag and figured may as well knock it out before leaving.

I watched some guys play air hockey next to me, one tried to buy a beer but it was still too early to sell.

I waited until they were served before getting my chilled beer from the fridge.

It was a nice chocolate stout, a bit heavy to start the day but I didn’t know when else I’d have a chance to chill it.

After my beer I walked the half hour back to rail station.

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The hostel I selected was solely based on the fact they had a shuttle to Delirium Brewery. I would just make it in time for the last tour of the day.

Ghent was very lovely, old and gothic. I probably could have taken the tram but figured I’d walk following the tracks to my area, it wasn’t raining.

Located a schwarma place for lunch, I had over an hour before check in and tour.

Got settled into the hostel and got on the list for the brewery tour with 30 minutes to spare!

As soon as I closed my door I remembered I’d locked my key card inside. Dammit!

I paid for the tour and told reception about retrieving my card.

I met a pretty girl who was also going on brew tour. She was from Alberta, Canada and had just been on the craziest itinerary I’ve heard. One to 2 nights in a different city for the past 3 weeks via train from Paris to Amsterdam and most places in between.

We all piled into a van and I was lucky to get an end seat while the Canadian took shotgun.

It was a 20ish minute drive to the brewery, some talked, others fell asleep. Such is the life of a traveler, sleep when you can.

We were greeted just inside a side door by a thin man wearing a lab coat.

‘Here for the tour? Good, well we have a bit of time, why don’t we begin with a beer yes? Is this agreeable?’ He said with a grin.

We all said yes enthusiastically so he lead us upstairs into a large room full of brewery memorabilia, then into a small room that contained only a wooden bar.

He poured beers for us all and lead us into a meeting hall with several long wooden tables.

We would watch a film, then the tour would start. He had issues with the projector so he just began with the history of the brewery.

Room after room he unraveled the brewing process as well as the history of the brewery and the family that owns it.

The coolest part was walking through the warehouse where there were rows and rows, tens of feet high of kegs and bottles, both sold in the EU and were returned, cleaned and reused.

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They were already off the grid and made their own electricity, nearly finished a water recycling program and had an entire department staffed only with mentally challenged people. Very forward, long-term thinking was going on here.

The tour finished back in the meeting hall where we were given 30 minutes to have as many beers as we could drink.

I met a few other Belgian students and a Frenchmen who was touring Belgium via bike. That’s insane with all this rain, too. He said it wasn’t bad, fewer cars.

The students were very interested that I was from US and Texas.

The usual discussion points began with Trump and the election. It was 100% Sanders support, he was the most European candidate. Everyone was baffled that Trump was front-runner.

‘I don’t understand guns. Why does everyone in a city need guns? I can’t comprehend why police would need guns.’ One of the Belgian students said to me. Cities have a special well-trained team with weapons, sort of like our SWAT teams. Beat police don’t carry.

I’ve grown up around guns, shot one at an early age but was really around guns in Kansas. I understood why people needed them for hunting but I lived in a rural area then.

In cities it was protection from robbers and rapist. Guns made people feel safe.

It was fascinating talking to someone who felt so safe he didn’t feel even police needed weapons. And that’s what makes Europe superior to the US, most people aren’t as violent, better educated, more in touch with others to the point they don’t see harm as an option.

We talked more or well I did, unraveling US and Texas values to bewildered Europeans.

They wanted to hang out more so we put plans into motion on the ride back.

Had a couple of beers at the hostel bar while a couple of people showered and got ready.

We then rolled out wandering the streets for a while before agreeing we were all more hungry than thirsty.

I’m still a bit shocked about learning all you can eat pork ribs are hugely popular dining option in Belgium but that’s where we went.

We all also agreed on sharing a huge bottle of red wine with our ribs, it was the Belgium way.

Ribs, salad and baked potato were all refillable as many times as you wanted for around 12$ and they were all very good.

I had a slab and a half of ribs, the bones were tossed into a metal bucket in the middle of the table. I felt very medieval, primal at the sight of overflowing bucket of bones.

We rolled out to a Belgium bar home to jenever, a precursor to gin that can be flavoured with any fruit. The bar we arrived at was behind another bar where we started off with a beer.

Jenever is a very Belgium beverage served in shots filled up to the very top so you had to lean in and sip before you could pick up the glass.

Shots were about 3€ and I was cautioned to wait awhile between shots. I selected blackberry and it did indeed taste of blackberries but not was sweet as the fruit.

I stepped outside as it was a very small, hot bar.


I watched a very drunk couple finish their beers only to knock the glasses off the table and then break on the ground. They laughed.

A guy next to me stopped talking and grabbed the guy and said something in Dutch, then in English very sternly, ‘Is that your best?’ While indicating towards the broken glasses on the ground. ‘Is that your best effort?’

The drunk guy slouched, defeated, and bent over picking up big pieces and throwing them into a nearby trashcan for a few moments before a guy came over and swept up the bits.

If only there were more people who asked each other if that was their best, how better things would be.

I go back inside but everyone had left. I was very tired so I decided to just go back to sleep.

Oh yeah my card! Yup midnight and while I had a room, I didn’t have a key to get into it.

There was a late night number to call on the door so I punched in the numbers but no answer. Wait a moment, dial again, finally a female answers and I say, English, then the name of the hostels.

What? Yes this is hostel.

I’m at the door, I’m locked out. I say: Click, she hung up.

Soon a door opened and a pretty blonde emerges rubbing her eyes.

She motions me to the reception desk, I explain what I did and my name.

‘Sigh, well I have to take your deposit for this. You should have got key in afternoon. It’s ok, let’s have good sleep.’ Then she hands me a new key card.

I climb into my bunk and am fast asleep.

Beer: Gruune Meuk

Song: Last Shadow Puppets  Sweet Dreams, TN

Dream trip Day 53 Rain, Westvleteren Abbey Ale, Brugge brewery 

I woke up to an empty room, the Spanish girls had already left.

Made it down for the free breakfast just in time to snag a bowl of cornflakes and coffee, a meal that was becoming my staple way to start the morning.

After my meal, I extended my stay at the hostel for one more night.

The receptionist smiled and said it happens all the time, most people stayed longer than they’d planned after walking around Bruges.

My new room was occupied by an older, bald man who greeted me enthusiastically.

He was from South Africa and was on holiday with his wife.

‘She’s in Germany with her parents and I’m driving around for a couple of weeks. Works out great, she sees her family, I see Europe!’

He is in search of an old Abby today, maybe the coast too if he has time. He zips up his jacket and leaves.

I hit the showers and note they are locker room style, four nozzles in a room, but it’s only me showering.

You’ve got to adapt to your situation at hostels. Most everyone will try to shower in the morning or early evening so just go at a different time, no wait or shower buddy.

Due to the rain I make reservations for my next couple stops: Ghent and Barcelona while having a beer in the hostel.

Had to tour the Delirium Brewery in Ghent and actually found a hostel that provides a shuttle to the brewery.

Soon the rain stops and I’m able to get outside.

I grabbed my bottle of Westvleteren from the fridge and walk to the river nearby.

I locate a bench and pop my bottle of supposedly of the world’s best beer. Ok so maybe; one of hardest to procure beers for sure.

It was very good, like drinking sweet raisins is closest comparison flavor. This is a Belgium Quad, a beer style that I am not a huge fan of, as it is bit too sweet for me.

I realized that I didn’t have anyone to share with and it made me miss my friends.

Beer is a shared experience, one where you and friends get to talk about what you drank, flavors, similar beers, that sort of thing.

Today I shared the world’s best beer with ducks and swans. I lifted my bottle their way, but I don’t think they fully understood the magnitude of my toast.

I thought about my Peticolas Brewery friends and wished they were there to enjoy it with me. After each tour, we had a bottle share and tried many new brews while talking and laughing.

The city was surrounded by water and a tree covered path so one could walk or bike around the city easily, no cars.

I followed the path until I came to one of the original entrances, rumored to have the heart of an invader inside.

I saw no hearts on display but it was an excellent building, too small for modern life as the car lanes narrowed to 1 each direction under an archway. Bike and walking lanes to one side too.

It thundered and poured, I had to find a place to duck into and fortunately located a pub.

To get to this pub you have to walk down the wall o beers.

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I’m just killing time while it rains. I get a beer and stand watching it rain.

Scanning the bar and what do I see, they are selling Westvleteren by the bottle for 15€!

A beer I’ve only read about and seen pics of for years I had encountered 2x in a day! I felt better knowing I paid less for the one I bought in Brussels.

After the rain, I’m now in search of the brewery of a beer I’d had at the hostel, de Halve Maan or Half Moon.

It took a couple tries to find the correct path, lots of construction in this little village.

Once I arrived it was too late for tours so I sat near the bar and eavesdropped on tourist conversations.

This is a cool spot: inside are old and new brewery equipment and a long, wooden bar while outside was a large open air patio, each table had an umbrella as it seems to always rain a bit.

As if on cue, it begins to sprinkle and the bartender makes the cry for last call. Might as well have one more.

I make my way back to the hostel via downtown, passed the beautiful square and cathedral.

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Stopped to check out horse and carriages pass by. There’s something special about hearing the clomp clomp of hooves on cobblestone that makes Europe unique.

I pass by a fry place and decide it’s time for Belgium frites. Thick cut fries, covered in mayo or curry.

A plastic pitchfork accompanies the fries…so that’s how they eat them without hundreds of napkins!

Thing is the mayo overseas is a lot better, different from US mayo. I suspect using real ingredients plays a large role cause I wouldn’t use US mayo on fries.

I make it back to the hostel just as it begins to rain again so I hole up out back and watch the rain from the covered patio.

Many small groups of people move from table to table, drinking wine, beer or eating as soon as the rain stops.

Most everyone smokes here which is ok since we are outside. Many bars still allow smoking inside which is always strange.

They also roll their own cigarettes pulling out a small pouch of tobacco and filters. I’ve seen people roll while walking; expert level roller.

Right next door to the hostel is a joint called ‘Ribs and Beer.’ All you can eat ribs sound tempting but it’s expensive and I cannot splurge on food that costs the same as a room for the night.

I go back to the Nepalese spot across the street for lamb biryani, a rice dish. It’s not crowded so I pick a corner seat facing a TV with CNN on.

Tonight is a live speech by Obama and Dallas police chief David Brown regarding the police shootings there few days ago.

I lived only a couple of miles away from where the shootings went down in Dallas. I would have also likely been marching with the Black Lives Matter protesters.

Watching news or TV is a rare event for me and I wished it was a positive reason for viewing, but that wasn’t the case tonight.

I did swell up with pride, both men delivered excellent speeches, but I knew it didn’t do anything. Not even outlawing guns would stop killings, people can always get a gun, knife, whatever it takes.

I felt like crying for many reasons but held it in. Other countries don’t have this many shootings, why can’t the US change, is it more education, less religion? Hopeless musings.

Back at the hostel I sat outside and chatted with some people from France.

I brought up Lyon and they agreed it is a beautiful city, but they and everyone else, loved Paris the most.

It was an early night, I thought about home.

Beer: Brugse  Zot

Song:  K’s Choice   Not an Addict

Dream trip Day 52 Bruxelles, laundry day, train to Bruges, de Garre

It started off rough as the art gallery across the street was closed for a private event, fortunately my hostel did serve coffee but alas no croissant.

Hard life if coffee is your biggest concern of the day. Alas it is also dreaded laundry day.

I can only imagine what people are thinking when they see me: flip-flops, rain jacket zipped to the top, which I had to do as I wasn’t wearing a shirt.

This is your reality if you have to wash everything when it’s laundry day, you sort of resemble a creeper/flasher.

After an uneventful wash spent surfing Reddit, I was back to the hostel to shower as it was fairly warm, especially wearing a rain jacket.

I check out to explore lunch options and again run into a predominantly Muslim area, but it seems more liberal, there are more Belgian interests, such as full butcher shop, modern clothing stores for ladies and a cinema.

Figure I may as well check out the schwarma spot the Brits kept mentioning.

Wow they had some of the best roasted chicken! Came with curry gravy fries and a salad. Cheap too as that plate was 5€.

I’d scoped out trains and there was one every hour to Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, even Amsterdam was very close.

It didn’t take too long to walk to the metro station, passing by churches, even street performers who turned out to actually be peddlers for a new soft drink. At least they gave out free samples of this beverage after their routine.

I wander into the station just as drops of rain begin to fall.

A guy stops me and asks me if I need help. He has a badge around his neck indicating he is a student apprentice with the rail.

He pointed to an open booth and told me I could just catch the next train, leaving in 15 minutes, then pointed to stairs leading to my track! I was all set.

I passed by more military guys with weapons on the platform. I must say, you do not feel safer surrounded by guns. If anything the threat is more real.

I slide into a seat in a very nice compartment and watch the city pass by as it rains.

Belgium countryside is very nice and yes, I did see windmills off in the distance.

An hour later I’m In Bruges.

Yes indeed I’ve seen the movie and the city is as pretty as you see in the film.

Narrow, cobble stone streets, with very old buildings but with large gardens interspersed.

The city is surrounded by a river, as are all other great cities.

There isn’t much of a metro system, buses mostly are what I see on a half hour walk to my hostel.

I dump my items onto my bed and search for activities. I’m the only person in the room but not for long.

Several failed attempts at the door card reader and 3 young girls walk into the room.

They are from Spain on holiday and I’d guess they are just out of high school, maybe 19 years old or less. I feel a bit odd and a lot older. It’s ok, I’m just sleeping here.

We chat a few moments about Spain, but then their phones take over and they all laugh and look at a pic, probably a snapchat.

I locate the route to downtown and walk that way.

There is a main square with a beautiful cathedral as the main attraction.

Food and drink joints line the side of city center with a large statue in the middle.

Horse drawn carriages line up awaiting riders as the city is small enough to see entirely via the original mode of transportation.

I’m hunting for the narrowest street in town that leads to a small pub that makes a beer you can only get there: de Garre.

The alley is the size of a door with a small sign but little else indicating it’s a path.

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The narrow walkway opens up with trees and courtyard. Seems people live on top of the shops that are on ground level and this is their balcony view.

Through a wooden door leads to Bar de Garre and its tiny. Perhaps 5 tables, no seats at the bar, wood stairs to the left.

Bartender tells me the next 2 floors look exactly the same and points to an empty table in a corner. I order a dark Belgium beer and sit down.

Beer is delivered in a goblet with a bowl filled with pieces of house made cheese, a toothpick is the only accouterment. I feel fancy.

After half a beer a local joins me, asking in German if a seat is taken. I nod, extend an open palm and reply, ‘Bitte.’ He has a German paper under his arm is how I knew what to say. He spreads out his paper, ‘Danke,’ and that’s the last time we spoke.

I finally get a bier de Garre and its good, light color but a heavy 10% ABV, as was the first beer I had. You don’t taste the alcohol though, it’s just good.

Belgium beers have a unique flavor due to a unique yeast strain they use. Its flavor profile is sort of like bananas.

The restrooms are up narrow stairs and I encounter my first euro trough, just like peeing on a wall, a stream of water trickles down rinsing the wall.

It’s getting late and looks like rain again so I head to the hostel. I don’t quite make it before rain starts so I’m a bit wet as I enter.

When I checked in, they had a deal on 5 drafts they mark off on a card. This way you could try beer styles from around the country as well as a local option.

I get one and wait out the rain. Still raining, so check off another.

There is a Nepalese place across the street so I pick up momo dumplings, and bring them back to the hostel as its full house in the restaurant.

The dumplings are very good, spicy. Lamb meat ground with veggies and spices.

Once again I’m trapped due to rain so I check off beers on my card.

I sit outside so I can watch it rain and there is a player working on this beautiful Spanish girl. It’s so funny that the guys next to me make some comments so I did, too.

Dude was going hard, telling her where in Belgium to go, but don’t go to Antwerp, he lives there and he had to get out it wasn’t too safe.

After they leave I chat with some French guys about Lyon and soccer. Always futbol, the best way to get to know someone in the EU.

One very casually pulls out a small sack of tobacco and begins to roll a smoke, then another breaks up bits of hash into it before he rolls.

I’m still shocked at how casual things like this are over here as hostels will kick you out for drugs, but I suspect grass isn’t considered a drug, anymore than beer, alcohol.

Rain lightly falls and we all watch for a long time in silence.

I bid them farewell and head to the room, a fine day in Bruges.

Beer: Gluck pils

Song: Stand High Patrol  Automatic Attack

Dream trip Day 51 Walking with Andrew, good beer, roasted chicken 

I wake up and I’m the only person in my room. In fact looks like everyone has checked out so I’ve got the room to myself.

Rare opportunity to have a room to yourself so I take advantage with a long, hot shower.

Grab coffee and a croissant at the art museum. Everyone else orders pizzas. It’s a bit before noon.

I text Andrew and let him know that my plan is to walk to Cantillon, meet there whenever.

This time the walk to the brewery is cool, along the Main Street so I do not pass any mosques but I do pass a carnival being built.

They were going all out too, looked like water rides and the usual tilt-a-whirl, vomit rides.

I correctly order just a glass of Kriek this time and it’s great.

I think the reason I didn’t like sours in US is I have never had a really good one. The ones at Cantillon were very much like wine with beer qualities. This one had a cherry flavour to it.

Andrew joins me, said he had to buy a suitcase for all his beers.

We split a bottle of brewery only sour and it was good.

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Andrew tells me about a beer store in the city we have to stop at later.

‘I have to eat a Belgium waffle. I must eat a waffle while I’m here.’ He says enthusiastically.

We finish the bottle and head to the beer store.

It’s actually near the Delirium Bar, Irish pub I’ve spent most of my time around.

The store is set up with many wooden shelves from the bottom to just above eye level with every size and shape of bottles, glasses and steins.

Andrew clears out a row of beers and tells me this is the one, Westvleteren, consistently rated best beer in the world by beer critics and beer drinkers.

The reason why is clear once you read the beers history: basically it’s made in limited quantities by Abbey monks in 1 place for over a century. It can only be purchased at the Abbey and they limit the quantity 1 person can buy at a time.

I randomly select a couple other beers, a chocolate stout and some other monk made beer, it’s all going to be super rare.

Andrew has 2 large grocery bags of well packed beers to my 3 bottles. Haha

We spy a waffle option and order. Options seem to be chocolate or Nutella then further topped with cream, fruits.

It’s super good and worth the mess. A sweet treat for sure.

On the walk back to the hostel I spy a couple of the guys from the stag party dressed in soccer clothes er kits. They’re on the other side of the street so they don’t see me.

We drop our beers in our rooms and agree to find roast chicken for dinner.

We randomly wander the streets, both of us recall walking past a number of chicken options that are nowhere to be found.

Finally we locate an option, had we merely turned left vs right we’d eaten an hour earlier.

I try to get a whole bird to go but I’m informed he cannot sell me one as it’s too late in the day. I point to the sign reading ‘whole birds to go,’ he shook his head again. ‘Only meals now. Halfs with sides ok.’

Seems he wants to max profits as half a bird with sides costs same as whole with no sides. I get 2 meals as he smiles.

We eat outside and I feed birds my fries. Roasted chicken is wonderful.

He recalls that the famous statue Manekonnen Pis is close so we again wander in search, passing by chocolatiers, the final item on his buy list: Belgium chocolate.

The statue is severely underwhelming, what little can be seen is behind thick bars as the little angel baby has been stolen several times.

Andrew checks out candy from a very pretty girl at a very fancy spot. It’s similar to a jewelry store display but with eggs, kisses and bars, all made with the finest of chocolates.

We pop into a random bar but not before walking down gay street, home to all the city’s gay bars. We are whistled at but they laugh as I overhear, ‘the straights are lost!’

I’m offered a piece of fancy chocolate and its way better than I’m used to eating. Not really sweet either, just silly smooth texture.

We get back to the hostel and Andrew goes to get 2 beers. We drink them at room temp outside on wooden chairs around a wooden spool table. It’s not horrible, but they could have been a bit cooler.

In tow is his newly purchased rolling suit case for his beers. It’s huge, a man could fit inside. He isn’t taking any chances with his Belgium stash.

We are sitting with a couple from Belfast. I tell them my story about the soccer fans I met in France. They hate soccer but laugh at them, ‘seems like a shite time following a shite team.’ One of them, a redhead, says in the thickest accent I’ve heard in my trip.

Oh great here’s a couple of guys from the stag party coming around the corner.

They greet me and join us, the N Irish couple get tense.

Words are exchanged between the Brits and Irish, it seems the redhead Irish guy has a huge anti-English chip on his shoulder.

‘I’m a gay man from Belfast, probably your worst nightmare, eh’ he says.

‘Good on ya. I don’t care, be who you are mate.’ One English guy repeats.

They go back and forth, then the redhead stands and is drug away by his friends.

Why you’d try to start a fight with two big, drunk English guys I have no idea but the Irishman tried indeed.

Once again I’m treated to drunk Englishmen who walk the fine line between annoying and hysterically funny.

One takes drinks from a destroyed water bottle that he somehow managed to bite a small hole in the middle. He can squirt a small stream into his mouth, a trick he repeats to all passing by.

We are soon joined by a female that they showed the trick to. They try to get her to hang and have a beer. She laughs and declines, early flight. They make her laugh enough to sit a moment to tell where’s she’s been, where she’s headed and that she’s a firefighter in Spain.

So the Brits are mostly firefighters, now confirmed.

She seems more intrigued when I tell her my itinerary, which surprised me. I figured firefighters stick together that camaraderie sort of thing.

Again with the squirting water gag. Then one just asks directly, ‘which one of us would you go for, right now?’

She laughs as she walks away. As she enters the hostel, she turns and says, ‘the American, he is nice. And not crude.’

That sets them off as they pat me on the back and make very crude comments about her ample bosom. I suggested that wearing the same uniform likely didn’t help their cause in addition to what they are saying.

They both reveal they are married…back home, not Belgium, which they both agree is a ‘shit county, Brussels is also a bit shit too yeah?’

If all you’ve seen are the insides of pubs, then yeah, maybe you can say that, I say. Get out of pubs and walk this city! Also how drunk are your wives to put up with these chuckleheads??

One takes my advice to heart and staggers off down the road, not to be seen again this night. The other buys me a final beer and also walks off in search of schwarma.

I finish my beer and ponder the amazing disparity of English behavior in country vs outside. Shameless but I suspect the stag outing contributed a lot to their reckless, boorish behaviour.

Beer: Lou Pepe Kriek

Song: Sam Mendes  Stitches

Dream trip day 50 Brussels, Cantillon, new friends

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 of 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 are 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 affordable again so I got another cup.

I discovered I was a short walk to Cantillon brewery, a place I’d heard about and was reminded to go to by the Peticolas Brewing guys I knew.

Thing was these guys made sours, naturally fermented beer. 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.

Cantillon doesn’t go out of their way to advertise or even indicate they are open so I walked past their door a couple of 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 greeted 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.

A full bottle of beer I am not a huge fan of, plus it is 11% ABV. Great way to start the day!

It was a bottle of Kriek which was aged with cherries and it was good, great even.

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There was a small tasting area with a couple of 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.

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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  to attend 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 a while, 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.

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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,’ one related to me.

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’m shocked to pass by a Chi Chi’s, a Mexican restaurant I saw a lot growing up but never ate at one. Why is there one here? I thought they went bankrupt years ago.

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 the 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 of guys having a simmering argument at the table next to me.

It is over one refu sing a beer vs the other continuing 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.

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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. I have no idea what happened other than the lady is passed out on the street or died of a heart attack, aneurysm or other malady.

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 off the street as she may get 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, ‘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 it’s a good way to discover new authors.

I’m ahead of the curve thanks to my tablet, but I am realizing that sometimes electricity isn’t an option. Occasionally a paperback is perfect.

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 about 30 min train rides from Brussels to Ghent to Bruges

I overheard 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. We head out into the night to Delirium.

When I was in the bar earlier it was empty. Now you can hear people from blocks away its 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 the pub 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 Cantillon 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