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Tag: COVID-19

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 2

Peterhead, Ellon, and back to Aberdeen

The second day in Scotland started—as it probably will a couple more times—at the Travelodge breakfast buffet. After that was time to fulfil the last Corona formality: taking the self test, and mailing it. It was even more extensive than the tests performed by professionals, probing both throat and nose! After I got rid of this biohazard, I still had time for an espresso macchiato at BrewDog Castlegate before my bus to Peterhead would leave.

I arrived at BrewDog Peterhead just after they opened, and managed to order the last Smokey Joe pizza, since they apparently ran out of smoked sausage. I was hoping to see some of local brewery Brew Toon, but neither bottle shop nor taproom was open… The bus I planned to take to Ellon afterwards, apparently didn’t run today, so I had some more coffee at Symposium Coffee while I waited.

Luckily the staff at DogTap was happy to change my booking, and when I arrived, the welcome was as warm as it could be, and I don’t just mean the indoor wood fires. They even had a goodie pack for me, because they felt sorry they couldn’t yet provide the tour I was hoping for! Seriously guys, thank you!

It was nice to have a slightly different menu here, and I really enjoyed the oak fired chicken. Frickles—fried pickles—however, are not really my thing. After devouring the chicken, I did my own tour, in the publicly accessible parts, that is. There’s even a indoor roof terrace with a view on the humongous canning line!

After I made it back to Aberdeen, my first stop was the Fierce Bar: quite a cosy bar, and a great tap list!

My last stop of the evening was at CASC. I didn’t try any of the cigars or whisky: just the beer did do just nicely. Even though they’re still only using less than half of their lines, among what was available, were some bangers!

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 1

Inverness, Inverurie, and Aberdeen

After a day of quite heavy drinking in London, and a nightcap on the train, I fell asleep—or did I pass out?—as soon as I put my head down. I even forgot to take out my contact lenses, or set my alarm, so when I eventually woke up, I was already late for breakfast! Luckily not too late, and mere minutes after getting up, I was enjoying a Highland breakfast and tea.

The Caledonian Sleeper arrived ten minutes early in Inverness, leaving me with a little less time than planned… In the rush, I couldn’t find my toiletry bag until the very last minute—it was on my bed under the blanket—leaving me with a rather peculiar hairdo for the rest of the day.

When I alighted in Inverness, I had still some time to kill before the first Stagecoach bus to Culloden Battlefield would leave, so I first had a coffee at Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop.. The bus then dropped me off right in front of the visitor centre and museum. As a fresh National Trust for Scotland member, I had free access to the exhibition.

After that, I walked upon the battlefield itself. It was a chilling experience to stand on the exact spot where the MacLarens must have stood in 1746, in line with many other Jacobites, just seconds before advancing to the enemy, and for many of them, towards their death…

At Culloden I also learned that the perfect amount of social distancing is two Scottish broadswords long, or four targes. I think people would keep their distance much better if everyone was actually still wearing broadswords!

Back in Inverness, I had a pizza for lunch at the Black Isle Bar, where they of course also served beer from their brewery on the other side of the firth. Before getting to the train station, I had to little walk through town, and quickly visited Leakey’s Bookshop. After all, since handing over a sixpack of 75cl bottles, and a couple of cans and small bottles in London, I had plenty of room in my bag for books!

After this little excursion, it was time for the first Scottish BrewDog bar of this trip, and my first stamp towards the Flying Scotsman reward: BrewDog Inverurie! I was still a bit rough from the day before, so I just had one beer there, and a whole lot of water. The staff was great though, and the Craig Fisher graffitis were awesome as usual!

My last train of the day brought me to Aberdeen, which would be my home for the next two nights. I checked into Travelodge Aberdeen to get settled, and to check out my obligatory day two Corona test kit. It looks like I’ll get to play doctor on Sunday!

All settled, freshened up, and hair finally combed, I then headed to BrewDog Castlegate for dinner. I didn’t account for the Saturday night crowds, however, and had to wait outside for a bit. Not for long though, and I only just had the first sip from my second beer, when the lovely staff told me they found me a table! It then didn’t take long before I was tucking into a Korean fried chicken burger, this month’s special.

My final stop of the evening was at the OG BrewDog bar, BrewDog Aberdeen. Here BrewDog News Podcast’s Rob left me a bottle of MMXXX I won in a prize draw a couple of months ago. Thanks for that, Rob, and we’ll surely meet in person another time!

A Belgian Holiday – Part III

For the last part of my Belgian holiday, I stayed close to home, in the old duchy of Brabant, and I went to Mechelen on Saturday, and to Antwerp on Sunday. It was a weekend well spent.

Mechelen

To get a bit of a walk in before the beers, I got off the train one stop early again, in Weerde. This way, I got to enjoy a bit of green before entering the town. When I arrived in the centre, it seemed just about everybody wanted to spend the day outside—and rightfully so—but luckily I found a free table at Sister Bean, to enjoy a coffee and and apple crumble.

When it comes to beer, it seems De Floeren Aap is the place to be in Mechelen nowadays. Needless to say, I spent quite some time on their terrace, to try some of their vast selection of canned beers. Not for too long, though, because I had a race the next morning…

Brussels Nature Run

Sunday morning I had my first ever running event: Brussels Nature Run! It was also the first time I ran somewhere not completely flat, so that was a bit of a challenge, and I almost regretted choosing the 16K instead of the 10K… It all worked out in the end, and I’m quite happy with the time I made.

Antwerp

The last day of my Belgian holiday, I spent in Antwerp. Because this was actually supposed to be my last day in Scotland, I went kilted on this occasion. I selected Antwerp for this last stop, because I knew there would be plenty of beer places to visit, and beer people to meet.

My first stop was at Billie’s Bottle Shop. Its little beer garden was already packed, but with a bit of improvisation, I eventually had a nice spot to enjoy some of Stéfan’s excellent selection of beers.

Next up was Station 1280, which had set up a terrace on a nice and quiet courtyard. Then it was time to discover a place I had never been before: The Northerner. Their draught beers were pretty standard, but here again, a very nice can list! The pulled pork sub was very tasty—and at that point very welcome—as well.

My last beer stop was, as usual, because of its proximity to the train station, Beerlovers Bar. Saying goodbye to Ben, and to Antwerp, also meant the end of my Belgian holiday.

A Belgian Holiday – Part II

For the second part of my Belgian holiday, I went to Wallonia. The beer world still seems to be a more old fashioned here—both when it comes to bars and breweries—but luckily there are some exceptions.

Liège

My day in Liège started again with a bit of a hike. The south of the country is a bit more hilly than the north, so there was a bit more climbing involved. At least that provided me with a couple of nice views as well!

After reaching the city centre again, it was time to nourish and refresh the body: coffee at Darius Cafe, a waffle—I was in Liège after all—from Une Gaufrette Superlipopette, and some beers at BeerLovers’ Café. I would have liked to have a couple at Wild Lab as well, but contrary to what they had told me before, they weren’t open…

Misery Beer Co.

Two days later I passed through Liège again, on my way to Comblain-la-Tour. From there I hiked to Misery Beer Co., as I did once before, but from a different direction this time, starting at the Comblain-La-Tour train station.

Once arrived at Misery, I spent a wonderful couple of hours there, enjoying a beer that had long eloped me, one that was just released that day, and some of their classics. If there’s one brewery I regret not participating in the crowdfunding of—”it’s in the middle of nowhere, I’ll never make it out there”—it’s this one… They always make me feel so very welcome, and their beers are outstanding!

A Belgian Holiday – Part I

Last Friday, I once again found myself in Bruxelles Midi station in a train. This time however, I wasn’t on a Eurostar, but on a regular Belgian, suburban train. I had some days off work for my long awaited Scotland trip, but since I didn’t feel like going into an expensive quarantine for ten days, I postponed that trip for the third—and hopefully last—time. Being quite the optimist when it comes to travelling however, I waited right until the last minute to make that decision, and by then it was already too late to cancel my days off…

Gueuzerie Tilquin

So I decided to stay in Belgium, the only place I could freely travel about, and last Friday, instead of whizzing underneath the Channel on my way to London, I was cycling alongside a canal, on my way to Gueuzerie Tilquin.

Strong headwinds, in combination with a heavy, 7-speed Blue-bike, made the trip a bigger effort than I envisioned, but the destination was worth it: Tilquin had been celebrating their ten years of existence over the past couple of weekends, and this weekend was the last one. I enjoyed a couple of flights, and had a chat with Pierre, before the winds—and a train from Halle—took me home again.

Leuven

On Saturday I took a train to Leuven, or actually to Veltem, two stops before Leuven’s main station. That way I could get a couple of kilometres under my belt, before reaching my destination of the day: beer shop Hops ‘n’ More, which was hosting a tap takeover by Croatian brewery Nova Runda. The walk to Leuven was nice enough, and mostly dry, but by the time I reached the center, it was pouring down… I even had to cover my beers while heading for shelter under a just-too-tiny terrace umbrella, to prevent them from diluting too much!

Ghent

On Saturday I went to Ghent. There are plenty of beery places there I’d been longing to revisit since lockdown started again, but a day in Ghent of course had to start with a nice coffee, accompanied by a donut this time, at Full Circle Coffee.

Then onwards to Dok Brewing Company, Brouwbar, and Bar Beenhouwer, while enjoying some more sights on the way. Luckily, the weather was a whole lot more pleasant—and dry—than the day before!

Saint Patrick’s Day 2021

When in 2020 all bars had to close their doors mere days before Saint Patrick’s Day, I didn’t celebrate it at all. For this year’s edition it was already clear well in advance that celebrating in pubs again wouldn’t be an option… At least I had time to prepare for an alternative this time!

I started the day with a walk—in my saffron kilt—past a lot of the Irish and Celtic pubs of Brussels. Even Manneken Pis was dressed for the occasion!

When I was back home, I started cooking a traditional Irish dish, that would hopefully also provide enough sustenance for the beery night that would ensue: colcannon. I even poached an egg for the first time!

The main event of the evening however, was an online Saint Patrick’s Day celebration which I co-hosted, on the Discord server I set up for my beer blog. For this occasion I sourced some beers from a couple of different Irish (Third Barrel, Galway Bay, Stone Barrel) and Northern Irish (Boundary) breweries, and the only Irish dry stout by a Brussels brewery: Stouterik!

Sláinte!

Liège & Manoir de Harzé

With one round trip left on my free government issued Rail Pass, and a museum assignment to complete, I decided to go to La Boverie, a museum in Liège, so I could take a nice walk in the Ardennes afterwards. So this dreich Sunday, I got on a rather empty train to Wallonia and spent my morning in the museum, and fruitlessly walking through the city looking for an open espresso bar.

In the afternoon I travelled on to Aywaille, and walked to Manoir de Harzé, home to the great Misery Beer Co., which I had visited before last summer. I had rain, hail, and sunshine during my hike, but it was sure nice to be able to be outside, in woods and fields, without a mask. Upon arrival, I had a couple of cold beers (the shop was still open, and I bought a glass as well), before heading home again with a backpack full of beer…

A Special Saint-V…

Today, the 20th of November, is Saint-V, the day when the VUB and ULB students and alumni celebrate the foundation of the free universities of Brussels, and what they stand for.

This year the celebrations mostly take place online for understandable reasons, but that doesn’t keep me from wearing my traditional ‘studentenklak’ on this special day!

Every year special medals are made for the occasion, carrying that year’s motto. The Dutch version of the current edition would translate as “At a distance, but not distant”…