Delirium + Frites
There is a special place in the depths of my own personal nightmares called strapping a weekend's worth of belongings to my back and setting off predawn to catch a seven and a half hour bus ride across the European countryside. But at the end, they promised chocolate and frites, so the amount of complaining to be done is finite, really.
And when you crack one eye open two hours in because--why are there people talking?--to the most endless stretch of big sky sunrise that literally traps the breath in your throat--I would have taken a picture, but sleep deprivation does strange things to my soul. The next time I peered out between my cemented lids, headphones yanked free, people still talking in the background of Tour Guide Rob's gentle and jolly wake up, we'd reached the Cliffs of Dover. nothing looks quite like the ends of this Earth like those white stone towers and the view out onto the English Channel.
21 miles. An hour and a half long ferry ride. A trip through immigration. Hello, tourists, winked the French Government, come right on through. Quick, but sad considering I wanted that stamp in my passport. We had breakfast on board. We considered a cocktail, but it was barely 9AM. We crossed the time zone, ate spaghetti because it was the only thing on the Belgian menu I could both understand and pronounce, in a rest stop so beautiful it hurt my Jersey pride.
I woke up again in Brussels, deposited my stuff in a wifi-less hotel--the right awful horror--and we were off. Brussels is magic. They do a Christmas time light show in Grand Place that is Disneyland in classic Gothic lines. It is joyful. It is everything you ever needed to mainline that Christmas spirit to you heart twenty days out. And it happens every fifteen minutes. And there there is a battle movement and the waffles cost a single euro and toppings only eighty cents. And everything you ever loved about America is wrong, and this is all before you set foot in Delirium Cafe.
When I asked where it was, Rob laughed. "I've heard tell of its existence nearby, but everyone who reports back is too pissed to remember where it is." Thankfully, I wrangled Vodafone into finally allowing international service on my cell, and with Google, we knew how to spend our Friday night.
Belgian beer laughs in the face of Blue Moon and takes a leak on Stella Artois' grave. Stella to Europe is PBR to Brooklyn college parties and the Guinness World Record holder of most commercially available beers, Delirium Cafe--30 on tap and another couple thousand in bottles--doesn't even carry it ironically. And yet, in America, they hock it as a classed up, served in a chalice, upmarket import they put in New York grocery stores for $12 a six-pack. I know the truth now, farewell, Stella. I loved you once, but never again. (I apologize profusely to all of my friends; I am going to be such a stuck-up, insufferable terror when I get back to the States). We sampled all of the varieties of Delirium Beer available on tap, Xmas, Tremens and Red and at an average 8.7% ABV, three glasses and the accompanying pink elephants--this is not a hallucination, the chalices are literally decorated with such rose-colored quadripeds--are enough to have you looking desperately for a glass of water and your bed.
After finding my phone, where all girls keep their best things they don't want their tipsy counterparts to lose, close to the heart, we were home, in bed, at the continental breakfast and on the bus, asleep, crossing into Germany.
Aachen has what is surely the most vast Christmas market I have seen in all of my European travels, and aside from the Belgian waffles, the best food. We sampled all that there was to try, packed my giant purse-wish-it-was-a-backpack full of goodies and hid from the rain in the coziest German pub. We whittled away the worst of the storm over a pint alongside what must have been a German bachelor party, judging my the shouting and sheer amount of Jagerbombs. I tried Bitburger, though, in my highly uninformed opinion, Delirium Tremens is far superior. Then again, if the signs in the cafe were to be believed, Tremons was voted The Best Beer In The World.
We were back in Brussels in time for dinner, enjoyed market-side with the first vegetable I'd seen in 48 hours and polished off with a waffle alongside the Manekin Piss. Belgium's most prized possession is a foot-and-a-half tall fountain statue of a toddler taking a piss. They dress it up like an elf come holidays, sometimes like a bunny 'round Easter, as if you needed further proof of this country's worth...Guess what's on your spinney key-chain from Belgium, Dad.
Sunday morning brought our first sighting of Brussels by day, souvenir shopping (read: chocolate tasting) and lunch back a Delirium Cafe. And don't look at me like that, nothing else was open. Then the bus, a stop at a chocolate factory with more goodies and less €€s, and back in London by 20:00.
Amazing how it felt like coming home, but forever and always, my stomach belongs to you, Brussels, and my fries belong to mayo and a dusting of Old Bay.