Brussels, Belgium - Part 2

Markt Square. Brussels. Belgium

We took the Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tour and were treated to some excellent stories of the city. One of the stories we were told was of the Town Hall in the Grote Market. Town Hall, Brussels. BelgiumThe town hall has two wings built outward from the gate and one is shorter than the other. There is a myth that says that the architect upon seeing this error went to the top of the gate tower and hurled himself to his death. This is a myth, as the building was not a singular construction and the shorter wing is only that way because they ran out of space. The tour took us through many beautiful parts of the city, which like all of Europe has many stories. Our guide was from Scotland and his passion for Brussels was evident in every words he spoke. Every stop along the way he told his stories passionately, enthusing us with a desire to know more of the history of this country and city as well as a little of the Belgium Waffle - There is no such thing.

Brussels. BelgiumWhat is widely understood to be the Belgium Waffle is actually a Brussels Waffle, square with large pockets and dusted with Confectioner’s Sugar. What most people believe to be a Belgium Waffle is actually a variation of this and in Brussels they call it the Tourist Waffle – a Square Waffle covered in Cream, Sugar, Fruit, Nutella, any topping you can think up. There is also a third style available in Brussels, the Liège Waffle, in which there are chunks of sugar on the outside that are caramelised while cooking then served plain or with either cinnamon or vanilla dusting. Fries are a common snack in Brussels, and it is commonly thought that the name French Fries comes from American soldiers in World War 1 believing they were being served the dish in France. Fries are commonly served in cardboard cones and topped with a variety of toppings and served with sauce (of which there a dozens, many of which do not match the same such as the Samurai which has no Japanese flavours at all). There are many places in Belgium that say they have the best fries, but this is highly subjective, and you must make your own decision as to which you find the better.

Brussels. Belgium

Being that Belgium is a chocolate producer renowned the world over, we took a walking chocolate tour with Bravo Discovery to discover some of the boutique outlets and the reason for the notoriety. On the tour we were able to sample a few of these stores but not at all, which I found strange since this was a paid tour. At the start, the Grote Market, we were told the same story of the architect’s suicide before beginning our tasting of chocolate.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumThe first store was Galler, which was the first chocolatier to offer the praline as a bar, revolutionising the industry. Next came Darcis, a young chocolate company that utilises a ganache with no sugar or added flavourings, and offers a range of origin chocolates. We tried a Madagascan chocolate which is a beautiful middle chocolate lightly bitter sweet that our guide described as being the Merlot of the chocolate world. Maisson Dandoy, a boutique cookie manufacturer, followed by a visit to Pierre Ledent next door. Pierre Ledent makes Chocolates and Macrons of seasonal fruit and other exotic flavours. What really sets them apart though is the presentation. Pierre Ledent supply their wares in ornate boxes reminiscent of fine jewellery. Then came Leonidas, the oldest industrial chocolate maker and probably the most widely recognised. Their chocolates are not the premium Belgium chocolate but are still very good and are widely distributed. In the Queen’s Arcade we visited Méert, and tried an old fashioned waffle with a vanilla butter filling made to an original 1851 recipe. Godiva (where we did not receive a sample), which modified their recipes for the US market increasing sugar and fat content. Marcolini (another place we didn’t receive a sample), producing pralines of higher quality but smaller size. Neuhaus (another place we didn’t receive a sample), the original large praline invented by a pharmacist. Mary, supplier to the royal family, and Elizabeth whose chocolates include a variety of herbs and spices that stood out amongst the rest for the ingenuity and variety of flavours.

Chocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. BelgiumChocolate, Brussels. Belgium

The chocolate tour was fascinating and offered some wonderful insights into the history and culture of Belgium Chocolate, as well as the appreciation of chocolate as a whole. What we learned was that the great chocolatiers of Belgium pride themselves on utilising the highest quality chocolate, sourced from across the globe, with only the best ingredients to produce their signature flavours. Many companies state that this is what they do, but when you scale up any manufacture process there is a loss in quality. Many of these boutique chocolatiers have scaled up their operations but only to the point where the quality is still high and so is the price.

Other articles in Belgium:

Brussels, Belgium Part 1

Brussels, Belgium Part 3

Brussels, International Jazz Day


Brussels, Belgium - Part 1

Delerium Cafe, Brussels. BelgiumBrussels is the capital of Belgium, and the European Union. It is the home of waffles (there is no such thing as Belgium Waffles) and fries (are not French in origin) and widely regarded as a capital of beer.

We arrived in Belgium after 5 days of camping in the Netherlands and went to the apartment we had rented for the week, 10 kilometres from the city centre. We had opted for an apartment in order to relax in quiet and cook for ourselves (a rarity on this trip so far).

Brussels. BelgiumThe week began easily with us taking in some Jazz performance on International Jazz Day, then on the Thursday a friend arrived from Germany to spend the weekend with us. It was May Day and most of the city was closed for the holiday, but we found a street party to enjoy with dozens of food and drink stalls and a free rock concert.

Belgium is home to some exceptional beers as well as bars to enjoy them in. There were two bars that really stood out for us, Delerium Tremens and Moeder Lambic.

Delerium Tremens Café is an excellent bar listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most beers available in any venue (currently they have over 3000). There are a few of these in the city centre, but we only visited the main café which has three levels. The Café was always busy and the beer was excellent. The café also offers a menu book as a souvenir which I bought for 5 Euros. Delerium also have a number of other cafés that include one dedicated to Tequila.

Delerium Cafe, Brussels. BelgiumDelerium Cafe, Brussels. Belgium

Moeder Lambic, Brussels. BelgiumMoeder Lambic has two locations offering a range of excellent beers including the Lambic Spontaneous Fermentations. When we visited, they were offering the Saint Bon-Chien range of beers… When we arrived, we asked a bartender to recommend a beer for us to try. He asked us what flavours we specifically wanted to explore and then chose a beer for us accordingly, an excellent service to offer. Here we tried the following beers: La Saison 225 Abricot, a light fruit beer; La Saison 225 Grapes, a beautiful beer with syrah grapes; Framboise Cantillon, a spontaneous fermentation raspberry ale; Bière de Miel, a surprisingly hoppy honey beer; La Saison 225, a good but not outstanding ale; Valier Blond, a fruity slightly hoppy beer; Val-Dieu Blonde, very lightly flavoured with almost no hops; Cuvée De Ranke, a spontaneous fermentation sour ale with excellent aromas of fruit with a hint of hops; Abbaye St Bon-Chien 2013, An extraordinary beer with very subtle carbonation in the style of a fine champagne.

If you visit Brussels, and enjoy tasting beer, I would highly recommend visiting both of these bars. Delerium for its range and ambience, and Moeder Lambic for the quality and variety of Lambic beers available.

Other articles in Belgium:

Brussels, Belgium Part 2

Brussels, Belgium Part 3

Brussels, International Jazz Day


Tough Mudder - Whistler, Canada 2014

Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

The Tough Mudder is an endurance event held in numerous places across the world, based on designs by the British SAS. It is advertised as ‘Probably the toughest event on the planet’.

I had the opportunity to take part while I was visiting Vancouver Canada. The location for this event was at Whistler, one of the premier outdoor locations in the area. The course consisted of 20 obstacles (any of which can be bypassed) over 19 kilometres and is held over 2 days. We (Gilles, Louisa, and myself) competed on the Sunday.

At the start, we are grouped together and given our warm up speech consisting of lines such as:

“19 kilometres of hell”

“Welcome to the Mudder Legion”

“There is no clock here, I don’t care about your time”

“You are all here to finish. You are all on the same team now. Leave no Mudder behind”

The Mudder begins with a run through the hillside, mainly over rocky terrain, up and down with spectacular views of the forest and the distant range (something you get used to doing between obstacles, but you never get used to the views). You run a loop for nearly two kilometres before the first obstacle – the “Arctic Enema”, a shipping container filled with ice and water and a divider in the centre to ensure that you go under and through the 1⁰C liquid. When we arrived my teammate kept telling the volunteers that we needed more ice in the water before we jumped in. As there were three of us, I stayed close to the bottom, swimming through the pitch black water until I was on the other side. When I emerged, I let loose with a litany of curses as I shook off the frigid water.

This was followed by the “Glory Blades” – two sets of walls angled towards the competitor. By now we were mostly dry, and made our way onward to “Walk the plank”, a four/five metre high platform over a small lake (thankfully not filled with ice). “Hold your wood” was next, where competitors select a log from a pile to carry for around 500 metres before depositing back on the pile. “Kiss of Mud” was an easy obstacle whereby you crawled through the mud under a barbed wire canopy. It was probably around another two kilometres before we reached the “Berlin Walls” were two lots of four/five metre walls to be scaled. Many competitors were able to sprint, run up the wall and over, but others needed a boost to get over (including me as I just couldn’t quite get over). We stopped here and helped a few others get over.

Crossing the Blades, Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, CanadaWalking the Plank, Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Hold you Wood, Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, CanadaA ways on again came the “Mud Mile” which must have been measured by someone with a mathematics disorder because it was probably around a 100-150 metre long stretch with five mud holes separated by mud barriers. Halfway through the mud one of the contestants cried out with a cramp and we stopped to attend him. Literally a dozen people stopped in their tracks to signal for medics as his teammates, Gilles and myself helped to lift him out of the mud and get him safely off the course. “Lumberjacked” was a simple series of logs set at various heights to jump over. “Prairie Dog” consisted of scrambling up one pipe then down another, “Trench Warfare” a small dark tunnel that veers off a couple of times before emerging again into the light. The “Ladder to Hell” was wooden structure, probably six or seven metres, with slats set about a metre or so apart for contestants to scale. Here again we helped someone to get over the top and succeed in their goals.

The “Warriors Carry” had contestants carry another contestant for 100 metres before reversing the situation for another 100 metres. The “Devils Beard” is a weighted rope net whereby a team member goes under and raises the net for another team member to go through and past enough to hold up another part of the net to create a tunnel. Each team member leap frogs through until everyone has passed the obstacle. “Balls to the Wall” was another wall to scale, probably five metres high (my sense of scale having become completely skewed by this time), with the help of a knotted rope. “Log Jamming” was another series of logs, this time to go over and under. The “Cliffhanger” was a short but very steep uphill beside the Olympic Ski Jump, in the middle of two moderate uphill climbs.

Electroshock Therapy, Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, CanadaThe “Funky Monkey” was quite the challenge, and I dropped into the water halfway through. It consists of two sets of monkey bars stretched over a pond – the 1st set angled up, and the 2nd down. Then came “Everest” a skate board quarter pipe to run and pull yourself up to the top. After the Funky Monkey, this proved difficult for many a contestant, and as such there were a dozen Mudders perched on top helping pull them up. It was after this that veteran Mudders were able to partake in a couple of extra obstacles before heading along to the final obstacle – “”Electroshock Therapy”. To finish the day, I walked through this obstacle, arms stretched wide, to catch as many of the electrical cables hanging over the mud pit as possible.

The End of Tough Mudder, Whistler, British Columbia, CanadaThe Tough Mudder was a brilliant challenge, which tested the limits of my endurance (I am not a runner or a jogger) and made for an excellent experience. I am looking forward to taking part in another event somewhere in the world, maybe even at home in Adelaide if they can ever get it approved. If you want a challenge, if you want to do something a little extreme, you should give it a go. A word of advice though, do some cross training – You will need it.

Below is a video highlighting my experience of the event: Run Time: 2:47




Other Canada Articles

Vancouver Part 1
Vancouver Part 2
Vancouver Part 3
Canada Day



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