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Monday, June 11, 2012

Oudenaarde to Antwerpen

I am having WiFi problems again. so just a quick description with an update and pictures later.

As has become the rule, the day started off grey and threatening. Our path today was basically to follow the Schelde river to Antwerp. Sounds easy, right?

When we got the outskirts of Ghent, it turns out there was massive construction around the river. Luckily, we me a local cyclist -- Roger -- who knew the way around the detour, and a bit of a shortcut to bypass central Ghent. The latter is important because Ghent is probably the best beer city in Belgium and one could get easily distracted and delayed.

Rodger left us near Melle and gave us a rough idea on how to find the Schelde again, which we did after a couple of false turns.

Back along the Schelde we got to Wetteren and decided to stop for a bit (it being 2pm by now). Monday is a traditional closing day for restaurants and bars (and many other business) so we didn't find much open in Wetteren but didn't finally find a tea-house sort of cafe.

Just as we finished lunch, the heavens opened up with a fairly heavy rain. When it slowed to a drizzle, we loaded up the bikes and headed for the train station, were we exercised the better part of valor and bought train tickets to Antwerp. The sky did not look friendly.

It was raining lightly in Antwerp when we arrived and made our way to the nights lodgings, the International Zeemanshuis. This is a large hotel that was built to provide lodgings for the men who work on river barges and ocean going freighters. They also rent rooms (at a higher rate but still quite a bargin) to tourists.

We agreed to meet at the Antwaerps Bierhuyske -- a fairly new bar off the Grote Markt -- at 7pm.  I was early, Tim was late (having visited a couple of other bars first). I did get to try the "new" Trappist beer, Mont des Cats, which is brewed at Chimay under the direction of the Mont des Cats abbey in France.

The beer was well made, drinkable but just not that interesting. Without the attraction of the Trappist logo I don't think it would do that well.

Tim wanted to stay a little longer, so I went off to the Kulminator (my home away from home in Antwerp). The draft beer menu had actually change very little since I was last there in December -- lots of Christmas beers. I started off with a Avec les Bons Vouex, one of my favorite Belgian beers, followed by a De Struise Rogge Triple XXX -- it was billed as a rye triple but in color and flavor (and alcohol) it was more in the Quadruple range. Interesting beer but I didn't feel the need for another.

I decided to try a bottle and realized I hadn't had a Rochefort this trip, so I ordered a 2003 Rochefort 10. It was nicely aged and very enjoyable.

Leen told me when they were going thru some old stock, they found a cache of beers they didn't realize they had: some cases of 1987 De Dolle Oerbier and Stille Nacht. And around the same time, doing some inventory of the stock moved from their old cafe ("Bodega") they found some 1979 St Sixus. This was the beer brewed in Watou by what is now St Bernardus for the abbey of St Sixtus in Westvleteren.

By this time our new friend Mike (from Newfoundland, whom we met at the Bierhuyske) had joined us so we decide to go for all three. Well there was catch -- to order the 1979 Abt, you also had to order a current Westvleteren 12. So we did.

All the aged beers were still carbonated and very good. This will get me struck off the rolls of and maybe some hate mail if anybody reads this, the current Westvleteren 12, while the most expensive beer of the bunch, was by far the least interesting and had quite a bit left when the other classes were empty.

By this time it was close to midnight and we had a long day ahead (as the weather was supposed to clear) so we called it a night and called for a cab.

Distance Ridden: 52.5km
Total Distance: 171 km

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