Euro beer trip day 5 – A few Flemish bars

Rembrandt, Zedeldgem

Tourhoutsesteenweg 164, Zedelgem
Mon-Wed Closed; Thu, Fri 11 – close; Sat, Sun 10 – close
050/200808

It’s not that easy to find this bar, unless you follow the directions correctly! Leave the station, crossing the line if you’ve arrived from the Brugge direction. Walk along Ruddervoordestraat until you get to the roundabout, then turn left along Tourhoutsesteenweg and you’ll the find the bar. Alternatively, turn left on Sint-Elooistraat, cut across the front of the church, and walk up to the main road, turning left when you do. Either way will take around 15 minutes.

Once inside, you’ll find a cosy bar, covered in knick-knacks, many of which are La Chouffe orientated or from the bar’s branch of Club Brugge KV supports club.

A beer list of 114 beers contains the usual suspects, the main surprise being the De Leeuw Blonde and Bruin. Draught la Chouffe is a speciality, as is Chouffe coffee.

De Zalm, Roeselare

Grote Markt, Roselare
Mon, Thu – Sat 07 – close; Tue 07 – afternoon; Wed closed; Sun 11 – close
051/200081

Situated on the corner of the main square in Roeselare is Rodenbach’s jewel in it’s crown. Normally, Rodenbach beer is a blend of ‘Foederbier’ – (their beer that has been matured in wooden fermenters) with younger beer and caramel for colour and sweetness. De Zalm on the other hand sell draught Rodenbach Foederbier – quite sour and a bit like a lambic. A few other websites say that this is served though British style handpumps, but when I popped my head round the door, I never noticed these. Perhaps they were removed during the refurbishment at the end of 2009. Also available is Palm ‘Ongefilterde’ (Unfiltered).

The other 30 or so beers aren’t particularly exciting, but the two ‘specials’ more than make up for it, especially if you can sit out in the sun and enjoy them like we did!

t Walhalla, Roeselare

Zuidstraat 30, Roeselare
Thu, Fri, Sat 16-2230; Sun 18-22
051/247543

Modern, open looking bar with soft lighting and candles on each table. Didn’t try the food but looks rather interesting. Average beer list numbering 51, although this included 5 De Dolle Brouwers beers and a house beer. It’s only listed on the menu as ‘Walkure’ and the only information they would divulge is that it’s from somewhere in the Ardennes region. Bit on the pricey side too. [Update: from the end of September, they claim to have over 100 beers]

Kroegske, Emelgem

Vijfwegenstraat 35, Emelgem (use Izegem railway station)
Thu-Sun

From the railway station, walk up the ramp to join the road bridge that goes over the railway. Follow the road to the roundabout and take the road facing you – Vijfwegenstraat. Kroegske is a little further along on your left hand side.

Now, this is one of those bars that needs a good few hours to do justice to a visit. Jerry didn’t fancy counting the number of beers in the list, but there’s over 400… Their website, along with other reports mention about the do’s and don’ts in the bar, but we found the owners, Danny and Nadine, to be perfectly agreeable, although service could have been a bit livelier.

Their house beers, brewed at Alvinne but by the Kroegske owners are available too.

It’s not as easy to get to as some other bars, but I just hope it’s far enough off the tourist trail…

Euro beer trip day 4 – Wuppertal / Koeln

9 Sep
Most of today was spent travelling from Prague, changing at Dresden, Lepzig and Hannover. After a quick look round Wuppertal, we headed for Köln. Köln’s main export (as far as beer is concerned!) is Kölsch.

Kölsch is a pale golden lager type beer with a bit of hoppiness and it’s all pretty much the same. I’m sure seasoned drinkers will be able to tell the difference between them and have their favourites, but they were all pretty similar to me. Generally, the beer is served in 200ml glasses known as ‘stange’ by be-apronned (is that a word?) Köbes. Depending on where you drink and how much of a local / how gullible you are, the Köbe will bring you another glass as soon as the one you’re drinking is empty.

Anyway – we did call at various bars serving Kölsch, namely

Brauhaus Sion
(Sion Kölsch)
Peters Brauhaus (Peter’s Kölsch)
Alter Markt Treff (Gilden Kölsch)
Kalisse (Suenner Kölsch)

Euro beer trip day 3 – Praha

Jerry was heading towards Germany today, leaving me for an extra day in Praha, but first, a quick visit to

U sadu

Škroupovo náměstí 5, Prague 3
222 727 072
Mon-Fri 08-04, Sat-Sun 09-04

The first thing you’ll notice about this place is the opening hours! 8am during the week and 9am on weekends, staying open till 4 the following morning! Again, a decent selection of 8 beers, including unfiltered Gambrinus 10. Oh – and free wifi! It’s not the easiest place to find in the middle of a housing estate.

Jihoměstský pivovar

Podjavorinské 1601/8, 149 00 Praha 4
222 352 242
Mon-Thu 11-23, Fri 11-24, Sat 12-24, Sun 12-23

Make sure you have a good map! Located a few minutes walk from Háje metro station in Jižní Město, Pragues biggest panelák housing estate appears to be just a grey concrete building from the outside, but inside is a German beer hall-esque restaurant and bar. They brew 5 of their own beers and the food’s rather good too!

Pivovarský Klub

Křižíkova 272/17, Praha 8
222 315 777
Daily 1130-2330

‘Only’ 6 taps, but bottled beers from 30 or so Czech breweries and even more from further afield. Quite a light, airy place that doesn’t allow smoking (!?!). Again, didn’t eat this time but have done in the past and it’s been fine.

Euro beer trip day 2 – Praha

After arriving in Praha, having a quick shower in the hotel, I was soon out with Jerry exploring the sites of Praha. Not the usual touristy sites (apart from a quick visit to Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí).

First port of call was

Ferdinanda

Opletavova 1597/24, Praha
Mon-Sat 11-23
222 244 302

Pleasant cellar bar with strange decoration. All the bit and bobs around the bar are made from old tools – the coat hooks are the heads from rakes, ash trays are trowels etc… Ferdinand beers available, including the excellent Sedm Kuli.

Lunch was at

Havelská Koruna

Havelská 501/23, Praha 1
Mon-Sat 09-18
224 239 310

The beer’s not particularly great – just Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell, but the food is traditional Czech. When you enter, you are issued with a piece of paper. Don’t lose or or you’re fined something daft like the equivalent of £15. Next, queue up in the snake like queue, decide what you want and order. It’s slapped on your plate and the bit of paper scribbled on to show what you’ve ordered. Choose a beer and then find a table. Some of the staff do speak a little English, but if you learn to say “vepřové, knedlíky a zelí ” you’ll get the good old staple of pork, dumplings and sauerkraut.

On the way out, hand the stern lady behind the till your paper and she’ll work out your bill.

U dvou koček

Uhelný trh 415/10, Praha 1
Daily 11-23
224 229 982

I’ve walked past this place countless times – on this visit to Praha we went in as it now brews its own beers. They supposedly brew svetle, polotmavy and tmavy, although they only had the svetle when we were there, saying that the beer was too popular for them to keep up with demand!

As we were in the area, it would seem a shame not to visit

Potrefená husa, Anděl

Nádražní 23, Praha 5
Sun-Wed 1130-01, Thu-Sat 1130-02
257 941 669

Part of Staropramen’s ever growing chain of restaurant pubs, this branch is in the brewery buildings! Allegedly the only place to get the unfiltered (nefiltrovaný) Staropraman – I can’t dispute this as I’ve not seen it elsewhere! But on this occasion I decided to try the new Staropramen 11. The restaurant is actually really nice – I’ve eaten there before and the food is good and the decor is quite modern. The only downside is that they allow smoking, but that’s still pretty much par for the course anywhere in the Czech Republic.

Next port of call –

u klokočníka

Na Veselí 702/48 , Praha 4
Daily 10-22
261 224 717

A proper Czech boozer! Basic interior, plastic topped tables and a thick smoky fog that makes your eyes smart before you’ve even sat down! They served four beers from the Kacov brewery – Hubertus 10 and 12, both available in ‘normal’ and unfiltered varieties.

Zlý Časy

Čestmírova 5, Praha 4
Mon-Thu 11-2330, Fri 11-01, Sat 17-01, Sun 17-23

One of Prague’s best ‘ticker’ pubs with a selection of 12 beers on draught (including a Brew Dog beer while we were there!) but was just a touch on the busy side leaving us to squeeze in to tables with other folk. It soon thinned out, affording us a stool at the bar. A must visit.

Euro beer trip day 1 – Getting to Praha

I’d started my journey from Doncaster on Monday afternoon after grabbing a few hours nap as I’d just finished a stretch of night shifts. No time for beer in London as there’d been problems on the trains. In fact I’d only get 14 minutes from my train arriving at Kings Cross to the Eurostar leaving St Pancras. Easy!

There was time for a quick beer at Bruxelles Midi before joining the Thalys service to Köln. In no time at all I was in the land of German beer. Unfortunately, there was some kind of concert type thing going on around the cathedral so after having a Kölsch beer (see more about Kölsch here) in Früh am Dom and decided there wasn’t time to eat there, I headed back towards the station to try my luck in Gaffel am Dom. After pondering over the menu with one of the small 200ml glasses of Gaffel Kölsch, the waiter, sorry Stange advised me that I could get the half metre long sausage with potatoes and whatever within 10 minutes. This would give me ample time for eat it and get to the station to get the overnight train to Praha.

Time ticked by and still the food didn’t arrive. Two more beers later, it still hadn’t arrived and the place started to fill up very quickly as the concert by the Cathedral had finished. With not much time to spare, I left a €5 note to cover the bill (€4,80) and legged it! The people who by then were sharing my table will have had a bit of a shock when my grub finally arrived!

Anyhow, a currywürst mit pommes quickly became my tea, scoffed down before joining the overnight train to Praha.

Tunisia

Last year, me and Jemma got married.  For various reasons, our third attempt at a honeymoon (which I never seemed to blog about at the time…) was a holiday in Sete in the South of France.  This year, we were meant to do something ‘special’ as a replacement, but because of neither of us pulling our finger out and biting the bullet, that seemed to go by the way too.  In a way, that was possibly a good thing as one of the ideas was to visit China, and one of the areas we were looking at was quite badly affected by the monsoon rains.  India was also a possibility but again, they didn’t get away with their rainy season lightly either!

In the end, we cut our choices down to Mexico or Tunisia.  The hotel we’d seen in Mexico looked absolutely stunning – the ‘swim up’ rooms in particular!  The only down side is that there was nothing in the area outside of the hotel.  Cancun was around 25km away, so a bit far away for a quick trip should we want to pop out.

This left Tunisia and the resort of Hammamet as this was in the centre of one of the big tourist areas and close enough to Tunis for a visit there.  After a few tries at booking and then finding out that they were actually fully booked, we ended up with the ‘Le Sultan’ which didn’t look at all bad – rated 9 out of 120 hotels in Hammamet on Trip Advisor.

Apart from a stupidly early start (no Thompson, I’m not going to arrive 3 hours before an 06:30 flight when 1 will do!), the journey was pretty uneventful until we landed in Monastir.  I say uneventful – once we’d left UK airspace, there was very little cloud all the way to Africa and the views were breathtaking, especially over the French Alps.

Once we’d landed, the fun began.  Upon arrival in Tunisia, one must go through Customs and Immigration, and being out of the EU, controls are a little stricter, including filling in a landing card which is scrutinised by the authorities.  Multiply this by five plane loads of holidaymakers who’d all arrived on the first wave of flights from Manchester, Paris and wherever else and you end up in a queue for an hour.

After fighting through this queue, we were soon on our way to the hotel in a what seemed to be an underpowered mini coach.  The driver was really having to thrash the engine to keep up with traffic on the motorway, and from where I was sat, I could see the temperature gauge creeping up.  Finally, he pulled onto local roads for the last part of the journey and thankfully the dial dropped.

Check in at Le Sultan was swift – so swift in fact that we’d not even been up to the rooms before being ushered off for lunch in case we missed it!

Soon after, we were sat by the pool on the grassed area, enjoying the pool and the drinks served to us by the waiters, and this combination seemed to suit us for the rest of the week.

Several highlights / ‘points of interest’ during the week were

1 – Hammamet Medina.  On our first night we decided to pop into the centre of Hammamet and visit the Medina.  No sooner had we left our taxi did we bump into someone who was from our hotel.  He offered to show us around the Medina (which he did – very briefly) and we ended up at his “brother’s” shop.  After 20 minutes of him attempting to sell us overpriced, forged tat, he could see that he was getting nowhere and got very cross with us.  We left rather quickly.  Evidently, this is the latest scam in the area.  The strange thing was that we never did see him working at our hotel…  Later on, we did enjoy a German style beer brewed at the Brauhaus Gerbere.

2 – Tunis.  We went by train to Tunis and it was mad.  There was probably no other word for it.  We wondered around the Medina, or rather just went with the flow of the people and visited a few touristy sights.

3 – Scuba diving.  I went scuba diving and it was great.  I probably looked a bit of a treat on the practice session, wearing a wet suit and flapping my flippers by the hotel pool, but there you go!

4 – The Sultan Hotel.  Couldn’t complain.  The room was good, the pool excellent – especially with waiters bringing drinks and above all the food was first rate.  It seems to cater towards Tunisian and French tastes so no chicken nuggets or other rubbish!

5 – Mint tea.  It’s everywhere – tasty, and drunk in huge quantities.

I could be tempted to go back again…

Paris – Roubaix

I’ve visited a number of cycle races over the years, but never the Paris – Roubaix.  It’s one of the spring one day classics, over a duration this year of 259km – 53 of which were on cobbles!  Ow!

So, a short ride from Lille saw us in the small town of Orchies, and after a walk we were at ‘Secteur 12’ – a 1.7km stretch, graded difficulty 3 out of 5.  To get a good spot, we were there a couple of hours early and then waited.  Just over the cobbled road, the local town council had set up a refreshment area with some rather good local beer on sale!

Soon, the caravane came past, throwing their usual collection of tat publicity gifts to the masses.  Unfortunately, things then started to get busy.  Our ‘good spot’ gradually got worse until we were crammed in with quite a few other folk.  The riders came past in their usual blur, but as is the nature of this type of race, they were well spaced out with the rear most ones the best part of half an hour behind.

By this time, Jem had already popped across the road into the beer tent to secure a good seat to watch the rest of the race on the giant screen in there.  Judging by the volume of cheers in there, I assume most of the spectators were Belgian when they showed Tom Boonen break away and then go on to win the race!

It was a great day out – might have to pop it into next year’s diary…