We had a leisurely morning, taking our time to wake up, check out and have breakfast. Then a short walk to find a couple more friteries near the hotel. It was too early for them to be open, so it was just a matter of taking pictures and then moving on.
Having done the savoury chipwalk yesterday, it’s the turn of the sweet chocwalk, making our trip the chip’n’choc walk trip (my invented word). Of course, Belgian chocolate is famous all over the world, and we took inspiration from this really useful nyt article and made a beeline to Place du Grand Sablon which promised us 8 chocolate shops in one square.
The first shop was Pierre Marcolini’s two storey extravaganza. They treat chocolate like delicate vintage, and have a box that includes the Grand Cru selection. Other selection include one that offers the taste of cocoa from different parts of the world, and one that has spices. I also bought a €49 box of rum & whisky chocolate. The next stop was Wittamer where I bought a box of 9 pralines topped with chocolate coated crickets. Yes, crickets as in the insect cricket. The unboxing and tasting deserves its own post I think. Wittamer was also where we stopped for a hot chocolate. I don’t usually order hot chocolate but this was well worth the exception. The intense cocoa flavour is nothing like the hot chocolate from a packet. Even the cream was delicious. Final stop was Neuhaus for truffles.
I was now pretty laden down with chocolate purchases. But that wasn’t the end of our chocolate adventure. We made our way back to Grand Place and visited the museum of cocoa and chocolate. For €5.50, we visited the small museum, watched a demostration of how to make pralines and had a small sampler. Nice little museum to spend an hour or so in a tiny street just behind the main square.
And in a touristy shopping street the other side of the square, I found the other thing I was hoping I’d find, Westvleteren 12 beer from the Abbey of St Sixtus at Westvleteren. Their beers are in huge demand because of having consistenly been voted the best beer in the world and the small quantity made at the abbey. To make a purchase, people have to ring up to check when reservations are available; then ring up again when reservations do open to make an appointment for a visit. They have to indicate the licence plate number of the car visiting, and one licence plate can only buy every 60 days. Such is the rarity that I wasn’t sure I’d even see posters of the beer let alone the real thing. I had no hesitation in shelling out €12.95 for a bottle (actually got two, plus one each of the blonde and the 8).
Now I was well and truly carrying a very heavy load. Not a lot else to do with only a couple of hours, we ate more frites (at one of the friteries not on the list), had ice cream at at biscuit place and then camped out at a small café. I had a couple of beers and A had a diet coke. Then got a bit hungry, A had a salad while I ordered an américaine, which here means steak tartare. I can’t imagine a dish more misnamed, I can’t imagine many Americans eating steak tartare. It’s been a while since my last one, and it was okay, not the best one I’ve had. Sigh, really have to go back to Switzerland one of these days.
Walked back to the hotel, hung out for a bit in the lobby until it was time to catch our respective trains. Not even the Eurostar delay on the way home, because UKBA was so understaffed they asked the trains to go slow, dampened my overall impression of the trip. What a great weekend, it was a good idea to meet up and do something different than the usual touristy stuff.