Archive | April, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Things…

22 Apr

Strawberry, raspberry, apple, and amber,

12 percent, 5 percent, 7.5er,

Black cherry, grapefruit, dark, blonde, cloudy, clear…

These are a few of my favorite beers.

OK, so these aren’t exactly the same items that Maria used to cheer up those little Von Trapp kids, but perhaps if she had sung these lyrics, the movie wouldn’t have ended on such a sad note.  With glass upon glass of ale, Rolf definitely wouldn’t have dumped Liesl for the Nazi Party.  Hot chick with beer?  Or sober men with superiority complexes?  Hmm…

Anyway, if I could rewrite the “These are a few of my favorite things” song, the above verse would pretty much be spot on.  Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen…I went to Brussels.

You might be asking yourself, “But why, oh why does a girl who spends time in Ireland knocking more than a few back with the best of ‘em need to go to Belgium?”  Why, I’m glad you asked, anonymous blog reader.  You see, while Ireland is undoubtedly the master of getting absolutely pissed, Belgium has made drinking an art.  And I don’t mean the I’m-a-French-speaking-pansy-who-sips-refined-champagne-whilst-discussing-politics-and-important-cultural-issues-at-a-gallery-in-a-black-mock-turtleneck kind of art.  Belgians leave that kind of art to their neighbors in France.  When I say art, I mean that Belgium knows beer.  And it knows a lot of beer.  Like, a lot a lot.  Like a telephone book of beer.

Manneken Pis

Brussels is a chill city.  I loved it, just wandering through the streets and soaking in the local character, walking through the parks and getting my required picture (or five) of Manneken Pis.  I ate more than my fair share of waffles, chocolate, and frites, but who can argue when the price is right and the delectable way each of those three foods melts on your tongue is even…righter?  My diet while in Brussels consisted of waffle for breakfast, frites for lunch (French fries originated in Belgium), waffle for snack, subway/pizza for dinner, beer for dessert, and free chocolate samples at any point in between.  Healthy, wouldn’t you agree?

Brussels is the kind of city I only need a day to sight-see, but could easily waste a few months in just hanging out.  There isn’t that much to do, really, but the people are so friendly and the city is so welcoming and the food is soooo good that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this combination is the perfect arrangement.  If I had taken French in high school/college, I think I would’ve much preferred to study in Brussels than in Paris.  While I have already admitted my love affair with Paris, and would move there at the drop of a hat, Brussels is a student-friendly, eager-to-speak-English-to-you kind of a place, and unlike Paris, which can intimidate and prove stand-offish, Brussels is the laid back younger sister who just wants to be your friend and buy you a beer.

Waffles!

And so we spent our two nights in Brussels having beers magically appear in front of us, ripe for the sampling, as we perused the phone book of beers and made new friends.  Delirium Café is a Brussels staple and, with over 2004 varieties, boasts the Guinness World Record for most beers.  Having sampled a little over 10, we barely made a dent in the collection, but we gave it our best shot.  Opposed to Greece, where you practically have to pay someone to look your way at a bar or club, the patrons at Delirium were more than happy to chat and mingle…a refreshing change, to say the very least.  And so we chatted.  And mingled.  And drank beer.  Strawberry beer.  Black cherry beer.  Citrus beer.  White beer.  Beer with a 12% alcohol content.  Beer with a 4% alcohol content.  Beer in tall skinny glasses.  Beer in fat rounded mugs.  Beer of every possible size and color and fashion that you could dream of.  Beer that…I think I’ll stop now.  I believe I’ve made my pint, I mean point.

If you get the chance, go to Brussels.  Have a beer, make a friend or two, and nosh on some of the best snack food around.  If that’s not the life, then I don’t know what is.

Sign for Delirium

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Where’s Colin?

15 Apr

To the Creators of In Bruges:

I had been expecting something different.  Inspired by your film, I anxiously awaited my day trip to the small town, excited to wander the streets like Colin, gamble with a midget, question my life’s worth, and most importantly, run up to the top of the bell tower.  I entered Bruges expecting a small, quiet village, but was alarmed to find thousands of other tourists cluttering up the alleyways and open squares.  “How did you rid Bruges of all these parasites?”, I wondered.  But I had no time for questions.  This initial impression could not deter me from my mission.  I found the tower.  I paid my discounted 4-euro entrance fee (I unfortunately did not have the luxury of Ralph Fiennes kicking the shit out of the guard – who was actually a very pleasant woman – and ensuring comp’d entry), and began my ascent.  I emulated the movie as best I could, even struggling up the steep winding staircase with a hurt knee.  I admit, a bum knee is no shot in the neck, but it added a sense of pain and hardship that I imagine Ken endured as he hobbled his way to the top.  I pushed on through the throngs of tourists, blocking them out as best I could.  I tried to get my friend to chase me to no avail.  I clung close to the plot, refusing to be defeated by reality.

Steps leading up to the top of the tower

Then I reached the top.  That’s a lie.  I reached the top of the stairs.  Which is not the top of the tower.  As the stairs evened out into a steady floor, I nudged my way through the other visitors to what I was sure was to be the sight of the fall.  I had my pocket change ready, prepared to drop it into the fog.  But there was no fog.  And in order to drop the change, I would have had to force my hand through the wire fence surrounding the tower (this in particular made the view impossible to properly capture on film, let alone to attempt a flying suicide).  And had I successfully jammed my clenched fist through the wire, I surely would have hit someone on the head with my change.  My heart dropped.  My smile faded into a frown.  For someone who lived in Los Angeles and worked in the entertainment industry, I was strangely disillusioned by Bruges’ inability to uphold the film’s fantasy world.  I snapped a few photos, then took my busted knee and my change and limped back to the bottom of the tower the old-fashioned way, via stairs.

View from the top of the tower

I should have been more upset.  My dreams had been shattered, after all.  I should have whined and complained, asked for my 4 euro back.  I should have sulked and moped.  I should have written an angry letter to the makers of the film (uh…).  But I didn’t (for the most part).  For all that your film fudged, it really did tell the truth.  OK, OK, so you can’t jump off the tower to your glorious and thrilling death.  And so a bullet wound is probably a more tolerable obstacle for climbing the stairs than are the hoards of tourists.  And so there are no midgets in sight, only small children.  But I can’t complain.  Because for what the real Bruges lacked in Hollywood tint, it made up for in old-world charm.  Ralph was right:  Bruges really is a fucking fairytale.

Yours Sincerely,

Allyson

**** To those who haven’t yet seen In Bruges and were planning on it…woops.  Sorry about spoiling the ending.  I probably should have written “spoiler alert” at the top of this post, but I’m selfish and wanted you to read it.  The movie came out 2 years ago and you had ample time to see it, anyway.  So deal with it.

The Tower

“Blue Eye…More like Black Eye”

3 Apr

The water thrashed against the rocks jutting all around us, ricocheting with anger into our small boat.  The boat tipped and tumbled every which way, unable to escape the cave’s pull.  George struggled to maintain his balance in the stern as he pushed the rocks and worked the motor to no avail.  Sarah stated over and over again that we were fine, we were fine, we were fine, we were fine.  Nothing to worry about.  Nothing to worry about.  We’re fine.  We’re fine.  Reassuring everyone who would listen that we were perfectly all right, despite her unsteady movement left, then right, then left again, and her shirt that absorbed more water than a ShamWow.  Claire jumped into Mother Goose mode, obviously the most terrified of the three, yet making it her instinctive mission to gather her young (re: Sarah and me) and protect them from the imminent harm (re: drowning/collision with large rock).  Eyes wide with fear, she gazed over my head at the sloshing water hitting us like waves smack the late-summer Miami shore.  I watched in silence, wondering if this was actually it.  Would the boat sink?  Would we capsize?  Would we be thrown from the boat?  My first instinct was to protect my camera.

This was, without a doubt, the best part of my trip to the Greek island of Corfu.  Corfu was beautiful, peaceful, relaxing, and filled with characters greeting me at every corner.  Each person was nicer than the next.  It was green, greener than any Greek island should logically be.  Corfu Town was developed and almost city-like, while the outskirts, the small seaside villages, were completely left as God and nature had intended.  Corfu was overflowing with that natural quiet, that magnificent splendor that can’t be bottled, but can only be breathed in as you sit on your balcony reading a good book with the small waves collapsing gently onto the sand, as if to kiss it hello.  Corfu is Italian, it’s Greek, it’s touristy, and it’s unspoiled.  Corfu is a great many things.  Exciting is not one of them.  And while I ventured off to Corfu to get a nice dose of R&R, I secretly craved an adventure, a story to tell.  I craved a near-death experience.

Steps from our B+B in Paleokastritsa, Corfu

God granted me two such experiences throughout my four days on Corfu.  This one ranks infinitely higher than the first, consisting of a bad mix of McDonald’s and the locally-made Ginger Beer (basically gingerale, but more…oh, I can’t even type about it without getting LSD-style flashbacks of queasiness) that had me desperately hugging the hotel toilet and dry heaving into the bowl at 3am.  By the time the boat scenario hit two and a half days later, I wouldn’t have minded if a tsunami devoured my boat, ripped me out to sea, and then fed me to a large whale, so long as the pain wasn’t coming from inside my own body and I died with a healthy appetite.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  But you get my point.

In case you weren’t sure, I survived the near-capsizing.  No, I am not writing this from beyond, and no, I am not sustaining any major or minor injuries (not withstanding my current aversion to Micky D’s and Canada Dry).  George, our “tour guide” – in quotes because while, yes, he was in fact a tour guide, tour guide in this sense is merely a Greek villager who owns a tiny boat and agrees to take tourists out to see the caves, all 3 of them – managed to get us out of the cave all in one piece.  We were quite a bit damp afterward but were all in good spirits, including George’s little boat, who took the hardest lashing of us all.

What happened, you might ask?  This cave – named the Blue Eye because of the water’s appearance from within it but should more appropriately be named the Evil Eye due to it’s satanic desire to kill us all – has a narrow entrance, blocked ever so slightly by a rock just beneath the surface of the water. The water outside the cave is about 25 meters deep; inside the cave it’s about 3 meters deep.  Once the sea is calm, you can enter and exit the cave without a problem.  Unfortunately for us, the sea decided to recall suppressed emotions while we were inside the cave, and before we could safely get out, started flooding the cave with rough waves (flooding due to the drastic change in depth).  In a flash, we were trapped, George was struggling, and we girls went into our own versions of panic mode.  Luckily, we all lived to tell the tale…and share a few laughs over the milkshakes that George graciously bought us with the discounted fee we paid him.

My camera survived as well.  In immediate retrospect, I wished my instinct in such an experience were not to protect my camera, but rather to flip it to video mode.

Entrance into the Blue Eye Cave

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