Week Twenty-six

Beer and Belgium are pretty much synonymous. The best beers in the world are made here. I have tended to be more of a wine gal, after all I am a mom of twins, but beer is slowly winning me over. The depth of flavor, the lack of stained teeth, lack of creating kidney stones, and crispness are all winning attributes. A few months ago, you could not have convinced me beer was superior. The beer I preferred was typically on the darker side (Shiner etc.) but American beer is mainly dull, so therefore, not my favorite. But, the beer produced here makes Miller and Bud taste like soured champagne. If you are not a beer fan, I strongly suggest giving the deeper richer Belgian beers a try, you might be surprised.

In college, I consumed a fair amount of Maredsous 8 at The Fox and Hound in College Station. Being young and collegy, I had no idea where it was from, nor did I care. All I knew was that I liked it and two was my absolute limit for the night.

Maredsous is an Abbey beer. Abbey beers are beers that are brewed as a monastic or monastic-style beer. There are tight regulations as to what designates an abbey beer because it doesn’t necessarily have to come from a monastery but can be like a monastery beer. Therefore a certification process is necessary. As of now, there are 18 Abbey beers.
Abdij Dendermonde
Abbaye de Saint-Martin
Affligem
Brasserie de l’Abbaye du Val-Dieu
Bornem
Ename
Floreffe
Grimbergen
Keizersberg
Leffe
Maredsous
Postel
Ramée
St. Feuillien
Steenbrugge
Tongerlo

These beers should not be confused with Trappist beers. Trappist beers are made within the walls of a monastery. There are 7 Trappist beers, 6 are produced in Belgium. They are:
Achel
Chimay
Orval
Rochefort
Westmalle
Westvleteren

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This weekend we went and visited the Abbeye de Maredsous in Denée, Belgium. (Shout-out to NéeNée!)
The town of Denée is beautiful and the stone work on the houses and buildings puts everything I’ve seen in Texas to shame.
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Abbeye de Maredsous is a Benedictine Abbey. It is so peaceful and serene you naturally start to whisper as soon as you set foot on the grounds.

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Everything on the grounds is made by hand and the design of every detail is by the masterwork of the architect Jean-Baptiste de Béthune (1831–1894), leader of the neo-gothic style in Belgium.

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To the east of the Abbey there is a converted cathedral which now houses artistic products from the monks, a gift shop, a café, al fresco dining space and a large playground.

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The beer served is Maredsous blonde (6%), brun (8%), and tripel (10%). They also have a large selection of sandwiches, hot dishes, sausage and cheese plates and brick Maredsous Cheese.

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The beer is served in handmade ceramic mugs crafted there at the abbey. It keeps the beer chilled and is probably a lot cheaper than glass. Since all the dining is outside, I’m sure this method saves on accidents and clean up.

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Yes I know, he needs a haircut, anyone want to volunteer for that job? I suggest a few valium for everyone beforehand.

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Zip lines, playgrounds have real equipment here. I love it.

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I’m a goof, dork, whathaveyou.

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Unlike the disaster that I would call last weekend’s trip, this weekend was fantastic. The kids were well behaved, no breakdowns and a good time was had by all.

On Wednesday of this past week, Zane, Lily and I travelled to Mechelen to the zoo.
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I have been told over and over that there are two zoos near me, one is “meh”, and the other fantastic. The “meh” one is just north of Brussels in Mechelen and the fantastic one is in Antwerp. Antwerp is a good 45 minutes away so I thought I’d give Mechelen a try.

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Well, I’m here to say, if the one in Mechelen is just “meh”, I can not wait to see the one in Antwerp. The Mechelen zoo was amazing and I have to say, better than any zoo I have been to (and I have even been to the Miami Zoo, one of the top 10 in the world). We had a great time but probably need to buy a membership. For just the three of us it was €60 for admission. eek.

This next section, I will entitle, “You won’t see that in the USA!”
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Proper garbage sectioning. Composting, Recycling, and Trash. (I love this place!)

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Crossing the river in the “African” environmental area, this just screams lawsuit in the US.

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Canopy Tree walk. Again, more lawsuits await.

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No age restrictions on walking nets. If they can crawl, let em go!

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Rather than keeping crocodiles and alligators behind thick panes of glass like they do in US zoos, here they just warn you. Don’t go too close to the edge!

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What’s for lunch? You won’t find any fast food here. I had a nice salad with a few slices of ham and for the kids menu, they had cheese cubes, salami, yogurt and carrot sticks.

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And just like in all activities here, a full bar is available to help you relax while letting your kids run around.

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Now THIS is a playground. Lots of ways for kids to get hurt and live to tell about it.

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Baby Elephant Slide(behind that simple wood barrier back there where the cat tails are, there is a lake. This did make me a little nervous but we had a long talk about how we do NOT go swimming)

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Mama Elephant Slide, you get to the top and slide down this super fast slide by either climbing a rope or a giant wooden ladder. Zane must have done this 40 times. Lily went once and said, “I’m good.”

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A petting zoo with NO wash station or people running around with hand sanitizer! I had to search out a bathroom afterwards to scrub up their hands after they fed the animals.
Zane loved these goats. I mean, LOVED. He hugged each one and talked baby talk to them. I am glad to see my love of the animal kingdom has transferred to at least one of my children.

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Lily would prefer to just observe. She and goats have had a lifelong hate-hate relationship.

We spent all day at the zoo and I can’t wait to visit the Antwerp zoo, especially if this is its baby brother.

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2 Responses to Week Twenty-six

  1. tjebran35 says:

    As usual, I loved this blog. What beautiful buildings! And you description of beginning to whisper at the abbey let me know the atmosphere in a wonderful way. Sounds as if you have found your “beer.” It seems you already knew, just didn’t know why you knew. The playground and zoo are fantastic. I’m ordinarily not a big fan of zoos, but this one looked great. I like it that they make parents responsible for their children rather than all the safety mandates over here. I understand the reasons why the US has all the rules, and really prefer that we all take personal responsibility for ourselves. Thanks again for the informative post; I too love it that Zane loves the goats. Lily’s fear may subside as she sees her brother safe with animals and gets a little older. Love and hugs to all four of you. GIGI

  2. kdcarver says:

    I love Belgian beer, and you can get most of them here (eg Broken Spoke). However, as to your comment about dull American beer: you my friend have been drinking the wrong Anerican beers. I blame it on you being stuck in College Station for too long. When you get back to the Republic I’ll introduce you.

    Love your zoo trip. Still think our zoo in Houston is the best in the nation. Especially with all the new upgrades.

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