Subject: Belgium
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We went away from friday to wednesday to belgium. We had an incredible time! Both of us really loved belgium in general. I found it an interesting mix between the good elements of france and the netherlands. I had never thought of belgium as an interesting place to go but was so pleasantly surprised I would recommend it to everyone. We stayed in a B&B called charl's inn outside Ghent for the first two days (which was nice enough but not worth the greater cost to us--really only about $74/night with a bath, toilet and cable tv in the room and including breakfast) then at a very cheap hotel called the flandria (with the sweetest proprietors and the most beautiful salt water fish tank I have seen in a long time--$44 including toilet, bath, cable tv and a nice breakfast) in the town of Ghent for the rest of the time. We picked Ghent because it is very centrally located (around 50kms each from antwerp, brussels and brugge). And in the end it worked out beautifully. Ghent itself was charming and lively and we ate in a quaint restaurant on the water called allegro ma non troppo. The woman who owned the place was our translator (since they had no menus in either french or english). She was one of the nicest people I have ever met. The food was pretty good and reasonably priced too. What else? Antwerp was teeming with nice restaurants and the one we wanted to eat at was full (if not slightly expensive). I asked the very kind host if he had any recommendations. He immediately suggested this place arte--which we ate in and was so good we had to go back for a second round the next night! It was a really trendy italian place called arte just next to the stadhuis (townhall). The food was superb and the service was amazing and very multi-lingual. I spoke italian, french and english with the staff (depending on who it was). The place itself was very cool and had art installations created especially for it. There were some really nice touches both in the design of the space and the food. Since we hadn't reserved in advance either night and we weren't dying of hunger we went in and made reservations for later the same evening which meant we had to kill a couple of hours and both nights were freezing and rainy. So, we found a nice cafe/bar/resto right across the street called ultimatum which was great and we ended up, between the two of us and the two nights, sampling all of the belgian beers (our favorites) on their menu. It too was really trendy and cool. Then there was brussels. We had read on the timeout brussels website (ps the timeout site is great!) that there were a bunch of good veggie options in brussels and we are both quasi-veggie (we eat fish and I eat some chicken or turkey every couple of months) so decided to take a stab. We went to one a bit out of the center in the ixelles neighborhood called Dolma. It was very popular and full but they did have space at their ample eating bar in the front of the restaurant (the entrance is in the back through the healthfood store they own). They had a great all you can eat buffet which included all you can eat desserts and soup and everything (except drinks). I am not a buffet fan but after looking at the buffet, I decided to go for it--it was excellent! I left there so stuffed! The food on the menu sounded great too and if I were to go back I would surely want to try some of it too. The atmosphere was pretty mellow and groovy (if not slightly indian/yoga/crunchy for my taste--but very new and clean). Anyway, I could go on and on but my overall impressions were great. The architecture in all these places is incredible. Walking through Bruge feels like you walked through a time machine into the middle ages. It was so cute and picturesque. All the groete markt's (or main squares) in all the towns were breathtakingly beautiful and majestic. And, two last things--first, I had a belgian waffle...OH MY! YUMMY! I thought I had had enough waffles in my life and was not intending to partake but this was not like anything I had ever had before. It was soooooo good--the texture and flavor were (slurp...my mouth is watering just thinking about it) so unique. And second the moules frites--which we had the very first night in ghent. Delicious. Juicy large mussels and crispy not-over-cooked fries with a lovely amber trappist beer. Enough said.