December 13 - Tomato Bread

We woke up and got moving leisurely, hanging around in the kitchen for a while.  Crystal was doing her Duolingo, and Justin was searching for things to do.  Eventually we decided to just start with the Belfort, and got a tour for 10:40.  It was a short walk over there, and almost no one was there.  Crystal didn’t want to climb up to the top, so she just hung around near the market and on the nearby streets.

The stairs were interesting in that the shape of the staircase and stairs changed every couple of floors, a lot different than what Justin experienced in places like Uzbekistan, Vienna, and more recently, Cologne.  Up at the top, the bells were not ringing - Justin wondered if it was COVID-related.  The person who “plays” the bells has his own room, but we wondered if maybe they didn’t want groups of people huddled together to either watch him play and/or watch the bells.  It was windy at the top, but it wasn’t too cold.  Also, while we’d read about it being difficult to take photos because of small netting, the holes in the netting were large enough for Justin (and Beverly) to take photos without any issues.

Back down at the bottom, Crystal had found a bottle shop that had all kinds of good stuff, including literally thousands of bottles of various Belgium ales.  We checked it out, and Beverly was kind enough to get us some rum and gin, plus a couple of bottles of genever.  Adam would’ve loved all the Belgian beers at the shop.  Since we were so close to home, we brought back the alcohol and dropped off Justin’s giant camera, then headed right back out.  Justin found lunch, an Italian food restaurant that also had mussels–Trattoria Murano, just a couple minute walk from home.

At the restaurant, for an appetizer, we ordered some Pomodoro Bread - garlic bread with tomatoes on top - and it was one of the best breads we’ve had, and Beverly said the same thing.  It was so good we ordered a second round.  For our mains, Crystal got mussels, Beverly had four cheese pasta, and Justin had a Rigatoni friarelli e salsiccia, a special of Napoli.  We were the only patrons in the restaurant for the first 30-45 minutes we were there.  The rest of the town was missing out.  We surmised from the bread that their pizza must be amazing.  We asked about their schedule, and the waitress told us that they were going to be closed the next day, but open for dinner tonight.  We told her we might be back for the pizza.

After lunch, we walked a couple blocks south, to a canal boat tour.  Justin had quickly looked at some companies whilst we were at lunch, and we weren’t sure if we got the company we wanted, but we figured they were largely the same, and we just wanted the experience.  We waited 15 minutes or so for the boat to fill up, and then we were on our way.  The tour descriptions had canned jokes, and we didn’t learn a ton, but we weren’t really looking for that anyway, we just wanted to experience the city from the canals.  We did see a swan in one of the canals.  The tour lasted 30-35 minutes or so.  We were told that normally there would be about 35 boats on the water, but today there were only 2.

Once we exited the boat, we went to the Christmas Market in the Market Square.  It wasn’t very big, but it was nice enough, and had plenty of space.  It also had a vaccine check to enter, and once inside, there were no more checks of any sort.  We looked around until we found some hot beverages we wanted, and then we enjoyed them whilst discussing what to do next.  We ended up walking down the “main drag” to Simon Stevin market, just 5-10 minutes away.  This market was pretty small as well, with more arts and crafts stuff.

A couple chocolate shops that we’d read about were right there too, Dumon and the Chocolate Line, so we explored each of them after leaving the market (fyi, the photo above on the left of nuts and bolts is made of chocolate).  Then we went to the supposed location of a third market, at the end of the main drag, but alas there was nothing there.  So instead we went to get some chocolate at Dumon.  We got back home at 16:56 for Crystal’s 17:00 class.  While she took her class, Justin went out to take photos in the early night light.  He meandered around, and it was much easier to orient himself than in Brussels.

Back at the Airbnb, we had a mini happy hour, enjoying some of the beverages we’d purchased.  We debated whether to actually get pizza, or to look for something else.  We couldn’t come up with anything that really jumped out at us, so we decided to get pizza after all.  The waitress was surprised to see us, as she probably thought we wouldn’t follow through on returning for dinner - she should've asked the people at London Calling.  She pieced two tables together to make room for us.  We got a four cheese pizza, and also a pizza with ham, salami, red bell pepper, but with no mushrooms.  Both were quite good.

We took Beverly home, wished her a good night, and then went to Bar Ran again.  Surprisingly, despite it being a Monday, it was a bit busier than yesterday.  We met the main bartender’s wife, and told her we hoped she was doing better after her time in Bolivia.  We also met the main bartender’s parents, who were sitting at the bar.  We introduced the bartender to Maracuya sours, which he was not familiar with.  He had passion fruit, and he was familiar with pisco sours, but apparently he’d returned from South America prior to being introduced to maracuya sours.  He’s a fan now.  We had two rounds, then went home off to sleep a little after 22:00.

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