Saturday, 16 January 2016

Tintin and beer in Brussels

Tintin and beer are two of Belgium's biggest exports and a make a great focus for a weekend exploring Europe's capital city. 

The Hergé museum is well worth a visit - whether you see Tintin as a design icon, you're a die hard fan or simply enjoy cartoons, the Hergé museum is great for kids and adults alike. 

I accompanied two huge Tintin fans on my visit and as a relative newcomer to Hergé's comic strips, I learned some fascinating facts through the informative audio tour.
For example, did you know that Hergé more or less invented the strip cartoon as we know it today? 
He was also the first to use onomatopoeia to indicate the soundtrack to his cartoons.

Hergé was an armchair traveller, travelling vicariously around the world and having adventures through the medium of Tintin, Snowy and pals. Loosely based on his own experience of journalism, Tintin was a newspaper reporter, like Hergé and he draws on this experience to create Tintin.

As the audio tour transports you around the exhibition, you will see preliminary sketches and original comic strips from Hergé's huge catalogue.
Perhaps one of the most fun parts of the museum is the interactive photo booth where you can choose a still from a Tintin cartoon, strike a pose and have the photo emailed directly to you.

The Hergé museum is located 45 minutes outside of the city centre so the best way to get there is to book on to a tour which includes coach transport and entrance to the exhibition. A popular attraction, so book in advance to avoid disappointment!

When back in Brussels, continue your Tintin themed tour of the city and look out for the various murals dotted around the city centre. If you're arriving by Eurostar you'll have the chance to spot one before you even leave the station concourse.

Want to take home a souvenir of your favourite Tintin adventure, every gift shop in Brussels is stuffed full of Tintin paraphernalia. Books have been translated into every language and even regional dialects. I was surprised to find a book translated into Cornish, a language that is now no longer spoken!

Once you've had your fill of Tintin, it's time to settle into a cosy bar and sample one of Belgium's many local brews. On first glance at a menu there is a bewildering assortment of beers, with a menu resembling a fancy wine list! However chat to the barman/waiter to figure out what you'd like.

Stop for a glass at Poechenellekelder - this bar cum restaurant is a few steps away from the hugely popular landmark, the Mannequin Pis. It's a great spot to escape the crowds, pick from an impressive selection of beers, and they serve an excellent lasagne to soak up the booze too!  

Beers are usually divided into several categories, ranging from fruit beers, sour lambic beers, dark beers and stouts to triples (blonde, strong and sweet)
Be warned though, Belgian beers are much stronger than what you might be used to back home and it's not uncommon to see 8.5% or even 10% strength beers.

Every beer is served in its own special glass - using the correct glass is considered to improve the flavour of the beer. Be sure to try a Kwak for the sheer novelty value, though the beer does taste pretty good too!

Up for a big night out? Head for the Delirium village - so called because of the sheer size of the establishment. A vast selection of beers served on multiple (sticky) floors - a Saturday night out is sure to get messy! 

Fancy something a bit quieter? Try Moeder Lambic - there are two branches across the city and bother serve a great selection of beers. Serving staff are well informed and have a host of information of the extensive menu and will gladly recommend you something different.
Be sure to try the lambic beer - it's like nothing you've tried before and it does not taste how you imagine a beer would! 

When you've had your fill of beer, head down to the canal and find a restaurant for some dinner. It can get really busy at the weekends so book ahead to avoid disappointment. Try Le Royale Brasserie for good local food in a relaxed setting. 

We also had just enough time before we left to have a wander around the Musical Instruments Museum. The innovative audio tour synchronises with the exhibits and plays clips of the instruments as you walk past them. 
A couple of hours well spent. There are great views of the city from the top of the hill too.