a Fail-athon. The finale of the Eneco Tour was a time trial, and as hoped, our man Svein defended brilliantly, winding up fifth overall for the race.
This was a great performance by the big fella, and the bare minimum of what I believe he deserves for his persistence, determination and talent.
The race had been very tough on our boys, some coping better than others. The final stage ended in Genk, a town on the eastern side of Belgium, right near Holland and Germany, and as usual we were to head back to Girona (in north eastern Spain) afterwards.
As a rare bonus, we were booked to fly back as all of the vehicles we would normally drive were to head to another race in the area. Sweet!
Then our physiologist Marc Quod (Quody) read about a Trappist brewery that apparently served the best beer in the world, and we made a snap decision that despite the rules of getting into this place being pretty strict, we’d turn down the flights and offer to drive the only car going back to Girona.
It was somewhere around here that the fail-athon really kicked off. I should have known that Quody reading non-scientific journals was a bad idea.
As I noted, the brewery was pretty tough to get in to: there were no official booking hours, and no official booking office, you just called as often as you could. If you did get through, you would only have one chance to book, and then your phone would be blocked for a month, and the one time you did book, you had to provide your car license plate, which would be allowed to enter once only for the month.
And you could only take one case of beer off the premises per car.
“Pretty tough” here means getting in to the place was akin to hitting all of the notes of the final, key changed “I really need you tonight” line in Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. It is possible, but you’ve got to be bloody lucky, and it happens nearly never. I’m still waiting for both my time with the perfect notes, and to go to that brewery.
Fail number one.
We had already committed to driving, so figured we’d see about going to another brewery in the area, which we duly organised, and which didn’t require seventeen hoops to be jumped through. Excellent.
The hotel we stayed at that night was in Ghent, a beautiful, happening university town with a great night life. We chose there for closeness to the brewery, and the possibility of having a bit of a good night out. University towns, however, are not so good for nights out when the uni is on a break.
Fail number two.
Quody had been to Ghent previously, and had been enthusiastically regaling me with his recollections of the Aussie Pie Shop (or so he called it), which was in Ghent, and allowed homesick Australians the chance of a true taste of home — a hot meat pie.
We were particularly excited about this, and so decided to forego the (included) breakfast at the hotel so we could maybe fit a third pie in when we hit the pie shop.
Fail number three.
We then headed in the vague direction that Quody thought the shop may be, and there were several moments of “ooh this looks familiar” followed by “nup.”
We attempted to use the technology we had with us, putting “Pie” “Aussie” and other similar search terms into our Garmin, but to no avail. Garmins are good, but they can’t completely overcome the hurdle of being used by two starving Australians desperate for a pie.
We definitely saw a great deal of Ghent, and found ourselves at the Great Australian Ice Creamery twice (it was news to the two of us that Australia is a noted ice cream making nation — I’m sure there’s fancy Belgian ice cream you can buy in Aus), which was (predictably) closed.
It turns out we should have searched The Great Australian Bite, which I’m told does a great meat pie. I can’t comment either way, although I will attest to it being particularly difficult to find.
Fail number four.
We ended up with quiche and coffee from a nice little cafe, but this was several hours after we’d skipped breakfast, and several kilometres of walking later. Curses!
Things definitely took a turn for the better thenceforth though, as we found the St Bernardus brewery without too much difficulty, and despite the proprietor locking himself out of the brewery when he came to greet us (true story), we had a great visit.
So good in fact, that we bought two cases of beer, two cycling jerseys (got to love Belgium!) and two beer glasses (you apparently MUST drink St Bernardus out of St Bernardus glass).
If you ever get yourself there, talk to Markus and tell him I sent you. It won’t make a lick of difference, but will add a pleasant piece of random to his day. He’s a great bloke, and makes a cracking beer.
Admittedly it wasn’t all “fail” after Eneco.