If you’re enjoying the delights of Brussels, then we’d recommend taking some time out in Leuven.
One of Europe’s oldest university towns, a short hop from Brussels by train, it offers grand architecture alongside quiet gardens, café-lined squares, great shopping and a slower pace of life.
Try out Café De Werf, (for the best breakfast you’ll have anywhere), or nearby Domus, boasting an on-site brewery alongside many other Belgian beers and fine Flemish food.
The peaceful Begijnhof and botanical gardens are not to be missed, and on Saturday mornings the artisans’ food market is a must.
You must go to A La Mort Subite on rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères.
The name comes from a game they used to play called 421. Back in the day, employees of a local bank would while away their lunch hours playing 421 – and the loser, of course, was “sudden death” itself.
The room is enormous yet somehow each table provides intimacy (away from those crowds). As in a relaxed community of little tables holding hands.
Order a plate of cheese, salami and pickles and slosh back a fruity beer. Perfect when Brussels turns dark. The light in there is almost golden.
You might expect something special on ‘The Sacred Isle’ (Ilot Sacré), the area around Brussels’ Central station.
Among the many bars and restaurants surrounding the Grand Place is The Toone Theatre, 66 rue du Marche-aux-Herbes, providing three unique Belgian delights under one roof.
You can sample a rare local speciality ‘Plattekeis’ (cream cheese with radishes) accompanied by a choice of over 20 beers, including ‘trappiste’ monastery brews.
But the real treat is enjoying these while sitting on raised wooden benches being entertained with a puppet show, in traditional dialect, from the famous Toone Marionettes, whose performances date back to 1830.
Just a short walk from the Eurostar terminus in Brussels is the Cantillon Brewery, breweing traditional Belgian beer styles including gueuze and the cherry-flavoured kriek.
Get to Gare du Midi a couple of hours early when catching your train home, and tour the old, atmospheric brewery, before picking up some refreshments for the journey back!
Brussels gets extremely hot and sweaty in the height of summer. If you are there at this time of year and happen to be in the vicinity of the European institutions/Rond Point Schuman, you could do worse than pick up a picnic and head to the Parc du Cinquantenaire for a relaxing afternoon.
When evening falls, head back into the centre and go for a beer at the sinister ultraviolet coffin bar (Le Cerceuil, Rue Harengs, off the Grand Place). Oh, and the best chocolate is Leonidas.
In Lalibela we stayed at Blue Lal Hotel and at Yemhera Hotel.
The Yemhera has bungalows in the grounds and you can wander in the grounds without harassment. We visited the Blue Lal most days for toast and honey.
Lalibela is also the place to sample Tej, a honey wine, while enjoying the local music and dancing, an experience in itself.
Blue Lal Hotel, tel: 033 3360380
Yemhere Hotel, tel: 033 3360163
Restaurant In den Wittenkop run by a truly enthusiastic couple. Not an encyclopaedic range of beers but great advice and what they do have is worth trying.
Work up through the Rocheforts over some great food. Talk whisky after dinner and weave a merry way home. For chocs go to Pralinette, you can watch them being made in the back of the shop. Get the orange peel in chocolate!
Lovely big rooms in Hotel De Tuilereën, super spa facilities and winner of best breakfast in Benelux! Nice people, nice place. Oh, it’s got canals and museums as well.
In my vocabulary, Bruges means beer!
Start with a morning brewery tour, there are two within walking distance of the centre with free tastings! Then, head for lunch at one of the swanky restaurants by the fish market (go on splash out - you only live once) where you get a different beer with each course and even your own beer waiter!
Then head for one of the taverns near the Cathedral to try a Kwak or two, just for the glass it comes in (think chemical warfare and you'll get the idea). Then if you dare, try climbing the Belfort Bell tower for comic effect or sober up with a walk around the city walls or by sampling a chocolate or waffle or a chocolate waffle!
Finally, end the day sipping your favourite beer while eating mussels and watching the world go by at one of the many restaurants in the Markt Square. Perfect!
Don’t miss a trip to the Half Moon brewery in the centre where you can take a tour and learn of the traditional brewing methods.
There are quite a few very steep steps so take the tour before sampling the beer but the added bonus is the fantastic panoramic view of the city from the rooftop. Included in the modest price (around €4) is a glass of the wonderful Zot beer. There is also a good café/bar. A Votre Santé!
Would highly recommend visiting Avignon in July 2008 for the annual Festival d’Avignon. But book your accommodation well in advance. This huge multi-arts celebration will guarantee you lasting memories.
Stock up with gourmet delicacies at Les Halles Market for picnics along the way. Indulge in calisson pastries made with almonds and candied melons and a chocolate, sugar and oregano liqueur delicacy called Papalines.
Get the free Avignon Pass Card offering tourist attraction reductions, available at the Tourist Office. Enjoy opera at the exquisite 15th-Century Eglise St Pierre followed by dinner at 'Christian Etienne' for the very finest of French cuisine.
The train is definitely the best way to arrive in this beautiful city - an experience enhanced if you're sipping some of the best wine ever made – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is a mere 10km from Avignon itself and should definitely be on your 'must-see' list.
In the meantime, there’s a fantastic restaurant at the hotel La Mirande in Avignon that serves the most delicious Foie gras imaginable. Mmmmm. I’m getting goose pimples just thinking about it. Or should that be duck pimples?!
To get an inexpensive but quality souvenir for your friends or family, try a bottle of Oud Amsterdam Genever from De Vreng at Nieuwendijk 75, Amsterdam, just a few minutes walk from the Central Station.
It offers an impressive selection of various Dutch Liqueurs.
Beer lovers – don’t bother with visiting the very commercialised Heineken Experience.
Try the excellent brewery tap at Brouwerij 't IJ at Funenkade 7 open Wednesday – Sunday, 1500-2000, or In De Wildeman, a traditional beer bar with great atmosphere.
Stay away from the hoards of drunk hen and stag parties and take a lesiurely cruise down the canals stopping off for lunch in Browerstracht - an old part of Amsterdam town with hidden trendy restaurants and longtime locals.
However still be aware of the possibility that a red light in a window is not necessarily an interior designers and the lady in the window hasnt mistakenly locked herself inside her living room glass cabinet whilst looking for something to wear.
Visit the Bierkoning Beer Shop. It is an absolutely amazing place with over 900 beers on sale from many Dutch microbreweries plus Belgium, Britain, and many other countries. Opening hours: 1300-1900 Mon, 1100-1900 Tue-Fri, 1100-1800 Sat, 1300-1800 Sun, closed on bank hols.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com