Yesterday it was Simon's birthay and so to celebrate he and Jane, me and Bill went across to Belgium in Simon's Volvo estate, to buy lots of Belgian beer, French wine and to have a meal over there as well.
We left Simon and Jane's house at 9.15am and had a clear run to Ashford for the Eurostar, which we boarded about 10.30am. On the train we ate our pack lunches and Simon very kindly shared out a bottle of champagne! Very civilised.
First stop was Cite Europe for wine, cheese, choccie and sausage - we bought 5 bottles of wine, all red. Got a (relatively) cheap Chateauneuf du Pape, I look forward to sampling it on a suitably special occasion. Simon bought a motorcycle jack, an unusual souvenir but apparently it was a lot cheaper than it would have been at home!
We had some problems getting back on the motorway as one of the slip roads was closed, and we had to go back the way we'd come a little before heading the right way. The 'deviation' (diversion) signs were quite small and you could not see the arrows till you were right next to them, so we nearly caused a few accidents trying to get into the right lane at the last minute!
Eventually we were on our way to Belgium. We stopped at Noel Cuvelier's beer shop in Abele, just over the border, and were in there for over an hour as Bill seemingly looked up every single beer in Simon's 'Belgian Good Beer Guide', which we'd cunningly bought him as a birthday present.
The next idea was to sample some draught Belgian beers so we headed for Poperinge (famous for its hops)and the Palace Hotel, which offered draught Hommelbier, St Bernardus Tripel, Kerelsbier and Maes as well as a huge range of bottled beers. A friendly bar with lots of Belgian breweriana. I tried the first 3 of the draughts, then feeling tipsy got back in the car to Veune where Simon knew a good restaurant. Unfortunately he couldn't find the precise one he had in mind, but we tried the Ibis and found it was pretty good! We had 4 course meals - I had foie gras, asparagus, duck and meringue tart - washed down with Hoegaarden. Coffee to finish, which came with marble cake and little Toblerones, superb.
Headed back to Calais and the ferry, congratulating ourselves on our 'haul' finally getting back home around midnight. Great day, looking forward to next year's trip!