Beer Tour of Northwest Europe
Luigi and Manly, 1996

After our pleasant visit with Sandi, Dodge, and Mason near Dulles Airport on Monday, October 14, Luigi and I flew to Amsterdam and on Tuesday took a cab to the Park Hotel, the closest good hotel I could find to the most museums. Luigi had lots of Yen left over from her trip as a courrier to Japan the previous December, so she used these to exchange for local currency wherever we went in Europe; this plus my credit card provided all the money we used.

After napping until 3:30 we walked along the canal across the street from the hotel for two blocks until opposite the Rijksmuseum where a Jan Steen show was open and would stay open until 7:00. This delightful show well demonstrated the artist's fondness for wild parties and other lusty subjects in the 17th century. Paintings showed dogs licking pots, a duck ("quacker") on a hunchback Quaker's hump, a peacock pie topped by a beautiful mounted peacock falling off a table during an altercation, and a young woman suggestively salting a raw oyster for the viewer. I was reminded of a Dutch friend at Northwestern Law School who told me 45 years ago that they refer to a particularly boisterous party as a "Steen."

The next morning we walked farther along the canal and found that many people live in houseboats tied up to the edges of canals. Some boats had concrete hulls. Picture windows overlooked the canal center; the sides near the bank were more secure. The large chestnut trees along the canal were beginning to shed leaves. In true Dutch style the houses were of brick with pointed roofs, and just under each roof peak a beam with a hook on the end projected a meter or so.

In time we reached Heineken's former brewery, now a tourist attraction. There we joined a mass tour of the museum in groups of 25, stopping for brief presentations by a guide and slick displays on the making of beer and the history of Heineken's. The tour ended with the gathering of all five or six 25-member parties in a large room where everyone sat at wooden tables and got three glasses of beer plus cheese and crunchies. Dutch beer glasses are 1/4 liter and are poured with 2 fingers of foam so the actual quantity was not so impressive as it might sound. A mistress of ceremonies made various announcements and then called a young woman tourist whose birthday it was to the front of room and instructed her to down a mug of beer before everyone else finished singing happy birthday to her. She succeeded and then was told to invert the empty mug over her head. A few drops fell into her hair. But she looked happy.

On Thursday morning we saw the van Gogh Museum. The ground floor has paintings by many others, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissaro, Rousseau, Corot and especially Gaugin. Also Rodin and Picasso sculpture. The first floor has many van Goghs displayed far enough apart so people viewing one painting need not block others viewing another. The second floor had more van Goghs displayed closer together but fewer people were looking at them. On the third floor was a special display "In Living Color, Polychrome Sculpture 1840-1920": Klinger, Rodin, Gaugin, Picasso and others. Some statues were worse for the color but most were better.

At lunch in the museum restaurant I had a raw or slightly pickled herring and onion sandwich to Luigi's disgust.

After naps we walked through a nearby park with ponds and a nice fountain. Nearby several boys were suspended a few feet above ground by ropes and climbing paraphernalia stretched between a pair of chestnut trees. A man who might have been a climbing instructor appeared to be supervising. Teaching people who live in Holland to climb mountains seemed to me like teaching Arabs to build igloos.

A particularly good dinner at Sama Sebo Indonesian Restaurant included a special dish comprising rice, soup, pork in soya sauce, meat in madura sauce, chicken, roasted pork in sticks, shrimp bread, vegetables, soya bean cake, sweet potatoes, vegetables in peanut sauce, fried coconut, fried banana, sweet sour fruit, mixed sour vegetables, hot peppers, and peanuts. Delicious.

The next day we visited the parts of the Rijksmuseum not taken up by the Steen show and saw many Rembrandts and other Dutch and Flemish painters, including 4 or 5 VerMeers; a few Steens had not been removed for the Steen show. After lunch we returned to for a special show of American watercolors on loan from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, including many Sargeants, and a few by Winslow Homer, Wyeth, Hopper etc. I returned to the hotel for nap and Luigi continued through Rijksmuseum exhibits of miniature houses, pottery, silver etc.

Saturday morning the airport bus took us to the airport via a few other hotels. We used up some of our remaining guilders on sandwiches and beer from a vendor at the entrance to the concourse. Then I used the rest of my guilder coins on chocolate. Luigi had several paper guilders that she used, after a pleasant flight of about an hour and a quarter, with many more Yen to buy Danish Kroner at the Copenhagen airport.

The Copenhagen Admiral hotel occupies a big old brick warehouse on the waterfront. A row of brick arches runs along the middle of the hall from end to end. Hewn wooden beams 12 x 12 inches supported the ceiling of our room and whatever was above it. French doors onto a tiny balcony gave us a view of a branch of the harbor about 75 feet away.

We had a delicious venison dinner with beer at a charming little basement restaurant called Skaget two blocks from the hotel at Tolbodgade 2. Venison was then available because the deer hunting season was in effect. I gave a 50 kroner ($8.50) tip before returning to the hotel and learning from guidebook that tips are not customary in Denmark.

Next day we walked about Copenhagen, including the Stroget, the long, extensive shopping area where only pedestrians are allowed. Stores, except some restaurants, were closed because it was Sunday. Tivoli Garden was closed for the winter. We had lunch at Hereford House, Nyhavn 41, where I was able to get three different kinds of herring -- smoked, pickled with vinegar and onions, and pickled with mustard. Luigi had chicken soup with curry. Later we paid our respects to the Little Mermaid statue at north end of the park north of our hotel. She sits on a boulder a few feet offshore, close enough so that a puerile young man could step on a couple of partly submerged rocks to the base of the statue and take indecent liberties with her. En route we saw various land based statues including a tiger eating a gavial and four oxen straining to pull an old fashioned plow followed by a statuesque woman in robes. I surmised that if she were not so fat and heavy the oxen would not have to pull so hard.

Someone, maybe one of the small warships in the harbor, fired a gun daily at about 8:00 AM and again a few minutes before 6:00 PM, possibly at sunset.

On Tuesday, Luigi walked to a major museum and found it closed for the winter except for an exhibition of electronic art that she enjoyed in part. I went to Sweden for lunch; all tourist cruises were closed for the winter, but ferries to Malmo left every hour and took 45 minutes each way. On my return to the hotel, Luigi showed up with a proper Danish trio of small sandwiches and a bottle of beer for herself. Then she went on a walk and supervised the loading of trucks onto the Crown of Scandinavia, one of the two ferries that provide daily service to Oslo and leave from a slip opposite our hotel room window.

Our final Danish dinner at Skaget was superb: veal with smoked mushroom sauce for me and sole with prawns for Luigi and excellent St. Emilion Claret. Dessert was fresh strawberries, blueberries, chocolate moussecake, apple crepe, honeydew melon, orange and lemon sorbets on caramelized sugar shell.

On Wednesday, October 23, we arrived early at the Copenhagen airport and found that all the display screens intended to show time and gate of departure were not operating. In time they fixed the problem, sort of. The screens showed all they were supposed to except that they showed our flight as scheduled for 1050 instead of the 1150 it should have been. We did get on the right plane in time and flew to Amsterdam where we caught a splendid train to Brussels in the station that is part of the airport. Due to a mixup we boarded the extra fare train that left at 2:35 instead of the one leaving at 2:46 and reaching Brussels less than an hour later than the train we took. This mistake cost us about $70 when the ticket taker caught us. Fortunately, Luigi had a lot of French francs (left over from a courier trip to Paris a couple of years ago) that were accepted in payment, so the loss didn't seem so much like real money.

When Luigi conducted her exchange of currency at the station in Brussels a young Japanese woman behind her in line who wanted to trade French Francs for Belgian was astonished to see this American woman presenting Yen.

We stayed at the Grand Sablon (Jolly) Hotel in Brussels and on Thursday walked to the Royal Museum of Ancient Art where we saw an exhibit of Flemish painters, including many of Breughel. Several later artists were represented in the same rooms, all of roughly the same period. "Judgement Day" was particularly appealing with dozens of horrid creatures reminiscent of the bar scene in "Star Wars" near the bottom and angels with swords above. Nearby were a few more recent ancient paintings including David's "Assassination of Marat" depicting the French revolutionary recently dead in a bathtub full of bloody water.

I hoped to eat lunch in a restaurant that sold Belgian lambic beer, but failed to find one where the staff would admit having it. So we ate at a small restaurant called Le Marmiton - hare for Luigi, moules (mussels) ala marinara for me accompanied by very good Jupiler Belgian draft beer. Lambic beer was the subject of an article in the August, 1996, issue of Scientific American; it is made with wheat and unmalted barley as well as malted barley and goes through several fermentations by native yeasts and bacteria according to practices handed down from antiquity, perhaps from the time of Roman occupation.

After lunch Luigi went back to the museum and I followed instructions from the concierge to a shop that sells various kinds of beer about half a mile away. The store clerk did not know about lambic beer. As it was only a block from the Mannequin Pis, I walked over to view the notorious statue and to observe the ten or twenty tourists admiring it. The Japanese seemed particularly taken. Luigi did not want to see the attraction; with three younger brothers and a son she had had enough. I bought a picture postcard to send to our two-month-old grandson, Manly Mason Mumford, bearing the message, "Won't it be fun when you are old enough to stand up?"

The Scientific American article was illustrated with pictures of bottles of lambic beer which bore commercial labels. I took the article with me when we went to supper at Cafe Leffe, a block from the hotel, and found Belle-Vue Gueuze on the menu. This was one of the beers pictured, and I had two glasses before and during the meal. The taste was extraordinary, rather like a serendipitous blend of beer and gewurtstraminer wine,

On Friday we took the train to Bruges where we walked around the ancient town that used to be the center for the wool trade of Flanders. Business fell in the late 15th century, so many old buildings have not been replaced. The city now seems mostly devoted to tourism. We walked about until we came on a booth where we got tickets to a boat ride along a few canals. One stone bridge that we passed under was said to have been built in 12th century.

Lunch was at particularly good beer restaurant, "Den Dyver" at Dyver 5, across the street from the canal. Proprietary "'N Divere Blond" had medium body and beautiful balance and was served before lunch with small snails and little shrimp as appetizers. A lemon wedge brought to our table held two pins with which we extracted the meat from the snails. The main course was salmon steamed in beer with spinach in a sauce of cream and reduced liquid from steaming the fish. With it we each had a bottle of the brand of beer in which the salmon was steamed -- St. Bernardus Tripel -- fragrant, unusual flavor, 7.5% alcohol, medium body, little hops. Very good indeed.

On returning to Brussels, our dinner at Blanc Marine restaurant near our hotel comprised salad for each. Luigi had Stella Artois beer which was very good yet conventional; I had Belle-Vue Kriek, a lambic beer to which cherries are added during fermentation. The beer is quite fragrant but not sweet, and is slightly astringent; the cherry flavor predominates.

On Saturday we walked to the Beer Museum, Place Grande #10, and located the two-room establishment at the bottom of a flight of narrow stairs. The first room was a small bar room with tables, chairs and stools as well as a bar, and various unlabeled antique wooden artifacts used in making beer in centuries past. The second had a few additional chairs and tables but was mostly stainless steel and mirrors. It had a large TV screen continually showing pictures of various steps in the making of different kinds of beer with narration in Flemish, French, English and possibly German. Also there were half a dozen computer screens which you could operate by touching panels on the screen designated initially by the language you would use and then by selections of the available material to be displayed. We learned more than we knew before about how to cause barley to germinate, at what temperature to stop germination, when to add water and when to dry, and how to get rid of the fibers that emerge from the germinating grain. After spending sufficient time in the second room, we and 10 or 20 others were allowed back into the first room and each was given a glass of good beer poured from a fancy ceramic beer dispenser.

Lunch was at Mort Subit, a few doors north of La Grande Place, recommended by the concierge as a place where many Belgians and few tourists ate. The ambience reminded me a little of the Berghoff in Chicago, but it was not crowded. Luigi had a sandwich comprising one slice of bread plus ham and cheese; the one slice was of US standard height and thickness and 11-3/4" long. I had an omelette and "Peche" beer, another variety of lambic that tasted pretty much like the Gueuze I had Thursday evening. This was served in a large snifter that enhanced the floral aspect of the beer. The gray haired woman in charge of the place took all orders, delivered all food and drink and enforced the no-smoking rule in our half of the restaurant. When we asked for the check she mentally totaled the prices of what we had consumed and said, "500 francs" ($15.70). Whether precise or not, the figure was accurate enough.

The churchyard across from our hotel is used as a parking lot during the week, but a flea market operates there on Saturdays. They started setting up their tent-booths Friday evening, sometimes using the iron rings that are attached to the red brick pavement. While I napped Luigi left her purse in the room and looked at the market. She reported that this is where people sell unwanted wedding presents and the stuff they find in Granny's attic. This includes silver and china for which they ask substantial prices. No one she talked with remembered seeing anyone buy anything there.

On Sunday we took a cab to Gare du Midi where the entrance was partly blocked by a fence around a construction site. Perhaps it was an excavation of a previous settlement, as what looked like the tops of small stone buildings appeared in holes. A fire was burning undisturbed in a pile of scrap lumber at one end of the site. The Eurostar left at 12:31 and move rapidly through the countryside (mostly sheep and dairy cattle) but did not really pick up speed until after we stopped in Lille (which had signs reading "Lille, Europe") and got on the same track as the Eurostars between London and Paris. As before, the ride through the tunnel under the English Channel was so smooth that we felt no sense of motion and saw only occasional lights going by too fast to focus on.

The building superintendent welcomed us as we reached Ashburn Garden Apartments in London about 4:00 with the information that Sainsbury's supermarket, a block and a half away, would be closing at 5:00 as it does on Sunday. So we postponed our relaxation and hurried to the store for supplies, including a barbecued chicken that we had for dinner and eight 1/2 liter cans of Fuller's London Pride Best Bitter, a splendid amber ale that we enjoyed for the rest of our stay.

Monday morning Luigi and I took the underground to Picadilly Circus and walked to Savile Row and then New Burlington Street where the personnel of Denman and Goddard seemed pleased to see me. The brown suit I had ordered last spring was ready and fit properly, but the tailor wanted to re-press the lapel. I agreed to come back after lunch, and we proceeded on to the Royal Academy and its splendid show of inhabited bridges. Throughout the four rooms ran a model of a river, with real, muddy-looking water, and over it were 15 or 20 models of bridges that were intended to be used for residential and commercial purposes as well as for passage across the river. The first group represented bridges that were built in medieval times, few of which exist now. Ponte Vecchio in Florence is an example that is still in use. Later came models of proposed bridges that were considered in this century but not built. Most of the latter group looked as if they were designed for projects with unlimited budgets by architects who wanted to make statements more than to help people cross a river or find a reasonable place to live or work.

It was very windy all day, probably a result of hurricane Lill.

Dinner was at the Carlton Club, 69 St. James Street, which has reciprocal arrangements with the University Club of Chicago. Roast partridge for each of us was preceded by gazpacho for Luigi and oysters on the half shell for me. At the table next to ours a British M.P. was entertaining a German couple. The host spoke in a loud clear voice and did most of the talking; however the language in which they all spoke kept switching between English and German at approximately five minute intervals.

Tuesday morning was still very windy. We went to Sir John Soane's museum on Lincolns Inn Fields. This is an old house that had belonged to Soane and in which he assembled a huge collection of works of art including Hogarth's "Rake's Progress" and other paintings, an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, the skull of a bison, original Pironese drawings, models of Greek temples, etc. I could think of it only as a condensed British Museum.

The next day we visited the Imperial War Museum near Elephant and Castle and saw a great deal of material from WWI and WWII, including such items as actual Sopwith Camel, Messerschmidt and P51 Mustang fighter planes. Also British, Russian and German tanks and a US Jeep. And a full scale model of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

After lunch Luigi went for a walk along Oxford Street while I napped. She also paid her respects to Selfridge's department store, designed by D. H. Burnham. I went out to get a decent postcard for my granddaughter and a raunchy one for my former law partner. I failed to find one of the latter so I pinched one of those cards that are displayed in telephone booths along Gloucester and Cromwell Roads. It depicts a naked woman with huge breasts and the messages: VERY SEXY, OPEN LATE, MOST SERVICES, HOTEL VISITS, and a telephone number. On the back I wrote, "Herb: You lecherous old goat! You should be ashamed of yourself for having nasty material sent to you through the public post" and then mailed it to him in an envelope.

Dinner was at the nearby Lorenzo's Bellavista Italian restaurant where Luigi got into long conversation with a local antique dealer whose daughter had been an exchange student at De Paul Law School.

On Thursday we visited the Ruebens landscape show at the new Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. We admired that and then proceeded through innumerable unmemorable pre-renaissance Italian paintings and a few El Grecos and a Rafael or two in the main museum to the exit.

We enjoyed a delicious Indian dinner at the Bombay Brasserie about two blocks from ot flat. We arrived at 7:15 but they don't open until 7:30 so we sat with several other parties in a well appointed reception room and drank Kingfisher's India Pale Ale for 15 minutes. In the part of the restaurant that resembles a large orangery we were served promptly with curried chicken for me and spicy lamb for Luigi. Both were served with various side dishes including potatoes flavored with dill.

The next day Luigi walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum where she found that a show of drawings that had been announced and advertized for opening over two weeks before had yet been only partially hung. She had previously met the curator involved, disliked him, and could hardly wait to get back to The Art Institute to tell others on the staff how he had fouled up.

Saturday we walked for a couple of hours, seeing Kensington Castle at a distance and Kensington High Street where the natives rather than tourists shop. Many of the natives appeared to be Chinese by ancestry.

on Sunday, November 3, we took the Airbus from Cromwell road near our flat to Heathrow for six pounds each. Having again taken advantage of United Air Lines offer to let old geezers fly first class at a substantially reduced rate, Luigi and I were in seats A1 and A2. After the plane, a Boeing 767, was safely on autopilot, the pilot came back and talked with us. Later I used the list of cities with longitudes and latitudes that came with my HP palmtop computer and a spreadsheet program to calculate the fraction of the great circle distance from London to Chicago borne by the distance to Angmagssalik, Greenland. Thus I determined the approximate portion of our 8-1/2 hour flight required to reach Greenland. I calculated that we should be there about a quarter to three, London time, and that was when we did start to fly over the southern tip of the island. The clouds that obscured most of the rest of the North Atlantic were not over the land here and we got a wonderful view of all the snowfields, glaciers and rugged mountain peaks anyone could ask for. I mentioned to Luigi that one particular gently sloping snowfield would make a fine beginners' slope; she said, "With a splash at the end." Later I bragged of my navigational achievement to the pilot and he was so impressed that, when we were getting off the plane in Chicago, the navigator gave me a copy of the flight plan. It was a computer printout about four feet long with code words and numbers, occasionally hand written, that meant more to him than to me. I was able to extract the information that the plane started with 99,000 pounds of fuel and ended with 28,000.