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Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Genterbury Tales

The Professor's Tale

We set out on a Friday, when we had a rental car for a few extra days. We were heading to the Brewery of Westvleteren, inside the Trappist Abbey of St. Sixtus, where the best beer in the world, the Westvleteren 12 (judged by, is brewed.

The monks don't make this pilgrimage easy. To get the beer, you have to call up weeks in advance, reserving your small quantity, and giving your license plate number so they'll know you're the one who called. Then, when you get there, the silent monks hand the beer out through a slot in the door.

We knew we couldn't buy the beer. We didn't know our license plate number ahead of time, and our phone only permits calls in, not out. But we'd heard that there was a cafe attached to the Abbey where you can drink the beer and have lunch, so we decided that would be enough for us.

Of course we got lost. Several times, in fact. The Abbey is in the middle of Flemish nowhere, miles from the highway down unmarked one-lane roads through a flat landscape dotted with red-roofed houses. But at last we arrived...

Gesloten. Ferme. Closed.

What kind of place closes on a Friday?

Not only the Abbey, but the cafe was closed. Dispirited, we wandered back down the lanes and found ourselves in front of a charming farmhouse offering lunch. Accompanied by a cadre of four dogs -- the Flemish favorites, some kind of corgi, maybe? -- we dined happily on house-made pate and cheeses, with another local abbey beer to salve our questing spirits.

But now a dear friend (with a real phone, and a car with license plate) has kindly offered to take us around again.

This time we will reach the Grail!


  1. apparently those with a penchant for getting hopelessly lost at home can also get lost abroad. who would've guessed it?

    1. Sadly, our brains go with us when we move...