TRAVEL PRELUDES: Mechelen, with a side of Gouden Carolus.


Mechelen is located north of Brussels, situated roughly equidistant between the capital and Antwerp.

This historic city of 82,000 lies on flat ground astride the Dijle River, with the 320-feet tall cathedral tower of St. Rumbold’s visible from the nearby countryside amid fields of endive, asparagus and cauliflower.

In September of 2008, six of us went bicycling through Belgium, occasionally hopping a train between destinations. We began in Haarlem, Netherlands, where we rented bikes, then took the railroad to Mechelen.

From the train station, a short ride brought us to the Het Anker brewery, with an onsite hotel and fully equipped café for our sampling pleasure.

Het Anker’s flagship Gouden Carolus Classic remains a great favorite of mine, and in 2008 I was at the peak of my powers, since largely ceded, to cajole favors from importers and wholesalers. In this case it was a guided brewery tour for the group.

The brewery’s adaptive late-20th century survival strategies might be more interesting than the previous 400 years of brewing history on the site, a former beguinage.

In 2008, we rode around, walked a bit and explored the city. I found it intriguing; as though with a bit of a civic inferiority complex (everyone fixates on Brussels and Antwerp), though right on the cusp of something more.

It took a while to make it back, but Diana and I spent a final night on the continent in Mechelen in 2014 before flying home from nearby Brussels airport (ten minutes away by direct train), and a significant amount of municipal groove seemed to have been reclaimed.

It’s been three years, and I can still taste the superb Moroccan food at the Ronda restaurant on the Vismarkt, where transcendent tagines and couscous stand ready for the tasting. In 2017, Mechelen’s the first night of the trip, not the last, and I bet I already know where we’ll be eating … after a few beers at Het Anker.

I’ve never written about the 2008 trip, and some day it finally will get done. When photos of 2017 are available, you’ll find them here.

2014 Euro Reunion Tour, Day 13: A final Belgian evening in Mechelen, with Opsinjoorke.