For our second day in Düsseldorf, we went for a cruise along the Rhine River. If you do an image search of Düsseldorf, Germany you can’t help but find photos of Frank Gehry’s Neuer Zollhof, comprised of three buildings that curve and lean made of white plaster, stainless steel, and brick, and the Rheinturm, Düsseldorf’s landmark and the world’s largest digital clock. I didn’t want to leave the city without seeing both! Luckily they’re located along the Rhine River and we were able see them on our cruise. After our hour boat ride, we went to one last brewery, Im Füchschen, for altbier and schnitzel. A perfect, relaxing way to end our weekend trip!
Normally while my parents are visiting, we explore Belgium and the Netherlands but this time we ventured into Germany to Düsseldorf! We stayed one night and spent the two days exploring the Altstadt (Old City), Köningsallee, and Japanese Quarter and enjoying a Rhine River cruise. Düsseldorf is famous for its altbier “a hoppy beer which translates as old [style] beer, a reference to the pre-lager brewing method of using a warm top-fermenting yeast like British pale ales”. There are 5 microbreweries located in the Altstadt which also serve traditional German cuisine – so that was our first stop – to Zum Schlüssel. After a huge lunch, Koen and I visited the Kunstsammlung K20 for a really great exhibition called Kandinsky, Malevich, Mondrian: The Infinite White Abyss which explores the use of blank canvas in the artists’ work. My parents explored a few churches before visiting the museum across from ours, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf for the Smart New World exhibition which wasn’t quite what my parents’ expected… A bit too contemporary for them! Afterwards we stopped for another altbier at the microbrewery Uerige. Then we walked to the Japanese Quarter for dinner.
It just so happens that when we arrived Düsseldorf was celebrating Japan Day, so there were a lot of visitors dressed up throughout the city – I think we saw at least 10 pikachus! Why a Japanese Quarter and Japan Day? Düsseldorf has the largest Japanese population in Europe. It was sooo busy and it wasn’t until we arrived in the Japanese Quarter that we realized there was a holiday taking place. We had already walked 30 minutes and were in the mood for sushi – all of the places were packed!! In the end we were able to eat while a huge line waited to be let in. A great first day!
My parents have already seen a lot of the Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium, so this trip we ventured toward the south into Wallonia. Dinant, Belgium is located at the beginning of the Ardennes on the Meuse River. I searched for city trips within Wallonia and after seeing a photo of the beautiful cathedral, citadel, and river, I wanted to find out more information. Dinant is most famously known as being the home of Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone and would be 200 years old this year, and regional cuisine such as the couques de Dinant, Europe’s hardest cookie, and the flamiche, a type of quiche served with a glass of Burgundy, as well as Leffe beer. So we decided to check it out!
My parents happened to be in town for Sofie’s birthday. Also in the Netherlands was Koen’s cousin Andrea and her boyfriend Ethan from Canada – so my parents didn’t have to worry about people speaking English. I always love getting together for family birthdays because it gives me the chance to catch up and see everyone! We celebrated at Sofie’s apartment in Breda and enjoyed delicious cakes and frietjes!
My parents made their annual visit this May! We had an eventful start – I fractured my elbow when I fell off my bike on the way to pick them up in Brussels. But who better to have around than your parents? The first week I had to wear a cast to let my bone begin healing, and for the remaining 5 weeks I have to wear a compression sock – otherwise I won’t have any range of motion. So we were in and out of the hospital and doctor’s office a lot! For the rest of the trip we took it easy, taking walks around the city, eating fries, and enjoying Belgian beers.
Sometimes when I’m looking for inspiration for dinner, I first have a look to see what I have at home. When I searched my kitchen I found cannelloni tubes. I have tried different recipes, but Mario Batali’s Cannelloni al Forno (Casalinga Style) is my favorite. Casalinga is Italian for “housewife”, so you know that this is a comfort food recipe. The only change I make is not adding the bechamel sauce on top. I don’t love dishes that are too creamy or too cheesy (which is weird because I love cheese), so I just grate parmesan on top of the tomato sauce before baking. This recipe was again a success and made enough dinner for 2 evenings!
Tomate aux crevettes with baguette and garlic butter
Tomate aux crevettes is one of my favorite Belgian dishes! It is not difficult to make and the simplicity of the flavors is what makes it so great. Hollowed tomatoes are filled with a mixture of North Sea shrimp, mayonnaise, Worstershire sauce, lemon juice, and tabasco – or at least that’s how Koen and I make it. You can use store bought mayonnaise, but for last night’s dinner, Koen made it fresh from scratch and you can taste the difference! Traditionally tomate aux crevettes is paired with french fries, but we were in the mood for bread. To top the bread, I made a garlic butter made of butter, garlic, shallots, and parsley. Perfect combo!