Belgian fans at the last home game, hotel and catering report

The dedication that Arsenal fans from all over the world have, in supporting the club, often amazes me.  And over the years of running Untold it has been a pleasure to meet with many overseas supporters – particularly those who have got to know us through the work of Walter Broeckx on Untold.

Here’s a report from Marcel Bogaerts on what it was like to travel from Belgium to attend the last match of the season.

In reading this I do hope you’ll notice the time it takes to get to London.  And there’s me complaining about the 180 mile round trip Blacksheep and I do for the home games!

Belgian fans at the last home game, hotel and catering report

A real delight for a Belgian gooner is when he can combine a long weekend with an Arsenal home game. The final game of the 2014-2015 season was such an occasion.

Not for the first time we had to rely on ticket exchange to book ourselves a seat, but a few hours of monitoring the box office was all it took to get two places in the North Bank, one upper tier and one lower tier, and a third seat in the West Stand.

We (myself, my son Oliver and my friend Stan) left Belgium around lunchtime on Saturday. The company “Megabus” needed about seven hours to bring us from Antwerp, via Ghent and Lille, to Victoria Coach Station.

The hotel that I booked via internet was the Beaconsfield hotel, rooms above the pub with the same name, in Green Lanes, within walking distance from Manor House underground station. Checking in the hotel was a bit unusual, in the pub, next to the Guinness tap.

Our room was on the third floor, not big, but clean and with three single beds. That would be fine.

Some research before departure had shown that Green Lanes is a street packed with Turkish restaurants and shops. A 15 minutes walk down the street resulted in “l’embarras du choix”, as a Frenchman would say, “an embarrassment of riches” in English.

Restaurant Devran looked attractive. Light colours inside, uniformed waiters and waitresses, many customers enjoying their food and an inviting smell of spices and grilled meat were the main reasons that dragged us inside.

The choice was spot-on. With some bread and salad immediately put on the table, we had sufficient time to study the menu. For starters we ordered falafel, calamari and pan fried mussels.

The Turkish red wine was not a connoisseur’s selection, it was merely a shot in the dark, but it was a very lucky one.

The main course, the mixed grill Devran special was a very large plate filled with four kinds of grilled meat (chicken, köfte, lamb and kebab), served with bread, rice and couscous.

The menu mentioned  that it should be enough for 2-3 people, but to me that was the understatement of the year.

A second bottle of the same wine was needed to wash it down. Turkish coffee and home made baklava were a perfect finishing touch. Stuffed with good food and wine we walked back to the hotel to find some sleep and wake up freshly for matchday.

We were up early.

The breakfast concept of the hotel was a bit peculiar. The small fridge in the room contained milk and orange juice, and on a small table in the corner of the room we had one person boxes of Kellogg’s cornflakes, coffee and tea and a water heater. For healthy Arsenal fans that was not a filling breakfast, to say the least!

The weather was good and we decided to leave the hotel for more. We could not leave via the pub, as it was still closed, and as we were told when we checked in, we left via the fire exit.

This time we headed for Camden Market. It was a sunny morning, Camden Lock is a very picturesque place en the market is colourful, interesting and pleasant, especially after a cinnamon roll and coffee in the Starbucks next to the lock.

But I still had something to do in The Armoury, on behalf of Arsenal Belgium.

Around noon we decided it was time to go to the Emirates. Highbury & Islington is for us the best underground station, it’s a pleasure to walk along Holloway Road and find something to eat and drink before the game. There was still outdoor seating available at the Piebury Corner, and after a “Tony Adams” with mash and peas, and a bottled ale, poured out in a plastic cup, it was shopping time.

I will not elaborate on our match experience. Enough has been said about the game, but let me just add that I am a very happy Belgian gooner with my Emirates experiences in the 2014-2015 season. I went four times, Arsenal won four times, scored 16 goals and conceded only two.

After the players’ appreciation lap we went back to Green Lanes. Restaurant Indika did not serve alcoholic drinks but the Indian food, chicken korma, chicken tandoori and salmon bhuna, was tasty. I would not say that it was the best Indian food I have ever had in London. I missed a bit of balance in my chicken korma, the dish was well seasoned but some spices may have been added too late or too early, were a bit too dominant on the palate. Still, we ate well and were served in a friendly and entertaining way by the waiters, who clearly were Arsenal fans.

Back in our pub/hotel we went for a Guinness and were entertained with live music – a nice touch.

Once again it was a great football weekend in London, and needless to say that we look forward to another opportunity to come to the Emirates!


From the anniversary files…

6 June 1985: Fifa extended Uefa’s ban on English clubs in Europe to a worldwide ban lasting an indefinite amount of time but excluded from the ban the England national team.

The complete Arsenal on this day index is now here with around 5000 major events in Arsenal’s history recorded.  May and June recently fully updated.

10 Replies to “Belgian fans at the last home game, hotel and catering report”

  1. A very entertaining post Marcel.
    A couple of questions…
    1. What did you do at the Armoury?
    2. Was the journey from Belgium via the ferry or the Tunnel.
    While I enjoyed your description of the various menus, I’m glad I wasn’t with you. The Turkish food to a fussy eater of plain English food, sounded revolting. 😉

  2. Food.

    A few months ago, I tried the salt beef (corned beef) recipe. I was using celery as a source of nitrite/nitrate, and the brine had a fair amount of salt, and some orange scented sugar. Today I am trying to cure pork loin hops using beets as the source of nitrite/nitrate. Five fresh beets sliced thin, and 2 cans of whole beets (packed in salted water). All the beets were sliced, some pickling spice was added, and the salt water from the beets. Let it sit for a few days to cure, and then hot smoke it. Nominally making what I would call back bacon. I think this is the ordinary kind of bacon in England. But, a diabetic friend likes bacon occasionally, so I was hoping this low salt, low sugar approach might work.

    Not Arsenal, but if people want to see a perfect penalty kick, opening game of the Women’s World Cup in Edmonton (nearly full Commonwealth Stadium), in extra time. Not as much power as one would like, but in off the inside of the post. 1-0 to Canada. New record attendance for women’s soccer in Canada, 53,086 (about 3000 short of a sellout). China has some quite masculine looking players.

  3. Sorry, for how many media are there, 53086 is officially a sellout. (Media don’t count for attendance, maybe media shouldn’t count for other things too?) The record that was broken, was Canada Men playing Brazil in Edmonton.

    It is entirely possible the reason this game sold out, is because some idiot from the centre of the universe, working for a newspaper from there, saying that Edmonton should never have been considered for hosting the opening game.

    To me, Canada looked sloppy. But I think this is typical of host nations at all World Cups. I would like to see them finish in the top 3 (our best so far is 4th), but who knows. Our next game is Thursday against New Zealand (home country of our current manager).

    I see a BBC headline saying Canada’s penalty is controversial. Of recent memory, it is similar to Bellerin and Grealish at the touch line in the FA Cup Final. Except right in the middle of the penalty box. Nominally the Chinese player wrapped her arm around the neck of the Canadian and forced her to the ground.

    There is an Arsenal player on the USA team (the girl who came from Stanford), and a few on the England team. I believe the USA play their first game in Winnipeg, and with the Twin Cities in Minnesota being so close, they won’t have problems getting to Winnipeg for the game. Reading about how the FA Cup at Emirates Stadium worked, I wonder if setting up TV at places like Brandon, Manitoba might not be worthwhile? There are lots of good Junior Hockey teams all over the Prairies, and they all have hockey arenas with reasonable capacity.

    England plays 2 games in Moncton (New Brunswick), and then the third game in Montreal. Quebec has been worried about preserving French for a LOOOOOONG time. New Brunswick is (in my mind) Canada’s best bilingual province. There is apparently a lot of French content to life in New Brunswick, but they aren’t forcing French down everyone’s throat (like Quebec). If any players for England speak French, I can see Moncton being enjoyable. Canadian French isn’t Parisian French, but I think this is only a real problem in Quebec, and probably Quebec City the most. How much spare time do players have? Nova Scotia will be more like the UK, Cape Breton will be quite Scottish. Prince Edward Island is accessible over a very long bridge now.

    For the game in Montreal, that city is known for its own versions of bagels and corned beef. Most maple syrup I think comes from Quebec.

    In terms of “home crowds”, I think England would have done better to have most of their games in Vancouver. It is common to run across people of French descent, mentioning that the reason they don’t move to British Columbia to retire, is because it is too English.

  4. @nicky, Arsenal Belgium has for its members a competition, where every member is invited to give his/her prognosis for the next game. Our “champion” will receive an award at our annual meeting. That’s why I was in the Armoury, to buy a nice Arsenal souvenir. And I did find one.
    Usually buses to London have a simple rule: daytime service by Tunnel, nighttime service by ferry; that’s what the driver of the bus told me.

  5. Marcel,
    Thanks for that. Look forward to reading your next report during the new season. 😉

  6. lol that you had mussels (a very Belgian delicacy!) and next time skip the hotel breakfast and find a ‘greasy spoon’ (a cafe, like the Hope Worker’s cafe on the Holloway Road , not far from Highbury & Islington tube); you will get a proper and filling meal there!

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