Archive for the ‘Belgium’ Category

Namur to Charleville-Mezieres

13 July 2010

It’s nearly midnight so this will be short! The valley of the Meuse is beautiful. We intended to start early which we did, but things always take more time than we expect. It took us about half an hour to travel the first kilometre with Garmin telling us one thing and our good sense telling us another. The river had good bike paths for much of the way with occasional sections of Road to Roubaix style pave. At one point we found our way onto a single track walking path and followed that until a retreat was forced. It’s nice passing locks with boats and barges, grand houses, vegetable gardens, flowers in pots and window boxes everywhere.

The town of Dinant was impressive – it sits in front of a rocky cliff with a huge church, narrow streets, bridge festooned with flags. We found the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone!

We entered France without a definite border and it really looks and feels like a different country. Lunched in Givet and took the autobus the rest of the way to Charleville Mezieres. It’s Bastille Day tomorrow and there are fireworks going off constantly, tricouleurs and other national flags on bridges and buildings.

The Tour de France coverage included a colour story about spectators who were spending their vacation following the tour. They used the music from M. Hulot’s Holiday – a nice cultural reference.

Charleville Mezieres is not really on any tourist trail but it is a beautiful city with a magnificent square, La Place Ducale, as well as many other splendid buildings and public places.

Cycle route:
Namur to Charleville-Mezieres
Around Charleville-Mezieres

Taking a walk on the wild side

Namur on the Meuse

12 July 2010

It took all day to get here – 80km. That’s because we stopped in Sint Truiden for breakfast but the cook didn’t start work until 10 and then there was a thunderstorm with impressive  display of lightning and then we went to the tourist office and the bike shop and the railway station for wifi and then had a problem with Mastercard and only left there after midday. Then we had lots of stops and navigation errors (even Mr Garmin is finding it a challenge at times). Scenery highlights: fields of wheat, barley and some other grain (maybe buckwheat), silver beet, cabbages, potatoes, pears, cherries, red currants, poppies and wild flowers along the road, Roman roads, window boxes with geraniums and petunias everywhere, churches, steeples. narrow streets. In Belgian villages they have bread machines – same concept as Coke machines. You put your money in and get a loaf of bread out. I guess this is a symptom of the decline of local bakeries.

We crossed a linguistic border at lunchtime around Hannut and now everybody speaks French (including us and M. Garmin). I dredged out some schoolboy French (poorly studied 35 years ago) and succeeded in getting our bidons filled by a Walloon – she quickly exhausted my language skills.

At last we reached Namur, in a beautiful setting by the River Meuse. Have to get to Charleville Mezieres tomorrow to keep on schedule and may seek the assistance of le chemin de fer.

Cycle route
Hasselt – Namur

Helmond to Hasselt

12 July 2010

We departed Helmond at about 8am with a cool start to the day after the rain… but it didn’t last long. We skirted Eindhoven and stopped for breakfast in Valkenswaard. First international frontier came soon afterwards: Belgium! In Achel vvv we found a nice map of the Limburg bike ways and followed a rail trail most of the way to Hasselt. It was hot riding but lots of forest and shady stretches along the way.

In Hasselt we phoned a WarmShowers contact and asked if we could have a bed for the night and received a ‘yes’! That was great. So we met Sara and her partner Joris, their enormous dog Babar and their friends Geert and Heidi. First activity was a drive to a disused gravel quarry that’s a little known swimming spot – a perfect cool down. Then a nice dinner with Belgian beer and special dishes (I’ll put the names in later!).

None of our companions were interested inn the World Cup, despite that fact that the final was on, so we went to bed without knowing the result. A disappointment to check BBC news in the morning to find that Holland had lost.

Sara is a beekeeper in her spare time and she works for an NGO teaching sustainability principles to primary school children. And she’s having a baby in December. She provided a tent at the back of the house – very comfortable! And a lovely experience to meet new people, much younger than us, and to feel that we had much in common and enjoyed each other’s company.

View from Sara's garden

Cycle route:Helmond to Hasselt