Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Excursion, 21-22 July (lots of pictures)

21 July is Belgium's National Day, so we went on an excursion to the southeast of the country where visitors are made to feel welcome.

We started off in the small town of Florenville, where one of our number (not me) indulged in the day's special at Don Sergio's, a pizza with an entire Camembert in the middle. As Terry Practhett said, this was "... good solid stuff for a cold morning, all calories and fat and protein and maybe a vitamin crying softly because it was all alone."

The real goal was a hike through a geological park, to a summit called La Roche à l'Appel, jammed up against the border with France. I'd read about it here; I have to say that the Florenville tourist office didn't give us much more information, and omitted the crucial point that roadworks in the town of Muno made the task of finding the start of the path much more difficult. However, we got our walk to the pudding-stone summit, and

It was Belgian National Day, so all the hotels in the neighbourhood were full. Fortunately in this day and age you can check on the country next door, and we nipped across the border to La Sapinière in Remilly-Aillecourt, a bustling cheerful family hotel which made a very decent dinner.

Before dinner, however, we went to Sedan, where the immense castle played such a crucial role in both 1870 and 1940. War has gone, but the castle remains and we got good views of it both inside and outside.

The next day, we decided to head back to Belgium for two major touristy stops. The first was Bouillon, where we had been before but never properly. (It's the town of Other People's Countries.) We were in luck this time, with the castle stunning in the warm sunlight.

There were also numerous birds of prey on display. It put me in mind of another genre quote, this time from T.H. White:
Each hawk or falcon stood in the silver upon one leg, the other tucked up inside the apron of its panel, and each was a motionless statue of a knight in armour. They stood gravely in their plumed helmets, spurred and armed. The canvas or sacking screens of their perches moved heavily in a breath of wind, like banners in a chapel, and the rapt nobility of the air kept their knight’s vigil in knightly patience.

And there were lizards skittering over the stonework.

Our second touristy stop was new to us: the great cave system of Han-sur-Lesse, celebrating its bicentennial. But first it was lunchtime, this time with Boulettes à l'Ardennais on the menu.

To reach the caves you go on a mini tourist train and then queue up in one of two lines, French-speaking or Dutch-speaking. We noticed that there seemed to be a lot more Dutch-speaking visitors.

The caves themselves are justly famous and spectacular. One more genre quote, this time from Douglas Adams:
"We could really, you know - *be* in this cave."
"We *are* in this cave!"

I particularly loved the reflection in the still pool.

After that, we went home and rested, after a busy couple of days.

The map of where we went is here.
Tags: life: family, world: belgium, world: france

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