Tuesday, September 15, 2009
After another delicious breakfast at Hotel Salvators, we departed Brugge on an inauspiciously rainy day. This was going to be another big travel day, with some interesting stops along the way, as we made our way to the Southern part of Belgium.
As we headed south on the freeway we kept seeing signs for “Dornik”, which we couldn’t find on our map. It wasn’t until we crossed over from the Flanders to the Walloon province that we realized this was just the Dutch translation of our first destination that day: Tournai.
The cathedral there is supposed to be one of the more impressive we could see. Unfortunately it was closed for an extended renovation. The outside was covered in scaffolding and the inside had sheetrock up. I don’t know if it was bad luck or what, but it was starting to seem that every old building was undergoing renovation this year.
The central city area didn’t seem to have too much going on, so we bought some ham sandwiches for a picnic at our next destination.
After a short drive through beautiful country roads we arrived at Beloeil Castle, also known as “the Versailles of Belgium” (although I’m not sure the castle owners would have appreciated that backhanded compliment).
We ate our sandwiches in the car while waiting for the castle to open. Then when we get we realized that we would need more than a sandwich: the castle wouldn’t open again until the weekend. Our tour book had conspired against us and said the castle was open daily through the end of September. We were able to walk around the grounds some and take pictures.
Le Moulin d’Arenberg
After a couple disappointing stops we were ready for a beer! Like most Belgian breweries, Lefebvre brewery doesn’t offer its beers directly to the public. However, they suggest you can try a great selection of their brews at the nearby Moulin d’Arenberge tavern in Rebecq. We were especially looking forward to the Floreffe Abbey ales that they produce.
Unfortunately we were destined for disappointment yet again. The sign said the bar opened at 3pm until the end of September so we had about an hour to kill. We tried following a walking path (“the path of the 7 arches”) but failed to find more than 2 arches.
There were some interesting buildings nearby so we snapped some pictures. But when it got to be 3:20 we decided that the Moulin would not, in fact, be opening that day. We still had a ways to drive so we left, beerless and dejected.
Our first impression of Namur was the nightmarish snarl of traffic that clogged the limited number of roads through the city. It was rush hour, and apparently everyone lives outside of the city. Once we made it through we understood why: running South from the city is the beautiful Meuse River. It winds its way through a verdant valley, hillsides dotted with castles. Our bed & breakfast, La Mosane, had a great view of the valley and was well-appointed with an enormous bathroom and comfortable bed.
We headed back into Namur to find some dinner. Traffic was still packed getting into the city, but we found some parking near the city center and set out on foot. In one block they were starting to set up a stage for the Wallonie Festival. We would miss the fun here by just a day, but would run into a real party a few days later in Liege.
For dinner we ended up at a pizza place with a decent beer list. Of course pizza isn’t Belgian, but you’d think that since they are closer to Italy than the U.S. is then it should be better! Right?
It actually was fairly good and definitely satisfied the cravings I get whenever I go more than a week without pizza. We tried a couple of Ciney beers (blonde and brune) and followed that with some old favorites: Duvel and Chimay Blue.
There was nothing really remarkable about Namur as a city. It is known for its citadel, which we didn’t take time to visit. It had the normal shops, restaurants, churches, etc. but not as much of the touristy things. It would probably be a decent place to live if you didn’t have to drive around much.
Back at our B&B we capped off the night with another of the beers we had bought at the Be2 store: Kapittel Prior. It was a tasty brown abbey ale, and a delightful way to end an otherwise frustrating day.
Today I tasted:
- Ciney Blonde
- Ciney Brune
- Chimay Bleu
- Kapittel Prior
Total to date for the trip: 28 beers