Friday, September 18, 2009
Abandoned Castle of Logne in Vieuxville
After another breakfast of coffee, croissants, and chevre at the boulangerie in Rochefort (and another attempt at conversation with the nice girl behind the counter), we set off to drive through the Walloon countryside towards Liege.
We had picked up a tour guide book at our bed & breakfast near Dinant, and we used that to guide our efforts for the day. I still had desires to see castles so our first stop was the abandoned castle of Logne near the town of Vieuxville.
Unfortunately this was another case of bad timing; the castle was only open on weekends through the month of September and beyond. It was an interesting setting, however. The castle was part of what looked like a county park that had other attractions as well: playground, goats, and falconry.
After greeting the goats we walked up the half-mile pathway to the castle in hopes that we could scale the walls like warriors of old. Unfortunately the castle was guarded by a gardener and we forwent the scaling in favor of some innocuous photographs.
We continued on the road and landed in Remouchamps, home of the well-regarded Remouchamps Caves. We spent about 10 minutes driving down various city side streets looking for them before realizing that they were actually right in the middle of town!
The caves had tours in three different languages sprinkled throughout the day, and the next one wasn’t for an hour, so we headed down for lunch at a nearby cafe.
Of course we had to sample beers over lunch: Palm and Gordon Scotch, to be exact. Actually the Gordon Scotch was one of my favorite beers of the trip even though it isn’t Belgian at all. It had a rich flavor and thick mouthfeel that really stood out from my memories of other Scottish ales.
The cafe also served cheese bites to go along with the beers, which we were finally starting to recognize as a pattern: the past several restaurants had done the same, and the cheese was always different and/or uniquely seasoned.
After lunch we joined what turned out to be a Dutch tour of the caves (which explained why the gentleman at the ticket booth gave us such a great discount).We were able to understand a very limited amount of the tour, such as when the guide was explaining how and when the caves were formed.
For the most part, however, we just followed in step with the other 20+ Dutch-speaking tourists and snapped pictures of the colorfully lit stalagmites, stalactites, and bodies of water.
At the far point of the tour we descended a slippery circular iron staircase to the underground river. Following what must have been a safety talk, we boarded two boats and traveled along the water back to the cave entrance.
Half way back the guide realized we hadn’t understand a word he said the whole trip and gave us the quick safety talk and descriptive tour. We even saw a couple of bats on the way back, capping off a worthwhile tour!
Anthisnes Beer and Peket Museum
Leaving Remouchamps we made our way towards the Beer and Peket Museum in Anthisnes. This was more difficult than initially anticipated given that our tour guide map had the numeric marker in the wrong place. Once we finally arrived, however, we found a humble yet intriguing and informative museum located in the ruins of an old abbey.
We learned that “peket” is a fruit-flavored gin unique to the region; that beers frequently have a cheese that is typically paired with them to match the spice profile, and that there’s a seventh Trappist brewery in the Netherlands. The museum had an impressive collection of old bottles and glassware from breweries around Belgium. It also talked about beer flavor profiles, how abbey beers are typically brewed by big commercial breweries now, and what the differences are between styles.
As part of our museum admission we also got to sample the beer that the abbey used to make: Cervoise de l’Avouerie d’Anthisnes. This was an interesting style: amber with a distinct spiciness and hoppiness.
The proprietor was very kind and when we explained we were on a beer tour she busted out her map produced by belgian-beer-routes.com. This had many of the places we had already been, but would have been a useful resource for planning because by definition it was listing tourist-friendly places. At the museum gift shop we also picked up (surprise) a couple more bottles of beer to be enjoyed later in the trip.
As we approached Liege on the expressway we realized we were leaving the countryside and plunging back into the modern world. The city had less of the medieval/historical feel and more of the grittiness that we associate with big cities. It was gritty. Amanda said it felt more “lived in” than the other large cities we’d visited.
Our Ramada hotel was more Americanized than what we’d been staying in (complete with annoying loud American woman complaining about how slow the elevator was) but was elegant, cheap, and located right on the river. We took a shortcut when walking to dinner and walked along the city streets. We’d traveled barely more than a block when we saw some kind of police bust, and made the decision to return via the waterfront.
Our dinner destination was Le Vaudree, a brasserie recommended by our hotel concierge as having an excellent selection of beer. It was a good mile walk away but he was right: they had over 800 beers available in bottles and on draft. I started with their house Vaudree Brune and Amanda went for the Saison D’Epeautre.
The food was excellent there, and Amanda got the incredibly unique jambonneau a la moutarde. This was basically a hunk of ham still on the bone covered in a mustard sauce. The mustard flavor was a bit much for me, but the ham was amazingly tender and rich.
For our second round I went with an Augustine Grand Cru abbey beer, and Amanda chose the Abbeye de Forest Blond.
On the way back to the hotel we got a foreshadowing of what was to befall us the following night: a Wallonnie Festival Parade.
This looked to be a somewhat impromptu gathering of people beating drums, playing horns, marching, laughing, and celebrating their culture. The festival we had glimpsed in Namur had caught up with us in Liege, and would finally overtake us the next day.
Today I tasted:
- Gordon Scotch
- Cervoise de l’Avouerie d’Anthisnes
- Vaudree Brune
- Saison D’Epeautre
- Augustine Grand Cru
- Abbeye de Forest Blond
Total to date for the trip: 54 beers