A dark and rainy day, that is how the weather forecast for this day. But the sun is shining when we start early this morning on our way to the south. And it keeps shining, all the way until we have reached Balen, a town near Mol in the north of Belgium where Teije's sister lives. She and her children are at home and we don't see them very often so it is nice we have this opportunity to visit them on our way to the holiday park near Durbuy in the Ardennes where we will stay for a couple of days.
Halfway Luik (also called Liège, this is French speaking Belgium) we seem to get stuck in a traffic jam, but after a while we see a dog running on the highway and policemen chasing after it. We have no idea how this adventure ended for the dog, but after the dog passed us we could drive on again. After Luik we see the hills appearing and now we enter the Ardennes, a very nice part of Belgium with hills and lots of woods.
We don't have many plans on this holiday, what we most need is rest and this is the perfect place to get that. Many attractions, like the caves of Han, are closed now, so we will drive around a bit at daytime, and after 5, when it gets dark, we retreat to our cozy holiday cottage near Durbuy which calls itself the smallest city of the world. In fact we are closer to Petite Somme, where we get directions from someone speaking English! No wonder, we are almost neighbours to the international Krishna centre of the Benelux who have their own castle here!
We arrive just after 5 and it is very quiet at the park, the Sunclass Grandhan. We check in and install ourselves in our cottage. How can we feel so tired after a relaxing day as today? So we don't go anywhere and just sit and read a book. At 8 we feel exhausted and we hope we make it to 10... But then it really is bedtime!
Thursday 15 December 2005, visit to Durbuy and the neighbourhood
After a good night sleep we find it hard to come out of the warm bed. It feels very cold inside the cottage and we put the heating on! Outside we see only fog and clouds, not much chance that the sun will come out, today. First we drive back on the road where we came from yesterday to photograph Radhadesh, a 13th century castle which now is owned by the international Krishna community who renovated it. There are guided tours every day and we would like to have a look inside one of the next days.
But then we go to Durbuy, a small medieval city which calls itself the smallest city of the world. Maybe it was that one day, but a few decades ago, the government reduced the number of small communities, making the administrative centers larger and since then Durbuy has grown a lot and surely isn't the smallest city anymore with a few thousand inhabitants and lots of small villages that belong to it.
The old town is very small indeed and very nice. This time no crowds of tourists, we have picked the right time... A castle dominates the town and stands along the river Ourthe which gives its name to this valley, maybe one of the prettiest in the Ardennes.
We were here once before, in 2001, but then it was summer and very crowded. Now we almost have the town to ourselves. We have to go here at nighttime, it is probably nicely lighted for christmas.
After that we start touring through the neighbourhood. We pass through many nice villages and sceneries but the fog is becoming thicker and it is very difficult to make any nice pictures. But that doesn't matter, this time we have no intention of seeing and visiting 'everything'. We enjoy the ride and see where the roads lead us.
Malmedy is one of the bigger towns we pass through and lies on the edge of the Hautes Fagnes, the highest part of Belgium and a national park. There are several ski pistes here, although only a little snow has survived from the snowfall a few weeks ago. But we notice we are in real mountains, the roads are twisting and turning and sometimes they are quite steep.
This is a very beautiful area to drive through and, when it is warmer, to hike. Now we stay in our car and drive around, since it is almost freezing outside. On one of the crossings we see this sign: the guesthouse Ffawlty towers. We don't dare to enter...
It takes us some time to find it, but hidden in the woods, at a dead end, lies the Chateau Reinhardstein, a renovated 14th century castle. It is private property and inhabited throughout the year. When we walk towards it we see there are almost only Dutch cars parked there: some Dutch party going on?