Bulging

Trip Start Aug 23, 1996
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Flag of Belgium  , The Ardennes,
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Now I am the first to say that in all my time hanging around Europe, Germany is my favourite Western Euro country, but running a close second, it would have to be Belgium. Now realistically, in the eyes of most people, they think that there isn't much to see there, plus the fact that Brussels averages 220 days of rain per year it tends to keep people away, but it can only be a good thing, so once again, destination Belgium, here we come !!!
 
The Plan
 
Drive to the Ardenne, hang out in the forests, check out the scenery and then return
 
Day 1
 
Early train, hit the road, and as we came towards Brussels, I looked at Lucy and said sing me an ABBA song for where we are going, so she sat back and thought, and a minute later she was singing
 
My my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
 
Waterloo
 
Didn't really know what to expect, but in the distance is the Butte du Lion. Its a massive man-made hill, 43 metres high. Up on top there is a monument with a lion on top, we looked at the views, there were fields everywhere, but I didn't really get where the battle took place, so we moved on
 
Tongeren
 
Apparently, this is the oldest town in Belgium, in fact it has leftover Roman walls, so it was worth a visit. In the centre, there was a nice carpet made of roses. It appeared a nice place so we had a croque before we went wall spotting. There wasn't much there, about a metre high, but its been ticked off of the Roman list !!!
 
Onwards we drove, through the summer rain, until we arrived at our destination
 
La Roche-en-Ardenne
 
At the bottom of a valley, in Camping Benelux we pitched our tent, and into town we went. There was an old castle above, a little town below with a Sherman tank, left behind from WW2. It appeared a nice place, but everybody spoke French. We tried a parlais vous Anglais in the tourist office, but all we got was a no, so we grabbed some beers from the shop that proclaimed that they sold 350 different types, and went back and cooked dinner.
 
Day 2
 
It was hard leaving, both the tent and the town. There was a pushbike race going on, but luckily the old GPS was working well, so up another valley, we were on our way to Bastogne. Home of the Battle of the Bulge, so much history, history I knew a little, but wanted to know more of
 
Bastogne
 
Another place destroyed by the war, but rebuilt as usual, including a tower and an old piece of wall which was made to look period style !!! In the main square was another Sherman tank, they were now getting a little repetitive !!! Actually, all around the surrounding borders of Bastogne were old tank turrets, so you could never really get lost !!! Not far away was Mardasson museum. It gave the whole story of the Battle of the Bulge including exhibits. It was pretty good. Outside was a huge American memorial which you could climb all over, so we did just that.
 
Back in the car, we drove off and went looking for old foxholes and in the forests, there they were. They looked like somebody had dug them recently !!! Maybe they had, we will never know, but we took our shots and moved on.
 
Houffalize
 
We had one last place to visit and as it was on the way back to our tent, we decided to stop in at Houffalize. It's only a small village which like all places, was wiped from the map, however unlike the other places, this had a German Panther tank. It was much bigger than the Shermans and it was good to see the opposition on display
 
La Roche-en-Ardenne
 
Not much more can you say, but Mr 350 beers in my shop received another visit. Oh and it rained whilst we cooked, Fuck I love Belgium !!!
 
Day 3
 
We managed to get up earlier today and much earlier we were on the road. Todays plan was to head over to Luxembourg and have a little look at the way the Germans came into the Ardenne and just enjoy ourselves. Just before we arrived, we found a grotto, dedicated to some religious body, but with signs all about Lourdes, which is in France. It was different, but didn't move me !!!
 
Clervaux
 
Now for starters, the Jew in me loves Luxembourg. Parking is half the price, and diesel, so cheap, I could live here !!! Clervaux was a nice place with the a Chateau. Seeing that it is Monday, it was closed, but in the courtyard was the usual Sherman tank and a German PAK 88mm field gun. Next door was the rebuilt church, so we had a quick look. Back down in the main square was a statue of an American GI. There is also a monastery, but it was covered in scaffold, so we moved on into Luxembourg.We tried following the directions in the book, but the writer couldn't tell his left from his right, and for a while, we were driving in no mans land.
 
Eventually, we came to Dasburg, and across the bridge was Germany. Lucy ran across it, just so that she had been there again. I did contemplate driving away, but who would I have to iron my shirts !!! Again we moved on, until we were in Heinersheid. In a little park was another German PAK 88mm and also a US 105mm Howitzer. And with that, our little tour was over. Actually, there were monuments all over the place, and as we had still time to burn, we looked in our 12 year old book and found another place.
 
Vianden
 
We had come here as there was another huge old Chateau. Lucy said we had been there before, but my mind doesn't work like it use to !!! Before we went in, we had a bite and discovered that the locals had a weird language. They mixed up German, French and Flemish to create ??? A bit of ein mal and a s'il vous plait was what came back !!! Up above us stood the local chalet. It was around 500 years old, fell apart, and 100 years ago, they rebuilt it. It was pretty impressive, so we took the required photos, jumped back in the car and headed back to the campground. Once there, the Dutch contingent of lets play armies had moved in !!! There were armoured vehicles everywhere, and in a true Dutch tradition, they kept the kids locked in little cages !!! No photos sadly to say.
 
Day 4
 
We packed up early, parked the car and hit the local castle. It was in ruins, but ok, thirty minutes later we were on our way out. Goodbye La-Roche-en-Ardenne, it was fun.
 
Namur
 
On the edge of the Ardenne sits Namur, two rivers come in, close to Germany and France, fought over for years, so a citadel was built. We walked around and when the time came, we joined a tour of its tunnels. Built for a various of reasons, wasn't really interested, it was just fun being under the ground. An hour later the tour was over, and it was time to leave, but leaving Namur was hard, the GPS was telling us to keep doing U turns and the only way out was to do it old school, so we followed the maps instead !!!
 
Ypers

What would a trip to Belgium be like without going to Yper. We had some time to kill so we went to buy chocolates from our usual shop as both of our Mum's birthdays were coming up. Sadly to say, the shop was closed as the owner was on holidays !!! To commiserate, we hit the Flemish stew, which as usual was awesome.
 
A flying trip back through France and we were at the train, going back to London
 
And Finally
 
It was fun to hang out it Wallonia, different to the Flemish side, both scenery and people, and if only there was a proper mix, where the Flemish had the valleys and the open friendliness, oh yeah, it's called Luxembourg !!!
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thistlemoon
thistlemoon on

:)
Sounds like another great trip! It had never crossed my mind to visit Belgium before...but they do have good beers!

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