Belgium Chateau 2009

What did we do

The BBQ summer hadn't happened in the UK, but no-one had told Belgium as we roasted in the Ardennes.

Saturday took us to the outdoor pool at Chevetogne, where the children happily swam and the adults tried to disguise their Bermuda swimmers as speedos and shared around the obligatory swimming cap.

Sunday took us to Yvoir and as we headed towards Spontin the sun shone. North to Assesse and ice cream at the store before a lovely ridge ride to Spontin. Up and over the hill and down to the River Meuse where we picniced overlooking an enormous lock in the river. Down the river and back to Spontin via a lovely gradual wooded incline. Water was short and a Belgian powerhosing his car obliged by filling 30 water bottles. Refreshment at the bar at Durnal fuelled everyone for the return and the obligatory game of softball and a BBQ in 'the shack' in the grounds.

Monday was a one way ride to Namur with a return on the train. We reversed a part of the route from the day before and the bread vending machine at Durnal caused some amusement. Into Spontin, and St Antoine's Grotto reared up on the right. Built in the last century it depicted various religious scenes and a lifesize statue of the devil. This enormous structure with fake stalagtites took a few year to build and even incorporated part of the neighbouring house. We descended to the River Meuse and took the traffic free Ravel route on the west bank into Namur. Most of us took the train, a few without the children cycled back taking less than 2 hours, very creditable.

Tuesday was a rest day. Some lounged round the chateau whilst 3 families went kayakking down the River Lesse. After catching the train from the River Meuse we were deposited by the river for an 11km float downstream. It should have taken 3 hours, in reality 6. To the sounds of Edward singing 'everything is possible in a blue kayak', we paddled, swung from trees, swam, built rafts and thankfully found a snack bar loaded with chips by the side of the river, as a teenager 'tombstoned' from 30metres up the cliffs. It was Kate's birthday and back at the chateau a party tea awaited all the children.

The Germans never made it to Dinant in the Battle of the Bulge and the proof at Celles lay in a WW2 tank erected in memory of this counter attack. To get here was another up and over the hill at Achene , but the subsequnt descents on another balmy day made it worth it. An ice cream at Dinant followed by a climb to a beer at the Bocq brewery completed the ride.

A brand new cyclepath awaited us close to the chateau. Over 1 million euros were being spent on an old railway path to Havelange and all the children had a go on their solo bikes giving the kiddibacks a break. Flat and hot, the only downer was the ice cream shop being shut on a Thursday but the positives were the first rides solo for many children. The week finished with the obligatory BBQ and the Watsons again beating the Wheadons at tennis, will have to find a squash court next year.

So another chateau holiday over. These are great holidays. The next one is booked, so it's off to Cherbourg in 2010

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