The weather was warm as we set off west towards the Meuse Valley. Through Ciney and the first climb through Achene before descending fast to the German tank at Celles. Suitably explored, climbed and swung off, it was up again and through Dehance before a fast descent to the Meuse valley and its freaky rock formations. Lunchtime in Dinant, stuffed baguette followed by ice cream in the parlour overlooking the river. Up and I mean up, as we zig zagged into the sun before having our bones rattled by the potholed Belgium roads. Into Bocq, where the brewery had thoughtfully shut, but never mind the chocolate éclairs at the boulangerie satisfied our hunger in the pretty village of Spontin. Back at the chateau we feasted on raw meat starters and pasta, before the first meeting of the cheese club conveyed.
The remnants of hurricane Bertha threatened to dump a lot of rain on Sunday, so we headed along the Ciney – Huy railway path hoping that if the weather turned foul, we could easily sprint back to the chateau. Jacob raced off the front as we picked up the tarmacked cyclepath at Ciney and we made fast time to Hanois where we clocked the café and boulangerie for the return trip. Into Havelange and having emptied the boulangerie and munched in the park, the group split into 2. Most returned to the chateau whilst a hard core of adults now free of children but including an increasing speedy Jacob and Ben headed for Huy at a frighteningly fast pace. Huy with its towering citadel and café filled central square provide coffee and milkshakes before the rain fell. A final sprint via beer, patisseries and waffles at Hamois finished the day.
Monday looked like the hottest day as seemingly the whole lot of us were checking smartphones for weather reports, so we headed for the pool in Chetogne. First stop Ciney where it was market day and we stocked up on snacks for the day and the evenings BBQ. Onwards and southwards and into the park. Suitably armed with bathing caps and speedos the teenagers and children emerged, but what’s happened to the pool? 5 years ago, slides, fountains and diving boards, today a flat expanse of cold water, as deserted as a Wild West town where the tumbleweed blows. All that was left were 6 bored, whistle happy lifeguards. Needless to say that didn’t last long but fortunately Chevetogne has 2 boating lakes, tennis courts and a crazy crazy golf course where the Christmas tree hole and chip across the grass caused Steve a few issues so I was able to avenge my annual snooker humiliations. Back to the chateau and a fabulous BBQ in the shack courtesy of everyone who contributed.
A day of rest and to do something other than cycle. A few took the train to Brussels whilst the majority drove to Dinant to float down the river on Kayaks. Memories included the hot sticky bus ride to the start, a picnic lunch by the side, a series of small rapids and weirs, and the 2 drunken waiters giving out beer and smiles as we descended the river. 6 hours later we finished, tired but content and a thoroughly good day out.
A day of infinite options as we headed for the regional centre of Namur. The holiday this year had families that had all come before and the children are getting bigger. As we cycled through Spontin, I stopped to take a picture, happy in the knowledge that by the time I had packed the camera away I could easily pick up the group. As I pedalled uphill with Robin and Jonathan I wandered where the group was, surely they couldn’t be that fast? Retracing and looking with no success I returned to the original route and yes they were that fast and as Jo smiled, compared to 5 years ago, the pace was faster and she could climb every hill. We regrouped in Crupet and admired the grotto built over 60 years by the local priest before heading west again for a long fast descent to the River Meuse. Along the east bank on the cyclepath and the perfect lunch stop, picnic tables, bar and an ice cream shop over the road where scoops were 1 euro 60, bottled water was 4 euros 20, which would you, choose? In Namur we split for the return, some took the train back to Ciney (well the teenagers and small children), others returned the way we came, whilst some headed east along another river to head cross country back to the chateau via Assesse and Braibant.
A blustery day greeted us for our final ride west. Looping through Braibant, we headed over the hills towards Assesse through which some of us had passed yesterday. Having checked out the boulangerie, we headed west along a high plateau road to Crupet. The weather looked threatening so the group split. 4 of us headed towards Yvoir whilst the children were shepherded back to the chateau via Spontin where a picnic was enjoyed in the grounds of their chateau. For the 4 of us the road to Yvoir dropped steadily through woodland till we were deposited by the bike shop at river levels. Looking round we were joined by 4 others and the agenda turned to a coffee stop in the square. Heading south we crossed the Meuse and went down the west bank to Dinant where the heavens briefly opened. Over the weir and Nigel led us towards Leffe in search of the brewery. No luck with this but the signed bicycle route back to Ciney was a delight. It gradually climbed all the way, taking us through woodland, deserted settlements and past the huge windmills that had appeared since our last visit 5 years ago. Back at the chateau it was BBQ time where Lester had stoked up the fire and everyone had helped make it a lovely evening.
See you all in Cognac!!