Monday, August 4, 2008

Around the Ardennes

image'back from a weekend visit to the Ardennes, a wonderful area of hills and forests located in eastern Belgium, about an hour south of Maastricht. It's easy to access for a short escape, and has a variety of activity for everyone's tastes. a - Hautes Fagnes Reserve 01aTo the north, there is a national nature reserve, the Hautes Fagnes, reminiscent to the moorlands of Wales or Yorkshire. It's covered with walking and biking trails and sprinkled with interpretive centers, easy to get away from everyone and to enjoy the sun, the quiet, and the wildlife (but base in Robertville or Malmedy to enjoy the easy Belgian ambience and varied local foods).

e - Monschau 87Heading further south, the town of Monschau, across the German border, is a wonderful medieval village with excellent gingerbread shops and restaurants. The jumble of architecture crowding the riverbanks is fun to see, and there is a sculpture garden at the town entrance that holds a few pieces that I'll want if we ever get the little house and yard.

g - Bastogne 3Bastogne, back across the Belgian border, commemorates the Battle of the Bulge with a memorial and museum (strange to see the US State names in that location: they updated it to include Alaska and Hawaii, even though they didn't join the union until 8 years after the memorial was built).

g - Semois Kayaking 70And, to the south, Bouillon offered leisurely kayaking on the Semois river, lots of waterbirds and scenery (and the occasional riffle over rocks to keep things interesting: the water level was low despite the recent rains).

This is an area that is easy to overlook because it's close and, perhaps, not well publicized. But it's a fun and relaxing place to go, and offers lots of (hilly) contrasts to everyday life back in the Netherlands. (Okay, lots and lots of bikers in Belgium too, but otherwise, a nice contrast to the Netherlands...more pix on Flickr.)

Map credit Walking Holidays in the Ardennes

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