Friday, 9.8.00 – Louvain, Belgium to Givet, France

It was a cool day - overcast and about 60 degrees. There was occasional mist, but no rain. We established our riding wardrobe today, which would be the same for the entire trip. We started with arm warmers, knee warmers, vest and windbreaker with light raingear in our packs. By late morning we peeled down to jerseys and shorts.

We headed south from Brussels through the hills until we reached Namur, a city of immaculately curtained (Belgian lace) 17th –century pink-brick houses and rich Baroque churches. There we began following the picturesque Muese River. We spent the rest of the day cycling along its banks, often on a path right beside the river, and occasionally on small roads. In a few cases the path was made of old cobblestones, and became almost impassable on a bike.

I need to take a minute here to comment on these "cobblestones." This is not the beautifully rounded variety with mortar poured in between as in the driveways of American mansions or the Champs-Elysee in Paris. We are talking chiseled stones set in sand, which move constantly during rains and traffic. You can dismount your bike and "stand" it up between the stones, like a bike rack!

We passed by many chateaus and villas owned by the wealthy. The lawns and colorful grounds extended down to the water’s edge. It’s a very beautiful area. We did almost get in trouble for photographing one of the charming older villas. A woman stuck her head out of one of the windows of the home as I was trying to take Judith’s picture in front of the residence, and yelled at us to leave.

Along the way we saw evidence of the impact of the US in WWII, with statues of soldiers and even a US Army Sherman tank on display in one place.

       

We ate lunch (a great soup) in a café in Dinant overlooking the bridge everyone would be crossing on today’s route. After lunch, we walked around the town and bought a couque – hard gingerbread baked in molds, which are often little masterpieces of woodcarving. Our purchase was a huge gingerbread grape cluster, which took me the whole rest of the trip to eat, and almost broke Judith’s teeth.

After arriving in Givet, we changed clothes and took a tour of the city. It’s a small town built around the main church. We managed a little bit of shopping, picture taking, eating, and a walk along the river. We ended the evening with a wonderful dinner in the restaurant attached to the hotel.