Sunday, 9.10.00 – Bouillon to Habay-La-Nueve, Belgium

Ah, another great hilly day of riding. Our tour leader described them as rolling hills, but even though each wasn't as long as some we did yesterday, they were steeper. My estimate of one of them was a grade of between 10 and 12%, and at least a mile or more long. But of course, they weren’t enough. We decided to add some tougher hills by doing the optional ride at the end of the day.

One of the day's highlights was seeing a mountain bike race going through Bouillon this morning (from our hotel window). There were at least 1100 riders heading out to start their race. We also saw many of them returning to town later on in the morning, as we were going up the hills. We were on the road only, but they engaged in off-road and road riding.

We made pretty good time on the road today and checked into our quarters early. Our lodging for the evening was the Chateau Du Pont D'Oye, an 18th century mansion that is now a hotel and restaurant. The rooms are "quaint" with a separate bathroom across the hall from each room. You sort of wonder what the rooms across the hall were before they were renovated into very modern bathrooms.

We are on the third floor, which is accessed by a narrow staircase that creaks as you climb it. All of the carpets and paintings are very old, but neat. We really feel like we are in a movie staying at the home of the Duke and Duchess. We followed a path down to the river and through the woods – quite a place!

After taking some photographs, we decided to do the optional ride through the Ardennes Woods. What a fantastic ride! Imagine woods so thickly populated with trees that you can barely walk through them, all planted on a very hilly terrain, and roads built through them in perfectly straight lines.

The roads were like black glass and easily 10% grades, but like an endless roller coaster. You could see "forever." We would try to get up enough speed on the downhills to make it up the next uphill. But the hills were way too long, of course, and we had to hammer to the top again. It was sunny and warm all afternoon (about 75 degrees) but a perfect temperature in the woods.

The accommodations and the food were outstanding. We were definitely spoiled today.