What I did on my holiday, part 1

13C Godefroy de Bouillon Chamber, Château Fort, Bouillon, Belgium

Sarah & I have recently returned from a brief trip to Belgium, staying three nights in Bouillon and one in Ittre. We had an enjoyable long weekend, with good food and drink, good weather and some interesting sightseeing.

We left home soon after 8 am on Friday, 3rd April and arrived at the channel tunnel in time to get on an earlier crossing than the one I’d booked. (I always like to allow extra time, and travelling off season means there is often room on an earlier crossing.) As we had some extra time, we decided to break our journey by visiting a supermarket on the outskirts of Bruges to buy some “Brugse Zot” – Sarah’s favourite beer. This took longer than expected, as the traffic was bad and finding a supermarket not too easy. Its location has now been stored in my satnav, so next time will be easier.

We stayed at the Auberge d’Alsace in Bouillon. Our good sized room had a nice view over the Semois river. It also overlooked a road, but traffic noise wasn’t too bad.

On our first evening we did a quick recce of all the restaurants in the main part of the town, then chose “Le Majestic”. This is on the Quai du Rempart, which seems to be where all the chip shops and fast food joints are, but appeared to offer something a bit further up the scale. The menu looked good, with game and fish well represented. However, the presentation was lacklustre, and the food unremarkable. We did have a very nice bottle of Alsace pinot noir though. If the UK pound was still worth 1½ Euros, or even 1¼ as it was last summer, I’d have said it was a good value meal, but at 1.099 Euros to the pound it wasn’t.

On Saturday morning we had a look round Bouillon. There was a medieval market that weekend which seemed to be attracting a lot of visitors. Bouillon is obviously a popular destination for weekend coach trips. The sleepy little village of Friday evening, with restaurants closing as early as 8:30pm, was transformed into a busy town.

That afternoon we visited the Château Fort, Bouillon’s main tourist attraction. This medieval military castle is well worth a visit. Unlike many castles it has not been transformed into a stately home, and you still get a sense of what it might have been like in the middle ages, particularly when walking along the dimly lit underground passageways. The picture above shows the 13th century “Godefroy de Bouillon chamber”, which is hollowed out of solid rock. An additional attraction at the castle was a display of birds of prey, every half hour. We didn’t bother with this, taking advantage of the rest of the castle being fairly quiet while everyone else was watching the birds.

Saturday’s dinner was a big improvement on the previous evening. We went to La Vieille Ardenne, a popular café restaurant on the “Grand-Rue”. This is a place that has a bit of passion about it. The food was excellent and the service good. Probably the best place to eat in Bouillon.

Still to come – the Orval monastery and the Cantillon lambic museum brewery.

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