On Sunday we visited the Orval abbey ruins. My main interest in Orval is, of course, the beer brewed there. After many years of serious beer drinking I’ve decided it’s my favourite, as long as it’s been maturing in the bottle for a year or more. The brewery (and cheese factory) are part of the modern abbey, and so not open to the general public, but the ruins of the old abbey are open and well worth a visit in their own right.
Orval is a short drive from Bouillon, and we arrived before the main rush of tourists. Since my last visit, many years ago, they’ve opened a museum in the foundations of the 18th century buildings. I was surprised to discover that the monks of Orval used to run iron foundries, and had a strong line in cast iron fire backs. By the time we’d finished looking around the crowds were beginning to build up. Pausing only to buy some postcards and two cases of beer from the gift shop we set off to see some more of the sights.
The Semois river has carved a very attractive valley with numerous bends and loops. After a picnic lunch near Chassepierre we went up to the 12th century castle in Herbeumont to view the “Tombeau de Chevalier” – a hill shaped a bit like a medieval tomb formed by a meander in the river. Rather more impressive is the “Tombeau du Géant” a bit further down river.
On returning to Bouillon we found it absolutely heaving with visitors, with hardly a car parking space to be found. However, an hour later it was even quieter than when we arrived on Friday. That evening we decided to splash out on a more expensive dinner. We went to “La Pommeraie”, a hotel restaurant with a very imposing location overlooking the town. Unfortunately the food didn’t live up to the location and decor.
Still to come – the Cantillon lambic museum brewery.