Living in the economic hub of this little country is sometimes a little daunting. The pace of life is breakneck and in my work as a freelancer I often have to work like mad for months at a time to make sure I can get through the slower months of the summer. When insanity threatens, therefore, me and the better half try to get away for a few days to see remind ourselves of what life is like outside the maelstrom.
Our most recent trip took us to Wallonia, the French speaking half of Belgium. We’d discovered a charming little B&B just south of Maastricht and booked ourselves in for three nights.
The added bonus of this little village, Berneau, is that it is a deadzone for all mobile and wifi signals and so we were also blissfully detached from the net while we were there.
Sans electronic attachments, we thus had a wonderful long weekend rambling about the countryside and take in the rolling hills and cute little villages of this rather picturesque corner of Belgium.
The abbey at Val Dieu
Our first ramble took us through the villages of Aubel and Val Dieu, where we visited an Abbey that produces its own beer, cheese and assorted religious trinkets. This is quite a common occurrence in Belgium, but what tickled me about this particular abbey is that it was built in a valley named the Valley of the Devil. Apparently, these monks were not going to let him downstairs get the better of him upstairs, and they built their abbey right smack in the midle of it and started brewing their own nectar of, well, one God.
The area around the abbey is all rolling hills and farms, which the intrepid wanderer is quite welcome to walk through, as long as you close the ‘klaphekjes’ (swinging gates) behind you and don’t mind being accosted by cheeky horses looking for sugar lumps.
We took a route that led us all over the valley and up and down the hills on both sides and eventually ended up back at the abbey where we stopped off at the tavern for a taste of the local brew.
Now here I must also mention that I had a bit of an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Belgium. Not only is it a lovely country, landscape-wise, but I am endlessly amazed by their ingenuity when it comes to technology. Particularly in the more remote parts of Belgium, one sees an awful lot of alternative energy; something I am particularly interested in at the moment as it will be an important theme in my next novel.
Another thing I love about Belgians is their penchant for hanging on to old stuff. These charming old objects were just standing in a back garden:
If only I had a kitchen big enough…
On day two of our ramble we decided to explore another part of the region. Here there is a great deal of industry as this is where the Rhine and the Meuse meet. At Lanaye, we discovered a large lock that is being expanded to include a second gate so that more barges can be let through. The sheer scope of the work being done is incredible and I couldn’t resist filming the passage of a large barge as it came in at the upper level to make its way through to the lower canal.
Click on this link to see a short film of the Lock at Lanaye
All in all, a fantastic little getaway and a wonderful reminder of how resourceful and industrious we humans can be.