We rode with Wim on his Way to work and he pointed us on route where we rejoined the fietsnetwork for the first portion of the day before joining the canal path all the way into Leuven, a slightly less glamourous city than Gent and Antwerp but intriguing all the same, I’ve never been so excited to get a closer look at a building than when the town hall first crept into sight.
Heading south of Leuven, Belgium changed rapidly. Towns were far more rustic and rural, nobody spoke english and everybody spoke French! I studied German in school, I know almost zero French aside from the very basics. We can almost fool people into thinking we speak French with a Bonjour and Merci, until they intiate conversation any further then we just stand looking plum faced. Riding was made all the more difficult by several cobbled streets, all excitement about passing throught the town of Hoegaarden, home of the beer which we have learnt is actually pronounced ‘who-yarden’ not ‘ho-garden’ as we have been doing for many years, was sapped away by a downhill over chunky cobbles that rattled the bikes to pieces. I resolved that for all the tough climbing still to come we can be glad there not cobbled!
After a nights camping in Manoir De la Bas, more cobbled towns and a few long 9% grade climbs followed the next day as we hit the hometown of another beer, Chimay! Skirting around the outside of the Ardennes hasn’t meant avoiding climbs. Our mileage has picked up with a couple of 65 mile efforts, We’ll probably need to take a rest day soon if not for our legs then to clean our clothes. The clean bike shorts and jersey situation is becoming critical. I’ll have to wear them upside down and inside out before long.
A guy called Ray from Portsmouth tried to befriend us at the Chimay municipal campground, unfortunatley it was straight after a long ride and we were trying to get some tea cooked and setup camp. He said he spends 10 days camping in Chimay every year and planned to hitch home, he did offer some chillies for your chilli pulled from his top snap shirt pocket which we declined and told us to use a pinecone as a scrubbing brush for our pans. We later regretted not talking a little more to Ray, he was a quirky fellow.
Chimay sits close to the french border and we soon made the crossing. Every French town has l’eglise which is normally right in the centre and a boulangerie for us to get our pastry fills. A couple of dog chases, a few wrong turns and a 70+ mile ride later we hit the town of Grandpré on a blazing hot Saturday for another camping effort. The municipal campgrounds in these towns are only a couple of euro’s each, add to that we have been cooking for ourselves mosts nights we have barely spent a penny recently, easy living while the weather holds…