Belgian Days Serial-- Episode II
Posted by matt dinges on 04/10/2003 12:15:52 AM
From there(Fantome) we meandered towards Houffalize, stopping off at the STOP bar. The Guide, I believe, listed this place as being in Suxy, but it seemed like Nadrin to me. It didnít have the name STOP on it, but as we passed it I noted the bowling sign and looking back saw a stop sign right next to the place. Since I hadnít previously seen a stop sign anywhere in Belgium, I knew this had to be the place. We sat outside in the sun (amazing weather this whole trip, sunny and pleasant) and drank La Chouffe Au Fut watching the sun set. I did go inside to sneak a peek at the 10-pin alley. The bier list was smaller than quoted in the Guide once again. It is my suspicion that lists may expand during the summer/high season?? No matter, La Chouffe hit the spot quite well as did the pizza and paprika chips we had.
On to Houffalize and the Du Commerce. A nice quiet town on a Sunday night in March, and cozy hotel. The spa room was a real treat. I had my first De Konnich (au fut) with dinner of salmon, spinach, and mashed potatoes. We then strolled about this nearly deserted town for a while enjoying the star lit sky, before returning to our room for a few more beers. This is a perfect place to base yourself in the Ardennes.
The next day we headed to Achouffe to visit the brewery. I was told that a tour was not possible, but did manage to poke my head into the fermentation chambers and some of the rest can be viewed from the bar. We arrived early (10.30am or so) but not too early to enjoy a Nice Chouffe and a McChouffe both Au Fut. The Nice didnít seem to have the thyme component that was so apparent in the 1998 vintage I had shortly before we left Nebraska. The alcohol was also more evident.
I missed out here folks. Had I known how close Achouffe was I would have come there for dinner Sun, (if they were open??) and had some rabbit in chouffe. It saddens me still that I didnít have it. We sat back out in the sun and shared a La Chouffe which seemed slightly more bitter and less corriandery than the ones we had at STOP, before heading back to Houffalize to check out. We had to return to Chouffe though, b/c the gift shop was closed for lunch when we left. We picked up a bottle of the Chouffe Coffee liqueur and a bottle of the distilled Chouffe and a glass.
Next we headed toward Durbuy, with a stop in La Roche. La Roche was a bustling little town; we arrived as school was letting out. We grabbed a seat at a brasserie by the riverside and had a couple of beers. The list was a mostly typical 30-35 and I selected a Triple Karmelite. Enjoyed while looking at the citadel, river, and people. We took a quick walk around then headed to Durbuy where we planned to overnight and dinner.
This is where I should have took Dany P's advice: he told me not to go to Durbuy, because he makes that bier and it is not much different than the ones I tried at Fantome. His advice was to go to the Florenville/Bouillon area where there are a few breweries to visit(3 I think he said) and then to the Mons area where I can visit 3 breweries within 10km of each other. Although Durbuy was scenic, there was plenty of other scenery in the Ardennes. Not so much a town as a cluster of hotel and restaurants, it felt like a tourist trap to me. The Markloff bier was good, maybe a bit cleaner than Fantomeís in my estimation, but not worth a special trip. If youíre on the way, stop, but donít go out of your way. Thatís my advice. Our hotel was overpriced. The Sanglier was full, but they put us across the street at the Alexandria?? In an old house, we were on the top floor. The room was comfortable, and filled with old wooden furniture, but at 105E a shower would have been nice. It had a tub, but Iím not much of a bath-guy. And breakfast was a trick! When we checked in they said ďOh, and do you think youíll have breakfast in the morning.?Ē I said yeah. The next day, we had the continental breakfast and checked out only to find that we were charged 12E PER PERSON for some toast, coffee, fruit and yogurt!
The previous night we ate at Du Vieux Pont(probably where we should have slept too). I had a nice meal of duck along with a coupla of Duchesse De Bourgogne. A nice Flemish Red I had seen people drinking in La Roche. Dinner was most enjoyable. By 21.00 most places were closed. We wandered around down by the river for awhile before returning to our room to debate whether the smell in there was furniture polish or paint thinner! A few more bottled brews were had as well.
The next day we began to work off that 24E breakfast by heading towards Florenville and Orval. Probably the most beautiful of the drives we took, we stretched this one out for the morning and afternoon. Winding through narrow barely more than one lane roads, we didnít hesitate to stop off and observe spring in the Ardennes whenever we came to a stream or pond. Thanks to Steve for the map, I tried my hardest to find the most "out of the way" routes and it really worked out well.
We arrived at Orval in mid-afternoon and toured the ruins. Very enjoyable, especially on a sunny afternoon. We picked up a nice clay pitcher, bottle opener, and candies from the gift shop before heading down to the associated cafť. There, we had the monksí everday bier, the cheese, and bread, as well as a regular Orval. The monksí bier was quite bitter and sharp, the cheese more mellow, the bread hearty, and the Orval was Orval.
We then passed through Florenville, which was in the midst of preparing for Carnival Florenville that upcoming weekendóan apparently colorful festival featuring large paper macche?? characters, a few of which were already on display. We were looking for the hotel Conques, which we did find, hidden down in valley all by itself. We were disappointed to find it closed, only open Thur-Sun this time of the year. Even though I couldnít stay there, if Iím ever back in this area, this is the place I will stay. It looked spectacular and a I wish I could have sat out there all night drinking in the middle of the Ardennes.
SO we trucked into Bouillon and checked out a couple of hotels. Nothing was too impressive, the room we were shown at La Poste badly needed the bed replaced. We stayed at a newer looking place down by the river, very bland and not so comfortable either.
The bar we went to was featured in the Guide, but its name slips my mind now. Among the more interesting groups of clientele of any place we went, the place was practically filled with mentally handicapped people drinking Coke after Coke after Coke after Coca-Cola. That and the two dinners order by other patrons took up the proprietorís time so much that after 1 hour there, I had only gotten one bier and was more than ready to call that good. Nothing more frustrating than having a decent bier menu and an empty glass.
This place was the scene of one of the more amusing trip events. I had made the mistake of taking the wrong seat in this place. When we came in, only two tables were open, one off in the corner, one by the bar. I sat on the bench by the bar, and thought it a bit odd that it was covered in a blanket. Soon enough the front door bangs open and in trotted and old gray dog. It was like Norm coming into Cheers, everybody sort of cheered when she came in the door. Immediately, all attention was turned towards me, and I quickly realized that the blanket was the dogs seat. I got up and grabbed another chair and soon the dog was sound asleep on the bench. We payed without getting our bill and left. The other bar in the Guide (Brutz I believe) was closed. And the bottle shop/brewery was also closed and would remain so the following day. Good beers were had back in the bland hotel room.
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