Historic castles, great food and the picturesque Belgian countryside – today’s guest writer, Adriana, covers three topics we love!
When visiting Belgium you most certainly want to see Brussels, with its magnificent Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or maybe Bruges or Ghent, but have you thought of visiting the Belgian countryside?
The region of the Ardennes, in Wallonia, is undiscovered by foreign tourists and remains a Belgian hidden treasure. I hope to open your eyes to this place of temporal beauty. With plenty of forests and green, lush hillside pastures, surrounding rustic farms stone farm houses, it almost looks painted.
One of the highlights of the Ardennes region, in the province of Luxembourg, in a small town called Bouillon, is the Chateau de Bouillon. With its origins of the first fortifications dating back to the eighth century, this is the oldest and the most interesting remains of feudalism in Belgium.
The Chateau de Bouillon is a large and well preserved castle, situated on a rocky spur of land within a sharp bend of the Semois River.
In 1082, the chateau was inherited by Godfrey of Bouillon, who sold it to Otbert, Bishop of Liège, to finance the First Crusade. The castle was later fitted for heavy artillery by Louis XIV’s military architect, in the late 17th century.
The views from the top of the chateau, over the town, are breathtaking. Bouillon contains Belgium’s biggest single forest. Its mixed oak and beech woodlands stretch across the plateau of Menuchenet and the slopes of the Semois River. When you are at the top of the Chateau, you can see thick forest all around you.
The town of Bouillon looks quiet and unchanged over time but its centre is bustling with life. There are cafes where the elderly play different card games. The butcher shop is busy serving the multitude of customers. He does sell extremely good local meat products, including vacuum-packed smoked hams, the perfect takeaway for an impromptu picnic.
For fun, the town has paddle boats for rent along the river, both family-sized and for singles. For a small fee, you can also take the little city train to the top of the town for breathtaking views over the Chateau de Bouillon.
After Bouillon, it is worth stopping in the village of Crupet, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie, (The Most Beautiful Villages in Wallonia). It is a tiny village, with gorgeous stone houses decorated with many different types of flowers.
Most of the houses date from the 17th, 18th and 19th century. The highlights of the village are the Crupet Chateau, a 13th century medieval farm-chateau situated below the village center, and the Grotto of St Anthony of Padua. The grotto was designed by the local curate and inaugurated on the 12th July 1903. It features 22 religious-themed statues. Many of them depict scenes from the life of St. Anthony of Padua.
I strongly recommend having dinner at the La Toquade restaurant, next to the 4 star hotel, Le Moulin des Ramiers. It is 100m down the road from the Crupet chateau. The setting is charming: the stone built restaurant, gazebos built over the river, beside a small waterfall, with sheep grazing right next to it – the perfect place to enjoy a meal and be inspired.
La Toquade serves some of the most interesting food, with combinations of hot and cold dishes. We had the most wonderfully ornate gazpacho, raw Angus tenderloin pieces, English veal served with raspberry sauce and Sardinian fregula made like a risotto. We finished the meal with an extremely interesting dessert. It was a mix of yogurt, small meringue pieces, caramel, fruit, spices, slices of rhubarb and dill. Foodies shouldn’t miss this unique and interesting dining experience!
The list of wines is also extensive ranging from a cheaper selection to a very expensive one. There is something for all wine lovers.
Chateau de Bouillon and Crupet combine to make the perfect day trip. If you are visiting (or living in) Brussels or Mons and have the time to explore further afield, the town of Bouillon is about 1.40h from both cities. It is really worth the travel.
At the end of this day trip you will be left with unforgettable memories and the desire to explore more of the not so famous Belgium.
We here at CheeseWeb can wholeheartedly agree that Crupet is lovely. We haven’t yet visited Bouillon but will definitely be adding it to our list, thanks to Adriana’s lovely words and photos. Adriana is also a fellow AFAR Ambassador. Check out one of her Wanderlists for Belgium: