Monday was sort of a rest day because I only had about 5 km to go to Bouillon. On the way I passed the ‘Abbaye Cistercienne-Trappiste Notre-Dame de Clairefontaine’ founded in 1845 for women, by the Abbey of Orval. The abbey was closed on Mondays, but if you rang the bell you could visit the church.
Since the campsites are quite far out of town, I tried to stay in the youth hostel, but because of Covid, solitary travelers can no longer stay there at a reasonable price. I would have had to take a room of 10 all to myself. Cost: 100 €, much more expensive than a hotel. My advice to solo travelers: better not pay a Youth Hostel membership card as long as we’re having this Covid crisis, because you can’t do anything with it. In Tournai, the Youth Hostel also asked 45 € for a bed, more than the local B&Bs.
The smaller gites were all full. I called a non-classified B&B and they asked 65 €, but it was only available from Tuesday.
Finally I went to have a look at the historic Hotel de la Poste, right in the center, where the price would be 55 € pp. That was of course based on a double room, for a single it was 70 €. I took it for two nights, because I was too tired to lug around my backpack any further. On On Tuesday afternoon I have an appointment here with an osteopath. So this is two days of luxury recovery and rest in the hope I will be able to complete the second part of my hike without any problems.
In the room I immediately plunged into a warm bath expecting it would relieve me a little from the nagging pain in my lower back with which I have been walking around for ten days already. At the same time I washed all the clothes I no longer needed that night.
According to a full-page article from 1987 on the wall, Hotel de la Poste has a curious history.
In the 1970s, with the rise of mass tourism to the south of Europe, Ardennes tourism came to a halt and the hotel was completely destroyed. It was for sale or for rent for years, until a Dutchman fell in love with it at the end of the 1970s and took the risk of taking a renovation loan for it. After five difficult years he managed to make the stately hotel profitable again. The rooms and corridors were restored to their original state: creaky parquet floors with a thick wall-to-wall carpet over it. Pure nostalgia.
Besides the exclusive friends of the local nobility who came to hunt in the Ardennes at that time, the famous guests who stayed there included Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Emperor Napoleon III, who had to stay there as a prisoner of war in 1870.
Today I wanted to visit three touristic hotspots in the city, but this intention was thwarted by a three-hour patience exercise to reactivate my defective Scarlet e-mail account on my mobile phone. As a result, I could only visit the iconic fortified castle of Godefroid of Bouillon, because at 5 pm I had to be at the osteopath, which was a 40-minute walk.
The bird of prey demonstration in the courtyard of the castle by a falconer from Berchem was spectacular, as can be seen on some of the pictures. He released two buzzards, a white barn owl, a large eagle owl, an American vulture and a Bald eagle to fly freely across the courtyard.
In the evening I was lucky that the crescent moon was just above the Semois and I could to take a nice picture of its reflection.
Leaving Bouillon, I was immediately confronted with a long climb to the bridge over the N89. Then my way went up and down by narrow, densely wooded paths. The wind made an ominous noise in the high crowns, everywhere I heard creaks and ‘scraping hinges’. I also got a pinecone on my head. Fortunately I had my hat on.
In Les Hayons, the first village I passed, I had half an hour before I would take a lunch break to visit the studio of Marie-Laure Alff, the artist who painted 16 large scenes from the life of Godfrey of Bouillon on silk. I had seen those works the day before in the castle of Bouillon.
In addition to her silk paintings, Marie-Laure also created hand-painted dolls depicting traditional professions, as well as local saints, fairies and forest nymphs born from the mist over the Semois in days gone by were. Her old farm is therefore called La Ferme des Fées (The Fairy Farm). Well worth a visit.
A little further I could enjoy a beautiful panoramic view over the Semois and a climb further a wide view over the surrounding hills on the ‘Saut des sorcières’ (Witches leap).
Not a spectacular trip today, but all together again more than 600 altimeters in my legs.
After Cugnon, the GR makes two large loops up to Herbeumont. I could cut them by taking other small paths, which limited today’s route to just over 20 km.
From a bridge over the Semois near Mortehan I saw a beaver or otter swimming quite close, but by the time I could take a picture, it had dived under water and I couldn’t see it surfacing anymore. I wonder how long those rascals can last under water.
In the tavern I met Pierre, a retired banker from Genk. He had noticed my flag on my backpack and asked me what is was about. After I handed him a flyer he immediately he reached for his wallet and gave a donation that immediately cleared the last ounce of tiredness in my legs. After that we had a very nice chat about about life and the figurative backpacks that we all carry and of course also about the banking crisis and NewB ECV Act to change banking – NewB! (NL), Belgium’s almost-new cooperative bank.
Pierre preferred not to be in the picture. In the end it was after 3 pm before I was back on the road ….
Luckily I could find something to eat in Herbeumont. As my legs felt a bit tired around noon, I decided to take a long lunch break in a tavern. According to the GPS app Komoot, the second part of the trip to Chiny would be less difficult.
The rest of the trail was pure blissfulness: smoothly walkable paths, barely any steep goat paths, and most importantly: brisk walking without back pain, thanks to osteopath Pascal Brouillon. 😊
Tonight I will not sleep in my tent, but in a bed in the Auberge de l’Embarcadère .
Read more about the reason I didn’t get to the campsite a few hundred meters further on the Sponsors Blog page: Auberge de l’Embarcadère
This morning I left quite late because of Johan’s royal breakfast at the Auberge de l’Embarcadère. He also showed me the pictures of his hike in the Carpathians and his trip to Antarctica.
First I made a small detour past the grocery store in the village, and then I set off on a grassy path through a beautiful forest up to Suxy. On the way I had a few short rain showers. When I arrived in Suxy it started to rain more heavily, but just in time I could shelter in a bus stop. After about 10 minutes it cleared up again.
From 14:00 to 18:30 I walked through different types of forest and I only met one mountain biker. At first the forest was very dense and somewhat claustrophobic. The spruces were growing too close to each other and were completely covered with mosses at the bottom of their trunks.
According to Ruben, my garden host from l’Epine near Bouillon, all firs in Europe are infected with a disease. These trees did indeed look unhealthy. After my trail went through a forest with larger deciduous trees growing further apart from each, resulting in more light. For the first time in the Ardennes, I saw a large hind on a grassy path with an already grown calf.
After I crossed the road to Neufchateau, the paths widened and I had a beautiful walk on an undulating road. Although, every climb was getting a bit more difficult because my kilometer total was already going towards 20km again. Three days in a row is getting quite heavy in the legs.
When it started raining quite heavily I could shelter under a bridge and started writing this report until the rain stopped.
The lowering sun shone beneath the rain clouds, which brought me to Julien’s garden with a magnificent rainbow.
He wasn’t at home, but I was allowed to find a place to set up my tent and shelter from the rain in the garden shed. There I wrote the rest of this report. When the rain stopped, I set up the tent and handled all other evening camping tasks.
Today wasn’t a highlight.
It already started with packing my soaking wet tent. I loosened the inner tent as carefully as possible so that not too much condensation from the outer tent would drip inside. I tried to rub the outer tent a little dry on the inside and outside. Luckily it wasn’t raining so I could pack everything only slightly moist.
Just after ten o’clock I was on my way, via a forest road. After four kilometers, however, the top of my left foot started to hurt. Therefore I decided to take the shortest possible way to Habay-La-Neuve, which was via a regional road. Not really nice for walking, but fortunately not too busy.
I had nothing else elft to eat than a packet of cookies. So I wanted to eat something in a café in Habay-le-vieux, but it was just after 2 pm and the kitchen was already closed. Even a sandwich wasn’t possible. Then I only had a drink and massaged my painful foot a bit, which eased the pain afterwards.
A little after four o’clock I was getting seriously hungry. All eateries in the area were closed until six. The tourist office was open, but when I asked if there was anything to eat in Habay-La-Neuve the answer was “No”. At 5 pm I could order a pizza from the Pizzeria and they gave me the phone number.
So I first walked two kilometers further to Marc’s garden where I would order a pizza. I called the pizzeria and when I wanted to order a pizza they told me they didn’t do deliveries. Luckily I could buy a loaf of bread in the Carrefour and I still had a can of mackerel fillets.
The only positive note today: I have every comfort one could want in Marc’s garden. There is a sitting area behind his house with a seat, sink with hot water and toilet. Moreover I am not alone. The house rabbit comes to visit me regularly.
A little after nine I was on my way to Martelange/Radelange.
First I went back to the Carrefour to stock up some provisions. I also had quite a bit of water with me as there was no opportunity to refill along the way. Even though I had a lot of weight to carry, my left foot didn’t protest.
The first 10 km the path followed the river Rulle. Just outside Habay-La-Neuve it formed a beautiful artificial lake. The path around it was quite crowded by cyclists, hikers and joggers. When I saw the joggers running so lightly, I also longed to go jogging instead of trudging through the woods with a heavy backpack.
After the lake I met two cyclists and a hiker from Leuven who especially came here for one day to make a 20 km walk, because on Sundays the beautiful Heverleebos near Leuven is always too crowded. My journey inspired him, he gladly accepted a flyer.
The second half of the track went through the natural park ‘Vallée de la Rulle’. That was very nice with alternating forests and clearings and no more steep climbs. I only did 260 altimeters in total.
This morning I had called the campsite in Radelange to inquire if they provided food in the tavern, but on Monday the campsite would close for the season. So I could only stay for one night. As my foot didn’t hurt anymore and I wanted to take a day of rest on Monday, I walked to Camping Breau Rivage in the next village Wisembach.
There I was received very warmly. More about that tomorrow.