A September 1999 trip
to Belgium by Irene
Quote: Scant miles southeast of Brussels, the rising green hills guard the rivers Meuse and Lesse, while harboring the favorite, well hidden playground of the Belgians, The Ardennes, home of ham, Chimay Beer, waffles, legendary castles and the outdoor sports arena of the rolling Eifel Massif mountains.
Hotel | "Auberge de la Lesse"
We registered in the cafe and were shown to our rather spacey room, one of a string of rooms attached to the cafe and facing the parking lot. Out front we had small concrete porch with table and chairs and inside we had couch under the window a real double bed, tv with cable, minibar, telephone, clothes cabinet and a huge bathroom with gray granite shower for 20. Clean, airy, comfortable with table and chairs on the wall opposite the door on the left and a huge picture window over the couch that actuallly opened so we could hear the rush of the Lesse River down the hill.
Our Auberge might be considered out of the way, but Dinat and the train were only steps away when we needed to shop or try another cafe. Entertainment was provided by the lovely locals who arrive each night and chatted with us on our porch while we shared one of the special brews from the cafe. Inside the cafe we found an excellent restuarant with a range from sandwiches to 4 course dinning. Everyone strived to make our 3 day stay a pleasant one with loads of information and suggestions about what to do and see and our stay turned into 4 days when the hotel owners offered us the 4th night for free. We also had our laundry done for a mere 5 dollars while we hiked along the Lesse.
Every morning in the fireplace room we sat down to a wonderful collection of pastry, cold cuts, yogurt, lovely dark bread, creamy butter, soft boiled eggs, juice, hot coffee and a selection of English teas. Our waitress hovered and filled any special request with quick attention.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 19, 2002
Auberge de la Lesse
1 Gare de Gendron
Dinant, The Ardennes
At first glance de La Couronne impresses with a glistening bar and restuarant on the first floor with ourdoor service on a raised patio. However the check-in is located at another entrace about half way down the church side of the building with tiny registration area in dull colors and not even a chair to sit in. A employee of the restaurant came to wait on us at the counter and we are checked in to go straight up the stairs, second floor, no lift, no air conditioning, narrow hallways.
Our square room had a full bed with lots of pillows but not a lot of room to walk between the door and bed and the opposite wall. A huge square window opened at the end of the bed and a tiny table with two even smaller chairs was just inside the door to left. Small end tables were built into the wall and there were no night lights, a must for us big book readers. Our snug bath opened on the left past our table and was efficient, compact with tub, shower, toilet, sink and mirror, with only tea towels for the bath.
Not all that bad, but as the hours grew late and the heat of the day rose from the roof of the hotel our room began to steam, we opened the window and all of the rummbles of the streets and gaitey of the outdoor pubs and cafes rushed into our room. Later as we finally dozed and the sun had just light the sky, a huge banging, pounding and grinding sounded outside the window. Oh well, it is Monday morning and the garbage truck had arrived to remove the last of the weekend party and the restoration crew from the church had arrived with their jackhammers.
Breakfast was typical of Europe, tea, coffe, bread, rolls, jam, served until 9 am in the rather elegant resturant which we discovered has a varied menu with great service and tasty local dishes.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on August 27, 2002
Our waitress hovered as we made our choice and then disappeared to bring our wine selection. Moving on quiet slippered feet and almost whispering she welcomed us and slipped away to return within 20 minutes with a steaming aromatic sagging platter. First came a smooth tomatoe and pumpkin soup served with yellow tangy butter and crusty bread. I gazed at pork cutlets, two larger than my hand surrounded by bowls of peas and carrots, creamed spinach and croketts while Robert goggled at a enormous plate completely covered by the mass of lamb chops in a spicey tomatoe herb sauce and along the side his salad and the always lovely crisp french fries as on the Europeans can make them.
We ate and we ate and then we dined, slowly savoring the tastes with the lovely white wine and lingering over the coffee and the brandy while we whispered small secrets and listened to the hum from the the cafe a room away, until desert arrived. We had been too full to order but our helpful waitress thought we needed one last taste from the chef. A cherry Strudel, crisp, tangy and smothered in whipped creme, warm from the oven and we groaned as we found the last little bit of room left. A short starlight stroll by the Lesse River and and we called it a Very Happy Anniversary.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 20, 2002
Attraction | "Grottes de Han"
Soooooo! down into the dark we went, and the cool dampness rushed to meet us and ever so slightly we slipped on the wet rock as further down we went until light shown around the corner and our guide began to describe the discovery of the 8km limestone caves in the 19th century carved by the River Lesse millions of years ago. Our trip stopped leisurely at several special points marked with colored spotlights mainly the largest Stalagmite, the Salle du Trophee and the Salle d'Armes where the Lesse reappears after being underground. Most impressive was the Salle du Dome, a huge cavern where we were marched down the stairs and filed into the banks of seats seemly carved in the rock and the entire system of lights was doused.
Deep empty dark. There is no dark like the absence of light, none ,nada. We awoke to a flashing moving laser light show, spellbound by the contrast of dark and color and brightness. All too soon it ended and we were guided to a small dock, on the underground lake at the foot of the cavern until now not seen. In 4's and 5's we boarded and gradually our eyes began to see the sunrise of the rising surface ahead. We blinked and sheilded our eyes as we were flushed into a glassy outside lake and disembarked at the nearby dock. Tour over except for the short hike through the trees beside the tourist rairoad and past the animal reserve back to the town square. In April, September, and October trips every hour daily 10am-noon and 1:30-4:30pm--Saturday and Sunday 5:30pm. Tour lasts a little over an hour and the price was 350 francs about 10 dollars.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 21, 2002
Caves of Han-sur-Lesse (Grottes de Han)
Rue J. Lamotte 2
Before we even found the main attraction we stumble on the main square and thought we had found the war. A great pitted Panther tank squats in the square, open turret and surrounded with flowers and a stone border. Strolling down the hill, we browzed the pastry shop, admired the rustic homes and hotels hung with flowers boxes spilling from every opening. Masses of blue, with red geraniums and frilly white Alysum all pouring from rugged wooden boxes, even on the barns.
At the bottom of the valley a a turn out to the right opens in to a small cluster of outdoor restaurants and past them the monster tower of the 11th century romanesque Englise St Hadelin Church, the pride of Celles. A round grey stone peaked tower anchors the church and adds a break to the austere walls pecked with tiny windows. The church's power rolls over you from the massive height and dominating size of the entire structure. Behind the church at the foot of a forest clad hill(mountain) spread a split rail fence spilling with mounds of purple flowering sweet pea vines and on the mountain a small elegant chapel hung on the summit. Impressive!! As was this quaint, lively, entertaining stop over in Celles.