Since Shannon and I both like to camp, we decided to take a mini adventure to the Ardennes which is located in the southeast region of Belgium (mostly French speaking). The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests and rolling hill country, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France. The region is typified by steep-sided valleys carved by fast-flowing rivers, such as the Meuse and the Ourthe. Most people associate the Ardennes with the Battle of the Bulge which took place here at the end of World War II and the Battle of the Ardennes which took place in World War I. Many of the towns of the region were badly damaged during the two world wars.
We began our trip by going to Dinant which is an old city dating back to the 11th Century. Two of the city's fascinating landmarks are the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame and the Citadel (fortress) on the cliff. Instead of taking the cable car up to the Citadel, I made Shannon walk the 408 steps up the cliff with me! Then we took the short tour through the Citadel which consists of a museum of armaments, several dioramas, a collapsed shelter cave, and a beautiful view of the Meuse River Valley and the city below. Dinant is also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax; hence the picture of Shannon with a saxophone below. The 'Leffe Abbey' is also located here which is where they initially began brewing Leffe beer, but eventually they decided to join a commercial brewery, so only a Leffe Museum remains. We even tried the famous Dinant ginger biscuits called the "Couques de Dinant" which are shaped in all kinds of molds, ours being a lion biscuit. I don't recommend it; I almost cracked a tooth gnawing on it because it appeared to be as hard as a dog biscuit without much flavor (note, this is one biscuit/cookie I will not eat and as most people know I eat most kinds of cookies!)
The next town we went to was called La Roche-en-Ardenne and was also the area where we camped. We borrowed one of Shannon's coworker's tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads and roughed it out in the wilderness of the Ardennes. We pitched our tent with some trailer homes near a river where there were also a few campers. We didn't realize it was a permanent trailer park until we had walked around the area; it was quite funny to see some hill billy French people because I didn't picture them living in these surroundings. The next day we kayaked down the Ourthe River which flows through La Roch-en-Ardenne. Thankfully, we didn't take a spill, but saw a few youngsters purposely flip their kayak by standing in it rocking it back and forth; not sure why they would want to do this because the water was freezing this time of year! After kayaking we visited the ruins of The Feudal Castle built between the 11th and 14 centuries. It is currently being renovated since it was buried under 3,000 sq meters of dirt by the French to protect the vaulted artillery emplacements. This town is rich with war history, so we also went to a war museum which Shannon was quite thrilled about. The museum consists of mannequins of American, English, German and even Scottish soldiers with their equipment and armament, uniforms, light and heavy arms, photographic documents, personal objects, equipment found on the battlefield and military vehicles.
We will probably go camping again since I brought back our tent while I was home in the States in May. Camping is an inexpensive way to see some of the countryside in the Ardennes, so I'm sure we'll be back to visit other towns in that region along with military shows, my husband informs me!
Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame sitting below the Citadel on the cliff - Dinant