Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ardennes, Belgium Nov 2016

Friday-Sunday November 25-27, 2016
For Thanksgiving weekend, we took an excursion to the Dinant area of the Ardennes in Belgium. 

Friday November 25, 2016
Joe took a half-day off of work since the U.S. was off for the Thanksgiving holiday. We decided a few days earlier on a whim to take a short weekend somewhere within a 2.5 hour drive. We had been wanting to visit the Ardennes. We love the Netherlands, but the flat landscape everywhere gets pretty boring. We needed some hills and scenic overlooks. 
We rented an Airbnb home in Hastiere, Belgium, close to the border with France. It was an ideal location to visit our 2 main destinations: the town of Dinant, its Citadel & Leffe brewery, and Maredsous Abbey. 
La Vielle Garde airbnb is a beautiful old 19th century home. 
Although it was cold when we first arrived, we enjoyed the cozy time by the fireplace. Brooklyn loved running circles around the old home.
Snuggling by the fire with my littles on our Thanksgiving weekend getaway to the Ardennes in Belgium #calebdai #dutchbrookiyn #ardennes #thankful #blessed life 

We stopped at a grocery store in Hastiere to pick up a few things for breakfast in the morning. 
We had a delicious dinner in Hastiere at Prune des Bois. Brooklyn enjoyed the cat wandering about the restaurant. 
There wasn't much of a sound barrier between the main bedroom and the library in the old home. Both Brooklyn and Caleb had rough nights sleeping. Brooklyn was in the library in a packnplay, but could hear us when we came upstairs for bed. Caleb was in our bedroom in our travel tent. Now that he can roll, this is not the best place for him to sleep. He kept rolling into the side of the tent onto his tummy and couldn't quickly settle back to sleep. 

Saturday November 26, 2016
Today we drove 20 minutes northeast to Dinant. Dinant sits on the Meuse River with steep cliffs behind it. Atop an outcropping, there is a centuries old fortified citadel, first built in the 11th century. 
The weather wasn't really in our favor this weekend, but we decided to still try and make the most of it.
We drove up to the Citadel for better parking availability and would take the cable car down into town for lunch. We opted against the stroller today. Joe took Brooklyn in the Deuter hiking backpack and Jackie had Caleb in the ergo. It was the right move. The parking lot was loose, deep gravel and then within the citadel, there were uneven surfaces everywhere that would have made a stroller extremely cumbersome. 
Dinant Citadel

The view of Dinant from the Citadel

The view of Dinant & the Collegiate Church of Our Lady from the Citadel 

The view of Dinant and the Gothic Collegiate Church of Our Lady from within the Citadel fortified walls
A sliver view of Dinant and the Meuse River from the fortified Citadel 
Brooklyn, Joe and Jackie at Citadel of Dinant
In World War I, in 1914, the French and German troops fought for the town. 674 inhabitants were summarily executed by Saxon troops of the German Army: the biggest massacre committed by the Germans in 1914.
Riding the cable car down from the citadel 
The steep ride down the cable car from the citadel
We walked south to Ostaria la Piave, a top rated Italian restaurant on TripAdvisor, only to discover the restaurant was booked for a special event. We walked back into the main street of Dinant to our backup asian restaurant, Hoa Sen. 
Jackie and Caleb with Aldolphe Sax, Dinant native and inventor of the saxophone 
Daddy & Brooklyn selfie on the cable car ride up to the Citadel of Dinant 
Cable car ride family selfie up to the Citadel of Dinant
Next we drove across the river over to Maison Leffe, for a little beer tasting and tour. 
Dinant view from Maison Leffe with the citadel resting above on the cliffside 
Maison Leffe
Beautiful brick vaults within Maison Leffe in Dinant
Wall murals within Maison Leffe
Dinant through stain glass in Maison Leffe
Dad & son at Maison Leffe in Dinant 
Brooklyn trying a sip of Leffe 

Jackie tried to get the 2 kids to sit together for a picture on the big lounge chairs in the Leffe tasting room but this was the best she could get 
The exhibit seemed quite cool and interactive but we were well beyond naptime by now and Brooklyn was getting quite difficult to manage (or maybe it was that sip of foam...). 
Dinant would be a wonderful place to visit again in the summertime. 

Sunday November 27, 2016
Brooklyn with her baby, ready to depart from our airbnb in Hastiere 
On our drive home, we stopped at Maredsous Abbey. The website said it is open Sundays at 9am as long as there was interest. We were hopeful that we would find the abbey's St Joseph's Visitor Center open. It sure was open! It was opening weekend of the Maredsous Christmas Market! What luck!
Maredsous Abbey Christmas Market
Maredsous Abbey beers
We enjoyed our beers and light lunch in the abbey cafeteria. We went in shortly before noon and were so glad we did. By the time we were leaving, people were hovering for tables to open up. 
Brooklyn practicing her sumo wrestling stance at Maredsous Christmas Market
We drove through Liege, Belgium on the way home. Jackie made Joe detour through town to drive by the Santiago Calatrava designed, Liège-Guillemins railway train station. (20161127_135310)
Here are a few professional photos that actually do it justice:

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