Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Last day

Today, our last full day, was a "rest day," as in, no cycling. Tomorrow morning, we pack up everything, including our backpacks, which we had left at the B&B, and ride the bikes one last time, just a short jaunt of 20 km to the Brussels airport. 

Today, we took the train into Brussels and wandered around. It's another big city, so nothing super thrilling, but it is quite nice, and it was a nice surprise that most people seem to speak French there. Throughout Flanders, Belgians seemed far more comfortable in English than in French, which we thought a little strange, Belgian supposedly being a "bilingual country." That said, perhaps French-speakers coming to Canada might be somewhat dismayed at how little French is spoken outside of Quebec. 

Pretty much the first thing I did off the train was find a Belgian waffle place. We hadn't had a chance to try one yet, and it being our last day...

The one other thing on my to-do list was to visit the Cantillon brewery. This was worth the trip into town as far as I was concerned. The self-guided tour was very interesting and included two samples of beer, and then you could buy bottles of other offerings, many of which you can only buy at the brewery, and not to take away. You have to drink it there. And most are 750 ml. Luckily, Sonia and I befriended a young American guy backpacking around Europe, who was willing to share a few bottles with us. So I got to try a few interesting geuzes. The brewery itself is a little like stepping back in time. Very little modern stainless steel brewery gear here. For instance, here is the wooden mash tun. 

After Cantillon, we wandered around some more, and then Sonia and I went our separate ways for an hour or so, she to do some shopping, me to seek out one of the better beer bars in town (Moeder Lambic). Then it was off to find a bite to eat and hop on the train home to get packing. We'll be on the bikes tomorrow by 8 am. Next stop: home! 

Monday, June 01, 2015


I don't think we could have asked for a nicer day for our last day of bike touring on this trip. The weather was fairly mild, the winds were mostly light, and we got some nice sun and no rain. The morning part of the ride, the 30 km from Buggenhout up to the Schelde river and eastward, before we turned south down the Rupel toward Mechelen, was as beautiful as any part of our trip: lovely farm fields, gorgeous gardens, hilarious sheep, castles, and beautiful river vistas.

The whole 57 or so km, I was acutely aware that this was our last full day of cycling, and it made me wistful. Usually, when we get to the end of a vacation, I am more than ready to come home. But  this trip has been different. It took us a week to get in to the swing of things, but once we did, it seemed that more than on any other holiday we were able to leave our normal lives behind, "décrocher" as Quebecers say. I think I could have done another week like this. The morning rides, especially, have been wonderful. Getting on your bike and setting out to explore a new countryside is a wonderful way to start the day. 

As we turned onto the LF2, heading south on the same path we took north 2-and-a-half weeks ago, it was interesting to see the same country from the perspective of what had changed over that time. Poppies were blooming everywhere, for one thing; they hadn't yet started to come out by mid-May. But we had changed more than the countryside. Going north, it was all new and strange. Cominng south, it was familiar and beautiful. The deja-vu was even more acute as we rolled into Mechelen. Our first day here, we were jetlagged, stressed from our everyday lives, and wound up with anticipation; Mechelen seemed exotic and a little frightening. Today, the town seems like an old friend; I felt almost Belgian, cycling the streets confidently and navigating my way around. 

Tomorrow, we'll take the train into Brussels for one last day of sightseeing. The only essential thing on my agenda is the legendary Cantillon brewery.