Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Holland anymore.

Today was a short day of cycling, about 25 km or so. The road back to Brussels is just a tad too far to do comfortably in two days, and we decided to do one short day (in lieu of a rest day) and two normal days. Tongeren looked like an interesting little town, so we've stopped here. Tomorrow, we hope to get to Tienen, and then on to Brussels by Thursday.

As we rode out of Maastricht this morning, we finally turned off the LF3 – which starts way up by the North Sea, so we probably only saw half of it – and onto the LF6 route across Flanders.

Hanging a right through Flanders. Goodbye, LF3. 
It was a drizzly morning. We probably could have gotten away with not wearing our rain gear, but hey, we brought it all this way, we might as well use it. The "rain" eventually tapered off completely around 11 or so. 

Our home-made ("Sonia-made") rain booties. Simple but effective. Stylish? Maybe not so much... 
A few kilometres west of Maastricht, we crossed over into Belgium, and like the crossing from Germany into Holland a few days ago, we could feel the difference immediately. The building style, the gardens, and the farms are all very different than Holland. My impression is that the farms in Belgium are generally bigger; it also seemed like there were fewer little towns, and what towns there were were much sleepier – no little cafés and bakeries. At least none that were open. 

Girding our loins to climb a hill in rural Belgium. 
The landscape is also much less flat. Not quite as hilly as Luxembourg (though the first hill to get us out of the Meuse valley was a doozie!), but definitely more relief than Holland. Still it was a nice ride, with not much wind or traffic on these back roads, and we made it to Tongeren by noon. Luckily, the Airbnb host allowed us to check in a few hours early, so we settled in, had lunch and then went to explore the town 

Tongaren is quite nice. The town dates back at least to Roman times, and there's a very good self-guided walking tour, with signs in four languages. There are some remnants of town walls dating from the 13th century, and a fairly well preserved beguinage. The main square is dominated by quite a lovely basilica, the building of which started in the 13th century. The square also features a statue of Ambiorix, a leader of the "Belgae" who revolted against Julius Ceasar and purportedly destroyed a legion. 

The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe Basiliek and statue of Ambiorix in Tongeren
It was in view of both of these monuments that I sat down to drink some fine Belgian beer while Sonia went to do some shopping. An excellent start to the last few days of our trip. 

Rodenbach Caractère Rouge, on tap no less. Gotta love Belgium. 

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