Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter in the Ardennes

During an early Easter Freddie and I took a spin on our Christmas purchase, a second-hand 20-year old Vittorio tandem. We'd been out with it on day trips from time to time. I was a bit nervous about it as most of the time we went out something broke on it, this trip was no exception but we got through nevertheless and had a great time too!

On Thursday evening we took the train from Amsterdam to Maastricht. Unfortunately we lost the bag the contained Freddie's gloves, her warm moon boots, scarf and rain overshoes. It looked like the trip was turning into the tragedy from the get go. However I'd brought a spare pair of gloves, her cycling shoes were warm enough and with my neoprene overboots and some waterproof overshoes that we got from a shop the next morning all was ok. We stayed with a couple who participate in the Vrienden op de Fiets network, which provides cheap places for cyclists and walkers to stay. We'd stayed with them before in November and rented their tandem, which cemented our desire to get one of our own.

The rain fell in sheets on Friday, until it started to sleet! It was definitely a Good Friday. We were very happy to have our warm gear. None of the cold weather dampened our spirits. So we weren't at all phased when it started to snow! Our destination for the day was the German town of Monschau, a cute old town that has been far enough from the 20th century economic mainstream to have escaped being effected by WW2 and by much development, except that which relates to tourism. It sat in the bottom of the kind of steep valley that characterises the Eifel and Ardenne region. We stayed in the youth hostel, which was warm, cheap and friendly.

Saturday was snow day, after plenty of ups and downs we arrived and a border crossing we came to the Belgium town of Sankt-Vith. Until Napoleon came along it had formed part of an independant Duchy, but got parceled up with Germany. The town was been part of Belgium's settlement in the Treaty of Versailles. Other than the number plates it seemed as German as the towns 20km away on the other side of the border.

Sunday was a gloriously cold but sunny day. We wound our way north into the French speaking part of Belgium staying mostly on small roads, though sometimes having to turn off onto the bigger ones due to icy snow. It was the best day so far with lots of ups and downs. We stayed in a hostel that was part of an old castle that the provincial government of Liege administered.

Monday was the last day, not feeling too much like pushing for long in the cold and rather looking forward to taking a nice shower/bath was cut the day short just after lunch and took a train home from Maastricht. All in all it was a great little break and we both learned that we could have a great time on the tandem even in conditions that weren't ideal.

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