Books, villages and alcohol

Good morning from my courtyard room at Chateau D’ Hassonville. Today is a beautiful day, sunny but maybe cold, perfect for a morning walk in the big park of the castle. I am taking it slow today, partly because of the amount of alcohol I’ve ingested last night and partly because I am hesitant to leave. It is such a relaxing place, so far the best that I have ever been to.

Yesterday was a mixture of exploring the Ardennes and it’s little towns and a gastronomic/alcohol journey from town to town.

We were originally planning to visit only two towns, Redu, the first official book village in Europe and go back to Durbuy to take photos and for a bit more sight seeing. But while I was browsing through a pile of post cards in Redu to send to my good friend Carlo, I saw this photo of colorful houses and a church beside a river. We then decided to take the 45-minute journey to Dinant.

When it comes to history, Dinant have seen a good part of the past. It has been a settlement since the Stone Age and was an important city to the kings because of its location beside the River Meuse. Dinant has its castles, a citadel and a beautiful bridge now adorned with saxophones. I was wondering if it was an exhibit, an event or something else that made them put all those saxophones on the bridge but I’ve learned that Dinant is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. A fitting tribute to their famous resident.

Anyway, our day started with a delicious breakfast at Chateau D’ Hassonville. For the price of 20euros per person, I had high expectations with the quality of the food. And I was not disappointed.

Everything that was served was fresh, organic and were really tasty. I loved that you can boil or fry your eggs in the mini stove on the breakfast counter. The orange juice was freshly squeezed and they even have caramelized apricot among the choices. There was a variety of bread and fresh butter as well as salmon and liver pate. They serve their coffee on a pot with big cups decorated with flowers and you will feel like having high tea while having breakfast. The best part was the location, on the greenhouse adjusted to the restaurant. So you have a idyllic view of the garden while eating your first meal of the day.

After breakfast, we drove straight to Redu. It was raining in the morning and was very cold so I decided its better to be inside the bookstores and libraries than getting wet walking around Durbuy. After getting lost and wasting an extra 30 minutes on the Ardenne’s highway, we finally arrived in Redu at half past 10.

R was craving for coffee so we decided to get warm first at hotel/restaurant Le Fournil. He ordered coffee and I, chocolate milk, but later saw on the menu their specialty, peach liquor with cognac. Naturally I have to have a “taste”. That was the start of my alcohol consumption yesterday, at 10:30am in Europe’s first book village.

They say that you have gone to heaven and back when you come to Redu. And there’s a lot of truth to that, especially when you can find precious English books. The libraries and bookstores in that small village are numbered and there were certain areas where you can find the English books. Although each bookstore carries some English and Spanish titles, most of them are in French, Dutch and German.The whole time in Redu, I think of only one person, an acquittance of mine and a certified book worm, Ron. Surely, Redu is his heaven.

After Redu, we went to Dinant to have lunch. Because of lack of parking spaces, we have to park at the Citadel then ride the cable car down to the city centre where we ended up at Le Citadel restaurant. We were starving and didn’t want to look further. Luckily the lasagna was cooked in my preferred way, a bit burned, lots of cheese and meat and a bit soggy in the inside. I couldn’t help but enjoy such a fulfilling meal with two glasses of champagne.

As predicted by the receptionist owner of Chateau D’ Hassonville, the sun came out in the afternoon, at about 3pm. I was not very hopeful with Friday’s weather but fortunately it improved. We were back on the rode 30 minutes after to catch the sunset at the hotel so we can take photos of the sun-lit castle.

But not before stopping first at Durbuy. It didn’t take much time to go around the village because it was so tiny. I was once again drawn to the specialty store and came out with a bottle of that apricot liquer with cognac and little jars of Advocaat. By the time we were finished, the sun was shining warmly on the small centre of Durbuy, a very good place to enjoy a bottle of beer. I went for the sweet framboise and R for the local brew. All the while I was thinking of Brand’s Oud Bruin.

Before the sun sets, we hurried back to the hotel for the photos and eventually for more binge drinking. It was in a way, my R’s little birthday party, the main reason why we are here.

Happy birthday schatje!