Namur turned into one of those places you just feel comfortable in. Namur is a genuine working city, there were a few tourists about. It’s on the confluence of the Meuse, which we came in on and the Sambre which we rode out on.
The Citadel was the place to visit for us yesterday and we enjoyed a lively and very fast English speaking Belgian tour of the tunnels under the Citadel and it’s history. In a nutshell it was under siege 22 times and each time the defenders lost. The victors improved the place and … not learning much are we? Excellent video projection onto the walls showing you the different ages, from 15th century to 1939.
We cycled up to the top of the Citadel which seemed very easy without all the panniers.
Valerie and Bart suggested a tapas wine bar, which we cycled into from their place. It took us only 8 minutes. Good food, slow service.
Our route today went out on the EV3 (it crosses the EV5 here) heading north west on the Sambre. If we had chosen not to ride on a marked cycle route and been on the road, we would have gotten there a lot quicker or not as our advice would be to never ever ride on the roads in Belgium if it can be avoided. Having now checked the stats, Belgium is the worst country in Europe for deaths on the roads, double that of any other European country. They have the worst road safety record in Europe. This confirms what we thought. It’s simply horrendous for a cyclist.
The best thing about today was breakfast that Valerie prepared for us. We kicked ourselves half way through the day for not taking the most delicious pecan pastry with us for sustenance as we feel are eating too much. We set off at 9.25. Forecast was thunderstorms but this was the view as we packed up the bikes outside the house. That’s our bike path on the river. I don’t t think you could find a more perfect location to stay. We had a lovely time there. We even got to try some Belgian wine Valerie and Bart picked up from a winery in Valerie’s home village a short ride away. We rated it 4/5. It was a white – grapes Johanniter and Solaris from Chateau de Bioul. Bet we cannot buy this in Australia!
The first 10 km out of Namur was fine – gorgeous blue sky, quite cool but good surface. From then on it was terrible. We hit what our hosts called “The Black Country”. The heavy industry was far worse than we saw in Germany. It seems to be king in scrap metal and goodness knows what else but it stank, was noisy and it went on forever.
Note to potential other cyclists. Best bet is to catch a train to Namur, stay two or three nights, tootle to Dinant and back or head to France from here. Going north is not to be recommended.
Cycling around Charleroi was quite a challenge in many respects. Charleroi was named a couple of years ago The ugliest city in the World. We can confirm that the towns surrounding the city aren’t much better. We used the cycle path to go around. We saw much of the following – dumped rubbish in large bags on the side of the path, mutually supporting people who were quite obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol, many dilapidated houses, boarded up shops. In general, a place to avoid at all costs and one wonders what will come of these areas. Even the main train station was closed and run down. At 2pm we found a co-operative volunteer place and shared a mixed plate. Targeted at cyclists doing the Charleroi avoidance route.
After this time the rain set in, heavy thunderstorms, back to the ponchos. We had to shelter under large bushes when the storm was overhead. We set off again when the rain had lightened. We saw a cyclist sheltering under a large industrial Ecluse, so we decided to join him, and the lock keeper. So glad we did as he told us the route we were on was blocked about 5km down and best ride the other side. We had already lost time having to ride back from another blocked route. Shoes drenched again. Bloody long day in the saddle.
Now in our blissful quiet hotel. Manager in charge kindly ordered us pizza as local restaurant is closed for the holidays. He dug a wine out of the cellar which he said we could have for a song as he had no idea what it was! Very interesting and twilight zone evening. Only 50 km to do tomorrow thankfully.