Thursday, November 13, 2008

Belgium Trip, Day 4: Off to Wallonia

Monday morning I walked over a few blocks from the hostel and picked up the rental car, a Volkswagen Polo, and drove it back to the hostel to load up. We got a bit of a late start because I had to go get a new wireless NIC. Mine had died suddenly and since Skype was my primary form of communication home, I wanted to get one before heading out to the country. We grabbed some breakfast, loaded up the Polo and headed south toward the Ardennes.

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It was a drive of just under two hours to reach the village of Achouffe. Our destination? The Achouffe brewery and tavern of course! We got there at about 12:30 and went straight into the tavern for lunch.

The Achouffe tavern is rustic and eclectic. Lots of old exposed timbers, various old beer paraphernalia and plants. On top of this, there are chouffes and gnomes lurking everywhere! They are in nooks on the wall, on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, etc. Cozy, yet airy at the same time.

After seating ourselves, I started out with a Chouffe Royale thinking it was a special brew unique to the cafe. I was wrong! It was actually a mixed drink of La Chouffe and some sort of liqueur. Interesting but it really wasn't for me and I was disappointed that I wasted some of my sobriety on it.

They offered "menus" for multiple course meals. I picked the three course meal while Dave got a 5-course meal and we mixed and matched from there.

Highlights: My first course was warm goat cheese. It was actually two thick pieces of partially melted goat cheese on a large piece of toast. Heavenly. Dave shared some of his pate made with McChouffe beer. Wonderful. The cheese plate that came after the main course was really good too. I didn't catch what kind of cheese it was but it was creamy and soft.

I had some Chouffe Bok, a beer that I didn't think was even brewed anymore. Lovely malty beer and a real treat for me.

After a leisurely lunch, we headed over to the brewery store. I picked up a couple of Chouffe glasses, a big bottle of the Chouffe Bok and a McChouffe statue. A Chouffe statue was a must-get if I was going to make the trip out to Achouffe so now I only had to figure out how I was going to get it home!

After loading up the car, we took a walk around the countryside to ensure our sobriety and just take in the "sights"

After, we drove the 20 minutes to La Roche-en-Ardenne and checked into our campground located on the banks of the winding river Ourthe.

It was a fair hike into town and it was late in the afternoon. The sidewalks roll up early in La Roche and we missed visiting the famous medieval castle in the heart of the village. We found a great beer store open so we went in there and bought some beers from around the region, including beers from the La Rulles, Saint Monon and Sainte Helene breweries. Then we hit the local Delhaize supermarket to load up on supplies for the evening and next morning.

While it was not rainy that night, the ground was so waterlogged from previous days rains that we opted not to pitch the tent and decided to sleep in the car. We drank some beer, feasted on bread, cheese and pate and turned in early. All in all, not a bad day in the country. Turning in early worked out since we were going to be getting up early for a three hour drive to a true beer mecca...the abbey at Westvleteren.

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