I’d like to dedicate this following post to my father; a man who has worked hard and dedicated his working career to the railway so he could jump on the early train of retirement and at 55, swap the stress of work for the stress of grandchildren.
Over recent years, my dad has been very generous with lots of things, whether it be his finances, wildlife knowledge (with utmost respect, this guy is easily on a par with Sir David Attenborough – there isn’t a bird species he doesn’t know) and, his time. Although the times we do see him seem to be around lunch and tea times, go figure! However, with his need to be gluten, diary and sugar free all we can actually give him is ice cubes? His intolerants also seem to stretch to an overt disdain for pooping, winding and burping the grand-children, hence supervised visits are always required!
Yet sometimes, a man needs to learn when he has shared enough; and arriving in Belgium with the flu I’d contracted from him was that time! I wouldn’t care, but I made a conscious decision not to touch him before we left, too!
So there I was, in my most favourite place in Belgium – The Ardenne; snot filled, freezing and seeking sympathy!
Having visited the Ardenne previously, we knew the place to ‘park up’ had to be Han sur Lesse. A two minute walk from the village centre, (Longitude : 5.1875, Latitude : 50.12777), is an aire (a cheaper alternative to a campsite). Excitedly, we told Nabbie all about the ‘posh car-park’ we were staying in for the next few nights – where you have access to mains water, electric hook up and for €0.50 one can enjoy the luxuries of a flushing toilet. It also has wifi included – GLORY! Yet, the glory failed to work, so the joy was short-lived! This luxury accommodation cost us *€9 per night for Sept / Oct pricing– bargain!
The reason we love it here is because it reminds us of an albeit, ‘commercial’ version of our home. The smell of wood smoke perfumes the air and the crisp Autumn chill cannot help but bring a nostalgic ‘Christmas town’ feel to the place. Throughout the day, you can hear the church bells ringing and if visiting in October, come dusk, you can hear the stags rutting! It is quintessentially European – almost Alpine in feel!
Yet regardless of the season, at present – my snotty situation and anger towards wifi, we still managed to have an amazing time, and these are some of the things we got up to:
This 1.5hour Safari tour is absolutely perfect for small children! Etched into the rolling countryside are various habitats housing a variety of animals and wildlife from all over the world.
An open bus escorts you around each area singing a ridiculously jovial French ditty; it is worth the money, just for that! Tours are conducted in French or Dutch only but if you are a typical monolingual Brit it will not impair your experience what-so-ever!
Personally, our favourite animal had to be; ‘the brown bear that will eat me in the wild’ (Nabbie, aged 2).
I would love nothing more than to tell you all about this impressive cave system that is located right here in the centre of Han sur Lesse – the stalactites and stalagmites are a Geologist’s dream… However, as of late, I’m still desperate to explore them! With approximately 300 steps to descend into the cave, no pushchairs are obviously allowed. This is not a problem for Nuksi as she can be carried, but upon inquiring, the 1hr 45min guided tour must be conducted in quiet – mate, I have a toddler – I don’t even know what quiet time is when going to the toilet?!
With numerous routes to take, our favourite is most definitely the circular route that follows the perimeter of the valley. About 5km in length, it is accessible with a sturdy pushchair or perfect for preparing little legs to become walking ready.
It has bittersweet memories for us as the last time we did this walk, our 5 month old managed to toss her favourite toy out of the pram.
Only upon completing the circuit, did we realise Frauline the goat (all the way from Switzerland) was missing so Paul and I ran around the circuit no less than 5 times, adding about £40 to our phone bill, “have you found the goat, yet?”
Unable to understand Paul’s pigeon French, a couple seemed to understand what was wrong when Paul proceeded to do goat impressions “I even danced about like one!” (genuine quote). Nevertheless, we got the goat… even if it was not one of our finest hours!
Peppered with wine bars and evening eateries, Rue de Grottes is where everyone ascends to enjoy late night nibbles, socialise and reflect on the day.
Our personal favourite has to be Taverne du Centre, its lively atmosphere makes it popular among locals and tourists alike and children are most definitely welcome. A little slice of Belgique happiness!
When in Wallonia (a few things we learned along the way):
- Make the effort to speak French to locals (although I did this to a Dutch speaking tourist – awkward. As there are some ‘linguistic tensions!)
- I love the fact that <3 are free in most places, Belgian’s definitely rate experience over profit!
- *Prices reflect 2017 off-peak rates, unless otherwise stated.
- *Booking a ‘two-event’ pass would mean an adult would be able to access the caves and wildlife safari for €29 rather than the €19 individual event price.
So it’s totally possible to do loads of things and have the best time ever, even with cold, but I know I didn’t have your ‘man-flu’, Dad…
Love you, x
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