Day 7: Namur to Brussels - Grampies Cross Europe Germany to Spain Fall 2023 - CycleBlaze

September 2, 2023

Day 7: Namur to Brussels

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Since we are generally very aware of Eurovelo routes and take into account where they go when planning every European tour, it was remarkable that we landed unknowingly on EV 3 from Aachen to Namur.  Now today coming out of Namur we found ourselves on EV 5! EV 3 is the Pilgrim Route, and EV 5 is the "Francigena".  EV 5 runs 3900 km, from Canterbury to Rome.  The important part for us is that in doing this it runs between Namur and Brussels! In practice we did not stick with it all the way, because we detoured for a look at Waterloo, but it was EV 5 most of the way.

EV 5!
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Our of Namur, EV 5 ran through forest. It looks in this photo that it actually had a magic portal.
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EV 5 found a lot of separated cycle path, and a lot of road with the curb designated for bikes, plus a certain number of just quiet roads. The whole affair was perfectly signed, and just generally super.

Despite the boost from EV 5 the ride today was not exactly easy, for me anyway. At the basic level there was indeed quite a lot of climbing, and the total ride was reasonably long. But that is not what I am thinking about now. Rather, it was the varied nature of the riding. Sometimes I was concentrating hard on the road surface, to avoid going flying, sometimes it was narrow roadway - feeling crowded by oncoming traffic, sometimes it was roundabouts with cars flying this way and that,  sometimes it was pathway among the crops that turned unpaved, and then filled side to side with water and mud.  None of the cycling was exactly difficult, but the environment kept changing so fast that it was hard to just settle into a rhythm. Probably most people would identify that as the ingredient for a really nice cycling day, and yeah it was, but now my brain is tired!

Among the things that kept changing was the nature of the buildings we were passing. The gritty ones along the Meuse were long gone, and we now saw everything from the interesting ones shown below, to pristine clean (but still brick) suburban type houses, to prosperous farm buildings, to elegant little chateau, and finally the super varied buildings of Brussels.

Some houses along the way.
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A prosperous farm
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A strange situation cropped up when Dodie declared that she could see a way to save some distance by deviating a bit from the EV 3 route. We did the deviation, and it began by diving into a deep and dark forest, where signs said to turn on your headlights. Then we turned onto a quite busy road, but soon came to a right turn, that Google said was the way to go. But no, the turn just led to a muddy track! We were forced to turn back, but before we were all the way back, Dodie saw another way to go. We took that, but found ourselves in a steeply descending narrow cobblestone road. Only the centre was really safe-ish to cycle, because the road was crowned and the cobbles slippy. Cars behind us, of course, tried to push us a far as possible into the slippy bit. That's the kind of thing that I mean when I say the day sort of took some concentration.

Google said turn here.
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Common sense said - "I don't think so!"
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An interesting interlude came when we arrived at the "geographic centre" of Belgium, along the river Nil. There is a marker there, which took us a few minutes to find, In the interim I had had a "nature break", so this missed being in the exact centre.  As we cycled away from the centre, there emerged a one sided conversation which sad to say is not infrequent between us. The gist would be: "Say, I wonder how you actually determine the centre of an irregular shape" "I don't care" "You would want it to be the sort of centre such that the shape would spin without vibration" "I don't care" "Maybe you could find it with a compass and the smallest circle that would surround all of the shape" "I don't care". We decided to defer this until the Internet could join in. But now that I have checked several sites, I am just confused. It seems we need to suspend a corner of Belgium from a string and ... OK, I don't care!

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Here below are some more snippets from the varied and active day.

Belgian Blue cattle - we saw a lot of these in Tricia and Ken's recent blog.
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Tricia GrahamMakes me wish I was still riding
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9 months ago
We were just remarking on there being no stores in any of the towns we were passing through, but suddenly we found a nice bakery. We chose a cafe cream eclair - yumm, so much better than Portugal!
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Here is a house than shows how nice brick that is not old and dirty can be.
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Our route at one point turned into a muddy lake. It's a toss-up as to whether one should try to ride through the middle, and risk a real dunking, or creep along the edge, and guarantee muddy feet. We crept.
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It was quite late by the time we reached Waterloo. Dodie would really have liked to visit the battlefield and also the museum. But the first thing we came to was a fruit seller. Aside from getting some great local grapes and figs from him we learned that we had already missed the turn for the battlefield. There really was not time to turn back. We proceeded into Waterloo and were very surprised to find a fancy town, with immaculate homes on the outskirts, large shopping malls, and a long street filled with boutiques and cafes. Our bike lane petered out and we were crowded off the roadway by a gaggle of Jaguars and Porsches. On the sidewalks we encountered crowds of people, and could just barely make any forward progress. This all but stopped at one point when incredibly a restaurant had filled all but  two foot passage on the sidewalk with its tables.

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The Waterloo fruit seller
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Some of the fruit
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Crowded off both the street and the sidewalk.
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Karen PoretRestaurant ( cafe) name is “cali”..ugh..
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7 months ago

On the far side of Waterloo we were gratified to enter a forested area, which is actually a giant park that is part of Brussels. It was nice at first, but we ran into more and more casual cyclists, down to two year olds, swerving about on the blocked off streets. But things turned really weird when we found that all the streets in the park had been blocked off and filled by a huge fair/festival, with swarms of people and many food and music stalls. Finally we came to a blocked off area, where a security guard  barred any further progress for us.

At least that guard thought he was barring any further progress. Little did he know he was encountering the Grampies. Dodie in particular wasn't having any part of it. She demanded to carry on on our way, and she was not taking no for an answer.  Finally the guard had to relent, and he opened the gate for us, giving entry into some sort of behind the scenes organizing area. We passed through this and then bullied the next guard into letting us out.  This then put us within the main festival. The GPS was helpful there, because all the various roads were covered with people. Finally we made our way to an exit from the whole thing. This was a bit of a shock, because we had been in a forest, then some crazy festival, but then bang, we were in the middle of a standard big city. Just like that, we had arrived to Brussels.

The forest
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The festival
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More festival
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Bang, we are in the city!
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More city.
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Dense housing
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Broad boulevards
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Monumental buildings - this place has it all.
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It would be easy to get lost, but we had a track leading straight to our hostel.
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We usually don't choose youth hostels, or youth hostiles as Dodie's sister has called them, but the one in Brussels (Hostel Bruegel) was fine. One we were settled, I went out to research that big topic - Belgian Fries. Behind a church was just the thing - a dedicated, street food oriented "friterie". Interestingly is was not only potatoes being fried there, but also a selection of what we know to be common in Netherlands - various forms of croquettes. I

Just the place!
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A fuzzy view of other available fried foods, through the glass.
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The fries fit the description of what to expect in Belgium - crispy outside and soft inside. They were extremely good. I (but not Dodie) must say, though, that the Quebec version is tastier, and therefore better. That's because they are greasier, and no doubt the oil is older.
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Tricia GrahamThat day made me feel tired reading it
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9 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Tricia GrahamIt was not only the distance we covered, which was long for us at this point, but also the various challenges we faced that left us feeling somewhat wrung out.
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9 months ago
Tricia GrahamTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI know what you mean although we weren’t doing long distances in Belgium I often found it tiring because the cycle ways are often narrow and made of concreter slabs which make for a bumpy ride on a heavy bike
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9 months ago

Today's ride: 78 km (48 miles)
Total: 211 km (131 miles)

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