La Tour de Trappe Day 4 – Achel to Orval

DESTINATION: Orval, with a stop at Achel.

DISTANCE:  18 miles (29 Kilometers)

GETTING THERE:

Getting to Achel from Valkenswaard is easy, but plan your route well because there are many dirt paths, and cobblestone roads along the way. A well planned route should take no more than 35-40 minutes.

The ride from Achel to the train station in Neerpelt is flat, fast and simple.  I recommend our route here.

The ride from Florenville to Orval was about 7.5 miles of pure downhill adrenaline.

OUR ADVENTURE:

We had to wake up early today to see Achel before we caught our train to Orval.

The short 5km ride to Achel took us almost an hour.  The bike route was 3/4 sand dunes, and we had to walk the bikes for most of the way.  Luckily, we ventured off course and found a firmer dirt trail through the woods that cut our sahara trek short.  If you’re riding to Achel from Valkenswaard, make sure you study the route before you go.  A longer distance on real roads is totally worth it. In other words, don’t follow our route!

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Achel in the distance. Not pictured: The mile long sand pit of a road we were travelling on.
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A closer view of Achel Abbey from just outside the gate.

We arrived at Achel long before their 11 o’clock opening time, so we had to hit up the Abbey grocery store to obtain our precious beers.  This store seems to be the monk’s commisary/Achel gift shop.  Imagine a country store you would encounter in rural America…one that stocks sun bleached cans from 1972.  Now imagine a Belgian version of this store at a Trappist monastery!  The entire back room of the store has an amazing beer selection though!

VISITING ACHEL

High Tourist Season (May-Sep)

Cafe is open 11:00am-5:30pm Tuesday-Sunday (Closed Monday)

Store is open 9:00am-12:00pm and 12:30-5:00pm Tuesday-Saturday (Closed Sunday & Monday)

Low Tourist Season (October-April)

Cafe is open 12-5:00pm Tuesday-Sunday (Closed Monday)

Store is open 9:00am-12:00pm and 12:30-5:00pm Tuesday-Saturday (Closed Sunday & Monday)

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The entrance to the Achel store with a huge beer selection in the back. Note the creepy, white power-esque gnome guarding the door.
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The Achel courtyard. It looks like an abandoned town, but the cafe is actually very nice.

After enjoying our beers in the courtyard (Achel Bruin is amazing), we headed to the train station in Neerpelt to catch our 1130 train.  Our 1130 train turned into the 1230ish train, which made a few of our connections tight.  Taking the train with your bike is painless in Belgium. A ticket for your bike is €5 from the beginning of your trip to your destination regardless of how many connections you have. Plus we each got a great workout running up and down stairs with two 30 lb panniers wrapped around our necks, slowly strangling us while we hoisted 15 lb bikes above our heads! Check out this post for more info on taking your bike on the train in Belgium.

Four hours and three trains later, we finally arrived in Florenville!  Florenville is the closest town to Orval, so we still had a 5 mile trip to our hotel.  We had heard about Wallonia’s hills before the trip, but didn’t know what to expect.  Take it from me, WALLONIA IS HILLY!  Luckily, our ride to the hotel was mostly downhill, and we hit 35 and 40 mph on those downhills (I was hitting the brakes the entire time).

Before the trip, we were concerned about getting into our hotel too late.  Orval is in a tiny town, and we read that everything closes around 7 or 8 o’clock.  That isn’t entirely true.  There are a few restaurants in town that seemed to stay open until 9, but the town is definitely dead by 10.  We got to our hotel around 7, and the manager of our hotel cooked us an amazing steak dinner!

On to the next post: Day 5 – Orval to Rochefort

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