DESTINATION: Rochefort, with a stop at Orval
DISTANCE: 51 Miles (82 Kilometers)
There are a lot of hills in Wallonia. I’ve read that there is a flatter route than the one we took but you are going to hit a lot of hills no matter what. It is still a beautiful ride through the Ardennes and there are some incredible views from the hilltops.
Orval is the only monastery you can actually visit and it is gorgeous! The original Abbey was built in the 12th Century and renovated in the 1760s. Like everything Catholic, it was destroyed during the French Revolution, but eventually rebuilt in the 1930s. For a mandatory “donation” of a few Euro, you can check out the old monastery ruins, and catch a glimpse of the new structure. It’s worth a look!
The whole beer thing seems underplayed at the monastery. There doesn’t seem to be an officially sanctioned abbey cafe at Orval. We saw what looked like their “official” cafe down the road, but it was closed at noon on a Wed, so who knows. Luckily, every bar and cafe in the area serves Orval, and we decided to sit down and enjoy one before our ride to Rochefort. Orval only makes 1 type of beer, and it’s nothing like the Tripels, Quads, and Dubbels the other Trappists make. It’s deliciously unique, with a hint of sour brettanomyces at the end. If you get the chance, find an “old” orval (aged for over 6 months in a cellar) and drink it at cellar temperature (ie, warm).
After our beer, we headed out. The hills started immediately. They seemed unending, and we had 50 miles of them to go. Before the trip, I mocked other bloggers that walked up some of the hills…I wasn’t mocking them anymore. There are a few hills that are too steep to ride up (especially when you’re carrying 30+ lbs of extra weight). Traveler Tip-If you’re not in decent shape, don’t even attempt to ride this portion. Just take a train to Rochefort. We are not paragons of fitness ourselves, but we took this trip in the middle of marathon training, so we’re in ok shape. This was a TOUGH ride.
Thankfully, we were going 40 mph on the downhills, which helped us make up for the 2 mph uphill climbs. By the time we arrived in Rochefort, we were tired and starving! Did I also mention that it was about 83 degrees today? The ride did have some redeeming qualities…the Ardennes are beautiful and itsmelled like a Christmas candle the entire time!
You can’t actually visit the Rochefort Abbey, or go to an official Rochefort cafe. Instead, you can find it at most bars and restaurants in town. We found a restaurant next to our hotel that specialized in cooking with beer. Our dinner was amazing…if you see chicken waterzooi on your travels, get it. It’s like an uncrusted, more delicious chicken pot pie! And it was made with Rochefort beer!
It was a grueling day, but the views were worth it. Rochefort is an amazing town tucked into the hills of Wallonia, and definitely worth a visit.
On to the next post: Day 6 – Rochefort to Chimay