It’s Thursday, normally a working day, so the alarm goes off at six. The cat actually woke us up earlier, but we are in no hurry whatsoever and it takes a while to get moving. A working day breakfast, but then a different list of activities: pack a small bag, grab a bunch of gear, get the bikes on the car and get to Pelt.
We’re staying in a small hotel there two nights, but honestly the only difference in my suit case between two and five nights is the amount of underwear. It’s supposed to be a nice area for cycling, though we’ve only done some hiking and cultural visits here. The weather is not very promising, but we’re determined to enjoy it: it’s been a while since we had some time off.
I borrowed my dad’s bike this time, as I will be doing a long bike trip with my mom soon and I obviously won’t be able to use hers then. My parents each spend more time on their bikes then I do, so their stuff is always better 🙂 I make sure I have the necessary hex keys to adjust saddle and handlebars, but aside from that it’s good to go. Arne spends some time in the garage fiddling with the car bike rack, but cannot get the left break light to work. Mean while, I print out the hotel confirmation and bike routes, feed the cat, empty the dishwasher and generally stay out of the way, until we’re off around ten.
We park the car in an almost empty parking lot near Bokrijk, a large domain with castle, museum, playground and a lot of trees. It’s not exactly raining when we set off on the bikes, the forecast says ‘changeable’ which can mean a lot of different things in Flanders. At least it’s not cold.. We follow the signs to Fietsen door het water – cycling through water: a recent addition to the domain that has the bike path cross a lake by dropping down until the lake surface is at eye-level. Really cool but over quickly, so we settle in for the rest of the drive. It’s a bit windy, there’s often a drizzle and we’re pretty tired from these last few busy weeks at work, not the most ideal combination, but we try to relax and enjoy the scenery: woods, both deciduous and evergreen, heather and a tiny village now and then. To find lunch, we ask advice of a hiker – I had guessed him as a local – and end up at Herkenrode Abbey, an interesting place with a long history and even a beer named after it, quite tasty.
It’s a bit drier after lunch and we continue our large tour around Bokrijk. At one of our watering breaks we observe a squirrel, first crossing the road and then all over the tree tops nearby, the quickness of it amazes me. Quite a bit further, driving through the forests of Bokrijk Arne spots two deer in a grassy lane, by the time I’ve turned back, parked the bike and got out the camera, I could just see the last one hopping away. Nevermind, you get some and you miss some. Not much trouble bringing my usual gear: my parents and I all use the same brands of bags, so I can simply clip my camera bag onto the handlebar attachment. It’s just that it takes a minute to get everything out and especially deer don’t like to wait around for that.
We finish the tour with an enjoyable pancake at the Bokrijk visitor’s center (though we don’t understand why the serve the ice cream and chocolate sauce in a separate bowl – it does make it easier to share it) and get back to the car around five, just before the rain starts again in earnest. The hotel is in the small town of Pelt, recently renamed. Why would one rename a town, you wonder? Because Flanders is an administrative mess and apparently it’s necessary now and then to fuse small municipalities together under one administration. The towns over Overpelt and Neerpelt joined into Pelt. Wikipedia says that these towns were once one municipality anyway and were split for some reason into ‘lower’ Pelt and ‘upper’ Plet. Its name goes back to Roman ages, but remains were found from ages as far back as prehistory. Shower, dinner, a glass of wine and excellent conversation.