Crossroads' associate editor Judy Koutsky departed for a press
tour of Belgium on June 4. Armed with a laptop and digital camera,
she is chronicling her experiences for close-to-real-time
publication on the Web site. Following is her fourth
FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- The weather hasn't exactly been
cooperating with our driving adventure. It's rained almost every
day. But the people in the Ardennes are so friendly, and the towns
are small and easy to cover, so our trip hasn't suffered.
This morning, we visited one of my favorite attractions so far: the
Grottes de Han (the caves of Han-sur-Lesse). Visitors park their
cars in the center of the town and take a tram ride through the
country to the caves. After maneuvering around a few fallen trees
from the storm, we reached our destination.
The caves are cool (about 50 degrees) and wet (90% humidity), so
it's good to dress warmly and wear comfortable walking shoes. Our
guide, who normally gives the tour in German, French and Flemmish,
filled in for his English speaking colleague, and although he kept
apologizing, his translation was excellent.
As we toured the numerous caverns, he pointed out the geological
formations and explained that tours of the cave began 150 years
ago. At one point, it was demonstrated how tour guides 100 years
ago walked through the caverns with torches -- not something I
would have participated in, given the size and intricacies of each
After about 45 minutes of exploring (because it's so interesting
it feels more like 15 minutes), we went on a short boat ride to the
"concert cavern," where a laser and music show was projected on the
cave walls. The kids especially loved this.
Our next stop was Bastogne, where the Battle of the Bulge took
place. It was moving to see the American Memorial, a star-shaped
structure dedicated to the U.S. soldiers who gave their lives to
free Bastogne during World War II. The outside of the monument
lists all the U.S. states, and inscriptions on the inside tell the
story of the battle (in English).
A short distance away stands the Bastogne Historical Center. The
quality of exhibits compensate for the center's small size. A short
movie showing footage from the battle is shown, emphasizing the
significance of the battle in the context of the war. After the
movie, visitors peruse exhibits that depict the battle. A 10-minute
panorama chronicling the battle step-by-step, with aid of a map,
completes the picture.
Visitors might think Bastogne is only a stop for those
interested in war history, this is not the case. I am hardly a war
buff, but I found the museum and memorial interesting and
We then drove to Franchorchamps, a town nestled in the rolling
countryside, known for luring avid hikers and epicures. Our hotel
tonight is Hostellerie Le Roannay, where the manager, Michel
Aubinet, is very attentive to the needs of his guests. A packet of
information, including a map and points of interest in the area, is
given to each visitor.
Our room overlooked the lush countryside, and the sauna, located
just off our room, was a welcome treat after spending all day
traveling and driving. The meal that night, in the restaurant's
dining room, far exceeded our expectations -- and we've been eating
well since Day 1 of this adventure. The chef, Bernard Aubinet (the
hotel and restaurant are family-run), is -- in my admittedly
inexperienced opinion -- simply excellent. One need not be a
veteran food critic to appreciate the artistry in his grilled goose
liver served over a bed of strawberries. I wanted him to make me a
whole meal of that (it was an appetizer) and then give me the
One thing that amazes me about this country is that people eat
this well and still look the way they do.
and Chocolate: A Great First Day in Belgium
Downpours Don't Dampen Bruges' Appeal
the Waterzooi: Small Pleasures in Ghent
The Battle of the (Abdominal) Bulge