Monday, September 5, 2016

Our pet friendly Belgian Labor Day Adventure... Part one

Several weeks ago, Bill told me he wanted me to find us a place to go for Labor Day.  The only stipulation was that it had to be dog friendly, since our regular dog kennel was fully booked.  Since we were taking the dogs, Bill said wherever we went should also be within a few hours' drive.  There are several places somewhat near that we want to see, so I did what I usually do when we need to make a tough choice between travel destinations.  I got out the champagne bucket.

I probably put about six destinations in the bucket and had Bill draw one out.  He pulled out Rochefort, Belgium.  I started looking for dog friendly places to stay in Rochefort and ended up finding a whole lot of vacation homes.  Apparently, there are lots of people in that part of Belgium who rent out their homes to vacationers.  Bill and I had never rented a house before, since we don't have kids and usually don't bring our dogs with us.  The idea of renting a house for the two of us and our dogs seemed a bit extreme.  Now, having done it, I think we will rent houses more often!

We didn't end up staying in Rochefort, by the way.  Bill had to go to Ethiopia for a conference, so that delayed my decision on where we should go.  A few of the places that looked appealing to me were snatched up before I could book.  One location that repeatedly popped up in my research was Durbuy, a town I had never heard of prior to our visit.  I read that it was quite a cute town and very tourist friendly.  I also found Chalet Montana, a great house in nearby Barvaux, which is just a few minutes from Durbuy.  The price was right; the place was pet friendly; so I made my booking on Booking.com.

Bill went off to Ethiopia and I waited all last week for him to get home on Thursday.  He told me that despite the long trip to and from Africa, he'd be alright to drive the six hours to Belgium.  To be honest, I kind of had my doubts about that, but I went ahead and reserved us for four nights.  I very quickly got an email in perfect English from the owners of the chalet, who sent some instructions.  One thing I didn't have to worry about was payment; Chalet Montana is set up so that you pay Booking.com.  We only needed to bring 250 euros in cash for a deposit.  The owners also suggested that we bring certain things with us, like towels, matches for the barbecue, and Senseo pods for the coffee maker.  Because we are coffee snobs, Bill made plans to bring a French press, our coffee grinder, and some nice fresh Peet's.

What the owners didn't mention in their email was sheets for the bed.  The chalet had pillows and duvets, but no sheets.  Fortunately, I bought two extra large beach towels that were perfect for covering the mattress.  Next time, we will bring sheets as a matter of course.

On Thursday morning, Bill got back from his business trip.  Unfortunately, he was delayed in Frankfurt due to someone checking bags and not showing up on the aircraft.  Then, once he got back to Stuttgart, he stopped by his office and then got stuck in traffic.  By the time he got home, it was almost 2:00pm.  I was a bit perturbed and so was he, especially since he hadn't been able to sleep on the plane.  He took a shower and quickly changed clothes while I loaded up the car.  Just as we were pulling out of our town, I asked him if he'd remembered to pack the coffee.  Naturally, he hadn't...  so I said, "Well, I guess that'll give us a chance to try those Senseo pods."  More on that, later.

Once we got on the road, we were delayed a bit by traffic and road closures.  It was pretty stressful getting out of Stuttgart.  Our route took us by Ramstein Air Force Base right around the time people were getting off work, so we got stuck in that traffic, too.  And we stopped at a couple of rest stops where I saw some guys peeing in public.  I mention this only because there was an article about kids and public urination on The Local Germany.  I shared it on my Facebook page and it sparked a very long discussion that went in several different directions!

I was awestruck by the beauty of the German countryside, especially near Trier, a town we visited in 2012 on our very first Space A hop.  Every time we drive through that area, I think I want to take a trip there again.  But we were on a mission to visit Belgium.  I was really looking forward to it.  During our first tour in Germany, Bill and I visited Belgium a couple of times; indeed, our first visit was to Brussels over Labor Day weekend 2008.  The Belgians embrace excellent beer, amazing frites, raucous humor, and chocolate.  What's not to like?


Zane was like this most of the way to Belgium.  He gets nervous in cars and needs reassurance from Bill.


We stopped for gas in Belgium and Bill made use of the self service pay option.


The countryside in eastern Belgium is beautiful.  I couldn't resist taking photos from our speeding car...





Just after I took this photo, we passed through a small town where a topless potbellied man stood on the side on the road.  I had my camera poised for taking photos, but did not take one of him.  He must have thought I did, though, because he gave me a dirty look as we passed.

We were supposed to get to Chalet Montana by 8:00pm, but traffic conspired to make us late.  We got there at about 8:30pm instead, where we were met by a very nice guy who had our keys and told us he manages 20 properties in the Durbuy area.  He showed Bill around while I held on to Zane and Arran, who were tired of traveling and very excited by the property manager.  After a few minutes, I entered the chalet and had a look around...  More on that in the next post!



  

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