Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Annual Chimay Trip

A refreshing glass of Chimay Rouge before we start.
Since 1999 a few of us have been driving out to Chimay to take part in their annual Audax ride. Its held at the start of July and has various different distances (45, 82, 125, 140 & 165 km) that you can follow, the route is indicated by arrows on the roads so is pretty easy to find. Over time the distances we cycle has declined somewhat as we have found many local cafe's on or just off the route. Given that the weather on 2013 was very hot we made sure our liquid intake was enough to avoid the dehydration problems you can get when taking part in strenuous exercise.

We've stayed in many different types of accommodation over the last 14 years. Going from the (now closed) Hotel de la Place in Virelles, Mon Reve in Robechies, Auberge du Auberge de Poteaupré near the abbey, a nice gite in Macon, an excellent gite in one of the prettiest villages in Belgium, Lompret and this year a really nice gite in Seloignes run by the very friendly Henri and Nadine. Even better is that they are on the new Ravel route, traffic free right into Chimay or Momignies. 
Cofidis Pro ride Romain Zingle on the yet to be completed Ravel link

Path not yet finished

Its about 250 miles from London to Chimay, this year using DFDS Dover to Dunkirk, 2 hours crossing and handy for the motorway. Route is E40, E42, E19, R5, N546, N40 and N53 into Chimay. Around 3 hours driving and all but 55km on motorways.

We always try to stop at a brewery on the way out (and back) and this year was no exception. Authentique was our stop this year and many thanks to Frédérick Baert for his excellent hospitality and great tasting on the brewery range.

Frédérick Baert with beer samples. Only €3pp for a tasting
Good choice of different beers from this small brewery, only 1200 litres per brew. Good to hear that Frédérick has made this his full time occupation and we wish him luck in the future. Its really disappointing to hear that he finds it really difficult to sell his beers in the local area where the usual beers dominate. As you can see from the photo its a very small (intimate) bar tucked away in the outskirts of Blaton but handy for the motorway. We did come away with a reasonable section of beers and, of course, some branded glasses (marked Ikea!)
The bar at Authentique

It was just over a hours drive to Chimay and another 15 minutes (via Match supermarket) to our accommodation. many thanks to our wonderful hosts that evening who lent us their gas BBQ and kept us plied with Chimay Doree whilst we spoke about worldly affairs (well Garth did Jason and my French is not good enough, unfortunately). Lovely evening.

Saturday would see us exploring the local area and in previous years we had only stayed 1 night. A hunt for Canal+ to watch the Lions Rugby Union was attempted but Belgium bars and TV's are not that common. So we tried the old Casino where we followed the match via Twitter, something we did for the Tour as well. Lunch (after a good few kms riding) was at le Beauchamp just outside town, lovely restaurant and the rabbit was eaten. Excellent. This restaurant has just celebrated its 10th anniversary and we knew le patron before he opened it. He recognised us and greeted us warmly.

le Nimrod in Bailleux
The main focus on the weekend was, of course, the Sunday ride. 45 km was chosen as the temperature was in the high 20's. Old friends were met at the start and a welcome beer was drunk before hitting the road. The route sheet showed the same route as the previous year but as it was chucking it down then we had taken a few shortcuts. A regular stop is le Nimrod in Bailleux. This year was no exception. From here it is down a lovely wooded valley adjacent to a small river, previous years has seen us have a picnic at one of the tables provided - great location. 

Garth with a jug of Doree
The next stop was the highlight of the trip , as this was Garth's first trip all this was new to him. l'Auberge de Poteaupré. It used to be that this was the only place where you could drink Chimay Doree (4.5%) but now Fullers sell the same beer in London! I know where I would rather drink this beer. Lovely location and very good menu. We had the taster plate of Chimay cheeses and a jug of Doree. Chimay have 5 different cheeses the restaurant was very busy. Given that its about 5 miles from the nearest town/village most people drive - I wonder its a problem with the red coming in at 7% alcohol.

Garth at the source of the Oise.
Just down the road from the auberge is the source of the river Oise. As we had ridden past the confluence of the Oise and Seine (see AV Paris write-up) it was interesting to see the source. Nice map and information about the river itself.
Confluence of Oise & Seine

Then back to Chimay, via, 4 Seasons cafe. Our good friend François Cornet recommended Aux Armes de Chimay in the main square for dinner and a excellent meal was had with music by a live band on the bandstand. Back along the Ravel route - including the rather dodgy rail bridge that has yet to be renovated - and onto the local cafe, le Zenith in Seloignes. Amazingly they still had bottles of the 150th anniversary beer - limited supply so not something you would expect to have in rural Belgium. Excellent end to a great day.

Some Oak “foeders.”
Packing on the Monday for a long drive to Roeselare, north of Lille in Flanders. We had booked a brewery trip to the famous Rodenbach brewery who produce a very traditional sweet/sour beer. Excellent brewery tour in a historic building - the €6 included both the Rodenbach and Grand Cru beers. Unique beers unlike others even in Belgium. Very refreshing on a hot day. We were shown the huge oak casks where beer ages for 2 years before its blended with younger beer - read a review and photos. We were lucky to join a English tour for the 2 hour visit. Highly recommended in you are interested in beer and local history. 

From here its about an hour and a half back to Dunkirk and home. 8 hours driving in total on the last day hence wanting to include a stop - where better than a brewery.

Great time and really looking forwards to going back next year. Huge thanks to François and the Chimay cycle club for the great organisation, as ever. Its a lovely part of the world to go cycling and everyone is so friendly.

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