Thursday, June 02, 2011

If it's Thursday, we are leaving Belgium

7 am and sunny, as the Miro casts off from the Huy sea-wall and heads north.

We have been rating our restaurant dinners as the trip evolved, and last night's vaulted in position #1.

First, we had beers at an outside table in the main plaz, beneath the town hall's ornate facade. Every 15 minutes, a short tune rang out - La Marsailles, Ode to Joy, etc. The beer was delicious, especially after the day's (relatively) strenuous bike ride, with its attendant butt-soreness.

Then began the ritual hunt for dinner. We wandered, examining menus, prices, and reviews that one Dave's thousands of iPhone apps retrieved.

We searched in vain for one place, lauded as the 'best italian restaurant in Belgium', but either the app or the GPS lied.

We found another place with great smells and lots of people and were thinking that our collective brain-rot would end, but the host turned us away - 'all full.'

I had noticed a menu board outside a place a block or so off the plaza, that looked like it might be ok. We decided to check it out, and were somewhat nervous as we were led into a quietly elegant totally empty room.

Then the magic began.

First came an unadvertised appetizer of a little cup of perfect gazpacho accompanied by a little bread slice, topped with a dollop of absolutely fresh ricotta, seasoned with chives, with a swirl of balsamic on the plate. You get the idea.

My first course was a portion of nicely cooked spaghetti with tender calamari and bits of zucchini. Karen had a gorgeous round plate of tuna carpaccio, with a bit of salad in the center. Sandy and Dave had a scallop appetizer, that was pronounced very fine.

Then the Mains arrived. I should mention that, by this time, the room was filled with very happy people.

Dave had pork, Sandy chicken, Karen lamb. All were pronounced amazing.

I had the menu item that had caught my eye earlier - medallions of kangaroo, dressed with a rich, dark, lightly-vinegary sauce, accompanied by a short stack of alternating layers of polenta discs and red onion, all topped with several leaves of arugala.

Got it?

The name of the place is 'Restaurant Sur Cour'. You might want to check it out the next time you are in Huy.

It's now 8 am and we are tied up waiting to enter a lock. Time for breakfast, then we continue towards Liege and the start of the final bike ride, ending up tonight back in Maastricht.

See you later.


Many hours later.

Despite the persistent, strong head-wind, we had a lovely day biking from Liege to Maastricht.

Much of it was along industrial stuff, but there were many more-peaceful stretches, too. We crossed a couple of large bridges and the area around Vise, the last town in Belgium, was especially nice.

We crossed one last dam and, imperceptibly, the road signs changed from French to Dutch. If there was any sign of a national border, we surely didn't see it, but the bike-path now left the Meuse, and we rode thru gentle, quiet fields and neat little Dutch farmhouses.

We stopped at the castle at Eisjin and spent a quiet half-hour strolling thru the lovely grounds, and sneezing from all the unfamiliar allergins.

By now it was after 2 pm, and we were getting tired. We peddled slowly along the flat, smooth, precisely-labeled path, the last few kilometers back to the boat harbor. The biking part of this trip is over.

The rest of our group is filtering in. We will get cleaned up and then cruise into Maastricht for a farewell dinner.

We have much of tomorrow to see more of Maastricht, before the train to Paris, at 5.

It's all very good.

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