We were on a timetable and needed to reach Holland, first crossing Belgium. It’s a country that is dear to us having spent at least a few days every year exploring the quiet countryside and many independent bierbrouwerij, and latterly for Simon’s work, the many battle-scarred fields of the First World War.
Skirting Antwerp by motoring underneath the Schilde through the Kennedy Tunnel we waved to the medieval towers of its glorious cathedral and sped into the leafy and exclusive suburb of Brasschaat. The free parking at the aire was empty except for two vans so we pitched up and after a quick lunch got the bikes off and headed into the leafy parkland for a pedal around.
Brasschaat Castell (a red and white brick mansion house) was hosting a society wedding and the red carpet on the marble stairway was adorned with flaming bowls of scented oil. The wedding party were gathered on the marble terrace drinking champagne and eating canapés whilst around them park goers cycled, jogged, skated and picnicked in the sunshine.
15 miles later we had lost and found our way through the tree lined roads of colonial style mansions, thatched cottages and ‘grand design’ cubist houses that are home to Antwerp’s elite. By following signs for that day’s ‘classic velo’ event we had stumbled across several beer gardens, not stopping except to comment on the well dressed and mainly middle aged cyclists, before finding our way back to the park via the bus route that stopped just short of the aire.
It was time to shower in a luxurious 100 litres of water that we had filled up with for just 50 cents and do what the Belgians do best… drink beer and eat moules. Heaven!