Outside Mechelen we retraced our way over the gravel path, then climbed the 3 km to Gulpen. As we rode into town under cloudy skies I recalled my last visit here almost three years previous. We were zooming down an elevated street, the eastern approach to Gulpen, and I realized I had stayed in one of the modern homes along its length. Back then it was cold and rainy and I slogged through the puddles to have dinner at a cafe. Now it was warm but overcast and by the time we reached the center of town the clouds burst and we decided to take a break.
Breakfast on our terrace and Mevrouw Nicholaes joined us for a chat. She said she was going to sell the place. She herself did not ride a bike around here: too steep. We also chatted with her gawky and friendly husband Hubertus.
And now we're in Belgium. Well, literally spitting distance from Holland, and our vriend op de fiets, Wiell Nicholaes, is from Haarlem. The countryside here is lovely if unspectacular, not unlike the hills of New Jersey. From Wiell's garden we see gently sloping fields and to the northeast a wooded mountain, which must be the Vijlenerbos, "the largest contiguous deciduous forest of Limburg."