Friday, January 3, 2014

Lomas de Limburg - Day 2

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.
(original date of this entry: August 26, 2013)

Instead of attempting the circuit of the Vijlenerbos as I'd planned, we headed north, skirting the forest's west side toward Epen. In no time we were riding along a crest with hills all around us. From a vantage point we had a glimpse of Beusdael castle below. Along this stretch were plenty of vakwerkhuisen, old timber-frame farm houses with oak beams tracing a lattice through their whitewashed walls.

Outside Mechelen
Before long we reached Mechelen, which to our dismay was full of motor vehicles. It appeared to be along the main road through the region and traffic was constant. Our house was right in front of the church. It was a vintage three-floor structure with antique fittings, though unfortunately close enough to the road to hear the traffic drone. We took a nap, then went out for a walk. By now it was quite hot. We found a VVV office and went in to make inquiries about walking trails. We'd certainly seen plenty of walkers along the bike trails. Mechelen's VVV office shared the premises with a sort of general store which I surveyed. Alice asked the tall and stiff proprietor, who sounded German to me, about walking paths. The man was not at all helpful. Rather than giving us directions, he merely tried to sell us a map of walking trails in the region, which was of little use to us. Finally he told us to look around de hoek (the corner) but offered no specifics. Alice attributed the man's stoniness to her dreadlocks, and she might have been right -- the usual cranky response by provincials to anything weird.

Map check

The way to Mechelen -- the green hilltop to the east is the Vijlenerbosch

We took a walk up the bike trail toward Gulpen, then turned onto a woodsy path that led to a nice secluded spot by the Geul river. By then we were hungry and it was too warm for any more walking so we went back into town and found a faded little Chinese restaurant of the sort you find in almost every Dutch town. We brought our food back to our lodging and ate it in the garden, along with a couple cans of beer. Predictably, it was not very good. Our host, Sjef Franssen, joined us. He's a handsome man in his 70s with unusually clear blue eyes and a mane of white hair. He struck me as a non-conformist. He told us he had met his wife in Indonesia. She was there now to attend a "sugar fest," some sort of religious celebration that followed the conclusion of Ramadan. He had some siblings in Limburg but he was the only one who had ventured so far from home.

Sjef Franssen, our vriend op de fiets in Mechelen

Sjef had gone to Indonesia with a tour group and met his bride-to-be in a camera shop where she worked. Back in Holland, he sent her a postcard and she wrote back. She then went to Holland -- had friends in Roermond -- and visited Sjef. She repeated her visit each year, staying longer each time.

Sjef's place
After our meal, we went back to the hoek and found the head of the trail that the VVV rep had so vaguely pointed out. Actually this was a crossroads for a whole network of walking trails, one of which went to Epen. As dusk fell, we went through a turnstile-type gate and walked across pastures to the tiny village of Hurpesch, then turned around. Plenty of black-and-white cows were grazing or lying around. Other trails led to Epen and Bommerig. We could've easily spent another day here loping around. After our walk we had drinks at 't Pintje, about the most inviting of the terrace cafes along the main road. This place was quite lively on a Friday evening. I had a couple of Gulpeners, brewed in the nearby town of Gulpen, which happened to be our first destination the following day. Continued ...

Barbed barrier

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