two tales of a city
More than historic and charming Bruges and much more than gloomy Ghent, our fondest memories of Belgium were forged in the tiny riverside town of Dinant in the heart of the Ardennes, a forested region of ruggedly beautiful terrain that encompasses parts of four countries. And this is despite the fact that Dinant greeted us with the worst weather of our two-week European trip.
After passing briefly through Luxembourg’s Ardennes, we arrived in Dinant in the late afternoon to meet a friend from who had flown in from Tunis. A jazz festival appeared to be in full swing – fittingly, it would seem, as Dinant’s main claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. We had found a gorgeous house for rent that was stunningly perched on a hill overlooking the city. Fearing that finding parking would be impossible, we decided to head down to the town center on foot. This proved to be a mistake.
After a week of gorgeous weather in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, and Bruges, our luck finally ran out. Rain caught us as we scrambled to find a restaurant for dinner, and the downpour only intensified during the meal. There were no taxis in sight, and with Junebug aggressively protesting her missed sleep, we had little recourse but to brave the elements on our walk back up to our hilltop hideaway. It was one of the worst rainstorms we have ever endured. The wind literally whipped up sheets of water off the river that buffeted us as we crossed the bridge to our side of town. Only Munchkin, riding on D’s shoulders and squealing with delight, appeared to enjoy getting caught in the deluge.
We saw a much different side of Dinant on our last day in the Ardennes. Gorgeous sunshine lit up the town, reflecting off the lazy Meuse River. We poked our head into the Gothic-style church, which was rebuilt on the foundation of the 13th-century Romanesque original destroyed by falling rocks from the adjacent cliffside. Then we took the cable car up to the imposing citadel, which was built in the 11th century and was used to control the Meuse valley until the French destroyed it in 1703.
Thankfully, the weather had improved progressively each of the four nights we spent in Dinant. For a variety of reasons we were forced to forego the hiking we had envisioned for our visit to the Ardennes. However, Dinant proved the perfect jumping off point for exploring the region’s caverns, culinary delights, medieval ruins, and Trappist monasteries.