Day #2 – Reykjavík, Iceland – Brussels, Belgium – Liège – Bomal
Number of Miles Cycled – 0
Number of Miles Traveled – 4,718
Waking up, our plane descended over a hot global topic, Greenland and their rapidly melting ice shelfs. From my perspective, the broken floating pieces of white on white puzzle pieces were playing hide and seek.
Upon our arrival at Reykjavík International Airport, the terminal was enveloped by Iceland Air and Wow jets that besieged an airport terminal experiencing labor pains. Due to an aggressive marketing tourism campaign, the airport hadn’t quite kept up with the real growth. The friendly Icelandic employees guided passengers around ongoing construction, but long lines at bathrooms and the one airport market are to be expected for the near future.
Waiting in the perpetual early morning summer pool of sunlight were Jason and his best friend Tom, heads bobbing up and down among the crowds. Jason and I taught together in the Cayman Islands for three years before we moved back to the U.S. with our families. Just as soon as we met up in the sea of people, we were whisked away in transit to our Brussels bound flight.
Touching down in continental Europe, we soon witnessed the challenges currently facing Europe with the surge of immigration from war-torn countries. As we organized our train tickets and phones for the week, an African man aggressively yelled “Va te faire foutre!” at an interracial family sitting with their two small kids. Not sure what started this conflict, but soon armed guards carried the man away.
Initially all the armed military strolling around the airport surprised me, but considering the three coordinated suicide bombings carried out by ISIS at the Brussels airport and the Maalbeek train station in March 2016, it shouldn’t have been (3 days after I was in the Central Train Station heading back to the airport, there was another attempted bombing).
Brussels was the epicenter of diversity in Belgium, in addition to being the de facto capital of the European Union, but that’s not where we were lingering. Unlike France, Japan, or China, we boarded the slow to medium speed trains of Belgian Rail heading south towards Bomal via Liège. We sat suffering from the effects of jet lag and warm trains.
As our last platform appeared at the Bomal train station, the jovial Belgian owner of our B&B, Marie-France, welcomed us in her German BMW station wagon. Between questions about our flight and how long we planned to cycle, she zipped around corners at speeds unimaginable on mountain bikes, or at least inadvisable. Staggering into the converted farm, spread out before us was cold Belgian beer replete with chalices. We graciously accepted and opened the bottles of Orval and the previously unknown Bressenne (Marie-France mentioned brewers had just recently started its production), our fatigue melted away just as quickly as we drank. We had arrived.
Marie-France furnished advice about cycling, beer, and chocolate in Belgian at which point, in a moment of weakness mixed with genuine hospitality, as could be read on her face, she shared a single piece of chocolate from her personal stash. We rambled around the Chez Tante Alice garden playing pétanque, talking as if we were now officially experts having been in the country for less than 12 hours, wistfully staring at the creek running behind the property, contemplating our first day of cycling . . . once the bikes arrived.
As the exuberance of Marie-France’s reception wore off, dinner beckoned. Steak filled with blue cheese, bread, salad, house red wine was our introduction to quality Belgian food at Grill L’Etable before setting out the next day to Achouffe, home of the famed La Chouffe. After a pitcher of water was dutifully poured onto my crotch by a very immature participant on our trip, we returned to Chez Tante Alice for the night.
Lying before us, the first day of cycling with a plethora of vertical climbs combined with a few unintended detours.
Next Stop: Day #3 – Bomal – Soy – Achouffe – Mont