John & Brenda's Excellent European Adventure V. 3.0 travel blog

The Miner's Museum

In Lucette's garden

Smoked garlic braid

May 29

Thursday’s ride covered 50 km from Tournai to the town of Arleux with weather that was mainly just broken clouds. Just out of Tournai we crossed the Belgian/French border, a great opportunity for a group photo. The character of our ride changed considerably as we were now off the towpaths and onto twisting country roads, through small but beautiful French villages.

We passed through the Marchienne forest, a site of several significant battles during both World Wars and then on to rolling open fields, where we chanced upon a roadside stand selling fresh strawberries. Several of us bought baskets and they were the sweetest, most intense flavour I think I have ever tasted…lucky score.

For our lunch we popped into a rather significant restored coal mine site and miner’s museum. A few of us took the guided tour but were disappointed as it was all in French. Jim is a retired government geologist and it certainly meant a lot to him.

We were soon onto Arleux, which Meindert called a “nothing town”, but was famous for its garlic growing in the nearby region. It was here we found that not only was it a nothing town but nothing was open due to it being Ascension Day, a Cathollic religious holiday. In circling through the town we encountered three young boys on bikes who told us to follow them and they excitedly took us to a little convenience store, Le Petit Ferme, which sold beer and cider. There was no English spoken but we connected with the owner Lucette and were soon conversing in broken French and pidgin English.

She invited us into her nursery/garden to enjoy our beer and meet her friend who had a smokehouse where she cured garlic in braided bunches. Her friend gave the women samples and Brenda received one large bunch to take back to the barge for Jantien to use in her cooking. It was here that Jim discovered he had left his driver’s license as a security deposit back 10 km at the Miner’s Museum and quickly took off with Gord and Gary in tow for the 1-hour return trip.

By now the Elodie had arrived and Michel seemed somewhat miffed in that he wanted to take off right away into the next section of the river, which had many locks that he wanted to pass through that evening. I think he was also concerned that it would be a very bad thing if they got lost or hurt without our guide. Luckily, Jim has a great sense of direction and is a strong rider, as is Gordie and they made it back in jig time…albeit that Gary was not the strongest cyclist but he was sure game and that earned him the Flanderein award for the day.

We were more than ready for our dinner of chicken Caesar salad, Plaice (fish) with snap peas and scalloped potatoes followed by a molten chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and our fresh strawberries…yummy! We also made it through four locks before shutdown for the night, making Michel a very happy skipper.

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