Oudenaarde was a major tapestry center between the 15th and 18th centuries. Dating from the late 10th century, it began as a fortification. It’s location on the Scheldt was a major factor in its prosperity. Today it is known for its beer production. Oude Bruin (Old Brown) is its most noted beer, aged for a year. The Town Hall is a World Heritage site.
We stayed in the marina that sits in the shunt. It is convenient to the nearby friture. We bought mussels. As they were cooking I biked the one minute to the friture to get an order of fries. The fries are excellent, inexpensive and copious. You can get burgers and other grilled and deep fried items displayed in the large case at the shop, manned by wife, husband and daughter. I had to wait only a few minutes to get the order.
Across the bridge you get to the main plaza, another of these large, impressive main squares. The Town Hall is the most impressive building but there are a large number to admire. We drank a beer under an umbrella, as rain clouds occasionally spit upon us. A good small band played pop from the high balcony of the Hall.
The bus/train station are nearby. We took the bus to the Ypres WWI cemetery, located in a major battlefield. Each night the Last Post Association’s buglers honor the foreign dead who liberated Belgium. There is a good small exhibit, with excellent English translations . You pass through it on your way to the somber visit of the graves. In the town there is an arch with thousands of names of the dead from around the world. This city saw endless carnage. It remembers.
We moved along the river to Tournai, entering Wallonie, the French speaking section of the country. My wife’s family on the mother’s side came from this area. Her parents met not far from Bastogne, a major battle zone of the Battle of the Bulge. She spoke some English so she was able to communicate with the soldiers. David was housed with her family in Olne, and so the romance began. She also shuttled messages for the resistance, her guise as a tiny 16 year making excellent cover.
We first came to Belgium as a couple in 1983, and have owned two houses, which we rented. Peg’s cousin Arlette managed them for us. Her mother, Irene, ran a bakery when she was alive, continuing the business after the husband the baker died. She hired a guy named Mark. I tried tart au riz for the first time. It’s a rice pie made with raw milk cream, rice, sugar and spices. Wow! Also they made fruit filled waffles, which I like much better than the plain thick ones you find in most of the country, although add strawberries and whipped cream and anything comes palatable. Irene was a great cook so I got to try a lot of Belgian home cooking. Thumper in cream sauce- the first time I ate rabbit. Watercress soup. Moules pomme frites (mussels with fries, the national dish), lots of roasts with wonderful sauces. And of course the beer, although we had wine with all the meals as well.
The ancient city (dating of least to Roman times) Tournai was quite the surprise. It has a huge cathedral and a magnificent square. The folk life museum is one of the best of its kind