Friday, May 6, 2016

Bonjour, Bouillon!

Freideg, 6 Mee.

Yesterday, as you probably know, marked Ascension Thursday. (Also Cinco de Mayo, but that's a story for another day.) As you might not know, Ascension is an official jour férié in Luxembourg ... meaning no work or school.

Although I've spent what feels like a lifetime on the train between Luxembourg and Brussels, I have not spent much time in the region of Wallonia itself. To take advantage of our time off and to get to know our northern neighbors a little better, my housemates and I decided to take a quick day trip to Belgium! We spent the day in the towns of Bouillon and Dinant. Our first stop was Bouillon, a historic town located just a few kilometers from the French border!

Bouillon is, by all accounts, pretty darn old. A castle has existed on the site since at least 988, which is -- just for context -- one thousand and one years before Taylor Swift was born. For most of the Middle Ages, the château fort de Bouillon belonged to the Ardennes-Verdun dynasty. The most famous of these lords, Godfrey of Bouillon, inherited his title from a childless uncle in 1082 and then sold the castle in order to finance his involvement in the Crusades. (As people did in the eleventh century, you know.)

Given its strategic proximity to France, Bouillon was nicknamed "the key to the Ardennes" by military strategist Vauban. He fitted the castle with state-of-the-art artillery and defense systems in the seventeenth century. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bouillon belonged to France, to the Netherlands, and finally to Belgium. Click here to read more about the history of Bouillon.

We parked at the bottom of the hill and took a footpath up to the castle.



We had hiked to the top of the hill with the intention of checking out the castle quickly and returning back to the town to explore (and potentially rent a paddle boat), but wound up deciding to check out entrance to the castle. We squirmed a little upon realizing the cost of the entrance fee but after a quick conference -- "Do you think it's worth it?" "I think it's worth it." "But would it be more worth it to rent a paddle boat?" -- we decided that five euro wouldn't break the bank.

Best. Decision. Ever.

I have seen a lot of castles in my day and Bouillon Castle is definitely one of my new favorites. In addition to the views (amazing) and the overall condition of the structure itself (surprisingly good), there was just so much to see! We spent at least an hour or two inside the castle and did not come close to seeing everything.

The views were seriously breathtaking. From the castle, you can see the Semois River, which begins in Arlon and snakes some 200 kilometers through the south of Belgium. It makes sense that Bouillon is known as the "Pearl of the Semois"!


In addition to the normal features of a medieval castle, the Château de Bouillon has the distinction of being home to the Falcon's Residence. A dozen birds of prey live on top of the castle. While we were not on time to watch one of the 'shows', we did get to see the resident fauconnier handling the birds. I don't know much about falconry and have definitely never seen a falconer in action, so it was a very cool experience!

We climbed up to the top of the Tour d'Autriche, a sixteenth-century addition to the castle, to check out the amazing panoramic views (and to take a few selfies, of course).

Although we had originally intended to stop briefly in Bouillon and picnic elsewhere along the route, the idea of eating our lunch in the sunny field under the castle was too tempting to resist. We spent an hour eating, napping, and occasionally sitting up to exclaim: "THIS IS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE." (Okay, so that was mostly just me.)

What can I say? Europeans know how to picnic.

Stay tuned for photos from Dinant, the second stop on our Belgium day trip!


  1. Such beauty in this world! So happy you love and appreciate it. Your pictures may me want to climb right in and join you.

  2. im glad that you found town i love i have going there once a year for 15 years mark england