Experiencing real family moments closer to nature is something that this family from Grandhan wants you to have. Owners of a farm cottage, they will help you discover their beautiful region and countryside lifestyle thanks to this nice ride, which takes you to Durbuy, the smallest city in the world.
We face the bad weather
You have probably read a lot of stories about beautiful walks in the Ardennes where the blue sky cleared the horizon and the sun warmed up your bare arms. Well, I’m going to tell you a different story. A story that only the bravest souls can bear, a story that does not tell of either the blue sky nor the heat of the sun. This is the story of a bike adventure under the whims of Mother Nature.
I am certainly exaggerating a bit. This is mostly the story of an electric bike ride from Grandhan in the rain. This small village is located 5km south-west of Durbuy and is surrounded by the Ourthe.
A lovely encounter
I was greeted by Manu in an old farm that has been converted into a holiday cottage. He quickly takes me to visit some places: three cottages for two people, an authentic bread oven (built 150 years ago, at the same time as the farm, in fact) and a heated playroom for little children.
Ok, you might say, we get the cottage side, but where is the farm side? I’m getting there. They have a mini didactic farm. You can find chickens pecking on a wall, rabbits jumping in the garden, Peggy the sow that is destroying the straw, and other animals, but I will come back to this later.
I finally meet Nathalie, Manu’s partner, in the living room and Martin, the photographer. The conversation is going well, among other things we talk about their passion to explore the Ardennes, the weather, the world we live in, the past, the future.
Ready to go
We’ve been talking for a while, and my legs want to get some action. It’s time to take out the motorized gear. We first agree on the itinerary. What should we do? Do we prefer to take the RAVeL to Hotton? Or exploring the Ourthe Valley? I prefer the ride that brings us to the famous smallest city in the world, Durbuy! We all agree.
Great for animal lovers
Finally, we start riding in the south-east direction. After 50 m, we are already stopping. Already? Manu wants to show us his pastures. Highland cows deign to lift their heads a few moments. They belong to Manu, his wife fell in love. And how can we ignore the donkey just beside, who is braising non-stop? “He wants to go for his walk,” Manu tells us as he climbs onto his bike. Further along, we take a left on the Vivier Madame street. At the end of the street, we take a right and cross the national road to go directly on the RAVel towards Petit-Han.
We make another stop near a stretch of water along the way. In the area, some tree trunks are nibbled. Some beavers have chosen to live here but we will not see their tail ends today. We continue on the RAVeL road, which is partially sheltered by trees.
We arrive at Petit-Han. From time to time, Manu tells us an anecdote about a place or a character of the region. The ride continues further north, we leave the village and return to the woods. The path bends, the slope gets steeper, and we descend at a fast pace. The carpet of coloured leaves makes the path slightly slippery but the feeling of speed is exhilarating.
Next stop: Durbuy!
We are approaching the small town, and facilities for vehicles are abundant. Two more pedal strokes and we are there. Aaaah Durbuy! All who visit fall in love. Manu informs me that Durbuy will never grow because it is surrounded by cliffs. And that’s good!
We go around quickly because it is raining and we are soaked to the bone. But if you are interested in exploring Durbuy, you should read this excellent article about the loop of Durbuy. We take a souvenir photo in front of the anticline, a souvenir photo in front of the castle and head home.
An adventurous preview
We head up the Ourthe. On the other side of the river, an enormous construction of wood and cords can be seen between the trees. What is that? I asked Manu. That is the Adventure Valley activity site. It is the biggest adventure park in Belgium, he tells me. It’s gigantic, I’m impressed. I expect a negative remark against the company but on the contrary. He finds that Adventure Valley’s infrastructures are perfectly integrated into the landscape. Only wood and rope (and some bolts).
The ride is pleasant, we even stop for a moment to admire two large swans that swim in the middle of the river. We are now forced to join the national road for the rest of the ride. We do 200 or 300 meters on it before taking a small street on the right: the rue Vieux Mont.
The moment to test the capabilities of the electric bike finally arrives. We are now taking the Rue de la Petite Chaise, a street featuring a slope that is worthy of the greatest cycling races. Yet my mechanical mount doesn’t get discouraged and swallows a few meters of bitumen to the church of Petit-Han.
We are now leaving the village by Vévî Gaime towards Grandhan. In the past, this road was the main link between the two villages but since the creation of the N833 road, it’s only used by farmers and tourists. There is a story that says it used to be an old Roman road.
We go higher. The horizon is hidden by the mist but, in the foreground, we see clouds hiding in the valley of the Ourthe. This view adds to the typical mystery of the Ardennes.
Let’s finish by: some history
We see the end of the ride as we enter the village of Grandhan. It is important for Manu to show us the village church and its tower of justice. In the past, the rulers would bring justice from the tower that faces the entrance to the church. And since everyone was attending Mass, no one was left unaware of the different judgments rendered. Since then, the church has been desecrated and is being auctioned for a symbolic price of one euro. And it is still for sale.
Two or three pedal strokes later, we cross the entrance porch of the farmhouse. Some hot tea awaits us to the joy of my icy hands. If this ride has made you want to ride over mountains and valleys, do not hesitate to read the article Relaxation and cycling at Patrick’s.
My adventure ends here and I simply conclude by saying this:
No matter the vagaries of time, the Ardennes unfolds at every turn.