How about finding a house in Belgium for 5 families, including 9 children, and a dog? With a pool, sauna and Jacuzzi? A gourmet kitchen? Ensuite bathrooms? A fire place? A BBQ? And a big garden? And things to do around? Sounds like a mission impossible?
Not if you search Ardennes-etapes; a website with a wide range of accommodations in the Ardennes in Belgium. This region has an oceanic climate with continental influences due to its inland position and higher elevation. Winter can see ice days and indeed when we arrive we see some remains from the strong snowfall a week before. In this region seismic activity is higher than in the rest of Belgium, but the latest earthquake dates back to 1692. Probably the surroundings are formed by all of this since it is a region of beautiful, extensive forests, rough terrain, rolling hills and ridges.
It’s in the evening when we settle in in what could easily be called as indeed this destination is as big as a castle. This highly recommended and charming accommodation is situated in the little village of Hockai and hosts a giant living and eating room, a kitchen and billiard room. There's a nice fire place welcoming everybody to join. No need to bring your own wood by the way.
We even have some spare rooms, in case one of us starts snoring to loud. The kitchen is extremely well equipped. With such a big group, we, the adults, are happy to find out how the dish washer works. Best part for the kids though is the pool: totally surprised by “our” very own big pool they jump in it immediately.
After a good diner and some sleep we hear about the plan for this weekend. Of course in this region one should go outdoors. You will love the scenic beauty and its wide variety of outdoor activities, including cycling, walking and canoeing. The whole weekend is well organized by our dear friend Jeroen starting with a short drive to Malmedy. You might know this place is a so-called “municipality with language facilities”, meaning there are three language areas in Belgium: the Dutch-speaking Flemish area, the French-speaking Walloon area, and the bilingual area of Brussels (capital city). The region around Malmedy is part of Wallonia and of the French Community, but since it has a German speaking minority, they must offer linguistic services to residents in either Dutch, French or German, in addition to their official languages. No worries, like in any other country: they will just as well service English speaking visitors.
We are send off in small groups doing the most crazy assignments while at the same time picturing us; this might explain some of the photos in this review. The assignments force us to move forward through this small town in a rush, but most of our group have been here before and know it’s just lovely. So if you have the chance: just wander around and enjoy the easy and relaxed atmosphere, picturesque Streets, sculptures and Warche River. The name of Malmedy means “purifying from evil”, due to regular flooding in the past from this river.
Being in such a green area, it’s no wonder it rains a bit from time to time. Fortunately the castle is huge and the kids are able to entertain themselves wonderfully in the giant pool and other facilities. Wi-Fi is off this weekend and we brought a lot of games; the BBQ and fireplace are lit and we again have the enormous kitchen to serve ourselves. No long break this time: our brains have to work intense with a racking quiz to find out we, including our kids, are not competitive at all.
You might want to stretch the legs a bit more: besides all the outdoor activities, big cities such as Maastricht, Liège and Aachen are easy to reach by car. Closer by you will find Spa, famous for its several natural mineral springs, and is also the location of mineral water producer Spa. And some of us take the opportunity to head to the Circuit de Spa-Francochamps, which hosts the annual Belgian Grand Prix. It’s possible to book an individual track session here (in advance): a unique opportunity to discover the circuit from the inside, both as a passenger in a racing car in the hands of a professional driver or as the driver of your own car, while following in the trail.
# Topwithfriends, you may very well name this weekend.
# Perfect, beautiful accommodation for a big group, even in winter season.
# The pool is amazing, the hot tub brand new and the steam bath really hot.