Cycling in the Maas valley


Last year I got a "Vlaanderen vakantiecheque" for my birthday: a cheque to spend in a Flemish hotel or B&B for a brief vacation in our own country. I must honestly admit that Belgium is so small that I never really take vacations in my own country into consideration. But those cheques are a really neat system and we were enthousiastically searching in the brochures. A lot of regions got scratched out quickly as some of my relatives or friends live nearby. Don't get me wrong: I don't mind being near them, but it feels so useless being on vacation in their backyard. Somehow you feel you either already know the region or that you'll discover it later on with them. So our search was quickly limited to the western coastal French border region or the easter Dutch border region that we didn't know at all.

And so we went to Maaseik in the flat valley along the river Maas which forms the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. We were planning to bicycle in the armpit where the Dutch province Limburg embraces the Flemish province Limburg.

Packed with thick sweaters, rainjackets, rainpants, big boots and our bikes, we arrived in the little historic town where Jan Van Eyck and Hubert Van Eyck would have been born. Sure enough it was pouring rain the first afternoon so we went on a guided Van Eyck tour including an indoor exposition with a lot of reproductions of these incredible medieval painters. Brilliant. One can never get enough explanations about their skilled works full of incredible details.

Hubert and Jan Van Eyck on the market square

historic houses in Maaseik

We had a cycling arrangment in the hotel so the next day we headed out on our bikes with our international bikeroad map and our prepared lunch. In the past we had already experienced that Limburg is a true biking paradise and the wonderful roadsigns along all quiet cycling roads that connect to each other into different loops allowing you to design your trip as you wish. In this region the cycling loops are even internationally developped.

We rode along the river, formerly gravel excavations transformed in recreational lakes , pittoresque little villages, fields, ...

Lovely nature

Thorn, the white Dutch formerly convent village

Deserted village square in Stevensweert, NL

Guess in which country we were :p

And guess what we didn't bring on our trip: sunscreen! Against our bravest hopes, the sun was our friend all day...maybe a bit too much for my red-burnt face.


I love the work of the Van Eycks, especially Jan. He was my favorite painter for quite a time.

Seeing these pictures brings back my own bicycle trip of many years ago.

Betsy said…
What a great trip! There are a lot of great places to visit in Belgium! It's so true, though, that people spend their vacations in other countries and don't get to travel much in their own.

We've rented a house in the Ardennes with our extended family this summer. I'm really looking forward to it!
anno said…
What a wonderful trip -- this sounds like so much fun! I want to try it, too!

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