Claire The Green Geekette
Member for 1 year 11 months
Yogi and slow tourism devotee
AN UNUSUAL NIGHT IN THE LAND OF HERVE
5 min IN A CARAVAN
I love wearing long and gaily coloured boho skirts when I dance, and have always dreamed of enjoying a Bohemian lifestyle, of roaming the world like a gypsy. Well, I don’t live in a gypsy caravan, but recently I had the good fortune to escape the humdrum of everyday life and stay in a very unusual bed & breakfast, brimming with charm and character, in the heart of the Land of Herve: the Gypsy Caravan!
An authentic gypsy wagon
Nearby Aubel, bang in the middle of a meadow at the rear end of Dominique’s garden, stands and authentic gypsy caravan. The caravan is tastefully decorated and was a bespoke design made to specification by a French firm. About ten years ago, when they went on holiday in the Netherlands, Dominique fell head over heels in love with gypsy caravans.
Initially it was used as a lounge area in the garden, or even as a house addition that was occasionally used as a guestroom. But it is only when the requests to rent the wagon became more and more frequent that the caravan became an actual bed & breakfast. I have to say that the caravan really oozes charm! It is built of solid pine and oak wood from the Carpathian forests, with ornate decorations carved by hand by Romanian craftsmen; the result is absolutely spellbinding!
Moved by the desire to create a cocoon where visitors would feel wonderfully relaxed and a supreme sense of wellbeing, Dominique left no stone unturned in making the caravan as welcoming as possible. The caravan’s colourful decoration is a real boost to morale! It is a lovely, peaceful place, and Dominique regularly welcomes
guests who spontaneously hand over their laptop and phone so they can fully disconnect.
The caravan is equipped with solar panels that power the heating and the boiler, so you can enjoy a nice hot shower. Well, maybe you won’t feel like it, especially if you are already feeling nice and warm and wonderfully relaxed after unwinding in the heated outdoor Jacuzzi!
The caravan is built of solid pine and oak wood from the Carpathian forests, with ornate decorations carved by hand by Romanian craftsmen; the result is absolutely spellbinding!
Delicious local delicacies
As you will probably have grasped, the Gypsy Caravan is the perfect place to disconnect and enjoy a romantic break. It’s an invitation to travel outside of time, a journey that cannot be interrupted by the change of seasons or the crossing of borders. From the cosy and gaily coloured alcove, to the small kitchenette that allows you to be self-sufficient (feel free to ask Dominique for salt or anything else you need for you meal), and the beautifully decorated living room, the gypsy wagon truly is a joyous and soothing setting.
It is ideally suited for 2, and I really enjoyed spending the evening there, watching the light waning through the caravan’s windows and admiring the slowly setting sun cast beautiful colours on the surrounding fields. Reconnecting with nature and taking your time, this is what the place inspires: go out and pick some greens in the vegetable patch, or go grocery shopping in the local shops, it really seems self-evident here. And there lies the secret to a delicious yet nutritious meal!
At only a stone’s throw away, you can shop at “Au tournant gourmand” a wonderful local grocery shop selling local products, organic fruit and vegetables, as well as a wide variety of specialties among which really delicious local cheeses! So why not do your grocery shopping there? You can treat yourself to local delicacies and encourage local food networks.
As for the next morning, if you are not woken by the birds singing beneath your window, you will probably be woken up by Dominique knocking on your door, which is her way of letting you know that she has just brought a tasty breakfast made with locally sourced products: scrambled eggs (fresh from the chicken coop), organic orange juice, viennoiseries, bread, charcuteries and cheese.. A feast for our taste buds!
Watch the light waning through the caravan’s windows and admire the slowly setting sun cast beautiful colours on the surrounding fields...
Visiting the Land of Herve on a bicycle
After a wonderfully refreshing night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, what can be better than a bike ramble to burn the morning’s calorie intake? If this tickles your fancy, then just head for the “Maison du Tourisme du Pays de Herve” (basically the local Tourist Information Centre), which is located only a couple of kilometres away, and then hop on your bike to discover the area’s cycle-node network.
You didn’t bring a bicycle? Not a problem: you can rent one from the Tourist Information Centre, which is quite a practical, cheap and efficient solution as they rent out well-taken care of, high-performance bicycles. The bicycles are ideally suited for a bike hike that is several dozens of kilometres long, and a bike helmet is even provided. In short, no need to bring your own!
Renting a bicycle from the Tourist Information centre is practical, cheap and efficient solution, as they rent out well-taken care of & high-performance bicycles
All you have to do next is pick your ramble for the day. We went for the “balade des pommiers” (the apple tree trail), which is a 32km long loop trail taking you along the Val-Dieux Abbey, as well as the villages of Aubel and Clermont-sur-Berwinne. The tour will also take you along line 38, a former railway line that once crossed the Land of Herve and is now one of the most beautiful walking and cycling paths in Belgium.
Nothing could be easier than following the “apple trees trail”, simply follow the node points on the trail card. And if you’re afraid of getting lost, no fear: there are small signs with the trail’s name among the way, all you have to do is follow them. We had great fun shouting “apples on the left”, when we needed to take a turn. Also, during the first part of your tour you will come across quite a few blackberry bushes, so please stop for a while, take a well-deserved break and gorge on nature’s bounty.
You need to allow for a minimum of 3 to 4 hours with a couple of breaks to complete the whole trail, if you have enough stamina that is... There are a couple of rather steep uphill climbs that will leave your thighs burning! And don’t even think of cycling the trail the other way round, you would definitely regret this once you face the height differences you'd have to conquer. ^^
When you arrive, you will probably have deserved a nice hot beverage, like a hot Cécémel (a brand of chocolate milk) with whipped cream…My fellow sufferer and travel companion’s poison of choice was a tasty beer from the Val-Dieu Abbey. No more cycling for us, we’d had our fill of exertion for the day, thank you very much!
We both left happy to have ranged the RAVeL network (the acronym formed by the French : Réseau Autonome des Voies Lentes or Autonomous Network of Slow Paths, which is the network of walking and cycling paths created and managed by the Walloon Region).
Enjoy this experience
La Gipsy Roulotte
Renouprez 814, 4654 Charneux (Belgium)
Tel.: +32 87 68 83 13
Maison du Tourisme du Pays de Herve
Place de la Gare 1, 4650 Herve (Belgium)
Tel: +32 476 23 24 28
The Gipsy Roulotte :
119€ per night, breakfast included / 200€ for two nights
Renting a bicyle from the Maison du Tourisme du Pays de Herve :
1/2 day : € 10 - 1 day : €14
Booking required, please call: +32 87 69 31 70.