Bite: Taste the Flemish Ardennes


A new initiative lets hiking and biking fans discover the Flemish Ardennes with the promise of good food and drink

Robyn Boyle explores the world of Flemish cuisine

Winding cobbled roads, meandering rivers, wooded trails and open vistas are what make the Flemish Ardennes so special. And not only for fans of hiking and biking: The rural area in East Flanders, just south of Ghent, also counts hundreds of producers of regional and farm products, and plenty of cosy cafés and restaurants.

If you’ve always wanted to discover this hilly hidden corner of Flanders, March is the best time to do so. Thanks to an initiative called Proef de Vlaamse Ardennen (Taste the Flemish Ardennes), you can easily put together a tailor-made visit. In the brochure and on the website, you’ll find culinary cycling and walking routes that manoeuvre their way between the best spots for a local beer or bite to eat.

There’s also a run-down of all the events taking place this month, including everything from a tour of coffee roaster Hoorens in Zottegem and jenever distillery Van Damme, to a visit to a beekeeper in Wortegem-Petegem and a unique horse carriage museum and horse swimming pool in Elsegem.

For me, any form of physical exertion must come with the promise of a good meal. Luckily, the Taste the Flemish Ardennes brochure highlights a few bike rides that point out refreshment stops along the way. The Water Route, for example, is a 57-kilometre ride through the lush Zwalm region, dotted with locations for farm-fresh ice cream, Balegemse jenever and watercress from Roborst.

The Oud Bruin Route, meanwhile, navigates the hills around cycling mecca Oudenaarde. It comes with suggestions for strategic stops and places to order a typical brown beer from one of the area’s four remaining breweries: Roman, Liefmans, Cnudde and Smisje.

Those with a sweet tooth are invited to head to the area around Brakel and Sint-Martens-Lierde. Here, along the Zoete Hoeve Route, are a number of good spots to try the thick pancake-like geuteling from Elst, the mattentaart from Geraardsbergen, and rice pudding, cheesecake and chocolate mousse from one of the region’s many dairy farms.

The Picknickroute leaves from the church of Ronse, in the deep south of the Flemish Ardennes, and leads walkers straight through the heart of the Muziekbos, a dense forest at the edge of the city. Pick up a picnic basket from nearby Bistro Boekzetting to take with you; it’s filled with local delicacies like Breydel ham, cheese from Horebeke, Rigaux chocolate and Inex yoghurt.


photo by David Stockman