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trip by 4* coach, on-board drinks and snacks, guided bus tour, guided castle tour, entrance fees, entrance fees, guided castle tour, great group of international people, a lifetime memory
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Lets discover a new part of Belgium. Today we travel for a day with the first official native English speaking tour guide in Brussels to Wallonia. Her name is Sarah and she will lead us along some of the most fascinating places between Brussels, Charleroi and Mons, including the famous boat lifts of Ronquières and Strépy-Thieu. This is a tour down into the industrial history of a major part of the country while we are enjoying the Walloon landscape. If you really want to know more about Belgium as an expat, this is an excellent trip to start with!
We depart today from Place Schuman and eventually pick up some people at Metro Yser after which we immediately start with the tour while passing the Brussels Canal. We rented a nice 4* luxury coach with reclining comfort seats, on-board toilet and of course a sound system.
We will drive along and canal and where the Senne river used to be towards the Southwest part of Brussels, from where we’ll take for just a few kilometers the motorway down South towards Charleroi / Mons.
The boat lift of Ronquières | by Jean-Pol Grandmont (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Our first hold (not really a stop) is in Ittre where Sarah will tell us and interesting story about why this town once was not so happy. It’s just a little funny side note in history, but luckily it is on the way to our first real stop: the magnificent boat lift of Ronquières.
The Ronquières Inclined Plane lies near the village with the same name on the Brussels-Charleroi Canal. This mega engineering project was built to to reduce the number of locks along the canal and was opened in 1968. Almost 50 years old, it is still impressive to see how large ships go inside a huge bath tub to go either up or down 67 meters along an almost 1,5 kilometers long track. The “travel time” is only 22 minutes, although passing the entire installation takes almost an hour.
The medieval Château d’Ecaussines | by Jean-Pol Grandmont (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
L’Orangerie de Château de Seneffe – | by Jean-Pol Grandmont (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
The next two stops are of a totally different nature. We’ll be have a quick look at two castles. The first one is the Château Écaussinnes – Lalaing, named after the family with the same name and their heirs the Lalaings, where we will enjoy a guided tour inside and outside the castle. The second one we will visit is the 18th century Château de Seneffe, which you can explore on your own and where we will also have lunch. The entrance fees for both destinations are already included. Lunch is optional, but highly recommended. It’s a very nice place, it’s good food and since normally 90% of the participants join it’s also a great way to meet new people.
by Jean-Pol Grandmont (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Our next destination of the day leads us back to the canal. We will visit the second and until recently largest boat lift in the world from Strépy-Thieu. It is over 73 meters high and transports boats up and down. It was opened in 2002, cost in €160 million and replaced 2 locks and 4 other 16-meters lifts stemming from the turn of the century. The old lifts are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list, because of their architectural and historical value. We will enjoy a guided tour here and actually go up (or down) the lift with the entire group in a boat. Now you can kick that one off your bucket list!
Spanish House & Belfry | by Jean-Pol Grandmont (own work), via Wikimedia Commons
Our final destination is Mons, or Bergen in Flemish. It is a very old city as the first signs of civilisation stems from the Neolithic period (10.000 – 2.000 BC), whereas Julius Ceasar actually explored the region as well in the 1st century BC. It has a rich history, and luckily Sarah knows all about it, so just enjoy her explanation in the late afternoon. Needless to say we will also find a nice bar for some drinks, before we return to Brussels with expected arrival around 21h00.