Day 176: To Mons via TournaiAugust 9, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C
Another busy day exploring southern Belgium. Checked out and hopped in the car around 10am and drove directly south to the town of Tournai, close to the French border. Here is another UNESCO site - of course - and another belfry on the list too.
The cathedral is immense and grand - built in the 12th century in Romanesque style, with a large gothic nave added later. It also has five distinct spires on top that give it a very unique profile. Unfortunately, it's currently undergoing heavy restoration as it was damaged by a tornado in 1999. The work has been going for 15 years and isn't expected to finish any time soon.
We went inside as well, but there wasn't much to see other than scaffolding. It also has the problem that its icons were destroyed during the Reformation, its treasures were looted during the French revolution, the stained glass was destroyed by an accidental gunpowder explosion, and of course two world wars were fought in the area as well (only one direct hit from a German bomb in 1944). So I can cut it a bit of slack!
We walked around and filmed what we could, then decided to check out the belfry. It was a bit different to the other belfries we've visited, since this one was actually a standalone tower. It's really only when you see the solo towers that you realise they're just bell- and watch-towers, rather than religious or secular buildings. Even though most of them are joined to a religious or governmental building!
Since the belfry was closed during lunchtime, we sat out on the main square in brilliant sunshine and had a delicious burger. Mine was with baked goat's cheese, bacon, caramelised apple slices, salad, and honey BBQ sauce. Incredible. Great vibe in the square as well, it's the height of summer and lots of people are on holidays. We're a long way from the tourist trail here so it's almost entirely Belgians relaxing and enjoying themselves. Also a long way from the gritty neighbourhoods of Antwerp and Brussels!
Back to the tower exactly when it opened after lunch, and we were the first people to head up, so we had an uninterrupted climb and view. A couple of hundred steps on tight spiral staircases to the top, but we're getting fairly used to this by now! Excellent view across to the cathedral, the city, and the wider district, though it was very narrow and claustrophobic up top - thankfully it was just us and another couple. Finished our filming and headed back to the car.
We then drove south-east to the city of Mons which is our base for the next couple of days. More world heritage sites in the area, and of course the town has one last belfry to look at! We settled into our hotel in the old town, with a view of the (standalone) belfry - it's situated on top of a hill so it tends to dominate the town. We decided to just relax for the rest of the day and settle ourselves in.
Shandos grabbed us a baguette and some jambon et fromage so we made our own dinner in the hotel room. Headed out later in the evening to wrap up our belfry tour by filming at the base, but it was closed and we couldn't get too close. Oh well. Filmed a bit anyway through the fence and then headed home.Read more