Abbaye D’Orval – Orval, Belgium

Heavenly Brews, Heavenly Digs

In a country barely the size of New Jersey, the breadth of Belgium’s beer ­brewing tradition is astonishing—a rough count proclaims that hundreds of breweries produce 300 varieties within its borders, but more ambitious estimates approach 1,000. Many are local beers that are not found outside of Belgium, or of their towns of origin.

Much has been made of the centuries-old tradition of unique, excellent ales and beers brewed by the Trappist monks: of the six Trappist breweries in the world, five are in Belgium (the sixth is over the border, in Holland). The breweries are generally not open to the public, but the monks’ elixirs can be enjoyed at countless bars and taverns throughout Brussels and the countryside (and more and more frequently abroad).

In the forested hills of the Ardennes region (where the Battle of the Bulge was waged) is the famed Abbaye d’Orval. Its ruins date to the arrival of the Cistercians (from which the even stricter order of the Trappists broke off in the 17th century) in 1110; other buildings date to the 17th century. A commu­nity of monks carefully tend their beautiful grounds, medicinal herb garden, and dispensary, where the famous Orval beer is sold along with bread and cheese. Talk about heavenly picnics.

For the antithesis in accommodations, one of Belgium’s top-ranked country restaurants and prettiest inns, the Auberge du Moulin Hideux, is just 16 miles away.

Nestled in a beautiful setting of wooded hills that come right down to the converted stone gristmill, this rural inn is the very study of country chic. Miles of beautiful walking trails through leafy hardwood forests promise the chance to work off the meals that attract long­time loyalists who travel from Brussels, Paris, and beyond.

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