Post riverfront pastry fest, we pulled back into the budget hotel’s parking lot around 11:58, just in time for a noon checkout.
“No big deal, we’ve got this. Done it a million times.” I told Julia.
We ran into a teeny-tiny problem as we tried to walk back in to the hotel, though. The security code we had been using for entry to both the hotel and our room was no longer working and the front desk was shuttered. And when I say shuttered, I mean the serious kind of shuttered where there is a medieval-looking metal gate thingy pulled down over the front desk and all the lights in the vicinity have been long extinguished.
This was going to be a problem, as all of our stuff and all of Holly’s worldly possessions (comfy bed and stuffed sheep) were in that budget hotel room. We managed to sneak in when someone behind us entered their code triggering the sliding doors, but upon arrival at our room, we found our code expired there too and ourselves locked out.
I tracked down a housekeeper, who, believe it or not, only spoke French (the nerve) and tried to convey our issue to her using charades, advanced miming techniques, and sad dog noises. She had me follow her to the front lobby and logged on to Google Translate to inform me that since we hadn’t paid for our second night yet, we were blocked out of our room. I explained that we were actually only staying one night, and then awkward jokes were made in French, order was restored, and we were let back in our room to hurriedly look under the bed, check the bathroom, and try not to leave a charger behind.
The ensuing drive to Luxembourg went really well, if you don’t count the part when we entered the country and then mistakenly waved farewell a mere thirty minutes later perplexingly reentering France from the far side of Luxembourg. There was even a fun part of the day when we frantically blew through Luxembourg City and did our best Clark Griswold impression by pointing out potential points of interest at the precise moment we sped by them.
Yep, it was that kind of travel day.
One of the main reasons we came to the Ardennes in the first place was the promise of seeing some snow as we hadn’t seen any all season in Amsterdam and were definitely overdue for some frosty frolicking. To this point, except for a few of the highest rolling hills in Belgium, we had struck out seeing any white stuff until we approached the slopes of northern Luxembourg. Snow started to appear with more and more frequency on the ground and gradually managed to dust and then entirely take over the landscape.
We weaved up, down, and around the powdery hills, descending towards and staring at the town of Clervaux, then scaled another steep incline to arrive at the village of Urspelt. The village was accessed down a charming country lane lined by what I can only describe as the type of trees you tend to see around chateaus. Which made sense, since we were approaching the Château d’Urspelt, a hotel that I had only just discovered online that morning in between checking hockey scores and reading a hockey-related travel blog from the Crusty Canucks (can you tell I like hockey?).
Seeing the Chateau Urspelt in person made us sure glad I did.
It was in an entirely different league from the budget hotel of the night before, a league that includes castles. Yes, my friends, the Chateau Urspelt is a real live castle. My favorite type of castle too, one that has been recently renovated to include a really nice hotel! Sure, the Chateau Urspelt is only a few hundred years old and it may not have ever been defended by knights, but hey, let’s not get bogged down with details. Chateau Urspelt is beautiful and dare I say romantic, and that’s all that really matters when talking about castles.
Staying at the Chateau Urspelt absolutely made the Ardennes road trip for me. Julia and I spent our time there enjoying the scenery of the surrounding village, the cozy and warm atmosphere of the hotel, which included a roaring fireplace, and just generally pretending we stay at these type of places all the time. The whole area it was located in was spectacular, and was especially enchanting in the evening when we went out for dinner in a neighboring village and caught glimpses of the moon shining bright on the snowy scenery. When taking Holly outside when we got home, I even got treated to a brief concert of chiming bells from the village chapel and that pretty much sealed the deal.
The Chateau Urspelt was definitely hard to leave behind, but the car rental company wanted their vehicle back, so it was time to start the drive back to Amsterdam.