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A scenic and gastronomic delight, les Ardennes (the Ardennes) makes for a welcome respite from museum hopping. With the change in landscape comes a shift in emphasis, away from treasures hoarded indoors and toward the outdoor riches of bracing air, winding roads, sparkling streams, and tranquil lakes, in a setting sculpted by the ebb and flow of Ice Ages. Add to that some pretty resort towns nestled in steep river valleys, and fine old country inns, and you have an idea of the Ardennes.

The region offers a cornucopia of outdoor pursuits (though the topography is one of hills, rather than genuine mountains): hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, golf, hunting, horseback riding, skiing, swimming, tennis, and more.

Recommending an itinerary for the Ardennes is difficult. I don't think you can do better than to follow your nose. Sooner or later you'll bump into some biggish place like Spa, Bouillon, Bastogne, or Durbuy, where you can join other wanderers. If you stick to the back roads, you'll have fun getting lost among all the stone villages and farmhouses for which the region is justly famed. Many of these were reconstructed after being destroyed during the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944 and 1945.

The Ardennes on a Plate -- Food lovers rejoice! This region is home to the delicately smoked Ardennes ham (jambon d'Ardenne) proudly served all over Belgium, and of other regional specialties, including game and fresh trout and pike. The Ardennes is famed for its wealth of gourmet restaurants, many in country inns where the innkeeper doubles as chef.