Alden Biesen and the Harry Potter drive-in disaster

The castle of Alden Biesen is little more than thirty minutes drive from us, yet it wasn’t until yesterday that we finally got around to visiting it. It’s a spectacular location, comprising a castle (of course), gardens (both French and English) as well as plenty of space to wander around outside.

It’s also a conference centre, host to a variety of events and somewhere to which we would happily return.

We spent the best part of four hours on a quest for de schat van vlieg (fly’s treasure — I have no idea why a fly), which involves following a path around the grounds, finding fairy-tale related clues that reveal the location of a treasure chest in the Brothers Grimm exhibition at the end of the tour.

I’m always a bit ambivalent about these types of tours. On one hand, they can provide a set of themed activities to keep the kids engaged but there’s always a risk that the boys will end up moving from location to location without actually looking up from the provided maps.

That said, this tour was pretty well designed with plenty of additional activities and, apart from a couple of route-related disputes (“Why do we have to follow the path all the way around when the next clue is back at the castle?”) we did enjoy a rather relaxed and very pleasant walk.

I even let the twins loose with a camera at one point

After stopping for dinner, we went on to the real reason for being in Bilzen. The drive-in.

With the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, one of the cinema chains in Belgium has organised a number of drive-in locations at which they are screening iconic films on, what they claim to be, the largest mobile LCD screen in the world. Yesterday was the turn of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This screen is supposed to be glare-proof and watchable no matter what. But when you put the screen directly in front of the setting sun, you have a problem. This, combined with being stuck in a car for two hours on a warm evening made for a spectacularly disappointing evening. So much so that pulled out the DVD as soon as we got home and watched the film again — with pictures this time.

It’s a shame because I have been to outdoor screenings in the past and have enjoyed them. But not at sunset, and not in a car.

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