Darley Newman, 37, is the host and producer of “Equitrekking,” the Emmy-winning equestrian-themed travel show on PBS. Newman, a Myrtle Beach native, recently filmed two episodes of her new series, “Travels With Darley,” in Belgium.
Q. How did you plan your trip?
A. A lot of different ways. I talked to locals. I have a friend who grew up in Belgium who was a good source. I worked with the Belgian tourist office in New York.
Everywhere you go, someone recommends another person to talk to. I found a good tour guide and asked, “If you wanted to visit this city, where would you go? Where do you hang out?” That’s where you get your insider’s take on all this.
Belgium is known for its big horses, but I wasn’t on horseback over there. “Travels With Darley” mixes food, travel and adventure.
We found some quirky, fun stuff. There’s this really fun place called Durbuy, a medieval town that touts itself as the “smallest town in the world,” even though that’s not necessarily so nowadays. They have a count who lives in the chateau – a castle right in the middle of town. If you explore Durbuy, you might actually run into him. I went to the botanical garden there – a topiary garden with more than 200 sculpted plants. You walk by foliage trimmed to look like a jockey, ducklings or elephants. They even have a topiary of Pamela Anderson sunning herself, which is kind of funny.
Durbuy is known for artisan products like jam and cured meats – prosciutto-type stuff.
It’s a beautiful walk back in time.
Q. What are some other highlights?
A. They have rail biking in Belgium, where you can bike ride on railroad tracks. I’ve done biking adventures, but never on rails before. You could rail bike with family or friends; you definitely want someone with you because two people biking is easier. This is also a great way to meet people.
You can bicycle to this abbey called Maredsous where they make cheese and have special beer. You bike through the woods and it’s beautiful.
We also did two chocolate-making workshops. One was in the Mons area, where they make pralines. Many people don’t know pralines are from Belgium.
Brussels is where I made chocolates with this chocolatier named Laurent Gerbaud, who believes that the best chocolates are made by using the best ingredients and keeping things simple. He does beautiful displays with fruits and nuts. This sounds easy, but the way he combines flavors is amazing. That was a very tasty adventure and what’s cool about this is that you can do the same thing. I liked Laurent. A nice and fun guy.
Q. What was the strangest thing you saw there?
A. The huge market in Liege; it’s the largest and oldest in Belgium. You see local fish, local food ... and could probably also buy a TV. It’s pretty neat that these open-air markets are still thriving in our era of chain stores.
Q. Your favorite souvenir?
A. I probably drank or ate it! I try not to collect too many things; I don’t want to overfill my Washington apartment. So recipes were the best, and now have the recipe for boulet – a very large and popular Belgian meatball.
I think we had some of the best there because we taste tested with a guy named Sebastien Laviolette, who is a secret meatball tester.
Q. A secret meatball tester?
A. Yes. He’s part of a guild, the Confrerie du Gay Boulet. Their mission is to go around the country and find the best. So I hung around with him and ate boulets – giant meatballs. They’re probably not very healthy, but are very tasty. Each is about the size of a fist. When boulet was served to me, two came out from the restaurant kitchen. I could’ve made a meal out of one.
The best in Liege were at a family-owned restaurant, Amon Nanesse.
Q. How are prices over there nowadays?
A. The dollar continues to be pretty strong. Travel in Belgium is still pretty reasonable, depending on where you choose to stay and where you eat. You can always find lower-price dining options. Again, see where locals stay and where they eat. And you can always have french fries.
Q. The ISIS attack in Paris, it has been reported, was planned in Belgium. In the wake of this, what’s the vibe there?
A. They definitely upped security, but as someone who travels all around the world, that wouldn’t stop me. It’s always more laid-back outside cities, anyway.
Similarly, I’ve been to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey that is totally different from Istanbul, which is more concerned about politics. People outside big cities don’t seem to worry as much. The more I travel, the more I see that people are similar wherever you go.