Discovering Puglia: part 1 Bari-Matera

Matera Basilicata

It’s already a month ago that we returned from our Puglia trip and finally found the time to gather some photos for this post. My mind and body often being held prisoner by all the medical stuff going on it sometimes is a struggle to break free from it all and hit that relax button, even on holiday. As much as it is fun and energizing, it also takes away a lot of energy and the backdraft always follows, always.

But, here we are again, slowly and step by step, and kicking off with first part of this Puglia trilogy.

If you’re now trying to locate in your mind where to situate this Italian region, just think of the heel of the ‘imaginary’ boot shape at you’ve found it! Region of ‘masserie, mare, orechiette, trulli, tradizione, tutti sotto il sole italiano’!

We landed in Bari after a short smooth flight, rented a car through Sunny Cars (Kia Stonic, which was ok but hard suspension) and decided to drive to Bari’s city centre before heading to our first real planned stop.

We party-crashed a funky international Volkswagen meeting and were immediately  immersed in Bari’s colourful and laid -back style.

Volkswagen Beetle meeting Bari

And some centro storico exploring of course…

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

 

Time to really kick off this trip and get this show on the road! First flagged destination on our route: Matera, which ironically for this trip isn’t in Puglia but in neighbouring Basilicata, however should not be missed when visiting the region. This year being European Capital of Culture is of course an extra bonus.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera is best-known for its Sassi, (with Sassi meaning stones) ancient cave-dwellings inhabited since Paleolithic period . Matera is located on top of a canyon, on the other side you will find Parco delle Murgia Materana, ideal for hikes. All along the edges of the ravine you will find caverns and grottoes in the limestone layers.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

In 1950s the Italian government due to the unhealthy living conditions decided to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to another nearby city, leaving the caves abandoned and nature taking over…until late 1980s. By then, tourism also started to reach this part of Italy and local authorities promoted the return to caves, financially supported provided that the new owners renovated and made habitable of course. Supported by Unesco and rewarded World Heritage site since 1993 the caves house now private properties, as well as hotels, restaurants, B&B’s, etc. There are guided walks to follow or you can follow an itinerary at your own pace. There are two districts : Sasso Caveoso with the houses caved in the rocks and Sasso Barisano where the houses are built on top of the rocks.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

flowers Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

We stayed two nights at Airbnb Le Ferule lying comfortably within a two-minute walk of Sassi entrance. The appartment was very clean, spacious, breakfast goodie basket and fridge filled with refreshments. It had a modern decor so if you want to be kept immersed in the Sassi-feel, then would look for lodging inside Sassi-perimeter, but for us, this was fine. Downsize perhaps was that the terrace looked out on street where three communal garbage containers (for glass etc) were installed and there was always the odd neighbour during our stay dropping glass at 6 am 😉

Ready for some more exploring?

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

woman painting colorful Matera Basilicata Italy

 

Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

cat

Matera sassi door

Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

Cobblestones, steps and more steps, not thé most ideal combo when you’re a long time chronic back pain sufferer and MS patient, but hey, we survived ( a lot of resting, gelati and lemon granita!)

Matera sassi door

Pink narrow street in Matera Basilicata Italy

Ideal is to stay overnight…when sun sets and temperatures become bearable: enjoy an aperitivo and al fresco dinner followed by the obligatory passeggiata (see and be seen) and admire the wonderful twinkling of warm-coloured lights at one of the viewpoints. So much more relaxing if you know a comfy bed is waiting for you, right?!

Matera dining

Matera food restaurant

Matera sassi by night

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera by night sassi

Matera sassi by night

 

Next destination on our trip was Lecce and exploring Salento region, where we were staying three nights in an Agriturismo, so keep your eye out for the next post 😉

Have you already visited Bari and/or Matera? Think both cities have so much more on offer and feel we only scratched the surface, so as always, feel free to comment or add tips!

Ciao, alla prossima!

Ingrid

 

Ryanair

Airbnb Le Ferule (host Nico)

Sunny Cars car rental

Discover Puglia

Matera various touristic info

 

Guided walks…the fun kind…

Mechelen colourful facades

Walking discoverer or discovering walker, call me what you want…always great exploring a familiar city with a new set of eyes. That city is Mechelen, situated south of Antwerp, Belgium, and when I mention ‘guided city tour’ some of you probably start to sigh…now hold it, not just any random dull tour. It’s called the ‘fun tour’ ( plezante wandeling in Dutch) for a reason…

City Hall

Ferre and Rudi are experienced city guides, when you have been enthusiastically guiding people around for more than 30 years, I think you’ve earned that title, right?! The ‘fun tour’ is normally only open to groups however each year some days are reserved for individuals, as was yesterday evening and together with my friend Birgit I joined in.

In about 2,5 hours Ferre and Rudi take you around their city, with covered distance limited (1,5km). Their approach mixes street theatre, cabaret, poems, jokes and documented stories, everything told/sung in juicy local dialect.

‘As gao paost da dɘ paos an ao paost’ (local dialect, the fun factor would go lost in translation, sorry)

Without giving away too much (in case you want to take part in a tour yourself) you’ll learn more about why St-Rombouts cathedral has darker colour on top, the link between Charles V and pub ‘Den Beer’, the odd sculptures on city hall facade and why locals eat sweet pastry called ‘Astridjes’.

cathedral Mechelen Flanders

Black and white cathedral
Mechelen colourful facades
Known as ‘de Duiveltjes’ (little devils)

 

As the charm of the tour consists of the fact of it being in local dialect, it is not offered in English. However, as often, when stepping on foreign ground, some words in local tongue are always appreciated, so start practising 😉 Need help to get familiar with the local sounds and how to keep your driver’s license at the same time? Dialect Mechelen

Did you know there are even special courses to learn the dialect?

How about where you live? Is it encouraged to speak local or regional language?

Ingrid

xxx

 

Plezante Wandeling

Visit Mechelen

Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 2

 

Ready for some more Doh(a)dventures? If you missed the first part, you can check it out here:Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 1

 

  • Katara Cultural Village

Katara Doha

If you have a bit of interest for arts or some creativity running through your veins this is the place to be: a succesful marriage of heritage and contemporary arts in a breathtaking setting. Art galleries, festivals, shops, musea, amphitheatre, golden masjid, restaurants, planetarium, too much to mention. Do check out their website for upcoming events if you are planning a visit and would definitely advise to spend at least half a day (if not a whole day) there.

Katara Doha

Mosque Katara

Katara Doha

In the Centre of Katara you can find Gandhi’s Three Monkeys by Subodh Gupta, a series of three sculptures with military headgear. Each piece is made of cooking instruments, used pails, traditional Indian lunch boxes and glass bowls. Together, they recall Gandhi’s famous visual metaphor-the three wise monkeys-representing the ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ proverb…

 

 

 

 

Katara Doha

 

Don’t miss the pigeon towers…Poop collection: smelly(probably) but in this case very attractive(definitely) business and another win(g)k to the region’s cultural history. Like in most Middle-Eastern countries, in the past, pigeon’s poop was considered liquid gold as its composition made it an excellent fertilizer.

Katara Doha

 

  • scyscrapers: tall, taller, tallest 
    Torch Doha
    The Torch

    You can find the tallest building in Doha in the Aspire Zone. 300m high this one offers 360-degree panoramic views and a cantilevered pool on the 19th floor in case you want to find out what it feels like to float 80m above ground.

 

‘Sometimes you gotta zig when eyeryone else is zagging…’

 

…One (there are two of them) of the ‘Zigzag towers’, or dancing towers. Close to our hotel and Lagoona mall.

Highest and most colourful towers can be found in West Bay area and can best be observed from the water, during a typical dhow boat cruise.

West Bay area Doha

Doha Qatar

Doha by night

 

‘all that glitters is not gold…’

Without any doubt jaw-dropping infrastructures, the more reason the extremely dangerous conditions the builders work in and their ridiculously low pay should continue to be brought under attention.

 

    • show me your green (and blue) zones

 

Aspire Park

    • Aspire Park

Did you think Doha was only sand? Well Qatar definitely is but its capital tries very hard not to be. The city focusses on implementing green zones with a versatile function: playgrounds for children, picnic areas, green hills, tracks for joggers or cyclists, etc…

Aspire Park

Where Aspire Park is Doha’s biggest park (and next to Aspire Zone’s Stadium and Villaggio Mall shopping complex) and has plenty of green zones and even an artificial lake, it is its vastness that may effect the ‘cosy-factor’. All depends on your personal interests. We were rather fond of the Al Bidda Park and walkway. After our visit of MIA (see part 1) we walked part of the Corniche and Corniche Park (7 km waterfront promenade and green zone offering Doha Bay vues) upto Firestation, a creative hub and great place to have lunch. They offer residency projects for upcoming artists. From there we did the walk back to old city centre through Al-Bidda park which runs pretty much parallel with the Corniche.

The Pearl monument and fountain can be found on the Corniche at the entrance of the dhow harbour. Where Qatar nowadays gets its wealth from oil and gas, it used to be from pearl diving and fishing industry.

typical dhow crossing Doha Bay
typical dhow crossing Doha Bay
lunch at Firestation Doha
art installations and exhibitions at Firestation
my aunt and uncle, hubby and me in Al Bidda Park

 

More green? MIA Park, Dahl Al Hammam Park, Oxygen Park, hotel parks and many more…

 

  • and yes, if you insist, some sand too…

 

sand dunes Sealine Beach (Mesaieed)

From Doha a short drive to Al Wakrah and then further inland plenty of sand dunes await. We drove in the dunes behind Sealine Beach. If you want to go dune bashing yourself and you are not familiar hire an experienced driver (safety first, always) and avoid weekends. Fun road side distraction: camel rides, falcon tête-à-tête and photo opportunities.

Both Sealine Resort and Al Wakrah souq definitely worth a stop, only make sure your visit does not overlap the souq shops’ closing time early afternoon as we found place rather desolated then.

Since early May 2019 Al Wakrah and Doha city centre are connected through red metro line which will make travel between them a lot easier. This is the first line implemented, three more planned to become operational.

 

  • Skipped due to lack of time but still on our to do list for when second time around:

 

visit State Grand Mosque

visit the planetarium at Katara

inland sea Khor Al Adaid

National Museum (that officially opened just after we left)

Banana Island Resort

Al Shaqab tour – breeding and training centre Arabian horses

Like I said in the intro of my first post, Doha, and Qatar in general, has probably not highlighted (yet) on your travel radar and yet it should…though you will find numerous articles telling you there is not that much to see or do, I strongly disagree and hope both my posts helped showing that.

 

Ingrid

xxx

 

Some practical info:

 

Doha is the capital of Qatar, located on the Arabian Peninsula. It shares borders with only one country, Saudi Arabia.

Time to go: November upto March (too hot and too humid outside this period)

Currency: Qatari Riyal

Language: Arabic is official language but most people speak English.

We flew Qatar Airways and thumbs up on all levels. Taxi is fastest way to reach city centre. We always used Karwa Taxi and found them reliable and cheap.

Doha is not exactly pedestrian-friendly, so be careful when crossing the street.

The implementation of the state of the art metro system will be a huge jump forward when it comes to connectivity. And of course looking towards FIFA World Cup 2022 all stadiums will be linked.

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Doha, close to Katara and The Pearl. Luxurious rooms with large balcony and a great pool area. One of the capital’s top Thai restaurants, Isaan, is located in the hotel. You can opt for breakfast in the hotel or go to opposite Lagoona Shopping Mall for a quick snack or to get your daily supply on fresh fruits or snacks.

As for food and drinks, know that the only place you can drink or buy alcohol in public is in five star hotels (except Ramadan) and it is very expensive. Opt for one of the tasty mocktails, you won’t regret it. Foodwise, the world will come to your plate, no worries. The choice in restaurants and world cuisine is endless: Armenian, Lebanese, Thai, Italian, Turkish, Persian,…

 

Qatar Airways

Visit Qatar – Tourist info

Katara Cultural Village

Aspire Zone

Firestation

Grand Hyatt Doha

Some restaurants we can recommend:

Isaan- Thai

Parisa – Persian – In Souq Waqif ( breathtaking interior too)

Mamig – Armenian/Lebanese in Katara Cultural Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 1

When I told people a few months ago we were going to Doha, some eyebrows were raised and deep think wrinkles appeared…eeeuuuhm, yes, Doha…and where’s that exactly??? Indeed Doha is not on the average tourist’s travel radar…local tourist board and Qatar Airways have been investing heavily past years as passengers in transit with more than five hours to spend are offered a city tour. However Doha, capital of the richest country in the world, is well worth a full trip on its own with lots of cultural highlights and must sees. 

In case you are wondering how Doha lighted up on our travel radar, well I’m lucky to have family living and working all over the world and one of them happens to be a pilot for Qatar Airways. This was a family reunion visit and a heart-warming and very much enjoyable escape to the sun, in what was at that time full Winter season in Belgium (we went early February). The warm embrace of family and an inspiring culture…thé best combination!

one happy family-the reunion
one happy family-the reunion

Need inspiration yourself or an excuse to plan a trip to the Middle East? Do foreign cultures trigger your enthousiasm to explore? Continue reading to find some top excuses for a trip to Doha!

Excellent as early Spring or Fall break and sun guaranteed!

With temperatures around 25 degrees Celcius, Doha is an great travel destination to plan somewhere between November and end of March. ( too hot and too humid outside this period) Don’t forget to bring a sweater as temperature drops quickly when sun sets and especially near the coastline where there’s always some wind it can become rather chilly.

Ok, enough talking, who wants to see some photos?

Join me in some of what we considered some of the highlights of our trip:

 

  • Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

No better place to mingle with the locals and absorb the endless array of flavours and colours! Perfect for souvenir hunting (don’t forget to bargain!) or sit with a cup of coffee or mocktail  of your choice and watch the world go by.  Plenty of restaurants for lunch or dinner. (as for the mocktails a whole new world opened up: the choice and the powerful flavours make you forget about the no-alcohol rules, I swear) If you are the ‘shop-stroll-sit-absorb-eat-relax-taking your time type’ expect to spend a full day here or like we did a half one and returned for another half. The outdoor part still gives you a sense of direction where the indoor part leads you into a labyrinth where you’ll find everyhing from textile to food, decoration, animals, etc…

 

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

 

  • Explore The Pearl  (incl Porto Arabia and Venice-like Qanat Quartier)

Big, bigger, high, higher, shiny, more shiny, luxurious and then think over-the-top…the world is not enough when it comes to the Pearl. Does it feel artificial? Yes well, let’s not forget it is indeed an actual man-made island!

Difficult when walking first time here to get an idea of where you are exactly, so do check out The Pearl interactive map.

Porto Arabia The Pearl

Qanat Quartier

Qanat Quartier

Medina Central The Pearl

Qanat Quartier Dona The Pearl

Explore QQ (Quartier Qanat) on foot or by boat. Try to avoid Fridays and Saturdays, these are the weekend days in Doha and found the Quarter just a bit too desolated then.

And don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bronze horse sculpture at the Kempinski hotel.  It is designed by a Doha-based Iraqi artist to honour the tradition and cultural importance of the Arabian horses. Not hard to believe it took more than four weeks to install because it weighs over 45t and is almost 60ft tall! If you have the time and/or money to step inside (the hotel, I mean, not the horse) an additional world of heritage and Arabian culture will open up as the interior is said to be absolutely stunning!

Kempinsky Doha horse

 

  • MIA, Museum of Islamic Art

MIA Doha

As a museum it represents Islamic art from three continents and this over a time period of 1400 years. Admission is free (!) and must say as a non-museum person it is worth the visit, if not for the collections ( beautiful ceramics, sculptures,etc…), then go for the unique architecture and location of the museum itself! Or just relax and have a drink by the stunning ceiling-high window and admire the view on the Gulf and West Bay area. The oculus all the way in the top catches the light which is then diffused by the perforated chandeliers. Unfortunately I am not such a gifted photographer that I can register with my camera the magic and beauty that unfolds before my eyes, though do hope the below shots give a hint….You can find MIA at the end/Beginning of so-called Corniche (Waterfront) and near Souq Waqif so you can easily combine these.

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

Catch your breath and have it taken away at the same time…

(one of the slogans strolling through the Qatar Airways on-flight tourism commercials. At our outbound flight I was sceptic, later I knew better…)

MIA Doha

 

Join me next time when I tell you more about the Corniche stroll (that is the waterfront walkpath), Katara Cultural village, and some more fun involving sand and a camel. Did I mention we were only 6 days in Doha? Ha, bet you didn’t think there was that much to see and do, right?!

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Doha which I  can highly recommend, it is close to The Pearl and Katara Cultural Village. More on the practical stuff to follow with second post.

Grand Hyatt Doha

Stay tuned!

Ingrid

xxx

 

Visit Qatar

Qatar Airways

Souq Waqif

The Pearl

MIA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back…

These first days of the brand new year hold lots of hope and promises and looking forward, we can’t help looking back: to remember what’s worth remembering and to quickly dismiss what’s worth forgetting.

Join me on this little 2018 retrospective:

 

‘The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come’

 

Jan-Feb

Similar to nature, the hibernating months…also ‘let’s quickly forget’ months with lots of hospital visits, insecurity on the thyroid matter and ongoing back-related problems. Fast forward, shall we?!

Frozen field February

Mar-Apr

Comes Spring, comes joy…and midweek breaks! We, that is husband and me, visited cosy Maastricht in the Netherlands and vibrant London and in own garden colourful bluebells reign

Maastricht 2018

 

 

London Notting Hill April 2018

May-Jun

Refuelled we kept chasing sunshine with a trip to Belgian seaside, local food festivals  and wonderful Valletta, European cultural capital 2018, on the island of Malta.

De Haan

 

Three Cities Tour Malta

 

Three Cities tour Malta

Jul/Aug

Returning from Malta brought feet quickly back onto the ground: in full Summer mode my inner cruise control broke down and some weird health issues (on top of the existing back problems) surfaced.

Only a short birthday trip to Utrecht, Netherlands, and a lot of trips to doctor’s office.

 

Summer Utrecht 2018

Son Nick went to Madrid with srps.me and had his wallet stolen on last day, drama, drama, though still mr cool guy here

Approching end of August, and luckily feeling a bit better again, in own country, sun was still spreading glorious warmth though the various tasting festivals at wine estates, and the daily growing in size of our own home grapes gently suggested Autumn was on it’s way.

grapes garden

And house cat Wiskie closely watches them shift colour…or not…those afternoon naps are important too, right?!

 

Together with shooting partner-in-crime Eddy I explored Tervuren…

Tervuren poppy installation

…and joined EffenWeg on some inspiring nature walks.

Sept/Oct

Again most trips were to and from hospital, pain at full force peaking-level.

Had to check calendar, but had one (wow!) sort or less doable weekend/week in those two months, and we used that to explore Flanders Westhoek while staying at marvellous B&B ‘Ons Content’ and another shooting trip with Eddy…when I’m more or less well, or at least something that comes close to that definition in my book, it’s all about making the very best of those little getaways!.

CWxRM Palingbeek Ypres

 

Nov/Dec

Short getaway nature break to Luxemburg’s inspiring Müllerthal. The below photo might seem idyllic and as far as surroundings and company it was of course but with balance and vision letting me down walking took a lot of effort and often needed a walking stick, fortunately branches à volonté in the woods 😉

Back home finally some answers on the health issues: got MS diagnosis and immediate start-up of the medication to prevent further deterioration.

Had a fun and inspiring photoshoot Life-Live, a project that you can read all about here Up, close and personal…

 

Beaufort Luxemburg

 

‘Everything has changed and yet I am more me than I have ever been’

 

 

And now what?

 

…We’ll set course for the good life and navigate around the obstacles as best as possible

 

no fixed plans yet this year holiday-wise, so all options are open, except for a fun and kinda last-minute trip coming up very very soon (read Febr): hubby and myself will be spending some time in Doha, Qatar, together with my aunt and uncle we’ll be visiting my nephew (their son) who lives there, so that will be a family reunion embraced by loved ones and warmth of the sun, the best kind!

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Müllerthal Fall break

Luxemburg’s Müllerthal region is where we found ourselves last week: a little nature break in an impressive geological and green mini paradise nicknamed Little Switzerland….

We stayed in Hotel Meyer in Beaufort with start of many hiking tours and Beaufort’s renaissance castle within walking distance.

Beaufort Luxemburg
view on castle coming from village

 

Leading hiking track in the region is the Müllerthal trail, 112 km long and composed of three main routes linking the several villages and their natural and cultural highlights. These three routes are all connected however can just as well be hiked seperately and, if feet are not weary enough, another four extra tours complete the region’s wanderlust Erlebnis.

First day of our tip we explored Beaufort and walked part of the b1 hike starting at castle.

Beaufort Luxemburg

Beaufort Luxemburg

 

Beaufort Müllerthal

 

woman admiring Fall view Beaufort Luxemburg

Day two was all rainy and windy, die-hards wouldn’t let this stop them from hiking; not that fanatic though 😉  we took a trip to nearby Trier to indulge us in warm coffee, chocolates, some shopping and local beers.

 

Day three and already final day of our nature break…sun present again so we decided to make most of this day starting off with an early morning walk in neighbouring Grundhof. With moist and rain of previous day still in the air and soil (and my bones) this gave a strange mystical feel to the forest.

Foggy morning Grundhof Luxemburg

From where we stood, pointing the camera in the other direction gave the below photo, and no…not a b&w one…glad Halloween was over, tiny bit creepy!

Grundhof Luxemburg

After checking out off the hotel we headed to Berdorf and saved best for last…

colours of Fall Berdorf Müllerthal Luxemburg

Berdorf Müllerthal Luxemburg

Berdorf Müllerthal Luxemburg

Along the trail stairs and ladders help to conquer the height differences…or you can take the more adventurous path like this young lady (not me in pic)

woman rock-climbing Berdorf Müllerthal Luxemburg

Typical are the rock formations and narrows…curious how nature formed such a mind-blowing landscape?

Millions of years ago, Müllerthal region was covered by a large sea. Over time, however, a thick layer of sand covered the clay underground. When the sea receded and water starting flowing over land, the relatively soft sandstone eroded, eventually forming a landscape of stream-filled valleys and cliffs. However, when water filters through the porous sandstone and reaches the watertight layer of clay beneath, it builds up and is trapped resulting in destabilizing the rocks around the valley edges, causing parts of sandstone to slip down the valley or break off completely.

Berdorf Luxemburg

Pretty sure that’s one of our ancestors coming peeping out of the rock…anybody else see the human head shape, or is it just me?

Rock formation Berdorf Mullerthal Luxemburg

Berdorf Mullerthal Luxemburg
the Hohllay rock formation in Berdorf

Berdorf Luxemburg

a game of tones Fall at Mullerthal trail Luxemburg

 

Mullerthal trail Luxemburg

Mullerthal trail Luxemburg

Mullerthal trail Luxemburg

Thirteen years since our previous visit…

Mullerthal trail Luxemburg
little trip down memory lane…

and yes…it’s still impressive!

Mullerthal trail Luxemburg

 

Ingrid

xxx

 

Visit Müllerthal

Müllerthal trail

Hotel Meyer

Auberge Rustique – cosy restaurant in Beaufort

Trier Tourism

 

 

In Flanders Fields hop bells sing and nature soothes…

Last weekend we found ourselves immersed in Flanders’ fields, in the green region that stretches out from the North Sea coast, over the Flemisch hills and all the way up to the French border. A region where the landscape is silent witness of its sad, loud and violent past, where poppies colour the fields and the wind gently rustles through the hop bells…welcome in the Westhoek!

We started off our two-day break at the newly opened Bar Bernard brewery St-Bernardus Watou offering a 360 degree view on the surrounding landscape and a range of heavenly bears of course.

Bar Bernard Watou Westhoek

As it was almost lunchtime, a little snack was allowed…

Bar Bernard Watou

Hop fields Watou brewery St-Bernardus

Next stop: Poperinge with at the time of our visit the culinary festival ‘Lekker Westhoeks’ to promote regional produce…hop all around of course!

City Hall Poperinge

Time to check out our place to stay for the night which we booked through Vlaanderen Vakantieland where to stay…Nicely tucked away in the fields of peaceful village Krombeke, part of Poperinge, lies ‘Ons Content’. A true gem: the room has everything to offer you could possibly need and more, the views are amazing, the hosts welcoming with a warm genuine smile and open heart, garden full of life and colours and the breakfast beats any breakfast I have ever had before! One of those places one would rather keep to themselves, so, shhh, not too much advertising 😉 Ons Content

We had a lovely dinner in local restaurant ‘t Hommelhof. Chef Stefaan Couttenye is one of Belgium’s pioniers when pairing beers to gastronomy and he proudly uses local produce whenever he can.‘tHommelhof

Farm raised chicken ‘vol-au-vent’ with sweetbread and Kapittel prior of the brewery we visited earlier

Time to lay feet up and head to rest,…

…You can’t stop birds from singing: I’m a morning person, even on weekend breaks…after a good night’s rest this early bird had a short morning walk, though long enough to watch sunrise and see some hares playfully chasing each other in the nearby fields.

sunrise

sunrise

Flanders fields Poperinge

Good thing I had that morning walk as, remember,  there was that 5-star breakfast waiting with a wide range of sweet and savoury goodies! Needless to say we took our time to enjoy to the fullest!

After our goodbyes, we’ll be backs (without a doubt) and some top tips from our hosts we set off to provincial park Palingbeek (near Ypres) and land-art installation ComingWorldRememberMe by Koen Vanmechelen. Tourism Ypres Palingbeek

During four years thousands of people spread over Flanders and the rest of the world joined forces and together made 600.000 sculptures out of clay. Each sculpture representing one of the 600.000 victims who lost their lives in Belgium due to WWI. There is a walkpath up to the Bluff and a viewpoint over No Man’s Land…you are standing on land representing some dark pages of history…This unique memorial installation can be visited until 11th of November. You can read more about the project and artist’s vision hereCMxRW

 

CMxRW Palingbeek Ypres

Palingweek Ypres

CWxRM Palingbeek Ypres

 

 

Almost noon and we decided to head to Ypres…our visit coincided with Flanders Fields Triathlon and  Car Free Sunday resulting in a very lively city. We went from cheering on the swimmers on the ramparts…TourismYpres

Ypres Triathlon ramparts

…to thumbs up for all those who biked their way to the top rewarding them with the best views on Ypres’ Lakenhalle and Market square.

car free Sunday Ypres

Ypres market square Flanders

Ypres Lakenhalle Flanders

No visit to Ypres without a walk on the ramparts and stop at the Menin gate…

Menin gate Ypres

Menin gate Ypres

Menin Gate Ypres

This memorial was placed here in 1927 and is inscribed with the names of over 54000 soldiers without a grave…they passed through this city entrance, where the gate now stands, never to return…makes one silent no? In remembrance of those men, the Last Post, by local buglers, sounds every evening at 20pm.

Making it time for our last stop on this weekend break and we are staying in the ‘quiet’ zone…Tyne Cot  which is the largest British war cemetary on mainland Europe with almost 12000 tombstones…

Tyne Cot Flanders Fields

Tyne Cot Cemetary Flanders Fields

 

The Westhoek left a great impression:  surrounding nature soothes what lies in its past, though never forgotten…

Flanders Fields: A place To Remember

 

Ingrid

xxx

Koch mal deutsch…#EnjoyGermanFood

Which foods and drinks come to your mind when you think of German food? Are Schnitzel, Wurst mit Sauerkraut, Glühwein and Schwarzwaldtorte on display before your eyes right now? Nothing wrong with that, however German cuisine is so much more than its clichés!

Yesterday I found myself among the lucky bloggers invited to taste our neighbouring country’s modern and versatile cuisine as Sound of C, Duitse Dienst voor Toerisme (Germany Travel) and Toeristische Dienst Nedersaksen (Niedersachsen-Tourism) joined forces to promote the culinary assets of Lower Saxony region.

Place of Venue: Antwerp’s de Serre

Mission: prepare a 5-course meal using the region’s and other German star produce

Partners in crime: guest chef Zora Koch Ma!, Saillart Catering and fellow bloggers and food lovers

 

 

After a warm welcome, short presentation of the region and touristic and culinary assets aprons were tied and knives sharpened…if we would like something to appear on those plates, we’d better get to work…last sip of wine, auf los geht’s los!

 

#EnjoyGermanFood

 

All cooks and wannabe’s 😉 were divided over kitchen isles to work in group on the different courses and this under the watchful and guiding eye of a head chef. I was at the first course isle, which was a butternut pumpkin-soup with surprising additions 😉 Saved me some arm fitness training there ’cause chopping pumpkin is serious business!

While bloggers mingled, dishes got their final touch by the chefs in charge before being presented in walking dinner formula, all occumpanied by a selection of excellent local wines of course.

 

 

 

 

#EnjoyGermanFood

 

 

If you want to see some more photos, make sure to check Sound of C fb page end of this week.

Got hungry for German cuisine and want to try yourself? Am allowed to throw a little giveaway, sorry, only for my Belgian followers here or on IG or FB, though no worries, Germany Tourism promotes through workshops in several countries so worthwile to check out the local office in your country 😉

Now, what’s to win?

  • a bottle Keth Spätburgunder, dry, 2016
  • a bottle opener (always handy, right)
  • two books: MERIAN live! Wine guide: Discover Germany’s Wine Region and KOCH!Duitse keuken anno nu

Took a little peek and the book has some wonderful recipes, like crunchy beer-battered salsify with a curry dip, duck breast with rhubarb, Schwarzwälder-kirsch muffins and the below pictured fried elderflower, yum!

 

Koch cook book Duitse keuken anno nu
One of the pages from the book…

How to win? In the village Burgdorf, close to Hannover, a 750 km (jawohl!) culinary trail starts…what delicacy am I talking about? It’s a well-known delicacy here in Belgium too, in doubt? You can find the answer here Vakantieland Nedersaksen

Tell me by 27th of Sept, follow me, that would be great of course 😉 and I’ll announce the winner on 28th.

Sad because you can’t join as non-Belgian? I noted down some great tips why Lower Saxony should be on your travel radar, so head over to Lower Saxony send me the answer and in return I’ll send over some top tourist tips, you may not get that bottle of wine but end up with some great ideas to plan a next trip, deal?

Bis nächstes Mal! (I’ll be back)

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tervuren pop-up memorial…

Tervuren poppy installation

Until 11th of November the former Panquin barracks at Tervuren, Belgium, near Sonian forest, are transformed into a World War I memorial and peace site.

Tervuren poppy installation

 

Landscape architects Sven Vangodtsenhoven and Hans Tuerlinckx of Art-Ex designed a 100-metre long path that consists of two parallel walls of stacked wood logs. All this with the intention to create the impression of a trench when walking through. Both ends of the logs are painted vibrant red with a little black dot, referring to the remembrance poppy and symbolising the many victims of the Great War.

Tervuren poppy installation

Into the niches between the logs, messages of hope and peace can be put, though we didn’t see that many at our recent visit…did they get blown away by the wind…who knows? Still two and a half months left to fill up the blanks with messages!

 

Tervuren poppy installation
path towards barracks and Tervuren city centre

At ‘Hoefijzerplein’ (the square has the shape of a horseshoe) the path is surrounded by a mowing field of grain and ‘popping-up’ poppies, a mix of styled artificial ones and the real ones. At the end, the path is slightly elevated overlooking St-Hubertus chapel and the ruins of the former ducal palace as well as Tervuren’s park and ponds.

Tervuren poppy installation

 

Fyi, four years after the barracks were abandonned the site will get a new destination: the buildings of architectural and historical interest will be respectfully restored and integrated in a multi-functional zone: housing units, hotel, green area and room for cultural events,…

As the site borders Tervuren park and ponds you have an excellent excuse to have that short, or longer, nature walk…

 

Tervuren park

Proximity of the Royal Museum for Central Africa is an asset. The site has been under restoration for years but we’re near the finish line as it will re-open its doors 9th of December 2018. Until then, no one keeps you from admiring the stunning neo-classical style building and adjoining gardens!

Africa museum Tervuren

Hope you enjoyed this little stroll through Tervuren, where nature meets city, past meets future and green meets red 😉

Ingrid

xxx

 

ps Special thanks to Eddy, @edandhiscamera on IG, my travel companion for the day and fellow photographer.

Visit Tervuren

Tervuren Park

Africa museum Tervuren

Valletta Three Cities tour…

Time to wrap up the Valletta series! In this third and final post you can follow in our footsteps, or wheels, as I take you around a Three Cities tour and more extensive visit of Birgu/Vittoriosa, so buckle up, we’re off!

The Three Cities tour Malta

‘The Three Cities’ is a general description of the three fortified cities of Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua. With Birgu the oldest one, existing since the Middle Ages, the other two cities, Senglea and Cospicua, were both founded by the Order of St John in the 16th and 17th centuries. Each city goes by two or more names, the one before or after the Great Siege.

 

It’s day four of our Valletta trip and though our Airbnb is located in Birgu/Vittoriosa we still haven’t actually explored this side of the water. To cover all three cities, four if you include Kalkara, by foot would take us too much time and kill my back so we hired some wheels to the rescue…not just a car…you can drive that at home too, right?! We went for a Rolling Geeks ride. A cool (bottled water inclusive) and relaxed (just enjoy the ride) way to explore…Think a pimped golf cart and you kinda get the picture…Belgian owner Kris or associate are around to give you detailed info on what to expect: basically you drive your own electric funky car, there’s a pre-programmed gps, language of your choice and your on-board gps tourist guide tells you where to stop, get out, admire the view and all relevant historic details.

Three Cities Malta Rolling Geeks

In about two and a half hours the tour takes you on a 17km ride from Birgu Waterfront to Kalkara, Senglea/Isla and Cospicua/Bormla. There’s enough time to take a stop and have a (non-alcoholic) drink (remember you’re driving) and if you should take a wrong turn, the gps corrects and Big Brother Kris and team are also tracking you…only seconds after your wrong turn you will get a call guiding you quickly and safely back on track. It’s hands on the wheel and eyes on the road…but you absolutely want to take selfies during the tour? No problem, the built-in camera does that for you…cool, right?! Enough talking, what do you get to see on this tour?

Malta forms perfect decor for many movies and its versatily is a great asset. Even when movie plot shows a completely other city, it may well be filmed in Malta…large parts of the movie ‘Munich’ for example were actually filmed at various locations on the island, standing in for scenes in the movie that play in Tel Aviv, the West Bank, Beirut, Cyprus, Spain, Athens and Rome! Want to keep track of the filming tours or upcoming projects, then keep an eye on Malta Film Tours

Three Cities Tour Malta Rolling Geeks

From Senglea and its viewpoint Il-Gardjola you get wonderful vistas on the harbour and Fort Sant Angelo.

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo
view on Fort St Angelo from Senglea

 

Three Cities Tour Malta
view on waterfront and Upper Barrakka Gardens to the right

Three Cities Tour Malta

The tour also brings you to the Cottonera Lines, a massive construction of fortifications, built in 17th century, with major aim to protect the Three Cities. The British later on expanded with Fort Verdala. What used to be fort barracks are now houses and apartments.

Three Cities Tour Malta
Main gate Cottonera Lines

 

Further on the route: plenty of picturesque and colourful buildings…

 

The tour ends where started: at Vittoriosa/Birgu Waterfront…time for that drink now, what do you think?!

Three Cities tour Malta
view on Birgu from across Harbour

We filled the rest of our day strolling through Birgu and Cospicua…

Before Valletta was the island’s capital, Mdina was…and before Mdina, Birgu was…The Knights of St John renamed it ‘Cittá Vittoriosa’, meaning ‘the victorious city’. These days this is shortened to ‘Vittoriosa’.

Three Cities Tour Malta

Three Cities Tour Malta

Our strolls were followed by a little dghasja harbour cruise to get in those phenomenal views from the water, and to be honest, to cool down too…when temperatures are high nothing beats the sound of splashing water and wind in the hairs!

Three Cities Tour Malta
Birgu Marina with view on Senglea

The Three Cities tour Malta

Three Cities Tour Malta

All now left to end this perfect day is an evening stroll down the Waterfront admiring the yachts and a delicious ‘dinner with a view’ as day slowly twinkles into night…

 

Three Cities Tour Malta Don Berto Birgu
dining al fresco at Don Berto…with a view…

Three Cities Tour Malta

The final day of our trip, well half a day, left us just enough time to join a historic re-enactment group as Fort St Angelo stepped back in time to when it was under French occupation….

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

The central location of the medieval fort in the Grand Harbour offers spectacular views and was in history of extremely strategic interest. It played an important role during the Grand Siege and was headquarters to the Grand Master of the Order. According to legend it is built on site of a fortified Roman settlement.

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

Such fun watching those ‘soldiers’, ‘salesmen and women’ marching towards the Fort…though in that heat in full gear and costume…you must admire their passion…

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

All work and no play?? Euuh, obviously not always…

Three Cities Malta Fort St Angelo

The Three Cities tour Malta

Three Cities Tour Malta

Well, it’s a wrap, this five-day Valletta trip…Hope this post and the two previous ones Valletta 2018: the culture trip and Mdina: the silent city of King’s Landing…give you an impression of what to expect when heading to Malta’s capital…if you ask me, a more than worthwile citytrip destination, we had a blast!

Until we meet again 😉

Ingrid

xxx

Three Cities Tour Malta

 

Rolling Geeks

Visit Malta tourist info The Three Cities

Fort St Angelo