BE-Staycation: Antwerpse Kempen

Little throwback to latest weekend trip where we, that is my friend Kathleen and I, explored the so-called ‘Antwerpse Kempen’, a large natural region roughly situated east of Antwerp, where picturesque towns with monumental abbeys are embedded in a land dominated by forests, wetlands, heath and sandy grounds.

We started our trip at the Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (which confusingly lies in Westerlo). You can visit abbey and courtyard and/or do the ‘Lindendreef’ hike which is about 2km and takes you around the abbey’s walls. For lunch or diner you can head to opposite Torenhof and the adjacent ice cream and bakery shop explains the always happy buzz at ‘lekwei’ ( or in English ‘lick meadow’ cause that’s the inviting meadow where you enjoy the local yummy ice)

We stayed in B&B Welcome Home in neighbouring Eindhout and that name says it all. The home of Stijn & Stijn breathes that welcome cosy feeling. Rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean, bathroom luxurious and the breakfast is to die for. Make sure you’re hungry before you put your feet under the table. We did a pre-breakfast hike so could enjoy to the fullest! There’s a lovely garden with cosy corners and some animals, so children would definitely enjoy it here too. Oooh and Sam, one of the two dogs is a very cooperative photo model!

Photo credit @kvbendeg

The B&B is ideally located for hikers and nature lovers as immediate access to some lovely hiking trails.

Photo credit @kvbendeg

We had lovely dinner in the Orangerie garden of Hotel Geerts in Westerlo and for lunch or mouthwatering desserts and ice creams head to Kasteel Kaneel. Desserts and hospitality are great and bonus points for the unique setting. More than approved! Upon arrangement with owners you can opt for lunch and/or dinner in b&b too.

On the second day, after our morning walk and copious breakfast, we drove to Averbode abbey. Another Norbertines abbey, founded in 1134, and lying at intersection of three Belgian provinces. The land surrounding the abbey belonged to the noble family of ‘de Merode’ and was later on sold to Natuurpunt (Belgian nature conservation organization). While visiting church and abbey grounds is worthwile our focus this weekend was breathing in nature. The ‘Bos en heide‘ or ‘heath and forest’ trail showcasts the region’s assets perfectly: dense forests open up in wide sandy and heath covered ( blooming in August) landscapes.

Photo credit @kvbendeg

Well deserved treat and closure of the trip! Cheers, see you next time!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.kempen.be/ontdek-de-kempen

https://www.tongerlo.org/

https://averbodemoment.be/en/the-abbey-2/

https://www.natuurpunt.be/natuurgebied/averbode-bos-en-heide

https://bbwelcomehome.be/

https://www.kasteelkaneel.be/

https://www.hotelgeerts.be/

BE-Staycation

No surprise to those who know me that I am always on the lookout for tips for trips close by that also satisfy my need to be in nature. With husband taking some time off work last week we embraced the whole ‘staycation’ mode we’re all in and explored some great hiking trails. So just tag along as we explore three of Flanders’ finest nature getaways.

1/ Hageland: Zoutleeuw – Het Vinne – Linter

Our first trip lead us to Hageland region in province of Flemish Brabant. After a quick lunch in Zoutleeuw we explored provincial domain Het Vinne, home of the largest (and only) natural inland lake in Flanders. Though at the moment no water to be seen as the lake has been drained for remediation works of the soil. Water or not, to my opinion, absolutely still worth the visit! There are five marked nature walks to explore, with great vistas, a lookout tower and bird watching huts. After the walk don’t forget to reward yourself at the domain’s cafe.

Before heading home we stopped in Linter where you can find the stunning ‘Helixagon’ by Frederik Vaes. Inspired by nature and the honeycomb shape it’s an art sculpture that offers a unique perspective on the surroundings, so do climb in and enjoy!

If you are still in hiking mode, opt for the ‘Linterse walk’ a loop walk in the valley of the Large Gete river and for a sweet treat do head to ‘Het Melksalon’ for some pie or refreshing ice cream! Tested and more than approved!

2/ Flemish Ardennes: Zwalm – Brakel – ‘t Burreken

Our second trip brought us to Flemish Ardennes in East Flanders province and with the word Ardennes in it you know you’re up for hikes with a somewhat more challenging character. We explored nature domain ‘t Burreken, where Mother Nature opens up all registers: deep valleys and steep hills, formed by numerous streams. There’s a berry garden, showcasing over 40 inland and local berry varieties. The lush area is home to the fire salamander, also the name of one of the two hiking trails. With the day we visited one of thé hottest this year, we only did a tiny exploring hike and promised ourselves to come back and discover the domain later this year.

We found a lovely lunch spot at ‘Moeder Agnes‘ in Brakel and with renewed energy explored the region some more on the so-called Mine Workers trail.

If you’re a cyclist fan, you can head to the nearby ‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen: a 1075m steep cobblestoned classic in Flemish (and beyond) cycling and for the more cultural orientated there’s a poetry along the Wall.

3/ Vlaams Brabant: Tervuren – Vossem

For third and final hike in this post we’re back in Flemish Brabant province, this time exploring Tervuren area. Tervuren is known for its Royal Museum for Central Africa and the adjacent parc were we usually take the Warande trail. Broadening our horizon we opted for another path, the Voer trail and were not disappointed. The first part follows the meandering Voer stream and second part opens up in agricultural fields and hills with lovely vistas.

For refreshing local beers, head to ‘In den Congo’, a cafe with outside seating in church’s (12th century) shadow.

So, whether die-hard or ‘easy-does-it’ kind of hiker (I’m the latter btw if you’re curious) hope the above gives you some inspiration on where to walk when in Flanders. Join me next time?

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.toerismevlaamsbrabant.be/en

https://www.visitvlaamseardennen.be/

Plettenberg Bay… SA trip part 4

(Note: this trip was made just before Covid-19 travel restrictions)

Let’s pick up where we left: leaving Tergniet and Mosselbaai the next destination on our South African Garden Route trip was hip and trendy Plettenberg Bay, or Plett (as said by those hip and trendy).

When doing a roadtrip though, the driving to your destination is half the fun. The road we took from Tergniet to Plett (N2) lead us via Herolds Bay to Wilderness and yes, the name says it all. When passing through, do not miss the ‘Map of Africa’ viewpoint and ‘Kaaimans River Railway Bridge’. The bridge crosses the mouth of the Kaaimans river and when it was built, in 1952, it was the very first curved bridge in SA. However, Kaaimans River is known for something truly unique: as the river winds and wends its way through this land, it makes the unmistakable outline of the African continent around the foot of the hill. You can only really appreciate this wonderful twist of nature when viewing bird’s eye perspective, so, when nearby, do not skip this lookout point. If you need a coffee stop head to ‘Green Shed Coffee Roastery’ for excellent coffees and lunch or brunch treats.

In the backwoods of nature’s soul, I left my wild true heart

First things first, we had to check in into our new home for the next three days and wow, did we end up in heaven! Park House Forest Suite is without any doubt a top ranked Airbnb, and prime location! https://www.airbnb.be/rooms/27122099?source_impression_id=p3_1591795536_eLkNDj2DFXMDH%2FM8&guests=1&adults=1

By the way, if you’re curious about all other sleeping accomodations feel free to take a look here The Big Trip – South Africa part 1.

Just down the road is a KWIKSPAR where you can stock up on beverages and snacks and they have a wonderful small breakfast corner with (according to hubby Bert) sublime Lavazza coffee.

Visiting this region, hiking the Robberg Peninsula (or part of it) is not to be missed. This nature reserve and marine protected area offers great ocean views and, in season, whale watching opportunities.

Always make new friends when travelling…

Plettenberg area has plenty of beaches and nature on offer, one of the main reasons why we, ourselves, preferred it to nearby Knysna, which is slightly more touristic; though I am aware that’s a very personal thing. Just combine the two to have best of both worlds! Both towns also have an abundance of shopping and restaurant facilities so either one of them is surely an excellent choice.

Thesen Island Knysna

We spent most of our evenings with a cocktail in hand by the beach and if you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll fancy yourself on the ‘Baywatch’ set, with local coastal rescue team having practice.

We loved the beautifully located Bramon Wine Estate where we enjoyed a Valentine lunch with lovely accompanying wine. The estate overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and you can even spot some elephants. The restaurant offers some fine (and vine, ’cause litterally in the vines) tapas-style dining and award winning wines. Their emphasis is on freshness and flavour and the location makes their story and picture complete. The Plettenberg wine route is definitely worth discovering! (and an alternative if you don’t have time to visit that other wine region Stellenbosch-Paarl-Franschhoek)

Now that we are talking food and drinks, as for restaurants, we can highly recommend ‘The Fat Fish’ with predominantly seafood based menu and ‘Barrington’s’. Barrington’s is home to the first Craft Brewery situated within Plettenberg Bay, as well as a magnificent kitchen garden, restaurant, bar and small hotel. And go to ‘Mobys’ to enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner with ocean view.

In a shopping or souvenir hunting mood? Head to City’s downtown centre and Main Street, the Market Square Shopping centre or Old Nick Village for the more creative and eclectic shops. (And if that’s not enough you can always head to Knysna city centre and Thesen Island). If all that shopping makes you hungry or thirsty we can recommend ‘Café Pure’ in Plett Main St with its healthy breakfasts and lunches (We went twice, because there is just too much yummy food to order when only going once)

Time for some monkey business as we’re heading to local Monkeyland. It is the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. Its overall mission is to educate and foster larger understanding of our primate (cheeky) cousins and the threats and challenges they’re facing.

At Monkeyland you can enjoy a guided tour of the hidden forest during a a monkey safari on foot which allows you to spot, photograph and/or observe the various species of primates that call the sanctuary their home, such as capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, buff-cheeked gibbons, squirrel monkeys and black howler monkeys.

If you want some additional wildlife experience you can also combine this with neighbouring Birds of Eden sanctuary.

I believe it’s fair to say Plett has it all: beaches, forests, vineyards, plenty of recreational activities, shops, restaurants, etc…they all contribute to that ‘Plett Feeling’.

‘Die son trek water’

(the sun turning to water, meaning it’s getting late)

Did YOU get it? That Plett Feeling? Hope you’ll join me next time as our route continues to Addo Elephant Park.

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.plett-tourism.co.za/about/

https://thejunctionhotel.co.za/pure-cafe/?fbclid=IwAR36O4U3LC1w-pWidMf3QmEnsxTkGuQnE4CYl6qDXu01Ui6Tk_oMGT4fP44

https://www.bramonwines.co.za/restaurant-plettenberg-bay/

https://www.facebook.com/greenshedwilderness/ Coffee and lunch in Wilderness

https://www.thefatfish.co.za/

https://barringtonsplett.co.za/

http://mobydicks.co.za/

Time to travel-close-to-home edition: Kortrijk

With travel plans cancelled worldwide we turn to what’s right under our nose to re-discover what’s familiar, or at least thought was familiar…close to home destinations will be extremely hot (and probably our only option) this Summer. Come (re)join me on the short visit to Kortrijk we made last year.

Are you living outside Belgium? Then Bruges is probably the first city that comes to mind when thinking of Belgian West Flanders province, right? May this post give you some inspiration on other interesting places in Flanders to discover once we all get the ‘travel go ahead’ again.

Kortrijk (Courtrai) is West Flanders’ second largest city, after Bruges, and just like its big brother knew great wealth in the Middle Ages. The eye-catching Broeltorens are reminders of the medieval defensive structure and offer great photo opportunities.

A river runs through it, being the ‘Leie’. Over the past years it was widened and straightened in order to make it more navigable for larger ships. This gave the city a major facelift as the wider river also came with new bridges, lower banks, walkpaths and park areas and even a little beach in Summer months.

Buda bridge

Below the area around city college with the College footbridge and K-tower housing complex.

Kortrijk inspires and innovates, and rightfully earned the title of ‘Unesco Creative City’ (design). Art centre Buda offers a platform for a varity of artists and designers and just walking through city streets already gives a hint of the city’s contemporary character.

I personally liked the quotes and graphic designs in city centre part of the playful ‘here to there’ art installation. And I know spitting is a big NO these days, but hey, don’t we all hope for the best?!

Summer usually brings a lovely terrace just next to ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk’…

…where churches bring us to the peaceful Unesco-heritage beguinage site which dates back to the 13th century. Restoring the housing facilities and renovation of the site as a whole started in 1984 and will be completed by 2021.

So next time West Flanders is on your radar, do take time to visit Kortrijk. If you’re looking for a place to stay, can recommend B&B OYO, just outside city centre, but still in walking distance, and near train station. Of course, Belgium would not be Belgium: lots of restaurants and bars, just ask and your hosts will guide you to the best places in town!

Stay safe, stay local!

Ingrid

https://www.toerismekortrijk.be/en

The Big Trip – South Africa part 1

We just returned from our South African roadtrip and already a lot of you, through my IG acount or personally, asked me about the places we stayed at.

So before starting sharing some of our favourite photos and stories a quick overview of the route we followed and places we stayed at.

First things first, I was lucky to win 2 return tickets to South Africa through an IG-challenge I entered last year. (Contest #beinsouthafrica @meetsouthafrica @divimovenl that was only open to Belgian residents). South Africa had always been on our bucket list, more later than soon; winning the tickets was of course like a gift from heaven and no excuse anymore to postpone our plans.

And this is how it all started…with a fun photo shoot in Plantentuin Meise. Photo credits ©edandhiscamera

With only limited travel days this year, we had to choose our route wisely. Based upon the shortlist of things we absolutely wanted to do and see, I planned out a route and started my search on Airbnb and Booking.com for suitable accomodation for the two of us.

Route: Cape Town 4n / Tergniet 2n / Plettenberg Bay 3n / Addo 2n / Oudtshoorn 2n / Franschoek 2n / return to Cape Town International

Accomodations: of the six places we stayed at, five were found through Airbnb, and one through Booking.com. All gems in their own unique way, we fellt at home in each and every one of them and were always warmly welcomed.

1/ Airbnb Trendy Loft Apartment Cape Town, De Waterkant, contact Luigi

Perfect location, view on Table Mountain, spacious, lovely trendy interior, shower and separate bath. All that CPT has to offer on foot or short Uber-ride distance.

2/ Airbnb C-the-C, Tergniet, contact Diana

We chose this apartment on ground level of private home (though completely separated and with private entrace) for its proximity to Botlierskop Private Game reserve and the ocean. The owners have a lovely eye for detail and decoration and the outdoor terrace just invites you out to hear the waves crashing, enjoying the last sunrays of the day while sipping from a lovely local wine. Beach and ocean for a romantic sunset stroll easily reachable by foot (or car) Perfect address to exhale!

3/ Airbnb Park House Forest Suite, Plett Bay, contact Paul

What a true find this one was! Doesn’t get much more perfect than this: in both private and shared spaces (kitchen, swimming pool, lounges) you could feel and see the owner’s (who live next door) passion for interior design. the house could easily feature in a magazine and yet, still felt very cosy. oh, and our room even came with a private outdoor shower! Plett offers an excellent starting point to explore all the lovely nature reserves in the neighbourhood and some excellent restaurants too. We, personnaly preferred it to busier Knysna.

4/ Gerald’s Gift Guest House, Addo, Booking.com

Offers multiple rooms, included breakfast and even on site dining, so if you want to just put feet up after exploring Addo Elephant Park the whole day, and mingle wth the other guests, search no more! Lovely garden to stroll in and of course also a swimming pool.

5/ Airbnb Karoo Country Style Guest Suite, Oudtshoorn, contact Sharon

Another gem if you are looking for an apartement with homely feel. Very spacious, again spotlessly clean, lovely outdoor seating porch and terrace and large pool and comfy chairs. If you love reading, you’ll appreciate all the lovely books on various topics in the hallway. Kitchen has everything you need to prepare a quick meal, though plenty of great restaurants, ask Sharon and she will help you make a choice and/or booking.

6/ Airbnb Klein Dauphine Estate, Mountain View Gardens Suite, Franshhoek, contact Debbie

The estate comes with million dollar views. As for accomodation, again very spacious, clean kitchen with filled fridge to provide for breakfast, etc…and lovely outdoor seating areas to enjoy that view. Indoors some tiny points of attention could easily lift this to the same level as the view. ( Was not a fan of rather old-fashioned and noisy airco and living area has floor mats with curled up ends, which for someone like me who has to take care not to trip are not that great, but am sure if we would have asked housekeeper she would have rolled and stored them)

Last but not least some facts and numbers:

We flew Lufthansa. The 11and a half hour flight out of Germany was, no sugarcoating it, true hell for me as major back pain sufferer, even with the pain medication and muscle tranquilizers and downloaded Netflix to distract.

We hired a rental car through Sunny Their service in general never disappoints.

Sunny Cars rental – Swartbergpas

We spent 15 nights at an average of EUR 78/night and drove aprox. 1600 km, that is solely the above tour, without excursions, I guess grand total it was almost 3000km. All accomodations had secured, on site parking facilities.

In retrospective, would I change something? To the accomodations? No. Would however, if we had had more time, spent an additional third night at the last two stops. In overall this tour gave us what we expected and for us, as first time Africa travellers, a taste to verify if, like the cliché says, Africa gets under your skin…and yep, it did, does, 100% affirmative, so hope in my lifetime to discover some more of what this continent has to offer!

Join me next time when we start off our trip in vibrant Cape Town

Ingrid

xxx

‘Less cars, more fun’ kind of Sunday

Yesterday, 22nd of September, was car free Sunday: a (mostly) sun drenched day were streets in city centres throughout Flanders and Brussels were cleared and cars were banned. We decided to visit nearby Mechelen, where innovation goes hand in hand with the sustainable development goals and targets for a better and more liveable future.

As all exploring requires some starter fuel, first stop: the newly opened neighbourhood cafe Grá

Mechelen

Where ‘Grote Markt’ was the place to be for cultural info and activities, ‘Bruul’ showcased police force’s horsepower and ‘Ijzerenleen’ was stage for sportive demonstrations…

Vismarkt and local pub ‘t Ankertje are always a welcome stop if you need to re-fuel again…

And if your energy tank is really low you can always head to the De Vleeshalle food court that opened this year…

Being in the neighbourhood, the Lamot centre housed the Joker Africa travel event that day, and as we will be visiting Western Cape next year, thé place and time to gather some useful info and tips.

And of course, historical buildings à volonté in city centre…

Events like these (mobility, cultural activities, citizen interaction, etc…) fit perfectly into where city sees itself by 2030, comitting to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Want to know more about the SDG’s and how it can change your city and world into a better place, check out https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

Or visit Mechelen, and see how it’s done 😉

…and as you’re there, feel free to visit the Live-Life Expo from photographers Jo and Anke each Sunday till 3rd of November more info https://www.facebook.com/events/353467212272712/ and https://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2018/11/12/up-close-and-personal/

Ingrid

xxx

https://visit.mechelen.be/en

https://www.facebook.com/gramechelen2800/

https://www.visitflanders.com/en/things-to-do/food-and-drinks/top/cafes/t-ankertje-aan-de-dijle.jsp?country=en_US

https://www.devleeshalle.be/en/home/

http://lamot-mechelen.be/

https://www.joker.be/nl/reisbeurs-afrika?gclid=CjwKCAjw2qHsBRAGEiwAMbPoDLz_1sZci3n-F07wON92CKoeTWF9wAB4wvsx0SzeAxF8jRJg7stZFxoCMAsQAvD_BwE

https://mondiaal.mechelen.be/gelukkig-2030

Discovering Puglia: part 3 mare e trulli

Third and final part of our Puglia-trip brings us back where we started: to Bari, but not before exploring the region south of it, which is dotted with picturesque towns, inland or seaside, and the oh so typical trulli houses…avanti!

Ostuni Puglia

Our first stop after leaving Salento region is Ostuni, nicknamed the white city, wonderful town with lots of dining and strolling options. La città bianca shines in the sun, though that requires its effort: inhabitants are obliged to maintain and re-white yearly…

On route to our lodging for the next two days we passed Monopoli, another stop obligatorio! And as we already discovered earlier on this trip, another town with Greek roots. ‘Monos polis’ means unique and singular and even many centuries later the city still proudly wears this name. Lively atmosphere near seaside and colourful shopping streets, though time pauses and all sounds ebb away when further exploring the tiny city streets…

Time to check out our b&b! Home for these two remaining nights of the trip was the lovely Dei Balzi-Dimore de charme in medieval-vibe town of Conversano… what.a.gem! Both city as the lodging! We had the very spacious suite Lavanda on top floor which comes with room-wide terrace and city views. Yummy breakfast and warm welcome included, what more do you want?

Conversano is about a 15 to 20 minute drive from both Monopoli and Polignano a Mare and an excellent choice if you need a central location to visit the area. On top of that the city on itself with medieval trapezium-shape castle and lovely squares and alleys is worth a visit.

Conversano Puglia

Another highlight, Polignano a Mare, birthplace of the father of Italian singers, Roberto Modugno, and his epic classic ‘Volare’. Dramatic and breathtaking views with the city centre perched on rocky headland overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Lots of viewpoint terraces to admire the caves and creeks carved out into the limestone. Might become bit crowded in tourist season but nevertheless a must ‘sea’ 😉

Polignano a Mare Puglia

Last stop of this trip…charming Alberobello: trulli wonderland and inevitably attracting many tourists. Trulli are limestone dry wall and conical-roof houses. The roof is often decorated with, mostly, Christian symbols and sometimes topped with a pinaccolo. The ancient dry stone building technique is characteristic for the Itria Valley region with a very high concentration (around 1500 trulli) here in Alberobello which is listed Unesco World Heritage since 1996. The town is built on two hills and surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Tourist shops, trendy bars, etc…can be found in Rione Monti district, however, head to Rione Aia Piccola district if you want to escape the crowds.

Alberobello

Well, that’s it, our little road trip exploring Puglia, which brought us from Bari to Basilicata’s Materahttps://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2019/08/01/discovering-puglia-part-1-bari-matera/ and from lovely Salento regionhttps://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2019/08/19/discovering-puglia-part-2-lecce-and-salento-region/ to exploring white-washed Valle d’Itria and breathtaking seaside towns. One last glimpse from car window confirms…we’ll be back!

Ingrid

xxx

http://www.deibalzi.it/it/ excellent B&B. Warm welcome by Annalisa who will also help with directions and parking ticket as B&B is located in pedestrianised historic centre.

http://www.vitapugliese.it/ Charming restaurant, Apulian cuisine

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/puglia/valle-d-itria

http://www.pugliaturismo.com/la-regione-puglia/

Discovering Puglia: part 2 Lecce and Salento region

Ready for second part of our recent Puglia discoveries? Andiamo!

That means leaving beautiful Bari and Matera and heading towards region around baroque town Lecce.

We stopped around noon in Taranto: industry and port acitivities rule in this city that once was found as a Greek colony and now, at first sight, seems ruled by shipyards and factories…At first sight that is, because when you head for city centre, you’ll get a glimpse of a vibrant city trying to find a balance between its economical character and cultural past.

…a day at the city beach and port traffic jams
Taranto Puglia
…bit of ‘Welcome to Miami’ vibes

Highlight definitely is the Aragonese castle: it is located at the turning bridge where old town meets new and where Mare Grande meets Mare Piccolo. Btw, don’t let the industrial aspect fool you, dolphins made the water and islands in the Ionian see facing the city their home and town delicacy are locally-grown mussels.

Castello Taranto Puglia

Time to drive towards Lecce and check in at the Agriturismo we booked ahead and which is located just outside Lecce, in quiet Novoli countryside. We enjoyed three nights at Li Calizzi amidst fruit and olive trees and fully enjoyed the warm welcome and peaceful location. Thumbs up for the lounge and pool area, yummy al fresco dinners and host Ravi!

Time to set our teeth in exploring the region: Lecce lies in Salento, the southern tip of Puglia and just breathes culture. Famous for its ‘Pietra Leccese’, a soft limestone that has a very unique way of reflecting light and gives the local monuments a natural warm glow. Besides the history lots of shops and restaurants and bars.

Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia

Another town within easy reach of our accomodation was Brindisi, which can also serve as airport destination when visiting this part of Italy. Again lots of shops and a ‘stroll, explore and enjoy’ destination. Pier side offers multiple fine dining and passeggiata options while admiring the passing yachts, in all sizes!

La Locanda del Porto Brindisi
…La Locanda del Porto Brindisi

Highlight, for us, in Salento was trip to nearby Gallipoli, again an acient Greek settlement. Lots of shops and dining facilities and alleys to get lost in, though turquoise water of Ionian Sea is never far off, so perfect town to explore on foot…

…and/or just sit and relax …

You can choose to explore the small alleys of centro storico or do the Riviera walk all way round with picturesque sea views guaranteed. You can gaze at the cathedral or hit the shops and definitely don’t miss Blanc, truly thé most wonderful café & living store and for a wonderful lunch with amazing view head to Il Bastione.

Gallipoli
Blanc Gallipoli

Gallipoli definitely has it all, don’t miss out on this gem!

Gallipoli Puglia

Join me next time for the final part of our trip where we stayed in Conversano and explored both seaside and Trulli-countryside.

Ciao, alla prossima!

Ingrid

Li Calizzi Agriturismo

Lecce tourism

Brindisi

Gallipoli

Blanc Gallipoli

Il Bastione

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 soil, 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