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
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.
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…
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’.
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?
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.
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.
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!
Eddy, my travel companion for the day and fellow photographer
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.
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…
Fall is not far off…
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!
Hope you enjoyed this little stroll through Tervuren, where nature meets city, past meets future and green meets red 😉
ps Special thanks to Eddy, @edandhiscamera on IG, my travel companion for the day and fellow photographer.
This weekend Antwerp’s hip and trendy ‘Eilandje’ neighbourhood offered thé perfect and sunny scenery for the 10th edition of the Water-rAnt festival. The city’s oldest docks welcomed around 115 historical ships and put nautical heritage and tradition in the spotlight.
Highlights: the 2km stroll along the historical vessels, some of them open to board and explore, tours with old steam tugs or other historical ships, ambiance à volonté and couleur locale, musical performances, demonstrations and no festival without food stands of course!
MAS museum centerpoint and in full glory and for once maybe could be re-named MASt
Inhaling life on the water makes hungry as a horse, no worries, different food stands kept every wannabe sailor satisfied, think oysters, mussels, sea food platters, smoked eel and lots of sweet treats and drinks of course.
Not just an ordinary street band, contagious enthusiasm, happy vibes and funky beats are their trademark, with success, resulting in lots of cheers and smiling faces!
Draft horses and their ability to pull weight up to 3 ton each were an enormous asset in port’s history. Belgian heavy horses are among the strongest of the heavy breeds. You can still spot these power beauties when making a city tour with the horse-drawn streetcar. Keep an eye on them and make sure they are well taken care of and get to drink regularly. The way our driver spoke about his beauties showed his passion and love for them.
The new ‘Londenbrug’ bridge opens up to welcome sailing boats and yachts into the inner docks and offers open view on Port Authority house, one of the last completed designs by Zaha Hadid.
Did I awaken some nautical vibes with you? See you next year then or check the eventspage below to find future interesting festivities!
Yesterday, for the first time, I attended one of the many activities organised by Samana, the division of CM health insurance, offering support, distraction and a variety of activities for chronicly ill patients and their caretakers. The activity that caught my eye was a culinary chocolate walk in Antwerp…need I say more?! As for the bold and sweet…just read till the end…
The walk comprised a guided tour along some Antwerp hotspots linked to chocolate or sugar and of course some tasty stops and according treats! Along the way the process of chocolate making from bean to the yummy stuff was explained and its history through time.
Did you know ‘Suikerrui’ one of Antwerp’s streets leading to the river got its name from the sugar (suiker in Dutch) that was stored in the below street-level canals (rui)?
Luxury Belgian brand Neuhaus offered us two of their signature ‘pralines’ the ‘Caprice’ and ‘Tentation’ both created for the World exhibition held in Brussels in 1958 and named after a quote from Brigitte Bardot, mr Neuhaus himself being a fan of mme Bardot…
Apparently the colour of chocolate you choose tells something about your character, if you prefer dark chocolate, like me, you are rather tough and determined, the strong one!
No chocolate tour in Antwerp without stopping by Dominique Persoone’s ‘the Chocolate Line’ his company existing 25 years this year and innovative and enthusiastic as ever, he has every reason to celebrate!
Well that’s all for now…enjoying my little goodie bag filled with yummy chocolate…didn’t I show enormous character not touching it on the bus ride home?! Must be true then, dark chocolate and being tough and strong!
You can find a list of the houses we visited below and another treat, curious if you will recognize him…
The second day of our Namur weekend break was reserved to breathe in nature and fresh air and discover some of the surrounding tiny villages, part of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonië’
First stop on our route was Thon-Samson, the drive up there coming from Namur is great, following the banks of the meandering river Meuse, you can admire the lovely bordering mansions and the crown on it all: view on Marche-les-Dames, marvelous rock formation where Belgian army troups have their training facilities. To us, Belgians, Marche-les-Dames will forever hold a place in history books as it is the place where king Albert the first, though an experienced climber, found his tragic death.
Back to our destination, Thon-Samson, with Samson referring to the little river running through the picturesque town. A perfect spot to stretch the legs, breathe in that fresh morning air and admire the limestone buildings and view on the valley and surrounding green hills.
Next stop, Mozet, again most houses in limestone and rooftops often in slate. Up on the hill, the church serves as an excellent viewpoint on the area. The Royer farm with its protected Romanesque tower can not be missed and walking further down the same path leads you to the originally 11th century castle now property of the local scouting organisation and serving as holiday and meeting centre.
Heading back north we slowly were making our way back home, however decided to take some smaller backroads as we noticed some road works and a traffic jam earlier and didn’t want to be caught in them. Now that was a smart move, as it lead us to the tiny village of Balâtre, tiny indeed, as no larger than the town square and a few streets, but we discovered a great restaurant/hotel there called ‘La Fourchette à droite’…only had to take one look at the menu to decide we were really hungry all of a sudden and yes, they do things with a little twist here, the fork is on the right-hand side!
What a perfect way to end this weekend! We have had it all, great weather and food for body and soul with Namur and its lovely surroundings as great hosts and companions, we’ll be back!
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the twinkling lights of Christmas in homes and streets, reflecting in our eyes and making our hearts glow. However, when that last week before the big day sets in and craziness and too many people hit the shopping streets and the supermarkets get overrun, I seek refuge: in our own home, the kitchen, nature, smaller less crowded cities and sometimes that little peace and quiet I was looking for is just in the very heart of busy city life!
On all the many occasions we visited Lier, situated southeast in province Antwerp in Belgium, we had never paid an actual visit to the local beguinage, which is a true shame as it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site! The beguinage itself found its origin in the 13th century though most houses date from 17th and 18th. The last beguine died in 1994 but walking the alleys gives a pretty good insight on how life must have been. Once you walk through the monumental gateway it’s like walking inside a history book and the peace and quiet are such a lovely companion on this discovery walk!
You might even, with a little imagination at a certain moment think you’re in London’s Notting Hill, well Flemish style, of course!
Though there is a meaning behing the colour scheme, it was custom that the house closest to the church had the colours of it’s patron saint, in this case Margaret yellow…
The system of long-lease makes it possible for civilians like you and me to even ‘own’ a house there, or at least the use of it as the ownership returns after the stipulated time, which is the thing with these long-lease contracts. Many houses have already been restaured, within very strict limititations and keeping authentic details of course…and you need a serious budget!
The entrance to the beguinage is free and will lead you through 11 alleys and 162 houses and at the centre you will find St Margaret’s church. Throughout your walk you will discover some references to Felix Timmermans, Flemish writer and poet, born in Lier who often came to the beguinage in search for inspiration. He nicknamed the place ‘The almond bean of Lier’.
A lot of water pumps to be found too in the lovely alleys, or as Timmermans once wrote about them ‘statues dedicated to no one’
If you find yourself close to Lier, do visit this unique place, you won’t regret!
And for those not into the peace and quiet, no worries, plenty more things to see and do in Lier, more on that in another post!
Not sure if I will find time to write another post before Christmas, so wishing you all already everything you wish for, peace in your heart, joy and passion in what you do, peace for the world, love and warmth to fill the lonely, cold or aching hearts, all those small and little things that should be obvious and don’t need a shiny paper or much bling bling, just a genuine smile and twinkle in the eye.