Maastricht: a photo stroll…

One month ago one of March’s beautiful spring weekends led us to Belgian Voer-region and Dutch city Maastricht. A perfect combination: countryside and city, best of both worlds…You could already read all about our discoveries in Voer here Welcome in the Voer region…but I still owed you some Maastricht tales and photos…

Maastricht lies at the crossroads of the three countries that together make up the Euregion Meuse-Rhine with ‘Maas’tricht itself lies at river Meuse.

Maastricht

We stayed in Townhouse Hotel located in Wyck-district near city station and it offers warm hospitality and coziness in a modern decor.

A very special thanks to the hotel helpful hotel staff as during our stay my husband got sick and we were forced to stay longer…not a punishment for me, but sadly no romantic weekend as he experienced most of Maastricht out of his room😟

Mainly just me therefore exploring the city, so do keep me company and join me on this little stroll!

Maastricht

Maastricht is often described as one of the most romantic cities of the Netherlands offering a wonderful variety with quaint historical districts, art, history, culture, gastronomy and calm green surroundings. What’s not to like?

The Wyck-district, where we were staying is linked with Maastricht’s city centre through the ‘Sint-Servaasbrug’ and is therefore frequently used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Maastricht
view towards Wyck-district
Maastricht
and crossing to the other side, direction city centre

If your mind is set on shopping, Maastricht definitely is the right place: hip and vintage in Wyck, multi-brand shopping centers Mosae Forum and Entre Deux in city centre and the more posh boutiques in ‘Stokstaartkwartier’ ánd always open on Sundays!

Shopping makes hungry, right?!

Maastricht houses one of Holland’s most unique bookstores, being located in a former church ‘Boekhandel Dominicanen’ offers an enormous collection of books with a view, oh and yummy coffee and sweets in the inside shop!

Maastricht

Maastricht
City hall

Maastricht

Maastricht is also one of the oldest cities of Holland: Saint Peter’s caves and fortress, the casemates, stone wall…all still prominent witnesses of Maastricht’s prominent place in history. One place in particular that you just have to visit when inside city centre is ‘het Vrijthof’. This large square has attracted people since medieval times when pilgrims came to see the grave of Saint Servatius, lying in the Basilica carrying his name. These days, Vrijthof is also known for its many outdoor cafés and frequent events.

Maastricht

At ‘De Bisschopsmolen’, a bakery in a restored watermill, they are justly proud of their craftmanship and working with natural products and simple processes.

After visiting the mill, do take a further stroll in the Jeker-district, Jeker being a small stream, flowing into the Maas here in the city. Explore Helpoort, the oldest surviving city gate in the Netherlands, and the characterful surrounding streets.

Antwerp chocolate walk, the bold and the sweet…

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…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates
our guide and one of the Samana hosts

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)?

Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat Antwerp
Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat
ok, but can we have a chocolate with that?

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…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates

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!

Dominique Persoone
Dominique Persoone
chocolates The Chocolate Line
chocolates The Chocolate Line
The Chocolate Line shop Antwerp
Birgit, one of the participants, trying to choose
Chocolate truffles
Chocolate truffles

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…

Till next time,

Ingrid

xxx

The Chocolate Line

Neuhaus

Sofie Sucrée

Elisa Pralines

Amylin’s Cupcakes & Macarons

De Zoete Verleiding

spotted him twice on our tour on different locations…maybe he has a sweet tooth too…

Ron Moss in Antwerp
Ron Moss in Antwerp

Luxury sea escape x royal the Hague – part two

city exploring the Hague

To continue my previous post, after a wonderful night’s rest and relaxing stay in The Pier Suites, we decided to leave early to make the most of our day ahead in the Hague. Next to being the political and royal heart of the Netherlands and city where the International Court of Justice houses, the Hague keeps it’s relaxed city vibe offering a wide range of highlights and attractions, on every level whether you are a lover of architecture, culture, food, history, nature, shopping, this city seems to have it all!  Time to discover!

You can not go exploring on an empty stomach, so we stepped into indoor shopping mall De Passage and had a quick boost of energy in Du Passage, perfect place for a quick or slow breakfast, lunch or anything in between. The Mall is Hollands oldest indoor shopping mall and the interior deco is stunning, think grandeur, spotless clean and a variety of exclusive and worth-discovering shops.

Passage, shopping mall, the Hague
Walk this way…

Our eye fell, what can I say, once a foodie, always a foodie, on the gigantic Dok Cookware store…it’s the real thing, I could have spent the whole day there exploring and spending those euros!

 

Den Haag
City Centre
Den Haag
Native Dutch?

Time to step into the historic centre…the so called ‘Binnenhof’ or Inner Court is the centre of Dutch Politics and also houses the House of Representatives and the office of the Prime Minister. There are tours to follow, however the Inner Court is freely accessible, as is the adjacent pond.

view on Mauritshuis and Inner Court, the Hague
view on Mauritshuis and Inner Court

We also enjoyed the walk along the ‘Lange Voorhout’ a beautiful tree-lined lane leading you to the iconic historic Hotel des Indes…celebreties, royals, when in the Hague, this is where they stay!

Hotel des Indes, the Hague
Hotel des Indes

Do not skip the Heulstraat with the wonderful interior and deco-shop Il Regalo and Denneweg, one of the city’s oldest streets and a must if you are into lifestyle, deco, fashion and food…just go there that means!

Did you know the Hague had its own Chinatown? Both entrances are marked with a gate, the area was originally a Jewish quarter, however after the Second World War it became more and more abandoned and in the 1970s the area became increasingly inhabited by the Chinese.

the Hague Chinatown gate

Are you in for some culture? 2017 marks the centenary of the founding of the Dutch art movement called De Stijl (the Style), which is known for its bold horizontal and vertical lines encasing blocks of primary colours. Best-known artist is Mondrian. This whole year is dedicated as tribute and special activities indoors and outside are planned…even if you are not a museum lover, the city will treat you no-charge on colour and art as with the world’s largest Mondrian painting replica on the city hall. And for those who are into musea and art, do not forget Vermeer’s famous Girl with the pearl earring is waiting for you in the ‘Mauritshuis’.

Mondrian pimped city Hall
Mondrian pimped city Hall

All roads lead of course to royal Palace Noordeinde, the Kings working palace, if the royal flags flies above the palace…the King is in the House! The gardens and stables are located behind the residence and gardens are open for visits accept during state or royal visits etc…the classy Noordeinde district is where you will find various stylish, exclusive shops.

Paleis Noordeinde the Hague

Den Haag

All this city exploring make’s you hungry, right?!

city exploring the Hague
where to next?

We had lunch at ’t Goude Hooft, the Hague’s oldest inn, right in the vibrant city centre and went for a sweet treat at Lapsang, breakfast, lunch and winebar.

Conclusion, a must visit! Like I started this post, this city has it all and we haven’t even explored half of what it has to offer during this short visit, we’ll be back!

city exploring the Hague
let’s explore!

 

Ingrid

xxx

Visit the Hague – tourism info, attractions and highlights

Dok Cookware store

De Passage – shopping in style

Il Regalo – interior and deco

‘t Goude Hooft – hotel and restaurant

Lapsang – breakfast, lunch and winebar

 

 

 

Weekend Namur…the city part

Our city break last week, brought us to Wallonia’s capital Namur, in the previous post you could follow in our footsteps along la Merveuilleuse, hiking up the citadel. In this post, time to explore the city itself, however, no hastiness, just follow the rhythm of the city and the stream as do les Namurois.

we arrived at Namur late morning, enough time for a first exploring stroll…

Tourist season hadn’t begun yet last week, usually that starts around the 1st of April, and that showed. Namur sure plans on doing things right, we spotted a lot of constructions sites near the river, a city so it seems that keeps reinventing itself, however, when getting closer to the inner heart, keeps traditions and culture intact.

La fresque des Wallons can be found in the small garden of the city hall, the facade-high mural refers to about 250 persons and events marking a stamp on Walloon identity, may that be important historic figures, artists, scientists, regional produce,…

Time for lunch…our eye fell on Le Pâtanthrope, I remembered it was highly recommended in ‘Le Petit Deborsu’ written by local and fully-declared Namur lover Christophe Deborsu. Gastronomy on the plate without showing astromic prices on the bill, now that’s the way we like it! Wondering were the name comes from? It’s a mix of pâte, which means pasta and philanthrope and their you go! I had scallops as entree, my husband had tartare of green asparagus, baked foie gras and ravioli. As a main, we had beef Rossini on a gallette de rigatoni and I chose stuffed squid with chorizo and ravioli. Desserts brought us moeulleux au chocolat and a delice framboises with macarons. Needless to say we sat more than two hours in the restaurant…and still needed to climb the citadel! However, all dishes were airy and light, as was the bill!

 

Time to move on, after the restaurant, we first explored the citadel, more on that here Weekend Namur…the citadel part and returned later for a quiet stroll through the car-free streets. A lot of them situated around the St-Loup church, Jesuit order, founded by St-Ignatius. Baroque-style church, same architect had also built the Barrolus Borremeus church in Antwerp and it shows. It is the church where famous poet Charles Baudelaire had a massive stroke, leaving him in semi-paralyzed-state before his death. Struck by beauty? By overwhelming emotions? If only time to visit one church in Namur, St-Loup is definitely the one to go to, the church often acts as decor for concerts and events too and volunteers are availabe on site if you want a tour.

‘In can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy’     (Charles Baudelaire)

Marché de légumes is thé square in Namur for people watching, we were there just around the hour schools had finished…the square was packed with young and little less young, enjoying the sun and their regained freedom after a day at school and/or work. Enough bars to choose from, though when the weather is fine, no-one to spot inside: everyone sits, stands, hangs in the middle of the square.

 

and all this under the watchful eye and shadow of St-Jean church, the oldest church in town, though the tower was only added later, as the first one was hit by lightning. Story goes the workmen at that time, 1616, spent more time in the local pub, leaving the bell tower not perfectly straight as was the intention.

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At the river border you will find the Walloon Parliament, no worries, hardly to miss, the colour pop’s out! The walk upto the citadel starts right after the corner.

We made this little trip discovering Namur winning a contest organised by Pays du Vallées. Our package included an overnight stay in b&b La Noiseraie, a 10′ drive from centre Namur. the b&b is located in a commerical zone with factories, however when going evenings and weekends like we did, these are all abandoned and all is peace and quiet. The domain itself is large enough, green and besides the b&b activities it is a walnut oil producer, hence the name, la Noiseraie. Would recommend to visist in autumn, to get the most out of that experience!

 

Another post, discovering some of the surrounding villages will follow shortly, stay tuned!

Ingrid

xxx

Pays des Vallées

Restaurant le Pâtanthrope

b&b La Noiseraie

Visit Namur

City-strolling, coincidences and chocolate

After some weeks of (un-willing) staying indoors due to the chronic pain struggle thing, and my trips outside the house mostly limited to the local shops in our town, my inner self was desperately seeking an escape and a broader horizon! Thursday the universe didn’t seem to conspire against me and I was looking forward to a few hours of city exploring and strolling, yep, it promised to be a great day!

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I took the bus to nearby Antwerp, sun was out when I arrived, temperatures rather high for this time of year, some cafes and bistros setting their outside terraces…Spring was definitely in the air…and in my head! What better way to fill that head with new ideas and inspiration than a stroll through town, some deco-hunting, fashion-inspiration and people watching?!

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Vlaeykensgang
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Vlaeykensgang
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view on Carrolus Borromeus church

I actually decided to get off the bus a few stops earlier than my usual stop and firstly explored the Nationalestraat, a street that always keeps re-inventing itself with new shops popping up. I had just left the bus and bumped into author Tom Lanoye. Well,  nothing special there, he lives in the city I guess and Nationalestraat is hip and trendy, so sooner or later you are bound to bump into a familiar or famous face! However, a few hours later I found myself in ‘The Chocolate Line’ shop of Dominique Persoone, I know, I know, just follow the chocolate smell when near the Palace on the ‘Meir’ and you’ll be drawn in too! You can admire the interior, taste yummy chocolate, buy some chocolate pills or a seductive chocolate lipstick and get a glimpse of ongoing creations in the open atelier/kitchen…a signature on the writing wall in that kitchen caught my eye…a yummy chocolate quote by…Tom Lanoye! 

I had a quick lunch at Lloyd Loom, more out of necessity to have my feet up and take some pain medication than I was hungry at that time…I know they have comfy chairs and it was the perfect place for me to reboot and have a croque madame with some OxyContin, that last one not on their menu! Luckily the meds did their thing and allowed me another two hours filling my heart and head with deco ideas and getting Spring fashion inspiration before a second pain attack rolled in and I wisely decided to head home.

In the evening I got treated to a third attack, however, it is so much easier to counter such an attack when having beautiful memories or inspiring things in mind to cling onto: the warmth of the sun that made me long for Spring, the contours of the city hall against the blue sky and the group of German tourists I helped out by showing them the direction to the cathedral, the funny jellyfish deco I spotted in Jüttu and the beautiful printed blouse of designer Natalie Vleeschouwer, the Valentine decoration and Spring/Summer fashion that is filling the shop windows, the overwhelming abundance of colours in flower shops and in the Zahia store where I buy beads for necklaces, oooh and let’s not forget the smell of chocolate! Yes, some days are just great…though it took me almost two days to recover before being able to go through the pics and write this post!

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KBC’s ‘den Boerentoren’
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Cathedral
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Dries Van Noten Modepaleis

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Coffeebar Glow
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Nello & Patrasche

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upcoming yummy events

Hope you enjoyed your own little stroll reading through, enjoy your day!

Ingrid

Xxx

A christmas stroll at the beguinage with a touch of Notting Hill…

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!

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Christmas deco at the beguinage

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!

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Alley with glimpse of St Margaret’s church

You might even, with a little imagination at a certain moment think you’re in London’s Notting Hill, well Flemish style, of course!

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A touch of Notting Hill?!

 

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…

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Sober baroque St Margaret’s church

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!

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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’.

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Hell in the street doesn’t refer to the dark place but the steep hill

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’

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water pump in, of course ‘Pompstraat’

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.

 

Ingrid

Xxx

It’s an Antwerp thing!

Every year on the 15th of August the historical centre of Antwerp forms the decor for the ‘Rubensmarkt’. More than 200 stalls with food, drinks, clothing, flowers, etc…so far nothing exceptional, I know, but what makes this Rubensmarkt so special is the traditional aspect linked to it: the stall owners are all dressed in baroque costumes and they seem to have just stepped out of one of Rubens’s paintings!DSC03905

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15th of August being a public holiday here in Belgium, celebrating Assumption of Mary you can expect big crowds, especially as Antwerp throws in a second celebration that day! Due to a pamphlet written in 1913 by artist Louis Van Kuyck declaring that day a ‘day of all mothers’. Over the years the rest of Belgium and Europe copied the Amercian tradition to celebrate in May, but here in Antwerp, well yess, we feel the need to be different, sorry 😉 In our Household we usually celebrate twice, you can’t have enough reasons to make your mum feel special and appreciated, right?!

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If you plan a trip to Antwerp in August one of these years, do try to enjoy one of the typical traditional markets like this one, add some sunshine and great company and you will have a fantastic day!

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