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

Sea x art

Don’t shoot me but I’m not a musea person, no matter the subject…can’t help it…However, I know what I like and don’t like: I like admiring buildings and can appreciate architecture whether modern or historical, I like colours and patterns, texture and there has to be that wild card that ignites the fantasy. Pull the objects out of a building, place them in nature or outside somewhere and you’ll have my attention.

Our recent trip to Ostend, Queen of Belgian seaside resorts, rewarded us with ‘open-fresh (though my husband persisted ‘cold’) air’ artworks to admire when strolling through town.

Beaufort is a triennial art project that extends along the entire Belgian coastline covering 15 resorts each having their own identity. It is a project that was first launched in 2003 in which the sea very often plays the main role. Furthermore every participating artist comes from a country that borders on the sea.

Beaufort Ostend

In Ostend there are three different Beaufort-artworks to discover however during our walk on the western strekdam we stumbled onto the Monument for a Wullok by Stief Desmet. A wullok always holds some kind a magic and as a kid holding it to your ear, thinking you could hear the sea and what lied beyond…wow…however some things stay secret and magical, reason for the artist to return the bronze sculpture to the sea and let time, the salty air and sand transform it.

The Crystal Ship

Together with the Beaufort art project Ostend is also home to the Crystal Ship open-air art exhibition. An international group of visual artists (more than 50) transform existing structures with their creative interventions and murals. In this concept of ‘public street art festival’ it is the largest one in Europe!

This visit our eye fell on the works of Telmo&Miel at Nieuwpoortsesteenweg.

The Crystal Ship

Even without big events or festivals like these, Belgian seaside always has something to offer to please the eye if you would ever get bored of wave or people watching…

The picturesque ‘Duinenkerkje’ at Mariakerke/Ostend is the final rest place for painter Ensor where he lies peacefully…altough…surrounded by lively sheep and a colourful rabbit…

Ostend

Ostend

And in neighbouring De Haan some beautiful romantic sculptures keep you company on your evening walk…

De Haan

De Haan

De Haan

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

(Cummings)

‘Sea’ you soon…

Ingrid

xxx

Ostend

Beaufort 2018

The Crystal Ship

Belgian Coast tourist info

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.

Belém Lisbon: fantastic beasts and where to find them

Belém

One of Lisbon’s many jewels, Belém lies peacefully, well if you ignore the tourists, alongside Tagus river…how different it must have been during the Age of Discovery with explorers impatiently embarking onto their long voyages to unknown destinations and adventures, and with it the booming trade bringing the world to Belém…

Belém
Tagus, Bridge and Cristo Rei statue

Belém

No exploring on an empty stomach…skipping this bakery and their well-known pastéis would be a capital crime! Pastéis de nata exist all over the world, only these ones, manufactured following an old, and till today, secret recipe from the monastery can be called ‘pastéis de Belém’…did you know that according to Portugese tradition a bride who eats a pastéis will never take off her ring?!

Belem
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Undisputed leader when it comes to tourist queues…the Unesco-listed monastery, but so worth it! Built for the glory of God, king Manuel I and explorer Vasco da Gama this spectacular building shows an exuberant mix of styles, mixing religious, gothic and manueline/maritime elements. Construction took almost a century and it was built on the site, so the story goes, where Vasco da Gama took off on his voyage to India in 1497. Monks of the St Jerome order provided spirital guidance to all explorers following da Gama’s footsteps and adventures linking the monastery forever to Portugese maritime history…seems only right then that both king Manuel I and Vasco da Gama found their final resting place here where it all began.

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…

But it’s still a monastery…

Belém

Belém

Another Unesco monument, Torre de Belém was built to keep port entrance safe and most often it was the last building of their homeland the explorers saw for many, many months or years sailing off. Originally standing in the centre of the Tejo estuary the flow changes made the fortress stand on the river bank now, making it more accessible.

Belém

Belém
smaller sails, though still a fun and colourful adventure!

From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…

Belém

 

Belém

Designed as a caravel overlooking the sea with Henry the navigator in its prow, this concrete structure was built to mark the 500-year-death of said navigator. Actually it was re-built as another version made of wood and iron in 1940 already existed as part of the Portugese World Exhibition.

Both ramps together show 32 figures that have put their mark some way or another during the Age of Discovery, think cartographers, navigators, warriors, artists, etc…

Many more interesting things to see and do in Belém of course…just check tourist office for more info!

As for accessability, from city centre just take tram or train, our Airbnb Inglesinhas 5 being located close to Cais do Sodre station, train was a fast and easy option.

Hope you enjoyed this little escape to Belém!

Adeus!

Ingrid

 

Airbnb Inglesinhas 5

Lisbon Tourist info

Visit Belém

Water-rAnt festival Antwerp

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.

See you on the other side!

 

 

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.

 

 

Water-rAnt Antwerp
Sea scouting in the city? Of course!

 

Water-rAnt Antwerp
sailing cat
Water-rAnt Antwerp
Miniature ship buiding craftmanship

Water-rAnt Antwerp

 

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Did I awaken some nautical vibes with you? See you next year then or check the eventspage below to find future interesting festivities!

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Ingrid

xxx

Visit Antwerp

 

Swan Market x Antwerp

The so called Swan Markets, regularly held in the Netherlands and Belgium offer starting entrepreneurs a platform and chance to showcase their craftsmanship and creative skills on a larger scale as it usually attracts a very large crowd. As was also the case last Sunday in Antwerp where the ‘Grote Markt’ and sunny weather formed an excellent décor for this lively market.

colourful and exotic, Antwerp Swan Market
Couleur locale Swan Market Antwerp

Handmade jewels, fashion accessories, home deco and lifestyle items, modern or vintage…whatever your preference or style, there’s something to be found for every person and budget. Letting my eyes wander over the colourful, detailed pieces and products created with passion made my heart jump! And then I didn’t even mention the extremely tempting smells coming from the different food trucks, taking you on a world journey with oriental flavours, U.K. Fudge,  American style BBQ, oysters, pancakes,…

Enough written, some impressions…

spicyscarves
Spicy Scarves Amsterdam

I must admit I have a terrible weakness for scarves…luckily Spicy Scarves Amsterdam has just the cure! Double or three layered and all handmade! Depending on your mood or the season you can go for the colourful ones or more toned down, sportive or sophisticated, believe me, very hard to choose! I met Waheeda, the lovely lady in the photo and creative brain behind the brand, during our trip to The Hague last week  where she has a shop at the pier in Scheveningen,…if a trip to Holland is not scheduled in your near future travel plans, do re-consider, or just visit their webshop of course!

vintage

 

paper holic
handcrafted paper bags and holders, all washable

Buying a This is Liger t-shirt will guarantee you a very unique piece of garment. Each year six visual artists are asked to team up with the brand, each artist designs a limited edition of only 360 pieces. You can find the unique number on the shirt, the designs are all very cool, couldn’t resist so bought one for our son.

Liger shirts
This is Liger shirts
Cork wallet

Plants and flowers run through Stefanie’s veins, not only hers but also her family’s and this for already four generations and going. With her plant caravan she brings all that is lively and green to you or to markets like this one.

plantencaravan
Plantencaravan

oh, and never ever throw away again your old toilet 😉

With the colourful scarves of ‘Sjaal met Verhaal’ you do not only end up with a quality scarf, as the name suggests, there is a bigger and warm story behind it: buying here means supporting women entrepreneurs and projects in Nepal and Thailand, securing a job and an income for several locals. Do check out their website, support their project and get yourself a lovely handmade scarf!

Sjaal met verhaal
Sjaal met Verhaal

Who doesn’t like candy?! However, over the years the word has gotten such a bad connotation…Tante Toos to the rescue, all sweets are pure fruit, pure flavour, all paleo and often vegan and raw too…no obscure additives, these fruit ‘mats’ only contain pure fruit and some herbs and are then rolled like a yoga mat…they come in different flavours: raspberry, strawberry, applepie, mango and forest fruit. Store them in a closed container up to six months,…though I doubt you’ll have them that long! I tasted the raspberry and applepie and oh my, though as thin as a slice of paper it is truly a full explosion of freshly baken homemade applepie! Fun and original way too to finish off or decorate a homemade dessert…

Matties apple pie

 

Tante Toos Matties
Oyster bar
She works hard for her money…making potatoes on a stick!

 

Greetings from Antwerp!

Ingrid

xxx

Spicy Scarves Amsterdam

This is Liger

De Plantencaravan

Sjaal met Verhaal

Tante Toos Matties – snoep zonder troep

Swan Market

Visit Antwerp

 

Weekend Namur…and beyond…

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!

Ingrid

xxx

Plus beaux villages de Wallonie

Restaurant La Fourchette à droite

Namur & region tourist info

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

Ready, steady, go…where?

We had already decided last year that this year, holidaywise, would mean an ‘ in-between’ year. Meaning somewhere between home and away, only not too far or too long: tightening those strapping belts around the suitcases, after last year’s expensive, but worth-wile, USA road trip.

Like the cliché says, it’s not where or how far you go, it’s the journey, the experience and Lady Luck clearly decided to grant us some more experiences as both husband and me won  a weekend break, how much fun is that?!

Some careful planning and scheduling and must admit the calendar looks quite inviting the next couple of months, and after that, well, we’ll see, first mission is surviving Winter and am extremely looking forward to these up-coming Spring breaks!

End of March we are heading for a b&b near Namur, capital of Wallonia, Belgium. Only heard great stories of those who already visited Namur, so am anxious to explore the city and region ourselves, which might also involve a visit to close-by abbey of Maredsous, well-known for it’s beers and cheeses.

In May, somewhere around Ascension, our wandering feet and hearts will bring us to Lenk in beautiful Swiss Bernese Oberland. Childhood nostalagia for my husband who has visited the region as a child with his family many, many times and since the first time I,myself, laid my eyes on the lush green pastures and lovely mountains covered under their snow blanket, it is also my place to exhale and relax! We were always fortunate with the weather when going in May, so do hope the good luck continues, can’t wait to be there again!

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Somewhere in April of early May, still to decide, we’ll be heading for the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague) and seaside with a stay on the pier of Scheveningen. You can take that litterally as the hotel with it’s Pier suites is located on the far end of the pier and all suites offer private terraces with perfect view on the North Sea which is just at and below your feet, which should be a unique experience.

Think for the next months, in my book and with a little help of Lady Fortune, this is a perfect match of countryside, mountains and sea. A perfect balance between city and nature, time for new experiences and time to exhale! I am ready…

Ingrid

X

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
(Hans Christian Andersen)

 

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