Now that days are getting colder and shorter and the soil is covered under a multi-textured carpet of soft rustling leaves little wonders carefully show their heads…whether leaning against a tree, feeding on dead wood or in full spotlight…I always stop to admire these wonderful fungi in all shapes and colours.
Studies showed that what controls forest diversity is not the trees but the fungi that interact with them, some are visible to us, some on a microscopic scale below ground and hidden from sight.
Join me on this walk through the park, eyes on the ground…
We have so mushroom for a fungi like you…
Watch your step on your next walk in nature…little recyclers at work…
Last weekend we found ourselves immersed in Flanders’ fields, in the green region that stretches out from the North Sea coast, over the Flemisch hills and all the way up to the French border. A region where the landscape is silent witness of its sad, loud and violent past, where poppies colour the fields and the wind gently rustles through the hop bells…welcome in the Westhoek!
We started off our two-day break at the newly opened Bar Bernard brewery St-Bernardus Watou offering a 360 degree view on the surrounding landscape and a range of heavenly bears of course.
As it was almost lunchtime, a little snack was allowed…
Next stop: Poperinge with at the time of our visit the culinary festival ‘Lekker Westhoeks’ to promote regional produce…hop all around of course!
Time to check out our place to stay for the night which we booked through Vlaanderen Vakantieland where to stay…Nicely tucked away in the fields of peaceful village Krombeke, part of Poperinge, lies ‘Ons Content’. A true gem: the room has everything to offer you could possibly need and more, the views are amazing, the hosts welcoming with a warm genuine smile and open heart, garden full of life and colours and the breakfast beats any breakfast I have ever had before! One of those places one would rather keep to themselves, so, shhh, not too much advertising 😉 Ons Content
We had a lovely dinner in local restaurant ‘t Hommelhof. Chef Stefaan Couttenye is one of Belgium’s pioniers when pairing beers to gastronomy and he proudly uses local produce whenever he can.‘tHommelhof
Time to lay feet up and head to rest,…
…You can’t stop birds from singing: I’m a morning person, even on weekend breaks…after a good night’s rest this early bird had a short morning walk, though long enough to watch sunrise and see some hares playfully chasing each other in the nearby fields.
Good thing I had that morning walk as, remember, there was that 5-star breakfast waiting with a wide range of sweet and savoury goodies! Needless to say we took our time to enjoy to the fullest!
After our goodbyes, we’ll be backs (without a doubt) and some top tips from our hosts we set off to provincial park Palingbeek (near Ypres) and land-art installation ComingWorldRememberMe by Koen Vanmechelen. Tourism Ypres Palingbeek
During four years thousands of people spread over Flanders and the rest of the world joined forces and together made 600.000 sculptures out of clay. Each sculpture representing one of the 600.000 victims who lost their lives in Belgium due to WWI. There is a walkpath up to the Bluff and a viewpoint over No Man’s Land…you are standing on land representing some dark pages of history…This unique memorial installation can be visited until 11th of November. You can read more about the project and artist’s vision hereCMxRW
Almost noon and we decided to head to Ypres…our visit coincided with Flanders Fields Triathlon and Car Free Sunday resulting in a very lively city. We went from cheering on the swimmers on the ramparts…TourismYpres
…to thumbs up for all those who biked their way to the top rewarding them with the best views on Ypres’ Lakenhalle and Market square.
No visit to Ypres without a walk on the ramparts and stop at the Menin gate…
This memorial was placed here in 1927 and is inscribed with the names of over 54000 soldiers without a grave…they passed through this city entrance, where the gate now stands, never to return…makes one silent no? In remembrance of those men, the Last Post, by local buglers, sounds every evening at 20pm.
Making it time for our last stop on this weekend break and we are staying in the ‘quiet’ zone…Tyne Cot which is the largest British war cemetary on mainland Europe with almost 12000 tombstones…
The Westhoek left a great impression: surrounding nature soothes what lies in its past, though never forgotten…
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.
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.
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.
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…
And in neighbouring De Haan some beautiful romantic sculptures keep you company on your evening walk…
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
Sun, happy vibes and excellent food, aren’t these usually thé key ingredients to create that glorious holiday mood? Past days, for us, that didn’t even involve airmiles or long drives…for four long days Antwerp’s Waagnatie was centre stage for the culinary festival ‘Antwerpen Proeft’ freely translated as Antwerp tastes…tastes how? Quite delicious!
Invited by Elvea1885, the brand that brings excellent quality and Italian flavours into your kitchen, and accompanied by the lovely weather last Saturday we found ourselves heading to Antwerp Waagnatie premises, located in vibrant ‘het Eilandje’.
The culinary festival, the 12th edition already, has a tradition of bringing the world and its kitchen on your plate with a variety of restaurants and culinary experts presenting their signature dishes in bite-sized portions and a cost-friendly price setting. In addition there is room for a full programme of demonstrations and workshops, from Weber grill expert Academy to AEG-sponsored baking and cooking classes for young and old.
For those among you that are of the ‘forever in doubt’ type…this festival will be quite a challenge, but of the fun kind! Take a few strolls and absorb flavours and colours before your stomach sounds indicate a decision will have to be taken eventually. No matter the dish(es) of your choice it will taste great!
Our eye fell on the attractive food presentation and expert and passioned explanation of Gå Nord, presenting a fusion of scandinavian and oriental cuisine, inspired on the wabi-sabi philosophy, thus combining pureness and simplicity.
Of the two mouthwatering dishes on display we chose the Knäckebröd with horse-radish, flakes of cedarwood-smoked salmon and pickled vegetables. Colours and flavours in perfect harmony, truly yummy.
Outdoors the inviting seating by the water seduced us to enjoy an excellent Belgian Entre-deux-Monts Chardonnay wine, provided at the Belgian wines-stand. If not a wine lover, then head for one of the cocktails, belgian beers or water stands! Sip, relax and watch the world go by…
Attending the festival and location is easily to combine with some shopping and city-stroling, either in Antwerp historic city centre or stay closer and explore what ‘t Eilandje’ has to offer.
Conclusion: a festival that leaves a sweet, lingering aftertaste…will YOU be joining next year’s edition?
ps you can find out more about the festival and its participants here or stay tuned on upcoming Antwerp events here
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.
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 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.
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!
Paradis de Clayre
Wanderlust in Wyck
royal warrant holder, delicious coffees and teas
Maison de Clayre
wooden robot and other toys and gifts in Wanderlust, Wyck
Entre Deux shopping centre
Shopping makes hungry, right?!
tasty B.L.T. bagel Wycker Cabinet
‘t Wycker Cabinet
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!
book store Dominicanen
up, up, look up!
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.
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.
In the Lisbon series there is one more ‘must see’ I want to tell you about, or not…maybe Sintra should be kept more secret as it is already overrun by tourists all coming to admire the city’s cultural and architectural wonders. Its natural and historical value make Sintra in its whole a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like I said, a ‘must see’…
Sintra is located 25 km outside Lisbon city centre and is set against the lush pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. Easily accessible from Lisbon Rossio train station in about 40 minutes and included if you have a Lisboa card.
Upon arrival shuttle services await you to bring you to all the main sites, however we chose to walk to the village centre. An easy walkable path offering views on the National Palace with the characteristic chimneys, colourful stands with local handicrafts and an iron throne, well, with a little imagination…
Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!
In the above picture, all the way up, op top of the foggy hills, are the ruins of the moorish castle. We’ll get to them later…
First stop for us however was Pena Palace and its gardens. From the city centre we took a tuk tuk that dropped us off at Parque da Pena entrance and from there we made our way up to the Palace, still a serious climb on often cobbled paths!
Some piece of advice…if you are not interested in castle interiors you do not have to get in line, which can be a very, very long queue…the exterior grounds are perfectly accessible with your entrance ticket without waiting in line or just ask for the cheaper park/outside combination…wish someone had told us that upfront, it certainly wasn’t mentioned at the ticket office…though would have saved us a lot of time! And yes, some of the terraces are only accessible from the inside, however is it worth an hour and a half queuing? That is up to you to decide…
The palace is a dazzling piece of extravagant and astonishing architecture, where technicolor meets mythology and of course, being in Portugal, tiles are never far away! Not that it was always like that…the hilltop used to be home for a monastery. After the abolition of religious orders in Portugal it was abandoned and King Ferdinand II acquired the grounds in a public auction. So the story goes he was a bit jealous of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and commisioned Baron von Eschwege to build him his own dream palace opera-inspired (he later marries opera singer Elise Hensler) and saw to a forestry landscaped garden to hide away in. I’d say mission accomplished!
colourful Palace residents…
some welcome shade in the palace surrounding gardens
Meanwhile in city centre…
I promised blue skies, didn’t I? Fog has cleared and you can see them now…next stop, the moorish walls…
The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra however archeological excavations and studies of the artefacts around 1995 even traced back occupation of the castle slopes to 5000 B.C. by neolithic communities…this place breathes history! In the 19th century King Ferdinand II acquired the castle that had become a ruin by then and converted it into the romantic style of that century through exuberant planting and reconstruction though keeping a certain medieval ruin charm.
Not sure if I would recommend to climb the longer part of the walls with very small children or if you are afraid of heights…the passage is sometimes narrow and there is not always a safety railing…
‘smaller part’ of the walk
The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…
Tired feet and back, hence the tuk tuk back to village…smooth ride and friendly helpful driver, were all I needed to recover and smile again!
There’s plenty more to see in Sintra, in fact, if you want to explore thoroughly and at ease, it’s probably best to spend the night, more ‘must see’ attractions are the Quinta Regaleira, Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Convento dos Capuchos,… just check the local tourist office website or office.
30 days without complaining…would you be able to do it? And what is considered complaining? Will I have to bite my tongue or think twice before speaking? Will my partner in discussion will roll his or her eyes and dare to bring it to my attention…stop yammering! After those 30 days, will the glass be half full or half empty?
Yesterday, not totally coincidental on Blue Monday, meant the launch here in Belgium of the playful campaign ’30dagenzonderklagen’ meaning for 30 days we will be motivated to look at life through pink coloured glasses.
It appears we love to complain, right?! I guess we Belgians are not alone in the world when it comes to that…we complain about the weather and small things in daily life and of course the bigger issues: health, relationships, work, politics, you name it,…and like all habits, it’s a hard one to break, key is not to look at those bumps in the road or setbacks in a too negative way.
Like the campaigns ’30dayswithoutmeat’ and ’30dayswithoutalcohol’ this one too tries to raise awareness and provides tools to stand in life more optimistically…no worries, it’s all down to earth…for 30 days long coaches and ambassadors from health, sports and cultural sectors guide you through a more positive lifestyle with their daily tips & tricks and missions. At the end of the campaign, just in time for Valentine’s day, you’ll be able to test if you’re truly standing happier in life than when you started…
Is the glass half full or half empty? Well, isn’t there a third option…focussing on what’s in the glass…
Do we really need a campaign or test to learn us to be happier and to complain less? Well, maybe we do, maybe we don’t…biting your tongue when you really have something on your liver isn’t healthy either…isn’t the trick, as it is often, to keep moderation…not to complain ‘too’ much or ‘too’ long? Like I still want to eat steak and drink a glass of wine, just not every day… and I still want a listening ear when I feel the need to share my troubles and just by knowing you listened, I’ll open up my heart for all the good still to come…now isn’t that positive?! See, only two days rolling and it already has an effect😉
First things first: wishing you all a happy, healthy, joyful New Year! A year filled with joy and hope, a year plenty of dreams and projects, new horizons to discover, old and new friendships to cherish…let’s raise our glass to that!
Speaking of raising glasses, at Antwerp city brewery ‘De Koninck’ they take that quite literally!
You can discover the history of this working and iconic Antwerp Brewery through an interactive and unique tour. Without spoiling to much of the fun in case you have a visit planned soon, expect to be immersed into the world of hops and malt, make a fun delivery drive through Antwerp’s city center and get some first hand juicy stories from the brewery owners…oh and there’s plenty of beers to taste too of course!
Apart from the beer the brewery site houses some great food concepts, stores, restaurants and bars that make any foodie drool: from recently Michelin-rewarded ‘The Butcher’s Son’ to Cheesemonger-shop by Van Tricht, Jitsk chocolatier and many more fun projects and concepts.
‘Tastemakers’ and the brewery teamed up and an urban beekeeper takes care of the beehives installed in a beertank on the parking lot… that’s around 160000 very ‘beezy’ workers producing some runny yummy honey!
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…
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?!
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.
Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…
But it’s still a monastery…
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.
From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…
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.
Short intermezzo on the travel flashbacks and planning future trips as nature’s golden age reigns in full glory these days…though every reign has it’s enemies and Winter is coming…time to step outside and go treasure hunting: Autumn has decorated ground with fragile bits of loosened gold!
This giant stands in the back of our garden, well actually, our neighbour’s garden, but it spreads out and covers four gardens easily…and I never have a lack of pinecones!
‘Dreams come in a size too big, so we can grow into them’
Wishing on a star? A golden one…surely those dreams must come true now!
Just in case the ‘wishing on a star thing’ doesn’t work out…still have this one!
…guess I’ve found my pot of gold!
‘I am rich today with Autumn’s gold’
Hope you enjoyed our little golden tour, fyi most photos are shot in our garden.
Step outside and immerse yourself in golden and rusty hues!