Yep, warning in advance, fifty shades of pink in this post! With Spring in full bloom it’s key to seize the day ’cause nothing so delicate and briefly as those sugary pink cherry-tree flower pop-ups, right?!
Staying local on this ‘hike and seek’ with a trip to Boniverlei in neighbouring town Edegem. Each April traffic on this rather busy road slows down as one can not but admire the fluffy clouds on either side.
Are you ready for your pink shot? Here we go!
Pink…always in season…
On the off chance that you’re getting a blossom overdose, you can recover in nearby park ‘Romeinse Put’ which will set your colour perception and parameters back to normal.
Will you be joining me next time? There’s a trip to Limburg scheduled if my health permits (long story) and we still have to round up on the South Africa series.
As we are all quite ready to leave Winter behind us, let me just look back one more time on some of our most enjoyed ‘hike&seek’ moments of the past three months, all in Antwerp province.
The ‘Hike&Seek’ series (both here and on IG) highlight some of Belgium’s finest or most surprising hiking possibilities: exploring nature domains and rural areas and even some city discovery tours. Covered distance doesn’t matter, goal is to keep moving and in doing so seeking joy and wonder/wander. Wanna join me?
A quick glance at my IG posts tells me we visited the Scheldeland region more than once the past months. To be honest, what’s not to like?! The combo ‘water and green’ is always a golden buzzer and its relative proximity to where we live (less than half an hour by car) makes it quickly and easily accessible as a half-day or just a quick break kind of trip. d’Ursel castle, Marnix de St Aldegonde castle, Lange Dreef or Notelaerdreef make excellent starting points to explore. Already know each corner of Bornem, which is hardly impossible, then opt for nearby Weert or Wintam as alternatives for endless more Scheldeland fun.
This nature reserve in close proximity of historic and culturally attractive city Mechelen lies in what used to be flooding area. Keep in mind its wetland character and wear appropriate walking boots especially in not so dry season. We hiked the shorter, but nevertheless very versatile, AS Adventure trail. Mechels Broek is home to many bird species, Galloway cattle and the typical pollard willow trees.
Willebroek Broek De Naeyer
As the name lets suspect, this former-industrial-zone-now-turned-into-nature-reserve’s characteristics are similar to its above bigger brother, mind your choice of footwear! It lies alongside river Rupel, is a well-known breading zone for cormorant birds and otter and beaver populations can be spotted and may therefore also be a fun hike to consider if you have children.
Antwerp Middelheim ‘beeldenmuseum’/ Park Den Brandt
Art and nature go hand in hand, at least in Antwerp’s open-air museum park. Both above parks are situated south of Antwerp’s historic city centre and do keep in mind weekends can be crowdy. The ‘sculpture park’ is home to around 1800 international works and gives an overview of modern and contemporay art. Ideal to combine with the more romantic Den Brandt Park. The garden combines English cottage garden (behind castle) with more classic French (in front of castle) designs. And on your walk you will stumble onto a replica of Michelangelo’s David. The park is also home to the Jazz Middelheim festival every August (though for obvious reasons not this year). To make your Antwerp green escape complete you can hop into opposite Nachtegalenpark. That’s three parks with just one trip to make, great deal, no?!
Borsbeek fort 3
Obviously our own local touristic region, de Zuidrand, couldn’t be skipped during these months of exploring. With close proximity of Antwerp Deurne Airport this might not seem an attractive hiking trail at first glance, though give it a chance. It is the first, thus oldest, fortress of eight in total built under the Brialmont defense line. You can walk around AND even on the fortress! The underground part is normally not open for visit due to the protected and endangered bat colonies. Oh and if you detect sponges tied onto trees, this isn’t some student or children’s prank, though part of Antwerp University stem research, so ‘leave the sponge alone’! 😉
Grenspark De Zoom/Kalmthoutse Heide
Destination of our most recent trip and with official rating as ‘silence area’ our favourite of this post. The total park measures about 6000 ha and hiking, bike and horse trails flirt with Dutch-Belgian border. Landscape offers a wonderful variation of heath, forests, pastures, pools and dunes. There are different access gates. We explored ‘Squirrel’ and ‘Woodpecker’ trails (access Ruige Heide) near park’s borders in Zandvliet/Berendrecht.
With early Spring vibes chasing last Winter blues away and nature rapidly changing and calling hope the above gave you some inspiration on where to go on your next trips in Belgian Antwerp province.
Feel free to share your most recent hiking t(r)ips!
(Please note we made this trip in February 2020 when world was not yet in the tight paralyzing grip of Covid-19. Stay safe everyone!)
Let’s continue our SA Western & Eastern Cape road trip, shall we? Leaving Addo in direction of next stop Oudtshoorn brings us to town of Kirkwood, located along R75, and mostly a farming community but also home of the Daniell Cheetah Project.
This project was established about twenty years ago and started with just three cats. Their aim is to play a part in the conservation of the cheetah, the re-establishing of pure gene lines, as well as educating the public on the importance of these extraordinary species. They host responsible educational tours and, in return, the tour fees go back into the conservation project. Besides the cheetahs lots of other, big and smaller, cats to admire like servals and caracals and some residents have really funny names: lions Chuck and Norris and a hyena named Bones await your visit and contribution.
Oudtshoorn‘s economy and richness as capital of Little Karoo have always been linked to world’s largest bird, the ostrich. In the past its feathers brought an exotic and colourful touch to European fashion and nowadays the flightless birds are mainly bred for their skin and meat. Full info on town’s ostrich history and Karoo culture at the local C.P. Nel Museum.
For those in search for some ostrich-related gifts or interior ideas DO visit the Cape Karoo Ostrich Emporium. They offer a wide range of ostrich related produce ( dusters, wallets, fashion and interior accessories,…) All items carry the ‘blue ostrich‘ label guaranteeing the ‘precision-crafted and handmade’ trademark. If you want to have a peek into how that turquoise leather bag your eye fell on is made, their workshop is visible as well as accessible. (We bought some lovely colourful feathered keychains and some eggshell earrings)
Oudtshoorn has no lack of bars and restaurants. We had lovely dinners at ‘Bello Cibo’ and colourful ‘Nostalgie‘ where above photos were taken. The historical (since 1880) ‘Queens Hotel’ has a lovely bar and restaurant (The Colony) both also accessible for non-hotel guests. For lunch (or dinner) in a unique setting head to ‘Die Smitswinkel‘. Is it a bar, car and motor memorabilia shop or grill house? Well, all of them actually, and certainly a feast for the eyes while waiting for your meal.
What the region DOES lack is surface water (or just water in general actually). The Karoo name is derived from the Khoisan word meaning ‘land of thirst’.
As a semi-desert region The Karoo is best characterized by its vegetation, which consists of all kinds of succulents and low bushes and driving around you really get to understand the region’s struggle for water preservation.
Nestled along route 62, at the gateway of Klein and Great Karoo, lies small town De Rust, freely translated as ‘The Rest’ which refers to the town’s original function as a stopping place for settlers and travellers before or after passing the rough terrain of Swartberg Mountains.
According to time of the day and amount of sunlight the mountain’s sandstones colour from pitch black to rusty red. Much of the majestic Swartberg range is UNESCO World Heritage site. There are peaks over 2000m and two passes help to conquer this impressive rock mass: the Meiringspoort and Swartberg passes. If you have time DO consider a Swartberg game reserve or visit of the Cango Caves, Africa’s largest show caves and also one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa.
We drove part of the Meiringspoort route where the road twists and turns its way through the steep-walled layers of colourful sandstone. After this breathtaking drive in the morning we headed back to charming De Rust and enjoyed some welcoming refreshments at Ray’s Coffee Shop.
Ostriches and sheep are never far away when letting the eyes rest on the landscape.
After a whole day of dust absorbing Kuiertuin (same street as our b&b and Enchanted Coffee) is a welcome colourful rest stop. It features as bar and concert venue and don’t forget to admire the side wall murals!
We genuinely enjoyed our days here: embraced by the colourful feathers of Oudtshoorn and totally at peace (and at pace) in charming De Rust.
Do join me next time as we wrap up this road trip series heading for our final destination Franschhoek.
The ‘Hike&Seek’ series ( both on the blog and IG) highlight some of Belgium’s finest or most surprising hiking possibilities: exploring nature domains and rural areas and even city exploring hikes. Covered distance doesn’t matter, goal is to keep moving and in doing so seeking joy and wonder/wander. Wanna join me?
No better way to kick off this new series than exploring my local hometown Aartselaar, situated south of Antwerp. The solid February cold snap we are currently experiencing has transformed the everyday familar (to me that is) streets and fields into a magical winter wonderland.
The new boardwalk path, within five walking minutes of our home, offers a welcoming platform to explore all this Winter marvel. It runs through fields and offers pedestrians and bikers a safe connection and short-cut to neighbouring village or you can combine with already existing path to create a loop.
Adopt the pace of nature…
Everything looks better and softer under a layer of snow dust, doesn’t it?! Just watch your step and don’t slip on the ice like our son did as touchdown is usually not of the softest kind!
Pareidolia is a situation in which someone sees a pattern or image of something that does not exist, for example a face in a cloud.
Well, I can’t step outside or that pareidolia seems to find me: I noticed a strange looking mushroom on my walk last week and it made me think about how that happens to me a lot…the seeing shapes in things.
Bizarre how the shape of a mushroom can be the inspiration for a blog post or maybe just as proof that I am not making this up! Do you see what I see? I’m curious…
This is how it all started…with a mushroom…or is it an oak leaf? No, definitely a wannabe leaf…
What do you make of this one below?
I see a smiling beluga whale or if you only look at the top brown part a frog…are there any other animals hidden? Perhaps, you tell me!
Sometimes I even encounter long extincted giants…think others noticed him too as he even has a name…
The below one is obvious…
Having fun? Time to throw in a smiley…
Somehow, don’t ask me why (pareidolia, remember) the below tree made me think of Kate Bush. You know, in her ‘Wuthering Heights’ videoclip waving her arms elegantly…you see her too now, admit it…
With Corona travel restrictions we all suffer from wanderlust…nature offers the perfect cure and inspiration: dream now, travel later, for instance to Turkey…have you ever seen or visited the Pamukkale mineral formation? The mushroom below copies the terraced erosion…
Then it hit me, must be all those mushrooms having that strange effect on me!
I had to get out of the woods…a trip to the beach would definitely help to see things more clearly…or not…
Just to say I left my heart in Ostend…
with its beach full of colourful oyster shells shaped like little sea horses…
Wherever you go, there’s no escaping…nature if full of wannabes and copy cats. All you need is a little fantasy…
Let me know which shapes you notice on your next walk!
By the way, are you in a festive mood yet? Nature is…time to decorate the tree!
With last leaves on trees here falling and teaching us how to let go, it’s time to focus on new things or pick up old habits…shall we continue where we left off in the South African road trip blog posts?
Where the previous post left us in Plettenberg Bay it is time to move on. Next stop: Addo Elephant National Park. The first part of the drive leads us through Tsitsikamma NP. If we would have had more time, would surely have planned an extra night(s). It’s where ocean meets jungle, where wild meets wilder and leaves you speechless.
Time to leave Western Cape and Garden Route for now and enter Eastern Cape province. Our accommodation for the next two nights is Gerald’s Gift Guest House in Addo.
Another gem and highly recommendable and, bonus, within a short drive of the NP. But let’s leave that for tomorrow, first up a refreshing swim, garden stroll, lovely dinner, some mingling with the other guests, enjoy the sunset and a good night’s rest (after husband took care of the two giant spiders in the room)
Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest reserve and malaria free, is of the ‘self-drive’ principle, though if you pay some extra you can opt for having a trained guide accompanying you in the car. You can try to spot the Big Five there, Big Seven if you include the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark at the Indian Ocean coastal belt. Though, as the name suggests, the reserve is most known for the herds of elephants. When the Park started, in 1931, there were only 11 of them, now there are over 600 of these giants! Best place to spot? Near a waterhole, though you will bump into them all over the park.
To spot lions (and/or leopards) it’s best to go early morning or evening (and take a guide with you). Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any.
In total we spent over six hours in the park, just to point out that there’s lots to explore and observe! Stay safe at all time and follow the park’s well-indicated routes and guidelines. Keep distance unless of course some animals choose to observe YOU more closely. The park also offers some hiking trails and picnicking areas.
We had far encounters with elephants and some scary close ones too…
We saw an abundance of zebras showing all hair styles and can confirm they do justice to their name as we often had to stop the car (and enjoy the view) as they were blocking the road…
We saw warthogs and buffalos, wilde- and hartebeest, ostriches, all kinds of birds, and lots and lots of other wildlife.
The park consists out of five different biomes, different ecological areas (like for example fynbos, forest, karoo…) each defined by their typical plants and animals. So many biomes combined in one park is rather unique and offers you as a visitor a great diversity. And, of course, a chance to observe the largest land mammal on our planet in its natural habitat is a wonderful experience.
Join me next time, in the SA series, when we’ll continue our trip and head to Oudtshoorn.
Our most recent staycation trip brought us to Limburg province, Flanders’ green lung and home of Belgium’s only National Park. National Park Hoge Kempen has six access points, each highlighting another aspect of this landscape which had a gigantic transformation after its coal mining past.
Connecterra, the park’s main gateway offers multiple hiking trails and stunning views. Whether climbing up the stairs of the head frame up to a height of 12 meters or to the top of the ‘terrils’ stone heap, it’s here that the mining history and how it effected land and environment can be best felt.
We stayed two nights in MOMO, a lovely interbellum villa in Lanklaar, listed building, and restored keeping as much of the original characteristics as possible.
The owners also have a restaurant Au Nom de Dieu, within walking distance which we can highly recommend. If you stay in MOMO you can also opt for breakfast here. Or, alternatively, you can head to Two Oh Five, The Bakery by Panerex for a full breakfast or brunch experience.
On our second day we explored the NP through gateway ‘Mechelse Heide’ again offering a diverse range of hikes this time through forests, heathlands (blooming in August and September) and longtime abandoned pits.
On our last day, before heading home, we made a quick stop and stroll in Bokrijk with the awarded ‘cycling through water‘ path and nature domain ‘Vallei van de Zwarte Beek‘ in Beringen. Those more into shopping can always head to Maasmechelen Village for some al fresco shopping fun.
With its 12000ha and 220 km of hiking trails NP Hoge Kempen was our main destination during this trip, however region has plenty more on offer for nature lovers.
Little throwback to latest weekend trip where we, that is my friend Kathleen and I, explored the so-called ‘Antwerpse Kempen’, a large natural region roughly situated east of Antwerp, where picturesque towns with monumental abbeys are embedded in a land dominated by forests, wetlands, heath and sandy grounds.
We started our trip at the Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (which confusingly lies in Westerlo). You can visit abbey and courtyard and/or do the ‘Lindendreef’ hike which is about 2km and takes you around the abbey’s walls. For lunch or diner you can head to opposite Torenhof and the adjacent ice cream and bakery shop explains the always happy buzz at ‘lekwei’ ( or in English ‘lick meadow’ cause that’s the inviting meadow where you enjoy the local yummy ice)
We stayed in B&B Welcome Home in neighbouring Eindhout and that name says it all. The home of Stijn & Stijn breathes that welcome cosy feeling. Rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean, bathroom luxurious and the breakfast is to die for. Make sure you’re hungry before you put your feet under the table. We did a pre-breakfast hike so could enjoy to the fullest! There’s a lovely garden with cosy corners and some animals, so children would definitely enjoy it here too. Oooh and Sam, one of the two dogs is a very cooperative photo model!
The B&B is ideally located for hikers and nature lovers as immediate access to some lovely hiking trails.
We had lovely dinner in the Orangerie garden of Hotel Geerts in Westerlo and for lunch or mouthwatering desserts and ice creams head to Kasteel Kaneel. Desserts and hospitality are great and bonus points for the unique setting. More than approved! Upon arrangement with owners you can opt for lunch and/or dinner in b&b too.
On the second day, after our morning walk and copious breakfast, we drove to Averbode abbey. Another Norbertines abbey, founded in 1134, and lying at intersection of three Belgian provinces. The land surrounding the abbey belonged to the noble family of ‘de Merode’ and was later on sold to Natuurpunt (Belgian nature conservation organization). While visiting church and abbey grounds is worthwile our focus this weekend was breathing in nature. The ‘Bos en heide‘ or ‘heath and forest’ trail showcasts the region’s assets perfectly: dense forests open up in wide sandy and heath covered ( blooming in August) landscapes.
Well deserved treat and closure of the trip! Cheers, see you next time!
No surprise to those who know me that I am always on the lookout for tips for trips close by that also satisfy my need to be in nature. With husband taking some time off work last week we embraced the whole ‘staycation’ mode we’re all in and explored some great hiking trails. So just tag along as we explore three of Flanders’ finest nature getaways.
1/ Hageland: Zoutleeuw – Het Vinne – Linter
Our first trip lead us to Hageland region in province of Flemish Brabant. After a quick lunch in Zoutleeuw we explored provincial domain Het Vinne, home of the largest (and only) natural inland lake in Flanders. Though at the moment no water to be seen as the lake has been drained for remediation works of the soil. Water or not, to my opinion, absolutely still worth the visit! There are five marked nature walks to explore, with great vistas, a lookout tower and bird watching huts. After the walk don’t forget to reward yourself at the domain’s cafe.
Before heading home we stopped in Linter where you can find the stunning ‘Helixagon’ by Frederik Vaes. Inspired by nature and the honeycomb shape it’s an art sculpture that offers a unique perspective on the surroundings, so do climb in and enjoy!
If you are still in hiking mode, opt for the ‘Linterse walk’ a loop walk in the valley of the Large Gete river and for a sweet treat do head to ‘Het Melksalon’ for some pie or refreshing ice cream! Tested and more than approved!
2/ Flemish Ardennes: Zwalm – Brakel – ‘t Burreken
Our second trip brought us to Flemish Ardennes in East Flanders province and with the word Ardennes in it you know you’re up for hikes with a somewhat more challenging character. We explored nature domain ‘t Burreken, where Mother Nature opens up all registers: deep valleys and steep hills, formed by numerous streams. There’s a berry garden, showcasing over 40 inland and local berry varieties. The lush area is home to the fire salamander, also the name of one of the two hiking trails. With the day we visited one of thé hottest this year, we only did a tiny exploring hike and promised ourselves to come back and discover the domain later this year.
We found a lovely lunch spot at ‘Moeder Agnes‘ in Brakel and with renewed energy explored the region some more on the so-called Mine Workers trail.
If you’re a cyclist fan, you can head to the nearby ‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen: a 1075m steep cobblestoned classic in Flemish (and beyond) cycling and for the more cultural orientated there’s a poetry along the Wall.
3/ Vlaams Brabant: Tervuren – Vossem
For third and final hike in this post we’re back in Flemish Brabant province, this time exploring Tervuren area. Tervuren is known for its Royal Museum for Central Africa and the adjacent parc were we usually take the Warande trail. Broadening our horizon we opted for another path, the Voer trail and were not disappointed. The first part follows the meandering Voer stream and second part opens up in agricultural fields and hills with lovely vistas.
For refreshing local beers, head to ‘In den Congo’, a cafe with outside seating in church’s (12th century) shadow.
So, whether die-hard or ‘easy-does-it’ kind of hiker (I’m the latter btw if you’re curious) hope the above gives you some inspiration on where to walk when in Flanders. Join me next time?
(Note: this trip was made just before Covid-19 travel restrictions)
Let’s pick up where we left: leaving Tergniet and Mosselbaai the next destination on our South African Garden Route trip was hip and trendy Plettenberg Bay, or Plett (as said by those hip and trendy).
When doing a roadtrip though, the driving to your destination is half the fun. The road we took from Tergniet to Plett (N2) lead us via Herolds Bay to Wilderness and yes, the name says it all. When passing through, do not miss the ‘Map of Africa’ viewpoint and ‘Kaaimans River Railway Bridge’. The bridge crosses the mouth of the Kaaimans river and when it was built, in 1952, it was the very first curved bridge in SA. However, Kaaimans River is known for something truly unique: as the river winds and wends its way through this land, it makes the unmistakable outline of the African continent around the foot of the hill. You can only really appreciate this wonderful twist of nature when viewing bird’s eye perspective, so, when nearby, do not skip this lookout point. If you need a coffee stop head to ‘Green Shed Coffee Roastery’ for excellent coffees and lunch or brunch treats.
‘In the backwoods of nature’s soul, I left my wild true heart‘
Just down the road is a KWIKSPAR where you can stock up on beverages and snacks and they have a wonderful small breakfast corner with (according to hubby Bert) sublime Lavazza coffee.
Visiting this region, hiking the Robberg Peninsula (or part of it) is not to be missed. This nature reserve and marine protected area offers great ocean views and, in season, whale watching opportunities.
Always make new friends when travelling…
Plettenberg area has plenty of beaches and nature on offer, one of the main reasons why we, ourselves, preferred it to nearby Knysna, which is slightly more touristic; though I am aware that’s a very personal thing. Just combine the two to have best of both worlds! Both towns also have an abundance of shopping and restaurant facilities so either one of them is surely an excellent choice.
We spent most of our evenings with a cocktail in hand by the beach and if you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll fancy yourself on the ‘Baywatch’ set, with local coastal rescue team having practice.
We loved the beautifully located Bramon Wine Estate where we enjoyed a Valentine lunch with lovely accompanying wine. The estate overlooks the Tsitsikamma Mountains and you can even spot some elephants. The restaurant offers some fine (and vine, ’cause litterally in the vines) tapas-style dining and award winning wines. Their emphasis is on freshness and flavour and the location makes their story and picture complete. The Plettenberg wine route is definitely worth discovering! (and an alternative if you don’t have time to visit that other wine region Stellenbosch-Paarl-Franschhoek)
Now that we are talking food and drinks, as for restaurants, we can highly recommend ‘The Fat Fish’ with predominantly seafood based menu and ‘Barrington’s’. Barrington’s is home to the first Craft Brewery situated within Plettenberg Bay, as well as a magnificent kitchen garden, restaurant, bar and small hotel. And go to ‘Mobys’ to enjoy a relaxing lunch or dinner with ocean view.
In a shopping or souvenir hunting mood? Head to City’s downtown centre and Main Street, the Market Square Shopping centre or Old Nick Village for the more creative and eclectic shops. (And if that’s not enough you can always head to Knysna city centre and Thesen Island). If all that shopping makes you hungry or thirsty we can recommend ‘Café Pure’ in Plett Main St with its healthy breakfasts and lunches (We went twice, because there is just too much yummy food to order when only going once)
Time for some monkey business as we’re heading to local Monkeyland. It is the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. Its overall mission is to educate and foster larger understanding of our primate (cheeky) cousins and the threats and challenges they’re facing.
At Monkeyland you can enjoy a guided tour of the hidden forest during a a monkey safari on foot which allows you to spot, photograph and/or observe the various species of primates that call the sanctuary their home, such as capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, buff-cheeked gibbons, squirrel monkeys and black howler monkeys.
If you want some additional wildlife experience you can also combine this with neighbouring Birds of Eden sanctuary.
I believe it’s fair to say Plett has it all: beaches, forests, vineyards, plenty of recreational activities, shops, restaurants, etc…they all contribute to that ‘Plett Feeling’.
‘Die son trek water’
(the sun turning to water, meaning it’s getting late)
Did YOU get it? That Plett Feeling? Hope you’ll join me next time as our route continues to Addo Elephant Park.