It’s been a while since I wrote here. Maintaining the posts felt like a daunting task and frankly the daily posts on IG just seemed enough as for media presence and the time I wanted to spend at it. I guess I was kind of waiting for that itch again…and behold, little tinglings the past weeks so let’s kick off this blog reboot and let’s talk April.
Our ‘hike&seeks’ (*) brought us to Limburg province, a beloved Spring trip with fruit trees blossoming. To Antwerp where I explored the beguinage and botanic garden and to Bornem, with presence of river and lots of hiking trails always an enjoyable place to visit.
(*) the hike&seeks are little trips combining small hikes in nature and finding hidden gems, energy and joy.
Closer to home, de Zuidrand (the cultural and touristic organisation my hometown and its surrounding villages belong to) offers a variety of escapes. Now that nature has awakened again and surprises us each week with more green, new life and colourful plants in bloom, I try to make a little tour in local Solhof or one of the other Zuidrand parks on a weekly basis. That is if my health (*) permits it and though I often have to force myself to go out I generally find it rewarding and energising.
(*) On health level, for those wondering, I had another pain treatment in clinic which should keep back pains a bit more manageable. (the MS check-up is scheduled end of May). Winter was often confronting and mobility remains a big issue ánd condition for my well-being and determining factor on which trips (think small not big) to undertake. But hey, keeping positive, well, most of the times…
Fall is upon us and with Mother Nature showing off her most colourful outfits itis thé perfect time to plan a relaxing weekendtrip.Our most recent escape to nature brought us to hamlet Celles, part of Houyet village in Wallonia Belgium.
Are you curious what the region has to offer? Then join me on this little Fall trip.
A little stroll through the village centre immediately displays its assets and charm: the traditional stone houses, romanesque collegiate church of Saint Hadelin and the higher positioned hermitage.
Our home for this trip was located at just a stone’s throw from centre. Le Clos Bel Air is a charming holiday home that has all amenities for a cosy getaway and ideal for couples.
Sunrise gives the village houses a lovely soft pastel-coloured glow whereas low hanging mist adds drama and mystery.
Day two and time for some exploring. Houyet has some excellent hiking trails. A detailed map can be obtained at local tourist office. We stretched our legs and breathed in fresh morning in the woods surrounding the Golf Club. Glorious start of the day!
Did you know Belgium is one of the countries with the highest density of castles per square km?!There are hundreds in Wallonia alone, so driving, hiking, biking, riding around you are bound to stumble upon one sooner or later. Staying in Celles we had Château de Vêves at less than 3 km distance so obviously that one couldn’t be missed.
Celles castle, known as Vêves castle, has been inhabited by same family since 13th century though its foundations go back to 7th century. The fairy-tale castle is ideally located on a hilltop overlooking the valley. Interiors can be visited and the guided tour is especially fun for children as they are dressed up as princess or knight.
Exploring makes hungry so for lunch we headed to nearby Dinant. We had visited the city before so climbing up the 408 stairs (!) to the Citadel was not on our list that day. If you haven’t visited yet, by all means, go for it!
We found a very appealing restaurant just outside city centre in Bouvigne-sur-Meuse, located on a medieval village square and in shadow of Crevecoeur castle ruins. I had oeuf en meurette as starter, hubby had a grilled goat cheese salad. We then both had rabbit with gratin potatoes and veggies followed by chocolate (moeulleux au chocolat style) cake. Utterly delicious and recommendable, in addition cosy interior, friendly service and very affordable so when visiting the region do consider Les Mougneûs d’As as culinary stop.
Okay, though we had visited Dinant before, a quick stop at the Charles de Gaulle bridge and the colourful saxophones honouring their inventor Adolphe Sax felt obligatory.
Following the Meuse river, in Yvoir, we stumbled upon a vineyard in perfect colour harmony with Fall foliage of surrounding forests.
And that was it for day two, feet up by the fireplace. Some wine, ham and cheese and a glass of whisky to end the day.
Day three (and already final day) started with pastels skies again and sound of leaves crackling under our feet. I’m a morning person and by time husband awakes I usually already had a short morning walk and photo tour. Quick breakfast, another hike, this time together, and time to leave the rental home.
Before heading home we decided to stop at the Annevoie Gardens which lay more or less on our route anyway.
For 250 years already this garden features unique water installations, all without help of machinery. In addition, since 2015 they work naturally and biologically without any pesticides. Different garden architectural styles are joined (French, Italian en English style) and some animals can be spotted: swans, herons, soay sheep…Open to public year-round so choose your favourite season to visit.
Hope you enjoyed tagging along on this little Fall getaway of ours exploring part of Belgium’s Namur province.
Join me next time for some seasonal trips closer to home and some favourite shots of our trip to Lenk Switzerland coming up too.
What to do when you turn 50? I already have all I need and the thing I want most, a good health and day without pain, well, that’s something that doesn’t come with a gift wrap. As the saying goes ‘the most precious thing to give someone (and yourself) is time and attention’ we decided to treat ourselves with a little weekend getaway. Destination: Brabant Walloon, Belgium’s smallest province. Join me as I look back on my cosy birthday weekend.
On my hunt for suitable accomodation I stumbled upon ‘a couse house in charming village Beauvechain’ which sounded perfect and believe me, exceeded our expectations on all levels! It can be found both on Booking.com and Airbnb so don’t hesitate if you want to visit yourselves! Big thumb up for the warm welcome by Ilyas and Frédéric, homely warm interior, comfortable beds, and lovely outside dining facilities. The breakfast included is rich and delicious and some lovely details and attention (this being my birthday treat) put the cherry (or rasp-and strawberries in this case) on top.
Cosy, right?! And though no punishment if we would have had to spend whole weekend indoors some outside exploring never hurts…
Beauvechain, or Bevekom in Dutch, is located south of university city Leuven and from there reachable in less than half an hour. With language border meandering its way in surrounding landscape you’ll find yourself in Flanders one minute and in Wallonia the next when exploring the larger region around Beauvechain.
With accomodation lying in church’s shadow it’s litteraly the first thing that strikes you when stepping outside. The romanesque-style church has some festivities of its own as celebrating 1000 years of marvel this year making it one of the oldest in the country.
There are some lovely hiking trails leading you into rural countryside or just to take you around town for an evening stroll.
And even in smallest of hamlets where it seems like time stands still there are murals and graffity walls, like a portal to transport you back to 21st century.
Within a half hour radius (by car) the region offers a variety of cultural and historic sites to visit and nature lovers will not be disappointed with dominating Heverlee woods and Meerdaal forest.
We visited Mélin, distinguished by its white ‘Gobertange’ stone and listed as one of Wallonia’s prettiest villages.
A little trip to Hoegaarden, of course not without tasting the refreshing Hoegaarden beers and visit of the gardens
Vast Meerdaal forest can be accessed through the new Torenvalk access gate. A lot of detail went into preserving characteristic natural elements and offering more than ‘merely’ an access: a pleasure to visit for a quick stroll or as picknick rendez-vous under the watchful eye of the wooden mascotte kestrel.
Before we had to leave our cosy refuge a last short morning walk around Beauvechain…
What a perfect way to celebrate the past 50 years and hopefully many more to come!
We’ll be back!
Ingrid & co
anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old
When sun is out, so are we! The Summer vibes a few weeks ago lead us to Flanders’ greenest province Limburg and what better way to start this two-day trip than in Tongeren, Belgium’s oldest city.
Though we had visited the city of fearless Eburon-leader Ambiorix already in the past this time around our focus was on its green surroundings. A true ‘hike and seek’ in a colourful and hilly landscape dotted with grand castles and small hamlets. Join me as we start exploring?
We used our first day mainly to do some city strolling: market square, beguinage, basilica church, Moerenpoort,…
…and a few stops of course…
On second day we left historic town behind us and took car for a little loop tour to explore the surroundings, stopping whenever we felt like it for a little hike. With my foot problems (and back and MS…) reducing my mobility the hikes were mini ones, though nevertheless, had a fantastic day!
From colourful poppy fields and ‘Goed Van Gothem’ in Heers to ‘Hamal Castle’ in Rutten with Tongeren church in the background to U-shaped ‘Renesse castle’ and surrounding landscape park and fishing ponds in ‘s Heerenelderen. We also stopped in Nerem to admire the former chocolate factory transformed into ecological housing units and the opposite Rosmeulen castle. Hamlets Neerrepen and Overrepen offer great decor for some hiking and we had a delicious lunch in ‘Herberg de Horne’ in Vechmaal. After lunch we headed to the ‘Reading between the lines’ church, the eye-catching metallic art installation loved by both tourists and locals in Borgloon. We ended this little road trip in Mettekoven, a designated ‘greenspot’ with multiple hiking options. With its hills and fruit orchards a well-loved destination in Springtime with fruit blossoms colouring the landscape but frankly a lovely place in all seasons!
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!
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!