A week in Tuscany part 2: Florence and beyond

After exploring Crete Senesi (if you missed read A week in Tuscany-part 1: Asciano) we installed ourselves in a wonderful Agriturismo just outside Florence. For the next five days this would be our home base to explore some must-see (and yes, crowded) city highlights along with some picturesque smaller villages. Andiamo!

First up: Siena

Siena people crossing central square Piazza del Campo

With Siena on our route driving from south to north Tuscany, this was a logical choice as first city to visit. We parked outside city centre in the Santa Caterina parcheggio and used the Fontebranda escalators. Twelve escalator ramps ( well minus one which was difetto at our time of visit) carry you right into the heart of the city at a stone’s throw of the Duomo and Piazza del Campo. With my mobility still reduced this was an excellent way to cover some distance with rather minimum effort.

We spent about five hours in Siena, enough to stroll from terrace to terrace, from caffè to aperitivo and admire most of its highlights.

The Duomo is not to be missed of course and is both impressive as aesthetic with its white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes

The area around Piazza del Campo is perfect to people-watch or watch people people-watch…

And we also liked the lively no-nonsense vibe around Santa Maria della Scala

Next: Firenze

Second city to visit and from our agriturismo reachable in less than half an hour by car. A bit more challenging when it came to walkability (well for me that is, healthwise) as on both banks of the river interesting sites to explore and thus more distance to cover. Ancient rival of Siena with multiple historical battles for economical, territorial and overall power. Nowadays it seams more ‘the battle for the tourist’ as both cities appear as must-see in every guidebook or blog article.

view on Ponte Vecchio Florence from river bank

Lots of free outdoor art to admire at Piazza della Signoria and you have the Medici family to thank for that (who else?!) From a copy of Michelangelo’s David to Cellini’s Perseus. From Hercules and Cacus to the equestrian ( Cosimo de Medici) statue and I think he looks even more proud with those Italian colours behind him, no?

detail of marble duomo Florence

Around Duomo and Ponte Vecchio there truly is no escaping the crowds though an Aperol Spritz makes everything enjoyable…

man holding Aperol Spritz drink

And before you start thinking we only drank, this wonderful pasta vongole at Ristorante Caffè Pitti should prove otherwise…

Pasta Vongole dish and rose wine

You’ll notice there are no interior Duomo (or other church or museum) photos. I have visited both Siena and Florence before, on a school trip when 17y old. Must admit that trip has left me a bit with an aversion to everything that says ‘guided museum tour’ as we probably visited 15 Tuscan museums and churches in 5 days back then 😉 I can however still very much appreciate every historical aspect and love to admire any city’s architectural marvels and spirit.

Florence streetview wit pedestrians car and biker and lighted Trattoria and pharmacie signs
Florence city life
Woman in Florence terrace selfie

Next: San Gimignano

We almost skipped this one due to limited time which would have been close to a capital sin! Of the three main cities we explored on this trip medieval San Gimignano was probably my favorite. Also the smallest of the three, which probably added to its charm. There was a spacious parking area outside city centre and an elevator to cover most of the altitude to city entrance, so again some bonus points in my book for that!

Naming San Gimignano the Manhattan of Italy is perhaps somewhat exagerated with only 13 towers still intact of the once over 70, though, you must admit, it must have been (and still is) quite an impressive sight!

On culinary level enough choice whether small snack or top-notch dining with a view. Multiple award-winning artisan gelaterie and lovely original boutiques. We especially enjoyed Photo studio Fontanelli where since 1928 the same-named family sells their photos taken in and around the city highlighting its history, charm and spirit as well as the little boutique (Vittoria_handmade) selling yes, you guessed, handmade polymer clay jewels. There’s also a lovely little shop selling Italian-made calenders and paperware and so much more to discover…

Ristorante sign San Gimignano
San Gimignano green landscape as seen from viewpoint
View on surrounding landscape as seen from punto panoramico
people walking blue-flagged medieval street in San Gimignano

Maybe that’s a thing? In blue-flagged street wear blues, in red-flagged red…

lady in red

During this whole second part of our Tuscany trip we stayed in wonderful Fattoria La Presura. A farm nestled in Chianti hills that produces extra vergin olive oil and Chianti Classico wines. Its assets besides that? The close location to Florence, the spacious apartments, most of them with private garden or terrace, the large swimming pool with ample seating and spectacular views and of course the private little lake. You can rent walking sticks and mountain bikes to explore the estate and beyond and winery tours are organised upon reservation. A lovely well-kept property with versatile holiday possibilities whether for couples or families. And who would get tired of those stunning sunset views? If you are looking for lodging in the region this is definitely an affordable place to consider!

La Presura collage of the agriturismo swimming area and garden
woman with walking stick walking by lake

La Chiantignana

On our last day we explored the Chianti region south of La Presura following part of La Chiantignana the, so-called, picturesque SR222.

We enjoyed morning coffee with sweets in Greve in Chianti, and there’s a lovely shop with ceramics there too and if we weren’t by plane I definitely would have brought home a handmade turquoise and red vase! (reminder to self for next time!)

We then deviated to Radda in Chianti to drive again northwards afterwards and thus making a little loop tour.

For an unforgettable lunch or dinner with a even more unforgettable view I can highly recommend Ristorante Oltre il Giardino in Panzano in Chianti and same goes for Il Guerrino in Castello di Montefioralle (once the home of Amerigo Vespucci) where we enjoyed our last evening. The drive to and from is already a treat but seated outside with Chianti revealing all its splendours before your eyes…

view on Chianti region seen from Il Guerrino

Tuscany, you were magic!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.visittuscany.com/en/

https://www.lapresura.it/

https://www.visitchianti.net/?lang=en

http://www.ristoranteoltreilgiardino.it/

https://www.ilguerrino.com/

https://www.fotofontanelli.it/

https://instagram.com/vittoria_handmade?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

https://instagram.com/ristorante_caffepittifirenze?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

Fall: use your senses

Fall is upon us and with it comes traditionally (and to prepare us for end of December) a feast. A feast for the senses that is.

Join me in a little inspiring trip through these November days…

…where not all is dark and gloomy. Focus on the colour. Colour of traditional Fall flowers, of the leaves on trees transforming before letting go. Or in the garden, or in your street…Orange, red, yellow, purple, this is by far the richest season for colour. Not a tree in sight? Decorate the house and bring some of the warmness in, put on your most colourful uplifting sweater and some pumpkin soup always warms the soul…

…where days are shorter, mornings are misty and an earthy smell perfumes the air. Oh, and watch the step when in forest. Fungus are among us!

…where newly-created patterns and textures give us an other insight with leaves transforming into delicate lace, with flowers making place for seeds and fluff.

Magical moments can always be found in nature

…and where, let’s not forget, there’s already a gentle reminder Winter and festive season are around the corner!

Hope the above helps you beat November blues, if any.

Fall season’s greetings!

Ingrid

Hike and Seek: cosy birthday getaway

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

F. Kafka

Walloon Brabant

Cosy house Beauvechain

Vlaams-Brabant

Hike and seek: Tongeren

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?

Basilica of Our Lady

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!

Herberg De Horne Vechmaal

Now go…explore!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.toerismetongeren.be/en

https://www.visitlimburg.be/en

Oudtshoorn: an ostrich a day… SA trip part 6

(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.

The Addo-Oudtshoorn route was quite a distance to cover, probably the longest of this whole road trip, though nothing insuperable. Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and watching the landscape transform with every mile covered is a treat…Oudtshoorn lies in the ‘Klein Karoo’ between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains

Time to meet our home for the next two nights to explore Oudtshoorn region https://www.airbnb.be/rooms/24078816?locale=nl&_set_bev_on_new_domain=1611837897_OTdhOThmNGFkYjFj&source_impression_id=p3_1611837901_A%2FzignB%2FhB%2B5%2B7HI&guests=1&adults=1 a lovely spacious apartment with homely cosy feel. Just down the road you can find ‘Enchanted Coffee’ a great coffee and breakfast bar to start your day with a (even greater) smile.

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)

Kleure warm en vuurwarmrooi sal ek in jou vreugdemandjie gooi

Jy kry rissies en n soet lemoen.

Tamaties rooiwang deur die son gesoen.

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.

Het die daeraad lief en die dag sal jou liefhê.

    ~ C.J. Langenhoven

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.

Ingrid

xxx

All we are is dust in the wind…

https://www.oudtshoorn.com/

https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/travel/article/oudtshoorn-the-capital-of-the-klein-karoo

Addo Elephant NP… SA trip part 5

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.

Ingrid

xxx

The best shower is a shower of memories

(yours truly)

https://www.addo.org.za/

https://geraldsgift.co.za/

Roars and waves…SA part 3

(Note: this trip was taken before Covid-19 travel restrictions)

We left lively Cape Town behind us (Missed that post? Read about it here https://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2020/03/26/cape-town-touchdown/), heading for Mosselbaai area, which is the start, or end, depends on how you see it, of the Garden Route.

The drive from CPT is around 400 km and many interesting stops are possible along the route. We took a coffee and sweets break (Trends Cafe) in charming Riversdal and had a late lunch in Mosselbaai at trendy Blue Shed Coffee Roastery…

Had booked us a 🔝 Airbnb accomodation in seaside Tergniet. You can check out all our accomodations here…https://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2020/03/02/the-big-trip-south-africa-part-1/

Lovely seaside and beach walks were in very short distance and together with a glass of local wine and some snacks on our outside porch thé perfect way to end first day of our stay here.

Day two and time for some action and see some wildlife.

Reason for choosing Tergniet was actually its proximity to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Alternatively you can also opt for a luxurious stay inside the reserve and enjoy its spa facilities, but Tergniet was only a 20’ drive and for us a more budget-friendly option. (Though must say pricing seemed reasonably fair compared to other game reserves)

The 4500 hectare reserve is home to four of the big five (no leopards) and offers a wide range of activities, also for day visitors like us. We opted for a 3 hour guided game drive, where guide Silas safely drove us around and gave lots of intel on the local wildlife.

Sadly no lions showed up that day, but we saw plenty of zebras, giraffes, elephants, springbok (one of SA’s national symbols), the rare black impala etc…… ( there are about 26 different species to spot and over 200 resident bird species).


Had booked a picnic after the drive, which was served on the border of the inner lake, with comfy seating and great views the perfect spot to relax and kill the appetite.

Sleeping outside the domain has its advantages, like in daytime safari-feel, night-time ocean-feel…best of both worlds!

Time to continue this roadtrip! Next stop on our Garden Route discovery will be Plettenberg Bay. So keep an eye out for the next posts! See you then, and in the meantime: stay home, stay safe and above all, stay dreaming!

Ingrid

Xxx

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Coffee-Shop/Trends-Caf%C3%A9-384765985724788/

https://bestofmosselbay.co.za/blue-shed-coffee-roastery/

https://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsgr/tergniet.php

https://www.botlierskop.co.za/

https://www.airbnb.be/rooms/23246842?location=Tergniet%2C%20South%20Africa&adults=2&check_in=2020-11-01&check_out=2020-11-02&source_impression_id=p3_1586432431_IyAB%2FI5loroOTl72

The Big Trip – South Africa part 1

We just returned from our South African roadtrip and already a lot of you, through my IG acount or personally, asked me about the places we stayed at.

So before starting sharing some of our favourite photos and stories a quick overview of the route we followed and places we stayed at.

First things first, I was lucky to win 2 return tickets to South Africa through an IG-challenge I entered last year. (Contest #beinsouthafrica @meetsouthafrica @divimovenl that was only open to Belgian residents). South Africa had always been on our bucket list, more later than soon; winning the tickets was of course like a gift from heaven and no excuse anymore to postpone our plans.

And this is how it all started…with a fun photo shoot in Plantentuin Meise. Photo credits ©edandhiscamera

With only limited travel days this year, we had to choose our route wisely. Based upon the shortlist of things we absolutely wanted to do and see, I planned out a route and started my search on Airbnb and Booking.com for suitable accomodation for the two of us.

Route: Cape Town 4n / Tergniet 2n / Plettenberg Bay 3n / Addo 2n / Oudtshoorn 2n / Franschoek 2n / return to Cape Town International

Accomodations: of the six places we stayed at, five were found through Airbnb, and one through Booking.com. All gems in their own unique way, we fellt at home in each and every one of them and were always warmly welcomed.

1/ Airbnb Trendy Loft Apartment Cape Town, De Waterkant, contact Luigi

Perfect location, view on Table Mountain, spacious, lovely trendy interior, shower and separate bath. All that CPT has to offer on foot or short Uber-ride distance.

2/ Airbnb C-the-C, Tergniet, contact Diana

We chose this apartment on ground level of private home (though completely separated and with private entrace) for its proximity to Botlierskop Private Game reserve and the ocean. The owners have a lovely eye for detail and decoration and the outdoor terrace just invites you out to hear the waves crashing, enjoying the last sunrays of the day while sipping from a lovely local wine. Beach and ocean for a romantic sunset stroll easily reachable by foot (or car) Perfect address to exhale!

3/ Airbnb Park House Forest Suite, Plett Bay, contact Paul

What a true find this one was! Doesn’t get much more perfect than this: in both private and shared spaces (kitchen, swimming pool, lounges) you could feel and see the owner’s (who live next door) passion for interior design. the house could easily feature in a magazine and yet, still felt very cosy. oh, and our room even came with a private outdoor shower! Plett offers an excellent starting point to explore all the lovely nature reserves in the neighbourhood and some excellent restaurants too. We, personnaly preferred it to busier Knysna.

4/ Gerald’s Gift Guest House, Addo, Booking.com

Offers multiple rooms, included breakfast and even on site dining, so if you want to just put feet up after exploring Addo Elephant Park the whole day, and mingle wth the other guests, search no more! Lovely garden to stroll in and of course also a swimming pool.

5/ Airbnb Karoo Country Style Guest Suite, Oudtshoorn, contact Sharon

Another gem if you are looking for an apartement with homely feel. Very spacious, again spotlessly clean, lovely outdoor seating porch and terrace and large pool and comfy chairs. If you love reading, you’ll appreciate all the lovely books on various topics in the hallway. Kitchen has everything you need to prepare a quick meal, though plenty of great restaurants, ask Sharon and she will help you make a choice and/or booking.

6/ Airbnb Klein Dauphine Estate, Mountain View Gardens Suite, Franshhoek, contact Debbie

The estate comes with million dollar views. As for accomodation, again very spacious, clean kitchen with filled fridge to provide for breakfast, etc…and lovely outdoor seating areas to enjoy that view. Indoors some tiny points of attention could easily lift this to the same level as the view. ( Was not a fan of rather old-fashioned and noisy airco and living area has floor mats with curled up ends, which for someone like me who has to take care not to trip are not that great, but am sure if we would have asked housekeeper she would have rolled and stored them)

Last but not least some facts and numbers:

We flew Lufthansa. The 11and a half hour flight out of Germany was, no sugarcoating it, true hell for me as major back pain sufferer, even with the pain medication and muscle tranquilizers and downloaded Netflix to distract.

We hired a rental car through Sunny Their service in general never disappoints.

Sunny Cars rental – Swartbergpas

We spent 15 nights at an average of EUR 78/night and drove aprox. 1600 km, that is solely the above tour, without excursions, I guess grand total it was almost 3000km. All accomodations had secured, on site parking facilities.

In retrospective, would I change something? To the accomodations? No. Would however, if we had had more time, spent an additional third night at the last two stops. In overall this tour gave us what we expected and for us, as first time Africa travellers, a taste to verify if, like the cliché says, Africa gets under your skin…and yep, it did, does, 100% affirmative, so hope in my lifetime to discover some more of what this continent has to offer!

Join me next time when we start off our trip in vibrant Cape Town

Ingrid

xxx

‘Less cars, more fun’ kind of Sunday

Yesterday, 22nd of September, was car free Sunday: a (mostly) sun drenched day were streets in city centres throughout Flanders and Brussels were cleared and cars were banned. We decided to visit nearby Mechelen, where innovation goes hand in hand with the sustainable development goals and targets for a better and more liveable future.

As all exploring requires some starter fuel, first stop: the newly opened neighbourhood cafe Grá

Mechelen

Where ‘Grote Markt’ was the place to be for cultural info and activities, ‘Bruul’ showcased police force’s horsepower and ‘Ijzerenleen’ was stage for sportive demonstrations…

Vismarkt and local pub ‘t Ankertje are always a welcome stop if you need to re-fuel again…

And if your energy tank is really low you can always head to the De Vleeshalle food court that opened this year…

Being in the neighbourhood, the Lamot centre housed the Joker Africa travel event that day, and as we will be visiting Western Cape next year, thé place and time to gather some useful info and tips.

And of course, historical buildings à volonté in city centre…

Events like these (mobility, cultural activities, citizen interaction, etc…) fit perfectly into where city sees itself by 2030, comitting to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Want to know more about the SDG’s and how it can change your city and world into a better place, check out https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300

Or visit Mechelen, and see how it’s done 😉

…and as you’re there, feel free to visit the Live-Life Expo from photographers Jo and Anke each Sunday till 3rd of November more info https://www.facebook.com/events/353467212272712/ and https://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2018/11/12/up-close-and-personal/

Ingrid

xxx

https://visit.mechelen.be/en

https://www.facebook.com/gramechelen2800/

https://www.visitflanders.com/en/things-to-do/food-and-drinks/top/cafes/t-ankertje-aan-de-dijle.jsp?country=en_US

https://www.devleeshalle.be/en/home/

http://lamot-mechelen.be/

https://www.joker.be/nl/reisbeurs-afrika?gclid=CjwKCAjw2qHsBRAGEiwAMbPoDLz_1sZci3n-F07wON92CKoeTWF9wAB4wvsx0SzeAxF8jRJg7stZFxoCMAsQAvD_BwE

https://mondiaal.mechelen.be/gelukkig-2030

De Schorre – Magic Troll Forest

Recreational domain De Schorre is inevitably linked to Tomorrowland… however, when madness and beats fade, the original function of the area returns: a lush green site where hikers, children, day tourists and locals can exhale and enjoy nature. The 75ha park is also often used for recreational or sportive events. Since last edition of TML some mythical creatures made the domain forest their home: at the request of the festival the Danish artist Thomas Dambo has brought seven giant trolls to life and this using recycled materials.

Together with my friend Kathleen I had a wonderful stroll in the forest, on the hunt for these friendly giants. Ask for a map at the domain’s information point. They are happy to point out the secret locations of the mythical residents, or just let the trail surprise you and discover at own pace…

Located in a former clay pit, the area is now a green oasis of peace and quiet.

De Schorre trolls
De Schorre trolls
Trolls Una & Jeuris, dreaming and making plans
De Schorre
De Schorre trolls
Troll Hannes with pearls of clay
De Schorre
De Schorre
De Schorre
De Schorre

With his unique creations the artist hopes to inspire people around the world to recycle and carry our precious planet and nature in their hearts.

Leaving the domain and heading for our on site lunch spot we got treated to yummy surprise gift and totally in line with the green environment: thé most delicious apple tarts, made by local bakery ‘Den oude kneeder’

Den oude kneeder bakery dessert apple

Magical green greetings!

Ingrid

xxx

De Schorre

https://www.deschorre.be/

https://thomasdambo.com/

http://www.toerismerupelstreek.be/