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

Hike and Seek: Pretty in Pink

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.

Meanwhile,

#colourmehappy

Ingrid

xxx

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

Fall leaves…

…as Fall slowly ‘leaves’ us and opens the chilly door to Winter, time to sit back and enjoy the colourful highlights of past weeks (preferrably in a comfy chair, with some cake and cup of tea)

There were battlefields of chestnuts and colourful magical fungusamongus pop-ups…

chestnuts Fall

Long-legged shadows and lots of patterns and textures…

hydrangea

Tears from heaven with November rain

Short and longer walks (and lots of stopping to take pictures)

…And for those with an imaginative eye nature gives some subtle hints that Christmas is definitely coming!

Enjoy these last days of November!

Ingrid

xxx

And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves…

(V. Woolf)

‘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/

Discovering Puglia: part 3 mare e trulli

Third and final part of our Puglia-trip brings us back where we started: to Bari, but not before exploring the region south of it, which is dotted with picturesque towns, inland or seaside, and the oh so typical trulli houses…avanti!

Ostuni Puglia

Our first stop after leaving Salento region is Ostuni, nicknamed the white city, wonderful town with lots of dining and strolling options. La città bianca shines in the sun, though that requires its effort: inhabitants are obliged to maintain and re-white yearly…

On route to our lodging for the next two days we passed Monopoli, another stop obligatorio! And as we already discovered earlier on this trip, another town with Greek roots. ‘Monos polis’ means unique and singular and even many centuries later the city still proudly wears this name. Lively atmosphere near seaside and colourful shopping streets, though time pauses and all sounds ebb away when further exploring the tiny city streets…

Time to check out our b&b! Home for these two remaining nights of the trip was the lovely Dei Balzi-Dimore de charme in medieval-vibe town of Conversano… what.a.gem! Both city as the lodging! We had the very spacious suite Lavanda on top floor which comes with room-wide terrace and city views. Yummy breakfast and warm welcome included, what more do you want?

Conversano is about a 15 to 20 minute drive from both Monopoli and Polignano a Mare and an excellent choice if you need a central location to visit the area. On top of that the city on itself with medieval trapezium-shape castle and lovely squares and alleys is worth a visit.

Conversano Puglia

Another highlight, Polignano a Mare, birthplace of the father of Italian singers, Roberto Modugno, and his epic classic ‘Volare’. Dramatic and breathtaking views with the city centre perched on rocky headland overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Lots of viewpoint terraces to admire the caves and creeks carved out into the limestone. Might become bit crowded in tourist season but nevertheless a must ‘sea’ 😉

Polignano a Mare Puglia

Last stop of this trip…charming Alberobello: trulli wonderland and inevitably attracting many tourists. Trulli are limestone dry wall and conical-roof houses. The roof is often decorated with, mostly, Christian symbols and sometimes topped with a pinaccolo. The ancient dry stone building technique is characteristic for the Itria Valley region with a very high concentration (around 1500 trulli) here in Alberobello which is listed Unesco World Heritage since 1996. The town is built on two hills and surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Tourist shops, trendy bars, etc…can be found in Rione Monti district, however, head to Rione Aia Piccola district if you want to escape the crowds.

Alberobello

Well, that’s it, our little road trip exploring Puglia, which brought us from Bari to Basilicata’s Materahttps://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2019/08/01/discovering-puglia-part-1-bari-matera/ and from lovely Salento regionhttps://the-back-road-chronicles.com/2019/08/19/discovering-puglia-part-2-lecce-and-salento-region/ to exploring white-washed Valle d’Itria and breathtaking seaside towns. One last glimpse from car window confirms…we’ll be back!

Ingrid

xxx

http://www.deibalzi.it/it/ excellent B&B. Warm welcome by Annalisa who will also help with directions and parking ticket as B&B is located in pedestrianised historic centre.

http://www.vitapugliese.it/ Charming restaurant, Apulian cuisine

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/puglia/valle-d-itria

http://www.pugliaturismo.com/la-regione-puglia/

Discovering Puglia: part 1 Bari-Matera

Matera Basilicata

It’s already a month ago that we returned from our Puglia trip and finally found the time to gather some photos for this post. My mind and body often being held prisoner by all the medical stuff going on it sometimes is a struggle to break free from it all and hit that relax button, even on holiday. As much as it is fun and energizing, it also takes away a lot of energy and the backdraft always follows, always.

But, here we are again, slowly and step by step, and kicking off with first part of this Puglia trilogy.

If you’re now trying to locate in your mind where to situate this Italian region, just think of the heel of the ‘imaginary’ boot shape at you’ve found it! Region of ‘masserie, mare, orechiette, trulli, tradizione, tutti sotto il sole italiano’!

We landed in Bari after a short smooth flight, rented a car through Sunny Cars (Kia Stonic, which was ok but hard suspension) and decided to drive to Bari’s city centre before heading to our first real planned stop.

We party-crashed a funky international Volkswagen meeting and were immediately  immersed in Bari’s colourful and laid -back style.

Volkswagen Beetle meeting Bari

And some centro storico exploring of course…

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

Bari Puglia Italy

 

Time to really kick off this trip and get this show on the road! First flagged destination on our route: Matera, which ironically for this trip isn’t in Puglia but in neighbouring Basilicata, however should not be missed when visiting the region. This year being European Capital of Culture is of course an extra bonus.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera is best-known for its Sassi, (with Sassi meaning stones) ancient cave-dwellings inhabited since Paleolithic period . Matera is located on top of a canyon, on the other side you will find Parco delle Murgia Materana, ideal for hikes. All along the edges of the ravine you will find caverns and grottoes in the limestone layers.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

In 1950s the Italian government due to the unhealthy living conditions decided to relocate most of the population of the Sassi to another nearby city, leaving the caves abandoned and nature taking over…until late 1980s. By then, tourism also started to reach this part of Italy and local authorities promoted the return to caves, financially supported provided that the new owners renovated and made habitable of course. Supported by Unesco and rewarded World Heritage site since 1993 the caves house now private properties, as well as hotels, restaurants, B&B’s, etc. There are guided walks to follow or you can follow an itinerary at your own pace. There are two districts : Sasso Caveoso with the houses caved in the rocks and Sasso Barisano where the houses are built on top of the rocks.

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

flowers Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

We stayed two nights at Airbnb Le Ferule lying comfortably within a two-minute walk of Sassi entrance. The appartment was very clean, spacious, breakfast goodie basket and fridge filled with refreshments. It had a modern decor so if you want to be kept immersed in the Sassi-feel, then would look for lodging inside Sassi-perimeter, but for us, this was fine. Downsize perhaps was that the terrace looked out on street where three communal garbage containers (for glass etc) were installed and there was always the odd neighbour during our stay dropping glass at 6 am 😉

Ready for some more exploring?

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera Basilicata Italy

woman painting colorful Matera Basilicata Italy

 

Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

cat

Matera sassi door

Matera Basilicata Italy sassi

Cobblestones, steps and more steps, not thé most ideal combo when you’re a long time chronic back pain sufferer and MS patient, but hey, we survived ( a lot of resting, gelati and lemon granita!)

Matera sassi door

Pink narrow street in Matera Basilicata Italy

Ideal is to stay overnight…when sun sets and temperatures become bearable: enjoy an aperitivo and al fresco dinner followed by the obligatory passeggiata (see and be seen) and admire the wonderful twinkling of warm-coloured lights at one of the viewpoints. So much more relaxing if you know a comfy bed is waiting for you, right?!

Matera dining

Matera food restaurant

Matera sassi by night

Matera Basilicata Italy

Matera by night sassi

Matera sassi by night

 

Next destination on our trip was Lecce and exploring Salento region, where we were staying three nights in an Agriturismo, so keep your eye out for the next post 😉

Have you already visited Bari and/or Matera? Think both cities have so much more on offer and feel we only scratched the surface, so as always, feel free to comment or add tips!

Ciao, alla prossima!

Ingrid

 

Ryanair

Airbnb Le Ferule (host Nico)

Sunny Cars car rental

Discover Puglia

Matera various touristic info