Hike and seek: Celles, Namur province

Fall is upon us and with Mother Nature showing off her most colourful outfits it is thé perfect time to plan a relaxing weekend trip. 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.

Ingrid

xxx

http://www.annevoie.be/en/practical-information/

https://tourismehouyet.be/nl/ontdekkingen/celles/

https://walloniebelgietoerisme.be/nl/content/welkom-wallonie-en-de-ardennen

https://www.provincedenamurtourisme.be/

https://nl.closbelair.be/

http://www.lesmougneusdas.be/

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

Hike and Seek: hometown Winter wonderland

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!

Join me next time?

Ingrid

xxx

BE-Staycation: NP Hoge Kempen

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.

Another staycation well spent! I’ll be back!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.nationaalparkhogekempen.be/en

https://vakantiehuismomo.be/

https://www.aunomdedieu.be/

https://www.facebook.com/twoohfivecoffee/

https://www.visitlimburg.be/en/cycling-through-water

https://www.natuurpunt.be/natuurgebied/vallei-van-de-zwarte-beek-beringen

BE-Staycation

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?

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.toerismevlaamsbrabant.be/en

https://www.visitvlaamseardennen.be/

Time to travel-close-to-home edition: Kortrijk

With travel plans cancelled worldwide we turn to what’s right under our nose to re-discover what’s familiar, or at least thought was familiar…close to home destinations will be extremely hot (and probably our only option) this Summer. Come (re)join me on the short visit to Kortrijk we made last year.

Are you living outside Belgium? Then Bruges is probably the first city that comes to mind when thinking of Belgian West Flanders province, right? May this post give you some inspiration on other interesting places in Flanders to discover once we all get the ‘travel go ahead’ again.

Kortrijk (Courtrai) is West Flanders’ second largest city, after Bruges, and just like its big brother knew great wealth in the Middle Ages. The eye-catching Broeltorens are reminders of the medieval defensive structure and offer great photo opportunities.

A river runs through it, being the ‘Leie’. Over the past years it was widened and straightened in order to make it more navigable for larger ships. This gave the city a major facelift as the wider river also came with new bridges, lower banks, walkpaths and park areas and even a little beach in Summer months.

Buda bridge

Below the area around city college with the College footbridge and K-tower housing complex.

Kortrijk inspires and innovates, and rightfully earned the title of ‘Unesco Creative City’ (design). Art centre Buda offers a platform for a varity of artists and designers and just walking through city streets already gives a hint of the city’s contemporary character.

I personally liked the quotes and graphic designs in city centre part of the playful ‘here to there’ art installation. And I know spitting is a big NO these days, but hey, don’t we all hope for the best?!

Summer usually brings a lovely terrace just next to ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk’…

…where churches bring us to the peaceful Unesco-heritage beguinage site which dates back to the 13th century. Restoring the housing facilities and renovation of the site as a whole started in 1984 and will be completed by 2021.

So next time West Flanders is on your radar, do take time to visit Kortrijk. If you’re looking for a place to stay, can recommend B&B OYO, just outside city centre, but still in walking distance, and near train station. Of course, Belgium would not be Belgium: lots of restaurants and bars, just ask and your hosts will guide you to the best places in town!

Stay safe, stay local!

Ingrid

https://www.toerismekortrijk.be/en

Spring has sprung…

…yes, there are still certainties in life! In this locked world, the door to nature remains wide open, whether it’s sticking your nose into the growing herbs on your own balcony or exploring the wildlife in a local park.

You come and go, you come and go

Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams

Red, gold, and green

(lyrics Karma Chameleon – Culture Club)

Putting all senses on focus will help to pick up the latest birdie twitters on thé pop-up event of the year, called Spring.

No event is complete without a colourful decor…




…or attendees in fluffy outfits, searching for snacks and, yes, well, some a little overdressed…


Pretty crowded pool party at times, with Egyptian goose, moor hens and the mallard ducks all having babies!

Want to attend a similar event? Just step outside and take a local nature hike. Use this time to explore your ‘close-to-home-world’ and above all:

Live life in bloom!

Hope you enjoyed this Spring pop-up!

Next time some day-trip inspiration, close to home (as I don’t see us travelling soon just yet) and, of course, there’s also SA’s Garden route to continue further, so stay tuned and keep inspired!

Ingrid

xxx

(All photos taken at Solhof or de Reukens in Aartselaar, Belgium)

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