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 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 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!
(please note this trip was made early February 2020 before Covid-19 restrictions)
Those who follow me here on the blog may have noticed my absence lately. A lingering foot issue combined with the already existing medical issues meant all energy went to healing. A work still in progress…I tried to maintain my daily posts on IG and for a while that was more than enough. I still had to complete the SA series but frankly I found it very confronting scrolling through the album in an attempt to choose some photos with Covid-19 travel restrictions and my own body limits. Though we live in hope; vaccination seems to give us part of our freedom and wanderlust back, though caution and prevention still have to be our number one priority and the personal medical issues, ah well, I focus on the days the pain is controllable and I am more or less mobile, with or without walking stick. But here’s to new beginnings, shall we? And for that we first need to end our SA travel adventures. So do join me on the last part of this SA trip where we explored Franschhoek region.
Leaving Oudtshoorn behind us (you can read up on that here Oudtshoorn: an ostrich a day… SA trip part 6) a four to five hour drive will bring us to final destination of this holiday before returning to Cape Town Airport: Franschhoek.
Following the R62 and passing through lovely little towns we saw landscape slowly change from Karoo vegetation to lush vineyard valleys.
Around noon we stopped and had lunch in Montagu, a town definitely worth exploring! The friendly owner of a deco shop recommended stopping in the Mystic Tin for lunch and that did not disappoint! Lovely outside terrace and garden with succulents and other local plants.
We stayed two nights in Airbnb Klein Dauphine Estate which comes with more than grand views. To fully explore the Cape Winelands region would recommend to stay at least four nights.
Franschhoek is one of South Africa’s oldest settlements and culinary belongs to absolute world top. The vineyards date back 300 years to when the French Huguenots settled in this corner of Africa. Franschhoek’s main street Huguenot Street is like a colourful string of pearls: the art shops and galleries, fashion boutiques, restaurants and bars complement each other and seamlessly fade out into the large wine estates, b&b’s and vineyards before being called a halt by the mountains surrounding the valley.
If Franschhoek alone doesn’t still your hunger its neighbours in the Cape Winelands region are more than happy to welcome you (Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Somerset West) and all this just an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
More into nature than food or wine? Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is part of the UNESCO-declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve. Situated in the Franschhoek Mountains, the reserve offers breathtaking views of the valley. There are 10 hiking trails with varying difficulty, all together over 30 km hiking fun!
On our second day with the list of things to see and do endless and time not on our hand this being our last day we had to be resourceful.
Babylonstoren to the rescue!
Babylonstoren, at foot of Simonsberg, is one of the oldest (1692) Cape Dutch farms in the region. It has a fruit and vegetable garden, vineyard, offers dining possibilities as well as lodging, a farm and gift shop and, oh, let’s not forget the jaw-dropping scenery! With Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek mountains as a backdrop, Babylonstoren does not disappoint! The immense garden can be explored during a guided tour or you can stroll and enjoy at your own pace. Spending a halve day here is the very minimum!
Could this last day be any more perfect? You bet! Returning to our accomodation we decided to stop at La Petite Ferme: a small boutique wine estate nestled into the Cape Winelands’ vineyards and with thé most incredible views over Franschhoek and the mountains beyond. We were just in time to join an informative and heavenly wine tasting, the kind that is given with passion and sparkle.
The estate’s winery offers a full range of wines from white to rosé and red. Quoting La Petite Ferme: “Each wine delivers on the promise of being an exceptional example of what the Franschhoek terroir has to offer. Bringing forward a perfect balance of wine making skill and farm management. Come and take in the atmosphere while experiencing some of the best hand crafted wines the valley has to offer”
And so our SA Western Cape road trip sadly came to and end and all that was left was to admire that last vineyard sunset, enjoy that last glass of wine and promise each other we’ll be back!
Hope you enjoyed this series! In next posts you can follow some of my local hike & seeks. Coming weekend we have a trip to Tongeren, Belgium’s oldest city planned so definitely more on that. There’s a scheduled birthday trip to Walloon Brabant and if all stays well Covid-19 wise and abroad travel is an option AND if my back and related issues aren’t too much of a spoilsport we’ll head to our beloved Lenk in Swiss Berner Oberland in August. Fingers crossed!
“Travelling, it leaves you speachless and then turns you into a storyteller”
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?
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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’ 😉
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.