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

Franschhoek, SA trip part 7

(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!

Dinner options are uncountable though for a ‘dine with a view‘ experience head towards the wine estates just (or a bit further) outside town centre. We had the most wonderful dining experience at Arkeste which we can highly recommend. The restaurant is located at the Chamonix wine estate and the outside seating area blends into the adjacent forest. Richard Carstens’ cuisine showcases both seasonal and regional ingredients and his passion and talent for food (and wine of course) pairing is very much savourable. And last but not least, considering the excellent quality and service very affordable!

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!

Ingrid

xxx

“Travelling, it leaves you speachless and then turns you into a storyteller”

https://www.visit-franschhoek.co.za/

http://www.montagu-ashton.info/

https://www.facebook.com/Klein-Dauphine-Estate-Guest-Accommodation-Franschhoek-102368581543753/

https://arkeste.com/

https://www.lapetiteferme.co.za/

https://babylonstoren.com/

https://www.capetown.travel/explore-the-cape-winelands/

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/

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

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

 

Pascale & guests…in the garden…

The art of living a happy, balanced life…they should teach fulltime classes in it…I bet Pascale Naessens would pass all of them with flying colours. For those abroad where the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, she’s the best selling culinairy author in Belgium and for many years has been on a crusade to promote a simple pure lifestyle. Next to pure, simple ingredients and healthy living she’s a passionate ceramics artist, furniture and kitchenware designer and extremely keen on anything outdoors. For almost a year she had set her mind on throwing a huge garden party where all her passions would merge and could inspire others. Partnering up with selected like-minded partners and brands past weekend Kappelen’s Wolvenbos was the perfect green stage to host Pascale & Guests…

Feeling Magazine cover Pascale&Guests
Spicy girls on cover! Photo credit Feeling Magazine

together with my friend Kathleen we immersed ourselves in the world according to Pascale…both chronic pain patients we both know how important it is to maintain a healthy body and mindset. We had every fibre, pore, and all our senses open to absorbe the good life…hope below photos give proof we did to the fullest!

Wolvenbos Kapellen event Pascale&guests
Wolvenbos castle & event location

Lots of workshops could be followed, some needed pre-registration, some were free accessible like this ceramics try-out…had to post Kathleen’s work of art, mine was a disaster ;-)))

ceramics class

Throughout terrain plenty of cosy corners to relax, follow interesting lectures, have a healthy snack or drink,…

Sips of Grace natural water flavours healhy
Sips of Grace water flavours

Stands were implemented into domain with respect for existing green structures and great eye for detail and host and her husband took time to have a chat…

Pascale&Guests ceramics tableware
Pascale’s husband Paul, journalist and tv-maker, photo credit @kvbendeg

…and if you felt an afternoon nap was necessary after all that fresh outdoor air, nothing beats a Velda bed in open forest, right?!

Velda bed outdoors event

Biggest wow to us was the ‘Secret Garden’ area, stage for the yoga classes and more zen and nature inspired sessions…we had a relaxing treat in the Rituals corner where hammocks and skilled hostesses awaited us…

Rituals
relaxing Rituals head massage treatment
greenery through the grapevine
yoga classes outdoors
Yoga classes with Evy Gruyaert

Need I say more? We had the most wonderful day and returned home with a big outer and inner smile!

Cheers to the good life!

Ingrid

xxx

Pascale&Guests

About Pascale Naessens

Markt1 ceramics

Naturalself

Rituals

Feeling Magazine

Wolvenbos

Sips of Grace