Let’s talk April

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.

Park Romeinse Put Edegem

(*) 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…

Sitting quietly

doing nothing

Spring comes

and the grass grows by itself

And throughout whole of April you could often spot me on the local flower picking farm. Instant happy vibes! https://bensbloemplukweide.be/

Am sure you have no problem guessing the main theme in this past April month? Nature, and the return of colour! Perfect match with this blog restart, right?!

Hope you’ll join me next time. May will bring some day trips in Belgium and the Netherlands whereas personally already looking forward to June with a scheduled trip to Tuscany region.


Photocredits @kvbendeg

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


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!





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!








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.


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!



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



Discovering Puglia: part 2 Lecce and Salento region

Ready for second part of our recent Puglia discoveries? Andiamo!

That means leaving beautiful Bari and Matera and heading towards region around baroque town Lecce.

We stopped around noon in Taranto: industry and port acitivities rule in this city that once was found as a Greek colony and now, at first sight, seems ruled by shipyards and factories…At first sight that is, because when you head for city centre, you’ll get a glimpse of a vibrant city trying to find a balance between its economical character and cultural past.

…a day at the city beach and port traffic jams
Taranto Puglia
…bit of ‘Welcome to Miami’ vibes

Highlight definitely is the Aragonese castle: it is located at the turning bridge where old town meets new and where Mare Grande meets Mare Piccolo. Btw, don’t let the industrial aspect fool you, dolphins made the water and islands in the Ionian see facing the city their home and town delicacy are locally-grown mussels.

Castello Taranto Puglia

Time to drive towards Lecce and check in at the Agriturismo we booked ahead and which is located just outside Lecce, in quiet Novoli countryside. We enjoyed three nights at Li Calizzi amidst fruit and olive trees and fully enjoyed the warm welcome and peaceful location. Thumbs up for the lounge and pool area, yummy al fresco dinners and host Ravi!

Time to set our teeth in exploring the region: Lecce lies in Salento, the southern tip of Puglia and just breathes culture. Famous for its ‘Pietra Leccese’, a soft limestone that has a very unique way of reflecting light and gives the local monuments a natural warm glow. Besides the history lots of shops and restaurants and bars.

Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia
Lecce Puglia

Another town within easy reach of our accomodation was Brindisi, which can also serve as airport destination when visiting this part of Italy. Again lots of shops and a ‘stroll, explore and enjoy’ destination. Pier side offers multiple fine dining and passeggiata options while admiring the passing yachts, in all sizes!

La Locanda del Porto Brindisi
…La Locanda del Porto Brindisi

Highlight, for us, in Salento was trip to nearby Gallipoli, again an acient Greek settlement. Lots of shops and dining facilities and alleys to get lost in, though turquoise water of Ionian Sea is never far off, so perfect town to explore on foot…

…and/or just sit and relax …

You can choose to explore the small alleys of centro storico or do the Riviera walk all way round with picturesque sea views guaranteed. You can gaze at the cathedral or hit the shops and definitely don’t miss Blanc, truly thé most wonderful café & living store and for a wonderful lunch with amazing view head to Il Bastione.

Blanc Gallipoli

Gallipoli definitely has it all, don’t miss out on this gem!

Gallipoli Puglia

Join me next time for the final part of our trip where we stayed in Conversano and explored both seaside and Trulli-countryside.

Ciao, alla prossima!


Li Calizzi Agriturismo

Lecce tourism



Blanc Gallipoli

Il Bastione

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…

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!




About Pascale Naessens

Markt1 ceramics



Feeling Magazine


Sips of Grace

Looking back…

These first days of the brand new year hold lots of hope and promises and looking forward, we can’t help looking back: to remember what’s worth remembering and to quickly dismiss what’s worth forgetting.

Join me on this little 2018 retrospective:


‘The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come’



Similar to nature, the hibernating months…also ‘let’s quickly forget’ months with lots of hospital visits, insecurity on the thyroid matter and ongoing back-related problems. Fast forward, shall we?!

Frozen field February


Comes Spring, comes joy…and midweek breaks! We, that is husband and me, visited cosy Maastricht in the Netherlands and vibrant London and in own garden colourful bluebells reign

Maastricht 2018



London Notting Hill April 2018


Refuelled we kept chasing sunshine with a trip to Belgian seaside, local food festivals  and wonderful Valletta, European cultural capital 2018, on the island of Malta.

De Haan


Three Cities Tour Malta


Three Cities tour Malta


Returning from Malta brought feet quickly back onto the ground: in full Summer mode my inner cruise control broke down and some weird health issues (on top of the existing back problems) surfaced.

Only a short birthday trip to Utrecht, Netherlands, and a lot of trips to doctor’s office.


Summer Utrecht 2018

Son Nick went to Madrid with srps.me and had his wallet stolen on last day, drama, drama, though still mr cool guy here

Approching end of August, and luckily feeling a bit better again, in own country, sun was still spreading glorious warmth though the various tasting festivals at wine estates, and the daily growing in size of our own home grapes gently suggested Autumn was on it’s way.

grapes garden

And house cat Wiskie closely watches them shift colour…or not…those afternoon naps are important too, right?!


Together with shooting partner-in-crime Eddy I explored Tervuren…

Tervuren poppy installation

…and joined EffenWeg on some inspiring nature walks.


Again most trips were to and from hospital, pain at full force peaking-level.

Had to check calendar, but had one (wow!) sort or less doable weekend/week in those two months, and we used that to explore Flanders Westhoek while staying at marvellous B&B ‘Ons Content’ and another shooting trip with Eddy…when I’m more or less well, or at least something that comes close to that definition in my book, it’s all about making the very best of those little getaways!.

CWxRM Palingbeek Ypres



Short getaway nature break to Luxemburg’s inspiring Müllerthal. The below photo might seem idyllic and as far as surroundings and company it was of course but with balance and vision letting me down walking took a lot of effort and often needed a walking stick, fortunately branches à volonté in the woods 😉

Back home finally some answers on the health issues: got MS diagnosis and immediate start-up of the medication to prevent further deterioration.

Had a fun and inspiring photoshoot Life-Live, a project that you can read all about here Up, close and personal…


Beaufort Luxemburg


‘Everything has changed and yet I am more me than I have ever been’



And now what?


…We’ll set course for the good life and navigate around the obstacles as best as possible


no fixed plans yet this year holiday-wise, so all options are open, except for a fun and kinda last-minute trip coming up very very soon (read Febr): hubby and myself will be spending some time in Doha, Qatar, together with my aunt and uncle we’ll be visiting my nephew (their son) who lives there, so that will be a family reunion embraced by loved ones and warmth of the sun, the best kind!








Up, close and personal…

Het wordt niet veel persoonlijker dan dit, dus voor één keertje schrijven we ook eens in het Nederlands. Want to read the English version? Scroll down and start reading below the photos.

Eerder dit jaar las ik in een lokale krant een artikel en oproep door fotograaf Jo de Groote.  Net aan een nieuw project begonnen, Life-Live, zocht hij kandidaten voor een shoot. Niet zozeer de oproep maar het onderwerp en kadering trokken mijn aandacht: Jo zocht kandidaten voor een reeks rond personen met beperkingen, lichamelijke of emotionele, zichtbare of onzichtbare met als doel een portrettenreeks te brengen waarbij de persoon in kwestie en zijn plek in het leven en de maatschappij centraal staan, met de beperking slechts subtiel aanwezig, niet als hoofdrolspeler. Het bewuste artikel vind je hier Jo De Groote – Hannelore Vens

Eigenlijk moest ik daar helemaal niet lang over nadenken; ik stuurde Jo een mailtje en enkele weken later zaten we al samen om concrete afspraken te maken. Een risico zou je kunnen denken, want je gooit je ziel toch deels te grabbel, en die schermen we net zo graag af, bang om gekwetst te worden in een maatschappij waarin heel erg op uiterlijkheden wordt gefocust. Na het eerste gesprek met Jo wist ik echter al dat het goed zat: hij heeft een groot inlevingsvermogen, is enorm geïnteresseerd in maatschappelijke thema’s en ons persoonlijk aandeel daarin en kijkt voorbij wat aan de oppervlakte ligt.

Diegenen die mijn verhaal (nog) niet zo goed kennen: ik ben 47 en lijd al sinds mijn tienertijd aan scoliose, dat is een vergroeiing van de ruggengraat, bij mij in ernstige mate. Ik onderging verschillende operaties tussen mijn 14 en 19 jaar en had de pech dat een infectie op het fusiemateriaal roet in het eten gooide waardoor het eindresultaat van de operaties helaas niet het beoogde was. Mijn ruggenwervels werden gefixeerd met uitzondering van de twee onderste, wat natuurlijk een beperktere mobiliteit met zich meebrengt en doorheen de jaren kwamen er een heleboel aanverwante en afgeleide klachten bij. Naast de chronische dagdagelijkse pijn heb ik veel uitstralingspijnen naar de benen, nek en schouders en ook acute hevige pijnaanvallen die variëren van een halve dag tot drie dagen. Ik ga al meer dan tien jaar naar de pijnkliniek en dat haalt doorgaans de scherpe randjes er wat af, maar dan nog…er zijn zo van die dagen…

…Op zo’n dagen scroll ik al eens gemakkelijk door fotoalbums op zoek naar beelden met een happy vibe of waar voor mij een mooie herinnering aan vast hangt, daar trek ik me dan aan op. Ergens heb ik het geluk dat mijn aandoening redelijk te camoufleren valt, mits wat op mijn houding letten en slim met laagjes werken. De kans is klein, als we elkaar op straat zouden kruisen, dat je er iets van merkt, tenminste toch niet op één van de goeie dagen, de andere zal je het wel merken (Soms is dat niet-zichtbare echter een nadeel, want veel mensen redeneren ‘wat je niet ziet, is er niet’ en kunnen dan weinig begrip opbrengen).

Eén ding kan je echter maar moeilijk wegstoppen hoeveel laagjes je ook gebruikt en dat is het verdriet of de uitputting door pijn, dat laat zijn sporen na…Als je als fotograaf in staat bent om iemand die pijn eventjes te laten vergeten, waardoor je als persoon terug meer op de voorgrond komt…dat is een kunst én geschenk van onschatbare waarde!

Voor deze reeks werkt Jo samen met Veerle, allround assistente en haar dochter Anke, een jonge talentvolle fotografe die simultaan ‘behind-the-scenes’ beelden schiet, wat een extra dimensie geeft aan het eindresultaat. Daarnaast komt zij trouwens zelf ook aan bod in de reeks, maar dan voor de camera.

Tijdens de voorbereidende gesprekken en doorheen de shoot merk je de grote gedrevenheid van Jo en zijn teamgenoten. Zij stellen alles in het werk zodat er een relaxte sfeer is en je je ten allen tijde comfortabel voelt. Hij steekt enorm veel werk in de voorbereiding: de shoot moet niet enkel mooie plaatjes opleveren; bedoeling is dat je er een positief gevoel aan overhoudt; iets waar je achteraf met een glimlach kan op terugblikken en kracht kan uit putten. Voor iedere kandidaat wordt in overleg een scenario uitgewerkt, niet als strak keurslijf, meer als houvast. Wij zijn dan ook geen professionele modellen hé, een beetje richtlijn is dan altijd handig 😉 Ook na de shoot houdt Jo contact en krijgt hij graag feedback: hoe was de ervaring? Tevreden over het resultaat? Etc…

Elke shoot vindt plaats op een locatie in of rond de stad Mechelen en kleding, accessoires, e.d. worden bereidwillig ter beschikking gesteld door lokale handelaars. Toch even benadrukken dat dit project niet door buitenaf gefinancierd wordt en de kandidaten op vrijwillige en kosteloze basis meewerken alsook de handelaars die hun medewerking verlenen.

Mijn locatie voor de shoot was het prachtige Martin’s Patershof Hotel, een voormalige minderbroederskerk in het historisch hart van Mechelen en met de bewaarde booggewelven en glas-in-lood-ramen een prachtige setting. Kleding werd voorzien door Scruples Life en de handgemaakte hoeden en handtassen door Awardt, beide eveneens gevestigd in Mechelen.

Echt niet zo eenvoudig hoor, model zijn, en best vermoeiend, maar naarmate de middag vorderde kreeg ik er hoe langer hoe meer plezier in! Heb het me nog geen seconde beklaagd dat ik heb deelgenomen en kan mezelf terugvinden in alle foto’s: soms met een lach, soms met een vleugje tristesse en ja, met een flinke dosis glamour, da’s een instant oppepper! Oh ja, en die rug zit er ook ergens tussen natuurlijk, maar voor een keertje was die niet belangrijk!

Deze shoot brengt de schoonheid en kracht naar boven die in elkeen van ons zit en ben zeker dat de anderen dat ook zo zullen ervaren.

Misschien zijn onze zwakke punten net wel onze grootste kracht!

Dit ben ik…en ik leef mijn leven…mét terug een klein beetje vleugels, 

waarvoor oprechte dankjewel aan Jo, Anke en Veerle!


Hieronder alvast enkele sfeerbeelden…alle foto’s ©Jo Photography en ©Fotografie AnkeVh

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Wanneer alle shoots klaar zijn (voorjaar of midden 2019) wil Jo graag een expositie organiseren. Weet jij de ideale expositieruimte? Woon of werk je in Mechelen en is dit een project waar je je in kan vinden en je op één of andere manier wil aan verbinden?  Aarzel niet om Jo te contacteren. Of misschien voel je je net als ik wel aangesproken en stel je je graag kandidaat voor de reeks? degrootej.16@gmail.com


Up, close and personal, and yes,this post is as personal as it gets…

Earlier this year I responded to an article in a local newspaper where photograpler Jo de Groote launched a call for candidates for a shoot as he had just started his new project, Life-Lived. Not the shout-out as such, but the topic caught my attention: Jo was searching for people with disabilities or limitations, physical or emotional, visible or hidden. Goal is to bring a series of portraits and story-telling photos where not the disability, disease or limitation plays first violin. A series of photos with room for vulnerability but showing great strength too like the first shoot in the series Jo did with Hannelore Jo De Groote – Hannelore Vens

To be honest, it didn’t take me long to consider, I sent him a mail and a few weeks later we got together to discuss the concept and get to know each other…stepping into an adventure, an opportunity and bit of uncertainty…deal is to show that glimpse of your soul that is vulnerable, that part of you you otherwise carefully protect or hide in fear of getting hurt in today’s society, extremely focussed on outer appearance. After our first meeting I knew I didn’t need to worry: Jo has a strong moral compass, ability to empathize and is highly interested in interaction between the individual and society, putting well-being first.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my story: I am 47 and have severe scoliosis. I had multiple surgeries and multiple bad luck too as due to an infection end result was not what it should have been. All vertebrae, except below two, are fixed what reduces mobility of course. Over the years complications and side-effects showed: I have chronic pains on a daily basis, radiating pains in legs, neck and shoulders and severe acute pain attacks mowing me down for half a day up to three days. Have been visiting pain clinic for over ten years and the treatments take off the edge, still, some days…

…on such days I often scroll through photos in search for the happy vibes and good memories; it gives me energy, strenght and hope. In some way I can consider myself lucky: for the major part my condition can be camouflaged if I choose my clothes carefully and use layers. If our paths would cross, you probably wouldn’t even notice…well, that is on a good day, the other days, there’s no mistake, you’ll be able to tell!  There is however one thing that can not be hidden, no matter the amount of layers used and that is the feeling of exhaust the pain brings…it leaves its marks…as a photographer being able to let someone forget about the pain so that the person steps out again into the spotlight, now that is a true gift and a priceless one!

For this series photographer Jo is assisted by Veerle and her daughter Anke, with Anke being a young, talented photographer shooting simultaneously and giving a unique ‘behind-the-scenes’ as well as stepping in front of the camera herself.

During our first meeting and throughout the entire shoot, Jo’s enthusiasm en passion for what he does clearly shows. Shooting on location and not in a studio creates opportunity for more interaction. He and his team make sure there’s a comfortable ambiance at all times and a lot of time is spent on preparation too, because at the end of the shoot the goal is not to just have some pretty photos, no, they should give you that so important feeling of positivity, something to look back on smiling and giving you energy. A visual tool to remind you of your strength. For every participant a scenario is worked out, not as something to strictly follow, more as a guideline…after all we’re not professional models and always helpful to have something to fall back on. Contentment in every way is high on Jo’s priority list and he keeps contact after the shoot to inform if experience and result meet the expectations. As for me double check on all levels!

For each shoot a different location in historic town of Mechelen is chosen. Clothing and accessories, etc were willingly lent by local shops and dealers. Maybe important to point out that this project is not funded in any way and the people participating do this willingly and are not paid, same goes for the dealers and shops that stepped in.

My location was the stunning Martin’s Patershof Hotel, former church in historic heart of Mechelen. The preserved arches and stained glass windows make it a unique shooting setting. Shots were taken in one of the rooms, hallway and lobby. Clothing was lent out to us by Scruples Life, many thanks Marina for your assistance, and hats and bags, all handmade, were from Awardt. Both stores located in Mechelen.

I can tell you being a model is not that simple as it looks and pretty exhausting at times, however got the hang of it as time flew by. Am so glad I took this opportunity and can honestly say I can recognise myself in each photo: sometimes with a smile, sometimes melancholic and yes, with a dash of glamour…instant feel good boost guaranteed! Oh, yes, almost forgot, there’s the back of course, but not in the spotlight!

For me, and am sure this goes for all participants, the shoot brings out the beauty and strength there is in each one of us.

Maybe our weaknesses are our greatest strength!

This is me…living my life…and a little bit of wings were added, 

for which, from the bottom of my heart, my sincere thanks Jo, Anke and Veerle!


Want to know more about the project or feel you can contribute? Please feel free to

contact degrootej.16@gmail.com





Hotel Martin’s Patershof


Scruples Life

Jo de Groote photography

Fotografie Anke Van Haesendonck















In Flanders Fields hop bells sing and nature soothes…

Last weekend we found ourselves immersed in Flanders’ fields, in the green region that stretches out from the North Sea coast, over the Flemisch hills and all the way up to the French border. A region where the landscape is silent witness of its sad, loud and violent past, where poppies colour the fields and the wind gently rustles through the hop bells…welcome in the Westhoek!

We started off our two-day break at the newly opened Bar Bernard brewery St-Bernardus Watou offering a 360 degree view on the surrounding landscape and a range of heavenly bears of course.

Bar Bernard Watou Westhoek

As it was almost lunchtime, a little snack was allowed…

Bar Bernard Watou

Hop fields Watou brewery St-Bernardus

Next stop: Poperinge with at the time of our visit the culinary festival ‘Lekker Westhoeks’ to promote regional produce…hop all around of course!

City Hall Poperinge

Time to check out our place to stay for the night which we booked through Vlaanderen Vakantieland where to stay…Nicely tucked away in the fields of peaceful village Krombeke, part of Poperinge, lies ‘Ons Content’. A true gem: the room has everything to offer you could possibly need and more, the views are amazing, the hosts welcoming with a warm genuine smile and open heart, garden full of life and colours and the breakfast beats any breakfast I have ever had before! One of those places one would rather keep to themselves, so, shhh, not too much advertising 😉 Ons Content

We had a lovely dinner in local restaurant ‘t Hommelhof. Chef Stefaan Couttenye is one of Belgium’s pioniers when pairing beers to gastronomy and he proudly uses local produce whenever he can.‘tHommelhof

Farm raised chicken ‘vol-au-vent’ with sweetbread and Kapittel prior of the brewery we visited earlier

Time to lay feet up and head to rest,…

…You can’t stop birds from singing: I’m a morning person, even on weekend breaks…after a good night’s rest this early bird had a short morning walk, though long enough to watch sunrise and see some hares playfully chasing each other in the nearby fields.



Flanders fields Poperinge

Good thing I had that morning walk as, remember,  there was that 5-star breakfast waiting with a wide range of sweet and savoury goodies! Needless to say we took our time to enjoy to the fullest!

After our goodbyes, we’ll be backs (without a doubt) and some top tips from our hosts we set off to provincial park Palingbeek (near Ypres) and land-art installation ComingWorldRememberMe by Koen Vanmechelen. Tourism Ypres Palingbeek

During four years thousands of people spread over Flanders and the rest of the world joined forces and together made 600.000 sculptures out of clay. Each sculpture representing one of the 600.000 victims who lost their lives in Belgium due to WWI. There is a walkpath up to the Bluff and a viewpoint over No Man’s Land…you are standing on land representing some dark pages of history…This unique memorial installation can be visited until 11th of November. You can read more about the project and artist’s vision hereCMxRW


CMxRW Palingbeek Ypres

Palingweek Ypres

CWxRM Palingbeek Ypres



Almost noon and we decided to head to Ypres…our visit coincided with Flanders Fields Triathlon and  Car Free Sunday resulting in a very lively city. We went from cheering on the swimmers on the ramparts…TourismYpres

Ypres Triathlon ramparts

…to thumbs up for all those who biked their way to the top rewarding them with the best views on Ypres’ Lakenhalle and Market square.

car free Sunday Ypres

Ypres market square Flanders

Ypres Lakenhalle Flanders

No visit to Ypres without a walk on the ramparts and stop at the Menin gate…

Menin gate Ypres

Menin gate Ypres

Menin Gate Ypres

This memorial was placed here in 1927 and is inscribed with the names of over 54000 soldiers without a grave…they passed through this city entrance, where the gate now stands, never to return…makes one silent no? In remembrance of those men, the Last Post, by local buglers, sounds every evening at 20pm.

Making it time for our last stop on this weekend break and we are staying in the ‘quiet’ zone…Tyne Cot  which is the largest British war cemetary on mainland Europe with almost 12000 tombstones…

Tyne Cot Flanders Fields

Tyne Cot Cemetary Flanders Fields


The Westhoek left a great impression:  surrounding nature soothes what lies in its past, though never forgotten…

Flanders Fields: A place To Remember