The ‘Hike&Seek’ series ( both on the blog and IG) highlight some of Belgium’s finest or most surprising hiking trails: exploring nature domains and rural areas and even city exploring hikes. Goal is to hike and in doing so seeking joy and wonder/wander. Wanna join me?
No better way to kick off this new series than exploring my local hometown Aartselaar, situated south of Antwerp. The solid February cold snap we are currently experiencing has transformed the everyday familar (to me that is) streets and fields into a magical winter wonderland.
The new boardwalk path, within five walking minutes of our home, offers a welcoming platform to explore all this Winter marvel. It runs through fields and offers pedestrians and bikers a safe connection and short-cut to neighbouring village or you can combine with already existing path to create a loop.
Adopt the pace of nature…
Everything looks better and softer under a layer of snow dust, doesn’t it?! Just watch your step and don’t slip on the ice like our son did as touchdown is usually not of the softest kind!
Recreational domain De Schorre is inevitably linked to Tomorrowland… however, when madness and beats fade, the original function of the area returns: a lush green site where hikers, children, day tourists and locals can exhale and enjoy nature. The 75ha park is also often used for recreational or sportive events. Since last edition of TML some mythical creatures made the domain forest their home: at the request of the festival the Danish artist Thomas Dambo has brought seven giant trolls to life and this using recycled materials.
Together with my friend Kathleen I had a wonderful stroll in the forest, on the hunt for these friendly giants. Ask for a map at the domain’s information point. They are happy to point out the secret locations of the mythical residents, or just let the trail surprise you and discover at own pace…
Located in a former clay pit, the area is now a green oasis of peace and quiet.
With his unique creations the artist hopes to inspire people around the world to recycle and carry our precious planet and nature in their hearts.
Leaving the domain and heading for our on site lunch spot we got treated to yummy surprise gift and totally in line with the green environment: thé most delicious apple tarts, made by local bakery ‘Den oude kneeder’
Short intermezzo on the travel flashbacks and planning future trips as nature’s golden age reigns in full glory these days…though every reign has it’s enemies and Winter is coming…time to step outside and go treasure hunting: Autumn has decorated ground with fragile bits of loosened gold!
This giant stands in the back of our garden, well actually, our neighbour’s garden, but it spreads out and covers four gardens easily…and I never have a lack of pinecones!
‘Dreams come in a size too big, so we can grow into them’
Wishing on a star? A golden one…surely those dreams must come true now!
Just in case the ‘wishing on a star thing’ doesn’t work out…still have this one!
…guess I’ve found my pot of gold!
‘I am rich today with Autumn’s gold’
Hope you enjoyed our little golden tour, fyi most photos are shot in our garden.
Step outside and immerse yourself in golden and rusty hues!
Hard to believe it has already been a year since we returned from our Southwest USA road trip, a trip that took a lot of planning (and saving) ahead and rewarded us with unerasable memories of magnificent landscapes and road adventures.
In the months after our return I managed to sort out the insane amount of photos taken and composed an old-school photo album with the highlights and ‘best of’ moments however somehow a blogpost on the entire trip seemed not feasible: so many stories, so many interesting places we’ve visited, so many angles…where to start?! Well, I guess at the beginning…
After a very long flight including stopover at Chicago airport we landed in San Francisco. We chose SF to be at the beginning of our tour for several personal practical reasons: doing a road trip is rather exhausting, positioning a citytrip at the end wouldn’t be wise. Exploring SF needed us still fit in body and mind! Then there is the issue of ‘Karl’, Karl the Fog that is…Summer weather in SF can be tricky and for me, it’s just not that much fun ending the holiday in chilly and cloudy weather after spending two weeks in the sun and heat…
We spent four nights in SF and still wasn’t enough to explore all the city has to offer though we got an excellent taste of its variety: we did a cable car ride, explored Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, did a hop-on/hop-off tour, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked Lombard street, did some shopping, joined an Alcatraz night tour,… more on that here Off to prison with a smile…only in San Francisco!
Time to say goodbye to SF and pick-up our rental car…adventure awaits with a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway leading us to Bixby Bridge, the wonderful scenic 17 mile drive and the historic coastal towns Carmel and Monterey where we spent the night.
Strongly recommend, if you can, to spend more than one night here, wish we had too, however our next destination was already in mind and required quite a distance to cover, next stop…Yosemite NP!
Our hotel was located just outside the park, only a short drive to the Park’s entrance immediately rewarding us with jaw-dropping Tunnel View…
Lovely walks in Yosemite Valley, exploring the Falls, a ranger sunset talk at epic Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome…
Leaving Yosemite for our next destination came with a bonus as we had to cross Tioga Pass, with its lovely viewpoints and magical Tenaya lake.
and bonus number two with enchanting Mono Lake being on our route!
Next stop…Death Valley NP!
We have only spent one afternoon, night and early morning here, (taking in mind the high temperatures it is best to plan your sightseeing late afternoons and early mornings) however did give us time to explore some of the highlights the park has to offer: the dunes upon entering, lovely Artists Drive, sunset at Zabriskie point, Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course and the wonderful overview you get from Dante’s View…
…off to thé city of lights…(and noise, every minute, night and day)…viva Las Vegas…though must admit, for us, looking back on the trip now, not really our thing: the contrast when coming from nature’s overwhelming power and beauty is huge and my senses went on overdrive with the combination of heat, noise, lights, hustle and bustle,…we stayed two nights, however one would have been better! Still would leave ample of time to visit some of the casinos of choice, shop and eat!
We did enjoy the tour with the High Roller ferris wheel and the Bellagio fountain show!
As you can guess, we were glad to escape LV madness and submerge ourselves again into nature’s grandeur and boy, we were rewarded big time! Our route to Zion NP allowed us a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park…do not miss this one if you get the chance, you will not regret!
Zion NP to me had it all: the easy walks for those taking it slow (that’s me) the challenging ones for daredevils, water, rocks, green, it is thé perfect combination, everywhere you look, nature plays its dominant and bewitching role…oh, and I got to celebrate my 45th birthday there!
We got some more of the same magic visiting our next destination Bryce NP…hoodoos in all shapes add to the enchanting vibe hiking here, trails for all fitness levels, luckily!
Upon entering state Arizona we had a bit of weather change, lots of clouds, not the best of timing or condition with Antelope Canyon being on the programme, however we were lucky to catch a little glimpse just upon leaving the canyon!
Rain and thunder clouds packing above Horseshoe Bend as if life on the edge isn’t drama enough!
Unstable weather accompanied us the rest of our trip with blue sky one minute and dark thunder clouds and strong sudden winds approaching the next, having only one night to spend in Grand Canyon NP, we weren’t able to check off all the highlights marked on our list, however exploring the West Rim is already a treat for the eyes.
Last stop before flying home…Phoenix…no worries flight home was with a normal airplane!
Well…it’s a wrap…time flies when you’re having fun!
First time we did an overseas road trip of this length in time and distance and overall feeling was more than ok. We did the planning ourselves and took our complete plan and budget to Eric of Inforeizen, who specialises in overseas travels to the US and Africa and tried to match our desires and route as much as possible. Made it easy for us as he handled all the bookings and we had therefore only one contact person in case of questions or problems.
Curious where we stayed? Will list up all the hotels at the end of this post.
Anything we would do differently looking back? Would spend an extra night in Monterey area, extra night in Yosemite, skip Las Vegas as a destination, though it might be interesting as an airport arrival or departure point, if more time and budget include Monument Valley, pack less bagage!
Hope you enjoyed this little tour…going through these photos again, am already planning and dreaming of future adventures, great and small!
‘ I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me’
Though our recent Swiss break was mainly used to recharge those inner batteries and we mostly stayed close to our base of operations and relaxation for the week, Lenk, we did squeeze in a trip to nearby Spiez to get some rivièra vibes!
Spiez is ideally located at the magnificent lake Thun in Bernese Oberland and offers a wide variety of activities and highlights. It is dominated by its medieval castle and the romanesque church that must have been built somewhere in 8th century.
After exploring the castle, the gardens and admiring the outstanding view a walking trail leads to the surrounding vineyards…
S for Spiez, Sylvaner wine, Steep Slopes???
Of course the locals always know the best spots!
Morning walks and breathtaking views makes hungry, so heading down again for a lakeside lunch, which really means ‘lakeside’ and guarantees you a marvellous view at Hotel-Restaurant Riviera by Elio…
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The ferry services and cruises on Lake Thun are a fun means of transport to discover neighbouring lake villages or the larger cities like Thun and Interlaken where you can connect onto lake Brienz for even more water cruising fun. We hopped off at the next village and used the walking path to make our way back to Spiez.
Pyramid shaped house mountain Niessen
the old man and the sea…
Wooden sculptures along the lakeside walking path
may look like rivièra, but we’re still in Switzerland!
Next time more on our little hike to Wallbachschlucht in Lenk and the Simme Waterfall, hope this post gave you a lovely view on versatile Switzerland, land of mountains and glaciers, yes of course…but do not forget to catch some rivièra vibes!
As much as I like to travel, in mind and in actual distance, I always like returning home, bringing back a heart and mind full of memories…but what if the place you travel to feels like coming home? No destressing or acclimatisation needed…I just need to open, in this case, the car door, breathe in the fresh mountain air and rest my eyes on ‘our’ mountain to know we’re home again…Leaving this place again, and the people we know there, until our next visit always leaves me in a bit of melancholic state of mind and heavy hearted. For us, that ‘second home’ is Lenk in Simmental region, part of Swiss Bernese Oberland.
My husband used to visit this picturesque little village every year in his childhood years, this tradition must have started somewhere early seventies. His siblings and him, having their own families, kept tradition going and still visit with their own children, though not every year. We ourselves went about eight times, usually end of May and this was the first time just the two of us, son Nick guarding the house, feeding our cat and a probably very limited amount of studying.
In the posts still coming up in the following weeks I’ll take you along on some of the excursions we made, today’s post however is all about getting that fresh Swiss mountain air vibe, filling your head with Spring alpine flower meadows, cow bells replacing the alarm clock and the welcome sound and refreshing touch of the Simme stream, always close companion on our walks to town or up to the Waterfall.
So just sit back, relax and welcome to Lenk!
Our home during our Swiss breaks lies in one of Lenk’s quieter hamlets called ‘Oberried’ giving clear mountain view and direct access to walking trail path up to the waterfall and town. Weather gods have always been kind to us when choosing end of May as holiday period and this time was no exception, by far thé best weather we ever had!
Lenk is a popular health and spa facility destination and known in Winter as top ski destination, making a link with the Adelboden region and facilities, however not being a fan of snow and cold we ourselves prefer the Spring up to Autumn season. The village lies 1068 metres above sea level at the foot of the Wildstrubel massif.
Curious where ‘Lenk’ got its name? It’s composed of two German words meaning ‘long nook’, and that’s exactly the shape and function the town has at the top of the long, Simme River valley. Nestled up against the might of the Wilstrubel’s steep face, the locals simply state that they are ‘in the nook’ (an der Lenk)!
More next time on our strolls through Lenk and surroundings!
The second day of our Namur weekend break was reserved to breathe in nature and fresh air and discover some of the surrounding tiny villages, part of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonië’
First stop on our route was Thon-Samson, the drive up there coming from Namur is great, following the banks of the meandering river Meuse, you can admire the lovely bordering mansions and the crown on it all: view on Marche-les-Dames, marvelous rock formation where Belgian army troups have their training facilities. To us, Belgians, Marche-les-Dames will forever hold a place in history books as it is the place where king Albert the first, though an experienced climber, found his tragic death.
Back to our destination, Thon-Samson, with Samson referring to the little river running through the picturesque town. A perfect spot to stretch the legs, breathe in that fresh morning air and admire the limestone buildings and view on the valley and surrounding green hills.
Next stop, Mozet, again most houses in limestone and rooftops often in slate. Up on the hill, the church serves as an excellent viewpoint on the area. The Royer farm with its protected Romanesque tower can not be missed and walking further down the same path leads you to the originally 11th century castle now property of the local scouting organisation and serving as holiday and meeting centre.
Heading back north we slowly were making our way back home, however decided to take some smaller backroads as we noticed some road works and a traffic jam earlier and didn’t want to be caught in them. Now that was a smart move, as it lead us to the tiny village of Balâtre, tiny indeed, as no larger than the town square and a few streets, but we discovered a great restaurant/hotel there called ‘La Fourchette à droite’…only had to take one look at the menu to decide we were really hungry all of a sudden and yes, they do things with a little twist here, the fork is on the right-hand side!
What a perfect way to end this weekend! We have had it all, great weather and food for body and soul with Namur and its lovely surroundings as great hosts and companions, we’ll be back!
We had already decided last year that this year, holidaywise, would mean an ‘ in-between’ year. Meaning somewhere between home and away, only not too far or too long: tightening those strapping belts around the suitcases, after last year’s expensive, but worth-wile, USA road trip.
Like the cliché says, it’s not where or how far you go, it’s the journey, the experience and Lady Luck clearly decided to grant us some more experiences as both husband and me won a weekend break, how much fun is that?!
Some careful planning and scheduling and must admit the calendar looks quite inviting the next couple of months, and after that, well, we’ll see, first mission is surviving Winter and am extremely looking forward to these up-coming Spring breaks!
End of March we are heading for a b&b near Namur, capital of Wallonia, Belgium. Only heard great stories of those who already visited Namur, so am anxious to explore the city and region ourselves, which might also involve a visit to close-by abbey of Maredsous, well-known for it’s beers and cheeses.
In May, somewhere around Ascension, our wandering feet and hearts will bring us to Lenk in beautiful Swiss Bernese Oberland. Childhood nostalagia for my husband who has visited the region as a child with his family many, many times and since the first time I,myself, laid my eyes on the lush green pastures and lovely mountains covered under their snow blanket, it is also my place to exhale and relax! We were always fortunate with the weather when going in May, so do hope the good luck continues, can’t wait to be there again!
Somewhere in April of early May, still to decide, we’ll be heading for the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague) and seaside with a stay on the pier of Scheveningen. You can take that litterally as the hotel with it’s Pier suites is located on the far end of the pier and all suites offer private terraces with perfect view on the North Sea which is just at and below your feet, which should be a unique experience.
Think for the next months, in my book and with a little help of Lady Fortune, this is a perfect match of countryside, mountains and sea. A perfect balance between city and nature, time for new experiences and time to exhale! I am ready…
To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
(Hans Christian Andersen)
Belgium’s little gem Durbuy, situated in the province of Luxembourg and nicknamed smallest town in the world, could not leave you more enchanted than on the last day of October when the medieval town centre becomes the magnificent open-air stage for the annual Halloween celebration. Think Captain Jack Sparrow parading in the winding cobbled 17th century streets, fairies and witches, jugglers and other costumed street artists performing, lots of food and drinks of course, musical acts and a show with light and sound effects and fireworks to end the festivities with a sparkle.
Halloween not your thing? No worries, Durbuy and this region have so much more to offer: nature lovers can stretch their legs and catch some oxygen in the surrounding woods or tiny hidden villages. Those searching for some more adrenaline can go kayaking or head for the outdoor adventure parks and if you are searching to excite your taste buds, look no further, this region has a large number of gastronomy level restaurants and chefs using excellent local produce.
Being blessed on this little getaway of ours with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 18 degrees Celsius have our batteries recharged. Nothing beats a wonderful yummy breakfast, some nature exploring and lunch and dining al fresco when end of October/early November, right?!
Just like four years ago again we stayed at b&b La Lisière, just outside Durbuy city centre. They have three lovely cosy and spacious rooms, one gîte and one cabin in the garden, all offering nature views. Bénédicte and Stéphane, your hosts, are keen on reducing their ecological footprint, this also translates into fresh local produce at breakfast and promoting local beers which you can enjoy relaxing in the cosy bar.
Well, Halloween has left us for this year, peace and quiet have returned, but plenty of good excuses remain if you want to plan a trip to Durbuy: November hosts a lot of hunting season concerts and December says Christmas market of course! Just check out the city’s tourist info page for more detailed info on upcoming activities or nature inspiration.