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/

Pareidolia…

Parei what?

Pareidolia is a situation in which someone sees a pattern or image of something that does not exist, for example a face in a cloud.

Well, I can’t step outside or that pareidolia seems to find me: I noticed a strange looking mushroom on my walk last week and it made me think about how that happens to me a lot…the seeing shapes in things.

Bizarre how the shape of a mushroom can be the inspiration for a blog post or maybe just as proof that I am not making this up! Do you see what I see? I’m curious…

This is how it all started…with a mushroom…or is it an oak leaf? No, definitely a wannabe leaf…

What do you make of this one below?

I see a smiling beluga whale or if you only look at the top brown part a frog…are there any other animals hidden? Perhaps, you tell me!

Sometimes I even encounter long extincted giants…think others noticed him too as he even has a name…

The below one is obvious…

Having fun? Time to throw in a smiley…

Somehow, don’t ask me why (pareidolia, remember) the below tree made me think of Kate Bush. You know, in her ‘Wuthering Heights’ videoclip waving her arms elegantly…you see her too now, admit it…

With Corona travel restrictions we all suffer from wanderlust…nature offers the perfect cure and inspiration: dream now, travel later, for instance to Turkey…have you ever seen or visited the Pamukkale mineral formation? The mushroom below copies the terraced erosion…

Then it hit me, must be all those mushrooms having that strange effect on me!

I had to get out of the woods…a trip to the beach would definitely help to see things more clearly…or not…

Just to say I left my heart in Ostend…

with its beach full of colourful oyster shells shaped like little sea horses…

Wherever you go, there’s no escaping…nature if full of wannabes and copy cats. All you need is a little fantasy…

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

(A. Einstein)

Let me know which shapes you notice on your next walk!

Ingrid

xxx

By the way, are you in a festive mood yet? Nature is…time to decorate the tree!

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/

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

Doha: Qatar’s shining pearl, part 1

When I told people a few months ago we were going to Doha, some eyebrows were raised and deep think wrinkles appeared…eeeuuuhm, yes, Doha…and where’s that exactly??? Indeed Doha is not on the average tourist’s travel radar…local tourist board and Qatar Airways have been investing heavily past years as passengers in transit with more than five hours to spend are offered a city tour. However Doha, capital of the richest country in the world, is well worth a full trip on its own with lots of cultural highlights and must sees. 

In case you are wondering how Doha lighted up on our travel radar, well I’m lucky to have family living and working all over the world and one of them happens to be a pilot for Qatar Airways. This was a family reunion visit and a heart-warming and very much enjoyable escape to the sun, in what was at that time full Winter season in Belgium (we went early February). The warm embrace of family and an inspiring culture…thé best combination!

one happy family-the reunion
one happy family-the reunion

Need inspiration yourself or an excuse to plan a trip to the Middle East? Do foreign cultures trigger your enthusiasm to explore? Continue reading to find some top excuses for a trip to Doha!

Excellent as early Spring or Fall break and sun guaranteed!

With temperatures around 25 degrees Celcius, Doha is a great travel destination to plan somewhere between November and end of March. ( too hot and too humid outside this period) Don’t forget to bring a sweater as temperature drops quickly when sun sets and especially near the coastline where there’s always some wind it can become rather chilly.

Ok, enough talking, who wants to see some photos?

Join me in some of what we considered some of the highlights of our trip:

  • Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

No better place to mingle with the locals and absorb the endless array of flavours and colours! Perfect for souvenir hunting (don’t forget to bargain!) or sit with a cup of coffee or mocktail  of your choice and watch the world go by.  Plenty of restaurants for lunch or dinner. (as for the mocktails a whole new world opened up: the choice and the powerful flavours make you forget about the no-alcohol rules, I swear) If you are the ‘shop-stroll-sit-absorb-eat-relax-taking your time type’ expect to spend a full day here or like we did a half one and returned for another half. The outdoor part still gives you a sense of direction where the indoor part leads you into a labyrinth where you’ll find everyhing from textile to food, decoration, animals, etc…

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

Souq Waqif

  • Explore The Pearl  (incl Porto Arabia and Venice-like Qanat Quartier)

Big, bigger, high, higher, shiny, more shiny, luxurious and then think over-the-top…the world is not enough when it comes to the Pearl. Does it feel artificial? Yes well, let’s not forget it is indeed an actual man-made island!

Difficult when walking first time here to get an idea of where you are exactly, so do check out The Pearl interactive map.

Porto Arabia The Pearl

Qanat Quartier

Qanat Quartier

Medina Central The Pearl

Qanat Quartier Dona The Pearl

Explore QQ (Quartier Qanat) on foot or by boat. Try to avoid Fridays and Saturdays, these are the weekend days in Doha and found the Quarter just a bit too desolated then.

And don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bronze horse sculpture at the Kempinski hotel.  It is designed by a Doha-based Iraqi artist to honour the tradition and cultural importance of the Arabian horses. Not hard to believe it took more than four weeks to install because it weighs over 45t and is almost 60ft tall! If you have the time and/or money to step inside (the hotel, I mean, not the horse) an additional world of heritage and Arabian culture will open up as the interior is said to be absolutely stunning!

Kempinsky Doha horse

  • MIA, Museum of Islamic Art

MIA Doha

As a museum it represents Islamic art from three continents and this over a time period of 1400 years. Admission is free (!) and must say as a non-museum person it is worth the visit, if not for the collections ( beautiful ceramics, sculptures,etc…), then go for the unique architecture and location of the museum itself! Or just relax and have a drink by the stunning ceiling-high window and admire the view on the Gulf and West Bay area. The oculus all the way in the top catches the light which is then diffused by the perforated chandeliers. Unfortunately I am not such a gifted photographer that I can register with my camera the magic and beauty that unfolds before my eyes, though do hope the below shots give a hint….You can find MIA at the end/Beginning of so-called Corniche (Waterfront) and near Souq Waqif so you can easily combine these.

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

MIA Doha

Catch your breath and have it taken away at the same time…

(one of the slogans strolling through the Qatar Airways on-flight tourism commercials. At our outbound flight I was sceptic, later I knew better…)

MIA Doha

Join me next time when I tell you more about the Corniche stroll (that is the waterfront walkpath), Katara Cultural village, and some more fun involving sand and a camel. Did I mention we were only 6 days in Doha? Ha, bet you didn’t think there was that much to see and do, right?!

We stayed at Grand Hyatt Doha which I  can highly recommend, it is close to The Pearl and Katara Cultural Village. More on the practical stuff to follow with second post.

Grand Hyatt Doha

Stay tuned!

Ingrid

xxx

Visit Qatar

Qatar Airways

Souq Waqif

The Pearl

MIA

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’

 

Jan-Feb

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

Mar-Apr

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

May-Jun

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

Jul/Aug

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.

Sept/Oct

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

 

Nov/Dec

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!

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Ingrid

xxx

 

Hotel Martin’s Patershof

Awardt

Scruples Life

Jo de Groote photography

Fotografie Anke Van Haesendonck