This weekend Antwerp’s hip and trendy ‘Eilandje’ neighbourhood offered thé perfect and sunny scenery for the 10th edition of the Water-rAnt festival. The city’s oldest docks welcomed around 115 historical ships and put nautical heritage and tradition in the spotlight.
Highlights: the 2km stroll along the historical vessels, some of them open to board and explore, tours with old steam tugs or other historical ships, ambiance à volonté and couleur locale, musical performances, demonstrations and no festival without food stands of course!
MAS museum centerpoint and in full glory and for once maybe could be re-named MASt
Inhaling life on the water makes hungry as a horse, no worries, different food stands kept every wannabe sailor satisfied, think oysters, mussels, sea food platters, smoked eel and lots of sweet treats and drinks of course.
Not just an ordinary street band, contagious enthusiasm, happy vibes and funky beats are their trademark, with success, resulting in lots of cheers and smiling faces!
Draft horses and their ability to pull weight up to 3 ton each were an enormous asset in port’s history. Belgian heavy horses are among the strongest of the heavy breeds. You can still spot these power beauties when making a city tour with the horse-drawn streetcar. Keep an eye on them and make sure they are well taken care of and get to drink regularly. The way our driver spoke about his beauties showed his passion and love for them.
The new ‘Londenbrug’ bridge opens up to welcome sailing boats and yachts into the inner docks and offers open view on Port Authority house, one of the last completed designs by Zaha Hadid.
Did I awaken some nautical vibes with you? See you next year then or check the eventspage below to find future interesting festivities!
The so called Swan Markets, regularly held in the Netherlands and Belgium offer starting entrepreneurs a platform and chance to showcase their craftsmanship and creative skills on a larger scale as it usually attracts a very large crowd. As was also the case last Sunday in Antwerp where the ‘Grote Markt’ and sunny weather formed an excellent décor for this lively market.
Handmade jewels, fashion accessories, home deco and lifestyle items, modern or vintage…whatever your preference or style, there’s something to be found for every person and budget. Letting my eyes wander over the colourful, detailed pieces and products created with passion made my heart jump! And then I didn’t even mention the extremely tempting smells coming from the different food trucks, taking you on a world journey with oriental flavours, U.K. Fudge, American style BBQ, oysters, pancakes,…
Enough written, some impressions…
I must admit I have a terrible weakness for scarves…luckily Spicy Scarves Amsterdam has just the cure! Double or three layered and all handmade! Depending on your mood or the season you can go for the colourful ones or more toned down, sportive or sophisticated, believe me, very hard to choose! I met Waheeda, the lovely lady in the photo and creative brain behind the brand, during our trip to The Hague last week where she has a shop at the pier in Scheveningen,…if a trip to Holland is not scheduled in your near future travel plans, do re-consider, or just visit their webshop of course!
Buying a This is Liger t-shirt will guarantee you a very unique piece of garment. Each year six visual artists are asked to team up with the brand, each artist designs a limited edition of only 360 pieces. You can find the unique number on the shirt, the designs are all very cool, couldn’t resist so bought one for our son.
Plants and flowers run through Stefanie’s veins, not only hers but also her family’s and this for already four generations and going. With her plant caravan she brings all that is lively and green to you or to markets like this one.
oh, and never ever throw away again your old toilet 😉
With the colourful scarves of ‘Sjaal met Verhaal’ you do not only end up with a quality scarf, as the name suggests, there is a bigger and warm story behind it: buying here means supporting women entrepreneurs and projects in Nepal and Thailand, securing a job and an income for several locals. Do check out their website, support their project and get yourself a lovely handmade scarf!
Who doesn’t like candy?! However, over the years the word has gotten such a bad connotation…Tante Toos to the rescue, all sweets are pure fruit, pure flavour, all paleo and often vegan and raw too…no obscure additives, these fruit ‘mats’ only contain pure fruit and some herbs and are then rolled like a yoga mat…they come in different flavours: raspberry, strawberry, applepie, mango and forest fruit. Store them in a closed container up to six months,…though I doubt you’ll have them that long! I tasted the raspberry and applepie and oh my, though as thin as a slice of paper it is truly a full explosion of freshly baken homemade applepie! Fun and original way too to finish off or decorate a homemade dessert…
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!
After some weeks of (un-willing) staying indoors due to the chronic pain struggle thing, and my trips outside the house mostly limited to the local shops in our town, my inner self was desperately seeking an escape and a broader horizon! Thursday the universe didn’t seem to conspire against me and I was looking forward to a few hours of city exploring and strolling, yep, it promised to be a great day!
I took the bus to nearby Antwerp, sun was out when I arrived, temperatures rather high for this time of year, some cafes and bistros setting their outside terraces…Spring was definitely in the air…and in my head! What better way to fill that head with new ideas and inspiration than a stroll through town, some deco-hunting, fashion-inspiration and people watching?!
I actually decided to get off the bus a few stops earlier than my usual stop and firstly explored the Nationalestraat, a street that always keeps re-inventing itself with new shops popping up. I had just left the bus and bumped into author Tom Lanoye. Well, nothing special there, he lives in the city I guess and Nationalestraat is hip and trendy, so sooner or later you are bound to bump into a familiar or famous face! However, a few hours later I found myself in ‘The Chocolate Line’ shop of Dominique Persoone, I know, I know, just follow the chocolate smell when near the Palace on the ‘Meir’ and you’ll be drawn in too! You can admire the interior, taste yummy chocolate, buy some chocolate pills or a seductive chocolate lipstick and get a glimpse of ongoing creations in the open atelier/kitchen…a signature on the writing wall in that kitchen caught my eye…a yummy chocolate quote by…Tom Lanoye!
I had a quick lunch at Lloyd Loom, more out of necessity to have my feet up and take some pain medication than I was hungry at that time…I know they have comfy chairs and it was the perfect place for me to reboot and have a croque madame with some OxyContin, that last one not on their menu! Luckily the meds did their thing and allowed me another two hours filling my heart and head with deco ideas and getting Spring fashion inspiration before a second pain attack rolled in and I wisely decided to head home.
cat fun at Sissy-Boy Antwerp
Jelly fish deco at Jüttu
Hout van je stad, what a great idea!
Lemon and dreams of Spring and Summer
In the evening I got treated to a third attack, however, it is so much easier to counter such an attack when having beautiful memories or inspiring things in mind to cling onto: the warmth of the sun that made me long for Spring, the contours of the city hall against the blue sky and the group of German tourists I helped out by showing them the direction to the cathedral, the funny jellyfish deco I spotted in Jüttu and the beautiful printed blouse of designer Natalie Vleeschouwer, the Valentine decoration and Spring/Summer fashion that is filling the shop windows, the overwhelming abundance of colours in flower shops and in the Zahia store where I buy beads for necklaces, oooh and let’s not forget the smell of chocolate! Yes, some days are just great…though it took me almost two days to recover before being able to go through the pics and write this post!
Hope you enjoyed your own little stroll reading through, enjoy your day!
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)
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of the twinkling lights of Christmas in homes and streets, reflecting in our eyes and making our hearts glow. However, when that last week before the big day sets in and craziness and too many people hit the shopping streets and the supermarkets get overrun, I seek refuge: in our own home, the kitchen, nature, smaller less crowded cities and sometimes that little peace and quiet I was looking for is just in the very heart of busy city life!
On all the many occasions we visited Lier, situated southeast in province Antwerp in Belgium, we had never paid an actual visit to the local beguinage, which is a true shame as it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site! The beguinage itself found its origin in the 13th century though most houses date from 17th and 18th. The last beguine died in 1994 but walking the alleys gives a pretty good insight on how life must have been. Once you walk through the monumental gateway it’s like walking inside a history book and the peace and quiet are such a lovely companion on this discovery walk!
You might even, with a little imagination at a certain moment think you’re in London’s Notting Hill, well Flemish style, of course!
Though there is a meaning behing the colour scheme, it was custom that the house closest to the church had the colours of it’s patron saint, in this case Margaret yellow…
The system of long-lease makes it possible for civilians like you and me to even ‘own’ a house there, or at least the use of it as the ownership returns after the stipulated time, which is the thing with these long-lease contracts. Many houses have already been restaured, within very strict limititations and keeping authentic details of course…and you need a serious budget!
The entrance to the beguinage is free and will lead you through 11 alleys and 162 houses and at the centre you will find St Margaret’s church. Throughout your walk you will discover some references to Felix Timmermans, Flemish writer and poet, born in Lier who often came to the beguinage in search for inspiration. He nicknamed the place ‘The almond bean of Lier’.
A lot of water pumps to be found too in the lovely alleys, or as Timmermans once wrote about them ‘statues dedicated to no one’
If you find yourself close to Lier, do visit this unique place, you won’t regret!
And for those not into the peace and quiet, no worries, plenty more things to see and do in Lier, more on that in another post!
Not sure if I will find time to write another post before Christmas, so wishing you all already everything you wish for, peace in your heart, joy and passion in what you do, peace for the world, love and warmth to fill the lonely, cold or aching hearts, all those small and little things that should be obvious and don’t need a shiny paper or much bling bling, just a genuine smile and twinkle in the eye.
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.
Every year on the 15th of August the historical centre of Antwerp forms the decor for the ‘Rubensmarkt’. More than 200 stalls with food, drinks, clothing, flowers, etc…so far nothing exceptional, I know, but what makes this Rubensmarkt so special is the traditional aspect linked to it: the stall owners are all dressed in baroque costumes and they seem to have just stepped out of one of Rubens’s paintings!
15th of August being a public holiday here in Belgium, celebrating Assumption of Mary you can expect big crowds, especially as Antwerp throws in a second celebration that day! Due to a pamphlet written in 1913 by artist Louis Van Kuyck declaring that day a ‘day of all mothers’. Over the years the rest of Belgium and Europe copied the Amercian tradition to celebrate in May, but here in Antwerp, well yess, we feel the need to be different, sorry 😉 In our Household we usually celebrate twice, you can’t have enough reasons to make your mum feel special and appreciated, right?!
If you plan a trip to Antwerp in August one of these years, do try to enjoy one of the typical traditional markets like this one, add some sunshine and great company and you will have a fantastic day!