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!
To continue my previous post, after a wonderful night’s rest and relaxing stay in The Pier Suites, we decided to leave early to make the most of our day ahead in the Hague. Next to being the political and royal heart of the Netherlands and city where the International Court of Justice houses, the Hague keeps it’s relaxed city vibe offering a wide range of highlights and attractions, on every level whether you are a lover of architecture, culture, food, history, nature, shopping, this city seems to have it all! Time to discover!
You can not go exploring on an empty stomach, so we stepped into indoor shopping mall De Passage and had a quick boost of energy in Du Passage, perfect place for a quick or slow breakfast, lunch or anything in between. The Mall is Hollands oldest indoor shopping mall and the interior deco is stunning, think grandeur, spotless clean and a variety of exclusive and worth-discovering shops.
Our eye fell, what can I say, once a foodie, always a foodie, on the gigantic Dok Cookware store…it’s the real thing, I could have spent the whole day there exploring and spending those euros!
de Passage mall, Dok cookware store
Paëlla, anyone?! Dok Cookware store
Dok cookware store, de Passage
Time to step into the historic centre…the so called ‘Binnenhof’ or Inner Court is the centre of Dutch Politics and also houses the House of Representatives and the office of the Prime Minister. There are tours to follow, however the Inner Court is freely accessible, as is the adjacent pond.
hofvijver, Binnenhof, pond Inner Court
Binnenhof, Inner Court
We also enjoyed the walk along the ‘Lange Voorhout’ a beautiful tree-lined lane leading you to the iconic historic Hotel des Indes…celebreties, royals, when in the Hague, this is where they stay!
Do not skip the Heulstraat with the wonderful interior and deco-shop Il Regalo and Denneweg, one of the city’s oldest streets and a must if you are into lifestyle, deco, fashion and food…just go there that means!
These colourful boots are made for walking
statue Louis Couperus, Lange Voorhout
Did you know the Hague had its own Chinatown? Both entrances are marked with a gate, the area was originally a Jewish quarter, however after the Second World War it became more and more abandoned and in the 1970s the area became increasingly inhabited by the Chinese.
Are you in for some culture? 2017 marks the centenary of the founding of the Dutch art movement called De Stijl (the Style), which is known for its bold horizontal and vertical lines encasing blocks of primary colours. Best-known artist is Mondrian. This whole year is dedicated as tribute and special activities indoors and outside are planned…even if you are not a museum lover, the city will treat you no-charge on colour and art as with the world’s largest Mondrian painting replica on the city hall. And for those who are into musea and art, do not forget Vermeer’s famous Girl with the pearl earring is waiting for you in the ‘Mauritshuis’.
All roads lead of course to royal Palace Noordeinde, the Kings working palace, if the royal flags flies above the palace…the King is in the House! The gardens and stables are located behind the residence and gardens are open for visits accept during state or royal visits etc…the classy Noordeinde district is where you will find various stylish, exclusive shops.
All this city exploring make’s you hungry, right?!
We had lunch at ’t Goude Hooft, the Hague’s oldest inn, right in the vibrant city centre and went for a sweet treat at Lapsang, breakfast, lunch and winebar.
sweet treat, arretjescake and cheesecake
Conclusion, a must visit! Like I started this post, this city has it all and we haven’t even explored half of what it has to offer during this short visit, we’ll be back!
We, that is the husband and myself, were beyond thrilled winning an exclusive stay at the newly openend Pier Suites in Scheveningen, hurray…a trip to always inspiring and relaxing Holland! As at a stone’s throw, we combined this trip with a visit to royal The Hague…A weekend to indulge ourselves in luxury, relaxed beach vibes, city exploring, shopping, fun, food and fascination, with special thanks to Linda Magazine that held the contest!
Let’s check in first…the Pier Suites‘ website promises an unforgettable experience, located at the very end of the Pier Boulevard…not hard to understand we were extremely curious to check out our very own suite and view!
suite 2, The Pier Suites, Scheveningen
seeing all that water gets you thirsty!
bubbles with a view
Just the two of us
Sea through see through
The room has all comfort you’d expect from a suite and offers full free use of the minibar filled with bubbles, beers, white wine, water…if you are the sober type, red wine…there are coffee and tea facilities, etc…however the star attraction of the room is the enormous private terrace to enjoy the spectacular view on and above the North Sea! As the water rustles gently under your room, you feel embraced by the sea, such an indescribable feeling!
The Pierboulevard offers a variety of shops and ‘food truck-style’ eating facilities…had a total crush when I noticed the Spicy Scarves Amsterdam boutique, where lovely enthousiastic owner Waheeda translates her creative passion into stunning handmade layered scarves. Keep this brand on your radar as they often attend the Swan Markets held all over Holland and Belgium and they do of course have a webshop too.
Seeking some thrill? The pier has a zipline installed, I heard a lot of woohoo’s and wow’s, so if that’s your thing, zip away! The large ferris wheel is another main attraction and was rather looking forward to a ride, however on the day of our visit it was closed for maintenance. The hotel however did supply me with a voucher, so now have an excellent excuse to return, right?!
Foodwise, no problem here, there’s the foodboulevard on the pier, and on the beach you can find any style or cuisine food bar, lounge club or restaurant you prefer…
colourful resto and lounge bars
art meets sea, must eat fish!
Kurhaus Hotel Scheveningen
For those into culture and colour, Scheveningen of course joins The Hague in celebrating 100 years De Stijl and artist Mondriaan. No worries if you are normally not a museum visitor or lover, the city will remind you on the festivities and treat you for free just strolling through the streets!
Got a final golden local tip that the best restaurants dinner-wise are situated at the harbour area…definitely going to check those out next time, however we decided to enjoy our ‘room with a view’ as much as possible, so after some small local snacks and bites in one of the beach bars, and a nice walk we headed back to our own private world above the sea, with the company of bubbles, jacuzzi-wise and prosecco-wise and more than enough wine…when night arrives, a starry sky ceiling feature accompagnies sweet dreams…royal city the Hague awaits…to be continued next post!
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!
When visiting Namur, the local citadel is a must-see, strategically located on a hill at the confluence of rivers Sambre and Meuse, the fortress offers great views. It finds its origins in the Roman era but was rebuilt several times. The route leading to the top is called ‘la Merveilleuse’, offering a combination of steep, but manageable, walks, great views, a mix of culture and nature, a Visitor Centre and guided tours for those in need for some more historic background and tales and a tourist train for those with kids or for those just out of breath…
The walk upto the top offers great viewpoints on the surrounding area as well as the city centre and its churches, on the above photo, from left to right, église St-Jean Baptiste, beautiful baroque église St-Loup and cathedral St-Aubain.
For the Facing Time exposition in 2015 the ‘Searching for Utopia’ turtle, or at least one of the copies of the original, of artist Jan Fabre, was placed on the citadel. After the exposition Namur’s inhabitants felt so connected to the turtle they decided to buy the artpiece, through crowdfunding, linking it forever to the city and the citadel. Les Namurois embrace the slow life, they have a snail as city symbol and mascotte and, well, a turtle fits the slow profile perfectly, funny detail however, the copy in Namur was far more expensive than its original in Nieuwpoort which was bought twelve years earlier.
There is someting with a city by the water, be that the sea or a river: it adds life, motion though at the same time brings peace, slows you and your senses down, exactly the way of life in Namur.
A new cable car station is being built, linking the city centre to the citadel top and the 2015 Belgian pavillion at the Milan Expo was bought to be installed at the esplanade and stade at the top…old and new…forever in harmony, forever in motion, facing time,…
Last week, during our stroll through Antwerp, my husband and I discovered a new hotspot for chocolate and tea lovers…my weary feet and aching back in much need for a rest were drawn in by the most wonderful smell of chocolate at the Japanese Royce’ shop located on Wapper square next to Pomax deco store, another fun shop by the way, if you are in search for home deco items or gifts. However, let’s get back to the neighbouring store! It appears Royce’ opened this flagship store end 2016 and is on a mission to promote Japanese-style chocolate. The store is located on the ground level floor of a lovely restaured building and on the first floor you will find the Blue Lounge, offering tea, coffee and Royce’ patisserie and chocolates of course.
Royce’s story began in 1983 in Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. With cooler climates and wonderfully natural terrain, it is the ideal location for sourcing the freshest dairy products. Over the years, Royce’ has become known for crafting unique chocolate products such as Nama (meaning ‘fresh’), maccha chocolates and potatochip shaped chocolates that are now enjoyed in over 14 countries outside Japan, and counting…
We both made our choice out of the patisserie assortment, tea for me, coffee for the husband and relaxed and enjoyed with all senses! I noticed a flyer announcing a tea workshop offered by Obubu Tea Farms matching their teas with the chocolates…no need to say I was interested! Therefore, a few days ago I headed back to Antwerp to immerse myself into the wonderful world of Japanese tea.
Instructors to guide us along this path were the vice-president of Kyoto Obubu Tea Farmsmr Yasuharu Matsumoto and International Department Lead Simona Zavadckyte. Assisted by a translator when necessary they told us a little about the history of the company, the location of the farms and the importance of quality. As only 2-3 % of all Japanese tea is exported, it is their mission to bring their exquisite teas and enthusiasm and love for their produce to us and the world.
VP of Obumu Tea Farms and the proud workshop instructor
Obubu Tea Farms is a small Japanese tea company located in Wazuka, Kyoto, a historic tea-growing region where tea has been farmed for more than 800 years. Their teas are grown and processed by Obubu’s President and Lead Farmer, Akihiro Kita. In between the storytelling three different teas and accompanying sweets were served.
If ever in Japan, when visiting the region, and I was assured it is absolutely worthwhile, a Japanese tea tour can be arranged, visiting several fields in the surrounding mountains, tea tastings and hiking tours.
First we were offered the Hojicha amber tea with some Nama champagne chocolates,
followed by a silky and smooth Samidori Matcha tea and delicious patisserie.
We ended with a Genmaicha, one of Japan’s most popular teas made by mixing Yanagi Bancha leaves with roasted rice. Must say this one was my favourite! It was accompanied by a little eclair and the Nama maccha, white chocolate mixed with grean tea.
Such an informative, lovely and very tasteful way this was to set off the weekend!
Obubu teas can be bought at the Royce’ shop in Antwerp, for other points of sale or to see if there is a tasting workshop nearby planned soon, please check their website!
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)