When is too much too much? When do you throw in the towel? Am I being selfish for thinking ‘why don’t you just bundle all this **** and dump it at someone else’s door…not that I wish anyone that much misfortune…
Just indulge me this little intermezzo in self-pity and I’ll be back to my usual smiling and ‘taking it one day at the time’ soon!
Somewhere on this blog you could already read about my health issues…I’m a chronic backpain patient due to severe scoliosis.Crash and reboot, the chronic back pain tales and Don’t you breakdown… I have chronic pains, radiating pains to legs, neck and head and what I call my random pain attacks…the worst…that’s pain on three levels only from one condition and with all this my ‘backpack: this is life, deal with it’ is pretty much full as it is. I know backpacks have those little side pockets and are super flexible…but there’s a weight limit right?!
Three years ago I got tinnitus, not exactly a fun gift, I can assure you, as it affects my sleep a lot, but hey, there are worse things. Two years ago they discovered I had a leaking heart valve. Then last year, and still ongoing, a thyroid condition and nodule came in the picture and since last week there’s a new kid in town: a balance disorder. Had been light-headed for a while but since a few days now I can’t go outside without getting dizzy, nauseous, loosing balance and feeling very insecure. My eyes don’t follow my own movements or environmental movements as rapidly which makes it hard to focus and very exhausting. Even typing gives me headache as the eyes moving from the keyboard to the page gives a blurry and delayed sensation. The London and Malta posts will come with some delays because of this, bare with me…
Already consulted a doctor and there is indeed a disorder on one side of the balance system…however, more tests needed to find out by what it is caused and exactly which part is affected…in the meantime…it’s an unbalanced life and trying to stay on my feet, literally…oh and trying to find ways to pimp that backpack too😉
Don’t shoot me but I’m not a musea person, no matter the subject…can’t help it…However, I know what I like and don’t like: I like admiring buildings and can appreciate architecture whether modern or historical, I like colours and patterns, texture and there has to be that wild card that ignites the fantasy. Pull the objects out of a building, place them in nature or outside somewhere and you’ll have my attention.
Our recent trip to Ostend, Queen of Belgian seaside resorts, rewarded us with ‘open-‘fresh (though my husband persisted ‘cold’) air’ artworks to admire when strolling through town.
Beaufort is a triennial art project that extends along the entire Belgian coastline covering 15 resorts each having their own identity. It is a project that was first launched in 2003 in which the sea very often plays the main role. Furthermore every participating artist comes from a country that borders on the sea.
In Ostend there are three different Beaufort-artworks to discover however during our walk on the western strekdam we stumbled onto the Monument for a Wullok by Stief Desmet. A wullok always holds some kind a magic and as a kid holding it to your ear, thinking you could hear the sea and what lied beyond…wow…however some things stay secret and magical, reason for the artist to return the bronze sculpture to the sea and let time, the salty air and sand transform it.
Together with the Beaufort art project Ostend is also home for the Crystal Ship open-air art exhibition. An international group of visual artists (more than 50) transforms existing structures with their interventions and murals. In this concept of ‘public street art festival’ it is the largest one in Europe!
This visit our eye fell on the works of Telmo&Miel at Nieuwpoortsesteenweg.
Even without big events or festivals like these, Belgian seaside always has something to offer to please the eye if you would ever get bored of wave or people watching…
The picturesque ‘Duinenkerkje’ at Mariakerke/Ostend is the final rest place for painter Ensor where he lies peacefully…altough…surrounded by lively sheep and a colourful rabbit…
And in neighbouring De Haan some beautiful romantic sculptures keep you company on your evening walk…
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
Sun, happy vibes and excellent food, aren’t these usually thé key ingredients to create that glorious holiday mood? Past days, for us, that didn’t even involve airmiles or long drives…for four long days Antwerp’s Waagnatie was centre stage for the culinary festival ‘Antwerpen Proeft’ freely translated as Antwerp tastes…tastes how? Quite delicious!
Invited by Elvea1885, the brand that brings excellent quality and Italian flavours into your kitchen, and accompanied by the lovely weather last Saturday we found ourselves heading to Antwerp Waagnatie premises, located in vibrant ‘het Eilandje’.
The culinary festival, the 12th edition already, has a tradition of bringing the world and its kitchen on your plate with a variety of restaurants and culinary experts presenting their signature dishes in bite-sized portions and a cost-friendly price setting. In addition there is room for a full programme of demonstrations and workshops, from Weber grill expert Academy to AEG-sponsored baking and cooking classes for young and old.
For those among you that are of the ‘forever in doubt’ type…this festival will be quite a challenge, but of the fun kind! Take a few strolls and absorb flavours and colours before your stomach sounds indicate a decision will have to be taken eventually. No matter the dish(es) of your choice it will taste great!
Our eye fell on the attractive food presentation and expert and passioned explanation of Gå Nord, presenting a fusion of scandinavian and oriental cuisine, inspired on the wabi-sabi philosophy, thus combining pureness and simplicity.
Of the two mouthwatering dishes on display we chose the Knäckebröd with horse-radish, flakes of cedarwood-smoked salmon and pickled vegetables. Colours and flavours in perfect harmony, truly yummy.
Outdoors the inviting seating by the water seduced us to enjoy an excellent Belgian Entre-deux-Monts Chardonnay wine, provided at the Belgian wines-stand. If not a wine lover, then head for one of the cocktails, belgian beers or water stands! Sip, relax and watch the world go by…
Attending the festival and location is easily to combine with some shopping and city-stroling, either in Antwerp historic city centre or stay closer and explore what ‘t Eilandje’ has to offer.
Conclusion: a festival that leaves a sweet, lingering aftertaste…will YOU be joining next year’s edition?
ps you can find out more about the festival and its participants here or stay tuned on upcoming Antwerp events here
One month ago one of March’s beautiful spring weekends led us to Belgian Voer-region and Dutch city Maastricht. A perfect combination: countryside and city, best of both worlds…You could already read all about our discoveries in Voer here Welcome in the Voer region…but I still owed you some Maastricht tales and photos…
Maastricht lies at the crossroads of the three countries that together make up the Euregion Meuse-Rhine with ‘Maas’tricht itself lies at river Meuse.
We stayed in Townhouse Hotel located in Wyck-district near city station and it offers warm hospitality and coziness in a modern decor.
A very special thanks to the hotel helpful hotel staff as during our stay my husband got sick and we were forced to stay longer…not a punishment for me, but sadly no romantic weekend as he experienced most of Maastricht out of his room😟
Mainly just me therefore exploring the city, so do keep me company and join me on this little stroll!
Maastricht is often described as one of the most romantic cities of the Netherlands offering a wonderful variety with quaint historical districts, art, history, culture, gastronomy and calm green surroundings. What’s not to like?
The Wyck-district, where we were staying is linked with Maastricht’s city centre through the ‘Sint-Servaasbrug’ and is therefore frequently used by pedestrians and cyclists.
If your mind is set on shopping, Maastricht definitely is the right place: hip and vintage in Wyck, multi-brand shopping centers Mosae Forum and Entre Deux in city centre and the more posh boutiques in ‘Stokstaartkwartier’ ánd always open on Sundays!
Paradis de Clayre
Wanderlust in Wyck
royal warrant holder, delicious coffees and teas
Maison de Clayre
wooden robot and other toys and gifts in Wanderlust, Wyck
Entre Deux shopping centre
Shopping makes hungry, right?!
tasty B.L.T. bagel Wycker Cabinet
‘t Wycker Cabinet
Maastricht houses one of Holland’s most unique bookstores, being located in a former church ‘Boekhandel Dominicanen’ offers an enormous collection of books with a view, oh and yummy coffee and sweets in the inside shop!
book store Dominicanen
up, up, look up!
Maastricht is also one of the oldest cities of Holland: Saint Peter’s caves and fortress, the casemates, stone wall…all still prominent witnesses of Maastricht’s prominent place in history. One place in particular that you just have to visit when inside city centre is ‘het Vrijthof’. This large square has attracted people since medieval times when pilgrims came to see the grave of Saint Servatius, lying in the Basilica carrying his name. These days, Vrijthof is also known for its many outdoor cafés and frequent events.
At ‘De Bisschopsmolen’, a bakery in a restored watermill, they are justly proud of their craftmanship and working with natural products and simple processes.
After visiting the mill, do take a further stroll in the Jeker-district, Jeker being a small stream, flowing into the Maas here in the city. Explore Helpoort, the oldest surviving city gate in the Netherlands, and the characterful surrounding streets.
Last weekend we met up with our friends Anita&Stef: we had a nice walk and great dinner and got a chance to catch up on our walk of lives…the daily issues and struggles, the little pleasures,…
During our talk a particular song was mentioned, written and performed by Brigitte Kaandorp, she’s a Dutch comedian with frequent shows and during one of these shows she sang this song called ‘ik heb een zwaar leven’. In English it would be something like ‘my life is so tough’ or ‘my life is such a struggle’(groan, groan).
I already knew the comedian but had never heard of the song. Back home I got a chance to listen to it and boy, I had such a laugh, it’s a great song and helps to see the humor in how we deal with setbacks..loved it. So many resemblances to daily life things that don’t go as we expected and how we immediately, almost a reflex, experience that as something very negative instead of focussing on the alternatives. We compare to others and are jealous of how their walk of life seems to go so smoothly while it’s all rocks on our path…self-pity is easy, right?! Those rocks are maybe not that big and there’s often a way to get around, your path will be longer and have more curves, but it’s still a lovely path to walk!
My personal life is tough too, yes, it truly truly is🤣no kidding…a lot of medical issues, past months I was more in and out hospital getting treatments for my backpain than at home and that weighs hard sometimes…on those close to me, on how I function, etc…I try not to complain too much, I mostly try to blog and post about the happy things that truly make my day, however, those close ones often get the full load, sorry, sorry 😉 mainly I try not to let it determine who I am, though must admit, that takes some effort sometimes, but it’s SO much better than dwelling in that self-pity…
So when you find yourself in that state where everything goes wrong and the universe seems conspiring against you (and we all have that sometimes) just stop…a little humor helps to get you out of that state, so remember those words…’ooh my life is soooo tough, really really tooooooough’ (groan, groan), I bet it will make YOU smile a little too and you’ll pull yourself together.
…once a political and linguistic battleground, now every wanderer’s, cyclist’s and nature lover’s dream! This rural region is situated in the far eastern part of Belgium, in province Limburg, and consists of six small villages* lying at a stone’s throw from the Belgian-Dutch border yet still close to major cities as Liège, Aachen and Maastricht. Its location nearby rivers Rhine and Meuse, the landscape and soil have always attracted many to exploit: the Romans did, even traces back to prehistoric times can be found…Over history, nature, the unique character, position and its advantages rightfully took the upper hand for this region…who cares which language is spoken when there is so much to enjoy and discover…
St-Martens-Voeren is dominated by the tall ( 23 metres) railway bridge. It is part of the rail connection Tongeren-Aken, mainly used for freight transport and was built by the Germans in World War I.
As in most of these tiny villages, the church building dominates and in this case also the starting point of hiking route ‘de Bronnenwandeling’ which was chosen most beautiful hiking trail in Flanders in 2012.
No exploring on an empty stomach though, Hoeve de Bies is ideal for any short or longer hungry break and when in Limburg of course, the typical ‘Limburgse vlaai’ is all around…resistance is futile!
It was the tiny hamlet of Veurs (Sint-Martens-Voeren) that stunned us most during our little trip. This particular area is known for its concentration of typical timber frame houses. It is home for some extraordinary fauna and flora, mixes tree orchards and small forests and it’s oh so quiet…big like!
Sint-Pieters-Voeren is the smallest of the six ‘Voer-villages’, with fewer than 300 inhabitants, and best-known for its Commanderie. This castle belonged to the German Knights Templar until the French revolution. The current building was constructed in the beginning of the 17th century in the so-called ‘Meuse-region Renaissance-style’.
In the park of the castle lies the spring that provides the ponds and the Voer river with water at a ratio of some 3000 litres per minute. In these surrounding ponds trout and sturgeon are bred which is a true delicacy and is on the menu at the local on-site brasserie and many of the local restaurants.
We had our feet up and enjoyed a lovely little ham and cheese snack at Gasterij de Commanderie opposite the castle.
Perfect way to end this little pre-Spring ‘tourist in own country’ trip and look back on the lovely landscapes and walking routes we discovered along the way. This definitely tastes for more, litterally, as there are some outstanding winehouses in this region as is the nearby abbey of Val-Dieu and its beer of the same name, needless to say we’ll be back!
Next post I’ll take you along to Maastricht, just over the Belgian-Dutch border and easily to combine with a Voerstreek visit!
(*) Moelingen, ‘s-Gravenvoeren, Sint-Martens-Voeren, Sint-Pieters-Voeren, Teuven and Remersdaal
This girl is in desperate need for spring! We already had those first little teasers warming the heart, however the season transition, as often, is like the dancing procession of Echternach: three steps forward and two steps back! Spring definitely keeps us hanging on…
Erratic as the weather and moody as my temper, this post jumps from cold to warm and from grey to colour, keeping in mind patience is always rewarded!
Speaking of patience, it took me a while to start blogging again, not out of lack of inspiration, more due to some health issues that keep hanging on themselves. There are days where all energy goes to getting through the day, but that’s another story…a little extra solar boost would definitely recharge my batteries!
Crisp cold mornings on the nearby corn field, in search for some colour, my hunt was rewarded!
As if someone carefully displayed them like in a giftbox…
…and no gift without a wrap around it!
Meanwhile in our garden colours start to shift and the pale and earthy tones are joined by some welcome bright returning guests…
Like the airy plumes of the miscanthus below, resting in the wind and bringing fluffiness and spark am sure this slowly ignites nature’s transformation…
…to full spring days and a total explosion of life and colour all around, with playful bird tunes announcing the start of a fresh new day. In our garden the crocusses and daffodils are the first colourful guests, followed by some snowdrops and later on bluebells
I’ll settle with the crocusses for now and am living in hope as with the start of a new season maybe I get that reboot too 😉 The party garlands in the hazel tree are hanging in place…time to get this party started!
In the Lisbon series there is one more ‘must see’ I want to tell you about, or not…maybe Sintra should be kept more secret as it is already overrun by tourists all coming to admire the city’s cultural and architectural wonders. Its natural and historical value make Sintra in its whole a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like I said, a ‘must see’…
Sintra is located 25 km outside Lisbon city centre and is set against the lush pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra. Easily accessible from Lisbon Rossio train station in about 40 minutes and included if you have a Lisboa card.
Upon arrival shuttle services await you to bring you to all the main sites, however we chose to walk to the village centre. An easy walkable path offering views on the National Palace with the characteristic chimneys, colourful stands with local handicrafts and an iron throne, well, with a little imagination…
Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!
In the above picture, all the way up, op top of the foggy hills, are the ruins of the moorish castle. We’ll get to them later…
First stop for us however was Pena Palace and its gardens. From the city centre we took a tuk tuk that dropped us off at Parque da Pena entrance and from there we made our way up to the Palace, still a serious climb on often cobbled paths!
Some piece of advice…if you are not interested in castle interiors you do not have to get in line, which can be a very, very long queue…the exterior grounds are perfectly accessible with your entrance ticket without waiting in line or just ask for the cheaper park/outside combination…wish someone had told us that upfront, it certainly wasn’t mentioned at the ticket office…though would have saved us a lot of time! And yes, some of the terraces are only accessible from the inside, however is it worth an hour and a half queuing? That is up to you to decide…
The palace is a dazzling piece of extravagant and astonishing architecture, where technicolor meets mythology and of course, being in Portugal, tiles are never far away! Not that it was always like that…the hilltop used to be home for a monastery. After the abolition of religious orders in Portugal it was abandoned and King Ferdinand II acquired the grounds in a public auction. So the story goes he was a bit jealous of Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria and commisioned Baron von Eschwege to build him his own dream palace opera-inspired (he later marries opera singer Elise Hensler) and saw to a forestry landscaped garden to hide away in. I’d say mission accomplished!
colourful Palace residents…
some welcome shade in the palace surrounding gardens
Meanwhile in city centre…
I promised blue skies, didn’t I? Fog has cleared and you can see them now…next stop, the moorish walls…
The Castelo dos Mouros was established during the 9th century by the North African Moors to guard the town of Sintra however archeological excavations and studies of the artefacts around 1995 even traced back occupation of the castle slopes to 5000 B.C. by neolithic communities…this place breathes history! In the 19th century King Ferdinand II acquired the castle that had become a ruin by then and converted it into the romantic style of that century through exuberant planting and reconstruction though keeping a certain medieval ruin charm.
Not sure if I would recommend to climb the longer part of the walls with very small children or if you are afraid of heights…the passage is sometimes narrow and there is not always a safety railing…
‘smaller part’ of the walk
The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…
Tired feet and back, hence the tuk tuk back to village…smooth ride and friendly helpful driver, were all I needed to recover and smile again!
There’s plenty more to see in Sintra, in fact, if you want to explore thoroughly and at ease, it’s probably best to spend the night, more ‘must see’ attractions are the Quinta Regaleira, Palácio de Monserrate, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Convento dos Capuchos,… just check the local tourist office website or office.
30 days without complaining…would you be able to do it? And what is considered complaining? Will I have to bite my tongue or think twice before speaking? Will my partner in discussion will roll his or her eyes and dare to bring it to my attention…stop yammering! After those 30 days, will the glass be half full or half empty?
Yesterday, not totally coincidental on Blue Monday, meant the launch here in Belgium of the playful campaign ’30dagenzonderklagen’ meaning for 30 days we will be motivated to look at life through pink coloured glasses.
It appears we love to complain, right?! I guess we Belgians are not alone in the world when it comes to that…we complain about the weather and small things in daily life and of course the bigger issues: health, relationships, work, politics, you name it,…and like all habits, it’s a hard one to break, key is not to look at those bumps in the road or setbacks in a too negative way.
Like the campaigns ’30dayswithoutmeat’ and ’30dayswithoutalcohol’ this one too tries to raise awareness and provides tools to stand in life more optimistically…no worries, it’s all down to earth…for 30 days long coaches and ambassadors from health, sports and cultural sectors guide you through a more positive lifestyle with their daily tips & tricks and missions. At the end of the campaign, just in time for Valentine’s day, you’ll be able to test if you’re truly standing happier in life than when you started…
Is the glass half full or half empty? Well, isn’t there a third option…focussing on what’s in the glass…
Do we really need a campaign or test to learn us to be happier and to complain less? Well, maybe we do, maybe we don’t…biting your tongue when you really have something on your liver isn’t healthy either…isn’t the trick, as it is often, to keep moderation…not to complain ‘too’ much or ‘too’ long? Like I still want to eat steak and drink a glass of wine, just not every day… and I still want a listening ear when I feel the need to share my troubles and just by knowing you listened, I’ll open up my heart for all the good still to come…now isn’t that positive?! See, only two days rolling and it already has an effect😉
First things first: wishing you all a happy, healthy, joyful New Year! A year filled with joy and hope, a year plenty of dreams and projects, new horizons to discover, old and new friendships to cherish…let’s raise our glass to that!
Speaking of raising glasses, at Antwerp city brewery ‘De Koninck’ they take that quite literally!
You can discover the history of this working and iconic Antwerp Brewery through an interactive and unique tour. Without spoiling to much of the fun in case you have a visit planned soon, expect to be immersed into the world of hops and malt, make a fun delivery drive through Antwerp’s city center and get some first hand juicy stories from the brewery owners…oh and there’s plenty of beers to taste too of course!
Apart from the beer the brewery site houses some great food concepts, stores, restaurants and bars that make any foodie drool: from recently Michelin-rewarded ‘The Butcher’s Son’ to Cheesemonger-shop by Van Tricht, Jitsk chocolatier and many more fun projects and concepts.
‘Tastemakers’ and the brewery teamed up and an urban beekeeper takes care of the beehives installed in a beertank on the parking lot… that’s around 160000 very ‘beezy’ workers producing some runny yummy honey!