Welcome in the Voer region…

…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…

bridge Voerstreek

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!

dessert tea break

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!

Veurs timbered houses

Veursvallei Limburg Voeren

Timbered houses

landscape Voeren Limburg

nature soil Voeren

horseriding Limburg Voeren

 

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’.

Commanderie Sint-Pieters-Voeren

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.

Gasterij de Commanderie

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!

Voerstreek Limburg Timbered house

Ingrid

xxx

 

(*) Moelingen, ‘s-Gravenvoeren, Sint-Martens-Voeren, Sint-Pieters-Voeren, Teuven and Remersdaal

Tourist info Voerstreek

Voeren stormy history

Gasterij de Commanderie

Hoeve de Bies

 

 

 

 

 

Sintra: life in technicolor…

Pena Palace Sintra

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…

Sintra Portugal

Early mornings can be foggy in Sintra, don’t worry, sunny ‘sol’ does her best and by noon you’ll have clear blue sky!

 

Sintra city centre Portugal

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…

Sintra city hall
view on Sintra city hall

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!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

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…

Pena Palace Sintra

Sintra Pena Palace

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!

 

 

Pena Palace Sintra tiles

Meanwhile in city centre…

Sintra moorish walls

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…

 

Sintra Moors Castle

The ruin walls offer phenomenal views on Sintra and its surroundings, however, like I said, watch your step, as not everywhere a railing…

Sintra Moors Castle

Sintra Portugal Moors castle
Sintra City Centre shot from the moorish walls

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!

tuk tuk Sintra Portugal

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.

Adeus Sintra, until we meet again!

Ingrid

xxx

Sintra Tourist info

Park and National Palace Pena

Moorish castle

we stayed in Airbnb Inglesinhas5 and you can read more on our Lisbon adventures herehere or here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 days without complaining…

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😉

Ingrid

xxx

30dagenzonderklagen

Raise your glasses…Happy 2018!

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!

glasses brewery

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!

stop hand brewery
stop, the hand shows you the way to beer heaven
interactive tour Antwerp city brewery
Tour Antwerp city brewery

city brewery

city brewery
Jean Blaute and Ray Cokes, beer lovers and among other things famous for the fantastic Tournée Générale tv series

city brewery

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.

city brewery

‘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!

city brewery, beer tank, honey

Antwerp city brewery

Antwerp city brewery, bolleke Koninck

And if you thought women and beers didn’t match…

Antwerp city brewery

…but you’re wrong, cheers to you Josephina!

Ingrid

xxx

happy 2018

visit brewery

The Butcher’s Son restaurant

busy bees at the brewery

Belém Lisbon: fantastic beasts and where to find them

Belém

One of Lisbon’s many jewels, Belém lies peacefully, well if you ignore the tourists, alongside Tagus river…how different it must have been during the Age of Discovery with explorers impatiently embarking onto their long voyages to unknown destinations and adventures, and with it the booming trade bringing the world to Belém…

Belém
Tagus, Bridge and Cristo Rei statue

Belém

No exploring on an empty stomach…skipping this bakery and their well-known pastéis would be a capital crime! Pastéis de nata exist all over the world, only these ones, manufactured following an old, and till today, secret recipe from the monastery can be called ‘pastéis de Belém’…did you know that according to Portugese tradition a bride who eats a pastéis will never take off her ring?!

Belem
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

Undisputed leader when it comes to tourist queues…the Unesco-listed monastery, but so worth it! Built for the glory of God, king Manuel I and explorer Vasco da Gama this spectacular building shows an exuberant mix of styles, mixing religious, gothic and manueline/maritime elements. Construction took almost a century and it was built on the site, so the story goes, where Vasco da Gama took off on his voyage to India in 1497. Monks of the St Jerome order provided spirital guidance to all explorers following da Gama’s footsteps and adventures linking the monastery forever to Portugese maritime history…seems only right then that both king Manuel I and Vasco da Gama found their final resting place here where it all began.

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Belém

Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…

But it’s still a monastery…

Belém

Belém

Another Unesco monument, Torre de Belém was built to keep port entrance safe and most often it was the last building of their homeland the explorers saw for many, many months or years sailing off. Originally standing in the centre of the Tejo estuary the flow changes made the fortress stand on the river bank now, making it more accessible.

Belém

Belém
smaller sails, though still a fun and colourful adventure!

From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…

Belém

 

Belém

Designed as a caravel overlooking the sea with Henry the navigator in its prow, this concrete structure was built to mark the 500-year-death of said navigator. Actually it was re-built as another version made of wood and iron in 1940 already existed as part of the Portugese World Exhibition.

Both ramps together show 32 figures that have put their mark some way or another during the Age of Discovery, think cartographers, navigators, warriors, artists, etc…

Many more interesting things to see and do in Belém of course…just check tourist office for more info!

As for accessability, from city centre just take tram or train, our Airbnb Inglesinhas 5 being located close to Cais do Sodre station, train was a fast and easy option.

Hope you enjoyed this little escape to Belém!

Adeus!

Ingrid

 

Airbnb Inglesinhas 5

Lisbon Tourist info

Visit Belém

The Golden Age…

Short intermezzo on the travel flashbacks and planning future trips as nature’s golden age reigns in full glory these days…though every reign has it’s enemies and Winter is coming…time to step outside and go treasure hunting: Autumn has decorated ground with fragile bits of loosened gold!

Fall Autumn tree

This giant stands in the back of our garden, well actually, our neighbour’s garden, but it spreads out and covers four gardens easily…and I never have a lack of pinecones!

‘Dreams come in a size too big, so we can grow into them’

wishing on a star, golden

Wishing on a star? A golden one…surely those dreams must come true now!

nature's treasures, colours and textures

Hydrangea glow

dive into colours

camouflage

horseshoe garden

Just in case the ‘wishing on a star thing’ doesn’t work out…still have this one!

true colours

…guess I’ve found my pot of gold!

‘I am rich today with Autumn’s gold’

Hope you enjoyed our little golden tour, fyi most photos are shot in our garden.

Step outside and immerse yourself in golden and rusty hues!

Have fun!

Ingrid

xxx

Lisbon: city strolling part 1…

How do you you feel about citytrips? I appear to have a strange love-hate relationship with them…they both seem to energise ánd drain me, recognisable? This being said, looking back, ‘the energy-drainage’ balance was way in favour of the first feeling. We have spent five glorious days in this charismatic city though still haven’t had time to explore to the fullest if you ask me… This is a city of historic discoverers travelling the world and the seven seas bringing wealth and fame, a city having known its portion of bad fortune and catastrophies too, being rebuilt after earthquakes and risen from ashes to what it is today…an absolute shining jewel to discover! In the next posts will share some pics from our little side trips to Belém and Sintra, this one however is all about strolling through Lisbon’s city neighbourhoods, each with its own identity and taking you around some of our favourite sightseeing spots, experiences and photos. Like tiny appetisers that tickle your taste buds and make you longing for what’s next this city reveals itself step by step, (and you can take that literally being built on seven hills, do bring some comfortable shoes) and taste by taste with more goodies and jaw-dropping vistas around each corner!

Lisbon is nestled high (remember the hills) and comfortably on the Tagus river bank: city of eternal sunshine, nostalgia and renewal, the sound of fado and screeching trams…delicious fresh sardines and upcoming Michelin-star chefs, jaw-dropping architecture, fascinating tile-work and street art…a city where the day starts off with a cup of coffee and one, or more, pastéis and evening rewards you with breathtaking views…a city with an historic passion for discovery…

Are ‘you’ all set to explore?!

Ascensor da Bica

Covering the height levels on foot may be challenging from time to time, but doable, and if I say so, remember I am not the fittest person due to my back issues! However, if there is a quicker, more relaxing and definitely more fun way…don’t hesitate! Many options make life easier, offer you great views and your feet will thank you…Taking a ride on the historic tram 28 is a must but you can also book an eco-friendly tuktuk ride, take an ‘elevador’ or ‘ascensor’ to help you carry up those steep hills…

 

 

 

If you want to visit a place where you can still feel and witness the impact and enormous devastation of the  1775 earthquake, head to Largo do Carmo in Chiado District and visit the ruins of this convent…it has never been restored, which gives you the opportunity to walk through history in an open-air architectural historical museum.

Lisbon
Carmo convent

 

After visiting, take some time to relax on the Largo do Carmo, the lovely square just outside the convent. Plenty of shade, artists performing, surrounding shops and restaurants and a typical ‘Quiosque’ to order a drink and some little snacks…

Lisbon
quiosque Largo do carmo

Want to bring a fun gift for those at home? Head to ‘The Fantastic World of Portugese Sardine’ shop on Rossio Square, very funky shop with a circus theme and star role for the sardines of course which are packed in birthyear printed cans.

 

Embaixada, in Principe Real district is well worth a visit if you like to match shopping with design…this old Moorish designed palace houses small shops, young designers, start-up concepts and regular cultural events and exhibitions.

Lisboa

Meanwhile, down by the river…you can enjoy a morning walk like we did or enjoy the artists performing and all sorts of food and fashion stalls late afternoon or evening and multiple ferry routes bring you to the opposite bank where you can admire the Christo do Rei statue or enjoy a wonderful meal as sun sets on the city…

 

Foodwise, you won’t starve in Lisbon and lunch and dinner are quite affordable, a lot of value for little money!

 

 

We stayed at Airbnb Inglesinhas 5 in Madragoa district which I can higly recommend, hosts Paula and Andre welcome you with a big smile and open arms and help you out with any planning or questions you still have. Some great coffeebars and restaurants nearby as well as excellent public transport connections.

We found the Lisboa card very useful and value for money, especially compared to the similar cards in other cities…if you plan on using public transport during your stay and visit some museums and attractions, do consider this…

 

Hope you enjoyed this little stroll around Lisbon and you’ll tag along next time when I’ll take you around Alfama district and on the trips to Belém and Sintra!

Adeus

Ingrid

xxx

Inglesinhas 5

Lisbon tourist info

 

Lisbon: city strolling part 2…

Following my previous post, Lisbon: city strolling part 1…exploring Lisbon’s neighbourhoods, we’ll slowly make our way up to its charismatic heart: the Alfama district…From the Tejo estuary just follow the steep hill all the way up to the castle or allow yourself a detour and get lost in the maze of narrow and cobbled streets, as reward: phenomenal buildings, colourful bars and restaurants, nostalgic fado sounds, street art, breathtaking vistas, the screeching tram 28 making its way and life as it is if you alllow yourself to look a bit further than the typical tourist does…

Miradouro de Santa Luzia

 

Panteao Nacional
no azulejos for a change but one of the most beautiful facades in Alfama
our excellent tuk tuk driver and guide , Ecotuktours

 

Lisbon
Street art mural Fado vadio

 

We stayed in Airbnb http://inglesinhas5.com/ which I can highly recommend!

 

Bar and restaurant Ti’ Camila

saúde!

Join me next time when we take a little trip outside Lisbon centre and explore Belém and Sintra!

Ingrid

xxx

Inglesinhas 5

www.visitlisboa.com/lisbon?

EcotuktoursLisbon

Ti’Camila

Water-rAnt festival Antwerp

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.

See you on the other side!

 

 

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.

 

 

Water-rAnt Antwerp
Sea scouting in the city? Of course!

 

Water-rAnt Antwerp
sailing cat
Water-rAnt Antwerp
Miniature ship buiding craftmanship

Water-rAnt Antwerp

 

IMG_7225

Did I awaken some nautical vibes with you? See you next year then or check the eventspage below to find future interesting festivities!

IMG_7233

 

Ingrid

xxx

Visit Antwerp

 

Antwerp chocolate walk, the bold and the sweet…

Yesterday, for the first time, I attended one of the many activities organised by Samana, the division of CM health insurance, offering support, distraction and a variety of activities for chronicly ill patients and their caretakers. The activity that caught my eye was a culinary chocolate walk in Antwerp…need I say more?! As for the bold and sweet…just read till the end…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates
our guide and one of the Samana hosts

The walk comprised a guided tour along some Antwerp hotspots linked to chocolate or sugar and of course some tasty stops and according treats! Along the way the process of chocolate making from bean to the yummy stuff was explained and its history through time.

Did you know ‘Suikerrui’ one of Antwerp’s streets leading to the river got its name from the sugar (suiker in Dutch) that was stored in the below street-level canals (rui)?

Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat Antwerp
Vlaeykensgang Hoogstraat
ok, but can we have a chocolate with that?

Luxury Belgian brand Neuhaus offered us two of their signature ‘pralines’ the ‘Caprice’ and ‘Tentation’ both created for the World exhibition held in Brussels in 1958 and named after a quote from Brigitte Bardot, mr Neuhaus himself being a fan of mme Bardot…

Neuhaus chocolates
Neuhaus chocolates

Apparently the colour of chocolate you choose tells something about your character, if you prefer dark chocolate, like me, you are rather tough and determined, the strong one!

No chocolate tour in Antwerp without stopping by Dominique Persoone’s ‘the Chocolate Line’ his company existing 25 years this year and innovative and enthusiastic as ever, he has every reason to celebrate!

Dominique Persoone
Dominique Persoone
chocolates The Chocolate Line
chocolates The Chocolate Line
The Chocolate Line shop Antwerp
Birgit, one of the participants, trying to choose
Chocolate truffles
Chocolate truffles

Well that’s all for now…enjoying my little goodie bag filled with yummy chocolate…didn’t I show enormous character not touching it on the bus ride home?! Must be true then, dark chocolate and being tough and strong!

You can find a list of the houses we visited below and another treat, curious if you will recognize him…

Till next time,

Ingrid

xxx

The Chocolate Line

Neuhaus

Sofie Sucrée

Elisa Pralines

Amylin’s Cupcakes & Macarons

De Zoete Verleiding

spotted him twice on our tour on different locations…maybe he has a sweet tooth too…

Ron Moss in Antwerp
Ron Moss in Antwerp