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
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.
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.
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!
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…
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?!
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.
Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…
But it’s still a monastery…
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.
From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…
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.
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!
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? A golden one…surely those dreams must come true now!
Just in case the ‘wishing on a star thing’ doesn’t work out…still have this one!
…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!
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?!
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…
Elevador de Santa Justa
Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta
View on Tagus river
welcome shadow on the Praça do Comércio
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.
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…
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.
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!
Bar and restaurant Ti’ Camila
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!
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…
a castle needs a crown, right?!
true guards of their treasures at the entrance of Alfama
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!
Hard to believe it has already been a year since we returned from our Southwest USA road trip, a trip that took a lot of planning (and saving) ahead and rewarded us with unerasable memories of magnificent landscapes and road adventures.
In the months after our return I managed to sort out the insane amount of photos taken and composed an old-school photo album with the highlights and ‘best of’ moments however somehow a blogpost on the entire trip seemed not feasible: so many stories, so many interesting places we’ve visited, so many angles…where to start?! Well, I guess at the beginning…
After a very long flight including stopover at Chicago airport we landed in San Francisco. We chose SF to be at the beginning of our tour for several personal practical reasons: doing a road trip is rather exhausting, positioning a citytrip at the end wouldn’t be wise. Exploring SF needed us still fit in body and mind! Then there is the issue of ‘Karl’, Karl the Fog that is…Summer weather in SF can be tricky and for me, it’s just not that much fun ending the holiday in chilly and cloudy weather after spending two weeks in the sun and heat…
We spent four nights in SF and still wasn’t enough to explore all the city has to offer though we got an excellent taste of its variety: we did a cable car ride, explored Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, did a hop-on/hop-off tour, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked Lombard street, did some shopping, joined an Alcatraz night tour,… more on that here Off to prison with a smile…only in San Francisco!
Time to say goodbye to SF and pick-up our rental car…adventure awaits with a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway leading us to Bixby Bridge, the wonderful scenic 17 mile drive and the historic coastal towns Carmel and Monterey where we spent the night.
Strongly recommend, if you can, to spend more than one night here, wish we had too, however our next destination was already in mind and required quite a distance to cover, next stop…Yosemite NP!
Our hotel was located just outside the park, only a short drive to the Park’s entrance immediately rewarding us with jaw-dropping Tunnel View…
Lovely walks in Yosemite Valley, exploring the Falls, a ranger sunset talk at epic Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome…
Leaving Yosemite for our next destination came with a bonus as we had to cross Tioga Pass, with its lovely viewpoints and magical Tenaya lake.
and bonus number two with enchanting Mono Lake being on our route!
Next stop…Death Valley NP!
We have only spent one afternoon, night and early morning here, (taking in mind the high temperatures it is best to plan your sightseeing late afternoons and early mornings) however did give us time to explore some of the highlights the park has to offer: the dunes upon entering, lovely Artists Drive, sunset at Zabriskie point, Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course and the wonderful overview you get from Dante’s View…
…off to thé city of lights…(and noise, every minute, night and day)…viva Las Vegas…though must admit, for us, looking back on the trip now, not really our thing: the contrast when coming from nature’s overwhelming power and beauty is huge and my senses went on overdrive with the combination of heat, noise, lights, hustle and bustle,…we stayed two nights, however one would have been better! Still would leave ample of time to visit some of the casinos of choice, shop and eat!
We did enjoy the tour with the High Roller ferris wheel and the Bellagio fountain show!
As you can guess, we were glad to escape LV madness and submerge ourselves again into nature’s grandeur and boy, we were rewarded big time! Our route to Zion NP allowed us a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park…do not miss this one if you get the chance, you will not regret!
Zion NP to me had it all: the easy walks for those taking it slow (that’s me) the challenging ones for daredevils, water, rocks, green, it is thé perfect combination, everywhere you look, nature plays its dominant and bewitching role…oh, and I got to celebrate my 45th birthday there!
We got some more of the same magic visiting our next destination Bryce NP…hoodoos in all shapes add to the enchanting vibe hiking here, trails for all fitness levels, luckily!
Upon entering state Arizona we had a bit of weather change, lots of clouds, not the best of timing or condition with Antelope Canyon being on the programme, however we were lucky to catch a little glimpse just upon leaving the canyon!
Rain and thunder clouds packing above Horseshoe Bend as if life on the edge isn’t drama enough!
Unstable weather accompanied us the rest of our trip with blue sky one minute and dark thunder clouds and strong sudden winds approaching the next, having only one night to spend in Grand Canyon NP, we weren’t able to check off all the highlights marked on our list, however exploring the West Rim is already a treat for the eyes.
Last stop before flying home…Phoenix…no worries flight home was with a normal airplane!
Well…it’s a wrap…time flies when you’re having fun!
First time we did an overseas road trip of this length in time and distance and overall feeling was more than ok. We did the planning ourselves and took our complete plan and budget to Eric of Inforeizen, who specialises in overseas travels to the US and Africa and tried to match our desires and route as much as possible. Made it easy for us as he handled all the bookings and we had therefore only one contact person in case of questions or problems.
Curious where we stayed? Will list up all the hotels at the end of this post.
Anything we would do differently looking back? Would spend an extra night in Monterey area, extra night in Yosemite, skip Las Vegas as a destination, though it might be interesting as an airport arrival or departure point, if more time and budget include Monument Valley, pack less bagage!
Hope you enjoyed this little tour…going through these photos again, am already planning and dreaming of future adventures, great and small!
‘ I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me’