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22.9.18

Stella Artois Brewery Tour | The Story Behind the Pint

Hello Folks,

Today I want to give you another insight into Leuven, which is not only known for having one of the best universities in the world, KU Leuven, but also the famous brewery, Stella Artois. Books and beer, this must be paradise, am I right?

During the middle ages, education was mainly restricted to the upper class, and the distinguished rich students created a demand for special beers in Leuven. Thus, there is no coincidence that the largest brewing multinational in the world AB InBev has its roots in this historic city. One of the most important breweries in the middle ages was De Hoorn, which was founded in 1366. A couple of centuries later, in 1717, the company was bought by brewmaster Sébastian Artois, who changed the name into his family name but kept the horn as the logo. The pint of Stella, which means star in Latin, was just created in 1926 as a limited edition Christmas beer, but thanks to its success it became an export hit and eventually the most important product, lending its name to the company.

Nowadays, we can order a pint of Stella in many countries worldwide. The promotion of Stella overseas was mainly possible thanks to the merger with the Brazilian AmBev in 2004 and the acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Since the 2000's the number of beer lovers and tourists coming from all over the world to Leuven, to discover the story behind the pint, is increasing every single year.

I had the pleasure to visit Stella Artois this month and I recommend the tour for all of you who like beer. In the first part of the visit, the guide takes us to a room next to the entrance to explain to us the history of the company. He plays short movies exhibiting old images related to the old brewery building and former brewmasters. For me, it was interesting to learn how the company bravely survive the second world war, having a part of the factory destroyed and the production suspended. Now we enter the heart of the factory building: the tun room. Here we learn how the raw ingredients turn into beer. If you like food engineering I'm sure this will be your favourite part, especially because of a fun and interactive presentation. All the beer produced at Stella Artois, which also includes Jupiter, Hoegaarden and Leffe, is bottled in the same facility, and we are able to see the bottling line as well. Last but not least, the guide invites us to the brewery's pub, where we can lean back and enjoy a couple of fresh pints!

The tour is very short, it doesn't last more than 2 hours. It will perfectly fit in your agenda if you're in Leuven for just a day or even if you're staying in Brussels - Leuven is less than half hour away by train and the weekend ticket cost only €6.60 roundtrip. The tour in English takes place every Sunday at 3 pm (except on the 23/24/31 of December and the 1st of January), the admission cost is €8.50 and you can buy tickets online or in the tourism office of Leuven. I strongly advise you to buy the tickets two weeks in advance because they sometimes sell out before the date. Don't forget to check the video below to see the highlights of the tour.


This article was proudly produced in collaboration with the tourism office of Leuven.

stella artois brewery tour





stella artois brewery tour


6.9.18

Tongeren | An ancient Belgian city reveals life 2000 years ago

Hello folks, 

Tongeren is a hidden gem not many know about. Especially for foreigners and expats the vivid history of this place surprises. The oldest city of Belgium was once known as Atuatuca Tongrorum, the capital of the Roman province Civitas Tungrorum, founded in 10 BC.

Although fascinated by ancient history, I had never visited Tongeren before. It was my first time in the town and I've found so many beautiful places that have stood the test of time that I could say it was like love at the first sight.  We decided to go by train and it took us about 1 hour and a half to arrive in Tongeren from Leuven, we had to change the train at Hasselt station, and it cost 13€ per person - to go and come back. Arriving in Tongeren you will find an information board in front of the station indicating all the directions to the touristic places as well as descriptions of picturesque walking routes through the old town. Bronze cobblestones on the sidewalks lead your way to the city centre, which is a brilliant idea.

The medieval part of the town, including the Basilica of Our Lady, built in the XIII century in the style of Brabantine gothic and the unique church of the Begijnhof are evidently must-sees. However, what impressed me the most were the ruins of the Roman city walls, built in the II century. For me it's impressive how they are still there after such a long time, perfectly integrated into the landscape. According to historians, those walls weren't built for military purposes, but as a status symbol for the proud inhabitants. Almost 2000 years later these walls continue to fit their purpose: the locals are still very proud of them!

The city of Tongeren does an excellent job of encouraging the archaeological research. Thanks to the devotion of the community the Gallo Roman museum was created. The place is dedicated to prehistorical times and the Roman age, the permanent collection is impressive and contains 2.300 items. The museum offers a very interactive and didactic experience to the visitor, inviting us to walk along the four major revolutions: "The arrival of human beings", "The first farmers", "A first elite emerges" and "The Romans found Tongeren". An iron made arrow displayed on a table can be just an object, but in Tongeren, the arrow, as many other artefacts, talks to us about social classes, politics, privilege and oppression. It's not in vain this museum won the award of  European Museum of the Year Award in 2012: we do need spaces that instigates critical thinking.

I've visited many beautiful places in Tongeren and yet I have so many more to explore in the future. I'm looking forward to visiting the  Tumili, Roman burial mounds, and maybe join an excavation. How wonderful would that be?

Check the website of the Gallo Roman Museum for practical information.

Roman Museum of Tongeren




roman walls tongeren



13.8.18

A Magical Mountain in Thuringia | Kickelhahn

Hello folks!

Despite many times visiting Thuringia, the "Green Heart of Germany", this was finally the first time that I visited the Kickelhahn, in the municipal area of Ilmenau. This mountain is one of the highest peaks of the Thuringian Forest and attracts tourists not only for its beautiful and enchanted forest, but also for its importance to German literature. 

”I always loved being here, I believe it comes from the harmony of everything around here …”
(Goethe to Schiller, Ilmenau, August 29th,1795) 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the master of German literature, escaped to Ilmenau no fewer than 28 times. The idyllic forest and landscapes served as inspiration for many of his poems, as the Wanderer's Nightsong, which he wrote on the wall of the hunters' cabin next to the mountain's summit. Although more than two centuries have passed, I could feel that the harmony mentioned by Goethe is still very much present on the Kickelhahn. 


It was a very sunny day in July when Christian and I decided to hike the mountain, in a very spontaneous way, without hiking clothes or appropriated shoes, yet with a lot of energy. The Kickelhahn is 861 meters high and there is a 24 m tall look-out tower in the top of the mountain. There are several options for hiking routes and we chose the longer version, as we had plenty of time. We walked several hours and I lost the notion of time, which is very likely to happen as the place looks like a fairy tale, the aroma and the colours of the forest are hypnotising and my mind was drawn in a special synaesthetic experience. During the hike, I was collecting plenty of wild raspberries. There were some parts of the trail that we've been literally walking over raspberries and little strawberries, it was magical.

Arriving on the top of the Kickelhahn we visited the ruins of an old hunting lodge, the little wood cabin where Goethe wrote the Wanderer's Nightsong and we climbed the observation tower, which was built in 1869 by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. I have to admit that I was very tired and already enjoying the glorious view over the valleys from one of the lookout spots, but I'm happy that my husband encouraged me to climb the tower because the view from there was breathtakingly beautiful.

Following the footsteps of Goethe on the Kickelhahn was one of the most magnificent experiences of my life and I hope I can do this again in December to see the mountain covered with snow.

For more information visit the ilmenau.de

forest of ilmenau thuringia





forest of ilmenau thuringia


forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

27.7.18

The best of Namur | Medieval Festival

Hello folks,

One of Belgium's most spectacular festivals Les Médiévales de la Citadelle is held once a year, in the first week of July, in the francophone city of Namur. I had the pleasure to attend the event this month, which brought hundreds of people together to share their love of all things Medieval. It was a fantastic experience to travel back to an age of chivalrous knights, noble dames and hard-working peasants.

Where better to enjoy a Medieval festival than in the grounds of the historical Citadelle of Namur? The first castle was built in 937 and the complex covers more than 80 hectares, it's one of the biggest fortresses of Europe. Furthermore, Namur can definitively claim some of Belgium's most glorious sceneries: the view of the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers is breathtakingly beautiful, as you can see in the video below.

Les Médiévales features a series of colourful pageants and demonstrations of craftsmanship, including pottery, glass-making and spinning from different centuries. It's very interesting and the actors try to be as accurate as possible. I loved to stop by the tents to learn what the cooks were preparing for their children's lunch, to see the variety of spices the winemaker was adding to the wine and to chat about art in the XIV century with a gentleman from a tapestry maker tent.

The main attraction of the festival was the tournament, which is displayed at specified times during the weekend. I got very excited to see the chivalrous combat for honour and courage, it was so real I was afraid that someone would get hurt. Another highlight for me were the bands playing medieval-inspired music on various stages, especially the lady who was wandering around the lanes playing the concertina. If you love medieval music you will definitely enjoy this festival.

One of the nice things my husband and I noticed is the family-orientation of the festival, so you should not be afraid to attend if you have babies or kids because there are so many activities destinated just for them, from theatre performances to medieval board games. I was very surprised to see how the kids are brave and not even afraid to hug one of the huge ogres!

I would like to thank all organisers, actors and the people of Namur for being so friendly, positive and open to tourists from all over the world. I hope to be back at the festival of 2019 and I will make sure to bring a medieval costume next time!



This article was proudly written in collaboration with the tourist department of Namur.



medieval festival namur


Citadelle de Namur Belgium





medieval festival of namur

medieval festival of namur

medieval festival of namur

5.7.18

The Best Lake To Swim Near Leuven | Belgium

Hello folks, 

Belgium has been blessed with more than 25-degree weather on the last weeks. And while we're struggling to sleep through the heat and the mosquitos biting my husband, we're also hoping it stays like this all summer.

Yet, those who live near Leuven wanting some cool relief from the muggy heat may want to head to the lake of Rotselaar, which belongs to the recreational area called in Dutch Domein Ter Heide.  The park is divided into 3 different areas, one very popular for more family-oriented swims, the second for sports like kayaking and windsurfing, and the third area for fishing. With such a variety of activities, I'm sure you will like this place. 

Christian and I had a glorious day at the lake last weekend. We've packed our bags with fruit salad, some pastries and a bottle of water and we headed to Rotselaar by bike, it took us around 40 minutes to arrive at our destination. During our way, we've discovered some lovely lanes and historical places, like The Donjon Ter Heyden. Arriving at the lake we had to park in a special area destinated for bikes, in which a boy stamped our hands. After parking we had to show the stamp at the entrance and, because we were by bike, the lady gave us 50% discount, so we had to pay only 2,50 euros each to get into the park. How cool is that?

One of the things I most love about this place is the excellent infrastructure: it has showers, lockers and toilets. Don't get me wrong, I love wild swimming, but some modern conveniences like toilets are pretty much welcome. If you have kids I'm sure you will love to know that they have lifeguards and the water is clean and controlled monthly by the Flemish government. Furthermore, there is next to the park a bar where you can buy some refreshments, which is great just in case your picnic basket gets empty.  

As someone who was born and raised in a big town, I really enjoy those country escapes and I do feel more at peace surrounded by nature. Moreover, riding my bike and not depending on a car gives me more freedom and peace of mind. Let's pollute less and enjoy the simple moments of life ;)

Lake's address: Vakenstraat 18. 3110 Rotselaar
Opening hours:
July and August: 10 am - 8 pm (the entrance gate closes at 7h30 pm)
May, June, 1st - 15th of September: open on Wednesday and Friday from 2 pm to 7 pm, and on weekends and public holidays from 10 am to 7 pm.

You can see more photos of my trips on Instagram and videos on Youtube





26.6.18

Discover One of The Most Glorious Gardens of Belgium: Tervuren

Hello, folks.

The Belgian summer has finally arrived. And where better to spend it than in one of the country's most glorious park? 

As the weather has been so delightful during the last weekends, Christian and I decided to hop on our bikes and follow the cycling route from Leuven to Tervuren and back (48km). We loved this route, the trees and flowers are extremely beautiful and I do believe in the Japanese theory which says that forest bathing is good for our health. There's nothing quite like the soft breeze blowing into our faces when cycling, especially through the forest. 

Tervuren's park is one of my favourites because of its extensive history. In 2005, the Royal Museum for Central Africa, one of the park's highlights, attempted to confront for the first time a brutal colonial past as single institution in the midst of official national denial. King Leopold II's palatial Congo Museum opened in 1910 and was never renovated and curated until this date. As a political scientist, I do believe that recognising the own history was an important step for Belgium. For the last 13 years, the museum has been rebuilt and rebranded to offer a wonderful and exciting contemporary and decolonised vision of the continent. I'm looking forward to the re-opening of the AFRICA Museum as it's now called, on the 8th of December 2018.

Whilst visiting the gardens of Tervuren you will hear many birds singing, the voice of kids playing and many happy families from so different origins and backgrounds. This is how the world should be, overcoming a history of hate towards a more peaceful and inclusive place, in which we can celebrate love and life. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one ;)

You can see more photos of my trips on Instagram and videos on Youtube

Tervuren Belgium


My day trip to Tervuren 🌿




tervuren gardens

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