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What to do on a Weekend Trip to Genk

Hello folks,

As you may know, I'm an expat living in Belgium who loves to explore the country. The land of chocolate and beer has always surprised me. Even though I live here for more than 4 years, I'm still discovering new lovely places. 

I've already been to Genk, but I've never had time to deeply enjoy the town, so for me, it was a nice experience to stay in the region for a weekend trip. I got amazed about how culture and nature fuse effortlessly together in Genk. From the acclaimed "The World of Tim Burton" exhibition to the peaceful cycling routes in the natural reserve De Wijers, I became fond of this place.

On a sunny weekend at the end of September, Christian and I decided to hop on the train and it took us about one hour to arrive at the station of Genk from Leuven. The train ride was very pleasant, as we can admire the lush green fields of Limburg, which inspired many painters like Emile Van Doren.
The sky was blue and the birds were chirping: a perfect autumn day. Our first stop was the cultural hotspot of the town: the C-Mine. It's wonderful how the city transformed the old mine buildings into this modern and vibrant place. Here we visited the "The World of Tim Burton" exhibition, which came across as very whimsical and exciting. It also evoked many memories of my childhood, as I was fascinated by Edward Scissorhands. For me, a good exhibition always makes a brilliant focal point to city break, and Genk definitely nails it! The second highlight of the former coal mine was to visit the tunnels and the head-frame. I particularly enjoyed the virtual reality experience, which transported us back to 1950s, when the digging was at its height. Furthermore, this experience was important to understand the heart and soul of this town, which is composed of people from different origins, working together to make Genk a warm and happy place for everyone.

In the old times, miners celebrated the 4th of December, commemorating their patron Saint Barbara. During celebrations, miners were bringing along delicacies from their home countries and sharing food amongst colleagues. The tradition of sharing food became to know in Dutch as partaasch, which originates from the French world partager. This beautiful philosophy was adopted to create one of the best restaurants in the town: Partaasch, which was the second stop of our Saturday. I absolutely loved this multicultural paradise of food. Their concept of sharing, offering dishes to be enjoyed by everybody at the table, is what we need in this world: less individualism and more community.  The young genius chefs Steven and Loredana master the art of combining ingredients and flavours from different countries to create a delicious gastronomic experience. As some of you know, I'm a dessert monster. If you are like me: please do not forget to order their sweet treats as well. I just can't forget their divine cannoli.

After our special evening at the Partaasch, we went to the M-Hotel to recharge our energies. It's the second time I stayed in this hotel, and for me, it is the best in town. Christian truly loved their breakfast, with so many fresh fruits, and I'm delighted about the view over the lake and park surrounding it. On Sunday morning we rented bicycles next to the train station to explore the outer districts of Genk. I was looking forward to "cycle through water", which describes a special bridge crossing the lakes below water level. Hence, we chose to explore the park and forests around Bokrijk and De Wijers. This route is so dreamy and romantic! On the way, you will find many interesting places, like a farm where actors bring back to life a village 100 years ago and the beautiful castle Bokrijk.

If you are feeling energetic like us, you can also combine this tour with another one in the north of the city around Thor Park. It brings you to the former coal mine of Waterschei, where you will find the Partaasch restaurant. The building is now a start-up incubator and features several impressive artworks outside. The vast fields of Thor Park are marvellous for cycling and have plenty of picnic areas! If you intend to stay more than a weekend in Genk, know that the region of Limburg has more lovely towns to visit in a day trip, like Tongeren and HasseltCheck below the video for more details of our tour and subscribe to the Youtube channel of Papel com Clips to stay updated on our trips. 

genk belgium blue sky

Check the video below and discover more about our trip to Genk

labyrinth genk
belgian getaways

natural reserve De Wijers

partaasch genk review


A Revolutionary Abbey Opens its Gates to the Future

Hello folks, 

The Park Abbey is a green enclave in the south of Leuven, frequented by locals in search of a peaceful place to go jogging in the afternoon, or just to chill and read a book. However, few people know that one of the most precious hidden gems of Leuven, the dialogue museum PARCUM, dedicated to religion, art and culture is located the inner centre of this vast complex. 

The Park Abbey was founded in 1129, when Geoffrey I, Duke of Brabant, donated this area of his hunting grounds around Leuven to the Premonstratensians, an order founded by St. Norbert of Xanten. The Duke was keen on improving the religious and social infrastructure of the area to keep his power and prestige in the Brabantian heartlands, and he achieved it. The monastery played an important role during the late middle ages until the XVII century, producing and protecting manuscripts and books, including the famous Park Abbey Illuminated Bible, dated from 1148, today displayed at the British Library in London. The canons also worked hard to establish the economic base of the abbey, which includes besides four large fish ponds, a watermill and many gardens still being used for organic farming at present day. The beautiful buildings thrived over the centuries, with formerly one of the largest collection of stained glass windows produced by Jean de Caumont in the XVII century, showing the spiritual journey of St. Norbert, and one of the most renowned carillons of the Low Lands with 40 bells.

Unfortunately, in order to survive during the severe periods of political and financial crisis during the XVIII and XIX century, a myriad of relics, art pieces and books of the Abbey were sold. Many of them are spread around the world. However, for our joy, much progress to recover the objects has been made during the last decades. Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers, art buffs and friends of the Park Abbey, valuable items are retrieved to their original home, including most of the wonderful stained glass windows. Furthermore, the Abbey has been restored and lovely surprises are being revealed, as medieval frescoes, that were hidden behind paintings from the XVI century in the chapter hall.

Leuven is home to the most innovative university in Europe, KU Leuven, and the same spirit that inspires researchers from around the world to come to Leuven is also present at PARCUM. The new museum invites believers and non-believers, people with different ideologies and backgrounds, to a dialogue. Its new exposition, named "Religion. Healing. Dividing" encourage visitors to reflect on the duality of religion, which causes conflicts, destruction, but also unites. To create this exposition inside the heart of a 900 years old historic Abbey is a revolutionary act. In critical times where we suffer from a wave of hate speech and intolerance, places like PARCUM deserve our sincere recognition and appreciation.

The new "Religion. Healing. Dividing" exposition will be open to the public starting from the 8th November 2018 to the 10th March  2019. On the 11th November 2018 the new carillons, the original version was burned during the WWI, will be inaugurated by playing peace songs all day long. Thus, I strongly recommend you to plan your visit in this day. Last but not least, children are especially welcome at PARCUM, which prepares workshops exclusively for them. Check below the video for more details. 

visiting the PARCUM museum in Leuven

Practical Information

Abdij van Park 7
3001 Leuven

Telephone: T +32 16 40 01 51

Opening Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday from 10h to 17h
Mondays & public holidays

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


How a Flemish Museum is Renovating the Image of a WWI Martyr City

Hello folks, 

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
Marcel Proust

Ypres is well known for being the centre of the battlefields between the Allied and Central Powers during the First World War. However, this town, located in the province of West Flanders, Belgium, is much more than the symbol of Great War remembrance. Ypres encompasses more than one thousand years of rich history, and its inhabitants are now ready and keen on sharing its past with the world. 

In order to share with the world its history, Ypres has inaugurated the new interactive Yper Museum. No, I didn't type it wrong, the name of the museum is slightly different from the name of the town. The purpose is to unite the name of the city in French (Ypres),  Dutch (Ieper), German (Ypern) and to remember its medieval past, when the town was called Ypra. The location of the new museum could not be better: the magnificent Cloth Hall, which perfectly builds a bridge to Ypres's past. The place was originally built in the 13th century to store and trade fine cloth and it was almost entirely destroyed during the First World War. The Cloth Hall also hosts the Tourism Office and the famous In Flanders Fields Museum, composing a perfect cultural hub.

Yper is a dynamic museum for all ages. Right at the entrance of the museum we are given cat’s paw wristbands, which are used to personalise our visit. With the bracelet, we are able to choose the type of information we want to read in each part of the tour: from the glorious times of the cloth industry to the dark times of plagues. The kids have their own special video guide, Katelyne and her cat Leon, which are able to pass information in an engaging and simple way for the little ones. Many nice places were also created having the children in mind, for example, the fantastic 3D model of the medieval city and the cave under it. It was pleasant to see how they designed the museum taking into consideration the learning experience of young visitors.

Ypres was always in the middle of a political ping-pong between major European powers. However, its proud citizens never lost their sense of humour, which is visible throughout the entire tour. In the first floor, we see many interesting badges discovered in excavations of the moat, some of them are erotic and hilarious, as flying phalluses. In the second floor, there is a mini cinema displaying a creative 7 minutes video which summarizes all the invasions Yper faced in a very modern and comedic way.  My husband and I fell totally in love with the spicy humour of this museum.

The tour finally comes to an upbeat ending when the spotlight is shining on the most influential women of the city in the 19th and 20th century. For me, to learn about the story of the photographer Madame Léontine Antony-Permbeke, the lacemaker Clara Lamotte and the innovative painter Louise De Hem was the most interesting part of the visit. As we all know: history was written by man and for man. Thus, it's of vital importance that a museum brings to life the work and stories of women, and by doing so, it encourages many girls to believe in their potentials and to recognise female role models.

This is one of the most interactive and family-friendly museums I've visited so far. No matter the age: everyone can create their unique visitor experience. Furthermore, it's great to remember that places torn apart by war have a story before the destruction that should not be forgotten. Now we see this place with new eyes, thanks to the Yper Museum. Check the video of our tour for more details. 

Practical Information

Lakenhallen Grote Markt 34
8900 Ieper | Tel. 057 239 220

Opening Hours:
From 1 April to 15 November - daily from 10 am to 6 pm
From 16 November to 31 March - from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm;
closed Mondays
Annual closing - 2 last weeks of January

Individual - Yper Museum
adults                         7 EUR
youth (19-25)             4 EUR
children (7-18)            3,5 EUR
children (-7)               free
families                      15 EUR
(2 ad and 3 ch <18)               

Group - Yper Museum
mixed groups              5 EUR
schools/youth              3 EUR

For more practical information visit the Yper Museum website.

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


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


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


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

forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

forest of ilmenau thuringia

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