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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

13.6.18

A Secret Lavender Field Hidden in Belgium

Hello folks!

Sometimes all we need is a relaxing weekend break, to enjoy the spring flowers and the glorious sunshine, but not all of us can go to the French Provance every weekend. Thankfully there is a small field of lavender hidden in Limburg, waiting to be discovered. With the fullest blooms occurring from early June to September, you should already share the good news with your family and friends. 

The province of Limburg is renowned for its beautiful nature, lakes and farms. However, the most part of the tourists and expats have never been to the lovely lavender field of Strokrooie-Hasselt. The Limburg Lavendel, as it's called in Dutch, is very small, but also very charming. Besides seeing the lavender you can also walk through the labyrinth of roses and enjoy the cafeteria, which offers some very interesting drinks, like Lavender Gin and Lavender jenever.

I'm so happy that Christian and I discovered this place. Although Limburg Lavender is not so far from Leuven, I could really enjoy the country atmosphere, like if I was on a real vacation. I do believe that in the chaotic modern life we have to balance with spending time in nature. So many researchers are proving the health benefits of it. I hope you enjoy those fields as much as I did!

Address: Olmenbosstraat 25
3511 Stokrooie-Hasselt
Admission: free
Summer and Easter holidays:
From 1 June to 30 September
Sundays and holidays: 10 am to 8 pm
Mondays to Saturdays: 1 pm to 8 pm
Closed on Fridays

For more information visit their website

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

Limburg Lavendel




Limburg Lavendel


8.6.18

A Village of Medieval Strong Women: The Groot Begijnhof

Hello, folks!

The Groot Begijnhof, as it's called in Dutch, is more than a university residential area, a peaceful place for a sunny afternoon picnic or a UNESCO World Heritage. The red brick walls and cobbled roads of this magical village tell us a history of love and resistance. A love that was born in the heart of dozens of medieval women and it remains there, running and pulsing as the water of the river Dijle. 

At the beginning of the XII century, many religious movements started to emerge, some of those were exclusively created by women. Those brave women, later being called beguines, built their own communities to live together. They were keen on living a simple life, dedicated to charity and chastity. They were also known to have helped women who wished to flee from an arranged or abusive marriage (SCHAUS 2006). However, the beguines took no religious vows, they were free to leave the community and to get married. Life wasn't easy for the first beguines, they had to constantly fight against the accusation of living in heresy. Even after the Pope Honorius III had informally approved their lifestyle, they kept being negatively stigmatized for many decades to come. The wave of hate against them was so strong that it led to the execution of French beguine Marguerite Poetre, author of the book "The Mirror of Simple Souls", she was burned at the stake in Paris.

Many of these communities in Europe, called beguinages, did not survive the XV century. Yet many flourished in Belgium and in The Netherlands. Here the communities got the support of the urban elite and noble families, as for example in Leuven: the Arenbergs. The upper class of Leuven even sent their daughters to live and to be educated at the Groot Begijnhof. Between 1630-1670 the old wood houses were demolished and new beautiful brick houses were built, in order to offer better and safer space for the beguines to live and work. Unfortunately, this glorious years came to an end, during the French occupation the Begijnhof houses were transferred to a Public Welfare Commission and the beguines could no longer wear their habits. Although they could keep living in the community, part of the houses started to be used as a shelter for orphans, widows and people that could not afford to pay rent. In 1962 the Welfare Commission sold the area to the University of Leuven, a new bright destiny will be given to this area.

In many places around the world, historical sites are demolished or passed to the hands of toxic real estate agents. However, the most part of the houses of the Groot Begijnhof where carefully restored under the leadership of Prof. Paul Van Aerschot and Prof. Lemaire (KU LEUVEN). The Groot Begijnhof is now home to senior students and international researchers, and its lovely gardens are open to the public.

If you walk through the Groot Begijnhof's narrow lanes you will hear so many different languages from its inhabitants, and for me this is magical. In a world of intolerance and hate, having scientists from all over the word co-living in harmony is an act of love and resistance. The last beguine died in 1988, but somehow all of them are still present there. A body can be burnt at the stake, but an idea is immortal.

* Watch the video below and discover more about this place ;)

SCHAUS (2006) Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia.
KU Leuven - The Leuven Grand Beguinage

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


The Groot Begijnhof


Watch the video and discover more details about this wonderful place


27.5.18

See my Leuven | Leuven Museum

Hello folks!

Welcome to my second article of the series that I'm creating in partnership with the Tourism Department of Leuven. This time I will talk about the M-Museum, an exquisite and innovative place, which unites people with art in a very engaging way.

Leuven Museum


Although quite new, officially opened in 2009, the M-Museum continues and keeps the original collection of the old museum founded in 1823, which was located on the second floor of the old Town Hall. Encompassing a collection of more than 52'000 pieces, its permanent exposition is rich and full of history, especially from the late Gothic period, as well as the 19th century, including, among many others, masterpieces from Dirk Bouts and Jan de Caumont. From ancient to contemporary art, the Museum constantly hosts new expositions. I suggest you check their agenda before planning your trip to Leuven, you may find delightful surprises, like the new exposition of the Finish visual artist and filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

For me, the M-Museum is the cultural centre of Leuven, a plural place which tries to reinvent itself, embrace diversity, becoming this way an essential community-building pillar of the town. In their garden, many free events are hosted, especially during summer, from open-air cinema, concerts and activities for babies and kids, integrating people from any kind of backgrounds. You should definitely come by during this time to experience the vibe yourself.


                

Check the M-Museum website for more practical information

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

17.3.18

Tourism in Leuven - The gothic town hall

Hello folks, 

As you may know, I live in Leuven, an adorable Belgian town. Since I'm becoming more active working as a travel blogger, why not to introduce you to some of the best attractions of my own city? With the support of Visit Leuven I will create a series of posts and videos about the main attractions of the municipality, starting today with the old town hall.

The gothic town hall is a very special place for Christian and me, as it is the place where we got married on a lovely sunny day in September. Since then I've been curious and looking forward to explore the whole building and to share my experiences with you. The tourism department offers daily guided tours every day at 3 pm, mainly in Dutch, French and English, but also in German or Spanish for larger groups. Before booking your visit, I recommend you to e-mail them to ask in which language the visit will be conducted, as it can vary according to the day. Furthermore, you can purchase the ILUVLeuven Ticket beforehand online, which will give you access not only to the town hall, but also to the University library & tower, M-Museum Leuven and the M-Treasury of Saint Peter for only 16€. 

We made a visit to the old town last Sunday, and we were very lucky, as the weather is starting to get warmer, not much rain heading our way.  The tour started at Naamsestraat 3 and then we moved to the magnificent front of the building. The city hall construction started in 1439 and it passed by several modifications since them. The impressive 236 statues of public figures we can see nowadays were just added around 1850 and the staircase dates back to 1709. The statues we see are also not the original ones, which are saved in the attic. Can you imagine how it looked like before those modifications? One of the highlights was to take time to observe the little-carved bases of the statues niches representing scenes from the Bible about sin and punishment, as the story of Adam and Eve. Those figures are from the original project and it served as a warning, to keep the order and good behaviour of the medieval population of Leuven. I love to learn about history and society through architecture! 

After our external tour, we entered the foyer, a special room who serves nowadays as a reception for events. In the foyer we can see many flags, the most interesting ones are from the 7 noble families of Leuven, which originated from the seven daughters of a 9th-century knight named Batijn. The next step was to visit the three salons, which are the oldest part of the building. Their interior design of the rooms dates from the XIV century and it's home to important paintings and panels, as the Resurrection of Christ from Otto Van Veen, teacher of Rubens. It was a bit sad to see that the panel of Van Veen was damaged by poorly made restorations done during the last centuries. Another highlight was the gothic hall on the second floor. Part of the beam blocks are original and carved to show the life of Maria and Christ. It's an amazing working space for our town hall councillors to work, isn't it?  It keeps being used nowadays. Next to this hall, we entered another small one, which keeps its original star-shaped wooden vault. The last room we visited is the mayor's office, which served as a meeting room for the Saint Peter's Lords of the Seven Noble Families, previously mentioned. My words aren't enough to share with you all the details and stories, you should definitely visit and experience it by yourself. If you love history as much as I do, I'm sure you will like the tour. 

After our visit we had a coffee on the terrace of the Oude Market, the self-proclaimed longest open-air bar space of Belgium. It's definitely the longest and most beautiful one I've seen ;) It was the cherry on the top of the cake of our #SundayLove.

Last but not least, if you are coming to Belgium and would like to know more about Leuven, you can download the app Leuven Walks to help you find the best and most secret places of the old town.

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



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