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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

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


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

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.



9.3.18

Stonehenge and Old Sarum


Hello folks!

Last year I lived in England for 2 months. At the time me and my husband decided to make the most out of it, visiting as many cities as we could. It's no secret that I love ancient history, so for me Stonehenge and Old Sarum close to Salisbury were a must.

It was a bright cold day in October, and the birds were flying high in the sky. Stonehenge was waiting for us. We decided to go by train from Southampton to Salisbury and it took us around 30 minutes. In the front of the station in Salisbury we bought tickets for the coach company called The Stonehenge Tour for £29.00 each including the entrance fee for both sites, you can buy it online as well. It was a very comfortable ride, we enjoyed the view over the fields of Wiltshire whilst we could hear historical information through the headphones provided by the company. An extra advantage of this special bus is that we had a fast track access to the Stonehenge historical site, beating the queues. This is definitely the best way to go to Stonehenge and Old Sarum by public transportation. Thanks, Christian's colleagues for this piece of advice ;)

The magical stone circle slowly emerged on the horizon during our 5 minutes free shuttle bus ride from the entrance. It was stunningly beautiful and I felt so happy and glad for having the opportunity to see and explore this Neolithic monument, built around 5 thousand years ago. The cherry on the cake were the crows soaring above Stonehenge, they seemed like the ancient guardians to the holy grounds. In the complex, you can not only see the famous monoliths but also many, many burial mounds from the bronze age, which was really interesting for me, as I did not know how many ancient remains there are and so close to the circle! If you are going with kids you will love it, behind the entrance they had a small tend with actors dressed as Neolithic peasants, explaining how the life was at that time. The Stonehenge visitor centre also hosts a museum and a cafeteria. To be honest, the museum wasn't impressive, but we liked to stay there to warm up, as it was really cold and windy. 

After visiting Stonehenge we headed to Old Sarum, which unearths over 2,000 years of history. It was a hillfort during the iron age, a settlement for Romans and home for a medieval castle, prison and cathedral. The ruins of the cathedral and the castle of William the Conqueror are there and we can literally walk through it, as you can see on my video. Particularly the nice atmosphere and the amazing view of Salisbury was one of my favourite things about Old Sarum, it was relaxing and somehow very romantic, as we could see many other couples walking there, so dreamy! The one thing I also loved as much is their little shop, where they sell delicious jams and other local specialities. On our way back to Salisbury we, unfortunately, missed our coach. Actually,  the company told us we could take any local coach to go back, however, we had to take just the green ones, that were never coming, so we decided to pay for a regular one. This was not a nice situation when the bus driver explained it to us, but apparently, it happens with many other tourists, so keep that in mind to don't make the same mistake as we did. 

Stonehenge and Old Sarum


Arriving in Salisbury, we decided to explore the town and even though it was already 6 pm and dark we had a great time. We went to the cloister of the cathedral and explored the lovely lanes. We were very surprised about the beauty of the city and are sorry for not dedicating a full day to visit Salisbury, so maybe next time in England we will do it. It was one of the best days of my life and I will never forget about this mystical and special places. 

    

21.2.18

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Hello folks!

The end of the winter is such a strange time. There’s the excitement silently building in the background for easter, while I'm here nostalgicly remembering of my December holidays. Last year, Christian and I went on a family trip to Austria over New Year, in which we enjoyed lovely moments together, from visiting Salzburg to skiing in BöhmerWald Arena.

Austria is one of those countries I've been expecting to visit for a long time, so I got very excited when Christian's aunt invited us to stay at her beautiful house in Rohrbach - Oberösterreich.  Rohrbach is an extremely tranquil village in the middle of nowhere, it's the perfect place to disconnect with the rest of the world, to relax and to have quality time with the family. I loved our long walks in the snow and the cosy chats at the balcony during tea time. As you may know, I was born in Brazil, so for me, there is nothing more magical and special than snowflakes floating outside the window, it looks like a miracle.

One of the highlights of our trip included driving to Salzburg with Christian, my mother in law and his aunt. The drive up through the Austrian mountains covered with snow was stunning. We pulled up near the train station and we walked to one of the highest areas of the city, the Kapuzinerberg, where we had a breathtakingly beautiful view of the entire town and the  Hohensalzburg Castle. I have to admit that it was a bit challenging to access this place, as the floor was very slippery because of the ice. If you want to do this during the winter: take a good pair of highking shoes with you.

After climbing the hills of Salzburg we've continued our tour exploring the shopping lanes around Getreidegasse. The locals are very proud of their traditional and sophisticated shops, from the Hadered Custom Made Shoes to the Lanz Tracht Fashions - both dating from the earlier begging of the XX century. Meaning, the shops are also a place to be if you want to immerse yourself in the local culture. I wish I had bought the whole showcase of Dantendorfer!  Arriving in the downtown we also visited Mozart's house, this was a very nice experience for me, as my grandma, who is a professional piano player and loves Mozart, was teaching me a lot about his music, when I was little.  It was a privilege to understand a bit more about the life of the composer and to see the place he was born! Finally, at the end of the afternoon, we've decided to warm up drinking a hot chocolate in Kaffeehäferl, one of those lovely coffee places of Getreidegasse.

On another great day in snowy Austria, we headed to the BöhmerWald Arena, in the district of Mühlviertel, as I really wanted to ski. The place is perfect for cross-country skiing, offering more than 70 km well-prepared routes. We had a great time, although I was falling a couple of times! I would like to once again thank Christian's uncle for being a great and very patient skiing instructor, he saved the day. In the evening we took shelter in the restaurant of the INNs HOLZ hotel and ordered some delicious cappuccinos and apfelstrudel with hot vanilla sauce defrost. I fell in love with the interior design of the place, it has a cute little wood house inside the restaurant, creating a warm and cosy atmosphere. A very special fact about the INNs HOLZ is that the waiters were wearing the dirndl, those beautiful traditional Austrian dresses, I wish I could buy one of those. Oh, I would live in this hotel forever!

It was brilliant to spend quality time with my family in this place. This country completely captured my heart. I hope to visit Austria again, especially to for one of the New Year's concerts  of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Good bye  Mozart's country, I see you soon!

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria

Activities for your holiday in Austria






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