EXPLORED_ bar copine in Lokeren

explored_ bar copine lokeren

When it comes to interesting cities in Belgium, Lokeren might not be the first one that pops into your mind, but there is one place that makes a visit to this Flemish city worth a visit.  At Bar Copine, located on Lokeren’s main square, you can find anything from interior accessories furniture to delicacies, care products and fashion.  However, Bar Copine is not only a shopping destination, here you can also stop by for a cup of coffee, a piece of cake and a healthy lunch or breakfast.  When they asked me to shoot their new interior, designed by Man architecten, and their menu, I got the chance to try some of their dishes and let me tell you: these dishes not only look splendid, they taste absolutely delicious as well.  Bar Copine is not only a dream come true for its owner Kim, but it is dreamy on its own, dressed in pastel hues, terrazzo and dashes of gold.  So, next time you’re in the neighborhood of Lokeren and you’re in need of caffeine, something new or a meal… you know Bar Copine is the place you’re looking for!

Bar Copine, Markt 71, 9160 Lokeren - website - facebook - instagram - pinterest

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EXPLORED_ Jardín Botánico Canario

Botanical Garden of Gran Canaria - Hannelore Veelaert for Au pays des merveilles

While I’m already counting down to my next vacation (only 11 days until I’m cruising around Ibiza in a camper!), I wanted to share my last photos from Gran Canaria with you.  As a lover of all things botanical, a visit to the Jardín Botánico Canarian obviously made it on my to do list.  This garden was the life work of Swedish-Spanish botanist Erik Ragnar Svensson, who spent many years searching for a site where all of the highly diverse plant species of the Canary Islands could grow successfully.  (Gran Canaria alone has a wide variety of microclimats and both forests, deserts, beaches and volcanoes, so you can imagine the huge diversity of vegetation when looking at all of the Canary Islands!) He finally settled on a steep slope close to the capital of Las Palmas, resulting in a lushious garden dwindling down the slope along narrow pathways and staircases. My sister and I spent our day admiring the enormous cacti in the Garden of Succulents and, well, Cacti, bumping into surprises like a waterfall, caves and places with names like “The Road of the Dragons” and “The Fountain of the Wise”, wandering through the Garden of the Islands and the Garden of the World  and discovering the Hidden Gardens inside cute greenhouses.  With its 27 acres, approximately 500 different plant species and over 10 000 cultivars of succulents, the botanical garden of Gran Canaria definitely is one of the most beautiful gardens I have visited, and I’ve visited my fair share!

Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo, Ctra. del Centro, Km 7, 35017 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain - website 

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EXPLORED_ a cave house in Acusa Seca

Explored_ acusa seca cave house in gran canaria

When I was planning last summer’s holiday, I came across an intriguing airbnb by accident.  A house carved into the rocks, with an incredible view right at its front door.  Thinking it was probably somewhere really far away and exotic where I wouldn’t end up in the near future, I saved it for “someday”.  A few weeks later, when I wanted to show that impressive Acusa Seca cave house to a friend, I noticed it was located on Gran Canaria.  The island where my sister was planning to spend 5 months for her Erasmus.

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EXPLORED_ Hart en Ziel in Antwerp

explored-hart-en-ziel-antwerpen-hannelore-veelaert-for-au-pays-des-merveilles-6604

When you step into Hart en Ziel, a brand new concept store tucked away in Antwerp’s most diverse neighborhood Borgerhout, you can’t help but smile at the abundance of green and beautiful objects.  And then you haven’t met the lovely owner Gitte Van Tilborg yet, who’ll surely bring a smile to your face.  After 15 years, she decided to follow her dream and open a concept store, filled with heart-warming and often handmade objects.  The result is appropriately called Hart en Ziel – that’s dutch for heart and soul – and offers all kinds of cute plants, greeting cards, naturally tanned sheep skins, home accessories and soon also flowers and furniture.  Hart en Ziel has something for everyone, for every budget and always with a story.  It’s still a work in progress, but  after only two weeks, it is already the go-to place for neighbors who need a gift for a loved one or who want to treat themselves.

But Gitte has bigger dreams than merely selling pretty things.  In the future, you’ll be able to follow workshops about drawing, knitting, mindfulness and anything that’s good for the heart and soul.  Moreover, artists will be able to display their work, use the back of the store as an atelier and meet their potential customers at the same time.

During my visit to Hart en Ziel, I’ve fallen in love with this beautiful new addition to the neighborhood, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  If you’re as excited as I am about this hidden gem in Antwerp, I’ve got good news for you! We’ve decided to treat one lucky reader to the plant hanger (including plants!) at the bottom of this post.  Keep an eye on my instagram today to find out how you can win this eye catcher!

Hart en Ziel, Laar 12, 2140 Borgerhout - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Cantine in Vilvoorde

EXPLORED Firma - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles-6128

Vilvoorde might not have the reputation of being the hippest of cities, one particular place is certainly trying to make up for that.  As part of co-working space Firma, Cantine is the place to be for a delicious lunch in a stunning decor.  Their carefully selected (vegetarian!) menu is complemented with daily specials and weekly suggestions, making sure that even the most regular visitor won’t get bored.  Besides food, Cantine also offers a selection of  lovely Vitra goodies, which will soon be expanded even further.  For those who can’t make it to Vilvoorde for lunch during the week, Cantine also hosts a tasty brunch every last Sunday of the month, invites you for an  after work drink (or two!), every second Thursday of the month, and you can even book this gorgeous space for a private dinner club.  And gorgeous it definitely is, but what else did you expect from the talented ladies of BRNSO. aka Baroness O.?

Cantine, Schaarbeeklei 636, 1800 Vilvoorde - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Kapbar in Leuven

EXPLORED_ kapbar in Leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-9

 If you’re in need of a new haircut but don’t feel like wasting time sitting around waiting for your hairdresser to be done with the previous client, I recommend you to pay a visit to De Kapbar in Leuven.  Owner Lisa might still be young, but she damn sure knows what she wants!  This gal launched her very own hairdressing salon, where you can enjoy a drink in the bar while you’re waiting for your turn.  Sipping on your cup of coffee surrounded by brick walls, white wooden floors and vintage furniture, you’ll feel at home instantly, but most important: Lisa won’t mess up your hair.  I wouldn’t dare to recommend something I haven’t tried for myself, so I took the plunge and let Lisa work her magic on my hair.  I can honestly say that you’re in good hands with Lisa, so if you’re locks need some help, De Kapbar is the way to go, and while you’re in Leuven anyway, give these places a try too.

De Kapbar, Naamsestraat 55, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Copain in Hasselt

EXPLORED copain in Hasselt - by hannelore veelaert - via au pays des merveilles-5580

After the hype of the gourmet burger and the haute dog, it is time for the croque monsieur to shine, at least if you ask Nele from Copain in Hasselt.  Whether you like to stick to the classics or enjoy a rather surprising combination, the seasonal menu of Copain has got your desires covered.  Even if you’re not craving a croque during your visit, you’ll surely leave with a smile on your face as the menu also offers delicious granola (approved by yours truly!), a cup of coffee and sweet treats.   Next to the menu, Copain also impresses with their interior.  Lots of wood, a few mint green accents and fresh flowers bring a little bit of Scandinavia to the city Hasselt and form the perfect backdrop for your lunch break.  Eat, drink, smile, repeat is Copain’s tagline and I advise you to do exactly that.  I know I will.

Copain, Zuivelmarkt 38, 3500 Hasselt - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Reading between the lines

EXPLORED reading between the lines - by hannelore veelaert - via au pays des merveilles-5376In an attempt to make my driving lessons a little bit more interesting, I’ve been exploring the region of my hometown for interesting breaks in between practicing my driving skills.  I’ve already shared one of these destinations with you, and today I’m introducing you to another work of Gijs Van Vaerenbergh.  “Reading between the lines” is probably the most well known installation by this multidisciplinary design studio and is a part of “pit”, an artistic trajectory with works by ten artists.  (So I might have to take my driving lessons up there again to check out the other works!)  The transparant “church”, constructed out of 30 tons of steel, looked stunning amidst the gorgeous landscape of Borgloon and the sunset only added to the view.  So, if you don’t have any plans for today yet (or tomorrow, it’s a long weekend after all), you do now, because “Reading between the lines” is waiting for you.

Reading between the lines, walkway between Sint-Truidersteenweg and Romeinse Kassei, 3840 Borgloon - website
Gijs Van Vaerenbergh - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ De Sladerij in Hasselt

INSIGHTS De Sladerij in Hasselt - Hannelore Veelaert via Au pays des merveilles-5709

Fresh and healthy salads in an interior inspired by a traditional butchery (or slagerij in Dutch), that’s De Sladerij in a nutshell.  The food alone makes this place worth a train ride to Hasselt, but add their selection of cookbooks (all for sale), the beautiful branding and their clean but cosy interior to the mix, and you know the lovely owner Géraldine Eechaudt has created a spot where everybody wants to hang out.  Need more reasons to visit Hasselt, besides de Sladerij?  Take a look here and keep an eye on the blog, because I’m working on a city guide for Limburg’s capital!

De Sladerij, Havermarkt 39, 3500 Hasselt - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Titi +The German Kid in Hasselt

EXPLORED_ T+TGK in Hassel - Hannelore Veelaert via Au pays des merveilles-5674

If you’re in Hasselt and looking to satisfy your hunger for unique streetwear, Titi + The German Kid might be just the place you’re looking for.  Kristien Follon started out almost a decade ago, with a collection of t-shirts with handdrawn prints on them, available through myspace.  Since then, T+TGK has evolved into a brand known for its unique style, inspired by street art, graphic design and illustration, its unusual showcases and the fanzines that accompany each collection.  Curious for that cooky world of Kristien Follon?  Good, because you can see the T+TGK universe for yourself in her design studio slash store located in Hasselt, or you can stop by De Invasie in Antwep this weekend!  (More info about De Invasie and my favorites here by the way!)

Design studio + store TITI + THE GERMAN KID, Schrijnwerkersstraat 20/1, 3500 Hasselt - website - facebook - instagram - twitter

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EXPLORED_ Z33 in Hasselt

FRAGMENTS_ Z33 by Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Growing up,  I spent a lot of my free time in the nearby city of Hasselt.  Back then, I was mostly attracted by the chain stores, unaware that Hasselt had so much more to offer.  One of those things I missed out on for a long time, is Z33.  Located in a historical beguinage, this house for contemporary art offers unique exhibitions and space for experimentation and innovation.   During my last visit, I explored expo Toegepast 20: Looking for the in-between.  The design competition of Toegepast 20 selected 6 young and talented designers to be coached by professionals for a year and ultimately give them the chance to show their work at Z33, hopefully leading to a successful career in the creative sector.  The selected designers have very different backgrounds, ranging from architecture (Ruben Castro) to jewelry (Anneleen Swillen) and from textile ( Charlotte Vandenborre) to graphic design (An Onghena, my personal favorite of the selection).  The result is an interesting expo with beautiful scenography by Adriaan Tas, who’s home you might have already spotted on Instagram and will soon appear on the blog.  This particular expo unfortunately came to its end, but their current agenda looks very promising and a walk around the beguinage is always a good idea, so don’t miss out on this hidden gem when you’re visiting the city!

Z33, Zuivelmarkt 33, 3500 Hasselt - website - facebook -  twitter

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EXPLORED_ Liv in Leuven

EXPLORED_ Liv in Leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-2

Monochrome and marble paradise LIV in Leuven is yet another place in this city that I wanted to share.  Those who know me in real life, know that I prefer to go through life dressed in black and white, so this bright and beautiful store owned by the like minded Evelyn had to be included in my city guide of Leuven.  Providing you with French and Scandinavian brands such as By malene Birger, Anine Bing, Samsoe&Samsoe, The kooples, Vanessa Bruno athé and L:A bruket, LIV never fails to disappoint.  Sure, this stop is not for those with a small budget, but if you value quality over quantity, LIV should definitely be on your schedule for your next trip to Leuven or your next round of web shopping.

LIV, Mechelsestraat 16, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Silo Coffee in Berlin

EXPLORED silo coffee in berlin - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles

It’s been over half a year since I’ve visited this city, but I still have one last place I wanted to share with you and that’s Silo Coffee in Berlin.  Blending brick walls and concrete lampshades with rough wooden furniture, Silo Coffee perfected that industrial feel.  Add some coffee from those famous German roasters The Barn and  a delicious breakfast menu in the mix, and you instantly know why this place is so popular!

Silo coffee, Gabriel-Max-Strasse 4, 10245 Berlin - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Labyrint by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

EXPLORED_ Labyrinth - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Multidisciplinary design studio Gijs Van Vaerenbergh delivered yet another masterpiece with “Labyrint”, an installation at the C-Mine in Genk.  This former coal site is already worth a visit on its own, however, this installation added a whole new dimension to the creative hub.  “Labyrint” is a maze that offers you one kilometer of steel corridors to get lost in, hiding interesting views behind every corner that will let you rediscover its surroundings.  The installation will be on show until September 2016, so you have plenty of time to make it to Genk and discover this stunning piece of art.

Curious for more work by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh?  I’ve blogged about them before here.

C-Mine, Evence Coppéelaan 91, 3600 Genk - website - facebook - instagram 
Gijs Van Vaerenbergh - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ The Barbican in London

EXPLORED_ The Barbican in London - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-24When Lies and I visited London, we ran into a picture of the Barbican Centre’s Garden Room on a viny sleeve that immediately sparked our interest for this botanical walhalla.  In the ever growing list of botanical gardens that I’ve visited, this one definitely is my favorite.  Besides its beautiful collection of plants, the Barbican Estate is also an architectural highpoint.  Designed by British firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in the 1950s, this complex houses 2014 apartments, a library, several restaurants, two schools, a museum, several theatres, an art gallery and much more.  Curious yet?  I’ve prepared an overload of photos for you below, but I recommend you just visit this place yourself if you’re ever in London.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS - website - facebook - twitter

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EXPLORED_ Thelma Coffee & Design in Leuven

EXPLORED_ Thelma coffee & design in Leuven-5

 If the combination of white walls and marble already makes your heart flutter, try adding some pink terrazzo and an abundance of plants to the mix and you’ll end up in the wonderful world of Thelma Coffee & Design in Leuven.  Former dentist Katrien Vandenberghe always had a passion for interior design and was already freelancing left and right for interior projects, when she decided to follow her dream.  As of today she is treating the city of Leuven to a new hangout that blends coffee, design and fashion into a perfect mix.  Thelma, named after her daughter, offers a collection of foremost Belgian and Scandinavian brands (with something for everybody’s budget) in a beautiful bright space, created with the help of Lino from that other Leuven gem Koffie & Staal.   After spending all your money on LN Knits, Sternum necklaces, Phyt plants (remember the beautiful home of owner Sofie?) and Serax, you can take a seat and enjoy a cup of Mok coffee, a bowl of soup or some granola.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, just take a look at the pictures below and you’ll find yet another reason to plan a visit to Leuven.   Need another push?  We’re handing out a gift card worth €50 on instagram!

Thelma Coffee & Design, Vaartstraat 12, 3000 Leuven - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Kruidtuin in Leuven

EXPLORED_ kruidtuin in Leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Even though I’ve lived in Leuven for more than 5 years, I somehow never managed to make it to the Kruidtuin, the city’s botanical garden.  When I recently spent a weekend in my student city with my friend Paulien, we had to pay a visit .  Leuven’s botanical garden is the oldest in the country, dating back to 1738, when it was founded by the university for its medicine students.  Nowadays the garden with its beautiful greenhouse and orangery is the perfect spot to escape the city, take a relaxing walk between the plants, have an indoor pick-nick in the orangery or simply enjoy the sun and the view on one of the garden’s benches.  A must if you’re spending some time in this city!  If a visit to Leuven isn’t for the near future, you can discover more botanical gardens I’ve blogged about here.

Kruidtuin, Kapucijnevoer 30, 3000 Leuven - website

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EXPLORED_ Kapitalist in Berlin

kapitalist - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-13

While we were in Berlin, my friend Pieter and I were wandering through the Prenzlauer Berg with its overload of coffee bars, vintage shops and record stores, when we came across Kapitalist.  The beautiful terrace, bathing in that typical Berlin atmosphere, convinced us to sit down for a beer and gave us a little hint of the café’s interior.  Inside, there are lots of cozy nooks and corners where you can enjoy a coffee or a cocktail and a good conversation with your friends.    Located in the calmer part of the hip Oderberger Strasse, I’d recommend Kapitalist for a relaxed break from exploring this lively neighborhood.

Das Kapitalist, Oderberger Strasse 2, 10435 Berlin - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Koffie en Staal in Leuven

EXPLORED_ Koffie en Staal in Leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

When I was invited to spend a weekend in Leuven, there was one place on the top of my to do list: Koffie en Staal.  This coffee bar with its beautiful interior had popped up on my radar a while ago, but I hadn’t managed to visit it yet.  With delicious coffee from other Leuven favorite Mok and a focus on biological and local food, it’s not that hard to make it onto my to do list, but that wasn’t the main reason for my visit.  Creative couple Nouchka Nemes and Lino Van Molle have created a gem of a coffee bar that offers quite a bit more than your regular flat white, as the name Koffie en Staal – coffee and steel – implies.  Not only your taste buds will be satisfied by coming here, but so will your eyes!

Nouchka (graduated as an interior architect and furniture designer) and Lino (skilled at steel welding and wood working) prove that sometimes one plus one really does equal three, as they are combining their forces to create beautiful furniture under the name of Nono.  Their creations are not only shining in their own bar, but before I ever heard of Koffie & Staal,  they already caught my eye at several other places, including Bar Stan and even my favorite Lisbon hangout Café Tati. (It seems like we’ve got a past in my favorite Portuguese city in common.)  Their furniture is for sale in the bar, but if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you still don’t have to leave empty handed.  That’s right, Koffie en Staal not only sells beautiful pieces of furniture but also carries Nusj, Nouchka’s jewelry collection.  Reasons enough to put Koffie en Staal on your to do list, I’d say.  With the combination of running an eco-friendly coffee house and designing, making and selling both furniture and jewelry, they’ve not only managed to create a lovely hangout, but my dream job as well.  Jealous, who?  Me?

Koffie & Staal, Mechelsestraat 140, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook  
Nono - website - facebook
Nusj - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Bitte! in Berlin

bitte berlin - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-8

When my friend and I walked by Bitte! during our stay in Berlin, I immediately fell for the cute sign outside (which I sadly forgot to photograph but you already caught an impression of the logo if you’re following me on instagram) but we already made plans for the day and decided to put this tiny coffee bar on the to do list for another day.  The next morning we went back to indulge in their delicious coffee and greek inspired breakfast (Bitte! offers a small menu of greek specialties) and see their cute interior up close.  The adorable logo outside already predicted good things for this café’s interior and we were not disappointed!  Dressed in a nautical theme, Bitte! is filled with more cute illustrations and a good atmosphere.  Bitte still be there when I return to Berlin, Bitte!   I’d love to stop by again and try the rest of the menu …

Bitte!, Glogauer Strasse 6, 10999 Berlin - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Animaux Spéciaux in Leuven

animaux speciaux in leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-7

During our weekend in Leuven, my friend Paulien and I stopped by Animaux Spéciaux.  This beautiful shop had only been open for two days and owner Jeroen Lemaitre was still getting used to his new surroundings, moving things around, asking my friend to hold a stuffed parrot so he could screw it into the wall and discussing possible future alterations to the shop with us.  At Animaux Speciaux you can get a peek into the fascinating world of taxidermy and see Jeroen’s work and work process up close.  While stuffed animals might be seen as creepy curiosa by some, Jeroen succeeds to take taxidermy to a higher level.  With the right frames, backgrounds and sometimes even a layer of gold paint, he turns animals that would otherwise have died an inglorious death into intriguing pieces of art.  That’s right, most of these animals are either roadkill or died from disease or age.

It’s not a craft that is easy to start with, and that is what makes Animaux Speciaux such a fascinating world of its own.  Intrigued with framed butterflies, Jeroen learned how to treat insects through youtube videos.  Thanks to enthusiastic reactions from friends and family, his newfound hobby soon turned into a passion and he was eager to learn how to stuff other animals as well.  After his job contract ended, Jeroen decided the time was right to follow his dreams and landed an internship in the Netherlands with an experienced taxidermist.

Fast forward to the present and it’s clear that Jeroen has found his calling.  Although he finds it hard sometimes to sell his creations, he doesn’t hesitate to share his craftsmanship with others: on Sundays he teaches how to stuff baby ostriches.  Curious yet?  Have a look at the pictures below to get pulled into the Animaux Speciaux atmosphere, or head to Leuven to experience his world (including jungle sounds) for yourself.

Animaux Speciaux, Mechelsestraat 73, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook - twitter - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Metafoor in Leuven

metafoor via au pays des merveilles-3

With all of its nooks and corners where you can hide from other bar guests, the Metafoor in Leuven easily makes you feel as if you’re visiting a friend’s place.  This pub is located around the corner of the busy Oude Markt, but feels much more laidback and relaxed than any place you’d find on Leuven’s most famous square.  The Metafoor is the perfect spot to gather your entire group of friends around a table, indulge in long conversations and try the wide variety of Belgian beers that they offer.  Locals love watching the people passing by from their terrace, spending a lazy afternoon playing boardgames or getting cosy into their sofa to read the newspaper.  It’s up to you how you want to spend your time here, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Metafoor, Parijsstraat 34, 3000 Leuven

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EXPLORED_ MDBK in Leipzig

MBDK in Leipzig - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles

When I spent one – very hot – day in Leipzig, I wasn’t very well prepared as to what I wanted to see in this German city.  Luckily my travel companion and fellow architecture enthusiast Enya did her homework and she guided us to the city’s Museum der Bildenden Künsten, the MDBK.  While the collection wasn’t our cup of tea (we both prefer modern art, which was only a tiny part of the collection), the building by architects Hufnagel / Pütz / Rafaelian did leave a big impression on us.   With its impressive terraces and courtyards, the MDBK offers views to its surroundings that look like pieces of art themselves.  A must-see for every architecture lover who visits Leipzig!

Museum der Bildenden Künsten, Katharinenstraße 10, 04109 Leipzig - website

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EXPLORED_ Mein Liebes Frollein in Leipzig

mein liebes frollein - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-11We only spent one day in Leipzig (while on our way to Melt! festival), but we spent it well thanks to my travel companion Enya.  This girl did her research and guided us towards Mein liebes Frollein (among other things).  This place was supposed to be a beautiful coffee bar and it didn’t disappoint at all.  We spent some time sipping on our delicious iced lattes and enjoying the sun at their lovely terrace.  The weather was too good to spend time inside, but we couldn’t resist admiring the interior of this place anyway: filled with cute details and gorgeous furniture, Mein liebes Frollein made us feel right at home in the city of Leipzig.    Next time we’re back in town, we’ll definitely stop by again to put their food to the test (they offer breakfast, lunch and sweets), but as far as the coffee (and the interior!) goes, we fully approve.  See you next time, Mein liebes Frollein!

Mein liebes Frollein, Fichtestrasse 15, 04275 Leipzig - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Wear in Leuven

wear leuven via au pays des merveilles-9

With brands as Sessùn, Numph, Komono and Nudie, it’s inevitable you’ll find something pretty at Wear in Leuven.  Here you’ll always find quality street wear, beautiful shoes and surprising accessories, and all of that for both men and women.  I’ll have to warn you though, these photos have been taken almost a year ago, so if you’re heading to find items you spotted in these pics, you might be just a little bit too late. (Sorry!)  However, this proves that it is about time I catch up with Leuven’s latest additions.  Thus, in a few weeks I’ll be spending another weekend in Leuven to check out some new places and finish up the city guide for Leuven I’ve been mentally preparing for the past year.  If you have some tips, do let me know!  In the meantime, I’m already looking forward to checking out the new collection at Wear…  The sneak peeks they regularly post on their facebook page look quite promising, so go check it out for yourself!

Wear Leuven, Van Benedenstraat 5, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Jardim Botânico in Lisbon

jardim botanico lisboa - hannelore veelaert - au pays des merveilles-6

The Jardim Botânico in Lisbon is one of those place that doesn’t need a lot of explanation.  After our brunch at Tease, Miguel, Lisa and I enjoyed a peaceful walk in the city’s botanical garden, where the gigantic trees offered us some refreshing shade.  With an entrance fee of only 2 euro’s, it’s a must visit if you feel the need to escape the heat in the city!

Jardim Botânico, Rua da Escola Politécnica 54, 1250-102 Lisboa - website

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EXPLORED_ Tease in Lisbon

tease lisboa - hannelore veelaert - au pays des merveilles-6

On my last day in Lisbon, I met up with my friends Miguel & Lisa (who were coincidentally visiting Lisbon at the same time) for a late brunch at Tease.  I’d heard good things about this place and it turned out to be the perfect cure for our hangovers from NOS alive festival (them) and a Rabbit Hole party (me).  The tasty sandwich accompanied by chips (an odd side dish – at least for us – that often replaces regular potatoes in Portugal) and salad, combined with a detox juice made us feel like new in no time.  We only tried the sandwiches and detox juices, but Tease also offers breakfast, lots of cupcakes and other sweets, dinner and even cocktails!  And all that without any severe damage to our wallet: for less than 10 euro’s per person, you’re all set for a delicious meal.

But enough about the food, because as you can tell from the photos, the interior is pretty impressive too.  The pretty tiles, the colorful plates on the wall, the marquee letters and the cute pillows make Tease a lovely place to enjoy a meal and take a break from exploring Lisbon.

(Oh, and if the place is full, you can just move to the other side of the street, where Copenhagen Coffee Lab is located!)

Tease, Rua Nova da Piedade 15, 1200-296 Lisbon - website - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Lisbon

copenhagen coffee lab lisboa - hannelore veelaert - au pays des merveilles-3

Copenhagen Coffee Lab was one of my favorite discoveries during my most recent stay in Lisbon.  How I wish this little coffee place already existed when I was still living there!  It’s a 10 minute walk from my old apartment (and thus from the hostel I was staying at) and serves coffee just the way I like it.  As the name already gives away, this place’s roots can be found in Copenhagen, where their micro-roastery is located, and you can see it in the typical Scandinavian interior, with a clean aesthetic, lots of whites and natural materials.  On top of that, they have free wifi and their breakfast is extremely cheap (only 6,5 euros for all that plus a flat white!) and pretty tasty.  A new favorite in the city!

Copenhagen Coffee Lab, Rua Nova da Piedade 10, 1200-405 Lisbon - website - facebook - instagram

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EXPLORED_ Oasis Backpackers Mansion in Lisbon

oasis backpackers hostel lisbon - via au pays des merveilles-1

It’s been almost a week since I’ve returned from my summer holidays (in a nutshell: 4 days in beautiful Portugal with the family, 2 days in wonderful Lisbon visiting old friends, 1 day in surprising Leipzig with the girls, 3 days on the amazing Melt Festival with my friends and 4 days chilling out in Berlin with one friend) and I’m still adjusting to normal life.  So many bags to unpack, so much laundry to do, so many photos to edit, so many impressions to process and so many blog posts to write!  On top of that, I’m starting my new job at a young architecture firm next Monday (yay!), so I might need some time to adjust to that too.

Anyway, when I was in Lisbon I stayed at the amazing Oasis Backpackers Mansion, for old time’s sake.  This is where I stayed for a week and a half during my apartment search in 2012 and the place that immediately made me feel at home in this new city.  It’s where I made my first friends (both hostel staff and guests, who were also moving to Lisbon or just visiting and decided to stay because they loved the city so much) when I moved here and where I still keep coming back.   I’ve already mentioned this hostel in my Lisbon city guide, but I felt that it still needed a proper introduction, so take a look after the break for more photos and information!

Oasis Backpackers Mansion, Rua Santa Catarina 24, 1200-402 Lisbon - website - bookings - facebook - instagram - twitter

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EXPLORED_ koffie Onan in Leuven

koffie onan via au pays des merveilles-5

When I was still living in Leuven, I was getting used to drinking coffee by adding lots of whipped cream and sweet syrups, so Koffie Onan was not my place to go for my caffeine sugar fix.  However, I have thankfully learned my lesson by now and abandoned the whipped cream. Now I know that for a decent cup of coffee in Leuven, Koffie Onan is the right destination.  They offer a large selection of coffee and tea, displayed in the large wall unit, and if you still feel that need for a sugar rush, you can get yourself one of those delicious brownies at the bar.  If you’ve been exploring the shops at the Parijsstraat and don’t feel like having a disappointing cup of coffee at Leuven’s famous and thus often too crowded “Oude Markt”, Koffie Onan is the perfect place to take a break!

Koffie Onan, Parijsstraat 28, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Giraffe 2 in Leuven

giraffe records via au pays des merveilles-6

Giraffe 2 is the bigger and younger sister of Giraffe Records and Clothing, which has been the place to be for streetwear, spraycans, lomography and of course records for many years.  Two years ago, owner Bram Wijgerde opened their second and bigger store on Leuven’s main shopping street.  Here the women’s collections get a little bit more attention, but you can also find men’s clothing, sneakers and all kinds of accessories.  It’s the place to be in Leuven if you’re tired of high street chains and looking to be dressed from head to toe in something new from brands such as Vans, Komono, Kling and Herschel.

Giraffe 2, Bondgenotenlaan 128, 3000 Leuven - facebook
Giraffe Records and Clothing, Diestsestraat 215, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Mok in Leuven

mok by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

In the two and a half years since micro-roastery Mok opened its doors in Leuven, they surely have left their mark on the city’s coffee culture.  They started out as a roastery with an espresso machine to offer their customers a taste of their product.  Since then, owner Jens Crabbé had to move the roastery to a bigger venue.  At the original location you can now find a shop and a coffee bar, where you can try all the different varieties.  (Or you can enjoy their product in the many places that have the delicious Mok coffee on their menu, like Bar Stan.)

Mok is located close to the railway station of Leuven (although you can argue that everything is close to the station in this tiny city), which makes it the ideal spot to start or end a visit to Leuven with.  Their terrace, looking over the more quiet part of one of Leuven’s main shopping streets, is perfect for a sunny afternoon of people watching, or you can head inside for a cozy coffee break in their welcoming interior.  Or, give Mok a go for after work drinks, because these busy bees recently launched their very own Mok Ale!

Mok Micro-Roastery, Diestsestraat 175, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook

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EXPLORED_ De Werf in Leuven

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If you’ve ever lived or studied in Leuven, you’re bound to know De Werf.  This babbel en knabbelcafé  (“babble and nibble café”)  is every student’s favorite.  With its quirky interior, filled with construction tools (referring to their name, which translates as “the construction site”) and retro knick-knacks, combined with the huge terrace where everybody gets their own blanket, it’s hard not to love this place.  On top of that, their menu and the presentation of the dishes matches perfectly with the quirkiness of the interior.  The food at De Werf is served in lunch boxes, plastic children’s cups or paper bags and their coffee comes in a giant thermos flask, perfect to share with friends.  If you ask for freshly squeezed orange juice, you get oranges, a glass and your very own juicer: do it yourself at it’s finest!  De Werf offers the choice between “tomato soup with meat balls” and “meat balls with tomato soup”, depending on which ingredient you like the most.    Also recommended are their their delicious desserts and their tasty herb bread with feta cheese, my personal favorite.  It’s nearly impossible to leave this place unhappy, so if you’re in Leuven and in need of a little pick-me-up, you know where to go!

De Werf, Hogeschoolplein 5, 3000 Leuven  - website - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Bunkers in Barcelona

bunkers in barcelona by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

In November I made a short trip to Barcelona to escape all the graduation and internship stress.  My travel companion had to head back sooner than me, so I spent a couple of days on my own in this Spanish city.  On my last day in Barcelona, I hiked my way up to the bunkers of El Carmel.  These old remains of an air raid civil war bunker offer the most amazing view over the city of Barcelona and are the perfect spot for a picnic.

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EXPLORED_ Bar Stan in Leuven

bar stan by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Four locals were convinced that Leuven was still missing something, so they decided to fill the gap themselves.  And they were right, as Bar Stan was an immediate success! I regret that this place only emerged in Leuven after I moved to Antwerp, but whenever I’m in Leuven, I try to stop by to enjoy their living room atmosphere.   Bar Stan is located in a more residential area of the city and makes you feel at home right away with their picture perfect interior, filled with artwork by locals.  You can come here any time of the day, as they offer breakfast, coffee, lunch, after work drinks and dinner, and you can even borrow a picnic basket and blanket to enjoy your order on the grass on the other side of the street.  What’s not to love?

Constantin Meunierstraat 2, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Siblings Factory in Brussels

siblings factory via au pays des merveilles

Today I present you a new hotspot in the super hip Dansaert district of Brussels.  Siblings Factory is a new concept store, selling everything from beautiful clothing and accessories by brands such as Le Mont Saint Michel and Cacharel, to interesting magazines, gorgeous vintage furniture and design objects by architect Julien De Smedt, who is also responsible for the design of the store.  On top of that, they also organize art exhibitions (at the moment they are hosting an exhibition by Carine Brancowitz, which I’m dying to see) and they told me they were planning on making a coffee bar in the store as well.  If you’re still not convinced: they intend to donate a portion of their annual turnover to Afghanistan Demain, an association fighting for education for street children.  And… they have cacti for balustrades!  Enough said, now go take a look for yourself at 31 rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains in Brussels.

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EXPLORED_ parc de bercy in Paris

parc de bercy via au pays des merveilles

After reading this description about Parc de Bercy, I couldn’t wait to explore this Parisian park.  It didn’t really live up to my expectations, maybe because I had my hopes up too high, maybe because I didn’t have much time to really discover this park since I was meeting up with Marijke later, but I did end up with some photos I’m pretty satisfied with.  Maybe next time I’m in Paris, I’ll give it another shot when I have more time on my hands!

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EXPLORED_ the Abbey Bookshop in Paris

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When it comes to bookshops in Paris, the most famous is without a doubt Shakespeare & Co.  But if you make the effort to walk two streets further,  The Abbey Bookshop is what you find.  This Canadian bookshop sells probably the same english literature (I am not sure since I didn’t feel like standing in line to enter Shakespeare & Co), but is much more quiet and I didn’t encounter one single tourist here…  Here you can explore thousands of books, stacked on bookshelves or piled up against the walls, while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee offered by the owners.  Definitely a must-visit when you’re a bookworm visiting Paris.

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EXPLORED_ cinema lá em baixo in Lisbon

cinema la em baixo, lisbon, via au pays des merveilles

One thing I was really looking forward to during my trip to Lisbon, was visiting the cinema on the rooftop again.  After I discovered this wonderful place, I made a habit of going every week to have a cheap vegetarian diner with a great view over the city, watch a free movie, catch up with my friends and meet new people.  Unfortunately school (and the cold weather) got in the way and by the end of my 5 months in Lisbon, it had been weeks, if not months, since the last time I was there, so this was definitely on my list when I came back to Lisbon for a week.  Unfortunately, the weekly event changed from cinema la em cima, on the rooftop of an apartment building, to cinema la em baixo, in RDA69.  (Here you can also get your bike repaired and on Sunday they serve delicious pizzas for only 2 euros.) Since it was way too hot to sit inside, we had our delicious meal on the streets.   Despite the change of location the atmosphere and the people are still amazing, and as usual I ran into some familiar faces.  Definitely a must-go if you’re ever in the city!  You can find more info about the cinema here.

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EXPLORED_ jardim da Estrela in Lisbon

jardim da estrela via au pays des merveilles

Because it was so hot while I was in Lisbon, I spent most of my days in the park or on the beach, reading, taking a nap or having a picnic with some friends.  These are some photos of an afternoon with my friend Lisa and her friends from faculty at Jardim da Estrela.   We brought the slack line and a guitar and enjoyed the beautiful park. (Including the crazy guy riding around on his bike with his stereo blasting…)  Going through these photos while I’m studying makes me miss these carefree days even more…

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EXPLORED_ flower power in Lisbon

flower power, lisbon, via au pays des merveilles

At Flower Power in Lisbon (calçada do combro 2), you can eat and drink between the most gorgeous flower arrangements – not so suprising since this café / restaurant is part of a flower shop.  Both the beautiful decorations and the artwork changes regularly, so you’ll never be bored if you come to this place regularly.  Oh and the food is pretty good too, so you don’t have to come here only for the wonderful interior and the view at the famous elevador da bica right across the street.

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EXPLORED_ café Tati in Lisbon

café tati, lisboa, via au pays des merveilles

Since this little café in Lisbon was close to my home and on the way between my apartment and the metro to the university, this was my go to place to work on my thesis (or the blog, because yes, this place has free wifi) while enjoying a cup of (cheap!) coffee and the company of likeminded friends.  But Café Tati has more to offer than free wifi and a cosy interior, they also have an extensive book collection and if you keep an eye on their facebook page, you’ll notice they regularly organize jazz concerts, which are tested and approved by yours truly.  The food is very tasty and affordable as well, so if you’re in Lisbon, I recommend you to enjoy at least one drink here.  (Rua da Ribeira nova 36)

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EXPLORED_ Primeiro Andar in Lisbon

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When you take the small candle lit corridor that leads you to this hidden gem, you will find an indoor basket court and next to it, the entrance to Primeiro Andar (Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, nº110 in Lisbon).  With it’s cosy sofa’s and occasional concerts, you’ll find yourself right at home here.  For more Lisbon tips, take a look here.

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EXPLORED_ Fabrica Features in Lisbon

fabrica, lisboa, via au pays des merveilles

The Fabrica Features shop is located above the united colors of benetton shop at rua garret 83.  This place that caught my attention before, but I never really understood how to get to that fourth floor.  That is, until someone told me you actually had to go into the benetton shop and take the elevator up.  So, in my last week, I finally managed to visit this more or less hidden gem. Here you find beautiful pieces of art and all kinds of items that would make wonderful gifts for dear friends.  (Seriously, how amazing are those sea shell headphones at photo four?)  Fabrica Features Lisboa blogs here about their new products and exhibitions.

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ZAZOU

zazou, lisboa, via au pays des merveilles

Zazou is the place to go if you are looking for authentic portuguese products.  Wether it’s sardines, soap, wine, ceramics or paper ware, this place will have something you like!  And if you’re tired from walking Lisbon’s hills, you can always take a seat in their café.  I haven’t actually tried this myself, but seeing all the products the shop carries, it should be good!  You can find this lovely bazar slash café at calçada do correio velho 7, Lisbon.

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EXPLORED_ La Bohème in Porto

la bohème in porto, via au pays des merveillesall photos by me

One last Porto tip today: this lovely coffee shop slash cocktail bar in rua das galerias de paris, where you can also find this wonderful shop.  In La Bohème, we found tasty cocktails on the well designed menu card for a very fair price and we enjoyed them in a beautiful interior, of which you can see more photos here. (Unfortunately it was a bit too dark to take decent photos myself, but luckily there’s the internet to solve that!)

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CASA DA MUSICA

casa da musica via au pays des merveillesDuring our trip to Porto (of which I told your more last week here and here), one of the things we couldn’t miss, was visiting Casa da Musica, the famous concert hall by OMA.  (By the way, you’ve already caught a glimpse of this building’s surroundings in this outfit post.) Unfortunately we could only see the entrance hall and the café from inside, since the rest of the building was closed, but nevertheless we enjoyed it and of course I took loads of photos!

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A VIDA PORTUGUESA

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You already know I have a slight obsession with beautiful packaging (see my branding pinterest board and thisthis and  this post), so when I entered  ‘A Vida Portuguesa‘, I thought I was in heaven.  This store sells all kinds of authentic portuguese products, from sea salt to soap and from notebooks to sardines and all are wrapped in the most beautiful packaging.  Unfortunately it’s a little bit expensive, and some of these items you can find cheaper in local drug stores, but the shop is beau-ti-ful and it’s fascinating to roam around and check out everything they sell.  The photos from this post are taken when I went  to Porto (it’s one of the shops in Rua da galeria de paris, which I talked about yesterday), but they also have a shop in Lisbon, located in a really cool old building but a lot smaller.  Anyway, if you’re in Lisbon or Porto and looking for souvenirs, this is where you should go.

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LX FACTORY

au pays des merveilles

I’ve already posted about LX factory before and recommended it to a lot of people (including Sofie from Fashionata, who blogged about it here) and everyone seemed to love it.  And so did I, obviously!  After the first time, I went there three weeks in a row to check out the market.  The market changes every time, so this time I found an artist creating wooden boxes as wall decoration (he has more interesting one’s than the one in the photo, but unfortunately I don’t have good photos of those and I don’t know his name… bad blogger!), decorative roosters and birds (so portuguese) and tasty looking soap.  Me and my friends enoyed some portuguese pasteis and coffee at café na fabrica, of which you already saw the terrace (last photo in this post), but this time I also photographed the lovely interior for you. (Good blogger!)   However, these times I also wandered around the site a little bit more and discovered that the more quiet part is pretty interesting too, with lots of graffiti and interesting spaces.  I really wouldn’t mind having my office here someday!

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