FRAGMENTS_ jardins fontserè i mestre

Before we started our 50 km roadtrip, Eline and I first had to drive our car from the airport of Barcelona to our hotel in Girona.  To make sure we had the best possible experience during our first drive with the prius plug-in hybrid, the toyota team programmed a scenic route into the GPS.  We drove along some of Barcelona’s most impressive views, but there was one in particular where we could not resist to make a quick stop.  When we spotted the lushious vegetation and interesting architecture of the Jardins Fontserè i Mestre, we just had to pull over!  Unfortunately the greenhouses were closed, so we didn’t get the full experience, but I did manage to snap a few photos that convey the atmosphere quite well.  Definitely a place that should be listed in my city guide for Barcelona!

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FRAGMENTS_ Las Palmas in pastel

FRAGMENTS_ Las Palmas in pastel - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Normally I would try to recap my holidays in a more or less chronological way, but once I started editing photos of our last evening in Las Palmas, I couldn’t wait to share these dreamy pastel fragments of Gran Canaria’s capital.

As you might have guessed from all the spamming I did on Instagram (you can find all images from our trip here), visiting my sister on her Erasmus destination was pretty spectacular.  The island of Gran Canaria truly has it all, from black beaches and deserts to lush vegetation and breathtaking mountains (more on that later!), while Las Palmas is one dreamy sequence of exotic palm trees and sublime pastel hues.  Quite the opposite from the all-in resorts that I imagined beforehand, but hey, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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FRAGMENTS_ the 50 km road trip

all pictures by Eline Ros and me

It came as quite a surprise when Toyota asked me if I wanted to try out their Prius Plug-in Hybrid.  I’m not a car expert, in fact, I just passed my driver’s license test and still had to pick up my driver’s license.  However, I do care about sustainability and love traveling, so this trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out that brand new driver’s license.   Toyota challenged me and my friend Eline to go on a 50 km road trip, discovering interesting spots in a 50 km radius around the Mas de Torrent hotel where we were staying.  Why 50 km?  This is the Prius Plug-in Hybrid’s driving range using only its battery.  Yay for no emissions!

I was very curious to discover the Catalonian provence of Girona, as I’ve traveled to Spain multiple times but only ever visited Barcelona.  As it turns out, Girona holds beautiful beaches, incredible views, picturesque medieval villages, interesting architecture and, last but not least, excellent coffee.

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FRAGMENTS_ CCB in Lisbon

During my last visit to Lisbon, I made a quick stop at the CCB in Lisbon’s parish Belém.  I visited this cultural center once before, during my Erasmus in 2012, and absolutely loved it, so I couldn’t resist paying it a second visit after I discovered the MAAT.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go inside and check out the current exhibition (I had a plain to catch), but I did take a closer look at the architecture and was pleasantly surprised.  Due to the winter light, the building seemed to be dressed in soft pink tones, which worked beautifully with the CCB’s surrounding greenery and the building’s composition.  Just in case you have plans to visit Portugal’s capital, don’t forget to check out my city guide for more tips on what to do in (and around) Lisbon.

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FRAGMENTS_ MAAT

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Ever since I read about the new museum for architecture, art and technology in Lisbon, or the MAAT, I couldn’t wait to visit this impressive piece of architecture on the bank of the river Tagus in Lisbon’s district of Belém.  Unfortunately, I was only able to visit the foyer of the museum, as the new exhibitions were still a work in progress.  However, the architecture itself did not disappoint.  The tiled facade, curving towards the river, beautifully reflected both the sound of the waves and the play of light on the water surface.  On the undulating rooftop, the balustrades and stairs collided into a playful composition of lines.  I hope these images give you an impression of Amanda Levete’s design and encourage you to leave Lisbon’s city center for its Belém district.  For more must-visits in the wonderful city of Lisbon, have a look at my city guide here.

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FRAGMENTS_ Le Point du Jour

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During our road trip through France, Lies and I indulged both in breathtaking nature and stunning architecture, and today I’m concluding my report of our trip with the latter.  Le Point du Jour is a housing project designed by Fernand Pouillon between 1957 and 1963 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a Parisian suburb.  The twenty five buildings house no less than 260 apartments, facilities and shops and yet the site never feels dense, on the contrary!  The materials, the lines of the buildings, the greenery and the colors form a perfect composition that never bores the eye.  A must-see if you’re visiting Paris and prefer magnificent architecture over tourist traps, but then again, who doesn’t?

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FRAGMENTS_ Les grands ensembles de paris

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Inspired by Laurent Kronental’s photo series Souvenir d’un Futur, Lies and I decided to see those Grands Ensembles in Paris for ourselves during last summer’s road trip through France.  These enormous housing projects were built between the 1970s and 1980s and were meant to be a solution to the housing crisis, urban migration and the inflow of foreign immigrants, while also meet modern needs.  The resulting buildings must have looked pretty futuristic back then, but nowadays they feel rather like the captivating movie decor of a Modernist utopian city.   We visited three of these Grands Ensembles in the outskirts of Paris during our trip (one of which I didn’t photograph because it felt inappropriate, but you might have already seen Bofill’s Les espaces d’Abraxas in the hunger games movies anyway) and today I’m sharing two, the circular Les Arénes de Picasso in Noisy-Le Grand, designed by Manuel Núñez Yanowsky and the Le Viaduc (1980) and Les Arcades du Lac (1975) in Montigny-le-Bretonneux, designed by Ricardo Bofill and dressed in rosy hues.  If you want to see more of our roadtrip, have a look here on the blog or here on instagram, and keep an eye out for my last post about our vacation if you’re enjoying these posts filled with stunning architecture!

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WHERE TO GO IN HASSELT

city guide hasselt - via au pays des merveilles

As some of you might know, I didn’t always live in Antwerp (or Lisbon,  or Leuven…), but I grew up in a small town in the east of Belgium.  The nearest “big city” was Hasselt, which back then consisted mostly out of high street stores.  At the age of 16, we didn’t expect much more from our shopping trips, but times change.  And so did Hasselt!  Every time I return I’m surprised by all the new shops and bars, so I figured it was about time I shared my favorite places in this incredibly cosy city.  As usual, you’ll find a map at the bottom of this city guide for Hasselt, where you’ll find even more tips from very reliable sources, and this post will be updated as I discover new places.

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FRAGMENTS_ the french west coast

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Our road trip from last summer brought us to the french west coast after we visited the impressive villa cavrois.  We barely made any plans for this trip (we literally decided one day ahead that we’d drive through France), but Etretat was on the top of our list right from the start. With its stunning cliffs (including several natural arches) it is a however one of the most popular destinations at the french west coast for tourists.  We had no desire to spend our night among the crowd, so we headed to a camping that still had a spot for our tent in the nearby village of Yport.  Boy, was that a good choice!  The campsite (and thus our tent) turned out to have a breathtaking view over Yport and its beach.  We spent our days here reading, indulging in crêpes and baguettes and exploring the beach and the typical French village, before we headed to Paris.  However, that’s for another post.  For now, I hope you enjoy these photos of our stay.  More photos of our trip can be found here on the blog or here on instagram.  Are you inspired yet to take a trip to the french west coast yourself?

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FRAGMENTS_ villa cavrois

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This summer, my friend Lies and I opted for a budget holiday, driving with our tent through the North of France, exploring both architecture and nature, while ending with a bit more luxury in Paris (hello hotel panache!), where we would meet up with our friend Eline.  The first stop on this roadtrip was Villa Cavrois, an impressive modernist mansion  located in Croix, just over the Belgian border.  This “modern château” was designed in 1929 by Robert Mallet-Stevens for the wealthy Paul Cavrois (a textile industrial), his wife Lucie and their seven children.  The architect also designed the entire interior of this 2800 m² mansion, and opted for luxurious materials such as marble and precious wood, while never losing sight of functionality.  However, after being occupied by the German army during world war II and an unsuccesful architectural intervention, Villa Cavrois was abandonned and vandalized.  Luckily the French state realized the value of this building and bought the property in 2001, with the goal of restoring it to its former glory.  13 years (!) of research and 23 million euro (!) later, Villa Cavrois is restored back into its original state of 1932 and open to the public. 

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WHERE TO GO IN COLOGNE

where to go in cologne

Last summer I spent a couple days in Cologne all by myself.  You’ve already seen fragments of that trip on the blog and my instagram, but today I wanted to share my favorite spots in this lovely German city.  I collected tips from friends and other bloggers beforehand, so in the map at the bottom of this post you’ll find a lot more places than I possibly could try in those three days but would love to explore during another visit to Cologne!

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FRAGMENTS_ botanical garden in Cologne

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It’s no secret that I’m rather fond of botanical gardens, so it shouldn’t surprise you that when I planned to visit Cologne, the first thing I looked up was if the city had a botanical garden.  Wandering through the lush gardens, exploring its stunning greenhouses and reading while enjoying these exotic vies turned out to be a perfect way to spend my afternoon.   What can I say, I just never get tired of botanical gardens!  So here are a few fragments of Cologne’s most peaceful hideaway, hopefully this dose of greenery brightens your Sunday!

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EXPLORED_ Hart en Ziel in Antwerp

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Kolumba

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Ever since I set foot in Cologne’s Kolumba museum five years ago, I’ve been in awe with this architectural masterpiece by Peter Zumthor.  When I planned to spend a couple of days in Cologne this summer, the first thing that popped into my mind was that I’d be able to revisit the Kolumba, which I still remembered as one of the most impressive buildings I’ve visited.  Curious whether or not it’d live up to my memories, I couldn’t wait to pay this museum for religious art a second visit.  Built on the ruins of a gothic church, the building forms a stunning play on the contrast between old and new, light and dark, matte and reflective surfaces.  Needless to say,  I was not disappointed by my second visit at all. 

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FRAGMENTS_ KölnSkulptur #8

FRAGMENTS _ Kölnskulptur #8 - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

This summer, I felt the need to escape our little country on my own for a few days.  When choosing my destination, I was looking for something not too far away so I could easily reach it with blablacar, not too expensive, not too touristic and preferably not in France, as I already planned to go there a few days later.  Keeping all of this in mind and considering tips from friends, I decided on Cologne.  I had already been there five years ago during a school trip, to visit what has become one of my favorite buildings, but didn’t really remember the city itself.  Cologne turned out to be wonderful and exactly what I needed. (Would you like to see a city guide?) I enjoyed the sun (36 degrees!), sipped on iced lattes, wandered the beautiful green streets of the city, caught up on my reading, admired that favorite building for the second time (I’ll show you the photos in a blogpost soon) and visited the most beautiful musea Cologne had to offer.  One of those was the Skulpturenpark, a parc that hosts biennial series of sculpture exhibitions.  The current exhibition, KölnSkulptur #8 will be on show until June 2017 and made quite the impression on me.  With works by Dan Graham and Sou Fujimotto among others, it’s no surprise that I shot nearly a whole roll of film here.  I hope these fragments of my visit give you an accurate impression of the hours I’ve spent enjoying this beautiful parc.

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EXPLORED_ Cantine in Vilvoorde

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Existenz Maximum 2015

FRAGMENTS_ existenz maximum 2015

Whenever Existenz Maximum takes place, I always try to make some time to see what the first Master of architecture students in Leuven have achieved, and it’s never a disappointment.  I’m just showing you a few fragments of last year’s edition in an abandoned school building (above left you see my photos at the expo about 20 years of Existenz Maximum) in hopes of getting you excited about the upcoming project week filled with architecture related lectures, workshops and good times.  Looking at the program that they just released, discovering this year’s edition is a must if you’re spending time in Leuven next week.   And while you’re at it… try visiting these places too.

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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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FRAGMENTS_ a weekend in London

FRAGMENTS_ London - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveillesBack in October, Lies and I headed to London for a visit to our friend Camiel.  Trips like these are my favorite: no pressure, no tight schedule, but quality time with friends and seeing the city through the eyes of a local.  We spent our time in Camiel’s neighborhood in South London, Hackney Wick (here’s a tip for pizza and beer and brunch) and on the other side of the city, in Brixton Village (see Laura’s guide for tips), Clerkenwell and Dulwich.   We savored the food at local markets, chatted with inspiring artists (like painter Jo Dennis) and artisans (like this leather bike saddle designer), explored the city on our rental bikes, enjoyed some down time at Camiel’s impressive home, marveled at the pink plastic beauty of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion by Selgascano and discovered the breathtaking garden room of the Barbican.  I have many pictures of that last one in store for you later, but for now I’m leaving you with these fragments of the rest of our trip to London!

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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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WHERE TO GO IN LEUVEN

where to go in leuven via au pays des merveilles

After living in Leuven for five and a half years, I owed it to this tiny but lovely city to gather the best spots in town for a city guide.  Leuven might not be big, but it does have a lot to offer, whether you’re looking for modern or historical architecture, fashion, design, music, art or nature.  So pick a date for a visit and take this city guide along with you!  (As always there’s a helpful map at the end of this post and I’ll update this guide whenever I discover something new.)

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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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SUNDAZE_ Jarri Van der Haegen

SUNDAZE Jarri Van der Haegen - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-27

If the name Jarri Van der Haegen doesn’t ring a bell, the name of his blog Disco Naïveté most certainly will.  For 6 years already, Disco Naïveté is the go-to place on the web if you want to know which music will be hot and happening in the future. It is remarkable how much this 25 year old accomplished through blogging, while still keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground and remembering that there’s more to life than work.

We met when Jarri organized the first vierkantwerpen meeting and I immediately knew he’d be the perfect candidate for another Sundaze blogpost, so I asked him to share a peek into his life and show me his favorite spots in the city.

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FRAGMENTS_ Portugal

FRAGMENTS_ Portugal - by Hannelore Veelaert via au pays des merveilles-22While I’m writing this from my new home (more on that later!), my latest trip to already seems so far away even though it’s been only three weeks.  As you might have seen on instagram, I traveled to Portugal to spend Christmas with my family in my parents’ holiday home and to reconnect with old friends in Lisbon, where I studied one semester.  Together with my parents and sister, we enjoyed the view from their home (see the first photo, taken from my bedroom), explored medieval town Obidos and treated our dog and ourselves to a refreshing walk on the beach of Foz do Arelho.

In Lisbon I met up with Jaka to catch up on everything that happened since our last encounter, stroll through the beautiful streets of the city that I love so much, drink coffee, do some reading in my lovely room for the weekend, relax and discover new places such as Café Da Garagem, with its stunning windows that offer a breathtaking view over the city.  (Speaking of discovering new places: I’ve update my city guide for Lisbon with my latest discoveries!)

After handling deadlines at work and struggling a little bit with my health, I decided to bring my film camera instead of a digital one, to give myself a true break from daily life and enjoy this beautiful country that feels like my second home to the fullest.   Lisbon always manages to ease my mind, but being able to leave everything behind for a short week gave me the necessary energy right before  moving into a new place.

While I’m slowly getting settled into my new home, I’m looking forward to get back to regular blogging again, especially since I still have a ton of photos and an interesting interview to share… Soon!

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Berlin

fragments berlin - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-2With the weather getting colder and work taking over these past few weeks, I can’t help but reminisce about past holidays during warmer times.  One of those trips that I haven’t shared yet, was this summer’s stay in Berlin.  After spending some time in Leipzig and exploring Melt! festival, I figured it was about time I’d make it to Berlin.  Together with one of my best friends, I finally headed to the city that had been on the top of my to do list for quite some time.  We spent our stay there wandering the streets of different neighborhoods, sipping coffee, riding our bikes, exploring architectural gems, sleeping on a boat(!) and drinking beers.  After the intense experience of Melt! festival, these few laid back days were exactly what we needed before getting back to Belgium.  I did fulfill my blogger duties though and photographed a few places that I discovered.  Maybe you already saw one of them in a previous blogpost,  but I’ll share the others with you soon.  For now, these photos bring up lovely summer memories while I’m already looking forward to my next trip.  Curious where I’m going?  Here‘s a tip.

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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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FRAGMENTS_ The Sahara of Lommel

lommelse sahara - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-7There’s a little piece of paradise in the east of Belgium: the Sahara of Lommel.  After a short walk through the forest, the pine trees reveal a breathtaking view on ponds surrounded by a sand plain, making it hard to believe you’re still in Belgium.  Surprisingly, this nature reserve was formed by the remnants of sand mining and pollution from a former zinc factory.  Its fumes caused the old vegetation to disappear and revealed a sand plain instead.  The current pine forest was planted to ensure that the sand plain wouldn’t expand and the old sand pits were filled with water, completing the stunning picture that is the Lommelse Sahara.

Although this location is often used as a background for photo shoots or movies, when my friend Lies and I visited, it was a particularly quiet day on the Sahara.  Combined with the moody weather (that later cut our visit short with a hail storm), the desolate plain and forest made for quite a photogenic walk.  If you’re still deciding on what to do this wonderful Sunday, I think I’ve made the decision a little easier for you… Lommel calling!

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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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FRAGMENTS_ a weekend in Leuven

fragments_ leuven - by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-32

When Accor hotels invited me to spend the weekend in Leuven, it felt like the perfect opportunity to rediscover my former hometown.  I’ve lived in Leuven for five years during my architecture studies and even though it felt too small after my return from Lisbon, I’ve always loved living there.    While Leuven really is small, it also has a lot of things to offer.  There’s a lively creative scene with talented musicians and artists, each year the architecture students of the first master turn an abandoned building upside down for Existenz, while the students from Loko do the same for Ithaka, you’ll find lots of beautiful architecture – both old and new – in the streets of Leuven and (not unimportant) food and drinks are quite affordable thanks to  the many students here.

Paulien and I stayed in the Hotel ibis Budget Leuven centrum, which turned out to be the perfect starting point for our weekend as it is located next to the city’s train station and close to pretty much everything.  (And for architecture lovers: it has some pretty interesting concrete detailing on the facade!)   As the big draw was taking place in the city during that weekend, it was the perfect moment to stroll through the streets of Leuven and admire the many beautiful drawings in the shop windows, take numerous coffee breaks, explore the antique and artisan markets, devour delicious vegetarian hot dogs,  get a new haircut and enjoy the sun and beautiful plants in the botanical garden.

We discovered a lot of interesting new places that popped up since I left the city (I already blogged about one here), so I’ll soon share them here in a city guide and highlight my favorites in their own blogpost.  For now I already wanted to share a few fragments of the atmosphere in Leuven and inspire you to book your very own getaway to this lovely tiny city.

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Karl Liebknechtstrasse in Leipzig

fragments leipzig - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-1

We only spent half a day in Leipzig, so I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert on this German city.  However, Leipzig didn’t leave us disappointed.  Someone told me in advance that he absolutely loved Leipzig and felt that it was “the new Berlin”, where you could still feel the remnants of former Eastern Germany.  A few days later I set foot in Berlin for the first time, so it’s not that easy to compare, but I certainly recognized the contrast between beautiful lanes on the one hand and their grungier side streets on the other.  I didn’t take that many pictures, so I’m only sharing a few fragments of our one day stay here.  They give you a peek into the Karl Liebknechtstrasse, located in the upcoming Südvorstadt neighborhood.  With its colorful facades housing a mix of vintage shops, boutiques, restaurants, bars and clubs, it’s impossible that you’ll ever be bored here.  And if you have explored everything ‘Karli’ has to offer:  coffee bar Mein liebes Frollein, which I’ve blogged about before, is located in one of the sidestreets, and so is the Leipziger Hafenbar.  Running into their beautiful garden was a surprising sight in the city, and thus we enjoyed a refreshing drink there.  We didn’t take any pictures though, so you’ll have to experience this one for yourself!

So, did I convince you yet to visit Leipzig?  Personally, I wouldn’t mind to spend a few more days in this city and explore more of what Leipzig has to offer!

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FRAGMENTS_ Schulz und Schulz

FRAGMENTS_ schulz und schulz - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-1

Strolling through the streets of Leipzig, Enya and I were quite surprised when we came across this beautiful St. Trinitatis Catholic parish church.  Intrigued, we entered this building by Schulz und Schulz and discovered its clean lines and wonderful light.  The perfect place for a fan of abstract architectural photography like myself.  You can find my photos below and for more information about the architecture, you can take a look at the Schulz und Schulz website here

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Nazaré

FRAGMENTS_ Nazaré - by hannelore veelaert au pays des merveillesThese photos were taken during the time I spent with my family in Portugal, on the same day that we made the beach walk at Praia da Polvoeira in Pataias.  On our way home, we stopped in Nazaré, a town that is mostly known for its impressive waves and equally impressive surfers.  It’s a lot more touristic than Praia da Polvoeira (as the last picture shows), but we only watched the crowds from up high.  Instead of joining the sun lovers and the surfers, we took a short walk to Forte de São Miguel.  You’ll only see it from a far in these photos, as I mainly enjoyed the nature and the view from above.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as well, because these are the last photos I have to share from my stay in Portugal.  Luckily I’m not done yet with reminiscing about my summer holidays, I still have a lot to share from my stay in Leipzig and Berlin.  Check back soon!

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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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FRAGMENTS_ Praia da Polvoeira

fragments_ pataias - au pays des merveillesYou’ll surely remember I spent some time in Lisbon this summer (thanks to my many blogposts about this amazing city), but this wasn’t the only part of Portugal I visited.  Before I went to Lisbon, I stayed a couple of days with my parents, sister and our dog at our holiday home near Alcobaça.  Those days were mostly spent reading by to the poolside but also exploring the  beaches in the area.  One of those beaches was Praia da Polvoeira and its beauty totally blew me away!  This beach is located in Pataias, a freguesia of Alcobaça, and not that far away from the crowded beach of Nazaré, but Praia da Polvoeira seemed rather undiscovered by tourists.  If you’re used to Belgian beaches, it’s quite an experience to feel like the beach belongs to only you!  However, that’s far from the only reason I loved walking here.  I’ll just let the pictures do the talking!

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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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