FRAGMENTS_ Haptic House

FRAGMENTS_ Haptic House Antwerp - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

Just outside the city of Antwerp, designer Ben Storms transformed a former furniture store into a plaground for his creative endeavors.   Under the name Haptic House he created a greenhouse for artistic designs and ideas where likeminded creatives such as Nathalie Van der Massen, C3T, Clay Club, Wilder, Mr. Frisko Vintage Furniture and Wiesi Will found their home.  Today Haptic House is opening their doors to the public, but I already got a little sneak peek of their exhibition and studios.  I’ve gathered a few fragments of the beautiful Haptic House studios in this blogpost, but if you’re in the neighborhood today, I suggest you discover their surprising mix of furniture design, textile, ceramics, glass, jewelry design, photography, floristry, graphic arts and collectible design for yourself!

Haptic House studios, Turnhoutsebaan 1-3, 2100 Antwerpen - facebook - opening event

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WORK_ Foon by Pinkeye Design Studio and Edith Macken

WORK_ Foon by Pinkeye Design Studio and Edith Macken

As I’m currently spending the majority of my time either behind the camera or behind my computer, I figured I’d show you a glimpse of the kind of projects I photograph for a living.  Last winter, I shot the brand new hearing center Foon in Leuven, designed by Edith Macken (who I’ve worked with before here) and Pinkeye Design Studio.  Having hearing protection made to measure is not exactly the most pleasant experience (been there, done that), but it’s certainly no punishment when it takes place in an interior like this.  So if you’re ever in Leuven: take care of those ears of yours and enjoy this beautiful interior while you’re at it.

Foon, Mechelsestraat 7, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook - instagram

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FRAGMENTS_ Ibiza

While I’m swamped with work this month, I’m fondly looking back at last summer, when Lies, Eline and I rented a camper for a few days and explored the island of Ibiza.  What started as a joke (“Hey, none of us have to work next weekend, maybe we should go to Ibiza?”), turned out to be a great decision.  We stayed away from the city and its notorious clubs and instead spent our time exploring empty beaches and wandering through cute towns.   Since you can drive from one side of the island to the other in less than an hour and camping in vans is allowed anywhere, Ibiza and campers can only be described as the perfect match.  Unfortunately I could only snap a few photos before my film camera jammed, so I only have a few fragments of the beautiful island to share, but that’s just another excuse to go back if you ask me…

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FRAGMENTS_ pink hues of Sintra

Fragments_ pink hues of Sintra - Hannelore Veelaert for aupaysdesmerveillesblog.beIt took me a couple of years, but during my last visit to Lisbon, I finally made it to the neighboring city of Sintra.  This infamous town is mostly known for its numerous royal palaces and castles (more about that later), but today I’d like to put its countless shades of pink in the spotlight.  While Las Palmas already surprised me with its infinite supply of pastel facades and Lisbon’s amount of soft colored houses is pretty impressive as well, Sintra turned out to be devoted to one pastel hue in particular.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but can you spot the lurking grandmother behind the window?

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EXPLORED_ Rice ‘n Roll

EXPLORED_ Rice 'n Roll Antwerp - Hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

When the people of Rice ‘n Roll asked me to shoot their brand new restaurant in Antwerp, the industrial meets boho interior quickly stole my heart. I didn’t expect anything else though, knowing that Nathalie Teugels is responsible for this interior with an underground Vietnamese takeaway twist.  However, Rice ‘n Roll doesn’t only please the eyes, its summer rolls are a treat for your tastebuds as well.  Think finger-licking good and no guilt needed, because these dishes are healthy as can be (and even gluten free).  At Rice ‘n Roll they are well aware that “sharing is caring” and “choosing is losing”, as their menu is perfect for those who want to try it all.   We had a go at all the vegetarian and vegan rolls on their cosy terrace and could only approve of Antwerp’s latest culinary addition.  So hop on your bike to try these tasty dishes yourself, or have them delivered straight to your doorstep, it’s up to you.  Bon appétit!

Rice 'n Roll - Scheldestraat 98, 2000 Antwerpen - website - facebook - instagram 

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FRAGMENTS_ a road trip through Jordan

FRAGMENTS_ a road trip through Jordan

It’s been only a few weeks since my friend Simon and I boarded a plane to Jordan with an open mind, five rolls of film and a lot of enthusiasm to make a road trip through this  country.  Before a good friend of mine moved to Amman, I never even thought about visiting Jordan, but I was curious to find out what made him pack his bags and move to a country that’s so different from our Western world.  Of course I already knew about Greening the Camps, the non-profit organization he founded in Amman with two friends.  (They design, develop, build and maintain rooftop gardens in Palestinian refugee camps.  While the Palestinian people have a thousand year history as farmers, the refugee camps leave little to no place for agriculture.  By building rooftop gardens, Greening the Camps wants to reconnect local communities with their cultural heritage of farming while growing their own food.  You can have a look at their website for more info or to support them.)

Even though I’d already seen images of Jordan’s beautiful landscapes, I wasn’t prepared for how they’d just keep coming, one after the other and how breathtaking they’d be in real life. It took us only three days to realize that five rolls of film was a grave underestimation of how enthusiastically we’d be snapping away at all those mesmerizing sights.  Apparently smartphones are all the rage while shooting film is considered very old fashioned in Jordan, so unfortunately we weren’t able to buy more. Otherwise, this post would have been at least twice as long…

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FRAGMENTS_ Lisbon in pastel

Fragments_lisbon in pastel - Hannelore Veelaert for aupaysdesmerveillesblog.be

A few weeks ago, I showed you some of Lisbon’s brutalist architecture, but today I want to share a few snaps that capture why I fell in love with the Portugese capital all over again during my last visit. Light blue, soft yellow, blush pink and that wonderful, wonderful light… my favorite city has it all.  If this wonderful weather that we’ve been having lately hasn’t catapulted you into a holiday state of mind, this pastel colored glimpse of Lisbon might just do the trick.  Oh, don’t forget: if you’re planning a trip to Lisbon – I’ve collected all the good stuff here.  In the meantime I’m off enjoying the sun again in our little Belgium. Até já!

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EXPLORED_ Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon

Explored_ Santa Clara 1728 in Lisbon - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

It’s early in the afternoon when I cross Campo Clara, a square which is home to the famous flee market Feira da Ladra twice a week.  When I lived in Lisbon a few years ago, I spent many hours wandering this market, looking for second hand treasures, but today I have a different goal.  I’m heading to Santa Clara 1728, a hotel hidden in an old convent on the often busy plaza.  Once I step foot inside the majestic entrance hall, the lively city couldn’t seem further away though.  

Santa Clara 1728 - Campo de Santa Clara 128, 1100-473 Lisbon - website - facebook - instagram 

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FRAGMENTS_ brutalism in Lisbon

FRAGMENTS_ brutalism in Lisbon - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

The city of Lisbon might be known for its colorful facades and picturesque street views, that’s not all it has to offer when it comes to architecture.  Because I can never resist brutalist architecture with its geometric shapes and intriguing use of materials, I did a little research on brutalism in Lisbon before my last trip to my favorite city.  A google search led me to the Palácio da Justiça, the courthouse of Lisbon which was designed by Januário Godinho & João Andresen in the sixties.  This mastodont of a building ticks all the brutalist boxes, so if you’re a lover of all things architectural, it is definitely worth a detour from your average tour of the Portugese capital. In that case, don’t forget to checkout my Lisbon city guide for more must visits!

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EXPLORED_ The Bunkers in Knokke-Heist

B&B The Bunkers Knokke-Heist - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

When driving through the polders in Knokke-Heist, it’s Jonas Van Put’s Observer emerging above the horizon that confirms we’ve almost reached our destination.  Amidst the meadows, sprinkled with bunker ruins dating back to 1785 and the occasional flock of sheep or herd of cows, The Bunkers has found its place in a former barn that has been beautifully renovated by architects Govaerts and Vanhoutte.  While this historical site’s architecture is remarkable, the true protagonist of the experience is the wide view over the luscious green polders, only occasionally disturbed by a few trees or bunker ruins, one of which is now serving as a sheep stable.  Upon our arrival, it’s immediately clear: partner in crime Lies and I have sucessfully managed to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and our daily lives.

The Bunkers - Burkeldijk 18, 8300 Knokke-Heist - website - facebook - instagram - twitter

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FRAGMENTS_ Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Fragments_ Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

The combination of plants and rough concrete is one that is always a win in my book and Lisbon‘s Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian proves my point with conviction.  This brutalist museum houses the art collection of the foundation named after businessman and philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian.  While the ancient and modern art collection is supposed to be impressive (I have to admit I only ever visited the library), it’s the surrounding gardens that truly make my heart beat faster.  The fragments I’m sharing in this blogpost should give you an impression, but why not plan a trip to Lisbon and visit the Gulbenkian yourself?  In case you do: boredom won’t be an option because I’ve updated my Lisbon city guide

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EXPLORED_ Casa C’Alma in Lisbon

It doesn’t take much for me to feel at home in the city of Lisbon (I studied in the Portugese capital for five months and have visited countless times since), but Casa C’Alma feels exactly as the calm home that this guest house‘s name suggests.  Scandinavia meets Portugal in the mix of hardwood floors, white walls, an occasional dash of color, carefully chosen furniture, luscious plants, excellent selection of reading material and delicious Portuguese breakfast.  The cherry on the cake in this spacious apartment is a dreamy light blue kitchen, making it hard not to fall in love with this boutique bed and breakfast that feels like a breath of fresh air.  Yes, whether you want to retreat into the privacy of one of their serene bedrooms or enjoy the spacious common living room while chatting with your fellow guests, stepping into Casa C’Alma will always feel like a breath of fresh air.   Its location couldn’t be better either, with Copenhagen Coffee Lab (perfect if you’d like to stick with the Nordic atmosphere), bakery Tease and the shops of Principe Real only a few minutes away, making it an excellent starting point to explore the city.   For a good night’s sleep in the city center of Lisbon and a dose of Scandinavian interior inspiration, this is exactly where you want to be.

Casa C'Alma - Praça das Flores, 48 1° Floor,  1200-192 Lisbon - website - facebook - instagram - booking

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FRAGMENTS_ MAAT

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you have without a doubt noticed I spent the end of the year in my beloved Portugal.  Before meeting up with my family for the holidays, I spent 5 days on my own in Lisbon, doing what I love to do most.  I revisited my favorite places from when I used to live here, discovered new places and wandered the streets of my favorite city with my camera in hand.  I’ll soon blog about my favorite discoveries, but first I wanted to share a few images of the MAAT, Lisbon’s museum for Architecture, Art and Technology.  Last year, the majority of the museum was closed to the public, but this year I had better luck.  While the expositions I visited were interesting, the museum building itself that was the true highlight of my visit.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few new pictures of all the different textures on the billowing facade and the extraordinary view over the Tejo.

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EXPLORED_ kind of OJ

EXPLORED_ Kind of OJ, a bed & breakfast in Bruges

When walking through the Guido Gezellelaan in Bruges, number 36 might not seem that different from its neighbors. Only a subtle sign – Kind of OJ – on the front door alerts you that something might be going on here. However, first looks can be deceiving. Once the front door of Kind of OJ opens, it’s instantly clear: this is nothing like your typical hotel in Bruges. The majestic hallway, where statues of half naked punks by Rotterdam design label Nightshop greet you, gives you just a first impression of all the wonders that are waiting here for you. Welcome to Kind of OJ: part bed and breakfast, part gallery, part showroom, and all kinds of surprising.

kind of OJ - Guido Gezellelaan 36, 8000 Brugge - website - facebook - instagram - pinterest - booking

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EXPLORED_ bar copine in 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

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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FRAGMENTS_ Acusa Seca

In my previous blogpost I raved about the cave dwelling we stayed at in Gran Canaria, so today I wanted to share more photos of that experience.  In this post I’m taking you on a tour of Acusa Seca, a small village of cave dwellings dating back to the 6th century with a breathtaking view over Roque Nublo (the appropriately named cloud rock).  During our hike through the surrounding valley we encountered even more breathtaking views, hence the picture overload.  Have a look at the photos below and wander through Acusa Seca with me!

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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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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

FRAGMENTS-maat lisboa-hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-0012

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

fragments_-le-point-du-jour-hannelore-veelaert-au-pays-des-merveilles-4

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

fragments_-les-grands-ensembles-de-paris-hannelore-veelaert-au-pays-des-merveilles

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

fragments_-the-french-west-coast-by-hannelore-veelaert-for-au-pays-des-merveilles-34

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

fragments-botanical-garden-hannelore-veelaert-for-au-pays-des-merveilles-4

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

fragments-kolumba-hannelore-veelaert-for-au-pays-des-merveilles

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

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!)
UPDATE – Titi + The German Kid has been closed down.

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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