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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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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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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EXPLORED_ Hart en Ziel in Antwerp

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

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Cantine in Vilvoorde

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Kapbar in Leuven

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

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

De Kapbar, Naamsestraat 55, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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EXPLORED_ Copain in Hasselt

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Reading between the lines

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

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

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EXPLORED_ De Sladerij in Hasselt

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Titi +The German Kid in Hasselt

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

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

wear leuven via au pays des merveilles-9

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

Wear Leuven, Van Benedenstraat 5, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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EXPLORED_ koffie Onan in Leuven

koffie onan via au pays des merveilles-5

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ the belgian coast

fragments of the belgian coast - by hannelore veelaert via au pays des merveilles-3

While you are reading this, I am on my way to Portugal, to enjoy a couple of days on the countryside with my family and a weekend in Lisbon with my old friends.  I’m super happy to be spending some time abroad (and in my favorite city no less), but that doesn’t mean that our own little country of Belgium has nothing to offer.  Last October when the temperatures were much lower, me and my friends Eline, Lies & Anne-Sofie spent a weekend at the Belgian coast.  Even though a lot of things went wrong during our little getaway (which is why we’re still referring to this trip as “the anti climax weekend”), the beauty of our Belgium seaside did not disappoint.  Now that we’re experiencing a heat wave in Belgium, I wouldn’t recommend spending your time at our overcrowded coast, but these images definitely prove that us Belgians don’t need to travel far to experience a beautiful sunset and remind me that I should explore our tiny country more often.

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EXPLORED_ Giraffe 2 in Leuven

giraffe records via au pays des merveilles-6

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

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

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SUNDAZE_ Lies Mertens

sundaze - lies mertens - hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles-17

Sundaze is all about that Sunday feeling, with no obligations, only endless possibilities.  Whether your day off is on an actual Sunday or any other day of the week: everybody knows and loves that feeling.  In this topic, I document inspirational people on their day off.  How we spend the day is up to them, no obligations, remember?  Through this topic, I intend to see the city through their eyes, but also find out a little bit more about what drives this person in their daily life.  The first person to offer a peek into her life, is Lies Mertens, a 25 year old graphic designer and leather accessory designer located in Antwerp, but with a lot of love for travel.

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EXPLORED_ Mok in Leuven

mok by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

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

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

UPDATE: Mok’s interior has been completely redone by none other than Wøti, whose home you’ve seen here.  Have a look at Mok’s instagram to catch a peek and make sure to visit Mok Brussels, designed by Wøti, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh and Nono & het Staal, who have all been featured on the blog before.  Au pays des merveilles approved!

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

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EXPLORED_ De Werf in Leuven

de werf via au pays des merveilles-11

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Bar Stan in Leuven

bar stan by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

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

Constantin Meunierstraat 2, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook

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A WEEKEND IN ANTWERP

au pays des merveillesphotos by me

A few weeks ago, some friends from my erasmus time in Portugal came over for the weekend.  It was so nice to see them again after such a long time, and to be able to show them my new city.  We walked around my beautiful neighborhood Zurenborg, cycled through the city and admired Antwerp’s skyline from the roof of the MAS.  Soon I’ll finally have more time on my hands and be able to spend more weekends like this.

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EXPLORED_ Siblings Factory in Brussels

siblings factory via au pays des merveilles

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

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KRACHTVOER

krachtvoer via au pays des merveilles

A few weeks ago, the girls behind Alle Dagen Honger organized a food festival named ‘Krachtvoer’ at DEstudio in Antwerp.  This two day festival consisted of documentaries, lectures, tastings, diners, workshops and expositions, all related to food.  Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to any documentaries or readings (I find it very interesting (and scary at the same time) to hear more about the food industry, it’s ecological impact is what convinced me to become a vegetarian) but I did manage to make a quick stop at the food market and the expositions.  The food was of course delicious and the location and decorations were stunning, as was the exposition with works of Alle Dagen Honger’s own illustrator Mayken Craenen  and others.  For a more elaborate impression of the festival, I added the aftermovie at the bottom, made by my flatmate Mathijs Vleugels.

This was only the first edition of Krachtvoer, so keep an eye out on the Alle Dagen Honger blog (also in english here) if you want to stay up to date on future editions of Krachtvoer or if you’re interested in the food industry as a whole.

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KAFFEE WELTEVREE

kaffee weltevree via au pays des merveilles

A new academic year means a new Existenz team and new Existenz cafés.  Since I don’t live in Leuven anymore, these cafés are the perfect excuse to go back and catch up with old friends.  (I even wished I could fly back for an evening of Existenz festivities when I was living in Lisbon.)  This year’s opening event was called Kaffee Weltevree and took place in the courtyard of our beloved castle (the home of Leuven’s architecture department).  The combination of the fairy tale like surroundings, the live music, the friends I hadn’t seen in a while and the obligatory beers resulted in a great evening.  I’ve called this city home for five and a half years and nights like this remind me why.

(You can find Existenz on facebook here to stay up to date with their activities.)

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LIFE IN BELGIUM

via au pays des merveilles

Here’s an analog diary of what I’ve been up to these last months, from the first ‘terrasje’ of the year (drinks outside on a terrace), to a Float Fall concert in bilbo for record store day (listen here), to M-idzomer festival in Museum M, the stairs of Leuven’s central library where I have been studying the past weeks, to a rooftop barbecue in Antwerp literally hours after I got back from Paris (best welcome back to Belgium!), to everyday sights in Leuven (like the plant filled windows that I pass almost daily, another confetti smiley that I discovered only now thanks to a friend and the castle of Arenberg where our design studios are located) and one last view at Museum M, when I went to see my photos for the first time with my sister.  I might have complained a lot about missing Lisbon and being back in same-old Belgium, but looking back, this doesn’t look so bad now does it?  All thanks to my wonderful friends who make Belgium feel just a little bit warmer…

drinks and bikes in leuven, via au pays des merveilles

Afbeelding (3)

Afbeelding (5)

 m-idzomer in leuven, via au pays des merveilles

m-idzomer in leuven, via au pays des merveilles

central library stairs in leaven,via au pays des merveilles

rooftop barbecue in antwerp, via au pays des merveilles

leuven street view, via au pays des merveilles

a view in antwerp, a confetti smiley and the top of the castle in leuven, via au pays des merveilles

museum m in leuven, via au pays des merveilles

all photos by me

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M

IMG_9093

Some of you might know that during the past academic year, I was chosen to represent my faculty (engineering sciences at the university of Leuven) as an artist in residence.  Together with the other ‘faculty stars’ (each in their own discipline), I got to attend workshops and had the chance to display some of my photos in the halls of the university. However, the cherry on the cake is our current exhibition: me and the four other photographers have our work up on the walls of museum M!   I’d love to hear what you think, so if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to take a look at our photos in the entrance hall (that means it’s for free, so no excuses!) and check out the museum too, the rest of the collection ain’t that bad either.  (Our photos will be displayed until August 11, so you’ve got a week and a half!)

Now that I have your attention:  I’m also looking for an affordable room in a fun house in Antwerp as I’m leaving Leuven behind in September (or even at the end of August if I find something sooner).  If you’ve got some tips, shoot me an email!

Here’s a bonus photo of me looking very proud in front of my photos:

IMG_9094

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LIFE BACK IN BELGIUM

au pays des merveilles

Unfortunately, it’s that time of the year again: the exams are coming up, so us students are locked up behind our books and not allowed to think about anything else, like… let’s say blogging.  Which means it’s probably going to be (even more) quiet here in the next few weeks, especially since these are the last photos I saved up to share with you.  Today I’m sharing a little bit of randomness: my favourite boots on the grass during that first day of spring back in march, some impressions of Antwerp during a school trip (luckily on one of those other rare spring days), the view on Leuven from the top of this year‘s Existenz location and Portico Quartet in the AB, one of the few concerts I’ve done since I got back (I’m saving up to go back to Lisbon!) but definitely one worth remembering.  There were very few tickets sold, resulting in a very intimate concert in the AB club covered in twinkling lights and a little talk with the super friendly band afterwards.  I’m ending this with ‘Ruins’ by Portico Quartet, because even though I loved how intimate the concert was, they deserve a much bigger audience!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQH0GPL33uc&h=37]

antwerp via au pays des merveilles

leuven via au pays des merveilles

portico quartet via au pays des merveilles

portico quartet via au pays des merveilles

portico quartet via au pays des merveilles

all photos by me

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EXISTENZ MAXIMUM 2013

existenz maximum via au pays des merveilles

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know my love for Existenz, the organization of first master students of architecture in Leuven, who make it their goal for the year to turn an abandoned building into a playground for everyone who loves art and architecture (and an occasional drink and dance), and this for only one week.  As every year, this year’s edition was a blast.  The location, the old bottling plant of Stella Artois, was breath-takingly beautiful (that light!) and I think the photos show it well, which explains the photo overload after the jump. (In case you can’t tell: I got myself a new camera (canon eos 650d) and I’m thrilled with its results!) 

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ITHAKA

ithaka via au pays des merveilles

Last year I was very impressed by Ithaka (a yearly exhibition of visual arts organized by students), so this year I had to check it out again.  Unfortunately I was a little bit disappointed, (maybe because of the location that wasn’t nearly as impressive as the one from last year?) but these balloons filled with colored pigment by Laurens Mariën kind of made up for it.

ithaka via au pays des merveilles

ithaka via au pays des merveillesphotos by me

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SUMMER IN THE CITY

Actually these photos were taken a long time ago, when the Belgian summer showed it’s face a little earlier than expected (and disappeared for way too long after that!)  Leuven can look so good when the sun shines!


all photos by me

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WHERE TO GO IN HASSELT – part two

As I told you last week: it’s about time I start showing you where to go in my hometown (okay, in the city 12 km next to my hometown), instead of always rushing of to other cities or countries.  In part one, I showed you Hasselt’s one and only vintage shop, this time we’re getting some culture and something to eat!

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ROYAL GREENHOUSES OF LAEKEN

Over 20 photos in one post isn’t too much, or is it?  Sometimes I just can’t help it, sometimes I really can’t kill my darlings!  (Oh wait, you should’ve seen the amount of photos I started with…)  A few weeks ago, me and some friends paid a visit to our Belgian king, or much rather the gigantic greenhouses in his even more gigantic garden.  The royal greenhouses of Laeken are wonderful and certainly a must-see, too bad they are only open for the public during the month of April and you’re not allowed to visit all of the domain, only a specific route is public.

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ITHAKA

Last week, I showed you the beautiful gardens of the Carthusian monastery, and today it’s time for the inside of this abandoned building and the artwork displayed at the festival.  I don’t remember the artists, but if you’re interested, you can take a look at the ithaka website.

all photos by me
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ITHAKA

Last week, I visited Ithaka, a visual arts festival in an abandonned building in Leuven, organized by students.  This year, Ithaka celebrated its 20th anniversary and occupied the old carthusian monastery.  When I arrived at the monastery, I was mind blown by the fact that such a beautiful location existed in Leuven and I wasn’t aware of it at all.  So today, I have a few photos of the gorgeous garden for you, and next week I’ll flood you with lots of photos of the inside and the displayed art.  (More information about ithaka and the monastery here.)

all photos by me
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BOZAR

A few weeks ago, I went to see the Cy Twombly exhibition in the Bozar in Brussels.  Besides Cy Twombly, I also took a look at NICHE, Bozar’s micro exhibition of young Belgian architecture and the Image / Construction ‘3 cities’ series.  These three exhibitions are still showing, so I suggest you pay a visit to the Bozar soon!

all photos by me

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WE ARE NEVER GOING TO BE AS YOUNG AS WE ARE TONIGHT

Yesterday I showed you how amazing the Existenz Maximum location looked this year, today I’ll give you an impression of what happened there at night…  There was a lot of dancing, making new friends (preferably with tiger socks), dressing up to do the lindy hop, cosmic leggings and surprised people gazing out the window at the construction workers who started destroying the other part of the building while we hadn’t made it to our beds yet.  What a week!

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EXISTENZ MAXIMUM 2012

Remember this?  Like every year, the Existenz Maximum week took place in an abandoned building in Leuven, this time the old management buildings of Stella were the place to be.  Unlike last year, I’m no part of the Existenz team anymore, which meant I could fully enjoy all of it!  Of course I never let an opportunity pass by to take photograph or two, so here’s a first small (hmm) selection!

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