FRAGMENTS_ Existenz Maximum 2015

FRAGMENTS_ existenz maximum 2015

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

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EXPLORED_ Labyrint by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

EXPLORED_ Labyrinth - Hannelore Veelaert for au pays des merveilles

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ The Barbican in London

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ a weekend in London

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

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EXPLORED_ Thelma Coffee & Design in Leuven

EXPLORED_ Thelma coffee & design in Leuven-5

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

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

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

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WHERE TO GO IN LEUVEN

where to go in leuven via au pays des merveilles

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

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EXPLORED_ Kruidtuin in Leuven

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

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

Kruidtuin, Kapucijnevoer 30, 3000 Leuven - website

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SUNDAZE_ Jarri Van der Haegen

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

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ Portugal

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Kapitalist in Berlin

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

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

Das Kapitalist, Oderberger Strasse 2, 10435 Berlin - facebook

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FRAGMENTS_ Berlin

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

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EXPLORED_ Koffie en Staal in Leuven

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

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

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ The Sahara of Lommel

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Bitte! in Berlin

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

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

Bitte!, Glogauer Strasse 6, 10999 Berlin 

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FRAGMENTS_ a weekend in Leuven

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Animaux Spéciaux in Leuven

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

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Metafoor in Leuven

metafoor via au pays des merveilles-3

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

Metafoor, Parijsstraat 34, 3000 Leuven

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EXPLORED_ MDBK in Leipzig

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

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ Karl Liebknechtstrasse in Leipzig

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

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ Schulz und Schulz

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Mein Liebes Frollein in Leipzig

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

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

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FRAGMENTS_ Nazaré

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

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EXPLORED_ Wear in Leuven

wear leuven via au pays des merveilles-9

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

Wear Leuven, Van Benedenstraat 5, 3000 Leuven - facebook

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FRAGMENTS_ Praia da Polvoeira

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

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EXPLORED_ Jardim Botânico in Lisbon

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Tease in Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Copenhagen Coffee Lab in Lisbon

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ Oasis Backpackers Mansion in Lisbon

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

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

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

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

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EXPLORED_ koffie Onan in Leuven

koffie onan via au pays des merveilles-5

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

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

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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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WHERE TO GO IN BARCELONA

where to go in barcelona via au pays des merveilles

When I visited Barcelona for the third time, I did something I’ve never done before: prepare for a trip.  Usually, I prefer traveling without a to do list and I like to be surprised by unsuspected discoveries, but now that I have a smart phone, a well prepared trip seemed a lot less of a hassle than before.  So for the first time ever, I searched blogs (Sir Magazine, Why Not Monday, The Epic Guide and 12hrs) and asked friends (Lise, Lien, Hanna and Mariona) for tips and gathered all of them in one helpful guide.  (When I do research, I do it well!)  Because we had so much fun with this list of Barcelona tips, I decided to gather every place I’ve tested and approved in one blog post.  In the list below, you’ll only find the places that have been approved by yours truly, while on the google map at the end of this post, you can find all the recommendations I found, including the ones I haven’t tested myself.  I trust my friends and fellow blogger’s opinion, so these are still on my to do list for my next visit.  I do think you cannot visit Barcelona without seeing some of Gaudi’s work, so I’ve included some of his buildings and some other touristic must do’s in this list as well.  I’ll warn you: tickets to see these don’t come cheap and it’ll probably be crowded with tourists, but it’s worth it anyway in my opinion.

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FRAGMENTS_ architecture in Barcelona

architecture in barcelona by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

 In November I made a trip to Barcelona, where I spent a couple of days with a friend and two days on my own.  My friend had to head back sooner than me but I preferred to have more time off from my busy schedule in Belgium.  With “Fiets & the city – Barcelona” in hand, I took the metro to Poblenou to check out their recommendations on modern architecture.  Herzog and de Meuron’s Museu Blau, the natural history museum, was my favorite discovery, with it’s interesting textures and reflections.  Next to Museu Blau, you can also find the Diagonal 00 Telefonica Tower (by Enric Massip-Bosch_EMBA), with its graphic lines.   My last stop was Can Framis, Jodi Badia’s concrete museum which houses a collection of contemporary Catalan art.  As it was Monday, both museums were closed so unfortunately my architectural field trip was limited to outside views only, but worth it anyway.

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EXPLORED_ Bunkers in Barcelona

bunkers in barcelona by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

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

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EXPLORED_ Bar Stan in Leuven

bar stan by hannelore veelaert for au pays des merveilles

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

Constantin Meunierstraat 2, 3000 Leuven - website - facebook

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FRAGMENTS_ Montjuic

FRAGMENTS_ Montjuic by Hannelore Veelaert for Au Pays Des Merveilles
In November I made a short trip to Barcelona with my friend and textile designer Ella De Vos.  We both visited the city a couple of times already, so our plan was to do absolutely nothing but relax.  We needed a few days to escape our busy lives in Antwerp and a few days where nothing was planned but drinking coffee or wine and eating tapas seemed perfect to us.

One particular day, we decided to be a little more adventurous, so we followed this book‘s advice and rented bikes to ride up to Montjuic.  Maybe Definitely a little too ambitious for someone who doesn’t work out regularly (the hill is really steep), so we decided to make stops on the way up instead of on the way down, like our city guide recommended.   This still is quite an effort, but the views you get along the way definitely make up for it.

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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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ROTTERDAM & BREDA

via au pays des merveillesChassé Park Apartments, Breda, by XDGA

Right before I’m leaving on another short visit to the Netherlands (this time I’m going for the opening my friend’s photography exhibition called The Dwarf Empire, a tip for those of you who are in the neighborhood in the next weeks), I’m sharing these photos from Rotterdam and Breda with you.  Since this was a short trip with my office, we divided our time between eating and checking out architecture.  Not bad if you ask me.

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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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WHERE TO GO IN LISBON

where to go in lisbon After living in this city for five months and countless city trips to Portugal’s capital ever since, I had to compile all my favorite hangouts in one handy city guide.  So, if you’re wondering how a semi-local twenty-something spends her time in Lisbon, this is it!

At the end of this post you can find a google map with all my tips, that you can open on your smart phone while you’re traveling.  On that map, you’ll find even more tips that I’ve collected from my most trustworthy sources, and intend to try out myself in the future.    Have fun!

Last update: December 2018

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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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EXPLORED_ parc de bercy in Paris

parc de bercy via au pays des merveilles

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

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PARISIAN HOUSEWARMING

parisian housewarming via au pays des merveilles

My friend, who I was visiting in Paris, just moved into his new apartment a few days before I arrived.  That called for a house warming, and the boys planned this very nicely in the middle of my visit.  Here’s a little impression of what the coffee table looked like the morning after and how the apartment transformed from before the party until the morning after.  Luckily those boys know how to clean…

parisian housewarming via au pays des merveilles

all photos by me (except for top right)

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EXPLORED_ the Abbey Bookshop in Paris

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

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PARIS

Paris via au pays des merveilles

After spending one week in Portugal, I took the plane straight from Lisbon to Paris.  Living in Belgium, we don’t often get the chance to fly to Paris, and I have to say landing in Paris around 11 PM has resulted in the most beautiful view I’ve ever had from a plane window.  No photos unfortunately, as I wasn’t seated by the window, but I still enjoyed the view a lot.  That being said: here’s a little impression of how I spent my days in Paris.  I was visiting a friend who lives there now, and he took me to all his favorite places.  We chilled by the Seine, had drinks at an amazing african bar slash vintage shop slash museum called Le Comptoir Général (80 quai de Jemappes) and explored Deyrolle, a wonderful taxidermy store (46 rue du Bac).  And those photos from the Louvre, you ask?  Those were taken when my friend was at work and I met up with Marijke, who you might know from the fantastic blog called Goesting.  Good times!

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

paris via au pays des merveille

all photos by me

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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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