maandag 11 september 2017

Go west!

The beauty of our yearly little sojourn in De Westhoek, Belgium's delightful west country, is that it is only about 150 kilometers away and we can be there in less than two hours.

This means no getting up at the crack of dawn and, as we have no train to catch or schedules to meet, we can just drive down there at our own pace.

We'd even packed everything, except for some last minute stuff, into the car on Friday so, after a leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning, we waved goodbye to Phoebe and set off.



Arriving at our destination just outside of Poperinge around noon, we were welcomed by our lovely host Johanna, then made ourselves at home in the comfortable little thatched cottage called Marjolein Guesthouse.




Our home for the week is a large all-in-one room above the owner's carport, with a dressing, sitting area, kitchen island with breakfast nook, sleeping area and neat little bathroom.



Off the breakfast nook, there is a large balcony overlooking the domain's large pond and its abundance of wildlife as well as some fields with the West-Flemish hills in the far distance.

Here, it is very peaceful in spite of the busy road out front, leading to the French border about 6 kilometers away.



The first drops of rain starting falling minutes after we'd lugged all our stuff upstairs and were having a bite to eat, developing into a steady shower and drenching the landscape in no time.

Our phone's weather app told us it would all be over at around 2.30, so we decided to wait it out.

Directly opposite the cottage is one of Poperinge's many hop fields. This year, many hop bines had already been harvested, leaving the wires connecting the rows of hop poles bare.



While I was stood looking out and wishing the rain away, a red hop picking tractor and cart arrived to continue with the harvest and, as I had my camera at the ready, I started snapping away.



Soon, the rain diminished and patches of blue appeared in the sky, so we wasted no time driving down to Poperinge. After all these years, we know our way around the town quite well, and walked in the direction of the Grote Markt (Market Place), returning via the park, in order to get our bearings.


In spite of its sleepy appearance, Poperinge is quite a lively little town. It even has a vintage shop, although its prices are exhorbitant.



It is only fitting that Poperinge, which is Belgium's hop capital, has a hop museum and as we'd never visited before, this is where we were headed.


Poperinge's Hop Museum is located in the old Stadsschaal (Municipal Scales). An informative audio tour guides you through four floors of history and culture, leading you all the way from the impressive loft to the ground floor.



Historic documents, photographs, scale models and audiovisuals illustrate both the story of this unique building and that of local hop growing.



Downstairs, there is an extensive collection of about 1900 Belgian beers.

Several local breweries are highlighted, some of them presenting their wares quite artfully.

The next day, Sunday, we were greeted by a hazy landscape basking in the early morning sunshine.



After breakfast, we made our way to Heuvelland, which is the collective name of eight villages lying in the hilly country south of Poperinge, a region of magnificent panoramic views, wooded slopes, nature reserves and farmlands. In fact, the name Heuvelland literally translates as "land of the hills"

Our first stop was the picturesque village of Westouter, lying at the foot of the Rodeberg, one of the area's many hills.



We took a little stroll around the village and visited the parish church, St Eligius, which was rebuilt in 1922-23 after its destruction in the First World War. Next to the churchyard is Westouter British Cemetery containing 98 Commonwealth and 3 German graves.




Lunch was eaten outside, on the terrace of De Zwaan (no prices for guessing its meaning!), which is located in the old village hall.

Then it was time to challenge my vertigo at our next stop.



Cordoba Zetellift or Telesiège - we are, after all, only a stone's throw from the French border - is a chair lift constructed in 1957 by Austrian specialists, and is the only one of its kind in Flanders.

The chair lift connects the hills Vidaigneberg and Baneberg, and the journey takes about fifteen minutes, providing a unique panaroma over Heuvelland and beyond.



Once the chair lift has climbed away from the trees (at one point, our feet brushed the tops of the trees) and crossed the busy road below, the views are breathtaking.

The vinyard we were floating over at one point is aptly called Entre-Deux-Monts (between two hills).



After a safe landing we had a well deserved cup of cappuccino - the Belgian version which is topped with lots of whipped cream - at the nostalgic café.

Just 2 kilometers up the road, on the slopes of the Rodeberg, are not one but two nature reserves, which are interlaced by a network of footpaths.



Via woodland paths and steps, a 80 meter deep ravine, called Hellegat (hell's hole) is reached.

Climbing up again was a different story and we were glad to reach the top where a welcome bench was waiting for us. Here, the view almost rivals the one from the chair lift!


Then it was time to return to our car and make our way back to our cottage to rest our weary feet.


36 opmerkingen:

  1. You two really do have the best adventures even if the weather is not always kind. It looks lovely where you're staying.
    We are having a week at the caravan soon and looking forward to a coastal train ride from grange over sands to Carlisle where we are visiting a Percy Kelly art exhibition and a one night stop over xxx

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    1. Thank you Lynn, it really is a lovely place, which is why we keep returning. Have a lovely week at the caravan! xxx

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  2. It must have smelled interesting with all the wet hops being harvested.

    That's a very nice accommodation for something built over a car port.

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    1. The smell was particularly interesting inside the hop museum, but I loved seeing the harvesting going on right under our noses ... xxx

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  3. Lovely post. It feels like we went with you!

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  4. What a great way to spend a few days! We used to do more hiking when we lived in BC and I loved that.

    Europe is special because there are always so many wonderful historic crooks and crannies to discover.

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    1. Although Belgium is a small country, there's lots to see and do here, sometimes right under our noses, which we tend to forget about ... xxx

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  5. What fabulous landscapes, they look like paintings! and so lovely to see those farms, and the harvest!. That guesthouse looks really cute too!
    Lovely to see your walks and excursions, and all the picturesque details which caught your eye!!
    besos

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    1. Thank you Monica! We had such a lovely week, away from it all ... though I missed blogging ;-) xxx

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  6. You've taken some beautiful nature shots and it looks like a lovely place. I too would've had vertigo!
    I really like the top you're wearing with the blue cardi and red trousers - what a fab pattern. xxx

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    1. Thank you Sally. I've wanted to go on that chair lift, and never even considered by vertigo until the very last moment. I was fine in the end, though. xxx

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  7. the cute little hideway!
    first - you´r a brave gal! first day that high and airy stairs in the hop museum - sounds interesting - and on the next day the "sessellift" which looks quiet ancient! but the view are worth it - indeed. as are the view from that steep exhausting hill.
    hopfen, hügelland, schwan.... flemish sound so familiar :-)
    i spot a blue, white & red color scheme - fabulous idea!
    hugest hugs! xxxxx

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    1. Thank you Beate! I was quite proud of myself. I didn't have vertigo in the slightest when I was in he hop museum. Now, if the stair would have been those perforated iron ones, it would have been a completely different story ... xxx

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  8. Zwan - that was a Smashing Pumpkins song, wasn't it?
    What a lovely trip you've taken us on, Ann. I love your red and blue outfit, so colourful and chic! xxx

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    1. Wasn't Zwan a band formed by some of the Smashing Pumpkins members? I always thought it was a weird name, especially as here in Belgium Zwan is a brand of canned meat products ... Glad you enjoyed the trip, and approve of my red and blue outfit! xxx

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  9. What an adorable place to stay. And the surrounding area looks so beautiful!

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  10. Your guest house looks familiar Ann, was it the same place as last year? I would have enjoyed that chair lift ride and the cream topped cappuccino! Thanks for the virtual trip, the scenery and old buildings are very picturesque. Xx

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    1. Well spotted, Fiona, it's indeed the same place as last year. Having found such a lovely place to stay, and having made friends with the owner, it would be silly to look elsewhere. xxx

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  11. Your guest house looks familiar Ann, was it the same place as last year? I would have enjoyed that chair lift ride and the cream topped cappuccino! Thanks for the virtual trip, the scenery and old buildings are very picturesque. Xx

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  12. The guesthouse is so cute and compact. I'm always amazed at how cleverly people can make so much out of small spaces - wonderful.

    Well, you two get about! West Belgium looks lovely. You were very brave to go in that chairlift; I have been in a similar one in Germany and I don't like heights...

    I loved your red and blue outfit but hold on - no brooch!

    Looking forward to the next instalment...

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    1. Thank you Veronica! I am wearing a brooch though! While in the first outfit, it is hidden under my jacket, I had a small yellow bird brooch pinned to the collar of my top in the second. I admit it is very hard to spot ... xxx

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  13. What a beautiful place to visit, very pretty. And I love the hop museum building on the outside with those gorgeous green doors and windows xx

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    1. Thank you Cate. I love the hop museum building too, they have restored it very sympathetically ... xxx

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  14. I love reading about your travels! Lovely photos and interesting things to visit!

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    1. Thank you Linda. I'm glad you're enjoying my travelogues. I'm always afraid I am boring people ... xxx

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  15. This all looks so delightful! I like the sound of a Belgian cappuccino.. xx

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    1. Thank you! If you're ever in Belgium and order a cappuccino, you'll know what to expect! xxx

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  16. Love reading about your adventures. Always well written, informative & easy to follow. As are the pictures! I hope to see Belgium in the next few years. Next week I am off to Iceland, Scotland & Ireland. I think Europe is my favorite place to visit. Your posts keep enticing me.
    Mary G.M. (U.S.A.)

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Mary. I'm glad you enjoy reading my posts! Belgium might be small, but well worth a visit. Have a great time visiting Iceland, Scotland and Ireland. I'm sure it will all be amazing! xxx

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  17. What a lovely cottage you stayed in.

    I'd never connected Belgfium with hop fields, but given the country's famed beers, that's really daft of me! *Of course* hops have to be a major crop there. lots of my mum's partner's barley gets shipped to Europe for brewing; I wonder if any ends up in Belgium...

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    1. Thank you Mim. In spite of Belgium being famous for its beers, there are only a few places left where hops are grown, the major area being around Poperinge. They even appoint a "hop queen" every three years ... xxx

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  18. What a cute little place you stayed in Ann.It does look ver picturesque and the coffee looks magnificent xx
    www.vanityandmestyle.com

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    1. Thank you Laurie! It's a lovely little place, which is why we keep returning year after year. And Belgian cappuccino is legendary ... xxx

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  19. NIce print!
    Would you like to following each other?
    Let me know!


    xoxo
    ayu

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