Thursday 18 October 2018

Walking up that hill

We're more than halfway through October, and I've just realized I still owe you the last episode of my travelogue of our week's holiday back in September.

So, let's get started with what I was wearing as usual. You might have noticed that I did make a point of posing for outfit photos on our little balcony each morning!

This was the second day that the sun was already there to greet us when we got up. However, the temperature had dropped quite considerably and even if the wind had died down by now, it was rather chilly out there.

I'd already worn my trousers a couple of days earlier, but here they are again. Styled differently, obviously. I'm including a close-up of their print, as I was asked by Tina whether I was wearing denim when I first wore them. They're from this Summer's H&M sales and the same style as the floral pairs I picked up at the same time.

My long-sleeved top with its profusion of Summer flowers on a cobalt blue background, was a charity shop find and, as it is rather loose-fitting, I added a hessian belt - also charity shopped - to define my waist.

A chunky pink ring, beaded necklace and flower corsage completed my outfit. Oh, and I added a green cardie on top.

The weather forecast promised another dry, if cloudy, day, and we had plans! I'd printed a seven kilometer walk off the Internet, in the hilly country to the south of Poperinge, called Heuvelland (transl. Land of the Hills), which would skirt and climb the hill Kemmelberg. While the word berg is Flemish for mountain, these are all just hills really. In a low country like Flanders, anything bigger than a molehill is already considered a mountain!

Imagine our disappointment when, arriving at our destination, we found the village square and surrounding streets fenced off due to a cycling event. Even in the unlikely event that we would have found a parking spot, there was no way we were going to risk getting run off the road by a bunch of doped up cyclists!

Now, what to do? 

Consulting our walking map, we decided to drive in a westerly direction and go for a walk on another hill, the Catsberg. If this conjures up a hill full of cats, then I have to disappoint you, as the name is derived from a Germanic tribe, the Chatti.

And so it is that we found ourselves in France by accident!

The Catsberg or Mont des Cats is situated near the village of Godewaersvelde, its Flemish name indicating that historically this was part of Flanders, but now lying just over the border with France.

In order to get our bearings, we stopped and strolled around the village, which is classed as a Village Patrimoine, a traditional village of historical interest. Godewaersvelde is a typical border village, and its economy used to thrive on its proximity with Belgium, when there was still a border as such. 

We explored its picturesque streets with taverns on virtually every corner, and visited its church built in the neo-Gothic style in 1906.

Intriguingly, the book sharing box (below, bottom right) contained a copy of the London A-Z!

We came across a road signed to the Catsberg, but before rejoining our car, we had a fortifying cup of coffee in one of the village's taverns, Het Blauwershof. Once again, this is a Flemish name, suggesting that this used to be the haunt of smugglers, who are called blauwers in the local slang.

Following the signs, we then proceeded up a winding road ascending the 150 meter high Catsberg until we reached its highest point where a splendid panorama of unspoilt countryside awaited us.

Here we parked our car and ate our picnic sitting on a bench and admiring the view.

On top of the Catsberg is the abbey of Sainte-Marie du Mont, dating from 1825, where cheese and beer is still produced by Trappist monks.

The abbey's buildings are partly hidden from view by high walls, and can only be fully admired from a distance.

After lunch, we decided to do the shorter of the indicated walks, the Balade des Katts, for which pink signs had to be followed. Should be a doddle, no?

The walk started by a descent into the wood, which is called the Heremietenbos (Hermit's Wood), and where soon a little chapel could be glimpsed between the trees.

A mossy sign told us that this was the Chapel of the Passion, dating from 1857. This is a so-called "fever chapel" where people came to pray for the healing of the sick, leaving behind pieces of cloth and tissues belonging to those who were unable to make the journey.

Disappointingly, the chapel doors were firmly locked - possibly to avoid the spreading of disease on account of all those tissues! - but there was a grimy porthole through which we could see its interior and make a hazy photograph.

Having long lost the pink signs by then, and with paths leading in every direction, it was inevitable that we took a wrong turning, ending up in a field with a 200 meter television transmitter.

On a clear day, the transmitter is visible from our cottage's balcony, and even more so after dark, when it is lit up with a row of blinking red lights.

Finally, we found a pink sign among the profusion of way markers, and we were back on track on a path through the woods.

Shortly after emerging from the trees, we joined a tarmacked lane from where we could see the abbey lying in the distance across the valley.

Having finished our circuit and made it back to our starting point, the day wasn't over just yet. 

On our return journey to Poperinge, we stopped at another French border village with a Flemish sounding name: Boeschepe. 

This sleepy village's claim to fame is its magnificent post mill, the Ondankmeulen (yet again an old Flemish name), which dates back to 1802.

We have, in fact, been here before, back in 2013. At the time of our visit, on a blisteringly hot day, we met two village officials, the older one still speaking the peculiarly old-fashioned sounding version of Flemish (or Vlemsch, as opposed to Vlaams, which is what we speak) which used to be the prevailing language here.  We talked with them about the mill's deterioration and their plans for funding its restoration, so we were happy to see a sign mentioning that the mill was restored in 2016.

Next to the mill is another tavern with a Flemish name (De Vierpot), and from the grassy field surrounding the mill, the transmitter on top of the Catsberg could clearly be seen. 

We were feeling a bit wistful, as one does on the last day of one's holiday. This rang especially true this time, as at that point we weren't sure whether we would ever be able to return. 

Now that we know that we probably will, looking at all the photographs we made while sitting on our balcony isn't all too poignant.

On our last morning, before packing up and driving home, there was time for one more photo session.

I was wearing the skirt I'd arrived in but added a different top this time. My short-sleeved nautical style jumper, originally from Belgian label Who's That Girl, was a lucky charity shop find. I have it in navy too.

So, it is goodbye but not farewell to our lovely little thatched cottage. Hope to see you again next September!

Linking my walking outfit to Nancy's Fancy Friday. Do check it out!


  1. You find such quaint spots to explore despite having your original plans derailed by the cyclists.

    We often get lost on our hikes as well. Once when we lived in British Columbia we were lost for a good day. We had to make our way back down the mountain in the dark while singing at the top of our lungs for fear of bears. Needless to say, we were happy to see our car again! Unlike Europe one cannot count on a village nearby.


    1. Your adventure makes ours pale into significance, Suzanne! How scary this must have been! xxx

  2. Jos and you sound like me on one of my exploratory walks or recces for a new walk. I always get lost or take the wrong turning! Often I have to retrace my steps some considerable way to find out where I went wrong...

    I loved your outfits; the colours, patterns and the attention detail in your accessories is simply lovely. I love how you paired the yacht brooch with your nautical style jumper.

    There's something very exciting about border places I always think!

    Have a fab weekend.

    1. Thank you Veronica. I'm glad to hear that even an experienced walker like yourself is sometimes getting lost! You're right about border places, it's always exciting to cross a border, even if it looks the same as it does on the other side ... xxx

  3. I am most disappointed that there is no cat mountain! ;-P What a cool walk, even if those dratted cyclists disrupted your original plans! I don't do a lot of nature walking...I should do some soon, show of some of my area.

    I love seeing this gorgeous countryside - what a lovely part of the world you live in!

    Like Veronica, my favourite bloggers are the ones with a keen eye for attention to detail on outfits. Love your fabulous looks. I hope you are having a great week - the weekend is nearly here!

    1. Thanks Sheila! I must add that I was a bit disappointed myself that there were no cats! xxx

  4. I once got terribly lost on a walk with my then young son but we were rescued by a group of elderly women and thier nurses from a local csare home-they went there a few times a week and knew all the trails.

    I didn't know the little free libraries were a thing outside of North America-how neat to see that!

    1. Perish the thought of being rescued by a group of elderly women ;-) We have seen these little libraries before when we were in France. I think they're quite a good idea, although I can't rid myself of the idea that they would be vandalized in these parts ... xxx

  5. love all the flower prints in your outfits! gorgeous.
    and had a good chuckle about the molehills.... but then - with a serious vertigo its better to have not real mountains ;-DDDDD
    the smugglers inn looks very inviting!
    big hug! xxxxx

    1. Haha, yes, but I have to say that as long as I'm not too near the edge, I do not really suffer vertigo on mountains. It's more of a building, or rather man-made thing for me! xxx

  6. I enjoyed your trip and these wonderful pictures. Thank you so much.
    Ah this pants are not denim! This print is very cute :)
    I love your last outfit, this flower skirt is amazing.
    A very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you, Tina. I did have to show you the print, didn't I? xxx

  7. Like Sheila, I was expecting a few cats with a name like that! A few years ago an American blogger friend and her husband came over to stay with us and we all went on holiday to the Lake District. We'd intended to have a gentle stroll and ended up on one of the highest mountains - she and I were wearing vintage psych mini dresses and Jon & Chris were in shorts and band tee shirts. A climber took a surreptitious photo and we ended up on a mountaineering forum as the best dressed mountain climbers ever spotted!
    Anyway, back to yours and Jos' trip. It looks gorgeous, so perfectly preserved and clean with good signposts and fabulous foliage. We need to come and visit!
    Love your colourful outfits, you really suit trousers! xxx

    1. I remember reading about your Lake District adventures ... Yes, I was already reading your blog back then! And yes, you should come and visit! Quite a few people remarked on the trousers, but I'm not giving up the frocks just yet! xxx

  8. Hi, Im a new follower on your blog from gfc ...
    I hope you will be back ...

  9. I love both of your outfits, Ann! I love the top and pants in the first photo and your accessories are fabulous as always! ;) The skirt in the second outfit is so pretty and that knit top is lovely. Such beautiful pics and fascinating places. How fantastic to find other wonderful places, even though your original plans were not possible! That chapel is fascinating too, as is the mill. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, Ann! XXX

  10. Amazing print mix, Ann! I agree with Vix - you look gorgeous in pants! Thought the green top and floral skirt are a beautiful combo as well. Sigh, will I ever find myself in France by mistake? ;) )))
    I will have to be back to read your last travelog when I have a little more time, you always have so many wonderful details in store for us! Glad you had some more things to share about your trip!
    Lots of love and warmest hugs, my dear!

    1. Thank you Natalia! It's easy to find yourself in France by mistake when you're that close to the border! xxx

  11. It was an interesting tour and Godewaersvelde looks a very nice city!Sometime changing plans offers new opportunities we didn't thought of...
    I like your look in trousers! And the thin belt is a very nice fashion touch ...

    1. Thank you Dan! We might even had a better day than if we'd be able to follow through with our original plan! xxx

  12. I love the skirt in your final photo and the green top is perfect with it.
    It looks like a beautiful region. Shame you had to photograph the chapel through a keyhole but you made a good job of it! xxx

    1. Thank you Sally! I'd rather photograph the interior through a tiny window than find the chapel vandalized. It was, after all, in the middle of a wood, with no supervision whatsoever! xxx

  13. Lovely post, lovely to have a look at the walk, the little village with lots of cute details, the mill. I'm not an expert hiker, so I always blame on this when I manage to get us lost!.
    You rock in your pants and printed top! And you look particularly gorgeous posing in your balcony, wearing the fabulous floral skirt and cute top!, lovely brooch!

    1. Thank you Monica! For some reason, we always manage to get lost, even after many years of experience! xxx

  14. That looks like a lovely walk, though I am disappointed at the lack of cats ;-)

    How fascinating that Vlemsch is still spoken, and that Vlaams speakers understand it too. Is it getting rare now, or are speakers trying to preserve it?

    1. I have to admit that it was hard to understand the "Vlemsch" and we often had to switch to French! Like Welsh, Vlemsch did fall out of favour for a while, but now it's being taught in evening classes! xxx