Monday 26 November 2018

November in Zeeland

I'm the first to admit that November in Zeeland doesn't have quite the same ring to it as April in Paris, but believe me, the weather was balmy enough to rival, and indeed surpass, any April day's.

Here I am, still in my vintage St. Michaels dressing gown and pink slippers at 8.52 am (quite a luxury for me on a Thursday morning), having a wake-me-up cup of coffee, with the sun streaming in through the windows.

Our itinerary of the day was to drive down to the North Sea resorts on the northwest coast of the Walcheren peninsula. A scenic drive along quiet, tree-lined country roads, with fields as far as the eye can see stretching away on either side, the flat landscape dotted with grazing cows, neat little houses and picture postcard perfect windmills.

But then the omnipresent roadworks and confusing diversions put a spanner or two in the works!

Finally, we reached our first destination, Domburg, the oldest coastal town in Zeeland, where parking is plentiful and free out of season. I'm sure it would have been quite a different story in the Summer months!

Domburg has a long history as a beach resort as well as an artists’ colony.  Its healthy air and the luminosity of its skies have been drawing people here for many a year.

It was the Dutch physician and - rather confusingly - inventor of Swedish Massage, Dr. Johan Mezger (1838-1909), who first coined in on the town's  potential as a health spa.

Originally from Amsterdam, Dr. Mezger had a wide circle of rich and famous patients, who followed him to Domburg when he set up shop there.

In 1888, a small pavillion which had been built on top of the dunes was replaced by the extraordinary Badpaviljoen (Bath Pavillion), built in lavish neo-renaissance style. It has been a listed building since 1983, and now houses a restaurant as well as several exclusive private apartments.

Behind the sand dunes, there's a wide sandy beach which  extends all the way to the next coastal town, Westkapelle.

Around the turn of the century, artists started arriving in Domburg, drawn by its mythical light. Many spent their Summers in the town, producing paintings depicting Domburg and its surroundings, with a favourite subject being the beach with its long lines of wooden poles, acting as wave breakers, jutting into the sea.

One of the members of the artists' colony was Piet Mondriaan, who spent several Summers (and some Winters) in Domburg between 1908 and 1916.

His seascape, Beach with five piers at Domburg, dates from 1909, and is a view which is still recognizable today.

It was heaven strolling on the beach beneath the deep blue of the sky, breathing in the salty sea air.

That day, I accessorized my checked Winter coat with a mustard beret to contrast with the sky, as well as a burnt orange scarf, which looks almost red in the brilliant sunlight.

I'd swapped my ankle boots for long, comfortable, low heeled boots which made trudging through the sand a doddle.

Underneath my coat, a long-sleeved frock, in black with a crazy white, yellow, orange and red print (see here for a closer look), topped by a striped cardigan in the same colours.

It was well past midday by now, so we returned to the town's main street for lunch, which we had at By Juuls, a restaurant recommended by Jos's son.

After lunch, our plan was to take the coastal road out of Domburg towards Westkapelle, which would take us over a massive, 5 kilometres long seawall, where the Walcheren peninsula juts into the – sometimes – wild and windy North Sea.

Again, roadworks did their best to thwart our plan and when our satnav noticed that we didn't take the left turning she (yes, she's a she, called Marie Jeanne) intended us to take, she proposed an alternative route which would first lead us inland, and then back to the coast.

If we'd followed her instructions, we would have missed this picturesque lighthouse, which is why we wanted to take the coastal road in the first place, so we were very naughty and ignored her!

I've always loved lighthouses, especially those of the typical red and white striped variety, and ever since I saw Tina's post back in October, where she posed next to this one on the road to Westkapelle, I knew I wanted to do the same!

There are two lighthouses at Westkapelle, and this is the so-called Low Lighthouse (Noorderhoofd or 't Lage Licht), the smaller of the two, an iron, 16 meter high structure built in 1874, which sits along the sea dike to the north of the town.

If this is the Low Lighthouse, there must be a High Lighthouse as well, right? 

This one, a prominent landmark visible from far and wide, is further along in the village itself, and consists of a red structure dating from 1817 and placed upon a 50 meter high brick tower constructed in 1470 as a church tower.

We didn't stop to take its photograph, but if you're intrigued, you can have a look here.

On the landside of the seawall is the Noordervroon, a watery nature reserve which is home to many different species of birds. Although the nature reserve itself is not accessible, there's a magnificent view of it from the road running on top of the seawall.

Our final stop of the day was the popular seaside resort of Zoutelande, which is called the Riviera of Zeeland and was rated the best resort of the Netherlands in 2013.

Lovely though it is, wild horses couldn't drag us here in High Season, but on this glorious November day, we enjoyed the view of the virtually empty beach from a bench on the promenade.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style as usual.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Going Dutch

In the beginning of this year - call it a New Year's Resolution if you like - we promised ourselves to get away more often and thus to regularly treat ourselves to short (and longer!) holidays.

With our long weekend in Bruges in April, our holiday in Shropshire in June, and our usual week in Belgium's west country in September, we were well on our way to achieve the goal we'd set ourselves.

Back in October we were casting around for a fourth and final getaway in November and, inspired by Tina's post about her visit to Zeeland in Holland, we decided this would be the perfect place to spend a couple of days.

After all, Zeeland, which is in the south-west of Holland, is only a stone's throw from where we live!

The Dutch province of Zeeland consists of a number of islands and peninsulas, with large parts being below sea level - hence its name, meaning "sealand" -  as well as a strip of land bordering Belgium.

Our destination settled, we then started trawling the Internet and found exactly what we were looking for on airbnb: a compact little house on the outskirts of Middelburg, Zeeland's capital town, in the middle of the Walcheren peninsula.

And so it was that one week ago, on a bright and sunny Wednesday, we made the short journey of just  over an hour to Eveline's cottage, which turned out to be even more delightful than the photos on airbnb had promised.

We arrived shortly after midday, with a whole afternoon still ahead of us. 

After being welcomed by Eveline, and subsequently eating the packed lunch we'd brought, we explored the little house which would be our home for the next three days, making ourselves comfortable and looking forward to spending evenings cosying up in front of  the wood burner.

I took quite a fancy to the Art Deco style armchair, the pretty wallpaper on the stairwell and yes, the toilet seat in the bathroom with its Delft style decoration featuring the ubiquitous windmill!

Leading off the cozy sitting room was a well equipped kitchen with dining area while upstairs, under the sloping roof, a light and roomy bedroom with a comfortable, adjustable bed awaited us.

The house's location, on a quiet, narrow one-way street, couldn't have been better either. Even if there was no on-site parking, there was plenty of free parking space on a parallel street just a few minutes' walk away.

The car could easily be left behind for a stroll into town, taking less than ten minutes at a leisurely pace, starting along and over a picturesque canal with a park laid out on the old town ramparts on the opposite side.

We crossed a second canal in front of the Kloveniersdoelen, an imposing building dating from 1609, which now houses a restaurant, but which served as a place of exercise for the army and a military hospital in its chequered history.

Having crossed the bridge we walked along one of the town's main shopping streets, the Langeviele, where a souvenir shop dedicated to all things Zeeland caught our eye. Or rather, the display of slippers in the shape of traditional Dutch clogs did. Tacky they might very well be, but I'm sure you'll agree that there was no way I could have left this pink pair decorated with the iconic Dutch kissing boy and girl behind ...

Soon we caught our first glimpse of Middelburg's most famous - and certainly most visible - landmark, the Lange Jan (lang or lange means long in Dutch), the 90,5 meter high tower belonging to the town's extensive abbey complex which was established around 1100 by Flemish monks.

Even though we were planning a more in-depth visit in a day or two, I couldn't stop making photographs of the slender wedding cake layered tower which is the town's emblem and visible from far and wide in the area's pancake flat landscape.

And it's a good thing I did ... but you'll read all about that in one of my next posts!

There's yet another Flemish connection to the town's magnificent gothic town hall, built between 1452 and 1520 by several generations of the Flemish family of architects Keldermans, originating from the town of Mechelen.

Dominating the market square, the richly decorated building, with its profusion of statues and little turrets and charming red, white and yellow shutters, was bathing in the golden Autumn sunlight.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that this is considered one of the finest gothic buildings in the Netherlands. In fact, in 2007, exactly 555 years after the first stone was laid, it was voted the second finest building in the country.

By then, our feet were getting tired and our throats dry, so we dived into the first inviting looking place for a restorative cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The establishment we'd walked into turned out to be an Italian ice cream parlour and, apart from the cakes, our coffee came with complimentary mini ice cream cones as well as lots of cream!

You can catch a brief glimpse of my green floral print dress and orange polka dotted cardigan here.

Emerging from the café, the sun was starting to dip towards the horizon, illuminating the city's streets and squares with her final, fiery light of the day.

Back at the market square, a brightly lit up stall selling traditional "oliebollen" (a kind of deep-fried, ball-shaped doughnuts) was ready for business, with a handful of hungry city birds hanging around hoping for a handout.

After our late afternoon snack, we weren't the least bit hungry so, instead of searching out a restaurant for our evening meal, we did some food shopping at the local supermarket before returning to our cottage.

The sun had dipped even lower by then, the yellow ball of fire changed to hues of tangerine and pink, casting the stark, leafless silhouettes of the trees in a wintry glow.

A handful of trees still wearing their Autumn hues were reflected in the tranquil, mirror-like surface of the water.

In the houses beyond the canal, people were starting their evening routines. Here and there, twinkling lights appeared in windows, before the curtains were drawn on the approaching darkness outside.

Before retreating indoors, we did a brief photo session, with me posing against the sunlit red brick side wall of our cottage. Note the two tiny bedroom windows high up in the wall and the charming curlicued gable ends.

I'm wearing brick red tights, a red beret, my burgundy crushed velvet scarf and burgundy cross-body bag to compliment my lightweight, checked Winter coat. I'm positively glowing with all these reds!

One last glimpse of the picturesque windmill, which would tempt me to take its picture every time we passed. 

By now, a timid slice of moon had joined the retreating sun for the grand finale, the sun's fireworks making way for the dusky blanket of the night.

Time to go inside and light the fire.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style as usual, as well as to Nancy's Fancy Friday.

Thursday 15 November 2018

A haunted castle

If all goes well, I'll be enjoying a short holiday by the time you are reading this. Since I still had a post up my sleeve, I thought I'd give scheduled posting a try. So, if you are reading this, it has worked! Yay!

I don't know about where you are, but here in Belgium we've had yet another batch of gorgeously warm and sunny weather in the week and weekend before last.

Admittedly the mornings were a bit chilly and once or twice there was a flimsy layer of hoarfrost greeting us upon drawing the curtains, but the warmth of the sun soon did away with that, and by midday it had warmed up sufficiently to start shedding layers.

We went charity shopping on Saturday before last and took a picnic, which we could easily have eaten outside if there had been any benches to sit on.

So, a car picnic it was then, but one with a view!

The rather murky water I'm looking out over belongs to the moat of one of the double ring of defensive forts around the city and port of Antwerp. This one, dating from 1878, is in Walem near Mechelen and is now a nature reserve which can only be visited with a guide.

Afterwards, we briefly walked along the water's edge and took some photos.

I was wearing a long sleeved frock, black but sprinkled with poppy-like flowers. It was, after all, that time of the year again when we wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance of those who died in war. I thought that this year the occasion of the centenary of the WW1 Armistice warranted the wearing of more than just that single poppy pinned to my jacket.

I took the lead from the pink flowers to add a pink cardigan and pink tweed jacket, but opted for green for the rest of my accessories, including green opaques and a green beret to tie in with the flowers' stems. I chose a white vinyl belt to please the white flowers.

Next stop was the charity shop near the park.

I'd come across a delightful green tweed jacket in the first shop we visited and, even if I'd told myself to stop buying more jackets, I just had to make an exception for this one. I mean: it's green! How could I not buy it?

I changed into it immediately and have in fact been wearing it for most of last week.

We spotted a heron at the other side of the pond and tried to get a little closer to take its picture, but unfortunately it had spotted us too and flew off. Oh well.

After a short circuit of the park, which was veiled in the light of the Autumn afternoon sunshine, it was time to continue our charity shopping.

The usually rather disappointing jewellery display came up with a marbled orange beaded necklace and a plastic ring in the shape of an apple, complete with diamanté leaf.

Anything velvet always grabs my attention and when I saw a black midi skirt with the most gorgeous metallic print, I knew resistance was futile. I'm promising to wear it on the blog soon, but until then you can admire a close-up of its amazing print.

When I left the fitting room and came across a rail full of coats, my eyes zoomed in on a gorgeous brown textured wool coat. Taking out its hanger for closer inspection, I was delighted to see a flash of orange floral lining. Then my eyes clocked the label. Now, I don't need another coat, but it was my size, and it would be quite foolish to leave this Dolce & Gabbana coat behind for € 32.

The next day, Sunday, we had to be up bright and early for our second trip of the year to Castle de Renesse in Oostmalle, just over half an hour's drive away.

There's a twice-yearly antiques market, held in April and November, when stalls selling all manner of brocante fill the castle's public rooms and corridors.

We were dismayed not to see the Brooch Lady presiding over her folders of brooches as usual, but on the plus side this seriously limited our spending!

Still, it's always a pleasure to be there and browse the many treasures, oddities and curiosities on display in this magnificent setting.

They were obviously expecting me as, climbing the spiral staircase in the castle's keep tower, there was this ornate silver and turquoise throne waiting for me. 

There have always been rumours that the castle is haunted, but this has now been officially confirmed. Apparently, an organization called Paranormal Research Europe, has done some investigations and has registered "entities".

During WWI, a German officer committed murder and then suicide, and legend has it that he is the notorious castle ghost, but whether he was one of the "entities" remains to be seen.

Our browsing finished, it was time for lunch, and as usual we'd brought a picnic, which I am delighted to say we were able to have outside.

There is only one picnic table, next to a path leading into the domain, and with a view to the castle across the lake. Funnily enough we seem to be the only ones making use of it. 

With our picnic hamper and checked tablecloth spread out on the table, we caught quite a bit of attention from the people walking or cycling past.

As a rule, and weather permitting, our picnics here are followed by a walk around the domain, and it was such an exceptionally gorgeous Autumn day that we picked up our walking sticks from the car and opted for a longer than usual walk.

But let me show you what I was wearing first.

You've already caught a glimpse of my outer wear: my new-to-me green tweed jacket, a fluffy pink charity shopped scarf and a dusty blue vintage beret.

What you haven't seen is my dress, in brown with a print featuring a profusion of flowers in pink, coral, lavender and green. It is handmade and lined and has the most unusual leg-of-mutton  sleeves. Can you believe I unearthed it from the reduced bin at one of Antwerp's vintage-per-kilo shops? 

I added a lavender vinyl belt, wore my rose beaded necklace, pinned a gold tone brooch with a red and white mottled stone on the dress's collar, and chose a pair of purple opaques.

And I just had to wear this ring, its colours echoing the dress's print almost exactly.

The sun was beaming dazzling rays of sunlight though the trees, creating a magically enchanting atmosphere.

The earthy aroma of the leaf-layered woods mingled with a nostalgia inducing pine tree smell, providing a ticket for time travelling back to my childhood.

On our way back, we passed the spot where a frame has been erected, perfectly catching the castle surrounded by Autumnal splendour.

We concluded the afternoon with coffee and cake, which we had outside in the castle courtyard.

Finally, here are the things we found. And no, we didn't set out to colour coordinate them!

Our first purchase, mere minutes after we walked in, was the fabulous head plaque. She has joined our wall of heads by now.

The turquoise leather gloves and large brooch with the turbaned lady both came from the same stall.

Upstairs is a stall selling - amongst other things - brooches at every reasonable prices. The choice wasn't as extensive as before, but I still managed to find this charming little bird brooch.

Lastly, a small book full of drool-worthy jewellery, edited by Judith Miller. I already have similar books on shoes and handbags.

I am leaving you now with a selfie. I am notoriously bad a taking selfies, and usually I can't push the delete button fast enough. Still, perseverance must have paid off as I was quite taken with this rather spooky one!

See you next week!

Sunday 11 November 2018

Skirting the issue

The sun had joined us again on Sunday two weeks ago, when it was time for the next edition of our favourite indoor flea market.

It is usually being held once a month, from September until June. But wait, I can hear you thinking, hasn't there just been one about two weeks ago? Well yes, you're absolutely right. There was an extra edition in October!

I've been wanting to wear this blouse, with its cheerful bird print, ever since I happened upon it in a charity shop last month, but hadn't got around to it yet.

On this day, balancing on the edge of Autumn, I thought it appropriate to combine it with this tweedy rust coloured vintage St. Michael skirt, which came with a matching short-sleeved jacket.

I added an ochre yellow cardie on top, and chose a pair of burnt orange tights, which happen to be my favourites.

The gorgeous, behatted lady on my brooch is wearing similar colours, and as she's wearing a green beaded necklace, I thought I'd to the same!

And here is the first of my charity shop finds of the day before, the orange belt!

I thought my mock croc bag deserved another outing as well.

The berry coloured cord jacket, originally from H&M, provided contrast and as a final touch I added a yellow felted flower corsage (bought in Narberth, Pembrokeshire) and a charity shopped crushed velvet ochre yellow scarf.

It goes without saying that we didn't come away empty handed. There's always something to catch our eye at this fabulous flea.

Here's a nice little tableau of the things we brought home!

Childhood nostalgia for Jos, who remembers having this booklet on the sign language used by American Indians as a young boy. It's another one of those albums where you had to collect the pictures by eating lots of chocolate!

The disc on the bottom right, with its picture of the Antwerp skyline, and probably dating from the 1950s, is a clever little device which enables you to find out the day of the week of any date between 1849 and 2007 So, we now know that I was born on a Tuesday and Jos on a Saturday!

Although there were lots of stalls selling jewellery, I generally found prices a bit high, so I only bought three brooches this time.

I couldn't resist this little yellow handmade shopping bag, which folds up and closes with a cute vintage button, although I have to admit that the big round bamboo handles are a bit incongruous when folded up.

One of my first buys was this funky pair of red boots in a butter soft red leather. They are hardly worn and a snip at € 15. The box still had the original price label of € 140!

The wicker handbag matches their deep red colour almost exactly. 

From Tania, one of our favourite sellers, and reader of my blog, came this caramel brown Melitta coffee pot and filter set.

This cute set of shot glasses, in typical Mid Century style, was a snip at € 5.

The stall which yielded this fabulous mounted Art Deco style head sculpture is run by Rita, another follower of my blog. 

The week following the flea market was a short one, as I'd taken Monday off. Additionally, we had a public holiday on Thursday 1 November, All Saints Day.

It turned out to be a dreary day but although Jos said this is typical for 1 November, my blog tells me otherwise, as this is what we did on this day in 2016 and 2017.

We were dithering over whether to go for a walk, in the end deciding on a short outing to a park in a neighbouring village where, funnily enough, we had never been before. 

Inspired by my friend Ingrid, who had shared some photographs of it on Facebook a couple of days earlier, we thought we would check it out.

Annoyingly, it started raining the minute we'd stepped out of our car but, in spite of the fact that we hadn't thought to bring umbrellas, we went ahead regardless.

The rain, lightly at first and hardly noticeable when walking under the trees, steadily increased in intensity, and for the first time this season, it actually felt like an Autumn day, one of those interminably grey and foggy days when there is no place like home, curled up on the sofa with a good book.

But we were there, so we thought we might as well take some outfit photos.

Passing a sign pointing to an ancient ice house hidden behind an insulating barrier of yew hedges, we climbed the winding path leading to its top, where a gazebo resting on gnarled pillars was awaiting us.


As you might notice, I am wearing the same St. Michael skirt again, this time combining it with a brown floral print polyester blouse. I wore it over the skirt, with a slim green belt at my waist and topped by a green batwing sleeved woolly cardigan. Needless to say, all vintage or new-to-me!

While you can just make out the Cotoneaster berry necklace I'm wearing, there's no need to point out the bright orange plastic ring I'm wearing.

Oh, and finally, it's beret time! Yay! The sage green one I'm wearing came from a vintage per kilo shop in Antwerp called Riot.

Jos has swapped his green jacket for his warmer Harris Tweed one, charity shopped last year.

The park, originally part of the grounds of the neo-classical castle you can spot between the trees, is laid out in English landscape style, inspired by Capability Brown. 

We will definitely have to return on a better day.

In the meantime, we will be going on a short holiday this week. I might squeeze in another post before we leave but if not, I'll be back next week with new adventures.

Linking my rainy day outfit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style once the link is up!