Monday, 23 August 2021

Just a perfect day

Years of experience have taught me that time flies whether you're having fun or not, but it most definitely shifts a gear when you do, and particularly so when you're on holiday. 

And so our final day - Wednesday the 5th of August - dawned, and it was another perfect one, with the sun lighting up the early morning haze.

Lesson learned, we'd set the alarm on Jos's mobile, so that we were up and about with enough time to spare to get ready at a leisurely pace. Stepping outside, it turned out that our opposite neighbour was up early too and was watching us dolefully across the Hydrangeas in her front garden. Probably she hadn't had her breakfast cereals yet!

From my travelling capsule wardrobe, I dug this red and white three-quarter sleeved Breton top and red floral wide-legged trousers, which was one of the outfits I'd put together when packing. The top is ancient, and it was the blue charity shopped one I wore on our first day that reminded me of this one which, after a frantic search, I found hidden away at the back of a drawer, together with its navy sister. 

The trousers, which were a sales bargain from New Look a couple of years ago, have accompanied me on many a holiday ever since. Apart from their good looks, they have the advantage of being slightly cropped, so that their hems aren't being dragged through mud and puddles when out walking.

The wooden beads were charity shopped, as were the pink floral trainers (or sneakers, if you prefer to call them thus), which were a lucky £ 4 find in a Shrewsbury charity shop during our last UK holiday.

They might look a bit fancy, but they are extremely comfortable and have survived many a walk on moderately muddy paths. Which is exactly what we had in mind that day!

After another finger-lickingly delicious breakfast, we set our car's controls a.k.a. Truus, our satnav with the Dutch accent, for Bulskampveld, the provincial domain we briefly visited on Monday. Along the way, we stopped off at a small local supermarket to get some sandwiches for a picnic.

Rather than just a stroll in the castle grounds, we'd planned a longer walk in the woods and fields surrounding the domain, making use of a handy map based on numbered markers.

We've got a whole library of such maps, adding to them whenever we visit somewhere new and we love them for their ease of use, although they offer no guarantee for people like us who are prone to getting lost. So, after arriving at our destination, we parked our car, and went in search of number 7, which would be the start of our walk. Easy-peasy, surely? You can see the number 7 at the top of the map, with the P indicating the car park directly above it.

Imagine our confusion when after searching high and low number 7 remained elusive, finding only a signpost with number 38 instead. Looking at the map didn't get us anywhere either, as number 38 was nowhere to be found! We could only surmise that some of the routes and numbers had been changed since the map was printed. It wasn't the first time we'd come across this problem.

Not wanting to admit defeat, we started walking into the direction of where the next marker, number 8, should have been if all was well, but I'm sure it won't come as a surprise that there wasn't any sign of that one either. Instead, we arrived at a fork, with the path up ahead being a private one, while the other was going right instead of left, which was the direction we wanted to go.

Retracing our steps, we eventually found a narrow track leading into the woods (bottom left in the above collage), which soon ended and disappeared into a marshy meadow (above). We could see an obvious track meandering through the high grasses, so we followed it into the direction of a line of trees, taking care not to step on the tiny frogs which leapt to safety upon our approach.

Just following our instincts, we took a left turn when we finally made it back into the woods and onto a woodland path when - lo and behold! - we spotted a number 9 signpost. 

In the full belief that we were back on track, we started following the signs which would ultimately lead us towards number 9, the path making twists, turns and zigzags until we were no longer sure of the direction into which we were going.

At some point, the obvious path ended at a closed gate, with the signposts directing us along an initially overgrown boardwalk, with a pool of water shimmering beyond, reflecting the white cotton wool clouds floating into the blue Summer sky.

Poring over our map, even these two self-confessed "topographically disoriented" could see that there wasn't a pool of water in the approach to number 9. And no, it isn't the splash of blue beneath number 8, as that's the castle lake!

With a view as gorgeous like this, who were we to complain? 

Still intrigued about the sudden appearance of this watery slice of heaven, I trawled the Internet when we got home, finding a reference to a boardwalk crossing one of the newly constructed ponds created by altering the course of a brook called the Bornebeek in 2016. Mystery solved!

Back on solid ground, a number of gates indicated that we were passing through grazing land, and indeed at one point we spotted a magnificent specimen of the Galloway cattle which are roaming the nature reserve. 

When we finally arrived at number 9, we were dismayed to discover that the next number signposted was number 12 rather than number 10 as indicated on our map. But at least it was going into the right direction, along a long and straight semi-surfaced tree-lined avenue (bottom left), so we confidently proceeded accordingly. Soon we even found a bench on which to have our picnic. 

It was then that things started going ever so slightly pear-shaped when, instead of going straight ahead, the next marker pointed us to the left and then, annoyingly, left again, so that we were actually walking back into the direction we'd come from. I decided to use common sense, ignore the marker and go right, and right again, which brought us back onto the straight and narrow. Still, doubt had set in and I was about to panic when I caught a glimpse of the ivy clad water tower we'd seen on our first day. Phew!

When I posted some photos of our walk on Instagram that day, I captioned them with: had a wonderful day of not getting lost in the woods and not being eaten by wild animals! 

Quite chuffed with the fact that in spite of the out of date map - or perhaps because of it - we managed to not actually get lost! 

The day wasn't finished yet, of course. In fact, it was only about 1.30 pm when we found ourselves back at the car park, ready for our next adventure, which started with a 15-minute drive to Loppem, a village about 10 kilometers south-west of Bruges.

Here, a small cobbled lane leads towards a little-known and well-hidden gem, Loppem Castle. 

Entering the castle grounds through the gatehouse (above, top left) it all looks deceptively peaceful, but in reality there is no escaping the constant noise of the traffic passing along the busy E40 motorway which is virtually skirting the domain.

The original Loppem Castle was built in the 17th century and destroyed in the 18th. A century later, in 1856, Baron Charles van Caloen and his wife, Countess Savina de Gourcy Serainchamps, appointed the English architect Edward Pugin to draw up plans for a new castle on the site of the original one.

Finding Pugin’s style too English, Baron van Caloen wanted a more Flemish look to his castle, so he roped in his friend, the Belgian architect Jean Bethune, to amend the plans. Construction of the castle was completed by 1863 and the result is an excellent example of the Flemish neo-Gothic style. 

The prominent sandstone bay extension houses the family chapel.

The blues sky we'd woken up to had done a disappearing act by now and as it seemed as if rain was imminent, we were glad of the opportunity to visit the castle's richly decorated and furnished interior

In perfect harmony with the neo-Gothic architecture, the furniture designed by Pugin as well as Bethune’s stained-glass windows, chandeliers, staircases and fireplaces were all executed with immense skill by local craftsmen.

The impressive entrance hall or vestibule (below, top left) is where van Caloen and his guests played billiards. With its height of 17 metres and designed as a three-storey hall, it combines the idea of the English baronial hall with the grandeur of the staircase hall in a French chateau. The stunning encaustic floor tiles were produced by Minton Hollis from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

While the neo-Gothic interiors and the domestic living quarters downstairs show life as it was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the first floor rooms are largely devoted to the rich art collection many of which was collected by Charles' grandson Baron Jean van Caloen (1884– 1972) on his travels.

The family chapel (above, bottom right) obviously was a notable exception.

We were largely on our own during our visit, so that we could explore the castle's many treasures at ease. That is, until our solitude was rudely disrupted by the entrance of a couple and their three children, including a boisterous toddler whom his parents mostly left unsupervised. And then there was the not-quite teenage daughter who taunted us by standing directly behind us whenever we wanted to take a closer look at something or stood in a room's doorway to gaze at its plexied off contents.

Case in point were the rooms on the first floor used by the Belgian King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth during their stay at Loppem. This was at the end of the First World War, when the Belgian royal family requested that the castle be temporarily made available for their use.

There's a maze in the grounds, for which a separate entrance fee has to be paid. Designed in 1873 using red and green hornbeam by the brothers Albert and Ernest van Caloen, it is rumoured to be notoriously easy to get lost in. We never made it there, as the pesky family was last seen making enquiries on how to get there.  Perhaps we'll come back here one day outside the school holidays!

It would have been the perfect opportunity for a proper walk around the castle park as well. But as we - and especially Jos, who was suffering somewhat from backache - were all walked out by then, we just took the lane skirting the back of the castle to return to the car park. Doesn't it look especially fairy-tale like meeting its reflection in the lake?

With the afternoon still too young to call it a day, we roped in Truus again to take us to Blijzaak, a charity shop devoted to vintage and design which I'd come across when trawling the Internet.

It had started drizzling by then, but hardly enough to spur our windscreen wipers into action. By the time we'd reached our destination, the sun had reappeared acting as if nothing had happened.

The shop was a lot smaller than we'd imagined, but we still found a funky vintage lamp for our sitting room. The shop also had a café with outside seating, where we had cappuccinos served in 1960s Boch cups, just like the ones we have at home. 

Then it was back to our B&B where we collapsed on our beds for a nap (Jos) and a couple of pages in the book I was trying to finish. We'd ordered another tapas board, so that was our evening meal sorted!

So, that was that! If you've come here hoping for the solution of the out of centre empty cupboard mystery, then I'm afraid I have to disappoint you, as we forgot to ask Veronique about it. But that's more than enough reason for another visit, isn't it?

Instead you'll have to made do with the outfit I was wearing for our journey home on Thursday. 

One of my favourite vintage maxi skirts was joined here by a modern, but charity shopped, blue and white short-sleeved knit, topped by one of my collection of thrifted King Louie cardigans. The belt and beaded necklace were charity shop finds as well.

We made it home in one piece, although it wasn't without its hick-ups. Truus, whom we seem to shout at just as much as Marie-Jeanne, our old satnav, made us do a detour all the way via Brussels. At least that meant we didn't have to face delays at the Kennedy Tunnel, although we are counting ourselves lucky there weren't any queues on the equally infamous Brussels orbital.

We were glad to have this one waiting for us, that's for sure!

It'll be business a usual - whatever that may be - in my next post. See you again soon!


  1. what an advaenture you had with the path not lining up to the maps! I am not very good at map reading either - trying to make sure my kids are familiar with it so I can rely on them if I get lost, and picking lots of circular or at least looping walking tracks with them so I always know where I'm going, haha!

    I really like your last day outfit too - the yellow and blue are so good together! :)

    Hope your week is off to a good start! :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! I might have fared better if it had been a detailed map, but we only had the one with the numbers ... It's a good thing I've got some sense of direction though! xxx

  2. Aw, that picture of Bess is lovely. I just want to pet her.

    I love seeing your pictures and reading of your adventures, Ann! Thank you for this lovely treat! Arg, kids who are not not even get me started.

    Weirdly, "hiccough" is spelled also as "hiccup", but the "cough" spelling is older.

    Love your red outfit! Stunning!

    1. Thank you Sheila! You're right, how the hell did I get that spelling wrong? It must be a sign that I'm more than ready for a long break, as my head seems to be all over the place lately! xxx

  3. Getting lost isn't my idea of fun but I have a somewhat relaxed attitude about it as I get older-eventually it gets figured out. Love the Breton top with those trousers.
    I'm sure Bess was happy to see you both back home.

    1. It would have been a miracle if we hadn't gotten lost one way or another :-) xxx

  4. Lovely photos and lovely outfit!, breton stripes and floral trousers in red! such a fabulous ensemble! (anyway, I have a weakness for breton tops! and florals! and matchiness!, no wonder I love this so much!)
    Glad you enjoyed your walk, sometimes this kind of maps can confuse poor walkers, particularly when routes and numbers have changed (it has happened to us too!).
    The castle looks magnificent and really lovely neo-gothic style, so annoying that you couldn't enjoy properly because of annoying people.
    Loving the tapas board, loving your favourite skirt with blues and yellow, so beautiful!
    And obviously, loving the photo of Bess is her cuteness!

    1. Thank you Monica! I've got a thing for Breton tops lately, so expect to see more of them soon! xxx

  5. Hi Ann - what a stunning castle and thrilling to learn that it contains tiles originating not far from us! So glad you ignored the signs on your walk - I have to say, with our track record, we would probably still be there! Love the lamp and your double knit combo outfit. Bess looks very content in that last photo - she must have been glad to see you. xxx

    1. Thank you Claire! Of course, the castle's English connections thrilled us to bits. We've got quite a track record on getting lost as well. Annoying at the time, but hilarious to look back on! xxx

  6. Fab outfits! Loved the trousers and striped top and what a fab maxi skirt.

    Half the fun of walking is getting lost and you did very well to find your way with an out of date map! Congratulations.

    What a lovely break that was and how nice to have Bess to welcome you home.

    1. Thank you Vronni! I was quite proud of myself. At least I've got some sense of direction! xxx

  7. what a gorgeous and adventurous perfect day!!
    love the newly build pond with the bordwalk over it - the world can´t have enough wetland! and the castle is a real stunner in all it neo gothic beauty.
    .....i´m known to show pesky people their boundaries with just looking at them......
    you look very fresh and summeryin the red breton and red flowery trousers!
    guess bess was in heaven to have you guys back!
    hugsies! xxxx

    1. Thank you Beate! Oh, I have been known to put people in their place by just looking at them more than once :-) Bess was in heaven indeed. I'm feeling kind of sorry for her knowing we'll be away again in a week's time. xxx

  8. I love reading about you and Jos getting lost, we're always doing the same and it makes me feel a lot better knowing we're in good company!
    Pugin's architecture is always a delight. I love Loppem Castle and like Calire says, it's always a joy to spot Minton tiles away from the West Midlands!
    Your maxi skirt and funky pants are a delight and that really is a gorgeous photo of Bess! xxx

    1. Getting lost might not be funny at the time, but it's hilarious to look back on later. I was amazed about the Pugin connection and even more about the Minton tiles! xxx

  9. Oh my what a adventure that walk was! But I agree it was worth it. And the outfit was wonderful. Everything looks good on stripes! And who doesn't like a English style?? But it looks gorgeous from the inside. Gerben and I airways have that too, that whenever we want to visit a castle or something like that in the UK, a bus full of kids arrive!! Hate it. The tapas board looks so delicious. It looks and sounds like the two of you had a great holiday!

    1. Thank you Nancy! Lots of our walks turn into adventure due to our track record in getting lost :-) And oh, a bus full of kids is the epitome of annoying! xxx

  10. Oh what an adventure walk! good you had internet. But your pictures are so amazing. Thank you for this nice day with you. Thank you for not getting lost or eaten by animals! 🕷🐜🐌🦄
    with a huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina! Some people thought the Galloway cow was a bear when I posted it on Instagram :-) xxx

  11. The castle looks stunning! Love your striped top and pairing it with those floral pants and sneakers was a great idea!

  12. The Boch cups are gorcious. I prefer joy over fun. Fun is short-lived and joy warms your heart for days.

    Have a nice weekend!

    xxx Regula

    1. I'm glad you appreciate those Belgium made Boch cups! We do have a whole collection of them at home! xxx

  13. It's lovely your final day of the trip was so much fun. It is great you managed to find your way despite the maps being of little help. It seems you had a lovely hike! Why, that Flemish neo-Gothic castle is gorgeous, both inside and out. Thank you for showing us around.

    I love your floral pants and striped top combo. The floral maxi skirt paired with a blue knit and a yellow cardi is lovely as well.

    1. Thank you Ivana! I was actually quite chuffed at having found our way without the aid of the map! xxx

  14. I’m playing catch up here. For some reason I’m not seeing your posts.
    Anyway I’ve enjoyed your holiday snaps including the visit to the vintage shop and cafe. The lamp you bought is fab.
    I love your mustard and blue outfit. I’ve started wearing mustard recently and love how it goes with so many other colours.
    Bess looks happy to have you home xxx

    1. Thank you Lynn! Blogger works in mysterious ways, it seems. Mustard indeed is the most versatile colour! xxx

  15. Ooof, that walk sounds very confusing! I'm hopeless at following directions!
    I love breton stripes- great top! I like the shorter length trouers- after catching the hem of my red floral Monsoon trousers in my bike chain TWICE on a main road today, I am a bit nervous of wearing trousers for cycling!
    Mmm, that Tapas board looks superb!

    1. Haha, I'm so glad we're not the only ones who are hopeless at following directions :-) Ouch about catching the hem of your trousers in your bike chain. I remember having to wear those old-fashioned trousers clips when cycling to school while wearing flares! xxx

  16. Goodness, do I love your chic ensemble of strips and florals in shades of rich red and vivid white. You have me seriously wishing I had similar garments in my closet right now so that I could take a page from your sartorial playbook, my dear friend.

    Hmmm, let's think, I have a black and creamy-white striped top and a dark floral print skirt. They might not look quite as a show-stopping together as this awesome outfit, but I think I'll give it a spin on the weekend. TY very much for the sincerely appreciated styling inspo.

    Autumn Zenith 🎃 Witchcrafted Life

    1. Thank you Autumn, I was quite pleased with the red stripes and florals ensemble! xxx