Wednesday 15 February 2023

A spring in my step

As this post is brought to you by the magic of scheduled posting, we might very well be relaxing in our B&B room's jacuzzi when you are reading this.

This will be our sixth stay at Het Soetewater in Beernem near Bruges since we first discovered it in the Spring of 2018. As always, we intend to make the most of every minute and let ourselves be utterly spoiled by Veronique, our lovely host.

I'll be back with tales of adventures soon, but for now, let's cast our minds back to last week.

In spite of the bright blue skies and oodles of sunshine we were finally treated to, it was a bit of an ordeal, particularly as I was still feeling tired and had a lingering, migraine-ish headache on most days. 



By lunchtime, the minor frost we'd started the days with had vanished into thin air, the temperature having climbed to the mid single digits and beyond.

The world outside my office window was beckoning me, so I did go for a little wander during my breaks. Even on those days when I needed to run an errand, I walked to my intended destination in a roundabout way, making sure to walk on the sunny side of the street and bask in the sun's glorious rays.

With nothing on the agenda on Tuesday, I walked towards the largely pedestrianized square called Groenplaats just a couple of minutes' stroll from the office where, much to my surprise, there were still a couple of empty benches with a sunny aspect to choose from. 



My bench faced the cathedral tower soaring above the roofs of the tourist restaurants which line this side of the square. Having been disfigured by scaffolding for so many years, it's an absolute joy to be able to admire it in its full glory again. 

The Cathedral of our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwenkathedraal), construction of which began in 1352, is the largest Gothic structure in the Low Countries. Not surprisingly, it is a World Heritage Site, and it's a treasure trove of art including top paintings by Rubens. One can spend hours just looking at the the sculptures above the main portal, depicting The Last Judgment, alone.

The group of sculptures on the top left in the first collage is a dedications to the architects and stone masons who played a vital part in building the cathedral. The work of sculptor Jef Lambeaux (1852-1908) the sculptures were moved to their present location near the cathedral's main portal in 1935.



As I walked around the back of the cathedral, looking upwards as I am wont to do, my eye was caught by the charming stagecoach sign of the hotel opposite.

Before returning to the office, I made a little detour by walking through the entrance of "den Cleynen en den Grooten Biecorff” (transl. the small and the large beehive), a historical complex built around a central courtyard, the result of its restoration a fusion of the remnants of the old architecture and contemporary design. Home to luxury boutiques and other exclusive businesses a couple of years ago, most of the undoubtedly eye-wateringly expensive premises were now standing empty.



The weather gods continued being on their best behaviour on Wednesday and even added a couple of degrees so that by midday we were enjoying highs of 8°C.

I'd been meaning to revisit Antwerp's small but perfectly formed Botanic Garden for a while, but so far weather conditions had been too abominable to contemplate the walk involved. With a sky as brilliant a blue as it was that day, there couldn't have been a more prefect destination for my lunch break stroll.



Shortly before reaching the garden's entrance, I passed the magnificent Bourla Theatre, designed in neoclassical style in 1827 by architect Pierre Bourla. Construction started in 1829 but was delayed due to the Belgian Revolution. The theatre was eventually completed in 1834.



The Botanic Garden of Antwerp - locally known as Den Botaniek - is a landscaped botanical garden dating back to 1825, covering an area of slighty ​​less than one hectare.

The garden has a collection of 2000 plants and a conservatory housing a number of cacti and other exotic plants.

On this deliciously Springlike February day, there were signs of early Spring everywhere. I was delighted to discover several clumps of pink Cyclamen and a bed of Winter Aconites, their cheerful bright yellow flowers just starting to peek out from their frilly green skirts.




A Camellia shrub proudly presenting the first of its peony-like pink flowers, a single patch of early orange-hearted daffs, several groups of Iris reticulata, with their cobalt blue blooms with white and yellow markings, a flowering Mahonia, its spikes of yellow flowers reaching up to the bright blue sky: they all made my heart sing in equal measure and put a spring in my step.



Beyond the conservatory, an arrow pointed in the direction of the Prairie Garden (above, top right), the white building in the background belonging to the college I attended for two heady years in the early 80s, its classrooms offering a bird's eye view of the Botanic Garden.

Before returning to the hustle and bustle of Antwerp's city streets, a backward glance at the gate was rewarded with the lush jungle view on the bottom right. 



On my way back, I was mesmerized by one of the window displays of the Louis Vuitton shop - this particular street being the home of several posh label shops! - and spent several minutes photographing the reflection of the Bourla Theatre in the artfully suspended mirror balls.

It appears that the label has joined forces with avant-garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, for which  she decorated Louis Vuitton’s classic pieces with her iconic polka dots. Being generally ignorant in such matters, I only learned about this through Tina's blog post, here.




In order to keep on top of my work before going on my little break, I exceptionally worked a full five-day week, so that I was more than ready for the weekend. Unfortunately, any trace of sunshine or blue sky had upped and left, and we were back to days of soul-sapping grey on both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, I repeated the dress I wore to the office on Friday, One of my black florals, this vintage Mac Scott frock was a Think Twice find back in September 2020.




I mainly picked up the green in its pattern, choosing a green honey-comb knit charity shopped Mango cardigan in bottle green and a paler green necklace and ring. My belt is one of my beloved stretchy ones featuring a hexagonal faux-tortoiseshell buckle. The brooch, which is vintage and a flea market find - has an orange stone marbled with green. 



In spite of a blanket of solid grey being the best the weather gods could offer that day, we took the plunge and went for a walk n the park in Duffel.  Not just to clear our heads, though, but to try out the new camera I'd treated myself to. 

My Canon EOS 1100D, which I've had for ten years, during which it had had to work extremely hard for its money, had been showing signs of deterioration for quite some time. In fact, apart from the outfit photos, most of those appearing on my blog for the last couple of months had been taken with my phone.



I have now returned to my old love, a Sony Cybershot compact camera, with an impressive zoom range and endless possibilities which it will probably take me years to discover.



It also has an easy-to-use macro setting, which is something I was missing with my DSLR, and which, although offered, my phone wasn't exactly good at. 

Although light conditions weren't ideal, I'm quite pleased with the camera's initial results.



Its ultimate test, I'm sure, will follow during our wanderings in Bruges!

See you on the other side!



36 comments:

  1. Hi! I just discovered your blog and had to let you know I admire your love for print and polyester fabric! Also, your stroll looked marvelous here.
    Cheers,
    Tania
    https://inspiremyfancy.com/

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  2. I hope you and Jos are relaxed and having a wonderful time!
    Gorgeous tour of Antwerp, aren't you lucky to have so many beautiful and interesting things to admire so close to work? The stonework on the cathedral is incredible, the Botanical gardens are gorgeous and the Louis Vuitton window display mesmerising.
    It's always good to see Duffel, too.
    The green cardi is the perfect companion with your floral frock.
    I love my Sony Cybershot (I think it's my third), the zoom and macro are fantastic, the only downside is it isn't great for indoor or night-time photography but I have a phone for that now! xxx

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    1. Thank you Vix! This is actually my 4th Sony Cybershot, and I'm so glad I went back to it. I loved my Canon DSLR but it was top heavy, and the quality of the photos had really detoriorated in the last year or so. xxx

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  3. Oh enjoy Ann and Jos! I hope the weather is good for you and that you can spend time out as much as you want! And enjoy the breakfasts!

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    1. Thank you Nancy, and we did enjoy every minute! xxx

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  4. Have a good time Ann and Jos!­čĺĽ I enjoyed your wonderful pictures, this bridge looks great and the water is like a mirror. Very nice. Hey you the find LV Kusama window. Thank you for the link to my blog.
    with a huge hug Tina

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    1. Thank you for the tip about the Kusama windows Tina! xxx

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  5. Oh wonderful! I hope you are enjoying the B&B currently. The pictures you shared of the cathedral are just beautiful. What an incredible place! You always take the most wonderful photographs. I'm glad the weather was good and you were able to enjoy some of the sights! I love all of the colourful flowers as well. So pretty! I love that green sweater you wore!

    the creation of beauty is art.

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    1. Thank you Shannon, the B&B was wonderful as always! xxx

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  6. You are a fantastic ambassador for Antwerp, thank you for all the fab pics. I do hope you and Jos are having the best time on your little break, it looks like a wonderful place to stay.

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    1. Thank you Jean! I'll be taking some more pictures of Antwerp during my lunch breaks once the weather improves! xxx

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  7. I hope you and Jos are enjoying your holiday in Bruges, Ann! Scheduled posts are so handy for holidays, aren't they?

    What a treat, to have a sunny blue-sky day and to be able to wander amongst that amazing architecture! The gardens are just beautiful. Love your black dress outfit!

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    1. Thank you Sheila! The Botanical gardens are such a treat. Definitely worth the walk during my lunch break! xxx

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  8. I hope that you are having a good break.
    Thank you for the tour of Antwerp, some fantastic buildings there. I would love to see the Ruebens in Antwerp.
    The shot of the Vuitton building and the reflections is truly fabulous.

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    1. Thank you Carole! There's the Rubens house in Antwerp as well, but they're currently renovating it! xxx

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  9. It's wonderful you work near such an extraordinary building and that you can visit it daily; it must have been very annoying with the scaffolding up. The botanic gardens looked lovely and how fab to see bright flowers blooming again. We passed some aconites in a garden on my Wednesday walk; they were closed up tight but by the time we returned they'd opened up. Loved the reflections in the Louis Vuitton shop...and the camera looks like a brilliant buy. I really loved the photo of the bridge reflected in the water.

    Lovely outfit and the colour combination of black, orange and green was so chic!

    Hope you're enjoying your trip.
    xxx


    .

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    1. Thank you Vronni! I absolutely love Winter Aconites. I wonder what happened to those in our garden ... The scaffolding on the cathedral tower was indeed annoying, particularly as it marred the view from my office windows for many years! xxx

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  10. Lovely photos, Ann!
    Enjoy your trip!
    X

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  11. Greetings to you in the whirlpool... great, I have to say, because from today it will rain again for a few days. What wonderful spring weather that was... thank you very much for your beautiful photos. A pleasure.
    Yes, enjoy the good times in Bernem near Bruges.
    hug from me

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    1. Thank you Viola! I do hope there'll be some more Spring weather in store for both of us very soon! xxx

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  12. I so enjoyed that tour of Antwerp. You are very lucky to have all of that magnificence on your doorstep! I'm in awe of those old stone masons and particularly loved the stage coach sign and your amazing capture of the Louis Vuitton window.
    The gardens are beautiful and your outfit with its forest green accents was perfect for it!
    Enjoy your break! xxx

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    1. Thank you Claire! I know, I'm very lucky, even if after all those years I've gotten used to it all being on my doorstep. It took a couple of attempts to capture the LV window, as cars and people kept passing by and ruining the reflections of the theatre ... xxx

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  13. *unsere liebe frau kathedrale* is an awesome piece of architecture!! thanks for the photos.
    and speaking of: the photo gods were smiling on you that day - the pictures of the botanical garden are beautiful and catched the LV-window perfectly - what a genius shop display.
    i never was a fan of DSLR cameras - to heavy and bulky and to complicated to use..... modern phones have impressive camera features, the BW makes almost all of my outfit shots this way. and i´m a happy user of a compact camera - different models since ages - always hand-me-downs......
    enjoy the holidays! xxxx

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    1. Thank you Beate! That LV window is quite something, isn't it? I'm glad I reverted to a compact camera again. The DSLR was indeed very heavy and bulky, and a strain to carry around all day when on holiday! xxx

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  14. Happy holidays! I hope you can enjoy some sunshine and feel the promises of spring. xxx Regula

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  15. I want to be in a jacuzzi too.. enjoy your holidays!

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    1. We definitely made the most of that jacuzzi :-) xxx

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  16. Ah, I enjoyed my little tour of Antwerp with you! So nice that the scaffolding is finally gone on the Kathedral!
    The Louis Vuitton picture is mesmerising- I like your artistry! I didn't realise you had worked extra hard to earn your break! Well done you! Kxx

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    1. I'm so glad the scaffolding is finally gone! Oh, and the extra work was well worth it! xxx

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  17. Very nice village. Thanks for sharing.
    I invite you to visit my last post. Have a good week!

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  18. Lovely to join you for a walk around your office, mine has not such a beautiful surrounding ;D. Loving both the gothic cathedral magnificent details and the bothanical gardens. And that amazing shopwindow!
    Stunning black floral dress and so lovely green accents that enhance its print!
    Looking forward to reading about your winter holidays!
    besos

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    1. Gracias Monica! I do realize how lucky I am to work where I do! xxx

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