Let’s go sailing!

While sailing you get fully exposed to the elements of nature, are physically active and can enjoy the peacefulness of the open sea. You can make it as active as you want: spend your time with friends actively trimming the sails or sit and relax while having deep conversations about life.

Sailing is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while limiting your carbon footprint compared to many other travel modes. You use the wind to move the boat across the water (except for some fossil fuel usage to leave the harbour or when the wind suddenly stops blowing). If you’re lucky you get to see seals and porpoise (some kind of dolphin) even on the North sea in front of the Belgian coast. While as a newby you might opt to start sailing in summertime, you can perfectly go sailing in the snow or on a sunny winterday.

So if you’ve always dreamt of sailing: this is your call to action! Book a weekend renting a boat with a skipper or take a sailing course and discover the magic of sailing. In this blog I give you a high-level overview of options you have to get on the water: renting a boat, taking courses in a school or finding some locals that love to take you along (almost) for free. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you still have questions after reading this.

If you go sailing from the Belgian seaside you can just take a train to Ostend and take the coastal tramway if you need to get to Nieuwpoort, or take the train to Knokke / Zeebrugge.

An easy access to the Mediterranean is the direct TGV from Brussels to Marseille. There’s many options to go sailing from Marseille and Hyeres.

I learned to sail with a tiny Optimist sailing boat as a small kid, and throughout the last decades had phases of more and less sailing in my life: Optimist, Zoom8, Spirou, Newbat, 420, Laser, hobie cat, J111 racing,… No matter the boat or sailing class, I’ve always felt connected to the sea and to the many people that taught me or I spent time with on the water!

For some of you, sailing might still have an image of being expensive and exclusive, but unrightfully so. There’s many ways to get on a sailing boat and some are almost free:

  • Rent directly and affordable via a “airbnb style” website:
    • Click and boat – Many sailing boats with and without skipper from many places around Europe, including Nieuwpoort (e.g. starting from 185 EUR per day for 6 people = 30 EUR per person for a full day of sports activity)
    • Sailogy – Only for renting a sailing boat on the Mediterranean
  • Go sailing via a sailing school: Most likely only in French or Dutch
    • Altair – private school with good quality courses
    • Vlaamse vaarschool – affordable sailing courses (starting from 185 EUR for 2 day initiation course)
    • PR Sailing – if you want to make it a more spectacular experience: charter a VO65, an old Volvo Ocean racer, or take sufficient sailing training and join an Atlantic crossing with some professional sailors that are training for their race
    • Go for a beachclub sailing school with small catamarans, e.g. RSBC in Knokke
  • Amicale Atouvents – In Marseillan in the south of France there’s a group of volunteers that introduce people to sailing for a symbolic 5 EUR per half day (to cover the insurance). You call one of the numbers, ask and meet up. Always nice if you bring some picknick or drinks to share with the skipper!
    • Marseillan has been a magic place for Tine and myself: we parked our camper next to the canal du midi and from the first moment until a week later we got to meet many people, including a qi gong teacher that took Tine, August and myself along on his sailing boat and shared with us the essence of love.
  • There are many of these type of small sailing fraternities: look around in the harbour closest to you for small announcements and reach out if you want to join to help people as crew.

On top, it’s a means of transport that dates way back: supposedly the earliest evidence of sailing dates back to prehistoric times, around 8,000 years ago. The first sailing vessels were probably simple rafts made of reeds, logs, and animal skins.

Try it out and see for yourself 🙂

Just a weekend in Ostend

Just over an hour away from our Belgian capital there’s a small version of Brussels by the sea: Ostend. A city with a lot of history and a rough edge reflected in its architecture and diversity of people. Expect a bit of old past glory, hipsterness and heritage. There’s a lot of cultural activities: musea, photography exhibitions and a huge number of good restaurants.

It’s the end of the railway line to the coast. It was the place where people stranded from inland or arrived from sea. Stranded people stayed in Ostend, and at some point even an American with a cocain addiction: Marvin Gaye. He’s said to have written Sexual Healing here.

In this article we’ll share some of our personal highlights in Ostend, split in 4 categories: 1. Food & drinks, 2. Cultural highlights, 3. Nature, 4. Sports & relax

I originate from Gistel, next to Ostend, but it’s only in the last years we really started discovering and appreciating the city. Ostend invested a lot in its revival and cultural offering. Since our parents got an apartment in Ostend, we started going a lot. The direct connection from Brussels makes it a relaxing journey. Except during the warmest summer weekends where you can expect queuing and crowded trains… but during those weekends you can expect stressful traffic jams on the high-way as well.

With NMBS you can have weekend tickets (half price) or a 10 pass card so that going to Ostend and back should cost you no more then €17. Perfect for a day trip or weekend, both in winter and in summertime.

1. Our highlights for food & drinks:

  • Brasserie Albert – for fish and beautiful architectural heritage (€€)
  • Terras Venetiaanse Gaanderijen – for a beautiful lunch setting and good fish (€€)
  • Albrecht – for brunch (€)
  • Frenchette – for a fancy dinner (€€€)
  • Mosselhuis – for a cosy place and good basic food (€)
  • De grote post (€)
  • Kaap – bar next to the beach (€)
  • Hotel du Parc – for shrimp croquettes (€)
  • Bistro Mathilda (€€)
  • The Catch (€)
  • Chamonix – for waffles and pancakes in an old American diner style interior (€)
  • Lizette (€)
  • Passe-vite (€)
  • Oesterput (€€€) – for oysters, lobster and other good seafood
  • Vistrap to buy fish or shrimps (not to eat there)
  • Et Alors (€€) for brunch

In general you need to reserve in advance for almost all of the above restaurants.

2. Our cultural highlights:

  • Muzee
  • James Ensor museum
  • The Crystal Ship – wandeling met street art
  • De Grote Post
  • Mercator
  • Atlantic wall & vissersdorp Anno 1465
  • Venetiaanse galerij met wisselende foto tentoonstellingen
  • Midnight Love Tour van Marvin Gaye – wandeling met app

3. Our nature highlights:

  • Fort Napoleon & Oosteroever – take the little free boat crossing the harbor
  • Japanese garden
  • Cycling het groen lint
  • Atlantik wall
  • Duinenkerkje in Mariakerke – with some dunes, the grave of James Ensor and a lovely little chapel
  • Maria Hendrikapark

4. Sports & relax:

  • Running on the beach
  • Swimming in the sea
  • Gokart = billekar – for rent in many places at the seaside
  • Qi Gong – Sundays / Wednesdays on beach
  • Massage & meditation
  • Zwembad Brigitte Becue
  • Blokart / landsailing

If you enjoy seeing the glory of Ostend in the old days when it had a busy harbour with boats leaving to the UK and some glory of the past, then have a look at the digital image database here.

A small selection from “beeldbank”:

So if you’re looking for a fun and diverse day or weekendtrip from Brussels, you definitely need to visit Ostend!

Traintrip to relax in the Provence

Are you ready to join us on an exclusive trip to the Provence? Earlier this year we took a direct train from Brussels to Nîmes in the south of France. We stayed with a group of friends at Charles’ impressive countryside house to live the good life.

A one way ticket for this direct train was 140 EUR per person, which is not cheap…but given the direct train, it is really a very fast, comfortable and beautiful ride. We find it way more comfortable than going by car or by airplane. We have sushi on the train (sold in Brussels south station) and enjoy a good apéro while sliding through the countryside.


 Upon arrival Charles and Gagou were so kind to pick us up and take us to their Mas de Bronzet, but if needed you can also easily take a local train or cycle around in the region.

The house is truly impressive and has plenty of history, as it is one of the traditional “Mas” in the region. It has a huge domain with olive trees and a beautiful swimming pool. The house can be reserved on airbnb as well… but in that case you might want to go with the whole family and have your parents pay for it.


The purpose of the trip was to relax, talk, cook together, visit some villages, go for a morning run,… and that’s exactly what we did. We tipically spend mornings having breakfast and reading by the pool, while in the afternoon we visit a small village.


In the evening we did multiple group meditation sessions in the chapel next to the house. The old stone chappel gives already a vibe of calmth that gets you immediately into the right mood to spend half an hour focussing on your breath and mind. Once we are all zen, we’re ready for the apero and diner.

Since it can be rather hot in the region, cooling down in the pool is a must to survive. So a daily portion of swimming brings some sports and refreshment.



After bronzing by the pool, it’s time for some visiting:

Our first trip goes to Les-Beaux-de-Provence (combined with a stop in Saint-Rémi-de-Provence). The small pitoresque village on a rock, overlooks fields with olive trees and vineyards. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon stroll and for watching the green scenery.



If you had enough sun, there’s also the Carrières de Lumière just next to the village, which is good to visit…but the queue was just too long so we skipped it. Maybe try this out when it’s not high-season.


For the second trip we take our folding bikes and head off to Arles. A drive of less than an hour, through the fields and next to the Rhône river. When arriving in the old center of Arles you soon understand why so many artists and photographers found their inspiration there.

You can easily spend multiple days visiting Arles. Take a walk around all the historic buildings like the Arenas, the churches and just get lost in the small streets.

A place you must go for dinner is on the terrace of Le Galoubet. You will have to make a reservation, but the menu is really worth looking forward to. Another restaurant option could be Chardon, not far from Le Galoubet.

For the next trip we head to L’isle-sur-la-sorgue. It is significantly further away from Beaucaire, but completely worth the trip if you love antiques. The place has plenty of galeries and shops next to the river where they sell furniture, decoration, airplane parts for your living room, modern art,… plenty of things to keep your eyes gazing around for multiple hours.


As a last trip, at only twenty minutes by bike from the house, you can go find Beaucaire. The city lays next to the Rhône and is less of a touristy place. It still has its cosy farmers market next to the harbor and a citadel/castle to visit. It’s a good base to go food shopping and just hang around for a bit.


So, that was quite some visiting and relaxing, wasn’t it?

These were five intense and beautiful days in the provence with a group of lovely people. To be repeated as soon as possible.




Two-day bike trip to Villers-La-Ville

Last weekend we took the most beautiful cycling route out of Brussels consisting of pure nature only. In a little more than fifty kilometres you can drive from Brussels to the abbey ruins of Villers-La-Ville, where we camped.

On the first day we left around noon with our camping gear packed on the bicycles, ready for our big adventure. We were lucky that our friend Thomas had planned the route (GPX map) with almost only roads through forests and fields. To come back he planned another route that is a bit shorter and with different sceneries, but still plenty of nature as well. The 50-60 km route has more or less 600-700 meters of uphill cycling. Nothing impossible but still a bit sporty.

You don’t need crazy gear for this trip: a decent bike (Tine even went on her Brompton), a repair kit (or a Velofixer – Amor in our case) a good picknick with enough food and water and basic camping gear (tent, mattress, sleeping bag).

Chateau de La Hulpe

After cycling through Bois De La Cambre and the Sonian Forest, it takes you less than an hour to get to the La Hulpe castle. That’s where we had lunch before heading to the Lion of Waterloo.


Waterloo’s Lion


While cycling out of the forest and into the fields, you soon see the Lion sticking out on its hill. Be aware it gets quite crowded and a simple walk to the top of the hill is not possible without paying a twenty euros ticket that includes a 2 hour tour in the museum as well. So we just admired the Lion from the terrace of the restaurant next door.


A couple of hours later, cycling through small routes through the forest and fields, uphill… downhill…, we got to closer to our end destination of the day: Villers-La-Ville. As you will see, this is the first picture with Tine having a quirky helmet position… and certainly not the last one 😉 !




Once we arrived to the ruins of the abbey of Villers-La-Ville we first had dinner at “Chalet de la Foret”, a good and cosy restaurant, and a perfect place to refill our water bottles and wash the suncream away after our trip. There are no campings closeby, but that should not stop you from camping.
Once the evening started to fall we found ourselves a good spot to put our tent and get ready for the night. A lock around the bicycles, brushing our teeth with a view on the abbey ruins…and ready for bed.


On the second day we woke up early, had breakfast and went for a walk. Notice that the abbey only opens at 10am on Sundays, so you might already take a hike before.



The history of the site is impressive and throughout the walk in the gardens and the abbey ruins the history is well explained. The waterworks, medicinal garden, protection walls, etc. date from around 1100…so plenty of stories to be told.



After the visit we packed our tent and camping gear into the waterproof bags and started to drive back to Brussels. The route took us through plenty of woods and small villages again. This route followed the railroad to Brussels for quite some time, so it’s rather easy to orientate yourself.



Halfway on the route back you pass the Genval lake with its relaxed atmosphere: rowing and sailing boats, restaurants around the lake and an esplanade with “Fancy people” that make you think you’re in Knokke.


Sonian Forest

Once you leave the route around the lake you end up back in the Sonian Forest and back around the castle of La Hulpe. The Sonian forest has so many routes you can pick whatever alternative you want: asphalt, gravel or off-road!


It was our first cycling-camping holiday, so it was a true learning experience to understand what is important and how to prepare:
– Decide on the best bike for you? (city / touring / offroad with racks for bags) -> Make it as comfortable as possible
– How to plan your route and add a maximum of nature? (e.g. Garmin basecamp, google maps,… decide your highlights and modify the route step by step via green corridors) -> keep it as green as possible
– What to take? (water, food, camping gear, repair kit, sunscreen, spare (warm/rain) clothes,…) -> keep it as light as possible
A really big thanks to Thomas for figuring out this route. Nature all the way!

Barcelona by train

Last weekend we took a three day trip to Barcelona to visit a friend. Since flights are about 50-100 euro its not necesarilly an evidence to pay 260 euro per person to go by train, but we thought we’d give it a try and see if it’s worth its price. This post is not to convince you to visit Barcelona, but to consider travelling by train on longer distances in an easygoing and more comfortable way.

If you book well in advance with Thalys, or get an Izy ticket you can have a 19 or 25 euro ticket one way. So the trick is to find the Paris-Barcelona trip with the direct train at a reasonable price: in our case 105 euro one way.

There are multiple options to make your one-time transfer between Brussels and Barcelona: Paris (like we did), Valence-Perpignan-Montpellier (same direct line) or Lyon. Plenty of options to make a stopover or spend the night.

Brussels – Paris

On Thursday afternoon we took the Thalys from Brussels-midi to Paris North station. We took our folding cycles that we attached to the rack at the entrance of the train and a backpack full of entertainment: apero, chess game, books,… The plan was to do part of the trip on Thursday, and continue to Barcelona on Friday morning to make the trainride feel a little shorter.





A super nice and “affordable” stay is the OFF Paris Seine hotel with rates starting at 160 euro per night. The hotel is a floating catamaran on the Seine river. The bar and breakfast room has impressive views and so do the rooms.


The hotel is at walking distance from the Marais neighbourhood where we went for dinner in an old classic restaurant “Le Dôme du Marais” with nice decors and good food (thx for the recommendation Filip!). After that we took a walk through the small streets, the Notre Dame and some of Paris highlights that are closeby.



Paris – Barcelona

On day 2 we head off with the 10am direct train from Paris Gare de Lyon. A six hour train ride takes you through the beautiful french countryside, along the Mont Ventoux (see picture below), passing the Mediterranean and through the Pyrenees into Spain.


You better take a good french picknick if you want to avoid the average overpriced train food. With some boiled eggs, french bread and cheese, chocolate, croissants, champagne and more we brunched our way through nature. We read a book, played some chess and got completely overwhelmed by the views on the way.



Barcelona Day 1

The ultimate sense of freedom was to get off the train, unfold our bikes and start roaming through Barcelona. Our first stop was to find our friend Mariska rowing through the yacht harbour.



A cosy tapas place with funny waiters is the Cerveceria Vaso de Oro, closeby to the harbour. The interior and vibe gets you straight into the Barcelona life.


Barcelona day 2

Waking up on the sunny terrace with a cup of coffee, couldn’t get better than this. Since this was not the first time in Barcelona we did not have a must see list but decided to stroll around, meet some friends and drink Vermouth.


A short detour over the electric stairs and through the Parc Güell, took us through Gracia for breakfast and lunch.



For lunch or diner you can go to Pepa Tomate, or for a very “Typical” Vermouth experience go to La Bodegueta de Gracia. The latter is a very basic place without a terrace, but the Vermouth and papas bravas will convince you to go back.


And a metro ride later we were standing on Montjuic to take the touristy cable car to the port. We never took it before, but the views are totaly worth it! A one way ticket is 11 euro and there is always a bit of a waiting line, but we found it worth its money.



The ride on the cable car takes about 10 min, but you can stay longer on the tower in the harbor to keep enjoying the 360° view. If the weather is nice the windows of the cabin are open so you can stick out your camera to take better pictures.



To enjoy sunset and apero, one of the nicest spots is the beach on Playa de la Barceloneta. Vendors sell you beer at a negotiable price (going down from 2-3 euros to 1 euro for a beer), so not needed to bring your own drinks.


And since non-natives living in Barcelona start to get sick of the typical spanish tapas, we tested an amazing asian alternative: L’Ôs Panda! Highly recommended if you want to skip the tapas for once. Best to reserve in advance though.


Barcelona day 3

On our final day in Barcelona we spent the morning having brunch at Llop. A “hipster brunchbar” on a small square in El Raval, with a longlist of breakfast dishes and great carrot pie and cheesecake.



Just around the corner are the gardens of Rubio y Lluch. A place to sit and read a book under the orange trees after over eating yourself at breakfast.


We finished our time in Barcelona like we started it: with a view on the harbor enjoying the sun. After that we cycled back to the Sants railway station where our train back to Paris left a little past 13h.


Barcelona – Brussels

On the way back, travelling in the opposite direction, you see things you didn’t notice on the first trip. So again: not boring at all.



But still, this trip felt a bit longer: we left at 13h in Barcelona Sants, straight to Paris Gare de Lyon. Than cycled to Paris Nord station and with the Thalys back to Brussels. We arrived back home around eleven o’clock in the evening after an overwhelming trainride.


So next time you are checking the flights to some citytrip location like Barcelona, Nice, Berlin, Amsterdam,… you name it… consider taking the train instead! With some good food, books and companion you’ll love it! (And the Planet will like it as well).

The Sahara in Belgium

Lommel has a piece of nature that has been expanding like a desert and thus  looks like (a tiny piece of) the Sahara. Surrounded by Bosland it is a heaven for cycling or mountainbiking, hiking, horseback riding and hanging around. And if we’re this amazed with cloudy weather, a bit of sun would make it shine even more!

This bit of desert originally appeared in the early 1900’s after sand extraction and a neighboring zinc production plant that made almost all vegetation disappear. The woods were planted afterwerds to stop this piece of desert from expanding. Now it’s a nature park with lots of wildlife.


Lommel is a 1.5 hour train ride away from Brussels, but the Sahara park is another 15min by bike from the railway station… so taking your bike along certainly makes life easier.

It’s perfect for a weekend away…but camping seems illegal there, so we still need to find a solution for that. You can easily spend a day walking around in the nature park of Sahara and another day cycling around Bosland.




It’s not all sand. A bridge crosses the canal into different kinds of “Heide” fields, so the hike does not get boring at all.


The whole Bosland is equiped with cycling lanes like the one below (but also off-road and hiking trails)… so it’s accessible to all, including wheelchairs.


The watchtower in the Sahara is a must do. We were there in the afternoon on a cloudy day, but next time we want to stay there for sunset. Assured impressive colors and views.




The artist Will Beckers made multiple installations throughout the woods of Bosland. His purpose is to create art that blends perfectly into nature without using conflicting colors or materials.




In bosland we did not follow a specific route but started by using the impressively nice cycling lanes through the woods, then ended up on one of the mountainbike parcours… and eventually crossing the woods off-road.




Mediterranean hike in Spain – GR92

The trip I’m describing in this post dates back from the summer of 2016. But since it was one of the nicest hikes I have done in Europe so far, I still wanted to share it.

The start of the hike is easy to reach by train. If you come from Belgium you can take a high-speed train to Perpignan (probably transfering in Paris or in Lyon), and then a smaller train (or hitchike) to Vilajuiga. When we did the trip we first spent 2 days in Barcelona visiting some friends and then took the train to Vilajuiga. On the way back we hitchhiked from Argèles to Perpignan where we took the train back to Brussels.

This part of the GR92 is a rather easy part, except for the heat when hiking inland. So make sure you always take enough supplies so you can easily spend a full night and day in nature without having to worry about food and water. The heat can be impressive so taking plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat is really needed. For sleeping we made a mix between camping in the wild in the mountains or on beaches, some campings and some small hotel rooms. To be specific: we did not always walk on the GR92 itself but made some variations first to get to the GR92, and later to avoid lost kilometers when looking for a camping spot.

Day 1: Vilajuiga to Serra de Rodes

On the first day we took the time to get from Barcelona to Vilajuiga by train and to do some grocery shopping so we would be well prepared for the hike. In the tourism office we asked a map and best route to start, since the first part is not directly on the GR92. We left Vilajuiga around 16pm so there would be a little less sun for the first climb. After about 3-4 hours we reached the top and took our sunset picknick with a five star view on the sea.




Day 2: Serra de Rodes to Cadaques

Waking up was impressive: the location where we pitched our tent was actually above the clouds and we couldn’t see the sea, but where we were the sun was shining. By visiting the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, we split the hike in two parts to avoid walking in the heat at noon. In the afternoon we continued our hike to Cadaques where we spent the night in “camping Cadaques” at the side of the village. It’s worth spending enough time here: very good restaurants, lovely village and plenty of culture since Dali had a house there that is now transformed in a museum.




Day 3: Cadaques – Cap de Creus

We started the day relaxing in Cadaques, having a very good lunch at Lua with seafood: highly recommended. We rented a sit-on-top kayak for a couple of hours and did a tour in all the small bays around Cadaques. The hiking part only started by the end of the day to avoid the heat.

Nature between Cadaques and Cap de Creus is impressive. It looks like a moon landscape and has plenty of small bays and beaches to relax on. That night, after visiting the lighthouse and the restaurant of Cap de Creus, we camped on a small beach (Cala Fredosa) next to the Cap, since there was way too much wind and thunderstorm expected for that night.


Day 4: Cap de Creus – El Port de la Selva

The fourth day started very rainy, so we hiked faster to Port de La Selva and stayed in a small hotel (Hostal Sol i Sombra).



Day 5: El port de la Selva – Colera

Camping Sant Miquel, a nice place with a swimming pool to relax. The village itself is not the most impressive place… but hiking on to Portbou would have been just a little too much.

Day 6: Colera – Portbou

A short walk away from Colera crossing the mountain is Portbou. The views on this frontier city is impressive, mainly due to all the railway infrastructure. In the old days trains had to be switched from the French to the Spanish wheel base to continue their journey.


It’s in Portbou that we met with David, an old university friend from when we studied in Mexico. It’s a small city with some nice atmosphere and a modern art installation in nature south of the esplanade. We were there when the local festivities were taking place. We stayed at David’s place for the night.

Day 7: Portbou – Cerbère – Banyuls-sur-mer – Collioure

This was a long hike of more than seven hours passing multiple villages and crossing the Spain-France border walking.





Cities are always harder to camp, but in Collioure we found ourselves a good spot behind the Miradou fortress. Nicely hidden in the bushes.

Day 8: Collioure – Perpignan

On the last day of the hike we started hiking up to Argelès-sur-mère. And after a couple of hours decided that it was time to hitchike to Perpignan. If you make sure to check the timetables upfront you can certainly also catch a train.


p.s. All images have been taken with an older iphone so the image quality is not always very high


A 5-day kayak tour in Belgium

During the summer of 2015 I was looking for a kayaking holiday starting from the heart of Brussels. At that time I was a member of a kayak club in Anderlecht and could use one of their tour kayaks for a full week. It was certainly a good idea to take some basic courses on safety techniques and what to do when you flip over.

The plan was simple: enjoy nature and kayak through the Belgian backland. So that’s what I did: I kayaked from Tour&Taxis in Brussels to Deinze, over the canal, Zenne, Dijle, Rupel, Schelde, ringvaart and Leie.

My kayak was filled with my camping gear, water, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, muesli bars, some canned food and a bottle of wine. For the kayaking part I took a good map, a well charged mobilephone with gps and a cart to put my kayak on to walk around the locks.


The route I took looked exactly like on the map below. Important to mention that at every lock you have to take your kayak out of the water, walk around the lock complex and find a spot to safely get into your kayak again.


Day 1: Brussel – Klein Willebroek

I loaded the kayak on the dock next to Kanal and Tour & Taxis in the morning and started paddling in the direction of Antwerp. Past Vilvoorde I took the dock on the right side and had to lift my kayak out of the water for a first time. 5 days of food, camping gear and the kayak itself is quite a weight, so I was happy to put the two wheels under the kayak and roll it through the grass, over the road and back to the water.

An hour later I remembered there was a very important point: don’t follow the old Zenne until next to Mechelen or you’ll get trapped in a concrete canal with a small damm/turbine. I checked on my gps every couple of minutes and realized well in advance where I had to turn right not to kill myself.

In the beginning of the afternoon I arrived in “Zennegat”, a place where 3 canals come together. It has a super cosy bar (Zennegat 13), so I charged my phone for the first time and toasted to myself with a beer.

And that was the easy part without having to take into account the tidals. As from now I would have to calculate the most optimal moments to kayak and have the tide pushing my downstream (instead of paddling against the tide). Around 17pm I decided that 8 hours of paddling was enough for the day and put my camp next to a desolated working dock in Klein Willebroek. With a little drizzling rain I waited for my girlfriend to join me by train and bike and tell her all about how my arms heart but the nature is so beautiful.

Day 2: Klein Willebroek – Sint-Amands on the Schelde


Eventhough I realized it would still take a couple of hours before the tide would be beneficial, I decided to take a quick breakfast and start paddling towards the schelde. If you stay well on the side of the rupel you can actualy benefit of the stream turning backwards onto the riverbanks. So that’s what I did.

Putting sunscreen every two hours I reached the Schelde just on time to still get the tide along and shot down towards Sint-Amands. The picture just above is the idilic arrival at Sint-Amands. It’s a poetry village with a couple of small restaurants. It feels like arriving in a fairy tale. I camped next to a cycling path just outside of the village. Next time I’ll go to the same place for a nice biking tour!


Day 3: Sint-Amands – Ghent centre

The third day is where I changed my original plans from going to dendermonde to continuing until Ghent and then on the beautiful Lei river. And that’s where I started improvising on the route.

I had to paddle for about 10-12 hours to get to Ghent and arrived just before sunset facing an impressive 10m high lock wall without any spot to get out of the water. After getting yelled at by the lock responsible to “go back where you came from with your toyboat or drown, I couldn’t care less” I turned around full of adrenaline.

In the pitch dark with my headtorched I paddled back looking for a spot where I could go on land. Since it was next to a road there was not a single square meter to pitch my tent. So I rang at the front door of people with some grass in their frontyard. Yes, I could camp there and of course they could charge my phone. Lucky me. After paddling more than thirty kilometres that day I fell asleep immediately.

Day 4: Ghent – Sint-Martenslatem

After spent the early morning relaxing and reading in my tent I set of for another day full of adventure. Early afternoon there was the huge lock of Merelbeke. Steep riverside walls of 6 metres high lead to some brain stretching engineering techniques with a long rope and the wheels under the kayak. It took me two full hours to get back into the water just behind the lock.

So with less time left to paddle I decided to go slow and enjoy the pictoresk views of the Leie. In the evening i pitched my tent with a view on 11 cows and a boat. I enjoyed the last bit of my wine, meatloaf, tomatoes, parovitta, mozarella cheese and tomato juice. My healthy kayakers lunch dinner since 4 days, also called “pica pica”. For desserts I ate two balistos and some speculoos.

Day 5: Sint-Martenslatem – Deinze

The last day of my trip I went as slow as possible to just enjoy the scenery. I paddled for a couple of hours and arranged my pickup with my parrents at lunchtime: Gasthof Halifax, a lovely terrace with views on the Leie. A nice celebration to finish the adventure!


Snowtrain to the Alps – Briançon

This one will be rather short, so just enjoy the images and scroll down for some practical information or ask me if you want more details on the trip.


I took the thalys from Brussels to Paris (25 EUR one way if you book early) and than a nice bunkbed in the nighttrain from Paris Austerlitz leaving at 20h50 to the alps (98 EUR one way, I booked only a couple of days in advance, so I’m sure you can get it cheaper). At 8h30 the next morning you arrive in Briançon, a 10 minute hike away from the closest ski lift of Serre Chevalier.

Note of december 2019: This year we booked a ski trip again to Briançon and managed to buy a one way ticket for 50 euro from Brussels to Brainçon: 25 euro from Brussels to Paris and another 25 euro for the sleeping train with a bunkbed from Paris to Briançon!

Next to that it’s worth checking out the new sleeping train line from Brussels to Innsbruck that will be operating as from January.



Hiking or ski?

Since I was staying in Puy-Sain-Pierre I had to rent my material in Briançon at the bottom of the main lift. You can just rent your material by the day and get your ski pass for as many days as you want. It’s rather expensive so try to group the ski days together and maybe plan some hiking before and after.

For hiking I did multiple hikes that start in Puy-Saint-Pierre: look on the Visorando website and do (1) (part of) the Notre dammes des Neiges hike in the snow (deep snow hike, requires some material and enough food). (2) Circuit des chapelles, which can be done mainly without hiking on deep snow.






I can only recommend the exact place I stayed, since it was absolutely perfect: Maison de Catherine. A room costs around 90 EUR per night for 2 people. Don’t worry about not having any other restaurants closeby, because the own cook provides plenty of variation and impressive food for a very reasonable price (normal 3-courses menu for 23 EUR or more gourmet for 30 EUR per person). The picture below was the view from my room.







Visiting Briançon

Since Briançon itself is at a strategic point in the Alps, it has plenty of military constructions and buildings around. The old citycenter is built within a fortress. Truly worth spending at least half a day visiting. If you go to the office de tourisme they give you a map with a nice 1-2 hour loop and some background information. If you’re cold an looking for gluhwein and pancakes: L’armure (the food was good, service medium friendly).








Into the wild – Dinant by train

If you need a quick break in nature, take the direct train from Bruxelles-Luxembourg to Dinant. In 1.5 hours you’re in the heart of the Ardennes and ready to go wild on nature. And that’s exactly what we’ve done in the days between Christmas and newyear. We booked a hotel at cycling distance from Dinant and spent 6 days hiking and relaxing.


Day 1

With a picknick breakfast on the train we left to Dinant on the day after Christmas. By the time we were in Dinant we did some shopping in a local supermarket to have food for our hikes, and after that already felt like a good lunch and went to the Italian restaurant Ostaria La Piave: impressive food.

Twenty minutes by bike and we arrived in our hotel (Castel de Pont-à-Lesse) in the middle of the woods. (you can also take a local train to get closer and then walk to the hotel if you don’t want to take your bike). After dropping our backpacks we did a short walk to the Walzin castle and went off to the spa.


Day 2

On the Komoot hiking application we found the “Dréhance Freyr” hiking route, fifteen kilometres and a big four hours without breaks. About halfway we passed the restaurant “L’atmosphère côté Meuse” where we had lunch (recommended!) and continued our tour. The evening was filled with spa, reading and chess.



Day 3

No hike, but only reading and playing chess. That was the plan. But around two o’clock in the afternoon there was an urge to go into nature, so we took a two hour walk in the woods behind the castle. In the evening we cycled back to the L’atmosphère restaurant where we reserved for fondue.


Day 4

Big hike! The hike called “Twee kastelen”, which took us about twenty kilometres starting from the hotel. By far the most beautiful hike around, with impressive views from the Aiguilles de Challeux.


Well past halfway, after passing the two castles we were lucky to find a restaurant: Auberge de la Lesse. I’m not sure the auberge itself is nice to stay, but the food is great and the open fire (though not low carbon) brings well deserved heat.


Day 5

Another relaxing day where we did part of the Dréhance-Freyr walk again and strolled through the woods. Spectacular nature all around.


In wintertime camping will be a bit too chilly for most, but in summer there’s plenty of campings around. We stayed at Hotel Castel de Pont-à-Lesse, which is a rather big hotel with spa facilities and a good breakfast. The restaurant for dinner is overpriced for the quality of food, but the location and spa are perfect!

If you go during the weekend on very hot days you might find the Lesse too crowded, since it’s exactly that part where hundreds of tourists kayak down the river every weekend. So either go off-season or avoid weekends.


Day 6

On the last day of 2018 we packed our bags and dropped our folding bikes and backpacks in Café Leffe and did part of the city tour “Stadswandelin Dinant” as listed in Komoot. We went up to the heigths of the citadel and around the small streets, before taking the train back to Brussels to celebrate newyears’ evening.