Office work in nature

Due to obvious reasons we’ve all discovered home working this year. Working away from the office gives all kinds of freedom that we never thought were possible, so let’s get the best of it. To find a place to work more effectively and alone I decided to look for a campsite at easy train distance from Brussels, and I immediately baptised it as my favourite working spot of all: Camping Les Murets.

With my camping gear, notebook and laptop I took the train from Brussels-North to Liege, and a quick train connection from Liege to Hony. From there it’s a 5 minute walk to the campsite. From door to tent it took me a big 1h30 only.

To give you an idea on my daily routine working there:

  • 7h30 wake-up + granola with fruit breakfast
  • 8h00 morning walk to the river, working on paper (structuring, brainstorming, making to-do list,…)
  • 9h-13h working on laptop on the reception terrace (with Wifi and electricity to charge phone or laptop 😉 )
  • 13h00 lunch / picknick (making a fresh salad, some canned fish…)
  • 13h30 hammock time taking a nap, reading a book, working on paper, going for a swim in the Ourthe
  • 14h-19h working on laptop in the hammock without wifi (and without distraction)
  • 19h going for a walk, run, swim in the Ourthe, find a restaurant or food
  • 21h read a little
  • Sleep – Repeat

For 11 EUR per night you get a nice plot of campground in nature, next to a swimming spot in the Ourthe, access to showers and bathrooms and a terrace with food and drinks. It’s actually cheaper per night than renting your own apartment in Brussels. The campground offers pizza’s, but at 20min walking there’s some other restaurants. There’s a GR walking route passing along the campground, so that will always make for beautiful hikes as a break.

If you know other similar working locations in Belgium, please let me know and I’ll add them to this post. Can’t wait for spring to come.

p.s. for those looking for an alternative career, the campground is for sale and still open in the meantime.

How to get lost on purpose in Flanders

To keep it fun we won’t tell you where we went for this trip. All you need to know is that we packed for 3 days and started walking from our apartment in Brussels. The rest was just purposefully getting lost in Flemish nature along the GR routes.

During the quarantaine we suddenly spotted the famous white-red GR sign in the King Baudouin park in Brussels. That’s when we decided to follow the signs for multiple days without looking at a GPS or map. It was all about the trail and not about the destination or a schedule to stick to. Don’t worry, these GR routes do not go straight from point A to point B but take bends and turns all the time to keep you in the fields. Not knowing your destination makes sure there is no goal for the day, no hurry or rush to get somewhere. It’s just about walking, reading, eating and sleeping.

What we felt was hard to describe, but I want to give you a glimpse just to convince you that it’s totally worth trying yourself. The GR routes have been carefully designed as long distance walking routes that go through as much nature as possible. Once in a while we crossed a village or the suburbs of a city, but very quickly the road turns left or right straight back into the fields and nature.

We’re planning to repeat this concept multiple times in the coming weeks continuing the GR where we left it, or with other routes, e.g. Compostella and other GR routes we saw crossing Brussels.

If you want it or not, when you see a sign you start setting a goal or expectation of where you think you’re going. That’s where the GR is great: it suddenly turns left or right and your expectation soon becomes unrealistic. You’re forced to keep your expectations totally open.

Prepare for 3 days: check the weather, dress appropriately and take a light backpack with the following with you: tent, mattress, sleeping bag, litres of water, picknick (more on that later), pillow, lamp, book and toiletry.

We chose our camping spot around sunset, so that we did not bother other people too much. The first evening we camped on a small plot of grass on the side of a forest, the second night we camped on the side of an open field where our tent could not easily be seen the next morning. If you like sleeping a bit longer the next morning then it helps to chose your spot in a place it will certainly not bother anyone. If you are hungry, find a nice place to sit and eat. If you’re sleepy, find a nice place to set up camp and sleep.

We would wake up around 8 or 9, have breakfast, read a bit and start walking. We took evening walks after dinner because they give beautiful light and help digest your food.

Camping in the wild at such is an interesting activity: it stretches all of your daily routines or processes. It’s not easy at first, since even the smallest or most basic process such as brushing your teeth or going to the toilet don’t go the usual way. It’s good to question yourself and your most basic needs, it gives you fresh insights and stretches the brain.

To make it a good trip enough water and good food is important. Some basic recipes of our all time favourites are the following. To keep the food fresh it’s best to take a small cooling bag in your backpack:

  • Cucumber salad with canned sardines in olive oil
  • Orange, fennel and canned mackerel salad in olive oil
  • Couscous with raisins (pre-prepared and deep frozen to eat on the second day)
  • humous (pre-prepared and deep frozen to eat on the second day)
  • Boiled eggs
  • Granolla mix with seeds, dried banana, grains and oatmeal (make in re-usable packaging per breakfast). If you just add water to it before eating it the water and oatmeal becomes ‘milky’.
  • Oranges and grapefruit

Practically, any type of salad that is easy to make on the road. The canned fish with oil allows to have an on-the-go dressing so you don’t need to take any sauces or oil with you. Try to avoid any food that gets bad when pushed in a backpack: e.g. no bananas. If you need water or a shop for something you miss: ask people, don’t take out your phone or gps.

In the afternoon of the third day we took our gps to see which railway station we could go to within 2 hours of walking. That’s where we left the GR route behind, walked along the water to the station and railed back to Brussels.

Paalkamperen in Belgium & other concepts that make cycling trips better

Next to sharing a cycling route, I want to share a couple of logic principles that I realised while cycling around in Flanders during my last trip. Find the three key concepts at the end of the article.

For this trip I randomly searched a route to go from Brussels to the desolated village of Doel. Then I continued to the closest camping spot and from there the next day to another campsite not too far from Brussels, so I could make it to Grimbergen on time for Christmas evening.

Planning the trip, I soon saw that on day 1 I could follow a very long part of the Schelde river, and on day 2 I could follow the Dender. In between I found the network of old railroads that are now cycling routes.

Day 1: 95km. After leaving Brussels, it takes a couple of kilometers before you end up in the countryside, but as soon as you reach the banks of the Schelde in Briel it’s all nature. You cycle past Sint-Amands on a perfect trail that continues for kilometers.

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Depending on the time you have, you can take a straight route to Doel from Temse, or continue until Kruibeke. Before arriving in the desolated city of Doel, you cycle through the Port of Antwerp, along railroads, cranes and industry. In rainy weather it has something moody but beautiful.

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From far away you see the nuclear power plant of Doel as a landmark on the horizon.

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A couple of kilometers further you enter into the main street of Doel. There you find almost all houses locked up and spooky. This is where a controversial story starts of the extension plans of the Port of Antwerp.

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If you do not know the story, just search for ‘Doel’ in Wikipedia. A long story short (sorry): the whole village had to disappear to construct a new dock for large ships, property has been bought and villagers left. The construction permit was not granted and plans were not executed. Very few people stayed, but some new people live there now, with very low rental prices. Nevertheless, the place is very desolated and looks like a ghost town.

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After visiting the village, I cycled to the camping spot of “Bivakzone Stropersbos”. Just before entering into the woods, I warmed myself with a good diner in De Boshoeve. It had been raining all day, my feet were soaked and in the tent it wouldn’t get any warmer. DSC04519

The campsite is located in the middle of the forest with rivers and lots of water surrounding it. It had been raining for days in a row, so I was lucky to find 2 square meters that were not muddy to pitch my tent. With a good winter sleeping bag I managed to stay warm during the rainy night.

Day 2: 60km. On the second day I followed the old railroad to Sint-Niklaas. From Dendermonde to Okegem, I took the route following the Dender river. This route is at least as beautiful as the one next to the Schelde.

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I camped at the campsite of Neighembos with views over the Dender valley. It’s located in the back of a private garden, but with an SMS reservation you can stay there for free.

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The open air toilet certainly has its charm, but on rainy days you don’t stay there very long.

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Day 3: 40km. It sounds like a very short route, but with ripped plastic bags in my shoes and wet feet for three days in a row, I was happy I wasn’t at the other side of Belgium. Again a good lesson learned: proper gear does help. Either rain covers for the shoes, or rainproof shoes.

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Cycling around in the neighbourhood is fun: villages with the names of “Woestijn” (= desert) and “Drie-Egypten” made me frown, but the place is beautiful.

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On my way back I circled around Brussels to go to Grimbergen.

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Before getting to Grimbergen I discovered one of the most beautiful views on the skyline of Brussels: de Heirbaan in Meise. While cycling through nature you see all the landmarks of Brussels in a tiny version next to you, which makes Brussels look very small.

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To conclude, this was a nice route, getting lost on my tour bike, camping in nature and reading books in the tent while it’s raining and 3°C. I’ll do this route again during the summertime.

The three concepts that can make your cycling trip a blast, no matter if it’s a one day trip or a full week holiday:

1. Paalkamperen: plenty of beautiful nature camping spots spread over Belgium. You can use them for free all year round. If you start planning a cycling-camping trip, it’s a good way to start planning around some good sleeping locations. All of them have a dry-toilet, a dedicated camping zone, some have a fire pit or a bbq. Check out the map on bivakzone.be. A similar system exists in The Netherlands.

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2. Old railway lines: you might have found out yourself already that all over Europe old railway lines have been converted to cycling paths. Most of them cross nature in a safe and efficient way, so if you use them for longer distances it ensures you of a nice trip. Check out this overview for Belgium or if you want to try it out in another country: UK railway lines. If you would rather cross Europe on even longer distances, than make sure to have a look on Eurovelo. You can find routes that go straight from Brussels, over the Alps all the way to the heel of Italy (Eurovelo 5).

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3. Canals: take a map, see if there’s a waterway and chances are big there’s a nice cycling path next to it. I cycled along the Schelde and Dender rivers for hours. It’s fast and it’s beautiful.

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Hiking through Corsica

Our most impressive trip of 2019 was to Corsica. We took some late summer holidays at the end of September/early October and went by direct train from Brussels to Marseille, and then by boat to Corsica.

Since it was a two week trip, there’s so much we would like to share… but we’ll keep the text a bit shorter and split this post in chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Arrival in Ajaccio
  • Chapter 2: The South
  • Chapter 3: The mountains
  • Chapter 4: The West
  • Chapter 5: Cap Corse
  • Chapter 6: The boat

We did the South of the island by hitchhiking and hiking. We took a train to the inland where we hiked for multiple days, and than continued by train to Calvi. In Calvi we rented a car for a couple of days to visit the West and Cap Corse, which is more complicated in terms of public transport… and it allowed for a bit more efficient travelling than by hitchhiking.

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Chapter 1: Arrival in Ajaccio

We arrived around 7h30 AM by boat from Marseille to Ajaccio. After a good night of sleep we decided we were ready for a good breakfast, a stroll in Ajaccio and some good hitchhiking to Sartène. Ajaccio has a nice small city center with a nice market place and a fishing harbour worth visiting.

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Chapter 2: The south

(Day 1: Ajaccio – Sartène – Bonifacio; Day 2-3-4: Bonifacio)

Contrary to what many people think, it is super easy to hitchhike. The drivers that took us along were each one of them so interesting and lovely that it really added an extra layer of enrichment to our trip. We never had to wait longer than 10-15 minutes and talked for hours with: a writer of police novels, a Parisian couple of pensioned real-estate experts, a theater couple, local kayak freak, … A nice and diverse set of local Corsicans and other tourists that shared tips and tricks and a bit of their life story.

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Sartène is the perfect spot for a stop on the road, a stroll and a good lunch at L’arbousier.

After stopping at some nice tropical beaches on the way, we arrived at Bonifacio. What a city. We camped at the local camping just before arriving at the harbour (not that good) and spent some time visiting the fortified city.

It’s touristy, but totally worth taking a tour at sea to visit some nearby caves and seeing the city from the water. So do spend some money on this.

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The tiny beach (Sutta Rocca – hidden beach) just next to the village is good for a quick swim and some even more spectacular views on the rocks.

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There’s plenty of good restaurants around… but there was one blast that truly amazed us due to the friendliness and the food quality: Lan’k. You need to take a reservation and bring some money (50 EUR/person for a starter, main and desert)… but if you are impressively lucky, like we were, you meet the most friendly people ever that suddenly decide to pay your whole bill without your notice.

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Another good place to recommend, but in a less fancy location next to the harbour, is the ‘Kissing Pigs’. Here we had a great salad lunch. And after lunch we set off walking with all our stuff, to the next village.

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We found this impressive campsite ‘Camping des Iles’ where we stayed for multiple nights.  From there we did multiple hikes, a kayak tour, some swimming, book reading, etc. The kayak tour was a bit rough due to the strong wind, but we did manage to go to the close by island ‘Ile Piana’ and could catch some good waves to surf on with the kayak.

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A lunch at ‘L’efet mer’ is a must do. The food is great and the views on the surfers and sailors on the blue water will entertain you.

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Make sure to take the hikes to the beaches of Petite Spérone and the Grand Spérone. The hike itself is nice, and the white sandy beaches are good to take a swim. Do notice there is no shadow, shops, nor bars or anything. It’s completely desolated.

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Chapter 3: The mountains

(Day 5: Bonifacio to Ajaccio by hitchhiking, Ajaccio to Corte by train; Day 6-7-8-9 hiking Mare e Mare and GR20; Day 9: from Corte to Calvi by train)

We hitchhiked back to Ajaccio, since in off-season there’s close to no busses in Corsica. The train system on the other hand is really good. You can buy your tickets in the railway station and there’s multiple trains per day going from Ajaccio to Calvi and to Bastia (with a transfer in the middle). We chose Corte as the base for our hiking trip and thus got out of the train there.

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After an evening visit of Corte and a good night of sleep we set off in remote nature. Don’t underestimate and make sure you take enough pre-cautions such as food, water supplies, warm clothes, camping gear, good shoes, etc. It’s not just a random hike. We made our own loop by combining the Mare a Mare route withe the GR20 and then back down via the lake of Capitello and Melo lake.

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On the first day we followed the Mare a Mare route to the Refuge de la Sega. A good full day of hiking where we met close to no other people on the trails. There were a couple of wells so we could refill our bottles on the road.

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At the refuge there were very few people since it was at the end of the season. We got the typical mountain food: starter with cheese, salad and bread and pasta for the main course. In the other refuges we also always got exactly the same food… so after four days we were totally saturated of this.

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On the second day we continued until the Bergerie de Vaccaghia where we had a late lunch. From there we continued on the famous GR20 to refuge de Manganu, where we set camp for the night. On the GR20 there’s a lot more hikers, so even at the end of the season the campsite was rather full and we heard that all beds were booked.

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Below you can see refuge de Manganu and the campground around it. This was before most of the other hikers arrived and setup camp.Corsica_LL_47_DSC09564

On the third day we left our tent and heavy gear at the refuge de Manganu, and just made ourselves a daypack to hike to Lac de Nino and surroundings. With a book and a good picknick we had a bit of a more relaxing day.

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On the fourth day we woke up before sunrise to pack our tent and start early for the most technical hiking day. That way we were before most of the other hikers and could take our time and have a bit of space whenever we had to climb over dangerous bits of trail.

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It was sure challenging multiple times and some slopes were rather steep with very deep gorges on the side. So I’dd rather not do this part of the GR20 with heavy rain or snow (which apparently does happen often, even sometimes during the summer!).

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Reaching the mountain pass was impressive, and from there you have a view on the two big lakes far down the mountain: Lac de Capitello and Lac de Melo.

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After four good days of hiking it was nice to go back to civilisation.

Chapter 4: The West

Calvi – Porto – Evisa

We took the train from Corte to Calvi and stayed the night at a good hotel with a nice swimming pool (Hotel Le Saint Erasme). Close by we found a must-go restaurant: U Fanale. The menu was not that expensive and having a candle light dinner under the big tree on the terrace feels like true holidays.

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With our rental car we drove to Porto Ota. There we stayed at another nice campsite Les Olivers. We took another boat trip from Porto Ota to see the nature park of Scandolla. This place can only be visited by boat since it is a nature reserve where no people are allowed in.

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The day after we took a good hike to Capo Rosso. If I’m not mistaken it was 2 to 3 hours to get to the famous Genua tower.

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To then drive to Cap Corse we chose to cross the island and spend the night in the small mountain village of Evisa. We stayed at hotel Aitone… which was as friendly and funny as the Fawlty Towers hotel you know from the old days on BBC.

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Chapter 5: Cap Corse

We saw Cap Corse as a good road trip of two days, where we crossed for Evisa to Cap Corse to Nonza and Ile-Rousse.

On the road it was our turn to take some (local Corsican) hitchhikers and get to know the small villages in the mountains around Sisco. Strolling around we visited the small roads, huge villa-like family graveyards and enjoyed the views on the sea.

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Afterwards we took a bigger hike at Plage de Tamarone and had a good salad lunch at ‘Sporting bar’ under the plants in the harbour of Centuri. We took another walk in the village of Pecorile.

After multiple hours of driving we finished our day in Nonza. We stayed at a superb small bed and breakfast called Casa Lisa. This was by far the most beautiful Corsican house we stayed at during our trip. We had a small sandwich/cheese platter dinner with the locals on the cosy terrace of Cafe De La Tour. During the season the restaurant of La Sassa is supposed to be a good one with impressive views… but that one was already closed for winter at the end of September.

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After breakfast on the terrace of the B&B we continued to Saint-Florent for lunch in La Vista (the city itself is not that special). In Ile-Rousse we did a bit of walking and had some good food at L’Escale.

Chapter 6: The boat

To go back to Marseille the next day we took the night ferry again. The famous Corsica Ferries and Corsica Linea boats go up and down between mainland France and Corsica (and some from Italy). They go extra slow so that you have enough time to take dinner on the boat in the evening, can have a good night of sleep in one of the cabins and have an early breakfast before arriving.

Try to imagine a completely out of date interior, possibly a live bar with maritime copper elements and foreign soldiers drinking cocktails or whiskey at the bar. The impressive charm of long lost days of glory is endless on board of these boats.

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We are still waiting to get a 220 EUR refund of the taxi we had to urgently take from Ile-Rousse to Bastia… They decided to change the hour AND city of where the ferry would leave, because of weather conditions. They send us an email a couple of hours before (that we did not see on time) and they did not call us at all. They arranged a taxi for us that they promised to pay back… but so far they decline to pay back.

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We took some drinks, but preferred our own fancy picknick with good bread, houmousse, olives, cheese and wine over the average but overpriced boat meals. So make sure to buy some good quality food before boarding.

We booked a cabin for 2 with a bathroom and shower…and honestly, you have all the comfort you need. Just make sure to take your earplugs since the boat engines or vibrations can be heard at night.

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Nothing nicer than an early sunrise at sea after a good night of sleep.

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Biketravel from Ieper to Boulogne-s-Mer

Looking for a nice bike trip to the sea? The roads from Ieper to Boulogne-sur-Mer take you through flanders fields, green valleys and impressive views on the sea. We took this trip together with Louis’ cousin Olivier whom grew up in Poperinge.

On Friday evening we took a direct train from Brussels-South station to Ieper. If you take a regular bike you just need to pay a 4 EUR ticket for your bicycle and try to catch the train responsible to see where you could best park your bike. In the newer trains there’s a dedicated spot with a special door for bikes and wheelchairs only, in older trains you might have to lift your bike up high and park it in the entrance of the train.

To go from Ieper to our camping spot on the Kemmelberg we took some detours, drove through the village of Kemmel, the park with the city hall and had dinner on the terrace of De Hollemeersch. We pitched our tent into the wild and enjoyed a good night of sleep (50°46’29.9″N 2°48’05.9″E).

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On saturday morning we bought our breakfast in the old bakery “d’ovetote” in Dranouter, where they still make bread in a wood based oven. And of we went into France: Belle, Hazebroek, Ebblingem, next to the water to Arques, a flat tier and then to Saint-Omer for lunch in the rue Louis Martel.

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After that the trip continued through the fields and woods all the way to the coast of Boulogne-sur-Mer via Coulomby and Bournonville. This route was mainly on double roads where you can advance well, but you share them with quite some cars. So for the way back we proposed another (way more calm road).

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A good brake to eat bananas + muesli bars and drink liters of water is of course mandatory. And Tine was enjoying it!

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Since we did not really do a lot of preparatory route planning, we searched on google maps on the way where we could take the smaller routes and enjoy driving through the fields, in between the typical hedges next to the road.

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And while approaching Boulogne-sur-Mer the impressive tower of the cathedral is welcoming you. Just before reaching it you enter the fortified city center into the narrow streets. It’s a beautiful old city center worth taking the time to visit.

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…but since we wanted to camp we did not stay there, but continued another couple of kilometers to camping Phare d’Opale Tohapi. The road google maps sent us to, did not exist, so we headed to the beach to drive (big tires) / pull (thin tires) our bikes to the next road.

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The campground itself is rather a trailer park, so nothing special, but on the side there’s some camping spots with a 5-star view to the sea and village (picture below). Good enough for a safe camping spot and a good shower. After a little more than 110km we pitched the tent, skipped the shower and went for aperitif!

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The village of Le Portel is not the most beautiful one, based on a meters high concrete dyke that could survive every climate change water rise, but it had some good restaurants and nice atmosphere.

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The seafood restaurant to go to is “Le Portelois”, it has a cosy terrace on the dyke and good food! No tourist trap here.

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By coincidence we were there on the evening before the 14th of July festivities, and thus shared the village with thousands of other French people that were celebrating.

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It seems like 14th of July (Bastille day – the French national holiday) is celebrated as intense as new year, with impressive fireworks that lasted way too long.

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On Sunday morning we bought a good baguette and cheese to have breakfast in the old city center of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Tine had her coffee, and so we were well prepared for another 100km back to Poperinge.

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We were expecting google maps to send us back on roads with cars like the day before, but we got a slower and way more beautiful route proposed. It was a blast: small grass and stone paths through fields and valleys, from village to village! In short we took the following route. Passing by Liques, Tournehem-sur-la-Hem, Nordausques, Volkerinkhove, Wormhout, Herzeele, and Houtkerke on the border between France and Belgium.

We celebrated 14th of July with free lunch and beer from the villagers of Tournehem-sur-la-Hem.

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A good drinking / evacuation break once in a while, combined with a short prayer on the road, gave us enough energy to continue.

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We never saw more flemish lion flags than in the North of France, also called “Flandres”. All the villages there have really flemish names. The older local villagers in that part of France speak West-Flemish and French, a very odd thing to discover. And no better place to discover this than with a Picon in the bar of Gisele in Houtkerke. The bar got stuck in time somewhere in the fifties.  The owner is more than 80 years old and only speaks french patois or West-Flemish.

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After a good lemonade we hit the road to Poperinge and finished our trip by taking the train back to Brussels later that evening. A nice and intense weekend. Don’t make this your first bike-tour, but if you’re used to some cycling this is an impressive trip!

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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.

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Waterloo’s Lion

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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.

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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 😉 !

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Villers-La-Ville

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Genval

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.

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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!

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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