La, la, la, eh hem, ok all warmed up again. 🙂 Today I write another love letter, this time to an art nouveau master piece that, as with many beautiful places in Brussels, brings you back to another time. Walking in Parc Tournay-Solvay feels like a magical portal straight to the 20’s. I love it in every possible way.
Originally a property of the other Solvay brother, playboy Alfred, the property was developed in 1878. It is located in Watermeal-Boitfort, just steps from the local train station. Over the years it grew to include not only the now ruined castle-like residence but a breathtaking rose and flower garden, dreamy art nouveau-inspired lake and bridges and an abundant apple orchard and potager. Today the property is maintained as part of the “Promonade Vert” system.
This is hands-down one of my favorite photo locations in the Brussels area. Each family that has joined me there has been wowed by this somewhat hidden gem. Usually quiet even on the sunniest summer weekend. I can’t recommend it enough to you not only as a place for our next meeting but as a beautiful treasure to explore the next time you want to get slightly out of town and enjoy a picnic or walk in a a time gone by. Enjoy!
Sometimes everything just comes together. A beautiful evening, a playful and relaxed family and a gorgeous location. Groenendaal is quickly becoming one of my favorite locations for photo sessions. We visit every season, whether to spot mushrooms and wildflowers, to throw sticks in the ponds or to marvel at bubbles trapped in ice.
The wild open space is perfect for a photo session with its ancient beech forests, long lakes and wide meadows. Great at any time of day but best at the golden hour, of course!
New favorite location alert! I do love summer, ripe peaches, warm days, lazy afternoons and bright evenings. But photographically speaking, in Belgium, it can be a bit…green. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice green forest but if you really want some color, it is necessary to go far afield to find some.
That is until the Coloma Rose Garden in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw popped up on my radar. Located just south of Brussels, this sprawling park has all the Brussels classics; long waterways, a beautiful 16th century manor home, extensive gardens and quirky features like a straight out of a fairytale wishing well. Home to more than 3,000 rose varieties from 26 countries. We spent the whole morning discovering one garden after the next.
You can cruise around, explore, and play. There is an interactive museum which was closed when we were there but I have read is very intereting. If you get tired or hungry there is a sweet looking Bistro called de Koetsier in the middle of the grounds. If you prefer something sweet then check out the Cremerie at Gaasbeek. Only 10 minutes further and hands down best ice cream in the greater Brussels region. Yum!
But I digress (sugar distracted much?)…this is a gorgeous photo location if you crave some summer colors, classic landscapes and romantic nooks to play and cuddle in. Perfect for engagement, maternity and family sessions.
I have fallen in love with the Botanical Gardens in Meise. Located just northwest of Brussels, the garden rolls out before you on this huge property. There is a castle (obviously!), walking paths lines with flowers and a huge range of plant life, a small cafe and of course the highlight, the green house. The greenhouse was built in 1853 and contains a huge variety of plant species. Over 18,000 which represents 6% of the world’s know plant species. The collection is one of the biggest in the world and is organized by geography and environments including the African Savana, the jungle, the desert and on and one. If you think you are just going to show up and look at plants then you are in for a pleasant surprise. It really is a joy to explore.
Being in this gorgeous surrounding I could not help but be inspired. With luck, I am now in the process of organizing a very special Adventure session inside the green house. Dates to come. 🙂 I am happy to share some of our images from out last little adventure there. Looking at these pictures nearly gave me a heart attack. My god how these children have grown!
Oh la la, things are coming up daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and of course, bluebells all over the place. Sometimes the winter seems to drag on but somehow this year it arrived right on time. Warm days ahead. 🙂
It has been a wonderful fall and winter for me, getting to enjoy our littlest guy and see him grow now into a sweet and clever little six month old. It feels equally wonderful to balance this time with getting back to work a bit now. Just in time for some of my favorite spring Bear & Dragon Adventures. Why the name change? I am planning some true mini sessions in the future but these will be mainly holiday (Valentines, Mother’s and Father’s Day, Christmas), studio-based sessions offered at a great discount. In contrast, if the sessions are held in a fabulous and special location designed to capture the seasons at their height then voila, the will be called Bear & Dragon Adventures. I digress!
You never know when inspiration may strike so this many not be a complete list but without further adieu, I am excited to announce:
2017 Bear & Dragon Adventures
Amongst the Apple Blossoms: Spring brings the blossoming of millions of apple, pear and cherry blossoms in the Belgian Haspengouw region. Not to be missed! Mid April. Check out last couple of years here and here.
Bluebells are Ringing: Capture the magical bluebell forest in Hallerbos. Our most popular spring session. Late April. You can see some examples here and of course below.
A Splendid Harvest (new!): A return to the Apple Orchards to capture the ripeness of summer and transition to fall. August 26. Here is our family album.
La Vie est Belle (new!): Similar feeling to the Royals session, La Vie est Belle is set in another iconic Belgian property, Horta’s own country house in La Hulpe. Come dressed to the nines for this very special art deco adventure. Check out Royals here. Early October.
A Walk through Time: Set in the 13th century Abbey, Rouge Cloitre, this adventure offers up the height of fall colors in a timeless and stunning location. Mid October.
Sea of Leaves: Autumn finds the lawns of Parc Cinquintenaire ankle deep in an amazing sea of fall leaves and colors. Our most popular fall session. Check it out here and here. Early November.
Merry and bright (new!): A trip to the Christmas Tree farm just outside of Liege is about as merry as it gets. A bit early in the season to help you prepare your epic holiday card. Mid November
If you are not already excited, here is a look back at the fun we had at the Bluebells adventure last year.
If you haven’t signed up for the advance notice on mini sessions and adventures, what are you waiting for?! Sign up on the Say Hello page of my NEW website. Adventure on.
It is a stunning fall day and with an special Momma and Babatwo morning ahead we decided to get ourselves down to the new Train World in Schaerbeek. If you have a major train lover on your hands then you might want to think carefully before taking them to this over-the-top mecca of traindom because it is very possible that their heads might actually explode. As a medium train appreciator myself, I was still blown away by the sheer volume of the collection and impressive attention to detail. It is truly is a captivating experience.
We arrived around opening time (10 – 17:00 everyday except Monday) and walked right into the ticket office. Very well organized entrance where you pay the fee (10 EUR for adults and FREE for children under six) and receive a map, ticket which you scan to get entry to the different buildings and a handheld devise which provides commentary in English, German, French and Dutch.
The entry takes you into the oldest remaining train station in Brussels built in 1887. Here you can catch a glimpse of the evolution of the ticket office including original tickets, train conductor uniforms and some neat model trains. I have to admit, I was already pretty satisfied that my 10 EUR was well spent but truly we have not even scratched the surface.
Exiting from the rear you walk a bit to the right into the modern building constructed for the museum. We scanned our ticket, opened the door and were immediately engulfed in a whole new world. The first space is dark. Really very dark and the music is tense, suggesting a scary but bold adventure ahead. Looming in the darkness were six large and fully restored engines dating back to the 1830’s. For me this was good fun. I loved the little spine tingle of this foreign environment. For the little guy, not so much. Poor thing was scared nearly out of his wits and to be honest, never fully recovered until we exited to the bright sunshine of the outside world.
So needless to say, we beat a fairly quick path through the rest but I was both seriously impressed and mentally book marking all the things I wanted to more fully explore when I come again. The museum traces the history of train engines, train lifestyle and travel, track development, and yes, even has a train simulation which was a hit based on the number of pushable buttons alone. Each exhibit is thoughtfully put together, creating a fascinating and immersive environment. It really shows off the best of the best of modern museum experiences that can blow us away even when coming from a high tech and high information lifestyle.
Although it was a little scary for my almost two year old (he’s a little afraid of the dark to begin with), I would still recommend this experience for the toddler and kid set. It is beautiful, interesting and just enough hands-on to keep them going to the end. With friendly opening hours and excellent value for money, this is a spot you can visit again and again, each time finding new surprises. And how do you get there? By train of course. Choo, choo!
The same words are on the tip of the tongue of all us born or adapted Northern cold-blooders. Its hot! Real hot. Like can’t sleep in our unairconditioned flats hot. Ice cream melting faster than we can eat it hot. Only suitable for laying in a cold room covered in wet towels hot. So what to we do? Get totally drenched in the fountains at Place Jean Rey. 🙂
Situated next to Parc Leopold and in front of the Aloft hotel, this inconspicuous square is most often known as the parking lot for media vans during the all too common super meetings at the commission. But in the summer it comes alive with screams, whoops and splashes as the littles of the city come and cool off.
Being not too familiar with water play, I wondered if my little people would hold back or jump in and have some fun. It turned out to be decidedly the later. They had a blast!
Place Flagey boasts the same fountains but may be more busy than this tucked away spot. Hope you can make it out this weekend as the temperatures tremble. Have fun and get wet!
It is just too beautiful out today. Exactly the kind of day that you just want to spend outside. But this next baby and toddler hot spot will have you scanning the weather report for any hint of clouds. Just enough to give you an excuse to stay inside and play.
I have written before about the ludotheque in Etterbeek. Having lived in Etterbeek and with a tiny slice of Etterbeekois pride, it pains me to say that the ludtheque in Ixelles is seriously kicking our ass. Located in a breezy neighborhood a stone’s throw from Square Ferdinand Cocq, this ludotheque is chalk-full of new, bright and shiny toys. Lots of options for play from an extensive train collection, up and downstairs playhouse, loads of lovely frocks and dresses for make believe and the mother of all crawling tunnels (see happy face snail below). I was really impressed to say the least.
There is a bit of admin to get started. Upon proof of residence in Belgium, but not necessarily Ixelles, you can get your yearly membership card for 10 EUR. This card entitles you to as much free play time as you like as well as the right to borrow toys and games from the ludotheque for between 1 – 2,50 EUR. Don’t forget to return your toys within 1 – 3 weeks or you start accruing late fees. Also don’t put them away in your closet and forget about them for nine months and end up with a fine 10x the value of the toys (lesson learned the hard way, thank you…).
Next time the clouds descend, get yourself over to Ixelle, get a cookie at Sucre Sale and play play play. Cheers!
Where: Rue Mercelis, 13-1050 Brussels
Tuesday from 10h to 12h and 13h to 17h
Wednesday from 13h to 18h
Thursday from 13h to 17h
Friday from 10h to 13h and 14h to 18h (for 10 years)
I constantly get amazed at how many great resources and things to do with kids there are in Brussels. Especially when I get a hot tip on an English-language Children’s Library right in our very backyard in Woluwe Saint-Pierre. Thank you so much to Pippa for cluing us in!
Set back from the street a ways, the library is housed along with a ludotheque in an intriguing old home surrounded by a garden. Head up the stairs and to the left and sure enough, there it is. A 20 sq meter space packed floor to ceiling with loads of children’s book. Board books on the bottom all the way up to early teen novels near the top of the shelves. So many books and a nostalgic atmosphere of the children’s library section you visited growing up complete with little cards that get stamped with the date when you check them out.
With so many options we had a lengthy negotiation process but ultimately all left happy. To check out books, you have to sign up for a library card that is 4 EUR per year. Then you can check out up to three books for 50 cents. 50 cents! If you are addicted to acquiring children’s books like me, this is a real coup. 🙂 You can keep your books for two weeks and then the fun begins again.
The library is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays so you have to plan things a bit. Saturday morning has story time every other week.
Where: Center Crousse, Rue au Bois, 11 — 1150 Brussels
Wednesday 3-5.30 pm
Saturday 10-12.30 pm
Closed on public holidays
School Holidays – opening times may vary, changes will be posted on this site