Things to do with kids outside of Brussels: Walk through time at the ruins at Villers la Ville

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Idol

I looooove history. The feeling of walking in a place where so many have walked before. Touching stone, cold now but one warmed by fires, conversation, conflict and an unknowable life. Impossibly remote and yet just at hand. Belgium is brimming with historical treasures from the well known to the nearly forgotten. Luckily the ruins at Villers la ville are enjoying a second lease on life due to a recent investment and creation of a world class visitor center.

Tipped off by an article, I was amazed to find that the gorgeous ruins of this 12th century abbey are just 40 minutes outside of Brussels, just past Waterloo. Without delay, I bundled up my little man, grabbed my camera and away we went. After an easy drive, we turned the corner and my jaw dropped. This place is huge! It covers a sprawling 36 hectares with many buildings including the cathedral, abbot’s palace, a dungeon (!) and the many buildings and rooms in which the monks went about their daily life, largely in silent reflection.

The old mill building has been converted to a modern and beautiful visitor center which gives information about the abbey and monks who lived there. There is even a room sized model of the grounds so you can see what it once looked like. The visitor center is connected to the abbey via a bridge and once you step onto the grounds, the adventure begins.

Left to decay after the French revolution and subsequent capture of Belgian territory, it is hard to imagine that such a busy and epic place was left to the elements but so it was. Walls and fixtures but no roofs. Crumpling brick and stone. Complete and yet broken. It is a hair raising experience to walk through. And the cathedral will take your breath away and bring a tear to your eye. It is magical.

We have definitely added this to our official visitors tour. And you KNOW this is the site of a future Bear & Dragon Adventure. Go check out it!

Where: Rue de l’Abbaye, 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville

When: 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (open everyday)
1st April – 31st October: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (open everyday)

Annual closing: December 24, December 25, December 31 and January 1

How much:

  • Adults: € 8
  • Children (aged 6 to 12):  € 3
  • Children (<6 years), disabled persons**, teachers, friends of the Abbey: Free
  • Audioguide: € 1,50
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Layers
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Peekaboo!
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Cracks in the face of time
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Mythical creatures
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Tangled
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Holy
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Framed
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Bones
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A walk through time
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En guard!
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First look: A splendid harvest

A splendid harvest
A splendid harvest

Its been a tad busy around here but anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE to be busy (much to the Bear’s chagrin). However, we took a break from busy today in order to return to the PiPO apple orchard to see how things are coming along and just maybe, if it warranted a full circle trip for a fall mini session to follow up from our apple blossoms mini session in the spring.

It was a crisp fall morning. The kind where the light is a little soft and misty. We packed our sandwiches and some play clothes and away we went! As we pulled off the highway into apple country, I could not have been happier. All the lovely trees that were swathed in pink and white blossoms in the spring were now heavily laden with brilliant red and green apples. We pulled in to my secret, favorite corner of the orchard and realized that though the day was perfect, that soon the harvest would be over. At least I know for next year!

We played, snacked on fallen apples (abandoned as far as I could imagine) and I snapped away to my heart’s content. As I looked through the pictures after the session, I had a minor heart attack. My babies are growing up! I love them so much and I am proud to share them with you today. 🙂

Fall beauty
Fall beauty
Rabble rousers
Rabble rousers
Over to you baby brother
Over to you baby brother
A very thoughtful boy
A very thoughtful boy
Bounce
Bounce
My perfect team
My perfect team
Some for me and some for you
Some for me and some for you
Tickle!
Tickle!
Hand in hand
Hand in hand

First look: Ieva and Mathias got married

Time stands still
Time stands still

I can scarcely think of a greater honor that being asked to photograph someone’s wedding. Your big day, and unless you are Kim Kardashian, certainly one of your most photographed ones! Ieva and Mathias are one of those couple that embody all the beautiful things about being young and in love. Sweet, light-hearted and above all, incredibly devoted to one another. I had a great time getting to know them! While respecting the privacy of the ceremony, I am happy (and proud) to share some of their fun and moving portraits. Cheers to this wonderful couple. Cheers to love!

May I have this dance
May I have this dance
Twirl
Twirl
Merry and Bright
Merry and Bright
Timeless
Timeless
Get over here :)
Get over here 🙂
Hand in hand
Hand in hand
Handsome
Handsome
Now break it down!
Now break it down!
Veiled
Veiled
From this moment
From this moment
Sunshine
Sunshine
A classic
A classic
True love
True love
The fun lies ahead
The fun lies ahead
Enjoy the ride
Enjoy the ride

Our family album: Amongst the Apple Blossoms

A meeting
A meeting

Ok, I could not resist. I mean I have been preparing for these blossom mini sessions and hey, I have a nice little family I like to take pictures of so why not get a jump on the fun and a little practice at the same time! We head out to scout the location and enjoy some beautiful spring weather. We had an amazing time and I can’t wait to get some of these pics up on the mantle. If this does not convince you, I don’t know what will. Three spots left! Just email bearanddragonphotography@gmail.com to reserve your place.

Happy blossoming. 🙂

Scream!
Scream!
Dandelion girl
Dandelion girl
All the world for me
All the world for me
seriously, I love these two
seriously, I love these two
Swing
Swing
Most handsome
Most handsome
Soft
Soft
Contrast
Contrast
Sweetness
Sweetness
Movement
Movement
Blooms
Blooms

Things to do with (or without) a baby in Belgium: Sample the world’s best beer – West Vleteren

Holy grail
Holy grail

According to my calendar it is March. Yes! And with our adopted adult family member, Uncle Johan, in tow, we made like adventurers and headed (finally!) to the beer holy grail, West Vleteren. You may not necessarily consider this to be a family destination per say but I would dispute that as long as you have a begrudging sober driver in tow and a willingness to head to the middle of nowhere to take part in a one of a kind Belgian experience.

I leave it to the fabulous Alison of Cheeseweb to explain the background here. Suffice to say, this is a very exclusive trappist beer than is scarcer than hen’s teeth outside of Belgium. A friend in Sweden recently reported seeing it on a menu for almost 60 EUR a bottle. Ouch.

So after a 90 minute drive, we arrived in said middle of nowhere. We wondered if it would be crowded on a Sunday but we were one of maybe 20 people in the whole of the In de Vrede cafe. Following Alison’s suggestions we tried the sandwich and ice cream a la maison. There were indeed fabulous!  We also sampled the three beers on offer. 🙂 The cafe was bigger than expected and beautiful. They did have a terrace and small playground. I can imagine it is a very nice place on long summer days or even crisp fall evenings. On our early spring morning the terrace was closed. :p

After lunch we walked around a bit and stepped in to the Pilgrimage Room at the Sint Sixtus Abbey. Truly an austere space and gave you a small slice of the monastic simplicity that rules the house.

If your littles can survive a bit of a drive, I think it is a great destination to get out of town. Out-of-town visitors are sure to enjoy the experience. Without a doubt West Vleteren is a must for any Brussels experience bucket list. Happy Drinking!

As close as you get to the brewery
As close as you get to the brewery
In peace
In peace
Gold
Gold
Three please!
Three please!
Hearty and delicious
Hearty and delicious
Heavenly
Heavenly
Off to play
Off to play
Darling buds of March
Darling buds of March
Saveur
Saveur
Path
Path
We are all pilgrims here
We are all pilgrims here
Mother
Mother
Darkest light
Darkest light
Time to go home
Time to go home

Things to do with a toddler or child in Brussels: Harvest at Marie’s Garden

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Sprouts – obviously

If you have been following along with this blog, you might have noted my almost unhealthy preoccupation with the changing of seasons. Apart from the transitions of light quality, I would say the thing I look forward to the most is the coming and going of favorite seasonal fruits and veggies. After many a nudge, I finally managed to get myself and the littles out to Marie’s Garden in Overijse to get our hands dirty and take part in the bountiful harvest of fall.

A beautiful day and such a wonderful time wandering the 10 hectares of land. We discovered so many of our favorites. Butternut squash, late summer raspberries, rhubarb, leeks, gigantic sunflowers and of course PUMPKINS! When you arrive, you get a simple set of instructions: harvest where you see a sign, no eating in the fields (oops!) and off you go with your wheel barrow, bags and scissors.

In addition to having a great time in the fields, I was truly in awe of the beauty of the surroundings. So inspired that I am now in the process of confirming (fingers crossed) Marie’s Garden as a very special photo session location. It will likely be an upcoming Sunday this October. Drop me a note if you would like to take part.

Either way, either by bus or car, find your way to this slice of heaven and partake in the many splendors of fall.

Where: Marie’s Garden: Valkenweg 116, 3090 Overijse, Belgium (just 10 minutes outside of Brussels)

When:

– Mon : closed
– Tue : 13.30 – 17.00
– Wed : 13.30 – 17.00
– Thu : 13.30 – 17.00
– Fri : 13.30 – 17.00
– Sat : 10.30 – 17.00
– Sun : 10.30 – 16.00

Pumpkin girl
Pumpkin girl
Hard work
Hard work
Belgian gothic
Belgian gothic
A touch of home in the golden poppies
A touch of home in the golden poppies
Make a wish
Make a wish
Jewel
Jewel
Sunshine
Sunshine
My two

My two
A day's harvest
A day’s harvest