Belgian Coast: Pinksteren Weekend

We just got back from a long weekend in De Haan on the Belgian Coast with family to celebrate the birthday of N’s father and sister with six kids and eight adults! We’re missing two more adults & four kids but about 5,500 miles keeps them away – for now.

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The Belgian Coast counts 13 seaside resorts in 10 coastal towns. A diverse region with all kinds of of nature, culture, beachlife and recreational opportunities.

Photo courtesy of

De Haan, Belgium: Where we stayed and my favorite.

De Haan is located on the coast in Northern Belgium about 2.5 hours or 225 km away from our house. It’s known for its long beach and restaurant-dotted promenade and to me the nicest and quaintest area of the Belgian coast. The streets of the Concessie district are lined with belle epoque buildings, such as the grand town hall, housed in a former luxury hotel. Its most famous resident was Albert Einstein, who lived in the villa “Savoyarde” for six months in 1933 after leaving Nazi Germany.

There was even a gin shop where I got myself a bottle – super hard to choose!!

The entire family stayed in The Hotel Astel.

The hotel has 20 rooms and our family room #25 was perfect. It was equipped with luxury comfort bed, LED TV with satellite channels, free wifi, USB charging points, ambient lighting, spacious and modern bathroom with bath and shower. In fact, to make it an extra special vacation, we opted for a holiday where no one had to cook so not only did the hotel provide a breakfast buffet we had dinner there too. It was very easy for the youngest kids/baby to go up to bed and we stayed down. At 8 and 10 we are far beyond those baby years.

One day the four of us visited De Panne’s beach area where Soren rode a skelter on the boardwalk.


No one was interested in riding this with me 🙂


While he was going back and forth loads of times, Maebh, Nils & I played in the arcade. It was there where I won the jackpot – 1,000 tickets on the Wheel of Fortune game.

So after dropping ¢40 or we ended up with 9,425 tickets to spend on cheap, plastic, imported from China crap.

The kids had a bit of play time on the sand with the rocket which they got with tickets at an arcade in Dublin before we moved.

Nils and I enjoyed a pint in a local beach cafe. The glass was enormous – biggest beer I’ve ever had!  I don’t like myself in this photo, but while I’m normally taking all the photos – I’ll post this one to show the size of the beer.  HUGE!!

Took me an extra long time to finish it but it was very yummy!


I had read that Blankenberge and my expectations were very low but I have to say it was pretty good. First we visited the SeaLife Centre with the group. Like all Sealife Centre, you meander through some areas with fish, see some seals, visit a touch tank and then you’re really done and end up in the gift shop. This place did have an outdoor area which was good and the kids climbed a bit but overall – I’d only recommend this place for little kids – who are impressed when they see a fish which they think looks like Nemo or Dory. But at 8 & 10, a few stingrays or shark going by a tank are not enough to keep them entertained for more than an hour.

If you are thinking about going to the SeaLife Centre – check out their website and the ‘Name Your Price‘ feature – where you can enter the date, # of tickets and amount willing to pay. We got our 11 tickets during our breakfast for ¢10.50 each vs. ¢18.50 at the door.

Overall this resort town does a great job with the beach cafes and kids play areas with huge bouncy castles along the Zeedijk. We ate at Havana Club and had a drink at a cozy, trendy place which was great – only didn’t serve food and some of us ere Hangry! 🙂

Finally got to hold her youngest cousin!

Blankenberge, Knokke and De Panne and a all other towns [shown above] can be reached by taking the coastal tram – Kusttram. We tried to take it one day up to Blakenberge, but when we arrived at the ticket counter in De Haan and the women said they are in the middle of a strike and not sure if it will come and might just stop running. She suggested we take our cars instead. As my BIL & FIL was getting their cars, the tram arrived, full of people! Grrrr.


Here are some more things you can do in the area when visiting the Belgian Coast.

1, Go to the beach and rent bikes or go-carts/skelters.
2. Rio Cinema. It’s a bit retro and tiny with ONE movie to choose from.
3. Golf at the Royal Ostend Golf Club.
4. Familiepark De Sierk – Playground with a circus theme for small kids 3-6 years old.
5. Visit Zeilschip Mercator in Ostende.
6. Walk Belgium Pier in Blankenberge.
7. Visit Serpentarium – the reptelienzoo!
8. Visit SeaLife Centre in Blankenberge. Tip: check out the ‘name your own price‘ feature on their website!
9. Themepark Plopsaland De Panne.
10. Walk through the Sandworm will art piece in the dunes.
11. Historical Atlantic Wall Museum where history and nature meet.

You can find more on this UK based website which has a LOT of information on where to eat, stay, etc. This post is not meant to do that rather share our time at the coast.

I really have nothing with De Panne – I think it’s a bit tired and rundown. Not many shops open on the beach – the beach cafes were drab. Unlike Blankenberg and Knokke – I’d personally skip De Panne on future trips to the Belgian coast. Then again, to be fair we didn’t go into the town or explore it more than the beach-front area.


We drove by the Atlantic Wall Museum in Ostende which I really wanted to visit but I was the minority and the only person who wanted to visit so we didn’t. Being Dutch and having lived in The Netherlands for many years, they’ve had their fill of all things war. For me, it is history and I’d love to learn more about it and see first-hand exhibitions.

The last day together we visited Knokke, the resort town which is closest to The Netherlands, before heading back home. This town clearly has all the money – the guests and the shops were upmarket and the vibe at the beach club was great and the cars were top. We saw at least three Mazaradi SUVs!



Parking is tricky – save yourself the aggravation find the Ijzerpark (underground) all other parking is one or two hours) or a long walk from the Casino.

Once the drizzle stopped, the kids rode skelter and an electric atv and then jumped in the sea a bit – too cold.

–100% non electric for this guy!
Cruising with cousins!
Electric ATV for the lady.
Brrr… too cold for me.

Overall, we had a great time together as a group. The coast was lovely and we’ll definitely be back in the future!

Antwerp, Belgium

Hard to believe that sixteen years ago, Nils and I lived in Antwerp, Belgium for a bit before moving to Provence, France then he onto Barcelona and I back to Boston for a period.  Then 9/11 happened and he moved to the US.

Here we are on New Years Eve at The Irish Time Bar.


We lived in a flat on the top two floors of the house on the left – Oude Koornmarkt  & Pelgrimstraat or a few months.

This was our view daily!

His father lived in Antwerp in  2010, so we are pretty familiar with it so when thinking of places to visit today, it was an easy drive and just under one hour.

The city centre is based around the Groenplaats and the Grotemarkt and the Cathedral, which is golden in the sunlight and is so beautiful.

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While it’s been 6 years since we were there, a few things changed but a lot is still the same.  As normal, I love the architecture but I always found Belgium a bit dirty.

Bodrum my favorite Turkish restaurant on De Pret Straat is now a butcher – a very nice one too!  Turns out the Bodrum Palace which we passed got great reviews – perhaps they moved!  Grr.would have rather ate at Bodrum but nonetheless got our mixed grill/shaorma fix while here. Sebaba was closed and a lot of new building a but Pelican Bar, StadsCafe, International Magazine Store, and other places the same.
We ate Shoarma at De’oude Stad.. Good but not as good as Bodrum!

The Christmas Market was in full force with two skating rinks and tons of stalls and due to current world events loads of added security present yet never felt 100% safe.  Clearly either I have watched too many TV shows like Homeland and 24 or I was a detective in my previous life!

The kids rode the slides three times each!

Now that we have our fill of Antwerp, we can visit in 10 years or so…..No need to rush back.  I would never want to raise my kids there or do I have the desire to ever live there again.  I am sure it’s great for some families, just not us – we’re happy over the border in the Netherlands.

Saturday Afternoon Beach Day

Yesterday had partly sunny skies and a high of around 10 degrees, we headed to the beach with buckets and spades and sunglasses.   When the sun was behind a cloud and the wind hit, it was a bit chilly, but not too bad.  Slowly, we’re finally getting some warmer Spring weather. Today is supposed to be 19 (66 degrees F) so we’re hoping to head to the Cromer Pier for our first try at Crabbing!!

We knew low tide was at 2:30 pm, so we headed down and it was just so calm and sandy.  Hard to believe this was the coast of North Norfolk vs a beach with the smooth sand some place tropical.
After walking down and hanging out for a bit, Nils took the kids up to the playground area before heading home for Maebh’s nap.   Poor guy had to carry Maebh and hold Soren’s hand and walk up all those steps!

I stayed back and walked the beach collecting sea glass and interesting shells/rocks.  Funny there were others walking looking down for things too, but they had large bags so I’m not sure what they were picking up – perhaps interesting stones or trash?  Soren really likes my collection and helped find a large piece of glass today.  Later  helped me lay it out, clean it and put it in the jar.
Later on, the kids did a little watercolor painting.  One minute they are best friends, the next minute they are fighting over who has the big paintbrush.  Clearly, I have to get them another set of paint and brushes, as they are really loving painting pictures.  Maebh found it fun to dip her napkin in the water and squeeze it out on her paper.

The Netherlands & Belgium: Family Vacation

We recently returned from a two week trip to The Netherlands and Belgium to visit family and friends.  Soren was 2.9 years and Maebh was 5.5 months.

I took well over a thousand photos so here is just a small collection of the photos.



We visited the Antwerp Zoo – a place Nils and I visited pre-kids so it was a bit special!

We stayed with Lise, Mark & Vaughn in Amsterdam.  We played a bit, walked around and visited the market.

We go to visit the market – which we all LOVED!

Antwerp, Belgium: August Visit

Another non-blog post vs. a photo dump from Facebook album download.

We had a nice time visiting Soren’s Pake & Beppe in Antwerp, Belgium.  Soren was 19 months old – not walking on his own so he had this mickey mouse push toy which was great to help him get around!   I was just pregnant with Maebh but was not telling anyone yet.

Long story short is that I IVF and was not yet sure if I was pregnant and this time round, I couldn’t help but to take a home test – over the moon when it showed JA – two stripes!!

It was quite hot this trip so we bought a green pool and put it on the roof terrace.  You could see this pool on Google Earth years later!


We used to live in the top two floors of the apartment building on the left.




We traveled up to Amsterdam to visit Nils’ sister’s new baby girl, Vaughn, stopped in the Apenheul (zoo for only monkeys) and saw some friends and other family members.





And that is where I saw the tallest Dutch girl in my life – she was taller than Nils at 6’8″.  I had him walk by her for the photo.


Yes there was a man wearing WOODEN shoes at the Monkey Zoo!

And spotted a guy wearing REAL wooden shoes around the zoo – I thought I saw it all.