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Hanne Van den Abeele from Hannewhale shares her experiences:

A weekend away in Knokke

From Bali to Knokke

I keep saying it: a weekend away on home soil is and remains my favourite weekend away by far!

For years we used to take the family to Duinbergen for two weeks in July. An annual trip the entire family looked forward to from one year to the next. So, getting to visit Knokke-Heist again was doubly exciting for me.

Read on and allow me to take you on a discovery tour of Knokke!

Knokke has it all: nature, culture, great food, night life, etcetera, not to mention all the facilities madcaps and water sports fanatics could wish for. I took my blogger friend Lynn on a weekend to the Belgian Coast.

We were welcomed in Hotel Adagio, a convivial hotel, at 50 metres from the promenade. The beds and pillows were great but the breakfast in the morning was superb (and no, not just because there was Côte d’Or chocolate on offer).

After we had checked in, we decided to go for lunch in Clouds of Fashion. This clothing shop comes with a brasserie so you can kill two birds with one stone: retail therapy and lunch!

At two o’clock we were met by our guide, Hendrik, at the entrance to the Zwin, who took us under his wing and on a discovery tour of the nature park. It had been years since I had visited the Zwin and in spite of the cold and wind I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The entrance fee entitles you to a Zwin passport, complete with floor plans of the visitor centre, which houses a permanent exhibition of the migratory birds, maps of the Zwin park and the Zwin plain, i.e. the three sections of the Zwin.

We saw numerous birds and our guide filled us in on any other animal species we came across. Aside from the many feeding and breeding areas for the birds, also special spots for other animals, like bats, have been created here.

The feeding areas are very important to the birds. No bread crusts or leftover cheese on the menu here but insects (vitamins - minerals) and seeds, grains and fruit, including nuts.
One of the tips our guide gave us: don’t feed the birds bread every day, give them things like Belgian (!) fat balls containing sunflower seeds, rye seed…, for instance.

Don’t just provide the birds with food in your garden this summer but give them access to water too as they both drink it and use it to bathe in. Sand in your garden is the ultimate as birds love sand baths because the heat and scrub effect of the sand helps them to get to rid of annoying little critters like mites.

Nice to know: finches look for food at ground level. Blackbirds and woodpeckers look for their food higher up.

Needless to say, scientific research into the different bird species is also conducted here. The park even has a special spot where birds are ringed. The little rings provide information about their age, what they eat, where they fly to… If you were to come across a dead bird for instance, you can post the little ring on its leg to the Zwin and all the bird’s details can be pulled up.

The Zwin is famed for its stork population. Incidentally, the first stork chick of the seasons was hatched on 26 April! There was a brief sighting of the tiny creature in one of the stork nests that are filmed day and night.

Did you know that the Zwin Nature Park has its own web shop? Check it out at zwin.be!

Knokke wouldn’t be Knokke without a spot of fine-dining. We swapped our bikes for the coastal tram, and dressed in our glad rags, made our way to La Guera, a restaurant near Heldenplein in Heist. A stunning family-run business where the various members of the family are building on a gastronomic future! A glass of champagne with violet as aperitif and pork belly as nibble.

Lynn and I decided to go for the tasting menu, paired with selected wines. Just as well we had had the foresight of leaving our car where it was that evening… The food was out of this world. An absolute must if you happen to be in Knokke-Heist, especially if you’re in the mood for something fancier!

28 April, Lei Day, a day Surfers Paradise in Knokke marks with considerable aplomb. This Hawaiian holiday is celebrated on the water with everyone wearing a garland. The festivities started with free wave surfing lessons. Lynn and I were only dying to try it! It wasn’t long before I managed to negotiate a few small waves.

As it happens, the Belgian waves are the best for anyone who wants to try their hand at wave surfing. The water was a chilly 9 degrees (!) but since we had all been given a thick wetsuit we didn’t get too much of a shock.

Afterwards we were treated to a Zen moment in the outdoor jacuzzi. Even the sun made a brief appearance to mark the occasion. The afternoon then continued with the actual ceremony and a BBQ.

After an hour lying and splashing in the water, swallowing our fair share of seawater, Lynn and I went to Bonjour for lunch. Lynn was starving and ordered spaghetti, and I, I went for pancakes of course. Because I consider pancakes a treat whatever the time of the day!

Bonjour is one of Knokke’s cosy hot spots. Nice and quiet on a Sunday afternoon (with the obligatory home-made pancakes of course).

We chose to do the sensible thing and no to party the night away. But if you fancy a night out on the town check out Kitsch Club, Knokke Out, Lipps and The Pharmacy. Blue Buddha is a famous beach bar in Knokke. For other beach bars take a look at myknokke-heist.be!

Prefer to check the weather or waves before you set out? You can do so in real time at www.belgiancoast.co.uk/en/knokke-heist.

The next time, I’m going to try my hand at pitch & put, hire a go-cart and build my very own sandcastle!