Jules and Jeanne tell us about their coast

Knokke: A birthday by the sea!

Jules et Jeanne

My name is Aléna, child psychologist by profession, but, in recent years, my passion for photography has taken over. I photograph ordinary and extraordinary moments. While I love capturing the key moments in other people’s lives I also enjoy documenting and immortalising the daily goings-on with Jules (6 years) and Jeanne (5 years) in our own family. These moments are so precious that I want to keep them forever.

That’s how I started keeping a blog to share these images of our escapades, our travels, but also of our everyday moments. After all, each place, each road, each meeting is worth a detour if you see them through the eyes of a child!

Discover more about Jules et Jeanne

It seems that we’re in for a heatwave and that the fine weather is here to stay for a while. One little suggestion: how about keeping yourself cool at the Belgian Coast?

Mid-June, we had the good fortune of discovering Knokke with Westtoer. Last year, it was Blankenberge that conquered our hearts within the space of a weekend, in spite of the rain. You can read that particular article again here!

Knokke-Zoute is sometimes portrayed as the most fashionable seaside resort, but situated on the edge of the Zwin, it is above all the beauty of the landscapes, the surrounding nature and the many paths that criss-cross through them that caught our imagination.

Zee en strand

The beach

Knokke’s 12-kilometre long beach is also one of its main attractions. All you need to do is make up your mind: pleasant little bars, play areas on the sand, swimming or sand castles. We were lucky: the beach wasn’t a bit crowded the weekend we were there. The sea makes me feel away from home, offers me a change of scenery. Within the space of two days, it’s as if my batteries are fully recharged again. For children, the beach is the number 1 activity. That’s all they want: running through the waves, building sandcastles, burying themselves (or, let’s be honest, landing on their faces) in the sand. And even if you forgot your swimming gear, you always end up rolling up your trousers before getting soaked from head to toe.

The Zwin – Nature Park

We started our weekend with a visit to the migratory birds’ exhibition and a walk through the Zwin Nature Park for some bird spotting. I had a vague recollection of visiting the Zwin while I was in primary school but the infrastructure has long since been completely upgraded. On arrival at the migratory birds’ exhibition, everyone gets to dress up as a bird and, with the help of a little magnetic map, can then discover how the bird they’re dressed up as lives, what it eats, learn how to fly like it, etc ... all in an age-appropriate manner.

Jules’s favourite attraction: the flight simulator. Jeanne’s highlight: the little egg that needed to be warmed to see the chick grow.

In het Zwin
The Shelter

With so many things to see and do, we literally had to drag J&J away from the exhibition. Outside, there’s a kilometre-long walk around the park with various stops in discovery huts, just perfect for our little walkers. The kids were able to observe insects with a microscope, birds through a telescope, storks from behind a window situated behind, yet at the same level as the storks’ nest. The trail also has an activity course complete with a stork’s nest you can climb up to so as to give you an idea of the size of the nest in comparison to a stork chick.

All in all, we spent 4 hours there and we could have stayed a lot longer. If you’re still not sure: here’s a short video to show you more! You can book your tickets and get your discounts here.

And because after all that you will probably need a bit of a rest, I would suggest dropping into brasserie “The Shelter” where you’ll be waited on hand and foot while the children play around in the stunning playground.

Finalement, après avoir un peu scruté les bons plans sur TripAdvisor, nous avons été au restaurant Venise, dans une rue perpendiculaire à la digue. Arrivant tard (14h), nous avions eu droit au menu restreint (valable de 14h à 18h). Le cuisinier a fait une petite exception pour nous et Olivier a pu choisir des moules qui provenaient du menu complet! Personnellement, n’ayant pas une grande faim, j’ai opté pour deux kaaskroketten.

As the plan was to celebrate Jeanne’s 5th birthday that weekend, we were looking for a place or an activity to mark the occasion. We checked the Internet and on the recommendation of the owners of the hotel, we booked a table at Marie Siska, a couple of doors away.

With more than 100 years’ experience, this restaurant is a children’s paradise (and therefore a heaven for parents who have been dreaming of a meal out without having to worry too much about the noise their children make). Although “Siska” is by and large famed for its waffles, we checked out the dinner formula.

To be honest, you’re not talking world-class gastronomy here and the prices may seem a little steep but the exceptional facilities for children were worth every cent. J&J spent the evening exploring the enormous playground, getting lost in the maze, hurtling down the slides. The place is designed to cater for large crowds but, in spite of that, the service was impeccable and pleasant, contrary to some of the comments we read on the Internet.

Marie Siska

Pitch & putt

We have a major pitch & putt fan in our family. Jules had spotted the course on day 1 as we were walking to the beach. There was no way we could deny him a round. The course is stunning and it was really quiet that Sunday morning. Just as well, because we didn’t make for the most elegant party, lying around in the groves looking for the balls we had lost.

Ice cream and go-carts

It is impossible to walk along the promenade without giving into the temptation of an ice cream or a go-cart ride, the old reliables of the Belgian Coast.

Hotel St Pol

Accommodation and food

We had been offered an overnight stay at Hotel St. Pol, a convivial and family-run spot in the centre of Zoute. The rooms were spacious and pleasant and the hotel is situated two kilometres away from the Zwin and the beach. By bike, the little paths take you to either one of them in no time at all. You can also hire bikes here. We had a family room with a sliding door between the children’s and our room. The room had two bathrooms with shower and bath which was rather handy for us.

Breakfast was a feast and earned a special mention from the children for their bake-your-own waffles they could add their own toppings to while they were still warm. We, for our part, were really impressed with the warm welcome, the manner in which we were accommodated and the useful tips on arrival and as we left.   

On Sunday, we were being treated to lunch in one of Knokke-Heist’s stunning restaurants, the “Old Fisher”, where the kitchen opens on to a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.

Lunch was as scrumptious as it was lavish. Though the menu is fairly traditional (meat and fish), the dishes are presented with style and are wonderfully flavoursome.

We do admit that enjoying a meal such as this is not always a given with two little monsters who can’t wait to get to the beach. But we were one step ahead of them and came armed with mandalas and colour pencils, a deck of cards, activity books: something to occupy our two terrorists with so that we (and our fellow diners) could have a wonderful time in a fine restaurant.

Fijn weekend aan zee

By now you’ve probably realised that we really relished our short break in Knokke, all we wanted to do was to stay on for another bit and explore it a little further. Thank you Westtoer for these precious moments. One thing is for sure, Jeanne will never forget the incredible weekend of her 5th birthday.

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