Blogger Karin Gesquière from momrunsthecity.be tells :
Karin Ghesquière (37 years old). Lives in Ostend. Works in the real estate sector. Mother of Timon and living with his dad Greg Bogaert.
Crazy about the sea, that’s what I am. Almost inevitable if you live on the coast. My heart is in Ostend, a bustling city on the sea a bit on the crazy side. Yet I love to go off with my family as often as possible, including along our Belgian coast. A constant theme in all our travel adventures is the briny deep. Of course that’s hardly surprising, with a partner who is a windsurfer, but I also feel the need for that endless view. Walking along the tide mark. It gives me energy and frees me from my cares. It relaxes me and it gives me that instant holiday feeling. I started my blog to share my love of walking, and to enable mothers to catch the walking bug. Now I wrote about everything that makes my heart beat faster: my family, walking, healthy living with a little Burgundian extravagance, my moments of me-time such as tête-à-têtes with friends, fashion, lifestyle and my wanderlust and travel adventures.
When Westtoer asked me if I felt like spending a weekend in De Panne with my family, I was surprised as I had no images at all of Belgium’s westernmost seaside town. Apart from a sweet little bee, the renowned pots of Meli honey and maybe a gnome, no other associations occurred to me. Odd, for a coastal town that was not even 40 km from my door! I took on the challenge along with hubby and son to go and explore what makes De Panne so unique.
The weather gods were less favourable to us. The temperature stood at 0° and an icy north-eastern wind accompanied us the whole weekend. Completely bundled up and full of pep, we were ready to welcome King Winter.
As brave walkers heading for De Panne.
#1 LUNCH at HUYZE ARMALOT by Julia
What a delight that at the first address we hit, we found a cosy spot to sit in next to the roaring fireplace. Anyone interested in finding out who the Armalot family need not look far. The name of this homey lunch spot is a combination of the names of the hospitable owners’ children: Arthur, Marie and Charlotte. Julia is their fourth child. Sandrine Auvray works the oven. As a North Sea chef, she has a few dishes with fish from the North Sea, for example. The decision to work in every area with local products and suppliers has proved a great asset to this restaurateur couple. As an aperitif, Franky served a glass of cava with an infusion of ginger and for our son, a freshly pressed apple juice from a nearby orchard. And the little one found it really cool that he could clink glasses with a hip mason jar with a lid and reusable straw! And with the instant appearance of a piece of paper and coloured pencils on our table, children are really made welcome here.
For a starter, I had a scallop carpaccio, my son a tomato and basil soup, while my husband enjoyed a piece of baked duck with foie gras, mango and caramelized apple. For the main course, I chose a super dish with spring vegetables and gurnard that was baked in a Big Green Egg. For hubby, a fish curry and Timon had roast chicken with carrots and new potatoes. All fresh and in season. Prepared with love and passion.
While having our coffee, I learned that Franky and Sandrine will soon be expanding into a B&B with single rooms and a separate breakfast room. To be remembered for a future visit!
#2 CHILDREN ARE KING
Anyone who knows De Panne thinks immediately of the Plopsaland theme park. And with a pre-schooler who is almost five, you can hardly pass this by. We are regular visitors to the park, but we had never before visited the subtropical swimming pool of the Plopsa branch. So there was much euphoria when we told him after lunch that Plopsaqua was on the schedule. The pool fully met our son’s expectations.
He could not get enough of the Turboslide, and the Wild River holds no secrets for us anymore. After a few hours and more than thirty slides, we tried to persuade our water Viking that we’d really had enough. Difficult, but we managed it (wink). By the way, on the same road there is also an indoor children’s paradise, the Bowl Inn. We spent an hour bowling before heading on to be one of the first to have a drink a little further on at Moeder Lambik.
#3 MOEDER LAMBIK
Where the boss personally prepares the grilled fish and meat on charcoal, and where the Pannepot, the most delicious dark craft beer from the Struise brewery, flows freely. Quality without gimmicks with 35 years under its belt. The new generation, headed up by Klaas and Liesbeth, is even more attentive to parent-friendly tables. With a brand new playground opened at Easter 2018 and an outdoor terrace, this is a prime spot to visit with children.
#4 OVERNIGHT AT THE PARKHOTEL
After all that splashing around in the swimming pool and an early supper, we wanted nothing more than to curl up under the warm duvets at the Parkhotel. We had an apartment with two bathrooms and three bedrooms! It would have easily accommodated 7 people for the night. Our curious little one had first to check out all the cupboards and of course wanted to sleep ‘up in the air’ in the bunk bed.
After a much needed night’s sleep, we woke up to radiant sunshine. Nothing could be nicer on a Sunday morning than to enjoy a breakfast buffet with homemade granola and regional delicacies. There was also a children’s play area, so that we could spend a bit longer peacefully enjoying our breakfast. Thanks to their environmentally friendly initiatives, the Parkhotel has earned the international ‘Green Key’ label, so that you can also use your ecocheques to pay for your stay. Good to know.
#5 THE DUMONT QUARTER AND THE WIDEST BEACH
Before leaving, Timon had to have one more chance to run wild in the hotel’s gigantic garden. The Parkhotel is located in the midst of the low-traffic Dumont quarter, which since 1995 enjoys the status of protected cityscape. If you enjoy looking at houses, you must take a stroll here. The picturesque neighbourhood has some of the finest coastal architectural heritage in Flanders. Along the way to the beach, we came across nineteenth-century fishermen’s cottages and holiday homes as well as lovely modernist and art nouveau villas. The clash between the various architectural styles, all of which respect the relief of the existing dunes, makes this historic part of De Panne definitely worth a walk.
And then we caught sight of the beach. The wind was cutting mercilessly through us, and yet did not manage to defeat us or the other walkers. The sun struggled along with us every step of the way. You would think that as seaside residents, a strip of sand holds no surprises for us. But everywhere we went, the sea drew us near, and made us stop and admire all this natural beauty. The beach in De Panne is unique: it has no breakwaters, so you can enjoy an unbelievably wide panorama all the way to the border and beyond. Walking along the widest beach in Belgium cannot help give you that instant holiday feel, even at a temperature of 0 degrees!
#6 COFFEE, CAKE & BAGELS AT ALFONS
After our beach walk, we were peering in through the windows at Alfons with hopeful expressions just before opening time. Our expressions must have spoken volumes, for the door opened a bit early. We had our choice of cosy corners to settle in. While hubby dearest was peacefully perusing the menu, our son headed for the aquarium and I wandered around inquisitively. Young Claire has been running this contemporary coffee and lunch establishment for the past 8 months. Her mother had had a shoe store here previously, and is now helping her daughter with her start-up. This property, belonging to Claire’s grandparents, was completely stripped down, with the duo doing a lot of the work themselves. Including demolition and cleaning off the original brick wall.
The result looks fresh, open and modern. Subtle accents provide for a fine ambiance and the hidden back garden lets in some pleasant winter sunshine. While the aroma of Claire’s home-baked cakes fill the room, I warmed my shivering hands on my Mocha Brownie. Timon eagerly slurped his Callebaut hot chocolate and daddy his murky green tea. Following the adage, ‘We have all the time in the world‘, we played a round of Uno and my son pulled a few drawings from his sleeve for our dear hosts Claire and her mom.
#7 100% NATURE
After our stop to warm up and indulge ourselves, we were curious about the nature reserves in the region. Impossible to take them all in. We picked out two.
From games of hide-and-seek to climbing and clambering on, over and under fallen branches in the forest of the Oosthoek dunes to the fascinating fauna and flora of the Westhoek. The nature domains in De Panne are so spacious and overwhelmingly beautiful. You cannot help savouring the silence and forgetting all your cares. It would be a shame to miss out on this.
We experienced the absolute highpoint of our weekend with a guide in the Westhoek, known as the largest dune complex in the country. The domain between De Panne and the French border is 250 hectares in size, and has been a protected landscape since 1935. The guide took us deep into the reserve, where we were delighted to see a Scottish Highland cow close by, grazing in the marsh.
We learned that there are various types of dunes, such as shifting, drifting, frontal and inner dunes. On the reserve, you can also see wild Polish Konik horses that keep the vegetation trimmed. When we spotted their tracks and manure, we figured there must be a group nearby. And sure enough, all of a sudden they came bounding through the prickly Scotch roses and looked us over curiously.
Lovely grey-brown animals that are more like a pony in size. They let you pet them, but they are not tame. So it is wise to be on your guard when they are around. Be sure not to worm your way into the midst of the group. They are unpredictable creatures, but what beauties!
After this encounter with wildlife, we wound our way through the Scotch roses towards the Sahara, a gigantic sandy mass to the southeast of the reserve. Guaranteed fun!
At the end of the day, we counted 16000 steps on our pedometer. More than enough to head home with our little rascal. Hardly had we been on the road for a few minutes when he was already in the land of Nod. When your son whispers, just before bedtime, that he would love to go and live in De Panne, you can be sure that the weekend was a great success.
De Panne, so fascinating and so close! #outsideisfree
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