The past months I've been spending a lot of my weekends in my hometown, Mechelen. The city has changed quite dramatically since I lived there 1o years ago - building projects reshaped the city, young entrepreneurs opened up cool shops & eateries and projects like the Contour biennale for video art or the new museum Kazerne Dossin brought a steady flow of tourists to the city. 

One of my favourite places in town is Gamine, a breakfast and lunch bar on one of the beautiful squares in the city center. Debby worked as a copywriter for years, but decided to follow her childhood dream of opening up her own bistro. Homemade specials like - my favourite - avocado toast with prawns, seasonal salads and the delicious breakfast menu of pancakes, overnight oats and a superfood bowl with fruits and yoghurt will have you spoilt for choice. Catching up with friends and having an afternoon coffee from micro roastery OR coffee with a slice of cheesecake is my favourite way to spend my Saturday afternoon in town. The Gamine menu changes every week, so make sure to visit this gem of a lunch café often. You might find me sitting at a table next to you...

Korenmarkt 6, 2800 Mechelen

August Mallorca


Last week I returned from my summer holiday on the island of Mallorca. It's the second year in a row I end up there, and I'm sure I'll visit this beautiful Balearic island again.
This time round I discovered a really cool tapas bar (more on that soon) and a pop-up shop with an amazing selection of Spanish designer items: August. The name says it all - August opened in the heart of Palma just for the summer months. The clever people from Better, a pop-up agency from Madrid, opened their summer house in an old town house of 600 m2 with a sequence of bright spaces and intimate corners where you could discover the men's and women's fashion, accessories, cosmetics, books, art, ceramics and gourmet food. 
I bought a gorgeous pair of sunglasses from Mr Boho, a couple of funny fish purses from Don Fisher and a delicate ring from Ouibyou. Curious where August pops up next? Check the Better Facebook page.

Plant power


As I mentioned before (in this post), I don't have a green thumb. I've killed almost all the plants I ever owned. But the lack of nurturing skills doesn't stop me from trying to bring a bit of nature inside my home: green house plants, bunches of fresh flowers, pots with herbs in the kitchen and vibrant flowers in my balcony garden. 

Apart from air-quality benefits, research has shown that plants and flowers make people feel more relaxed, creative and healthier. What's not to like... Decorating with plants is also one of the easiest ways to make your house feel more lived-in and homely... I love to mix-and-match different succulents (hard to kill) in flower pots in neutral tones, tend to choose colourful flowers for the vase on my dining table (from flower shop Baltimore) and have a selection of my favourite herbs lined up in the kitchen. Take a look at my best-loved plants and flowers ideas and get inspired to make your house greener. A snake plant, cacti and a fig tree are easy-to-grow indoor plants that will give your house a cozy feel.
In a creative mood? Paint geometric figures or stripes on simple terra-cotta pots with acrylic paint for one-of-a-kind decorative pots.

Thanks for the lovely succulents and flower pots for my collection - I'll try not to kill them...

Collected in... Barcelona


Best thing about the past month? Spending a couple of sunny days in Barcelona to celebrate my birthday. My last visit to BCN was 10 years or so ago and I couldn't wait to go back to  the vibrant Spanish city that made a lasting impression on me...
My birthday bash in Barcelona turned out pretty perfect - a superb mix of shopping, eating good food, relaxing and having a laugh. Here are my top tips for your stay:

Discover/ On my last visit to the city I checked out all the touristic highlights - Gaudi's  architectural marvels, the old city centre with its winding streets and the hip area of El RavalThis time round I wanted to spent some time in the area around Barceloneta beach.   The spectacular W hotel is a beacon in the area - standing proud among the beach bars at it's feet. Relax and enjoy the sunshine at Pez Vela or hang out in the Wet bar of the W hotel.  Feeling sporty?Rent a bike and spin along the seaside promenade. 

Drink/A strong cup of coffee at the Federal Café, cocktails and tapas on the terrace of Bar Lobo, chocolate milk at Cacao Sampaka or indulge in some sweet and traditional 'crema catalana' in old-school milk bar Granja M. Viader.  

Eat/ I love burgers and fries, so for my birthday dinner we went to Oval in the Eixample area. At this cool burger bar you can pick your choice of bun, meat, garments and dressing on an ordering sheet. Best Birthday Burger Ever! And I also really enjoyed their G&T cocktail infused with roses... Another nice restaurant is Garriga - this charming eatery serves delicious home cooking, nice wines and delicatessen in a romantic atmosphere. Looking for a quick bite? Check out one of my favourite places: the Woki Organic Market. In this organic restaurant and supermarket you can eat 100% bio. Pasta, burgers, woks, salads and even breakfast - all can be ordered as take away or eaten at the spot. Woki has restaurants all over town, so there's sure to be one near you...

Buy/ Perfect donuts, macarons and chocolates at Chök and cute kids wear at Tiny Cottons. Spoil yourself with beautiful clothes and delicate jewelry from Le Fortune.

Stay/ Ever since I saw some pictures of the big terrace and airy rooms of the Praktik Rambla, this hotel near the Passeig de Gracia was top of my list. The hotel has the perfect location, boasts beautiful rooms full of detail (loved the green tiling in the bathroom!) and has a sunny patio at the back with lounge chairs and wicker sofas to relax after a day in the bustling city. On my next visit to Barcelona I'll definitely stay in one of the Praktik hotels again - perhaps the Praktik Garden hotel? Or maybe I'll give brand new hotel Brummell a try? Can't wait to go back...

De helden van het echte eten*


*the heroes of real food

Last week I was invited to the book launch of 'De helden van het echte eten'. A book about good, tasty and honest food made by artisans with a passion for their product. Not a cookbook - although there are some great recipes in there - but a collection of 20 portraits. This unique book tells the story of farmers, butchers, cheesemakers, bakers and others that are working ceaselessly to perfect their produce. A labour of love...

The book was written by Barbara, Jo and Mayken from Alle Dagen Honger, the team behind an inspiring food blog that also organises Antwerp food festival Krachtvoer. The portraits are accompanied by beautiful pictures by Senne Van der Ven en Eefje De Coninckan intimate glimpse into the lifes of the 20 artisans that speak so passionately about their product. Sausages, sourdough bread, butter, apple juice... - 'De helden van het echte eten' challenges you to consider what kind of food you want to eat. I'm thinking about taking a road trip to sample all the delicious food from the book... 

De helden van het echte eten, uitgeverij Luster

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