Discover Benelux, Issue 14, February 2015

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I S S U E 14 | F E B R UA R Y 2015








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Private Banking.

Sometimes 3 letters make all the difference Because you shouldn’t have to compromise to achieve excellence, ING Luxembourg offers you a full experience in Private Banking. Our experts in asset management, lending solutions, wealth analysis and planning keep up-to-date to offer you the most relevant advice regarding your overall situation.

ING Luxembourg, Société Anonyme – 52, route d’Esch, L-2965 Luxembourg – R.C.S. Luxembourg B.6041


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Discover Benelux | Contents

Contents FEBRUARY 2015





Gabriel Rios


After three years of soul searching and songwriting in New York, singer Gabriel Rios is back in Belgium with a completely new, tuned down sound, leaving behind his Latin pop.


Valentine’s Day Special

No other beer is as popular in so many countries as Heineken. Find out about the history, the brand and, of course, the taste at the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.



Winter in the Benelux


Read about the all-time favourite Dutch meal of ‘hotchpotch’ and the curious Luxembourg tradition of ‘Buergbrennen’.


Revealing the gems of Brussels’ Art Deco During the 1920s, Brussels gave rise to a new architectural style: Art Deco. There are still numerous magnificent examples across the capital, hiding in plain sight.

Summer holiday escapes: Languedoc-Roussillon Get rid of your February blues and start looking for the summer holiday destination of your dreams, beginning with our top choices in Languedoc-Roussillon. PLUS: More European destinations, page 30.


Discover the Netherlands: Groningen The Metropolis of the North, Groningen is a lively city with a lots to offer; culture, history, architecture and excellent shopping.

Our Valentine’s special covers everything you need for a successful date. Flowers? Check; a romantic location? Check; a stunning outfit? It’s all there.


Attraction of the Month, the Netherlands

A day at the museum


Regulars & Events Our columnists draw parallels between medicine and management, and query the power of repetition. PLUS: Benelux Business Calendar, page 55.

Per square metre, Amsterdam boasts more museums than any other city, but the rest of the Netherlands also has a wealth of exciting museums to explore.


Design & Innovation As one of the leading nations in the field, Dutch design stands out for its unconventional approach and inventive solutions.

6 Fashion Picks | 8 Desirable Designs 60 Benelux Lifestyle Columns | 59 Out & About

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Discover Benelux | Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux

Martin Pilkington

Issue 14, February 2015

Matt Antoniak

Published 02.2015 ISSN 2054-7218

Silvia de Vries Simon Woolcot Steve Flinders Stine Wannebo

Published by Scan Group

Cover Photo Michael Sewandono

Print Liquid Graphic Ltd.

Advertising Executive Editor

Thomas Winther Sales & Key Account Managers Creative Director

Mette Tonnesen

Mads E. Petersen

Yasmina Haddadi Raphaël Pousse

Editor Myriam Gwynned Dijck

Steven Ebbers Laura Mirandi Sarah Soussi

Copy Editors Mark Rogers

The more temperatures start to drop below zero, the faster the hearts of the Dutch will start beating. Will it happen again this year? If you are from the Netherlands, you'll know exactly what I mean: the Elfstedentocht or Eleven Cities Tour. This gruelling, one-day ice skating event across 200 kilometres of frozen, outdoor waterways is probably the epitome of Dutch-ness. Two years ago, when a tour was on the brink of happening, all events were suspended, jobs were left for what they were and all eyes turned to Friesland, the north-western most province, where it is held. Even our Prime Minister stated the country was temporarily controlled by the tour’s ice masters, not the government. Sadly, the mythical words ‘it giet oan’ (it’s going ahead) weren’t uttered. Ice skating is part of our DNA. The moment the water freezes solid, the skates come out and young and old unite, whizzing over the slippery ice. The best ice skating is of course done outdoors, silently gliding over the dark waters below, through the frosty landscape around you. But there is always one problem: the weather.


Isa Hemphrey

Scan Group

Graphic Designers Jack W. Gooch

15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3TY

Joseph J. Ewin

United Kingdom

Contributors Anouk Kalmes Berthe van den Hurk Bettina Guirkinger Cathy van Klaveren

Phone +44 (0)870 933 0423 Fax +44 (0)870 933 0421 Email:

Cécile Dubois Elena Krumlowsky Harun Osmanovic

As legendary as it is elusive, the Elfstedentocht requires at least a week of perfect conditions: too much snow and the ice will be weak, too much wind and the ice will be cracked and bumpy, too cold and the tour becomes dangerous. Too warm and the ice will be too soft to carry each of the 20,000-30,000 skaters who take part. There have been tours in consecutive years but sometimes it takes decades before the conditions are right again. The last tour was in 1997, so we are certainly due for another. Will it happen this year? If it was up me, bring on that winter chill! If we get an Elfstedentocht in return, every cold shiver will be worth it.

Janine Sterenborg Josiah Fisk Liz Wenger

Myriam Gwynned Dijck, Editor © All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

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Discover real Private Banking At SEB Private Banking, we acknowledge that everyone has a unique set of challenges. It’s why we do not offer ready-made solutions, concentrating instead on developing meaningful, long-lasting financial relationships and making the effort to really understand you and your requirements. Our international network of private banking offices will look after all aspects of your family business finances, from daily transactions to long term investments. Its services cover everything from tailored financial management, through to helping you to optimise the legal and tax structures within which your assets are held. As one of the world’s strongest banks and with more than 150 years of experience in private banking, we have just what it takes to ensure your future prosperity. To find out what SEB can do for your personal wealth, contact us in London: Christian A. Hvamstad +44 (0) 20 7246 4307

Sweden • Norway • Denmark • Finland • Luxembourg • Switzerland • United Kingdom • Singapore • Estonia • Latvia • Lithuania

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Discover Benelux |  Design |  Fashion Picks


The colours of love Pink and red are of course the perfect colours for Valentine’s Day, but what about softer shades like coral, purple or even turquoise? Picking the right colours without overdoing it is the key to looking stunning and feeling confident on your (blind) date. Here are some of our favourites. TEXT: ELENA KRUMLOWSKY  |  PRESS PHOTOS


1: Sexy sophistication This  little  black  shirt  dress  from  the  label Frankly  by  Annelies  Braeckman  can  be graded  up  for  a  seductive  outfit  by  adding colourful  details  like  a  purple  clutch  and  a sparkly, soft pink necklace. These eye-catching accessories will complete your outfit and create a sophisticated yet sexy look. Dress: €245

2: Valentine’s sparkle This soft pink statement necklace makes every outfit special and suitable for a hot date. Worn with other rose accessories will create a perfect outfit.  €30


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3: Making a statement The ancient Egyptians, Persians, Aztecs, Incas and Indians valued Turquoise as a sacred stone and carried it for power, luck and protection. It is still treasured as a magnificent jewel because of its captivating blue colour. The ‘mottled webbing’ is inherent to the stone and enhances its character, making it a beautiful statement accessory for a night out.  €650 (exquisite set of necklace  and three bracelets)


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Discover Benelux |  Design |  Fashion Picks 4: Stealing a kiss Instead of going of pink, what about this cute, grey  blouse  with  orange  and  deep  red shades? Worn with the leather-look leggings it gives you a classy but tempting look. Finish the  look  with  some  simple  high  heels  and you’ll be ready for your Casanova. Blouse: €50 Leggings: €26 Heels: €85


5: Clutch time This purple clutch from the Dutch brand Maria Jobse finishes every outfit even very simple and basic  ones.  Match  it  with  other,  violet  accessories and you will look fabulous on your night out.  €212


6: What about lace? Heart prints are so last season – this Valentine’s Day it’s all  about  elegant  clothing  and fine lace details. What about this pretty coral crop top? With a matching clutch or heels it would look fabulous on a date.  €25


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Discover Benelux |  Design |  Desirable Designs


Make your night in extraordinary With a few unique elements, an ordinary night in can be transformed into a rather exquisite affair. Whether it’s a night with the girls or guys, drinks with friends, or a romantic date, adding something special to your house will make the occasion all the more memorable. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PRESS PHOTOS



4: A seat of luxury This colourful ‘Voltaire I’ chair from the Plastic Fantastic  series  by  JSPR  is  coated  in  a  thick layer of foam rubber, making it soft to the touch, durable and water resistant (no need to worry about red wine spills!) and extremely comfortable. Designed by Jasper van Grootel, the collection takes its inspiration from classical shapes and each seat is available in 24 vibrant colours. €1,416

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1: Atmospheric lights It may look like a lamp, but this is actually a remarkable  candle  holder.  Featuring  a  specially crafted aluminium reflector, the ‘Vlamp’ greatly amplifies the warm, mesmerising light-flickering effect of the flame. Designed by Jacob de Baan, the  reflector  can  be  adjusted  to  any  direction casting a glimmering light into the preferred part of the room. €119

2: In the mood for a drink This eye-catching beverage cooler with built-in lights  is  sure  to  steal  the  show  at  your  next party. No need to run to the kitchen to provide everyone with a cold drink, filled with up to 25 kilos of ice, this ‘Icecube’ by Danny Venlet will keep you supplied for the whole night. Measuring 1.5 metres wide and 0.5 metres high, it is made  from  strong  polyethylene  so  it  can  be used indoors and outdoors. €840


3 3: Get the flowers out This  ceramic  object  by  Rens  in  collaboration with Cor Unum, is actually a set of four, a big and a small bowl and two vases. Linking seamlessly on top of one another, the series ‘Reddish’ used an innovative colouring method: all items were put upright in a shallow bath of liquid red pigment. Without human intervention, the colour would slowly make its way up through the material creating this distinctive appearance. €744 for the full set

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Relaxing in a Hobbit sauna The leading spa in the Netherlands is without a doubt Thermen Holiday. With its personal approach, attention for details, creative solutions and exquisite beauty treatments, the resort is the number one place to come to your senses after a long week of hard work. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG  |  PHOTOS: THERMEN HOLIDAY

“Everything  we  do  is  focused  on  giving our guests the best wellness experience possible,” owner Sherita Narain explains. Many  wellness  centres  miss  an  extra touch. Not Thermen Holiday: “Next to our regular beauty treatments, we offer highly specialised treatments for face and body. We  work  with  (semi)medical  equipment from  award-winning  brands.  You  can’t find  these  treatments  in  the  next  best beauty salon!” Specialised beauty treatments are just a tip of the iceberg of the distinctive approach of Thermen Holiday. There is a cinema sauna, in which you can watch a comedy, wildlife movie or a live concert. One of the newest eye-catchers  of  the  resort  though,  is  the Hobbit sauna. It looks like a Hobbit house, but inside is an infra-red sauna. “It started out as a joke,” Narain says, “but thanks to our  creative  carpenter,  the  Hobbit  sauna

became  reality  only  three  months  later.” Both inside and outside the craftsmanship of the wood is natural and irregular, as if you really are in a forest. “It is the tiny details that make the difference.”

our  Swimsuit  Tuesdays,”  says  Narain, “and  for  Valentine’s  Day,  we  offer  the ‘Lovely  duo  arrangement’.  Couples  are welcome  to  relax  together  and  drink  a glass of Prosecco!”

This  personal  approach,  out-of-the-box thinking  and  eye  for  detail  also  finds  its way into the service. At standard wellness centres, you will not meet the owner, but Narain is a well-known face to the regular guests.  “I  know  all  of  them  by  name,” Narain explains, “I take the time to talk to them during their stay and take all of their feedback into consideration to be able to continually improve the spa.”

Thermen Holiday is located in Schiedam, in the shadow of Rotterdam, and is easy to reach by car and public transport.

Thermen Holiday is perfect to enjoy with friends, and for businesses and couples the spa is a great place to relax as well. “If you  are  uncomfortable  with  seeing  your colleagues in the sauna, join us at one of

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Delivering happiness If there is one thing that is sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face, it is a bouquet of flowers. Whether it’s to cheer someone up, to surprise, to show your love or to say sorry, there is always a good reason to send a little bit of happiness. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: EUROFLORIST

At Euroflorist they know this like nowhere else. The international flower delivery network,  connecting  customers  to  more than  9,000  florists  across  Europe,  specialises  in  top  quality  bouquets  with  a personal touch from expert florists.

the job. Every single bouquet of the freshest flowers is personally delivered, often by the florist himself,” she says.

Another romantic proposal came from a German  client  who  wanted  to  ask  his girlfriend – who lived in Luxembourg – to marry him. Euroflorist couldn’t find a local florist, so instead they asked a German florist to cross the border and deliver  the  flowers  and  the  message. Hoffmann adds: “The story ended happily,  our  customer  told  us  that  his  girlfriend said yes. He was thrilled!”

“Through  our  webshop,  customers  can order  from  hundreds  of  beautiful  bouquets,” says Anne Hoffmann, retail marketing manager at Euroflorist Central Europe. “We offer same day delivery in each of the 12 European countries we operate in. To make sure the delivered bouquets are  top  quality  and  made  with  love,  we screen our florists carefully.” Apart from flowers, bouquets and plants, an order can be personalised with greeting cards and gifts such as wine, chocolates, stuffed toys and vases. “When we get an order, we look for the best local florist for

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who could handle the order, but we managed. Then another client wanted his flowers  delivered  along  with  a  song.  So  our florist personally sang All You Need Is Love to the client’s loved one at the door!”

Currently  gearing  up  for  the  busy  Valentine’s period, Hoffmann recounts some of the interesting and romantic requests  Euro florist has received in the past. “One client wanted to send hundreds of red roses to his Valentine. It was tricky to find a florist

Founded  in  1982  in  Sweden,  the  ambitious  enterprise  has  already  achieved  its goal of becoming one of Europe’s biggest flower  delivery  organisations.  Euroflorist was actually the first company in the world

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Discover Benelux | Valentine | Euroflorist

to introduce online flower delivery in a consumer webshop. Hoffmann comments: “During all these years of delivering flowers we’ve helped a lot of people to make their

Working together with their global partner Teleflora International, Euroflorist can deliver flowers across the globe. Through the weblink below you can access their national webshops and get your personalised bouquet delivered today.

Using the latest technologies, Euroflorist developed an instant digital communication system connecting them to florists, and florists to each other. This helps them make the most out of their business and this way consumers get the most beautiful, fresh flowers.

beloved happy. We are doing our utmost to fulfil every wish, especially for Valentine’s when it’s about love.” Euroflorist now makes more than 1.8 million deliveries per year, bringing people together, creating and strengthening personal as well as professional relationships. “We also cater for corporate clients, for example when a company needs flowers for their office or marketing campaigns.”

Valentine’s Day trends Roses are still popular although colour is more important than flower type. Younger people love to go for more original flowers like tulips. The preference in colour differs per country.

Want to really impress your Valentine?

Have your flowers hand delivered With a network of over 9000 professional florists, Euroflorist can deliver to almost any address in over 140 countries throughout the world. Visit, and enter the exclusive voucher code DB2015 at our online checkout to receive a 10% discount on your order.

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Discover Benelux |  Attraction of the month |  Heineken Experience

AT T R A C T I O N   O F   T H E M O N T H ,   T H E   H E I N E K E N   E X P E R I E N C E

Home to one of the world’s most iconic beers The grand 18th century brewery in Amsterdam has seen Heineken grow from a radical idea to the world’s most international beer brand. Now turned into an interactive experience, there is no better place to learn about the dynamic world of Heineken. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: HEINEKEN EXPERIENCE

The brewery was built by Gerard Adriaan Heineken in 1867, just three years after he founded  the  company.  For  120  years, Heineken  beer  was  brewed  here,  but  to cope with demand it shut in 1988 and production  moved  elsewhere.  In  2001  it  reopened  as  the  Heineken  Experience,  a self-guided tour full of interaction and exciting elements. From  the  brewing  process  to  the Heineken  family,  Dutch  karaoke  and  a bottle timeline, the Heineken Experience covers all aspects of the brand, including, of course, a taste of the beer itself. “During the tour you first get a sample as we go through the colour, taste and smell of Heineken.  Then  at  the  end  you  can  get another two full-sized beers in our World Bar that you can draught yourself!” says Myriam Marouli enthusiastically, who is re-

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sponsible for Activation & Development of the Heineken Experience. Now  a  national  monument,  the  building was expanded in the 1950s, creating an interesting  contrast  of  architectural  styles particularly  in  the  brew  room.  “It’s  like  a cathedral in there, it is all still in its original state.  I  can  just  stand  there  for  hours,” Marouli continues. The brewery is not operational  anymore,  apart  from  the  first process of the beer making – when water is mixed with barley – which visitors can try themselves. Last  year  in  February,  HEINEKEN  celebrated its 150th anniversary. On 15 February this year, these celebrations come to a close. Also during the rest of the year there will be something special in store. “Every last weekend of the month we will organ-

ise something extra for visitors, in February this will be an exclusive concert,” Marouli says. The tour is available in English and Dutch, and by downloading the free Heineken Experience app, you can undertake the first part in another nine languages. At the end of your visit, there is one last element that is not to be missed: a free 30 minute boat ride through the beautiful and historic Amsterdam canals to the Rembrandtplein.  Having doubled their visitor numbers in the last  five  years,  it  is  no  wonder  that  the Heineken  Experience  is  one  of  Amsterdam’s fastest growing attractions.

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Discover Benelux |  Feature |  Au Pair Amsterdam

With their personal approach, Au Pair Amsterdam is the perfect agency to help you get the greatest cultural experience.

Connecting cultures Living among locals is one of the best ways to experience a foreign country – for example as an au pair. Embarking on this type of cultural exchange can seem daunting, but Au Pair Amsterdam is keen to assist host families and au pairs to get the most out of their journey, in a personal and approachable way. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: AU PAIR AMSTERDAM

Au Pair Amsterdam offers two services: matching  host  families  across  the Netherlands  to  a  suitable  au  pair  from abroad  and  helping  au  pairs  find  the perfect  destination  in  China  and  soon other  countries  such  as  Thailand. Founder and director Li-iy Lu says: “We pride  ourselves  on  our  personal  approach  and  we  go  much  further  than many  others  in  this  industry.  We  guide and  support  families  and  au  pairs throughout  the  process,  from  the  first moment of contact through to the end of the programme.” Four years ago Li-iy started the company to give families and au pairs a much more rewarding  experience.  “I  love  having  au pairs stay with us, we’ve had people from China,  Thailand,  Russia,  America...  but  I noticed  there  wasn’t  always  proper  support for them,” Li-iy says. “I thought that was so strange. That’s why I founded Au Pair Amsterdam.”

Working  together  with  agencies  around the world, support is never far away: Liiy will try to appoint a local contact or stay in  touch  with  au  pairs  herself  through Skype,  Facetime,  WhatsApp  and  other means  of  instant  communication.  She says: “I get so many messages from people  who  had  a  fantastic  experience. That’s  why  I  do  it.  Many  families,  after their first au pair, will sign up with us again and continue their au pair experience year after year!” Li-iy also runs a separate venture helping people from the Netherlands to have a cultural  experience  in  China  as  a  teacher, trainee or au pair for a minimum of three months.  Li-iy:  “I  grew  up  in  the  Netherlands  with  Chinese  parents.  After  I  did  a six-week  cultural  trip  to  China  I  wanted other  people  to  experience  this  amazing country  too.”  Anyone  with  a  fair  level  of English  and  an  interest  in  China  can  do this. Also here, Ly-iy guarantees the same

optimum  level  of  support  and  has  many trusted  contacts  throughout  the  country via  an  officially  licensed  Chinese  agency.

Multi-cultural immersion To become a live-in au pair you need some experience working with children and must be between 18 and 31.  Host families with (young) children can let Au Pair Amsterdam make a match or suggest someone themselves. Au Pair Amsterdam can help with visa applications and administration,  orga nise information days and offer local support. It is affiliated with the national industry agency BONAPA and is an officially recognised sponsor by the  Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (IND).

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Discover Benelux |  Cover Feature |  Gabriel Rios

14 |  Issue 14 |  February 2015

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Discover Benelux |  Cover Feature |  Gabriel Rios

Gabriel Rios Stripped to the essence

Belgium’s favourite Latin singer from Ghent decided to leave it all behind, his warm Spanish-American sounds, his electro-pop, his big band set up, in fact, his entire country. After three years of soul searching and songwriting in New York, Gabriel Rios is back with a new album, and a complete new, strippedback sound. Born in Puerto Rico, Rios moved to Belgium  when  he  was  17  years  old.  Eight years later he released his first solo album Ghostboy with  hit  single  Broad Daylight, followed  by  two  more  studio  albums  including  Angelhead in  2007.  Combining Latin, funk, electronic sounds and pop, his songs stormed the Flemish hit lists and he played  all  the  big  festivals.  Now,  on  the brink  of  releasing  his  fourth  album,  This Marauder’s Midnight, Rios has reinvented his music, using just cello, bass, guitar and his voice. “After my second record I had a mini crisis where I felt like I didn’t want to be doing this, being  on  a  stage  with  a  big  band,”  Rios confesses.  “The  entertainment  factor  of what I was doing was tiring me.” Although he brought out a third album in the meantime,  The Dangerous Return in  2010,  the feeling that he wanted to do something else didn’t go away. “I was starting to get really attracted by playing solo concerts and I realised  I  didn’t  have  the  kind  of  material where you can just play in front of people on your own,” Rios continues: “I realised this was the music that really moved me.”

A new city, a new sound To  follow  his  new-found  passion,  he  decided to leave his hometown of Ghent be-

hind and moved to New York. “It really is a live music city; people are catching bands all the time and going to find music all the time, which  is  really  different  from  Belgium,”  he says. “It was a place where you needed no reservation and you can just start playing.” Rios ended up in a local café bar called the Rockwood Music Hall. Writing during the day  and  trying  out  his  songs  live  in  the evening, this tiny venue became the catalyst for his new music direction. “I wrote the songs completely by myself. That was kind of the point I had to prove: that I can do it on my own first.”

Stripped down music While  in  New  York,  he  met  musical  duo Ruben  Samama  and  Amber  Docters  van Leeuwen,  both,  as  it  happened,  originally from  the  Netherlands.  “Ruben  is  really  a multi-talented dude, he is a young guy who writes songs himself, is also a virtuoso jazz bass player with a classical background and he  produces,”  Rios  recounts.  “I  knew  immediately that I wanted this guy to take over as a producer because he can make decisions very quickly and get things done very quickly, and also we were on the same page creatively. I didn’t have to explain anything.” With  Samama  on  bass,  his  wife  Docters van Leeuwen on cello and Rios on guitar, the trio rehearsed the songs in New York as he  was  writing  them.  Soon  Rios  realised this combination was the perfect ingredient for  his  new  album.  “They  both  have  this aesthetic  of  not  putting  things  in  there  if they don’t mean something,” Rios explains. “The album is very sparse and very minimal. In the beginning we tried out piano, drums, guitar and we got rid of everything. One day

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Discover Benelux |  Cover Feature |  Gabriel Rios

Over the course of 2014, Rios published a new single each month online, ahead of his full album release this year. He said this was much less stressful than doing it the conventional way and would like to repeat this in the future.

when we were just playing in the house, the three of us, we realised we could make a whole record with that palette of sounds, with the three instruments.”

An unconventional release After three years Rios returned to Belgium with his new repertoire. Instead of putting them together in an album, he decided to release the songs one by one over a whole year. “I’ve always wanted to do it, release a song each month. I just didn’t have the occasion yet to do this,” he says, talking about this peculiar way of putting out his music. “It was much more fun to do it this way, less stress.” Over the course of 2014, a new song of Rios appeared online every month, ahead of his upcoming album release this spring. Although  all  the  songs  were  finished,  he found it very comforting to be able to break in the final ones a little more, just as he did

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with the earlier material he had rehearsed while  in  New  York.  “There  is  something about playing songs to people, that really shapes the song. Even if the structure is there, the lyrics are there, playing them a lot before you record them makes you more comfortable with them,” he says. At  first,  Rios  was  apprehensive  that  his new sound would not go down as well as his  more  commercial  pop  songs,  but  it turned out this wasn’t the case at all. “We had  a  lot  of  connection  with  audiences who apparently were not aware that this is what  they  wanted,  it  is  almost  as  if  we found  it  out  together.  We  realised  we wanted to do this, in a very simple, minimalist way and people responded to that very well.”

Winning over the audience To keep the pure feeling of his music alive in the album, all songs were recorded as

live, instead of each instrument separately. This  fleshed  out  set-up  is  also  now  his standard arrangement for concerts, steering him away from his earlier work when he played with a full band. “When you start off at  the  beginning,  your  first  two  records, you  are  doing  everything  you  can  to squeeze  everything  into  a  record,”  Rios explains. “Maybe because I am older, I am trying to leave everything out that doesn’t really have to do with the song.” Recently,  Rios  played  as  the  opener  for Stromae, a Belgian singer-songwriter with songs that mix hip-hop with electronic music. “He just wanted us to play in front of him. He is very courageous, he doesn’t care if it is a whole different vibe or style,” Rios says. “The fact that we are so different, it made us stand out. People actually listened, we were so happy with his audience. I was really surprised, I thought it would be very hard, but there was a lot of silence.”

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Discover Benelux |  Cover Feature |  Gabriel Rios Rios, 36, moved to New York for three years to write new material. Last year he returned to Belgium to complete his forth album, This Marauder's Midnight, which will be released this spring.

A song gone viral One song that really stands out on the upcoming record is Gold. After the online release last year, the song was picked up by a Norwegian radio station where it went viral  and  became  a  hit.  Rios  explains  how the song really captures the album: “It is a song about song writing, about finding a song that is going to connect with people, and the only way to do that is to admit you also want to hear it yourself.” He continues. “Gold did better than any of my other singles, ever. I am excited that it is happening with this kind of music because it seems more original to me than whatever I have done before.”

Something borrowed The title of the album sounds strangely familiar compared to that of hip-hop group A Tribe  Called  Quest  from  1993,  Midnight Marauders. Although Rios explains there is no  real  relation  between  the  records,  he loves their music and was inspired by the title. He used a version of it for a fictional short story which ended up as a little booklet in the special edition of Rios’s album. “I  don’t  really  remember  if  the  title  came first or the story, but I had this story, an old gothic story that takes place in Paris,” he begins. “It is about a thief and it is midnight, it alludes to the fact that he is going to get caught. It is 12 o’clock in his life, and the one  who  thought  he  would  never  get caught, gets caught. It had something really lonely and that is why I think it suits the record. It is a solitary record.” As for the release of This Marauder’s Midnight, Rios has a European tour lined up, starting  in  Germany  at  the  end  of  this month. “We are planning to go everywhere and start from the beginning, which is just really playing for people and seeing if we can  gather  enough  of  an  audience,”  he concludes: “I think that is my favourite part, to tell you the truth.”

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A culinary hotchpotch force In conversation with a Dutchman and in need of a topic? Ask for their favourite ‘stamppot’ (hotchpotch) and a stream of answers will follow. If there is one dish the Dutch absolutely love, it is the traditional hotchpotch. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK  |  PHOTOS: SANDRAYSBRANDY.NL / WERNERDRENT.NL

It  is  a  typical  Dutch  peculiarity:  mashing their  food  into  one  big  mush.  But,  with good reason: it is delicious, healthy, and no matter how catastrophic the chef is, anyone can make it. Hotchpotch or stew has many variations, but the base ingredients are  always  the  same:  mashed  potatoes and  vegetables.  It  is  a  rich,  winter  dish, and used to be eaten at lunch. After all, it gave enough energy to be able to work in the fields for the rest of the day. Nowadays it’s a meal for supper, and is more popular than ever. Hotchpotch history It is not entirely clear how the basic recipe arose, but we do know some things about the formation of the Dutch hotchpotch. In the  Middle  Ages  many  dishes  were  pre-

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pared  in  a  large  cauldron  or  pot.  At  the time, the potato wasn’t a common ingredient yet (see potato fact box). A staple at the time was a pulpy soup-like stew, filled with grains, vegetables and meat. There is another ancestor even more akin to the modern Dutch Hotchpotch. In the night of 3 October 1574, in the middle of the Eighty Years’ War, the Prince of Orange ordered the bursting of the dykes around the city of Leiden to expel the Spanish occupiers. As the troops left their camps in a hurry, the people of Leiden found recently cooked  dishes:  mashed  carrots,  onions and parsnips. After a very tough time of occupation, with hunger and disease, they instantly  loved  the  food  and  called  it ‘hutspot’, a name which is still used today.

Eventually the parsnip was replaced by the potato,  but  that  would  take  several  centuries.  Hotchpotch madness The Dutch love their hotchpotch, and with good  reason.  Sandra  Ysbrandy,  famous Dutch  TV  chef  and  author  agrees:  “It  is simple to cook, children love it, the basics are very healthy, and there is a lot to experiment with; you can unleash your imagination.” Ysbrandy  is  also  the  face  of  the  hugely popular hotchpotch contest, organised by the  Dutch  TV-show  Life4You.  The  best hotchpotch of 2015 will be announced in late February. “People make hotchpotch in every  style:  Mexican,  Greek,  anything.  I

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Discover Benelux |  Food Feature |  Hotchpotch

think  the  best  hotchpotch  consists  of  a few good, basic ingredients. Less is more in this case. Too many ingredients make it confusing.” Ysbrandy also has a fair warning about mashing the potatoes: “Do not use a mixer! It makes the potatoes gluey.” There is a great sense of nostalgia involved: everyone  has  a  grandmother  (or  father) who  could  make  the  best  hotchpotch  in the world. Ysbrandy: “In my family it is the kale hotchpotch my granny Landje made. After a long day of skating on natural ice, the whole family would come together to eat her kale hotchpotch. I always want to emulate  her  recipe,  but  I  have  not  succeeded yet. Of course, there is also a lot of atmosphere  and  feeling  involved,  the Dutch  ‘gezelligheid’  (fun,  cozy,  pleasant), which certainly affects the taste.” Hotchpotch aficionado Werner Drent must be the world’s biggest fan of the Dutch hotchpotch. He won the World  Hotchpotch  Championships  four times in a row, and recently wrote the children’s cookbook Het grote stamppot boek (the  big  hotchpotch  book).  “It  is  a  great dish to teach children to eat their vegetables; mashing and mixing the food so that the vegetables no longer look like vegetables. And anything is possible with hotchpotch.” Drent loves the dish so much, he does  rather  special  things  with  the  leftovers. “I’m not much for wasting food, so out  of  the  leftovers  I  create  all  kinds  of other dishes. Bitterballen (a small, round, typical Dutch type of croquette) made out of hotchpotch or hollow a large carrot and fill  it  with  hotchpotch.”  Drent  goes  even further  and  creates  millefeuilles  out  of  it. This  may  all  sound  a  bit  strange  to  the non-Dutch  among  us,  but  once  familiar with the hotchpotch, it will all make perfect sense.

The potato comes to the Netherlands The potato arrived in Europe from South America via Spanish explorers (probably in 1536 by Diego de Malya). By that time the Incas had already cultivated the plant for hundreds of years. Monks were responsible for the spread of the potato from Spain to other  European countries. They planted the potatoes in their monastery gardens. At first, farmers wanted nothing to do with the foreign plant. The stems and berries are poisonous, and they thought the tubers would be unhealthy. Gradually, the potato became more popular, and by the 17th century, it was grown in all European countries. In the Netherlands it would take until 1727 before the potato was officially  recognised as food (Friesland was first). Ever since, it’s become one of the main Dutch staples, found on most kitchen tables boiled, baked or, of course, mashed.

‘Oma Landje’s Boerenkool’ (Granny Landje’s kale hotchpotch) Recipe by Sandra Ysbrandy for  4 persons 500 g curly kale, washed 1 kg crumbly potatoes, peeled knob of butter 1.5 dl milk 0.5 dl vinegar salt and pepper Pan fried lardons Cut the kale in very small pieces using a kitchen appliance and cook it in an inch of salted water for 30 minutes.  In the meantime, boil the potatoes in salted water until they are tender.  When ready, drain both and let them steam off. Add a knob of butter to the potatoes and mash. Add hot milk to create a creamy mixture and then add the drained kale. Season with the  vinegar, salt and pepper and mix in  the fried lardons. Serve kale hotchpotch with gravy, smoked sausage, Amsterdam (pickled) onions, pickles and mustard.

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Discover Benelux |  Travel Feature |  Groningen




Groningen: Metropolis of the North Despite its size, Groningen is one of the most vibrant cities in the Netherlands, from cosy restaurants to a shopping hub, a lively cultural scene and a long, and impressive history. Close to my heart – as a long time inhabitant of this great place, just a couple of hours from Amsterdam – I set out to show you some of the best this Metropolis of the North has to offer. BY MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: NBTC

Thanks to its large and distinguished university, Groningen is actually the youngest city  in  the  Netherlands,  with  an  average age of just under 35 years. This is no surprise, as one in five inhabitants is actually a  student.  This  young  population  gives Groningen a very active nightlife – famous for having no closing times – and a vibrant and diverse cultural and music scene. To start off my two-day journey, I take the train  into  Groningen.  Welcomed  by  the magnificent station building built in 1895, I marvel at the intricate details on the ceiling of the main hall. Although it looks like marble, many are actually crafted out of paper mache.  With  the  combination  of  renais-

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sance and gothic architecture, the station is one of the most beautiful in the country.

with world famous artists, from paintings to installations, interactive art and sculptures.

The Groninger Museum

Inside  I  walk  down  the  colourful  mosaic, winding staircase to visit The Secret of Dresden – from Rembrandt to Canaletto.  On display until the end of May, it is a beautiful collection of renaissance paintings amassed by the Prince-Electors of Saxony in the 18th century, at the time some of the wealthiest rulers  in  Europe.  The  exhibition  includes lush  landscapes  by  Philips  Wouwerman, animated views of Venice by Canaletto and some refined portraits by Rembrandt.

I move on to the Groninger Museum, just across the road. Completed in 1994 in a striking postmodernist style, the building itself is a work of art. The asymmetrical museum by architect Alessandro Mendini sits like  an  island  in  the  middle  of  the  canal, connected  by  a  through  bridge.  When  it opened  it  got  mixed  reactions  (many thought  it  was  god-awful),  but  everyone agreed the bridge, joining the city centre to the station, was rather useful. A very ambitious museum since its opening, it often displays prominent international exhibitions

I continue on to the museum’s permanent collection  that  includes  a  brief  history  of

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Discover Benelux |  Travel Feature |  Groningen

Groningen through artefacts and a collection of modernist artworks by local painting collective De Ploeg. Walking through a corridor, with the canal outside at eye-height, I end up in a round hall. Here a collection of porcelain, paintings, silverware and furniture  of  Jan  Albert  Sichterman  is  displayed, who lived 300 years ago. Dubbed the ‘King of Groningen’, he used his wealth not just to collect stunning pieces of Asian art, but also to buy a rhino, Clara, as a pet, of  which  beautiful,  detailed  paintings  remain. For lunch I walk further into the centre or ‘binnenstad’, the inner city. At ‘t Opstapje, one of the many lunch places where you can  have  fresh  baguettes  with  a  filling  of choice, I order a crab salad roll and fresh orange juice. Refuelled, I walk to the Martinitoren,  the  highest  tower  in  Groningen nicknamed the Olle Grieze, or old grey one.

The old grey Martini Tower The church, named after Groningen’s patron,  Saint  Martin,  has  a  stirring  history. The oldest structure that stood here was a wooden  church  dating  back  to  the  9th century. By 1040 Groningen became the

northernmost  outpost  of  the  diocese  of Utrecht, and thereby an important religious hub for the region. The first tower, built in the  13th  century,  was  only  a  modest  30 metres high. When, two centuries later, a lightning  strike  had  caused  it  to  collapse and the second, partly wooden, tower had burned  down,  it  was  decided  to  build  a new, grand tower to represent the growing wealth of the north.

the  Schuitendiep,  the  canal  on  the  east side  of  the  centre.  Here  lies  the  Panne koekschip or pancake ship. The 100-yearold clipper, one of the largest ever built in the  Netherlands,  has  been  turned  into  a cosy restaurant that serves large, wonderful  pancakes  with  all  the  choice  of  toppings you can dream of – from sweet to savoury. The family-friendly ship is the perfect place for a hearty Dutch dinner.

To  emphasise  the  diocese’s  power,  the Dom  Tower  of  Utrecht  was  used  as  an  example – at the time one of the highest churches  in  Europe.  According  to  tales from around the time of completion of the newly erected Martini Tower (no one knows for sure when this was) it was said to be even higher than the Dom at an incredible 127 metres. Then in 1577, fate hit again. Bonfires were lit on the top of the tower to celebrate  the  withdrawal  of  the  Spanish forces.  The  tower  caught  fire  and  was largely destroyed. In 1627 it was eventually rebuilt to a height of 97 metres, the structure which currently still stands.

Groningen, university town

Marvelling at the history of the Olle Grieze, I feel it’s time for dinner. I make my way to

The  next  day  I  visit  the   Universiteits museum. Tucked away, round the corner from  the  main  campus  building,  the  free museum goes through the 400-year history of the university in Groningen. On the top  floor,  it  has  a  collection  of  scientific items that were used throughout the centuries, ranging from minerals to fossils and intriguing Victorian contraptions, but also examples  of  the  phase  contrast  microscope that won professor Frits Zernike the Nobel Prize. Next is a room that gives an ode to Aletta Jacobs, the Netherland’s first female  graduate,  physician  and  devout suffragette. Lastly I enter a former operating  theatre,  now  full  of  conserved  body parts  and  some  disturbing  examples  of

LEFT: Nicknamed the Olle Grieze, the Martini Tower is one of Groningen’s main attractions. TOP MIDDLE: The Groninger Museum sits on an island in the middle of a canal. Photos: NBTC. BOTTOM MIDDLE AND RIGHT: The small but fascinating Universiteitsmuseum goes through 400 years of history of the city’s university. Photos: Universiteitsmuseum

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Discover Benelux |  Travel Feature |  Groningen

miscarriages, certainly not for the squeamish and I quickly move on. In terms of shopping, Groningen also has plenty to offer. All the major brands have outlets in the busy Herestraat but I head for the  characteristic  Folkingestraat,  where  I am rewarded with many quirky, independent shops. I walk into De Bourgondier, a delicacy  shop  selling  dozens  of  types  of cheeses, gifts and Groninger specialities. Drawn  to  the  golden  goodness  of  the Dutch  cheese,  many  readily  available  to taste,  I  follow  the  shopkeeper’s  recommendation  to  try  their  new  Groninger spiced cheese with cloves and mustard. It has the salty creamy texture of Gouda yet with a punchy flavour. I  continue  on  to  the  Vismarkt,  after  the Grote  Markt,  the  second  biggest  market square with regular food and textile markets throughout the week. At the top of the square sits the imposing Korenbeurs, built in  the  1860s.  Once  a  wheat  exchange, now a supermarket, the neoclassical building has a beautiful and bright interior. The cast  iron  structure  with  large  ceiling  windows, helped traders to check the quality of the grains through their colour.

Hanseatic trade Silently towering over it, is the late-medieval church the Der Aa-Kerk. Painted in historic ochre yellow, the church was named after a former nearby stream, the Drentsche A. It is no longer in active use; the Der Aa-Kerk can be hired as a venue for events, conferences and even club nights. Alongside it, in the shadows of the church I find a tiny shop

In the shadow of the Der Aa-Kerk is the cosy shop Het Hanze Huis, inspired by the Hanseatic league or Hansa. Groningen became part of this association of merchants in 1282.

called Het Hanze Huis, after the Hanseatic trade league that helped Groningen to become a centre of trade. Inside I am instantly handed a glass of hot kwast, a sour, wintery lemonade. The shop is almost too small for the wealth of colours and  products  inside.  “All  our  products come  from  independent  European  companies that are at least 100 years in their trade,” the shopkeeper tells me. “We select only quality products from their place of origin, that don’t have a supermarket feel to them.” Certainly none of the brands I see look  familiar,  which  is  both  disorientating and  intriguing:  marzipan  from  Lübeck  in Germany,  syrups  from  Lille  in  France, sweets from Turin in Italy… Before long it is time for dinner again and I make my way to the Poelestraat. With bars and  dance  cafes  lining  the  street  –  albeit currently  shut  –  this  is  the  centre  for Groninger nightlife. For my meal I settle on

One of the latest additions to Groningen is the Infoversum, a dome-shaped cinema that was thought up by professor Edwin Valentijn to make science more accessible to the general public.

grand  café  Time  Out  serving  regional dishes with a twist that all have a title in the local  dialect.  In  my  best  Gronings  I  order ‘Neem  joen  gemak’  (take  your  pick),  the schnitzel, a dish of the day. Unfortunately the waiter is from the neighbouring province of  Friesland  so  my  attempt  falls  on  deaf ears. After a fulfilling meal and an intensely sweet  dessert  of  white  chocolate  brulee ‘Zo wit as snij’ (white as snow), I make my way back to the station to end the trip.

Groningen in short - With just over 200,000 inhabitants and still growing, it is the seventh largest city in the Netherlands. - An inhabitant in Groningen is called ‘stadjer’ and in the local dialect the city is called ‘Grunnen’. - Once crowned best cycling city of the Netherlands, locals take the bike on average 1.3 times a day, much more often than the national average of 0.8. - Stadjers are very proud of their city, competing with 74 other cities around Europe, Groningers proved to be the happiest inhabitants in their home town. - The city is built on the end of a low sand hill and the oldest remnants date to 300 BC. The current centre is still roughly the same as the original 11th century layout. - Celebrating its 400th anniversary last year, the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (known as the RUG) is the second oldest still existing university in the country.

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Discover Benelux |  Column |  Liz Wenger

Cross burning in Luxembourg TEXT: LIZ WENGER |  PHOTOS: PHILIP WENGER

You  might  witness  something  strange  in Luxembourg on the weekend of 22 February,  in  the  form  of  a  tall  burning  cross standing in the middle of a field lighting up the night sky. If you’re familiar with US history, you might think that something nefarious is going on but let me assure you, this is a very old and harmless tradition in Luxembourg  and  its  surrounding  areas  to scare  off  the  winter  spirits  and  welcome spring back. During the pagan days of the Celts in the 9th  century  BC,  lighting  big  fires  was  a way to implore the sun to make the coming harvest bountiful. They were particularly common at the end of a season or beginning of a new one. The Romans, too, had a long tradition of fire rituals coupled with the symbolism of cleansing, renewal and fertility,  and  as  one  theory  goes,  ‘Buerg-

brennen’ is a relic of the old Gallo-Roman New Year’s celebration on 1 March. Even though we call this particular fire in February Buergbrennen (castle burning), it has nothing to do with a castle. It is not exactly  clear  where  the  name  comes  from, maybe from the latin ‘burere’ (to burn) or maybe from the old germanic word ‘bûr’, a house or straw hut that was burned to sacrifice  people,  as  Julius  Caesar  concluded. However, there is still considerable ambiguity  surrounding  the  validity  of  his account,  as  the  huts  could  have  been burned after the people had already died, in an effort to purge the bad spirits. How we went from burning a straw hut to burning a cross is not entirely certain, either. It  could  have  something  to  do  with  the Catholic Church, who tried to ban the fires

in  the  7th  century  as  they  were  often  accompanied by uncontrollable celebrations. Failing to do so, the Church eventually tried to  reinterpret  the  fires  in  accordance  with their faith by blessing the fire, praying around it and conceivably adding a cross to it. In any case, if you are in the area during this  particular  February  weekend,  don’t miss Buergbrennen. It is held in most villages throughout Luxembourg; follow the light, or the strong smell of smoke to find out where exactly.

Liz Wenger is currently publishing a book for English speakers to learn Luxembourgish. Sign up to be notified of the book’s release on

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The ultimate holiday destination With its beautiful landscape, history, beaches and sun, the South of France is a wonderful vacation destination, particularly popular with holidaymakers from the Benelux. This month we highlight the best of Languedoc-Roussillon in a six-page special. TEXT: MéLANIE BOISSET  |  PHOTOS:  BERNARD LIéGEOIS / PAUL PALAU

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Languedoc-Roussillon

A region of torment in the past due to its position on the borders of the Kingdom of France,  Languedoc-Roussillon  has  become a region of links, between north and south,  between  land  and  sea,  between France  and  neighbouring  countries,  between  heritage  and  modernity.  Here  in Languedoc-Roussillon, from Pyrénées-Orientales  to  Lozère,  from  Hérault  to  Aude and  Gard,  the  close  links  between  landscape and architecture, villages and people, are obvious. Nature,  preserved  and  accessible  to  all, provides the bond between pleasure and relaxation. The unique is everywhere at hand: with six sites  –  the  Causses  and  the  Cévennes, the fortified city of Carcassonne, the Canal du Midi, Pont du Gard, St James’ Trail to Santiago de Compostela and the Vauban fortresses  –  Languedoc-Roussillon  is  the best endowed region in France for monuments and UNESCO World Heritage sites, and one of the least urbanised in France. Languedoc-Roussillon  is  a  vast  land  of contrasts, where, from the Mediterranean to  the  Pyrenees,  from  Margeride  to  Aspres, from Petite Camargue to Corbières, the wild beauty of its sites is only equalled by the soothing charm of the 220 kilometres of coastal beaches.

But the wealth of the region, with all its diversity,  goes  far  beyond.  Between  cities on  the  move  and  villages  that  have  kept their soul, between starred chefs, fine ambassadors  of  regional  gastronomy,  and vineyards that promote wine tourism, it is a kaleidoscope  of  colours,  scents  and flavours. An ocean of sensations just waiting to be discovered.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Languedoc-Roussillon

A haven of tranquillity TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON  |  PHOTOS: RêVE DES îLES

Just a couple of kilometres from buzzing Mediterranean beaches, and three from the vibrant resort village of Argelès-sur-Mer, Camping Rêve des îles has created an oasis of calm. “Since it was founded in 1968 it has always been a family site,” says its manager, JeanMarie  Inchelin:  “And  some  time  ago  we took the decision to remove all the services like shops and restaurants from within the site to make it a quieter and more relaxed place.”  With shops just 100 metres away and all the  amenities  and  attractions  of  Argelès handy too, the families staying on the site are  not  inconvenienced,  but  as  Inchelin says:  “Even  mid-morning  you  can  walk through  the  site  and  it’s  peaceful.”  Accommodation on the site these days is ex-

clusively mobile homes, so guests can relax in comfort from the moment they arrive.

Entertainment on the site is family-oriented too, with a weekly boules tournament followed  by  a  meal,  and  barbecue  parties, plus an excellent pool to amuse (and tire) the kids in the daytime. Even the beaches and  the  village  can  be  accessed  by dawdling mini road-trains to save the fuss of driving.  Argelès’s  seven  kilometres  of  beach  and promenade draw visitors towards the sea, with the Albères mountains just behind the coastline offering an alternative escape into nature with some great hiking country. “Or you can just enjoy the greenery, trees and flowers here,” says Inchelin: “It’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries, relax, and feel at one with the world again.”


Southern  France,  its  villages  and  rivers, the scents of the country side and time that seems  to  run  as  slowly  as  the  wine  decants... this is the decor of camping Isis en Cévennes.  It  is  ideally  located  less  than one hour from the Mediterranean Sea and the cities of Montpellier, Nîmes and Millau, in the heart of Languedoc-Roussillon – a region often praised for the quality of life it offers. Ten hectares of bliss are waiting for you at Isis en Cévennes. "We are a family owned camping," explains owner Florence Faidherbe, "and I am the second generation maintaining the legacy." Their  traditional  approach  allows  you  to enjoy the best of France without compromising  on  comfort  and  fun  as  Isis  en Cévennes boasts a three star mark for the quality of its services and facilities. It offers

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cottages, mobile home rentals and places for your recreational vehicle or tent.

will welcome you, singing the nicest harmonies with the best sound quality.

Among the many activities offered by Faidherbe's team is the visit to their gardens and orchards where you will be able to get your hands dirty and perhaps taste some homemade  jams  and  juices  made  in  the old machine that the family has kept running on the property. In the Roman chapel, classical music is played and often a choir

Between April and October Faidherbe offers hotel services and home grown food in the restaurant. A slice of nature sparkling with sunshine to the rhythm of cicadas is what the camping Isis en Cévennes is: the road map to the brighter side of life.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Languedoc-Roussillon

Calm and serenity in a luxurious campsite TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER  |  PHOTOS: CLOS DE CAPITELLES

A gorgeous 4-star camping ideally located in southern France in the renowned region of the Gard, the Clos des Capitelles has everything on offer for an unforgettable holiday under the sun. With  its  88  pitches  spread  over  four hectares and equipped with all the facilities of a luxury camping, the Clos des Capitelles is located only five minutes away from the village  of  Barjac,  right  next  to  beautiful lavender fields for a real summer feel.  On site you will be offered the option to rent fully  equipped  mobile  homes  or  chalets, each having 2-3 rooms, designed with the intention to create a cosy and relaxing atmosphere. All rentals have a terrace, garden  furniture  and  an  electric  barbecue. Some mobile homes are available for sale for people wishing to have them as their secondary residence (since the camping is open all year round). If you decide to bring your own campingcar, tent or caravan, you will be allocated a

spacious  spot  and  have  free  access  to modern sanitary blocks with warm showers, washing machines, dryers and baby room. Access to the swimming pool is included,  with  the  possibility  of  using  the sauna,  massage  services,  spa  and  wellness. For the sporty type, you can enjoy access to a fitness centre, volleyball, pingpong, tennis, as well as 300 kilometres of hikes and bike rides to enjoy with friends or family in the gorgeous Cèze Valley. The region is also famous for its canyoning, climbing and speleology tours, with plenty of  museums  and  interest  points  spread within easy reach from the camping. These include the Gorge de l’Ardèche, Pont du Gard,  Grottes  Chauvet,  Nîmes,  Avignon and many more.

the  bar  and  restaurant  are  opened  daily, there is WiFi, tourist information, a library, baby  cots,  high  chairs,  a  TV  room,  table tennis bats, and the possibility of ordering fresh bread for the next morning at the reception desk.  All  in  all,  the  Clos  des  Capitelles  awaits you year round for an unforgettable stay – for more information and bookings please visit the website (in French and English).

If you come with children, they are guaranteed to want to take part in many creative workshops six days a week, as well as trying out cooking lessons or different sports. Everything you could possibly need has  been  thought  of:  in  July  and  August

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Luxury, charm and historical heritage The story of the Domaine de Verchant starts in early 1582, when the Bishop of Montpellier granted the estate to Pierre de Verchant, who gave it his name and kept it in the family for over two centuries. Over time it has managed to keep its historical heritage while also embracing modern times. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER  |  PHOTOS: DOMAINE DE VERCHANT

Nowadays,  the  Domaine  de  Verchant  is owned by Mr and Mrs Mestre, who have undertaken  renovation  works  over  the years to transform the estate into a luxurious 5-star hotel and spa. Members of the affiliation of Relais Châteaux, the domaine spreads  over  17  hectares,  including  11 hectares  of  vineyards  and  old  stones, some of which are found to date back to Roman times, creating an atmosphere of nostalgia for more romantic times. While  the  exterior  takes  you  centuries back, the interior is extremely modern, furnished  with  famous  names  in  Italian  design.  The  twenty-six  different  rooms  are unique in decoration and layout, some with balcony, others with private terrace – here comfort goes hand in hand with luxury, for an astonishing result. As for the spa, it is spread over 750 square metres and offers massages, access to a

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Jacuzzi, a Hammam, as well as an indoor and  outdoor  swimming  pool.  By  April 2015, the domaine will have built a brand new  25  metres-long  outdoor  swimming pool with its own restaurant and lounge bar to delight you with refreshments and local specialties.  Apart  from  these,  the  sandy beaches  are  only  15  minutes  away  for those looking for refreshing sea breeze.  With  the  estate  producing  its  own  wine, customers are invited to take part in regular  wine-tasting  sessions  to  delight  the senses: with one type of white, two rosés and  three  reds,  there  is  something  for everyone. Accommodating over 250 events per year, including  company  meetings,  seminars and weddings, the Domaine du Verchant provides the ideal setting to host any type of  event.  With  its  three  conference  and meeting rooms, everything is possible: the

first  fits  a  committee  of  20  people  for  a small meeting, the second up to 40 people for  a  bigger  event  and  the  last  one  accommodates  around  250  people  for  a grand dinner, with the possibility of fitting between 300 and 400 in case of networking events or cocktail parties.  The  beauty  of  the  estate  combined  with the  on-site  delicious  cuisine,  makes  the Domaine  de  Verchant  an  authentic  and idyllic  holiday  getaway  all  year  round  so wait no more and find out about reservations online.

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Refuel in the heart of a French haven TEXT: HARUN OSMANOVIC  |  PHOTOS: LE CAPELAN

Some holidays are just more memorable than others. The combination between rest, serenity and fun, the good balance between comfort and escapism all allow your mind to wander, your soul to replenish and your new self to grow. Camping  le  Capelan,  calm  and  family owned, provides just that mix – one of the few  four  star  campsites  in  the  region  to have kept a very authentic French atmosphere. On the border between the national park of the Cévennes, which belongs to the UNESCO list of world heritage sites since 2011,  and  the  natural  park  of  Grands Causses, and some forty-five minutes away from the famous Millau Bridge, camping le Capelan will welcome you amid the vertiginous  canyons  and  breathtaking  plateaux that appear to extend to the horizon.  Part  of  the  Kawan  Villages  group,  le Capelan  places  a  high  service  standard with friendliness and hospitality at the very heart of the camping experience. On  site,  you  will  find  French  bread  and croissants for a delicious breakfast, while

some  eight  hundred  metres  from  the camping, in the Meyrueis village, you will have the chance to explore the local cuisine – from top gastronomic restaurants to traditional  breweries  serving  authentic aligot and other delicacies… everyone will find the right taste for their palate.  The  cottages  are  amongst  the  best equipped  and  most  comfortable:  a  fully furnished  kitchen  with  microwave,  fridge and  freezer,  TV  with  European  channels and all the amenities necessary to have an enjoyable stay. The showers are spacious, the restrooms separate and the bedding of the best quality so you can rest fully. There is nothing quite like a quiet evening on the terrace, with the river nearby, while a barbecue is going on the grill-tables.

the  couples  who  want  to  canoe  on  the Tarn or visit the caves around. Volleyball,  football,  ping-pong  or  sunbathing in the midst of overwhelming nature…  Camping  le  Capelan  is  a  holiday destination that is sure to keep you warm for months after you have come back.

No matter how long you stay, the activities available will keep you busy. The most adventurous  can  enjoy  the  climbing  routes with  an  instructor  whilst  others  can  dive into a heated swimming pool with amazing scenery.  Along  the  campsite,  stretching three kilometres, the Jonte River will welcome  the  entire  family  from  fishermen  to

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

S P E C I A L   T H E M E


As the days are slowly getting longer again, and the first images of spring are popping up in our day dreams, February is a great time to start planning the rest of the year ahead.  Here,  we  continue  our  Special Theme: Summer holiday escapes with some more hidden gems in France as well as in other destinations in Europe. First we list a number of exquisite campsites, from lively family-orientated sites to the more private and quiet places. They are located in some of the most popular areas in France including the beautiful coast of Brittany,  historic  and  sunny  La  Rochelle and the silent and nature-rich Causse du Quercy Park. We  also  branch  out  further  into  Europe with  Le  Boat,  a  pleasure  cruiser  rental

30 |  Issue 14 |  February 2015

company that operates across the continent. Also the Balearic Islands are not left out, with a Dutch company that lets luxu-

rious homes in Ibiza. If the summer is a little too far away for you, then don’t miss our profile of Urban Ski.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes


Everyone loves children – but just imagine holidays without them! Stuart and Sheila Coe ran Chateau de  Lacomte as  a  family  campsite  from  1993  to  2009,  by which  time  their  children  had  flown  the  nest. Finding the peace of the winter period enjoyable they  transformed  the  32-acre  property  into  a country club just for adults, catering for everyone with  86  touring  pitches,  a  gîte,  mobile  homes and chalets.  It  wasn’t  easy:  “We’ve  pioneered  the  concept in France – it was illegal here when we first considered it,” explains Stuart. Significant legal work paved the way – though day one an official arrived  to  close  them  down.  “Our  paperwork satisfied him, and he left after a tour saying how wonderfully peaceful it was!” Presenting the idea at a Dutch travel show they had to overcome the suspicion that ‘adults

only’  meant  something  sexual.  “When  we changed our sign from adults only to ‘kindervrij’ – child free – people understood, and really took to the idea,” says Stuart. So  what  are  the  benefits?  “There’s  quiet around the pool, no bombing, just gentle chatter and  people  reading.  The  site  generally  is  very peaceful, and the restaurant and bar wonderfully civilised,” he says. It’s worked so well they’re now constructing lodges to sell to their regular guests. Situated only eight minutes from exit 56 of the A20, access is easy. The breathtaking Rocamadour, the caves at Padirac and many more grown-up pleasures beckon too: “The area is a gastronomic  capital  famed  for  foie  gras  and duck confit – to say nothing of hundreds of vineyards producing the celebrated Cahors wines,” he concludes.


Campers at Les Pommiers d'Aiguelèze find plenty to see within easy reach – and not just with their feet on terra firma.

ing pitches, have good reasons to relax within the welcoming family atmosphere of the quiet site.

“We  get  quite  a  few  visitors  who  arrive intending  to  stay  a  couple  of  days  to visit Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s a short drive away, it’s a fabulous city.  Then  they  find  out  how  lovely  the countryside  and  villages  are  here  and end up staying for a week or more,” says Anne  Demules,  owner  of  Camping  Les Pommiers d'Aiguelèze. Her family took on the site in 2011 and completely  remodelled  it  with  a  new heated pool, bar, and sports facilities, so guests staying in the mobile homes and lodges they rent out, or on the 50 tour-

duce  them.  “We’re  in  the  heart  of  the Gaillac  wine  region  here,”  says  Anne: “And you can see that by touring in your car  –  or  take  a  balloon  ride  from  just outside  the  site  and  get  another  view.”  With the Tarn just 100 metres away there is a third means of transport on offer to give  yet  another  angle  on  the  country. “Visitors – especially the kids – enjoy activities on the river, and families can even make the trip from the campsite to Albi in  a  Gabarre,  a  boat  that’s  traditional here,” she says.

But even though they can taste the pick of Gaillac’s wines in the bar, they may be tempted to visit the vineyards that pro- CampingLesPommiersAigueleze

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

A star destination to lift the mood Here's a camping that belongs to a very exclusive kind of high end holiday destination with its four stars, top notch equipment and premier quality services. Open all year round, the camping Beaulieu has a lot to offer. TEXT: HARUN OSMANOVIC  |  PHOTOS: BEAULIEU

Located ten minutes from the Vieux Port of  La  Rochelle  it  has  all  the  charms  of the French countryside with the advantages  of  a  touristic  site  accessible  by bike  or  through  La  Rochelle’s  bus  network, and nearby grocery stores. The facilities of the Beaulieu camping are outstanding. Between April and November, regardless  of  the  weather,  dive  into  the twenty-eight degrees heated water of the semi covered pool. At one end, enjoy the balneotherapy  spa  bath  whilst  the  kids paddle  nearby,  at  the  other  end  let  the teenagers play down the slides. Whether you come with the entire family or simply  with  your  significant  other,  the camping Beaulieu can accommodate your needs with its large range of rentals – cot-

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tages from one to six persons with television  and  a  covered  terrace,  or  tent  and recreational  vehicle  places  with  wireless internet throughout the camping. After the holiday season stress, with a year  of  work  starting  over,  taking  a well-deserved break becomes salutary and Beaulieu is never out of activities to let off steam. The sauna, Jacuzzi or an hour with the camping's masseuse will sure take care of it. If  you  are  in  it  for  the  Frenchness  and sightseeing, make sure to plan a trip to the three towers of La Rochelle built between the 13th and 15th century right on the waterfront, a delightful ballade by the ocean.  The  island  of  Ré  is  also  a  few minutes away from the camping Beaulieu

and  will  be  ideal  for  an  exploration  trip with the family as it hosts a series of historical monuments. Finally, many will have childhood memories of Fort Boyard, which is only a few minutes off the coast from La Rochelle and will make for a fun trip with the kids. Obviously  the  culinary  junkies  will  be fixed as well with the local mussels, oysters  and  sea  food  specialties,  famous Pineau wines and Cognac liquor. As the weather gets moody in the lands we live in, the timing couldn't be better to reload by the ocean or look forward to you summer trip, where the sun is nearer and a smile just a dive away.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

Thanks to the pleasant microclimate at the Ile de Ré, a stay at Camping Essi will give you about as many sunny days as a campsite in southern France would.

Marvellous microclimate for maximum fun The Ile de Ré off La Rochelle enjoys as much sun as the South of France, but for visitors from Benelux it’s an awful lot closer. No wonder some Belgian families make their corner of Camping Essi a little bit of Belgium every August. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON  |  PHOTOS: CAMPING ESSI

Carol Courpron, Camping Essi’s manager, encapsulates  the  family-friendly  and  relaxing  atmosphere  of  the  site  with  three simple words: “No Karaoke here!”  The  loyal  clientele  of  the  site,  that  was founded in 1961, are drawn back by rather different  attractions:  “Young  families  like having direct access to the beach as well as being just 800 metres from the lovely village of Ars en Ré, while having facilities on site like the heated nursery area for babies and toddlers – young mums love that – the paddling  pool  by  the  heated  swimming pool, and a kids’ club,” says Carol.  For  those  after  a  more  strenuous  holiday there are lots of things to do close to the site: a sailing school, horse-riding, tennis courts and  an  18-hole  golf  course  and  mini-golf

are just five of the activities within easy reach.  The  island  as  a  whole  has  a  lot  to  offer too: “The microclimate here is well-known for having just about the same number of hours of sunshine as the South of France gets,” adds Carol: “And even though the Ile  de  Ré  is  just  30  kilometres  long,  we have  over  100  kilometres  of  safe  cycle tracks so visitors can bring or rent a bike to tour the island, see the wild salt flats and their birdlife, visit the lovely beaches that are all around us, and explore the villages, two of them listed among the most beautiful  in  France  and  one  a  UNESCO World  Heritage  Site.  And  most  visitors like to try the wines made here and our famous Pineau aperitif.”

every August. They eat meals together and enjoy the sun and cycling, and have been doing so for about ten years. We love them, they’re  very  ‘sympa’  –  sometimes  they bring Belgian flags and their little area becomes a Belgian colony!” she says.

Among the most loyal fans of the site are 14 Belgian families: “They meet up at the site

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Summer Holiday Escapes

Menhir, Meneer? Find the best of Brittany on its southern coast. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: CAMPING LANN BRICK

Camping Lann Brick has welcomed visitors from Benelux since it opened in 1980, a link emphasised by its participation in the ACSI camping card scheme. “They particularly love the numerous cycle tracks here,” says owner Philippe Berthelot: “It’s a great way to explore this region.” And they don’t need to be Eddy Merckx to reach some fantastic attractions that Philippe and his wife, who speak good English, are happy to recommend – not least Carnac, just a few kilometres away, world-famous for its pre-historic

Breton norm,” says Philippe: “So many clients like to take it easy – after enjoying their fresh bread or croissants at breakfast they hit the heated pool, or maybe walk 200 metres to the beach here to collect shellfish from the sands.” One third of the site remains dedicated to touring pitches, but holidaymakers seeking a touch of luxury can rent mobile homes, caravans, and ‘canvas-bungalows’. Having a bar, snack bar, and shopping necessities on site – which in Brittany naturally includes crêpes and galettes – makes it tempting to forget the car,

dolmens and menhirs. The picturesque port of Goustan, nicknamed ‘little Honfleur,’ is just 10 kilometres distant too, and the fine beach at St Pierre only two kilometres. There are good reasons not to venture even that far. “Our microclimate, sheltered within the Gulf of Morbihan, tends to be sunnier than the

and there are plenty of games like table-football and ping-pong – plus TV and WIFI – to keep the kids entertained. “Above all this is a family site,” says Philippe: “We think that’s why once people discover us they return again and again.”


The concept of indoor ski slopes has proved to offer unique benefits in terms of preparing for upcoming winter holidays. They make a real difference in avoiding recurrent skiing accidents, and increase the time of enjoyment on the slopes.

petrol costs and CO2 emissions. And secondly, in times of financial crises, people still want to enjoy their expensive winter holidays. This means less time spent in skiing schools and more time enjoying the slopes – which is something we help with."

"There are two closely related advantages of skiing indoors," says founder of Urban Ski Europe, Harald Bonzet, "firstly, the indoor ski centres are implanted in urban areas, which reduces travel time,

For Bonzet, preparation is key: "People forget that skiing is a sport and put leisure in the first place. The result is catastrophic: in France alone, there are 140,000 accidents per year!"

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To introduce the Dutch concept in France, Urban Ski Europe works in collaboration with Alpine Engineering Holland to reduce those figures by opening centres in France, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Their first ski centre opened its doors in Bordeaux in October 2014 and has encountered great success among French customers. To find out more and get involved visit the website.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

Aux Lodges du Mas de Nadal offers luxurious canvas tents fitted with beds, wardrobe, big windows and a covered, private terrace area to enjoy the views of the  surroundings and relax with family and friends

Natural luxury A luxurious canvas experience in the middle of breathtaking nature – sounds like a dream? This summer it can come true at the brand new domain, Aux Lodges du Mas de Nadal – just two hours north of Toulouse, France. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: AUX LODGES DU MAS DE NADAL

Opening  mid-May,  owners  Philippe  and Miriam will welcome guests into their domain of mostly untouched nature to reside in  one  of  22  Safari  Style  Canvas  Lodges and enjoy the tranquillity of the site. “I pinch myself  every  morning,  it  is  so  quiet  and beautiful here,” says Philippe. The majority of the land of Mas de Nadal is part of the adjacent Causse du Quercy nature reserve. According to Philippe, the previous owners preserved the nature as it was, “and we will carry over this philosophy,” he says. “Given that  there  is  no  road  nearby,  there  is  no noise other than nature. The sun brightens the mornings and offers stunning sunsets. And no light pollution! In fact, at nighttime it’s one of the two darkest places in Europe and  you  see  the  most  beautiful  skies,  an ideal spot for passionate astronomers.” The cosy lodges, customised for up to four adults, offer luxurious comfort embedded in  pure  nature.  “During  our  adventurous trip  through  the  Okavango  Delta  in Botswana  we  experienced  the  beauty  of

the Safari Camps. They ooze with nature and  yet  are  extremely  comfortable.  This inspired our style of canvas tents, and we found  a  South  African  company  to  build these wonderful lodges for us. Set on elevated wooden platforms, they will cocoon their inhabitants in great privacy and with spectacular views into the sunset.” Spread out across six hectares of beautiful  ground  with  small  oak  trees,  bushes and  old  stone  walls,  there  are  also  18 pitches  for  tents.  “We  have  a  variety  of sites, scattered around the domain; sunny or shady, practical pitches or snuggly hideaways. You will be able to retreat and find an oasis of privacy,” he adds.

On the domain, WiFi is available throughout and the bistro is open all day. The  surrounding  area  offers  countless cultural  places  and  natural  wonders  to visit as well as sightseeing and numerous  sportive  activities  such  as  canoeing, hiking, biking, horse riding, climbing, speleology, cave diving and many more for everyone and at every age.

In  the  style  of  a  ‘boutique  hotel’  Mas  de Nadal does not focus on growing in numbers. Instead they focus on quality of life and  bringing  people  closer  to  nature. “Small  is  beautiful,  this  gives  us  the  opportunity to be almost private hosts for our guests,” Philippe concludes.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

A high quality holiday home on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean sea

Active relaxing on a spacious island Ibiza is famous for being host to wild parties, but there is much more to the island than that. It offers nice restaurants and beach cafes, you can enjoy many outdoor activities in the beautiful nature and yet peace and quiet is easy to be found. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG  |  PHOTOS: ONE OF A KIND VILLAS IBIZA

The  attractive  features  of  Ibiza  make  it  a popular holiday destination, which results in  a  huge  offer  of  villas,  hotels  and  other travel arrangements. Good news: the best villas to stay on the island can all be found through One of a Kind Villas Ibiza. Co-owner Reinoud ten Cate: “We select all  accommodations  ourselves,  because it’s important to us that they are authentic and charming. We don’t offer the typical impersonal Spanish rental homes with a  shiny  floor  and  wooden  furniture.  The houses we offer are mainly traditional but stylish fincas and modern villas with sleek shapes, that can accommodate at least four and up to twenty four people.” Most of the villas on One of a Kind Villas Ibiza  are  located  in  quiet  locations  on the  island  and  have  beautiful  surroundings.  Ten  Cate  adds:  “No  construction sites will rise any time soon. The govern-

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ment  of  Ibiza  prevents  that  from  happening,  so  the  beautiful  view  and  surroundings will stay untouched.” When  booking  through  One  of  a  Kind Villas  Ibiza,  you  will  get  personal  help from the team. “We all love Ibiza for the diversity it offers and the fact that it is still quite  an  empty  island.”  That  is  what makes Ibiza perfect for a family holiday. “Cafes,  nature  and  restaurants  are  always close by and from April until October  the  weather  is  sunny,  so  Ibiza  is  a place for everyone to enjoy.” An overview of some alluring activities can be found on “You can for example go sailing in a catamaran on a relaxing one-day trip to see the beauty of the islands of Ibiza and Formentera.” To get around, One of a Kind Villas Ibiza also offers help renting a car during your stay, and the local team is ready to an-

swer  any  question  you  have.  But  most important: you know you will arrive at a quality  home  after  a  day  of  traveling. “We only offer villas we have seen ourselves,  so  we  can  be  sure  we  recommend quality villas that allow people to enjoy their holiday to the utmost!”

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  Summer Holiday Escapes

Cruise Europe’s waterways with Le Boat With over forty years of experience, Europe’s number one boating vacation company offers a unique service in making your cruising dreams come true. TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER  |  PHOTOS: LE BOAT

From canals, lakes and rivers, take in the beautiful passing landscape from the comfort of your own boat – with no previous experience required. Le Boat owns and operates the largest and most stylish fleet of self-drive cruisers available on the market today, allowing you to plan your holidays with friends and family as you wish. With plenty of destinations to choose from, there  is  something  for  anyone  looking  to see Europe from its waterways rather than its highways. In France alone, the company offers a selection of routes within nine different  regions,  crossing  historical  landmarks and breath-taking landscapes – with a unique viewpoint on the local flora and fauna.  Over  the  years,  Le  Boat  has  expanded its coverage to Germany, Italy, Belgium,  the  Netherlands,  Poland,  England, Scotland  and  Ireland.  One  of  the  advantages of choosing Le Boat is the possibility to organise one-way trips to your destination in case you have a tight schedule.

Built around the concept of ‘happiness on a  boat’,  the  company  owns  869  boats, spread over 25 locations in France alone and 14 over the rest of Europe. Customisable to your personal needs, Le Boat has a range of cruiser models to fit your budget, number of passengers and vacation plan. For greater cruising ambitions, you will find a  fine  selection  of  canal  boats  and  river cruisers for sale at a wide price range.  With  all  boats  equipped  for  a  maximum level of comfort, you can expect to find a fully equipped kitchen, hot and cold running water, lounges, en-suite showers and bathrooms,  and  for  the  more  modern boats: air conditioning and TV. You will also be  provided  with  all  the  tools  to  ensure safe  cruising,  from  navigational  charts  to mooring tools, first aid kits and life jackets.  Le Boat offers dedicated and personalised attention to its customers ahead of, during and after cruising so that before taking off

to your adventure you will be extensively briefed on how to plan your route, become a master at locking your boat and finding the adequate spots where to moor.  For a unique holiday in a unique setting, Le Boat  makes  sure  you  return  home  with unforgettable memories.

Contact the French office: +33 468 94 42 40

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A day at the museum Music, history, art, science, diamonds, bicycles and tattoos – think of a topic and there is a museum of it in the Netherlands. Amsterdam alone has well over a hundred, including of course the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and Stedelijkmuseum. With more museums per square metres that anywhere in the world, there sure is plenty to see in the Dutch capital, but straying off the beaten track is just as rewarding. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PRESS PHOTOS

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum

OPPOSITE MAIN IMAGE: Dordtse masters at the Dordrechts Museum. Photo Huib Kooyker. OPPOSITE LEFT: Museum Hilversum. OPPOSITE RIGHT: Guitar by Pablo  Picasso, 1919, from the Kröller-Müller Museum collection. ABOVE TOP: Van Abbemuseum, Young art. Photo: Peter Cox. ABOVE BOTTOM: Exterior of the Dordrechts  Museum. Photo Huib Kooyker. ABOVE RIGHT: Flowers in a blue vase by Vincent van Gogh, 1887, from the Kröller-Müller Museum collection.

With  this  year’s  special  focus  on  Vincent van  Gogh,  as  it  is  125  years  since  his death,  lesser  known  museums  such  as the Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch or  the  Kröller-Müller  Museum  in  Otterlo (see  page  40)  are  certainly  worth  a  visit. With their impressive Van Gogh collections, they will allow you to explore the work of the Dutch master away from the crowds of the capital.

Tucked away in the picturesque village of Giethoorn  is  the  gemstone  museum  De Oude  Aarde  (see  page  45).  With  the  village’s  idyllic  canals  instead  of  streets,  a visit to the museum will definitely be worth the  trip.  Another  little  gem  is  Het  Huizer Museum (see page 43) that shows the history  of  the  beautiful  fishermen’s  town Huizen at just a 30 minute drive from Amsterdam.

For contemporary and modern art, the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (see page 46) and Witte de With in Rotterdam (see page 43) offer a refreshing view with their internationally  minded  collections  combining established  and  upcoming  artists.  For  a more  traditional  approach,  visit  the  Dordrechts  Museum  (see  page  44)  with  art dating  back  400  years.  Established  in 1842, it is actually one of the oldest museums in the country.

The  Netherlands  also  counts  many  specialist museums. A wonderful example is Corpus,  the  museum  in  the  shape  of  a person  which  explains  the  intricacies  of the  human  body.  Then  Museum  de Speelklok  in  Utrecht  is  completely  dedicated to ‘self-playing instruments’ making a visit a musical festivity. In the Dutch media hub of Hilversum you will find the Museum Hilversum (see page 46), that covers wide-ranging topics related to media and

design, including news and travel photography and video art. If  that  is  not  enough,  then  the  Kunsthal exposition centre in Rotterdam (see page 47) has a selection of temporary arts and culture exhibitions ranging from the world of James Bond to the Dutch Royal family and international artists. Moreover, it is located  at  a  stone’s  throw  away  from  the Natural History Museum and the visuals art museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. With  all  these  magnificent  museums around the country, there is almost no reason not to leave the capital. If you do not have  a  chance  to  get  out  of  Amsterdam however,  the  Belasting  and  Douane  Museum (see page 42) is a brilliant interactive and revealing museum about the history of tax and border control.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum




A peaceful mecca of modern art Van Gogh, Picasso, Mondrian, Monet, Gris – this is not just any list of famous 19th and 20th artists, it is a small selection of the wonderful works that can be seen at the magnificent Kröller-Müller Museum. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  MAIN PHOTO: WALTER HERFST  |  PHOTOS: KRöLLER-MüLLER MUSEUM

The museum has the second largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s anywhere in  the  world,  an  impressive  wealth  of modern art and an extraordinary sculpture  garden.  Located  in  Otterlo,  the Netherlands, the Kröller-Müller Museum

is  set  in  5,400  hectares  of  stunning Veluwer  landscape  and  an  absolute must-see for art enthusiasts. While it might not carry the fame of the Van  Gogh  Museum  in  Amsterdam,  it

sure  punches  far  above  its  weight  in terms of collection. “We have a unique combination of countless masterpieces – true icons – displayed in an extraordinary  setting,”  says  museum  director Lisette Pelsers. “For an art historian like myself,  this  really  is  one  of  the  dream museums to work in.”

Encompassing Van Gogh’s oeuvre This year marks a special celebration of the  works  of  Van  Gogh  as  it  is  exactly 125 years since his death. All around the Benelux, museums are organising events and  exhibitions  to  showcase  his  art,  including  of  course  the  Kröller-Müller  Museum. Starting 25 April, the exhibition Van Gogh & Co: Criss-crossing the collection will  show  the  works  that  inspired  Van Gogh  alongside  his  own  –  and  in  turn, how his paintings influenced his contem-

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum

poraries  all  the  way  through  to  present day artworks. “It  will  feature  traditional  themes  of  the late 19th century such as still lives, landscapes, city scenes and portraits. In total, 50  works  of  Van  Gogh  –  both  paintings and many extraordinary drawings – will be combined with works by his friends and fellow artists from our collection,” explains Pelsers. “This really shows how Van Gogh was influenced as well as the relationship of his work to that of others artists.” A  highlight  of  the  year  for  the  KröllerMüller Museum, Pelsers hopes this exhibition will also bring some more attention to their impressive Van Gogh collection. “It is the biggest collection after the Van Gogh  Museum  anywhere  in  the  world. We already get many people from abroad visiting us specifically for our Van Goghs, but  it  would  be  fantastic  if  even  more people know about it and will enjoy all his masterpieces we have,” she says.

A visionary collection The museum was founded by art collector  Helene  Kröller-Müller.  Supported  by her husband, Anton Kröller, a director of a successful company, she set out to get the best works of modern art together, at the start of the 20th century. “There was almost no limit to her funding. She had a clear  vision  of  what  she  wanted  to  do with their money,” Pelsers explains.

OPPOSITE LEFT: Le bateau-atelier, Monet’s studio-boat by Claude Monet, 1874. OPPOSITE MIDDLE: Self portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. ABOVE: The Rietveld Pavilion by architect Gerrit Rietveld, 1964-1965 (renovated in 2010). Photo: Marjon Gemmeke. BOTTOM: Jardin d’émail by Jean Dubuffet, 1974, in the sculpture garden.

cluded many international names who only really became famous decades later.” Unfortunately,  her  husband’s  company wasn’t immune to the economic crisis in the 1930s. To keep her meticulously collected  art  collection  intact,  Kröller-Müller decided to give it to the Dutch state, under the  condition  that  a  suitable  museum would be built. This became the birth of the Kröller-Müller  Museum,  which  opened three years later to the public in 1938.

Where art and nature collide Kröller-Müller amassed nearly 12,000 artworks  throughout  her  life  span,  particularly  paintings  by  modern  expressionists. Her personal favourite: Vincent van Gogh. She  bought  around  80  of  his  paintings. Pelsers adds: “At the time, she was very forward  thinking  in  her  collection  that  in-

That  the  museum  is  in  the  middle  of  the Veluwe is not by accident. “It was mainly so that the art could be appreciated in peace and silence, away from the hectic city. Helene believed this was the best way to experience the art. Our location really adds to the experience of our visitors,” Pelsers says.

Parts  of  the  magnificent  landscape  of woodland,  heath,  small  lakes  and  sand drifts are incorporated as an outdoor display for the museum: a 25 hectare sculpture garden that counts around 150 works of art. “We keep the collection current by adding  new  works,  but  always  with  Helene’s vision in mind: it has to be something conceptual and contemplative, a result of an intellectual process,” Pelsers explains. This means on the one hand the collection has many well-known icons, but also minimalistic or ‘difficult’ art. Pelsers concludes: “Not  all  our  art  is  necessarily  accessible, we want some works to challenge people, surprise them and show a different view.”

The exhibition Van Gogh & Co: Criss-crossing the collection will be on display from 25 April to 27 September. The Kröller-Müller Museum is open daily apart from Mondays. For those wanting to explore the Veluwe, the museum offers free-to-use bicycles around the museum grounds. Photo: Jean Dubuffet

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Why do we pay taxes? Since when does a part of our income go to the taxman, and where does it end up? These and other questions are answered in the interesting and interactive Belasting & Douane Museum, taking you on a revealing journey through a thousand years of Dutch tax history. Through  unique  documents,  historic  objects, artworks and compelling stories, visitors to the Belasting & Douane Museum in Rotterdam (Tax & Customs Museum) can explore the historical development of taxes. The permanent exhibition Trust and Justice shows the importance of a good relationship between government and the public, based on mutual trust and compliance. “Tax is a subject that touches everyone,” says Anne Houk de Jong who works at the museum. “We expect the government to spend our money wisely, but as you’ll see in the museum, history shows that the balance  between  expectations  and  willingness is sometimes severely put to the test.” Two  years  ago  the  permanent  exhibition

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was  updated  with  many  new  themes, modern art, interactive displays and a new discovery  route  for  children.  “We  are housed  in  two  beautiful  historical  buildings, many visitors are surprised how modern it is inside and also by the museum’s variety.  There  is  something  for  everyone, from experts to kids, from schools to families,” she continues. In the Tiende Penning Theater, for example,  it  is  revealed  how  the  16th  century Dutch Revolt can be seen as a tax war; the Tax ceiling shows where our money actually  ends  up;  there  is  a  listening  Ear  to speak your mind on tax issues, and at the Heart you can monitor your ideal tax system. De Jong adds: “We also show examples of tax avoidance or evasion, such as tax havens.” An important part of the museum is dedicated to customs and border control. The world of customs is revealed through uniforms,  quality  control  and  measuring  instruments (for example for wheat, alcohol or  silver),  contraband  and  other  objects

and videos that show the risks and illegality of smuggling.  “What  is  and  isn’t  allowed  is  not  always clear-cut: think about fake branded clothing,  copied  film  DVDs  or  protected  animals,” says De Jong. The museum tries to make  people  more  aware  of  this,  especially  when  travelling.  “Through  Schiphol airport the subject really appeals to everyone,”  she  adds.  “Even  to  children,  who can  check  bags  at  the  Museum’s DouaneDek. Dutch illustrator Charlotte Dematons  created  a  giant  Schiphol  picture book, full of travellers, luggage, smugglers, customs  officers,  tracker  dogs,  contraband, souvenirs… revealing all the hidden items.” The museum is open daily apart from Mondays. Adults pay €5.50 and museumkaart holders,  schools,  students,  and  children under 18 go free.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum


The idyllic town of Huizen, just 30 kilometres east of Amsterdam, has a rich cultural history. From intricate old costumes with the typical wide-brimmed hats throughthe tough herring industry to picturesque alleys in the old town centre, Huizen is definitely worth a visit. At Het Huizer Museum, the story is told of how the agricultural town transformed into a thriving fishermen’s community through the use of wonderful paintings, artworks, photographs and old agricultural and fishing tools. The museum also has one whole room dedicated to the evolution of the unique Huizer costumes, including the simple daily garments and the  beautiful  and  elaborate  Sunday  dresses. Some are up to 150 years old. “They have so many  layers,  just  putting  their  hats  on  would easily take the women an hour,” says museum curator Margriet van Seumeren. A new exhibition, opening on 5 September this year, will show how time and religion influenced the clothing. “Older costumes from the

18th century are very colourful, purple for men and red, yellow, green and floral decorations for women. Then when the protestant reformation swept  the  country,  they  became  much  more sober with darker colours,” she explains. Also Henk Bos, a local painter, is well represented at Het Huizer Museum. Known for his still lives, his work became world famous, especially in America. Van Seumeren adds: “His paintings were  used  for  biscuit  tins,  placemats,  beer coasters,  all  sorts.  We  show  this  at  the  museum.” Run  predominantly  by  volunteers,  the  museum  hosts  regular  activities  such  as  workshops,  lectures  and  guided  tours  through  the town. “Our volunteers are all very enthusiastic and love to chat to visitors. This makes a visit much more personal and interesting,” she concludes.

Herman Heijenbrock (1871-1948) Stringing herring in Huizen

The past and future of contemporary art TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK

Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art is well known for exploring developments in art worldwide, and this year they celebrate their 25th anniversary with a rather special installation. Established in 1990, Witte de With became an international institution because of prestigious exhibitions, publications and educational programmes. “We show not only the past, but also the future of art,” says Defne Ayas, director of Witte de With. “Exhibitions are more than just showing art. The visitor is very much in-

Photo: Bob Goedewaagen

volved and will be moved to think about everything in life.” To celebrate 25 years of innovation and quality in contemporary art, Ayas invited wellknown Dutch artist (albeit based in Berlin) Willem de Rooij to present his new installation Character Is Fate, which showcases the astrological birth chart Piet Mondrian made in 1911. Ayas: “It gets really exciting between 2.15 and 2.30 pm, every day. A special display system that relates to the solar calendar allows for Mondrian’s birth chart to be illuminated by the sun.”

Illustration: Apfel

In 1911 Mondrian was about to move to Paris and leave his native country, the Netherlands, behind. Born under the sign of Pisces on 7 March 1872, he was, according to his horoscope, “very susceptible and had psychic tendencies”. The actual chart is on loan from the Dutch Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague. Character Is Fate also visualizes Witte de With’s physical position in relation to the sun. Ayas: “Witte de With’s birth chart will tell us what the next 25 years will bring. It is really worth it, I promise.”

Defne Ayas. Photo: Else Kramer

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum

Jozef Israëls, Dreams (Dolce far niente), 1860, on loan from a private owner from Amsterdam.

Big history in a small city Dordrecht is the perfect place to discover the Netherlands: the beautiful city in the south of Holland harbours the Dordrechts Museum, Huis Van Gijn and Het Hof van Nederland. The Dordrechts Museum was founded in 1842 with a core collection of works from the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG  |  PHOTOS: DORDRECHTS MUSEUM & HUIB KOOYKER

The museum covers over five centuries of Dutch  painting,  from  the  masters  of  the Golden Age to modern art, including Dordrecht landscape painter Aelbert Cuyp and impressionist painters such as Breitner and Mesdag.

The Haagse School This art movement from the late nineteenth century  focuses  on  realism.  “For  the  upcoming  exhibition  Holland  op  z’n  mooist we’ve borrowed Haagse School paintings from  collectors  all  over  the  world,”  says managing director Peter Schoon. “We collaborate with the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague:  we  show  what  influenced  the Haagse School and how it started, while the  Gemeentemuseum  displays  how  it came to fruition.’’ These ambitious exhibitions open on 4 April. Schoon: “The collections complement each other and this collaboration  between  museums  is unique.”

Huis Van Gijn A  very  interesting  part  of  the  Dordrechts Museum  is  the  house  of  art  collector  Si-

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mon van Gijn. When you enter, it is like Van Gijn just left for an errand, although he left the house almost one hundred years earlier. Fourteen years ago Huis Van Gijn was restored to its original state. Now it looks gorgeous again and during your visit you’ll take huge step back in time and enjoy Van Gijn’s way of life.

Het Hof van Nederland It is hard to imagine, but a little over four hundred  years  ago,  the  kingdom  of  the Netherlands  was  non-existent.  Schoon: “Dordrecht played a huge role in the emergence  of  the  country.  In  the  former monastery Het Hof in Dordrecht, the ‘first assembly of the free states’ took place in 1572, which was an important milestone for  the  formation  of  the  Netherlands.”  In museum Het Hof van Nederland you can experience Dordrecht through the historical collection,  combined  with  modern  technology.   The exhibition on the Haagse School and Het  Hof  van  Nederland  will  open  this spring. Before that, you can of course visit

Huis Van Gijn and the permanent collection in Dordrechts Museum.

Dordrecht, situated between several wide rivers, has known prosperity over the centuries due to its strategic location. In the 15th and 16th century the city was a prominent trading centre in the Netherlands. The historic inland harbours nowadays offer idyllic berths for yachts, steam boats and canal barges.

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Nature’s art, millions of years old TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK  |  PHOTOS: DE OUDE AARDE

“Many people find us when visiting the picturesque town Giethoorn, also known as the Venice of the North. When they discover our museum and shop, they are mostly surprised by the remarkable collection of stones and jewellery we have," says Neeltje Zijlstra, owner of De Oude Aarde. De Oude Aarde (the ancient earth) has one of the best gemstone, mineral, fossil and jewellery  collections  of  the  Netherlands. They have a huge collection of high-quality  stones  from  all  over  the  world.  They even have the biggest Aepyornis-egg ever found among other rare and unique minerals.  The  assortment  is  immense.  De Oude  Aarde  is  not  just  a  museum  and shop,  but  also  a  main  wholesaler  in  the field: “In De Oude Aarde stones lose their stuffy appearance: here they are elevated to art; nature’s art, millions years of age.”

Exclusive jewellery “We  are  more  than  a  museum  or  rock shop,” says Zijlstra. “For our special cus-

tomers, we are always looking for something exquisite and this is displayed in our special department with exclusive jewellery and mineral showpieces. Rings,  bracelets  and  necklaces  are  created with high quality stones that are set into jewellery in Italy. According to Zijlstra the  large  selection  of  exclusive  jewellery pieces  are  intended  for  the  “enjoyably pampered  customer”.  Zijlstra:  “This  jewellery is not made with just ordinary stones or  fossils,  we  use  the  best  Tourmaline, Aquamarine,  Pearl,  Sunstone,  and  Tanzanite  etc...  The  department  is  exclusive but accessible and can be visited without appointment.”

teen  years,  much  has  changed.  Zijlstra concludes:  “The  farthest  corners  of  the world and depths of the earth are more accessible than ever. We travel the world to find the best showpieces and stones, indeed not the worst thing our job offers. We go for quality, for us that’s the most important thing.”

History Forty-six  years  ago,  in  1969,  adventurer Rene Boissevain decided to quit his year’s long journey around the world to settle in Giethoorn. During his travels he had gained an impressive collection of gems and minerals.  With  this  he  successfully  founded the museum and shop. Over the past fif-

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum


In the beautiful old town of Hilversum, in its former town hall, you can find Museum Hilversum. The museum focuses on media art and -design, by showcasing exhibitions in the fields of news photography, travel photography, video and game art.

the years it become a show. It’s similar to the way BBC news has changed, but totally different from the progress of Belgian news.” Future exhibitions in 2015 include – amongst others – World Press Photo and travel photography by top photographers Raymond Rutting and Sacha de Boer.

“Our current exhibition Show me the news, is an overview of the change in design of news in the last sixty years,” says managing director Steffen Breugel. The exhibition includes a wide range of works by Dutch video artists, photographs by news photographer Bert Verhoeff, and the progress of the design of the NOS news and RTL news on television.

The building of Museum Hilversum is worth exploring as well: “The original structure is preserved in the facade and the front part of the building,” says Breugel. “Behind that, a glass structure connects that part to the new exhibition building, designed by Hans Ruijssenaars. It is said it looks like a small Guggenheim.” You can go on a free tour every day at 2pm to explore this yourself.

“It’s very interesting to see the developments over the years. News on TV started out as text and spoken word, throughout

Don’t wait around, get radical TEXT: CATHY VAN KLAVEREN  |  PHOTOS: PETER COX

Keep calm and visit the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. The museum takes a clear stand, combining a radical and welcoming approach. The museum spokesman Daniel Neugebauer says: “We want to move forward and be at the heart of the cultural field. The museum should be more than just a treasure chest.” But what makes the museum so radical? Well, in 2011 it sent a famous Picasso painting to Ramallah in Palestine, where it was guarded by at least two armed men, who only allowed a maximum of four people at a time to see it. “We decided as a museum that we should be brave and let everyone enjoy art. Don’t just hang items on the walls but do something with your collection,” Daniel advises. After a few

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months, the Picasso was safely returned to Eindhoven. The museum was rebuilt and it is now five times bigger than its original size. As Eindhoven is not particularly famous for its great architecture, the museum aimed to be a gem in the heart of the city centre. But it would like to have more than an attractive exterior – it also wants to have an inspirational interior and display art by artists from all over the world. The Van Abbemuseum

plays an inspirational role and maintains ties with up-and-coming artists, who are sometimes still at art school. “We’re going to exhibit an entire collection by a young artist, Ahmet Ög˘üt, who first developed some smaller projects in the museum. This is really great, because we can see how a creative artist evolves.” Art for everyone to see, and for everyone to be inspired by: the Van Abbemuseum offers both.

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Discover Benelux |  Special Theme |  A day at the Museum

LEFT: Kunsthal Rotterdam. Photo: Jeroen Musch. TOP MIDDLE: Kintera; Bad News, 2011. MIDDLE: Piet Parra; Jesus interrupted, Zeefdruk, 2009.  RIGHT: April Fools Day.


The Kunsthal Rotterdam displays culture in the broadest sense of the word. A visit to the Kunsthal is a fascinating journey along modern masters, contemporary art, photography, forgotten cultures and design. “We are able to organise circa 25 exhibitions every year. Visitors can experience different continents and art movements while there are always several exhibitions on at the same time,” says Emily Ansenk, director of Kunsthal Rotterdam: “The Kunsthal is for everybody, whether you are eight or eighty years old.”

International collaborations The building itself is worth a visit; created by the famous Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas, and recently renovated, the Kunsthal Rotterdam is a true piece of art. The Kunsthal in Rotterdam is not a museum, but an exhibition building. What is the difference? They do not have their own collection.

For the realisation of their exhibitions, the Kunsthal collaborates with artists, museums and galleries worldwide. Like the 2013 exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, which was a collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Maison Jean Paul Gaultier in Paris, and the Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style (on show until 8 February) that has been organised by Barbican Centre, London, in partnership with EON Productions. The Kunsthal also focuses on ‘new discoveries’ and ‘forgotten surprises’ and showing the work of renowned artists that hasn’t been on display in the Netherlands for a very long time or ever before.

Freaky spring Kunsthal Rotterdam 'goes freaky’ with its spring exhibition programme: ‘freaky’ in terms of strange, disturbing, dark, and also ‘freaky’ in the sense of intense, imaginative and sparkling. This spring, there will be various exhibitions; the humorous and cut-

ting-edge installation The Theory of Freedom by the leading international GermanNorwegian video artist Bjørn Melhus, the powerful and absurd installations by Czech artist Krištof Kintera, the intriguing portrait series by Belgian photographer Charlotte Lybeer and the ironic drawings and playful designs of Dutch artist PARRA. But that is certainly not all. Kunsthal Rotterdam is organizing ‘a freaky weekend’ on the weekend of 18 April. During this weekend there are several activities for all ages, from Friday night dance and drinks to a Family Sunday. The freaky spring ends with the family exhibition about the wonderful world of postcards from the early 20th century, in which mysterious dreams and surreal fantasies are central. Find out more by following the Kunsthal on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kunsthal.

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Discover Benelux |  Design & Innovation |  High-flying design pioneers

High-flying design pioneers Safely illuminated highways, sustainable electrical cars, world-famous signposting at Schiphol Airport, handy cargo bikes, rapid mailman’s buggies, gyrocopters, an intelligent waterways app. Mobility has always been important to the Netherlands. TEXT & PHOTOS: BNO

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Discover Benelux |  Design & Innovation |  High-flying design pioneers

That is why smart solutions are devised here as a matter of course, from Fokker airplanes to Bugaboo children’s strollers. In a rapidly changing society, designers are the ones literally helping the world forward. The Dutch creative industry is one of the top sectors in which designers play a crucial role, and for a good reason. They are game changers, capable of converting societal issues concerning mobility, sustainability and health into innovative products and services that are both functional and visually attractive, smart and sustainable. Dutch designers are champions of lateral thinking, thinking along and counter-thinking.  They  come  up  with  unexpected  answers to contemporary questions, for example  regarding  the  best  ways  to  move around.  Certainly  in  cities,  mobility  contributes  immensely  to  the  quality  of  life. People consider it a triumph or even a primary  requirement  that  they  can  use  the bicycle to get to work and to take the children to school or day care centres.

The Babboe cargo bike by Spark design & innovation.

dio Bleijh has got off to a flying start. He devised the Sandwichbike, which is a do-ityourself bicycle with a plywood frame. He developed special computer technology to control the machines that make the fifty required components. Along with some assembly  tools  and  a  user  guide,  everyone can build and customise this bicycle. Recently he even launched Van Gogh Sandwichbikes, in five different designs. The  Sandwichbike  'Almond  Blossom'  from  the  Van Gogh series, by Designstudio Bleij.


The  Sandwichbike  Do-It-Yourself  Box  by  Designstudio Bleij.

Smart Highway Designer  Daan  Roosegaarde  also  drew on Van Gogh, but then for his illuminated bicycle  paths.  The  design  is  based  on Van  Gogh’s  famous  work,  The Starry Night. Bicyclists  can  now  safely  wheel across a modern version of the painting. These innovative bicycle paths are a cultural  spin-off  of  Roosegaarde’s  roads  of the future: the ‘Smart Highway’. Roosegaarde adds glowing lines to illuminate the road, using a type of 'glow-inthe-dark'-paint. This paint absorbs UV light in  the  daytime  and  radiates  the  light  at night. This adds poetic charm as well as safety to the Dutch road infrastructure.

Cargo bike for families That is why Dutch designers enjoy designing all sorts of innovative bicycles, such as the cargo bike. That is why the Spark design & innovation agency, for example, designed  the  Babboe  cargo  bike  for  multichild families – and even a variant for dogs. This bicycle has quickly become a familiar fixture of the urban environment, and has also become hugely popular internationally.

Do-it-yourself bicycle And where would a designer think up a doit-yourself bicycle? In Amsterdam of course, where Basten Leijh of industrial design stu-

Portrait of Daan Roosegaarde at his Van Gogh inspired glowing bicycle path

Another smart solution: the intelligent app for your mobile phone called ‘Amsterdam Onderweg’. This app offers users their own ‘Superroute’.  The  app  tells  you,  among other  things,  where  traffic  is  snarled  up, and adapts the user’s route accordingly. As you are advised to follow what is more or less an entirely personal route, road users are guided to their destinations using different roads. As a result, the traffic is distributed more widely across the road network, leading to less congestion.

Association of Dutch Designers In  the  midst  of  this  swirling  and  rapidly changing world, the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO) forms a rock solid base. As the main representative of the design sector in the Netherlands, BNO supports, facilitates, links together and unites thousands of creative professionals. With designers of every shape and form, ranging from  self-employed  designers  to  design agencies in every design discipline under the sun, it is this variety that makes BNO unique worldwide. These front-running designers work closely with their customers, public authorities, scientists and the BNO to keep us all moving ahead. Whether by cargo bike, flying car or intelligent app.

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A fresh view on brand identity At VBAT they take branding seriously. The Dutch company uses a revolutionary method immersing clients in their own identity make-over. Combined with the decisive Dutch mentality, VBAT has attracted many international clients including household names such as De Bijenkorf, Jumbo, ING, Heineken, Douwe Egberts and many more. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: VBAT

To say company co-founder and director Eugene Bay takes pride in his work is an understatement. Enthusiastically he begins: “We work with all kinds of companies, from tiny start-ups to global multinationals. Our work is part of the visual landscape, and it makes me incredibly proud to see it every day – from the design of a tub of Mona yoghurt to the identity of delivery company PostNL” Working for clients doesn’t mean doing exactly what they ask. Instead, VBAT follows an unconventional approach. Starting every new project, the question of the client is critically assessed, finding out what it is a company needs from a brand, as much as what it wants. “It’s like a sparring partner mentality,” Bay explains. “In particular, young

50 |  Issue 14 |  February 2015

and inexperienced managers can come up with impulsive ideas, so we always question whether they decide to take the right path.” As staff turnaround at most companies is relatively high compared to the life span of a product, some of the identity of a product can get lost. “Take for example Brand beer; we have had a partnership with them since 1982. Not one member of staff knows as much about the brand as we do,” Bay continues: “Our way of working is not for everyone, but we spend a lot of time on each client to make sure they really get what is needed.”

Refreshing the identity The working process of VBAT turns all typical branding models on their heads.

After in-depth research into a product or company, the client is then invited to become part of an interactive ‘workshop’ session. Here VBAT involves the client and confronts them with different scenarios and concepts to come to the perfect solution. “With us, the client is very much part of the process. This can be challenging at times, but it always pays off in the end,” Bay says. VBAT calls this type of approach ‘refreshing thinking’. One project that Bay remembers fondly is the rebranding of supermarket chain Jumbo. The agency gave the company an image overhaul in 2009 and since then it’s become the Netherlands’ second biggest supermarket. “Jumbo has really put market leader Albert

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Discover Benelux | Design & Innovation | VBAT

MAIN IMAGE: Director Eugene Bay (left) is one of the founding members of branding agency VBAT. ABOVE: VBAT's long and successful working relationship with Heineken has produced many memorable product designs including Sol (left) and Brand beer (right). BELOW: Jumbo received an identity overhaul from VBAT and is now the Netherlands’ second biggest supermarket chain.

Heijn under pressure by being much more innovative,” he comments. Another client Bay passionately points out is their collaboration with SNS Bank. Working together since 2000, VBAT reinvented the bank’s identity twice and also designed its current logo. “Banks have obviously been hard-hit by the financial crisis, so this project was extra challenging but is has been a very rewarding partnership,” he says.

Exporting a pragmatic approach Originally from London, Bay decided to stay in the Netherlands; it was Dutch pragmatism that appealed to him. “VBAT is a very international company, currently half of our staff is from abroad and our working language is English. The one thing we have in common is a pragmatic way of working. This can sometimes appear direct or almost crass, but if you know how to confine it, it is a very efficient and effective way of working, and one of our best export pro ducts!” Bay says.

lutions. In Asia or Mexico for example, their hierarchical working culture can hinder or slow it down.”

Then two years ago we set up an office in Mexico because local demand was too high to do this from our Dutch office,” Bay says.

Taking on the world VBAT was set up 30 years ago in Amsterdam, with Bay as one of its founding members. Thanks to successful partnerships with global brands such as Heineken, ING bank and FrieslandCampina, entering the international market became a logical next step. Recently branching into Central America, VBAT was the team behind the new look of Mexican beer brand Sol. “Seven years ago Heineken asked us to go to Mexico with them for a new venture.

Next on the radar is China, in particular Shanghai, but Bay is keen to develop their business organically before jumping into a new market. “We don’t enter a new market because of an ideology; we first want to see business in a region and then open a new office.” He concludes: “We expect that within a few years the majority of our clients will be from abroad.”

While common among Dutch companies, this pragmatic quality is actually unique in the world. Bay adds: “Being able to quickly come to conclusions where everyone can speak their mind and exchange ideas openly really speeds up the process and produces better so-

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Architecture with an edge Smart, bright and organised – these qualities are key for pleasant and beautiful buildings. They are also the architectural focal points for cepezed. The architect agency based in Delft, the Netherlands, works in an unorthodox manner to create sustainable buildings with innovative materials, flooded in natural light, satisfying every user. TEXT: MYRIAM GWYNNED DIJCK

“The way many structures are still built today is outdated, with bricks, mortar and small windows,” says Ronald Schleurholts, partner  at  cepezed.  “We  do  things  differently. We  use  pre-fabricated  components,  progressive materials from other industries and create  new  products  to  design  pleasant, flexible buildings with low energy usage.”

High IQ construction This  innovative  way  of  working  keeps costs down and creates more successful structures.  “One  tile  could  double  as  a floor, ceiling and sound insulation. We call it a high IQ per kilo, we use materials that work  optimally  in  several  settings,”

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Schleurholts explains. “We don’t build for volume  but  for  quality.  We  really  think about the best solutions, build in an innovative way and create true added-value.” In 1973 cepezed was set up by a group of students during their university course. Through  the  company,  they  designed and built a house as their final year  pro  ject.  Schleurholts  adds:  “It’s  quite  extraordinary  that  they  graduated  with  a completed building – most students just hand in drawn designs!” This entrepreneurial spirit is still a core value at  cepezed,  and  it  has  helped  to  attract

multinational clients from around the world including Porsche, 3M and Microsoft. “Project development is very important to us. We constantly look at other industries, like horticulture  or  transport  and  apply  their materials, techniques and expertise to our projects,” Schleurholts says.

Innovative materials One  example  is  the  so-called  ‘sandwich panels’ used in the cargo walls of lorries. These panels are made of layers of different  materials,  making  them  strong,  light and  highly  insulating.  “They  basically  do the  same  thing  as  a  standard  brick  wall but they are much more compact and way

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Discover Benelux |  Design & Innovation |  cepezed

easier  and  faster  to  assemble.  We  have taken  this  material  and  used  it  for  buildings. We also developed it further to create curved walls,” he explains. Another example is a semi-sheer type of textile mainly used for large, outdoor tents. The  fabric  is  made  out  of  fibre  glass coated  with  water-repellent  Teflon.  “It shields  you  from  the  weather,  rain  and wind, but it does let in a lot of sunlight and fresh  air,”  he  continues  enthusiastically. “These qualities make it an optimal material for a façade or balcony panels.” The importance of natural light is something many people underestimate: “Remember, artificial light has only really existed for 100 years, before that we’ve always lived on a day-night routine. We need sunlight. Getting the most natural light into a building is extremely stimulating for the users, so that is what we try to achieve.” The sun is also our most important source of energy, and the team at cepezed makes sure to get the most out of it. Through integrated  solar  panels  and  optimising  the

use of heat from the sun, energy use can be  kept  low  creating  more  sustainable, eco-friendly  buildings.  “This  also  applies to air, for example. We try to create a flow that uses warm air in several spaces before it is blown outside,” he comments.

Solving architectural puzzles Optimising a building’s design, to create a pleasing, organised and intuitive structure always starts as a puzzle for cepezed. But that the team is very successful at solving them is showcased by the number of prizes the company gets nominated for and wins. For their entire portfolio, in 2008 cepezed even attained the highest Dutch architectural Award, the Kubus, bestowed by the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA). One project that did prove a bit of a challenge  was  the  creation  of  a  temporary theatre inside a church, which had to be delivered  within  eight  months.  Through using an innovative approach, the project wasn’t  just  delivered  in  time,  it  turned out so successful that it will be kept permanently. “The church itself was beautiful, so we wanted to keep that as it was.

In  a  sort  of  kit-construction  we  slotted pre-fabricated  components  into  the church, creating a wonderful contrast of old and new,” Schleurholts says. This  way  of  working  is  characteristic  of cepezed. By using components that can be pre-fabricated, costs can often be kept down, construction can be completed earlier  and  buildings  become  more  flexible. “It’s all about making better use of what’s already out there; build in a smarter way. Using the kit-construction approach allows for buildings to be changed easily, making them more adjustable to future uses and thereby  more  productive,”  he  continues.          Through  their  expertise,  cepezed  has worked on many different types of building and this year they will finish the design for a new hospital in Heerhugowaard. Having put all their knowledge and skills together, this  puzzle  will  sure  prove  another  one solved to satisfaction.

OPPOSITE PAGE: Nutricia Research, Utrecht NL (2013). Photo: Jannes Linders. TOP LEFT: European Space Innovation Centre (ESIC), Noordwijk NL (2011). Photo: Jannes Linders. BOTTOM LEFT: New headquarters 3M, Delft NL (2014). Photo: Rene de Wit. RIGHT: Westraven office complex, Utrecht NL (2007). Photo: Jannes Linders.

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Discover Benelux |  Business |  Columns


Do you like repeated questions? Do you like repeated questions? In the world of plain language, you’ll often come across the notion that putting information in question-and-answer format makes it user-friendly, especially for consumers. The idea is that a question is more engaging than a statement. A question presupposes a response. There’s action, involvement, the classic sequence of tension-and-release. It’s the same formula used by simple jokes. And it works – sometimes. But there’s one circumstance where the Q&A format is doomed to failure. That’s in situations where the user repeatedly encounters the same type of information, such as standardised descriptions that a person might use to compare products before buying. The reason Q&A works so poorly in repetitive circumstances is related to why it works so well for single-reading circumstances: the story value. Once you’ve heard the question a few times, it becomes an irritation, not a friendly fea-

ture. It’s like hearing the same joke over and over (even though the punchline may sometimes be different). Let’s say you’re looking at sheets describing five competing insurance products. By looking at the section ‘Risks and Potential Rewards’ on each sheet, you could get an idea of how the risks and rewards compare. But suppose instead that each sheet had a section with the heading ‘What are the risks and what could I get in return?’ Would you really want to read that question over and over again? Unfortunately for European investors, this isn’t a hypothetical situation. The European Com-

mission in Brussels will soon require most financial products to offer a Key Information Document in which all of the sections are required to use the same questionstyle headings (inJosiah Fisk cluding the one I mentioned above). The Commission’s requirement is an example of how taking a simple, well-intentioned idea (‘question-style headings can be engaging’) and applying it as if it were a law of nature can actually defeat the goal rather than furthering it. It’s also a good reminder of something that is a law of nature: communications is always about context. Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

The future of medicine and management TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS

John  Reith,  the  first  director-general  of  the BBC, believed strongly in an educational role for broadcasting. In that spirit, the BBC has, every year since 1948, invited a different public figure to give four lectures designed to advance  public  understanding  and  debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.  The  2014  Reith  Lecturer  was  Atul Gawande,  an  American  surgeon,  writer  and public health researcher born of Indian immigrant  parents,  talking  about  the  future  of medicine. I want to explore some of the parallels I see between what he says about medicine, and management. In his first lecture, ‘Why do Doctors Fail?’ he distinguishes between failure in medicine due to ignorance (lack of knowledge) and to ineptitude (failure  to  use  existing  knowledge).  He  argues that in medicine there is often a failure to apply what we already know. Many more lives could be saved simply by deploying the existing capability more widely – even hand washing could have  a  hugely  positive  impact.  He  says:    “We need to learn about how to deal with our own in-

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eptitude ... We have a fear of our own ineptitude ... There’s shame and guilt when we don’t always get it right ... And it makes some people angry.” There are several management lessons here. First, we don’t need to strive for a hidden Holy Grail of good management: we already know the answers. The need is to follow some basic principles, including tolerance and respect for the other. Second, we need to ‘deploy our existing capability’ by adopting a constructive and positive approach to the ineptitude of others. Third, we need to come to terms with our own ineptitude by overcoming our own fears and developing more openness. Easier said than done, of course! But not a bad mission statement for a team to work on. I hope this will encourage you to listen to the talks.  Gawande  is  clear,  simple,  incisive  and original. He illustrates each of his lectures with a fascinating and sometimes moving personal experience.  Search  for  his  lectures  on  the  BBC website.

Steve Flinders Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, now based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working;

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Discover Benelux |  Business |  Business Calendar

Benelux Business Calendar TEXT: STINE WANNEBO  |  PRESS PHOTOS

Heritage Counts Leuven, Belgium, 3-5 February European  policymakers,  international  researchers and other professionals will attend  this  year’s  international  conference set at The Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation. During a week of thematic sessions, the participants will look at the impact of immovable heritage, evaluating  the  potentialities,  advantages  and difficulties of the topic. Reserve your place on  the  Cultural  Heritage  Counts  for  Europe’s website. culturalheritagecountsforeurope Retail Strategy Platform Zwolle, the Netherlands, 4-5 February Dubbed the most efficient working day of the year, this retail conference at the IJssel delta Center in Zwolle will give participants the opportunity to learn ways of bettering their customers’ shopping experience. Exchanging ideas, networking and inspiring lectures are on the programme. The event is  suitable  for  established  and  new  businesses  alike  and  topics  will  range  from employees as the prime asset, brand management  and  the  online  versus  the  real shopping experience.

Meet@ greater-region Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, 5 February This is the essential job fair for those seeking employment in Luxembourg, Wallonia, Alsace-Lorraine,  Rhineland-Palatinate  or Saarland. Not only is this an opportunity to meet  professionals  and  consultants  who will give you advice on how to successfully start  your  career,  the  event  also  enables you to get in touch with the exhibitors to learn about their job offers. Get informed about all career-related themes, make valuable  contacts  and  find  your  employer  of choice at LuxExpo in the centre of the city.

International Conference on Environmental Science and Development Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 14-15 February Whether you want to keep up to date with the  latest  innovations  in  the  sector,  discuss the future of the field or have a word with  the  greatest  and  most  knowledgeable people in environmental science, this is the event for you. This year for the sixth time, scientists, academics and industrial experts unite to share views, exchange experiences and promote research. Papers from the conference can be found in the Journal of Environmental Science and Development  and  WIT  Transactions  on  the Built Environment.

Negotiation Skills and Practice Brussels, Belgium, 5 February The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium is hosting a training session open to all who wish to master the art of negotiation.  The  session  will  focus  on  how  to achieve the best possible solutions in every day business life through the means of negotiation.  The  tutor  is  Maria  Laptev  from the European Centre for Public Affairs, who has  25  years  of  experience  in  educating professionals  and  has  in  that  time  held successful  workshops  and  training  sessions all over Europe.

Digital Fashion Futures Antwerp, Belgium, 24-26 February The link between fashion and digital innovation is as intriguing as it is futuristic and this is what this year’s International Fashion Conference is dedicated to. Through lectures, workshops and social activities it will explore  the  future  of  digital  fashion.  The cultural  heritage  industry  will  come  together,  evaluating  how  online  platforms and  innovative  perspectives  can  work  in unison. Book your seat now, for the Europeana  International  Fashion  Conference 2015.

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Discover Benelux |  Feature |  Brussels’ Art Deco

Revealing the gems of Brussels’ Art Deco Brussels was at the heart of the development of the 1920s architectural style of Art Deco. Elevated by the surge in construction post-World War I, refined examples of Art Deco sprang up all over the city, even transcending social differences. TEXT: CéCILE DUBOIS  |  PHOTOS: SOPHIE VOITURON

that required reconstruction – luckily not the  case  with  Brussels  –  but  four  lost years of production that had to be caught up on. As the population increased, numerous developments sprung up in new quarters of the capital. The city centre, already  densely  packed,  experienced  a surge in service growth, with old buildings being  modernised  and  new  ones  constructed.

After  the  First  World  War,  Brussels’  Art Nouveau architecture was followed on the heels by Art Deco. The former, a reaction to  earlier  Academicism,  was  inspired  by natural forms, and born in Brussels earlier in 1893 in the projects of Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. The  decorative  aspect  of  Art  Nouveau started to evolve into more geometric compositions, leaning towards abstraction, and progressively  into  more  sober  compositions:  the  Art  Deco.  This  term  first  appeared at the Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris in 1925, and is linked to architecture as well as interior  decoration,  and  touches  all  social milieux.

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The rise of Art Deco In  Belgium,  the  interwar  years  saw  an enormous increase in construction activity. It was not only the devastated regions

The Art Deco was Brussels was at a crossroads of influences including the Viennese group,  French  Art  Deco,  the  Amsterdam School,  English  regionalism...  Over  and above these influences, the Brussels practitioners  developed  works  that  were  very personal and varied.

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Discover Benelux |  Feature |  Brussels’ Art Deco

then  reticent  about  inhabiting  such spaces.  Luxurious  versions  soon  arose, as  witnessed  by  the  eight-storey  Palais de la Folle Chanson, with its very refined communal areas, created by the architect Antoine Courtens in 1928.

Art  Deco  readily  acknowledges  its  borrowings from other styles and cultures. In Belgium,  for  example,  Africa  and  the Congo constitute an important source of inspiration  for  artists  and  makers.  The aesthetics  of  the  ocean  liner  likewise prove inspirational.

From leisure to functionality Connecting society through architecture

In the city centre numerous leisure facilities were  built.  Especially  since  in  the  early 1920s,  after  the  privations  of  the  Great War, the population was hungry for pleasure.  Hotels,  cafes,  restaurants,  cinemas and  theatres,  shops  and  department stores,  even  (in  a  more  functional  strain) one of the biggest car showrooms in Europe – the Citroën building – are put up.

In Brussels the style is applied across various project: as much for prestige, like the national basilica Sacré-Coeur de Koekelberg – at the time the second largest religious edifice in the world – or the Administrative Building of the Forest district, as for more  modest  constructions  such  as  the numerous social housing developments in west Brussels.  Important events preceded this profusion. In 1919 the National Society for Affordable Dwellings  was  created,  which  stimulated the construction of social housing: garden cities. Straight away Brussels possessed several  remarkable  examples  of  these, then  consisting  of  small  multiple-occupancy blocks.

Palais de la Folle Chanson, architect Antoine Courtens, 1928.

In parallel, and following the enactment of the 1924 law making co-ownership legal, the idea of living in apartment blocks began  to  seduce  the  middle  classes,  until

Of course at the start of the 1930s the crisis slows economic activity, but it doesn’t stop  Brussels  from  hosting  the  International Exposition in 1935. That same year major works recommence in the city centre,  for  example  the  construction  of  the Nord-Midi railway junction. These projects only came to full completion with the inauguration of Victor Horta’s last masterpiece, the Central Station in 1952.

MAIN IMAGE OPPOSITE: The mansion of David and Alice van Buuren, architects Léon E. Govaerts and A. Van Vaerenbergh, 1924-1928. OPPOSITE: Koekelberg Basilica, architects Albert Van Huffel and Paul Rome, 1926-1971. ABOVE: Palais de la Folle Chanson, architect Antoine Courtens, 1928. BOTTOM LEFT: Garden city Le Logis in Watermael-Boitsfort, architect Jean-Jules Eggericx, 1921-1927. BOTTOM RIGHT: Piano bar l’Archiduc, rue Antoine Dansaert, architect F. Van Ruyskenvelde, 1937.

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Discover Benelux |  Feature |  Brussels’ Art Deco

Some of Brussels’ emblematic Art Deco places David and Alice van Buuren's mansion It was between 1924 and 1929 that the Van Buurens, great art collectors, have their villa constructed, its brick exterior reminiscent of projects  carried  out  by  the  Amsterdam School. The interior constitutes a unique Art Deco entity, where decoration and works of art have remained untouched. The garden, of  exceptional  size  and  conceived  by renowned landscape architects, has been restored recently. It is open to the public.  Villa Empain This sumptuous villa was constructed by the architect Michel Polak between 1930 and 1934 for the young Louis Empain, son of a famous industrialist and financier. Restored, nowadays it houses exhibitions for the Boghossian Foundation. The building extends at the rear to incorporate a huge swimming pool.

Villa Empain, architect Michel Polak, 1930-1934.

Le Palais des Beaux-Arts (Palace of Fine Arts) Conceived  between  1922  and  1928  by the master of Art Nouveau, Victor Horta, thereafter converted to Art Deco, this monumental building is one of the poles of cultural life in Brussels! Recent work has restored its true magnificence. The brasserie at hotel Espérance This  hotel,  formerly  somewhere  for  discreet liaisons, tucked away in the midst of commercial thoroughfares, has retained its brasserie with typical interwar decor: panelling, banquettes, tuffets, bar-top, leaded windows...

Villa Empain, architect Michel Polak, 1930-1934.

Espérance, architect Léon J. J. Govaerts, 1930.

A journey through Brussels’ best Art Deco

Citroën Building, architects Alexis Dumont and Marcel Van Goethem, 1933-1934.

Art Nouveau and Art Deco Biennial Every two years Brussels organises the ‘Biennale Art Nouveau et Art Déco’ event on weekend days in October. It grants the public exceptional access to Art Nouveau and Art Deco interiors that are opened exclusively during this event. The next takes place in October 2015.

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Discover Art Deco and Modernist architecture in Brussels via six exploration routes on foot or by bike. Via very varied programmes of architecture, the works of essential architects are brought to life. The book offers a key to this heritage, blazing a superb trail through the streets of Brussels.  Bruxelles Art Déco (2014) by Cécile Dubois with photography from Sophie Voituron is available now from Racine (in French only) €25

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Discover Benelux |  Culture |  Columns

Be my valentine TEXT & PHOTO: ANOUK KALMES

Some celebrations are just worldwide phenomena and Valentine’s Day is highly celebrated in Luxembourg as well. What does it mean? Couples are expected to give presents to each other, have a romantic dinner or go on a trip. It takes two to tango, but what if you are dancing solo, without  a  husband,  wife,  boyfriend,  girlfriend, partner, ex?  You probably either love or dread this day. If it’s the latter, I propose three options.  One – don’t do anything and ignore all the hype around 14 February. Just pretend that it does not exist and resign yourself to the fact that you are going to spend the evening by yourself without  candlelight  dinner,  red  roses  or  fireworks. Love  is  for  fools  anyway  and  you  don’t  need anyone and no one needs you. You tell yourself ‘this  too  shall  pass’  and  wait  for  15  February when shops are removing heart-shaped choco-

lates from their shelves and replacing them with Easter eggs.  Two – find a last minute date. Ask your friends if they know a lonely heart out there who might also be looking for someone. Maybe the matchmaking works out and you get to wear that sexy red dress (women) or the silky boxers (men) after all? In my opinion, the quickest way to get ‘lucky’ nowadays is to use Tinder. Just press the like  button  on  every  photo  that  pops  up.  You may  not  necessarily  find  your  dream  date  but you will find one. Guaranteed.

devouring an entire box of Ladurée macarons or Leonidas chocolates that I would have bought for myself as a V Day gift. Don’t expect to be rescued from loneliness by your one and only dream  lover;  think  about  who  you  can  reach out to on such a day. Life and love need to be shared, so do it with people that you care about. Read more about Anouk’s life and travels on her lifestyle blog

Three  –  you  propose  to  your  single  friends  to have dinner together. That way, you not only get to spend time with people you like, you also do them a favour by offering an alternative to the two lesser appealing options above.  And that’s what I’ve done. I am going to have a Valentine’s Day dinner with friends instead of sitting at home

Thoughts on perspective TEXT & IMAGE: SILVIA DE VRIES

grocery  store,  to  the neighbourhood café or into the city centre. The latter being a walk that always has an element of  surprise.  No  matter how  ordinary  the  day might have been up to that point.

An ordinary day for me starts with breakfast, which is followed by work. An ordinary day  usually  also  includes  a  walk:  to  the

When  walking  the streets  of  Amsterdam, you encounter many interesting  people,  I've talked  about  that  before,  what  also  meets the  eye  is  the  array  of buildings  –  old  and  new  –  that  line  the canals  and  cobblestone  streets.  Looking up at them will reveal traces of history that

always  leave  me  wondering  who  walked these streets before me. Who were they? What did they do for a living? Where were they  going?  Who  built  all  these  buildings and houses? Who designed the beautiful canal  houses  with  their  decorative  gable tops and why?  Looking up at the sky and the things that are aligned along it can show a whole new world and reveal a lot of interesting questions. When you look at things or people or life from a different angle, a different light may shine upon it. It can make you ponder questions that you never thought of before and  might  make  an  ordinary  day  a  little less ordinary, if only for a few moments. After all, no day can be truly ordinary if you look at things from a different perspective every now and then.

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Out & About This part of the year is amazingly colourful, as is clearly visible in the events we have selected for you on these pages. Carnivals, World Championships and Chinese New Year Celebrations – now is the time to embrace all the bright and dazzling nuances of the Benelux region. TEXT: STINE WANNEBO |  PRESS PHOTOS

Museum of Memories Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, 5-6 February This  thought-provoking  and  honest  performance at the CarréRotondes is centred on memories, the importance of recollection and the ability to remember. “Between ourselves and nothing, is the ability to remember.” Performers will be reconstructing lives that have ended, telling stories about the people they have lost with warmth, humour  and  music.  The  mesmerising  museum building is movable and entirely constructed out of 70 square metres of rusty drawers. The performance is by New In-

60 |  Issue 14 |  February 2015

ternational Encounter (NIE) which has won awards for their mixture of physical theatre, multiple languages, live music and storytelling. Salon du Chocolat Brussels, Belgium, 6-8 February Probably the largest chocolate event in the world,  this  mouth-watering  feast  returns to  the  Brussels  Expo  this  month.  Be amazed by the variation of sweet creations and flavours when the world of cacao producers, chocolate artists and consumers

come  together  to  celebrate  dark  brown gold. Visitors can try their hands at making chocolate, watch live cooking demonstrations  or  find  their  inner  artist  to  make chocolate sculptures. The highlight of the weekend  is  of  course  the  world  famous fashion show featuring gorgeous dresses made  out  of  the  purest,  most  delicious chocolate. Step into the Renaissance Brussels, Belgium, 6 February – 17 May For the first time in any museum for over

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Discover Benelux |  Culture |  Out & About

fifty  years,  a  major  exhibition  of  Renaissance portraits will appear in Brussels Museum. These pieces were made when the art of portrait painting blossomed in an extraordinary way, a time when religious conflict  and  scientific  discoveries  inspired  a quest for the realistic portrayal of the human face. The paintings are from Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Amsterdam, Utrecht and Haarlem,  which  were  all  significant  centres of portrait art during the Renaissance. Admire the stunning late-15th-century art works and see a great piece of Benelux in the process. World Speed Skating Championship Heerenveen, the Netherlands, 12-15 February Experience  the  Dutch  national  sport  up close  this  month  at  the  world-class  ice arena, Thialf beautifully situated in the north of the country. This is one of the main spectator events of the year and speed skating celebrities from all over the world come together to compete in this exciting and fastmoving sport. In contrast to the All-Round Championship, the World Distance Speed Championship  sets  out  to  find  the  best skater in each distance – with podium positions to win with every new race. Chinese New Year Celebrations Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 14-15 February This  year,  the  Lunar  calendar  year  com-

mences on Thursday 19 February 2015. In the  Dutch  capital  the  festivities  start  the weekend  before,  lighting  up  the  historic Nieuwmarkt/Zeedijk neighbourhood in the colour red. The Chinese New Year’s celebrations are also the ideal time to visit Amsterdam’s  beautiful  Buddhist  temple  Fo Guang Shan He Hua. For food, go to Europe’s first floating Chinese restaurant, Sea Palace, where you can expect something special for the occasion. There will be celebrations, activities and performances all over the city, from calligraphy workshops at De Bijenkorf to firework displays and lion dancing along the Geldersekade.

Baby Days Kortrijk, Belgium, 28 February – 1 March Expectant parents would not want to miss out on the three-day baby bonanza at the end of the month, and neither should new mums and dads. Apart from meeting other parents with young children, there will be opportunities  to  talk  to  experts,  getting samples and coupons, learning about the latest  trends  and  picking  up  some  new ideas.  There  will  be  over  a  hundred  exhibitors, ranging from baby products and health services to insurance and cars. Children who come along can play games with other children and try something tasty from their own especially made baby menu.

Aalst Carnival Aalst, Belgium, 15-17 February Nothing  says  February  like  an  authentic, old-fashioned  carnival!  From  Sunday through to Tuesday there is a vibrant parade going through the centre of the city, with  traditional  performances  and  activities  such  as  broom  dancing  and  onion throwing.  The  Voil  Jeanetten  parade  on Tuesday is a mad treat featuring men with beautiful  makeup  wearing  dresses  and corsets,  bird  cages  with  smoked  herring and burning of the carnival effigy. There is room for both young and old in the colourful  slightly  crazed  festivities  and  this  is  a perfect opportunity to visit the lovely city of Aalst.

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Discover Benelux |  Culture |  Columns

Art without a capital TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK  |  PHOTO: NBTC

London is the arts capital of Britain, Paris the arts capital of France, but where is the arts  capital  of  Belgium  and  the  Netherlands? The truth is, there is no standout candidate for this title. Instead, the whole region  is  one  great  big  bubbling  artistic hub,  that  nurtures  both  a  home-grown scene  and  attracts  international aficionados.

ent.  S.M.A.K  in  Ghent,  Zeno  X  and  Tim Van Laere in Antwerp continue to provide blockbuster exhibitions year on year, featuring the likes of established artists Marlene  Dumas,  Luc  Tuymans  and  Berlinde de  Bruckyere,  whilst  the  remarkable Dhondt-Dhaenens  in  the  tiny  village  of

Brussels  and  Amsterdam  are  of course big players, but in no way do  they  dwarf  the  rest  of  the  region. The Hague is home to the illustrious Mauritshuis and Rotterdam  has  Boijmans  van  Beuningen:  two  monolithic  art  institutions. There is still much more on offer in the form of contemporary galleries dotted around that pull in big names and promote local tal-

Deurle  is  testament  to  just  how  thriving the  art  scene  is  in  the  region,  hosting names  like  Maria  Lassnig  and  Sterling Ruby within the past 12 months.  Most  importantly,  and  the  driving  force behind this booming arts scene, are the galleries  that  showcase  the  glut  of  talented  young  artists  in  the  region. Naming Witte de With, BAK,  Croxhapox and Lokaal01 is to just dip your toe into the ocean of other galleries  that  continue  to  push  art forward from the grassroots. These are  the  key  factors  that  keep  Belgium and the Netherlands an artistic  stronghold  within  Europe,  and the  indeed  the  world.  Long  may  it continue!

How to get rich in the Netherlands TEXT: SIMON WOOLCOT |  PHOTO: NBTC

There are two almost guaranteed ways to get rich in the Netherlands 1. Open a bakery 2. Invent a spread to put on bread You may wonder why I suggest these two options.  The  Dutch  are  the  largest  consumers  of  bread  and  all  things  to  put  on bread on planet Earth and probably beyond. If you walk into any supermarket, you will see an  entire  aisle  dedicated  to  all  manner  of things to spread and sprinkle on bread. The creativity on display here is amazing: chocolate  or  forest  fruit  flavoured  flakes (really),  Mexican,  tomato  cucumber,  and many other exotic acquired taste spreads. The Dutch take their sandwich flavours seriously, go to the spread section of any su-

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permarket and you’ll see flavour connoisseurs  acting  as  if  they  are  choosing  fine wine  in  a  Bordeaux  vineyard.  “Shall  I choose peanut butter, chocolate flakes or a Mexican sandwich spread?” The selection of spreads and flavours available is breathtaking. Below a small sample. - Mediterranean - Tomatoes and onions - Courgette curry  Another, little known fact about Dutch culinary tastes that often comes as a shock to expats is that at lunchtime it’s quite common to see grown men and women eating slices  of  bread  covered  with  chocolate flakes.  The  combination  of  savoury  and sweet goes down very well here, and is a

firm favourite and offered in nearly all workplace canteens. Decisions,  decisions.  Forget  investing  in stocks,  invent  a  sandwich  spread.  The more  appalling  it  sounds,  the  more  likely you are to have a success on your hands. Happy investing.

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