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I S S U E 6 9 | S E P T E M B E R 2 019

MAARTEN

PLUS

HEIJMANS H O L L A N D ’ S V E R S AT I L E TA L E N T P ROMOTI NG B ELGI U M,

THE

BUILDING YOUR BRAND DUTCH EDUCATION GUIDE REWARDING RAIL JOURNEYS BUSINESS, DESIGN AND TRAVEL

NETHERLANDS

AND

LUXEMBOURG


Discover Benelux  |  Contents

Contents SEPTEMBER 2019

46

73

COVER FEATURE 46

Maarten Heijmans Since he shot to fame playing singer-songwriter Ramses in the eponymous miniseries of 2014, Maarten Heijmans has become one of the Netherlands’ most sought-after acting talents. We caught up with the International Emmy Award winner to hear more about two very different upcoming film roles, and find out why he has a penchant for playing the ‘bad guy’.

50

From amazing hotels to the finest foodie hotspots, not to mention unmissable exhibitions, we present our guide to the perfect autumn and winter break in the Netherlands.

BUSINESS 68

THEMES 14

10

18

34

54

FEATURES 64

Ten Rewarding Rail Journeys in the Benelux Given that rail travel is back in vogue, we take a look at ten of the most rewarding journeys by rail in the Benelux region.

Building your Brand: Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions Flanders is a hub for innovation in the marketing and digital design sectors. Check out our pick of the region’s top branding champions and decide how you will ensure your own brand becomes the best it can be.

Column and upcoming events We look at the month ahead in business, while our regular columnist highlights the importance of intelligent organisations.

Top Dutch Design and Engineering: When Only the Best Will Do The Netherlands is renowned for its pioneering approach to design and engineering, whatever the field. From innovative sportswear creations to inspiring yacht designs, we highlight the companies you need to know about.

The Netherlands: The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

DON’T MISS 6 80

Fashion Picks  |  8 Desirable Designs Out & About  |  86 Columns

Top Dutch Education: Building a Bright Future When it comes to education, the Netherlands is an example for the rest of the world. In this special guide, we present some of the country’s most inspiring educational establishments.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  3


Discover Benelux  |  Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux Issue 69, September 2019 Published 09.2019 ISSN 2054-7218 Published by Scan Group Print Uniprint Executive Editor Thomas Winther Creative Director Mads E. Petersen Editor Anna Villeleger Copy-editor Karl Batterbee Graphic Designer Audrey Beullier Feature Writer Arne Adriaenssens

Ingrid Opstad Janneke Nijmeijer Martin Pilkington Matt Antoniak Maya Witters Michiel Stol Myriam Dijck Pierre Antoine Zahnd Steve Flinders Stuart Forster Cover Photo © Amrita Panday Photography Sales & Key Account Managers Mette Tonnessen Katia Sfihi Micha Cornelisse Petra Foster Publisher: Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3YT United Kingdom Phone: +44 207 407 1937 Email: info@discoverbenelux.com www.discoverbenelux.com

Welcome to the September issue. While we may no longer be embarking on a new academic term, here at Discover Benelux we are embracing the ‘back to school’ mood with a jam-packed Dutch education guide. And even if your school days are long behind you, our business special this month focuses on Belgium’s branding champions. After all, September symbolises new beginnings and fresh starts, so what better time to give your business a makeover? If it’s more of a personal transformation that you seek, then check out our pick of this season’s top transitional wardrobe items to ensure you step into the new season in style. On the cover this month is Dutch actor Maarten Heijmans, who shot to fame playing iconic Dutch singer-songwriter Ramses in the eponymous miniseries of 2014. He’ll be back on screens this autumn in Dutch romantic comedy Wat is dan Liefde and Peitruss, a dark thriller directed by Luxembourg’s Max Jacoby. We caught up with the multitalented star to hear more about the two very different films, and find out why he tends to prefer the ‘bad guy’ roles. Read the revealing interview on page 46. Can’t shake off that holiday feeling? You don’t always have to travel great distances to feel far from home, and with the rising phenomenon of ‘tagskryt’ (‘train bragging’), rail travel is becoming increasingly popular. If you fancy a trip with a lower environmental impact, don’t miss our guide to ten of the most rewarding journeys by rail in the Benelux region. We also have a guide to the perfect autumn break in the Netherlands which is sure to inspire you, and our packed Out & About calendar proves there are still plenty of cultural events to keep the holiday spirit alive. Happy reading!

Contributors Debby Grooteman Frank van Lieshout

Anna Villeleger, Editor We are a media you can trust. The print circulation of Discover Benelux is audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), which is the UK body for media measurement.

© All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication September 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.

4  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Fashion Picks

SEPTEMBER FASHION PICKS

Autumn transitions Autumn is right around the corner. As the leaves start to change colour, we think it is time to take inspiration from the beautiful shades found in nature. With these items, you can stay in style and get your wardrobe ready for the coming season. TEXT: INGRID OPSTAD  |  PRESS PHOTOS

Smart casual A soft and casual transitional piece for any relaxed occasion, this taupe tri-tone sweater is tailored and made from a wool-cashmere blend in the perfect autumnal shades. Pair it with white trousers for a smart and sophisticated look and throw over a tailored and lightweight jacket to get through the season in style. Suitsupply, green waxed field jacket, €229 Suitsupply, taupe crewneck, €129 Suitsupply, white Alain selvedge jeans, €129 www.suitsupply.com

Back it up Enter autumn with a new backpack. The Billie’s backpack from Amsterdam brand O My Bag is not just cool, it is also very convenient, with its wide-top opening providing easy access to all your belongings. It is made to fit a 13 inch laptop, has padded straps to accommodate heavier loads and is equipped with extra interior and exterior storage pockets. O My Bag, Billie’s backpack, €149 www.omybag.nl

Chelsea boy We think any modern man’s wardrobe should include a classic Chelsea boot. We love this pair from ETQ. Available in a range of different shades, it will be your staple pair of shoes this season, as it is one of the most versatile footwear styles you can own. ETQ, ‘CB 01 Cognac’ Chelsea boots, €222.31 www.etq-amsterdam.com 6  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Say my name The right accessories are the key to any outfit, and this season we want to be more personal. With their Letter collection, Dutch brand Vedder&Vedder go to a whole new level with personalising. They allow you to not only choose your own initials, but also the placing of the letters on a necklace. Available in 14-carat yellowrose- or white gold. Vedder&Vedder, vertical six letter necklace, €429 www.vedder-vedder.com

Sand Copenhagen Jumpsuits are still going strong, and you’ll be right on trend in this comfortable one with a peony flower print and stunning autumnal tones. It has a softly draped wrap-around bodice and a self-tie belt to accentuate your figure. Sand Copenhagen, floral ‘Whitney N’ jumpsuit, €289 www.sandcopenhagen.com

Laidback chic No need to compromise comfort over style. With their loose style, high waist and calm colour, these trousers are a great fit for autumn. Add a feminine structured jumper and sporty, white trainers for a laidback and effortlessly chic look. And Less, ‘Ruggieron’ pants, €119.95 And Less, ‘Jiska’ pullover, €89.95 www.andless.dk Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  7


Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Desirable Designs

DESIRABLE DESIGNS

The fun office Following the examples of the likes of Google and Facebook, companies are increasingly getting rid of their grey, soulless offices and moving towards colourful, cosy and fun workspaces. Not only does it boost the happiness of staff, it also skyrockets the image of your company. With these quirky pieces of furniture, employees may no longer want to leave the office at 5pm sharp. TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PRESS PHOTOS

1. Office jungle gym Do you need a break from sitting at your desk? Lay, hang or climb in the bright yellow BuzziJungle! Its many comfortable chairs are perfect to work in, have a brainstorm session together or just to take that well-deserved lunchtime siesta. From € 40,644 www.buzzi.space

1.

8  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Desirable Designs

2.

3.

2. Organised chaos For some people, a little bit of chaos is necessary to function. With the Overdose cabinet, there will be organised chaos galore. From € 8,190 www.bulo.com 3. Holiday mood During working hours, we all dream about holidays to faraway places. With this adorable cork cactus on your desk, however, the south will come to you instead. € 7.50 www.hema.nl 4. Office throne With their squeaky wheels and uncomfortable backrests, most office chairs are uninviting. Enter, the Easy Rider. With this regal seat, you can navigate through your company’s corridors in style and comfort. € 2,240 www.bulo.com

5.

5. Work hard … … play harder! That is a credo we love to live by. With the Fusiontable in your office, your conference room will be hosting a pool tournament in no time. € 5,900 www.fusiontables.com

4.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  9


Photo: Cris Toala Olivares

TOP DUTCH DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

When only the best will do The Netherlands is renowned throughout the world for its pioneering approach to design and engineering, whatever the field. From innovative clothing creations to inspiring yacht designs, we highlight the companies you need to know about. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: NBTC AND AMSTERDAM&PARTNERS

10  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Design and Engineering  |  When Only the Best Will Do

Dutch Design is synonymous with experimentation, originality, functionality and sustainability. The term ‘Dutch Design’ was first coined in Milan in 1993, when the conceptual design company Droog made a huge impression at the international furniture fair. Dutch cities such as Eindhoven and Tilburg have become international design hubs, while creatives such as Marcel Wanders and Maarten Baas continue to make an impact on a global scale. The Dutch influence on design stretches far beyond furniture, and the country has an equally large role in the fields of fashion, architecture and engineering. Thanks to the country’s low-lying topography, the Dutch are world leaders in flood control and protection and hydraulic engineering. They are reputed for their ability to design and build storm surge barriers and levees, reclaim land through high-tech dredging and create entire coastal areas and harbours. River engineering and maintenance is another area of expertise. Also linked to the country’s close relationship with water, the Netherlands plays a

Haarlemmermeer. Photo: Kees van der Veer

huge part in the field of yacht design and yacht-building. Many of the industry’s most noteworthy yachts are designed and built in the Netherlands, and the country’s engineers and designers are among the world’s finest. In fact, the Dutch tradition for yacht building dates back to the 18th century — the term ‘yacht’ actually originates from the Dutch word jacht (meaning

‘hunt’). It originally referred to the light fast sailing vessels that the Dutch Republic navy used to follow pirates and other trespassers in the country’s waters. Keen to know more? Read on for a guide to some of the country’s most exciting companies in the areas of design and engineering.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  11


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Yacht Design and Engineering  |  When Only the Best Will Do

‘Innovative, daring and agile’ TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: HABBEKE SHIPYARD

Being one of the first shipyards in the Netherlands to build ships using aluminium over 50 years ago, has made Habbeke Shipyard in Hoorn one of a kind. Their lightweight, agile and fast rigid-inflatable boats (RIBs) are award winning and, in fact, save lives. “In any kind of sea and any kind of weather, our ships will always be ready to go,” says Orm de Waart, second generation owner of Habbeke. His father started the company in 1966. “He was a shipbuilder already but thought he could do it better on his own. The fact that we are still here 50 years later proves he was right.” The name of the company is derived from a local saying in Broek in Waterland, where Habbeke is started. “It is sort of a greeting, a mixture of Dutch and Swedish,” explains De Waart. “During World War II, local children were sent to Sweden. When they came back, they spoke this mix. When my dad and his partner delivered the first ship, they went with this name and it stuck.” 12  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Rescue vessels Habbeke is renowned for its fast and agile RIB boats, made completely using aluminium. “It makes them lightweight, so very easy to handle, and even on rough seas.” It is why they have been producing lifeboats for The Royal Dutch Lifeboat Association (KNRM) for nearly 30 years. In this time, Habbeke has delivered 30 vessels, including the pride of the company; the Valentijn Class RIB boat. “The Valentijn can rescue up to 50 people and has shown her worth and ability in the dangerous seas around the Netherlands. In 1994, we were awarded the prestigious Aluminium Award for this vessel.”

keep the weight down; but also including the latest gadgets.” The BN218 Valentijn is a great example of that. “It’s innovating, daring, and agile. It is like an F-16 fighter jet on water,” smiles De Waart.

Private ships Besides rescue vessels, Habbeke also builds leisure (sail) yachts. One of the key factors in the yard’s success is its commitment to working with the client and the designer. “We will try to realise as many of the clients’ wishes as possible, and we are not afraid to be bold. For instance, using thinner materials to

Web: www.habbeke.nl


Uniquely designed and expertly engineered yachts TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: TRIMM DESIGN

A tailor-made RIB-based yacht, a classical hybrid powered motor yacht, or a 60-metre seaworthy luxurious ship; no matter what kind of wishes you have for your dream vessel, Trimm Design in Leeuwarden can design and engineer it for you. “If you want to be unique and at the top of your game, you have to be innovative,” explains Shantia Fardin, co-founder of Trimm Design.

we could do certain aspects better ourselves,” Westra continues. “We had been working for almost a decade with each other. To take that step together felt right immediately,” adds Fardin. “We chose the name Trimm, because we wanted something that people would remember easily. Trimm is also a nautical term, so it fits perfectly.”

“We focus on exterior and interior design, styling, engineering and project management for yachts of any size and shape,” says Fardin’s partner Klaas Jan Westra. Together, they founded Trimm in 2008. “We were both working for another company. Over our time there, we found that

Within a few months of their start, Trimm expanded their operations, and have been doing so ever since. Westra: “Today, our team comprises about 60 people and we have an office here in Leeuwarden, as well as in Aachen, just over the border near Maastricht.” From

14  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Eye for detail

there, they work for numerous national and international clients, such as yards and interior builders, but also for private clients. For Trimm, it is all about the details. “We start off with a ‘basic’ drawing and then we zoom in. We take a look at everything from that engineering


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Yacht Design and Engineering  |  When Only the Best Will Do

perspective, to make sure that what we design will work and meets the clients’ expectations.”

Innovation is key It is one of the reasons why clients come to Trimm; transforming innovative concepts into reality. Take, for instance, their 21-metre Trimm Classic Motor Yacht. It is a blend of timeless design and modern techniques. The classic lined hull and superstructure, richly decorated with teak elements, make it look like the classical exclusive yachts of yesterday. “But the inside is another story. This ship has an all-electric drive system, only supported by a generator when needed. It is one of the first of its kind,” states Westra.

Award-winning design This is not the first ‘first of its kind’ Trimm has designed. “In 2012, Boarnstream — a renowned shipbuilder — came to us with ideas for a line of yachts: the Elegance. We developed the exterior as well as the interior design, naval architecture and engineering for this,” elaborates Westra. “We came up with the idea of having all the major features (cabin, steering, galley) on the same level. Only the sleeping quarters and bathroom are below deck. This provides a 360-degree panoramic view, unique for this type of ship.” The design was so unique and innovative, that two types of the Elegance, the 1200 and 1300, were named 2016 European Powerboat of the

Year and 2017 European Motorboat of the Year, respectively.

Other engineering projects Trimm also works with private clients in engineering ships, but also in other parts of engineering. One of those private clients wanted a ship based on a RIB boat, where the idea was that this vessel should fit in a specially designed trailer. “But we also engineered a building kit for this — an aluminium ribbon that starts at the roof of the building, then ‘enters’ it and curls all the way through the building to the front,” says Fardin. Trimm are also at the forefront when it comes to the process of design and

engineering. Westra: “Most of our work used to be in 2D and meant that shipbuilders had to do a lot of preparation work. We introduced a software tool for 3D-design, which helps reduce the doubling up of work with builders, because they can see what is needed. And clients can track our work.” Other engineering agencies are catching on as well. “The best part of our job is the variety that comes with it. Whether we work on a small yacht or a large ship; working with the clients on their initial concept and creating it into the luxurious piece of art they have in mind, is truly great,” smiles Fardin.

Classic 21m MY

Holterman 53’ commander

— Material: Steel

— Material: Steel

— Length: 21.60 m

— Length: 16.00 m

— Beam: 4,76 m

— Beam: 4,78 m

— Draft: 1,26 m

— Draft: 1,25 m

— Water Displacement: 45 ton — Clearance height: 3,48 m

Classic MY.

— Clearance height: 3,48 m

— Engine:

— Water Displacement: 35 ton — Engine: 2x Volvo Penta D4-180

Generator: Volvo Penta

with HS63A hydraulic clutch

D4-180 (130 kWh)

— CE classification: Cat A

Eletric engine: PM 130 kWh

— Berth: 6

Battery set: 14 x 100Ah, Lithium-ion — CE classification: Cat A — Berth: 6

Commander.

Web: www.trimmdesign.com

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  15


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Design  |  When Only the Best Will Do

Custom-made, sustainable sports gear TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: ANNABEL DERWORT FOTOGRAFIE

Whether you are a sports club, or your company competes in sporting events, you want your team to look good – and benefit from all the advantages of the finest sports gear. With the custom-made sports attire from Nicesports – made almost entirely using recycled materials – your team will look truly professional. “The personal relationships with our clients is why I do this. If they need me, I’ll be there for them,” says founder Tim de Nijs. As a former top speedskater, De Nijs knows all too well about the benefits of top-notch sports clothing. After an accident, he had to leave the Dutch national team. “A few years later, I wanted to pick it up again. What shocked me, were the prices of good skating suits,” explains De Nijs. So, he designed a skating suit himself, at a third of the cost. “We used different materials, hence the lower cost, but achieved the same results: a suit that 16  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

gives speedskaters support, stability and the correct posture.” This marked the beginning of Nicesports. “It started as a hobby, but quickly grew. And so too did my passion for designing affordable and sustainable tailor-made sporting gear.” Today, Nicesports makes clothes for nearly all sports. “We design a lot of team outfits for cyclists nowadays. Not just here in the Netherlands, but for teams all around the world.”   Together with his partner, De Nijs helps clients with the design of the outfits. “Being able to sit with them and think about the designs, is what really drives me. Once it is clear what they want, we build a personal webshop for them, so that their employees, for instance, can browse through the webshop and order their desired gear.” Periodically, the orders are processed. “We make all our clothes in European factories, so we can guarantee quality and a quick delivery.”

Over the last few years, Nicesports’ clothing has started becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly. “We can use old gear and create new clothes,” explains De Nijs. For example, they have created a line of runners’ gear, made completely from recycled materials, for Tony Chocolonely. Unfortunately, not all materials are suitable. But Nicesports makes sure the raw materials are harvested and processed in an eco-friendly manner. “Fully recycled clothes are where we are heading. And the quality is as good as that of new materials – you wouldn’t feel the difference.”

Web: www.nicesports.nl


MADE.

BUILDING YOUR BRAND

Top Flemish branding, UX and digital design champions As a hub for innovation and creativity, Flanders is home to some of the world’s most exciting branding experts. With their help, you can ensure your brand becomes the best it can be. From branding and marketing to UX and digital design, you will find a thrilling array of specialist companies. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER

KIXX.

18  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

Wisefools.

Stand out from the crowd Good branding means your company will always stand out from the crowd. In addition to creating a lasting impression on consumers, and distinguishing your product or services from others on the market, it offers a clear idea of what you represent as a business. As well as increasing brand awareness, it can alter the way people view your brand and entice new customers. There are many different elements to good branding, which stretch way beyond having a

Baldwin.

MWAD.be

relatable brand name and an instantly recognisable logo.

Making the brand You need to think carefully about your brand values as these will clearly guide decision-making within your company. It’s also fundamental to consider your target audience and your brand’s ‘personality’. For example, is it serious or playful? An effective brand strategy is at the core of business growth. Your brand image

captures the heart of your business, summarising what you do and why you are significant. In the ever-advancing age of digitised media, digital content is becoming an increasingly important part of that strategy too. However, there are so many tasks involved, it can be hard to know where to begin.

Branding goals Whatever your branding goals, let us present the specialist firms who will help you to achieve the brand image you want.

Wunderman Thompson.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  19


Where brains storm, strategies unfold and creativity flourishes TEXT: DEBBY GROOTEMAN  |  PHOTOS: LIQUID

A creative agency focused on defining strategies for brands and everything that comes with it – that is what Liquid in Bruges is passionate about. A team of nearly 20 talents helps businesses build their brand experience and stories, to create loyal relationships with their customers. “Without a well-defined strategy, you can’t be effective. You can have shortterm successes, but in the long term, you aren’t building a brand. Each company should start from that point of view,” begins agency director Nathalie Clauw. “For example, there are businesses that follow a sales strategy and forget to build 20  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

a brand. So they have to fight each day to convince the same client. That is where we come in – helping businesses to create a brand and bring out their most valuable brand essence, to find a connection with their customers and build a valuable relationship. It’s about defining their values, and translating them into a strategic communication approach that appeals to each person of their target group.”  

Creativity is more than just an aesthetic Most companies have a brand mission and vision. But according to Clauw, most of the time they are all the same; too difficult, not unique and, most importantly, not known or lived by their

employees. “In our approach, we dig deeper to find the real reason behind a company’s existence. The big ‘Why?’. This isn’t about the standard ‘unique selling points’, where in most cases quality and service are key. It is about a brand story, with a brand checklist that is unique and more attractive to live by. That’s how to make a difference.”  In nearly 30 years of existence, the agency has built a strategic team with a common ‘Liquid way’ in strategic thinking and creating. One of the main Liquid beliefs is that every company has something unique that can create value – a real DNA. “It is important to look at a company: who they are, what they offer and what are – or


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

can be – the needs of its clients. You need to consider how to appeal to potential clients. A brand is more than just a look. It is an experience that tells a story. And if a company doesn’t have a competitive tale, Liquid is specialised in creating one.” 

Perception is reality Alain Boone, managing director, explains it is all about creating a brand that clearly reflects what a company stands for, and the way it is perceived by their clients. “We always say ‘perception is reality’. What the outside world thinks of you is true. How do clients look at a brand? What do they think it stands for? And is that also what the company itself says it stands for?” But how can you position a brand in a competitive market? According to Boone, this goes way beyond how a brand looks. “It’s about a feeling and the story that goes with it. We work with different phases and step four is the creative part, not step one. We don’t want to create something just to be creative, or because we think it looks beautiful. We need input from the client to create a personalised brand for a company. It’s about making the right communication for our customer. Their outcome is our success.”  Nathalie Clauw.

The journey to the result “In the end, the result is not just the result. It is foremost the journey, and that is also where Liquid stands apart from other communication agencies. We don’t just follow a brief – it is our responsibility to remain critical and to see things from another perspective than our clients. That is also what companies are looking for in a strategic partner. We are not ex-

ecutors. We question everything, whether a client asks for it or not. Strategy and thinking ahead are important to make sure a brand stays focused and current,” concludes Clauw. “Our tagline frames what we offer perfectly: we get brands into heads and hearts.” Web: liquidsociety.be

Alain Boone.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  21


Keeping the creative juices flowing TEXT: FRANK VAN LIESHOUT  |  PHOTOS: WISEFOOLS

Combining creative flair with technical nous, Wisefools serves its clients with sophisticated branding and a smart digital experience. Set up in the city of Ghent some 12 years ago, Wisefools is the brainchild of Pieter Langeraert and Dries Van haver. While Pieter took up creative responsibilities, Dries focused more on strategy and technical design. “This is how we came up with the name Wisefools,” Pieter explains. “It expresses the field of tension between the rational and the emotional, the two ingredients you need to create effective communication in the online and offline environment.” Today, they have focused their activities on branding identity, branding acti22  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

vation, and the digital experience. “The most important part of branding is finding and defining the essence of a brand, a company or a product and translating this into a design expressing its DNA,” Pieter explains. “So it’s not just a logo, a font and a colour, but also an idea, a message and a way of life. For the user, it should be a unique digital and physical experience.”

DNA Supported by the digital developers at sister company Cabinet C, Wisefools’ multidisciplinary team of strategists, creatives, UX specialists and copywriters develop the brand identity and translate this into a complete experience. This includes website design, social campaigns and advertising, but it also stretches into the

physical domain. “We like to be involved not only in branding a client’s website and social presence, but also support their activities in the real world: for instance, by branding their events or offices,” Pieter explains. “Quite often, we see businesses where these two worlds are disconnected, where one party develops their online presence, and another their offline branding. The result is that part of their DNA gets lost in the process.” Although Wisefools is in the driving seat during the branding process, effective branding is always the result of close collaboration between the agency and the client. “It’s a co-creative process,” Pieter explains. “We need the client to find out about the brand, and to ask them questions to make sure the brand’s positioning


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

is properly translated in the digital environment. They need us for proper research into the target groups and their perception of the brand. And to make sure considerations such as target group, message and promise are all optimally and organically integrated in the website design and any other branded assets. This is why it’s crucial that we are involved from the very start of the process.”

other expertise such as business consultancy and marketing research. Vice versa, we are also frequently hired ourselves by marketing firms who need our skills to develop web design or brand identity for their clients. And recently, we also set up a development collective with a number of other agencies in Ghent to bundle our strengths, so we are able to take on larger projects and accounts.”

Clients

Since its inception, Wisefools has built a solid client base, representing a range of different sectors. Their customers include well-established companies such as logistics operators Bleckmann, as well as new scale-up companies such as AI specialists Dataroots.

Any specialist skills that Wisefools do not have available in-house, they can hire from a roster of trusted partners. “We are a lean organisation and our main driver is our creativity,” says Pieter, “so we partner up with other organisations to procure

“Bleckmann have been around since the 19th century, but in the last decade, they have experienced a huge boost from online shopping logistics,” Pieter explains. “We have been hired to revamp their website and communications. Dataroots have only been around since 2016, but they have huge potential. We are developing their website and we are working on their branding to increase their visibility for recruitment and commercial purposes.”

Long-term partnerships Wisefools’ main overall ambition is to engage in long-term partnerships with existing and new clients. “We want to grow along with them,” Pieter says, “and at the same time stay agile, so we can continue to respond adequately to new trends and developments, using innovative communication techniques to build and roll out our customers’ brands, and making sure they fit seamlessly across all channels. “And, finally, we also want to enjoy our work and the collaboration with our customers,” he smiles. “Creativity is at the heart of our business, and it’s important to have a bit of fun, enjoyment and breathing space to keep the creative juices flowing. So that we can keep producing the fresh new ideas that our clients hire us for in the first place.” Web: www.wisefools.be

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  23


Photo: Hannelore Veelaert.

Design for impact TEXT: FRANK VAN LIESHOUT  |  PHOTOS: MADE

With 13 years of design experience under their belts, Antwerp-based innovation designers, Made, know how to turn great ideas into even greater products. “All too often, innovation gets stuck in marketing talk and a lot of hot air,” says Made founder and CEO Timothy Macken. “I think we’ve seen enough break-out sessions with lots of wonderful ideas on post-its that never get realised. It’s time to make some real impact and ensure innovation is actually delivered.” Judging from their impressive portfolio, that is exactly what Made have been doing over the past 13 years. Working in multidisciplinary teams comprising strategists and product, service, digital and 24  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

business designers, the 20-strong outfit have helped many of their clients not only to stay ahead of the competition, but to launch game-changing products in their markets, as well.

Game changers Introducing indoor climate specialists Renson to digital opportunities, Made devised an air-quality control app which puts them into direct contact with their end users. For whiteboard manufacturers PolyVision, Made radically altered the concept of whiteboard walls, adding flexibility and new possibilities for their use, as well as reducing installation times by 75 per cent. They designed the app and smart package delivery systems for Bringme, helping them to kick off their

start-up which has grown from three to 100 people. And they developed a radically new interpreter’s console for communication technology specialists Televic Conference, which has established them as a market leader. “These are just a few examples, but they are a good reflection of the kind of value we can add,” Timothy says. “You can see plenty of companies who create fantastic concepts, but terrible products, because they lose sight of the business context. What we do is we combine our expertise as innovation consultants with our creative design skills to make a real impact. We are all focused on making a positive contribution to this world and pushing our clients to join us on that journey.”


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Synergy This is why client engagement and building synergy is a vital part in the process. “For the transition to a new product, service or technology to work, it’s crucial that everyone in the business is involved. As a designer, you need to be able to infect the customer with your passion and excitement. If you can inspire them, you can start building real engagement and turn them into ambassadors for new products or services. This is really important, because it means they will support and promote the chosen strategy internally. We believe proper engagement is the only way innovation can actually result in success.”

Technology for humans The design process covers strategy, insights, ideation, design and development, and Made wants to be involved from the very start. “It’s crucial for designers to take part in strategy discussions, because you need to make sure the client is asking the right questions and develop a clear and unambiguous definition of their objectives before you can start looking for a solution that fits. We never design technology for the sake of technology – it should be a means to an end.”

Photo: Alexandra Bertels

A crucial step in the process is to find out the real needs, demands, dreams and frustrations of the users. This involves a substantial amount of qualitative research, which includes user observations, interviews, panel discussions and concept validation. “This is another pivotal phase in the process, because quite often the research results turn out to be a real eye-opener to the client,” Timothy explains. “It can throw up some big surprises and really change their perception of their own product or service. For our clients, we want to min-

Photo: Alexandra Bertels

imise risks, maximise success rates and add real value in the process.”

Desirable, feasible, viable Based on strategy and insights, Made will start their design. Applying a proven process of prototyping, testing, feedback, learning and improving, the original ideas will evolve into a set of concepts, then crystallise into a proper, detailed design and ultimately be developed into the final product. “It’s a challenging process, because you need to know when to involve the client and when to make certain decisions to filter ideas or concepts into a limited set of solutions. But we keep working at it until we are satisfied that we have created a desirable, feasible and viable product or service, which will add actual value to the user and excite our clients. To me personally, that’s where the real satisfaction lies: reaping the reward for our hard work. And I guess it’s why our customers keep coming back to us!”

Are you interested in working in a human-first environment with an entrepreneurial spirit? Made is always looking for talented and enthusiastic designers, strategists, consultants and interns to join their team. You can go to haveitmade.be/jobs for more information.

Web: haveitmade.be

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  25


Ghent office.

The webshop workshop TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: BALDWIN

In terms of popularity, no shopping street comes close to the commercial centre of the internet. Therefore, might cyberspace be the perfect location to open your store? But how does one go about doing that exactly? E-commerce agency Baldwin is an expert in designing, developing and boosting webshops of all sorts. “We start from a blank piece of paper and finish with boosting your social media. We work from A to Z.” “The world of e-commerce is incredibly diverse,” says Maarten Deboo, founder of Baldwin. “In fact, almost every website sells something. Shoes, cakes, telecom products, subscriptions; you name it. Yet, the selling techniques and technical features that these platforms require vary 26  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

from product to product. That is where we can make a difference. As a pure e-commerce agency, we have the knowhow to tailor any kind of webshop.”

Two offices filled with expertise To guarantee the highest quality, the two offices of Baldwin (one in Ghent and one in Cluj-Napoca, Romania) are filled with all the talents your online store could possibly require. Besides a sizeable team of developers, plenty of digital marketers and graphic designers are at your disposal. “I have always been an allrounder,” explains Deboo. “Photography, marketing, developing; for years I did it all by myself. When I founded Baldwin, I started replacing myself with experts in all these fields. Now, our clients can count on the highest-quality service in all

these facets without having to run from one agency to the next.” That, however, doesn’t mean you can’t rely on Baldwin’s services separately. When in need of a top-notch developer or an extraordinary graphic designer alone, you are more than welcome at the firm, as well.

Entirely unique For Baldwin, webshops must be made to measure. With every new client entering the door, they reinvent what a webshop can be. Yet, that doesn’t mean that they have to start from scratch. “With years of experience, we have, of course, learned one or two things about webshops. We understand that photography is vital to selling well. But that doesn’t mean we use the same kind of photography for a fashion store and a retailer of industrial


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

Cluj-Napoca office.

machinery. The product always determines our methods.” On the other hand, Baldwin’s team is not afraid to reuse existing items either. As masters in Magento (an open-source platform that can be used as the basis for building your webshop), they are just as happy to tailor you a store from existing Magento building blocks. “As millions of people worldwide use Magento, the odds that the elements you want on your site have been built before are big. By reusing these elements instead of coding them ourselves, we can reduce the price tag of your website significantly. The quality of the code won’t be inferior, either. As these elements have been used on numerous websites before, they are usually entirely optimised.” The use

of Magento is, of course, limited to the back-end developing of your webshop. The actual graphic design of a Baldwin product is always 100 per cent unique and matched to your preferences.

Omnichannel shopping As the world of e-commerce is fastevolving, Baldwin conducts plenty of research to stay on top of things. Today, they are exploring the added value of screens in the offline retail sector. “Omnichannel is the future. In the next years, the ‘e’ in ‘e-commerce’ will slightly fade and elements of online shopping will enter the physical stores. Some brands already work with systems like these: if you go to McDonald’s, you can order your burger on a screen, and that makes sense. The added value of human

Ghent office.

Cluj-Napoca office.

contact while ordering such a menu is very minimal, anyway. By digitalising it, we can make the process more efficient without losing quality. And I think that the retail industry counts more jobs that can be replaced by screens. In Asia, they already do fantastic things. Some airports there have screens with facial recognition. The moment you stand in front of them, they show you your flight information.” Of course, technologies like these won’t come to Europe anytime soon. Yet, Baldwin wants to be a frontrunner in the field. “Soon, we will launch a software system which stores can implement in their branches. This way, the future might arrive sooner than we think.” Web: www.baldwin.agency

Ghent office.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  27


WUNDERMAN THOMPSON BELGIUM

A one-stop-shop marketing solutions provider TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: WUNDERMAN THOMPSON

Finding the right way to market your brand can be hard to do. Luckily, creative, data and technology agency, Wunderman Thompson Belgium, has everything you may need to skyrocket your business. “We inspire growth,” says Lieselot Moerkerke, the firm’s communication manager, summarising the philosophy of the company. Business is faster moving and is more competitive than ever before. Disruption is the new normal and only those brands that grow and change will succeed. Growth benefits more than just the bottom line. It helps us be at our most relevant, entrepreneurial and alive. It helps companies and the people within them evolve, learn and thrive. 28  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Providing such an exquisite service requires plenty of teamwork. “In our offices in Antwerp and Brussels, you stumble upon a large and diverse pool of talents,” Moerkerke continues. “They work in competence centres. ‘Data, analytics and insight’ focuses on the analyses of our clients’ data and translates them into strategies. Breakthrough ‘creative experiences’ brings data to life in campaigns that break the clutter. These campaigns or marketing solutions are deployed on scalable state of the art technological platforms: earned (social media), owned (websites) or paid (advertising space). Although these competence centres can work autonomously, they mostly collab-

orate. “In today’s business landscape, every marketing challenge is different. By listening to our clients and brainstorming alongside them, we figure out how to give shape to their aspirations. We use proprietary tools like the Brand Asset Valuator or the Collision Methodology.


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

Entire projects As a result, Wunderman Thompson Belgium’s projects surpass the creation of a single television spot or the launch of a Facebook campaign. When the occasion calls for it, they go above and beyond to develop an all-round promotional campaign in which strategy, creativity, data, digital platforms and a wide range of media meet. “The choice of which media to use is no longer our starting point. Instead, we lay out our client’s journey first. Which message do we want to convey, how should the campaign evolve… This is how we strategise the right medium.” Wunderman Thompson Belgium collaborates in an ecosystem of solution providers “It is nice to sink your teeth into a big project alongside very talented colleagues of all sorts,” says Erlend Debast, head of digital experiences. “We have a myriad of in-house talents and can count on our extensive international network of specialised experts, as well. Together, we can elevate each other’s abilities from the first brainstorm until the adding of the finishing touches.”

Wunderman Thompson Belgium As part of the global Wunderman Thompson network (which counts over 20,000 talents worldwide) and part of WPP, Wunderman Thompson Belgium can count on plenty of expertise in a wide range of fields. Despite the country’s humble size, the branch’s ambitions are tower-high. “We aim to become one of the key hubs of this global network,” concludes Moerkerke. “We want to deliver top-notch work to our clients and inspire our international colleagues with what we are capable of doing.”

Your website’s blueprint One of the many fields in which Wunderman Thompson Belgium excels, is UX design. Although, they call it by a different name. “Instead of UX design we say UX architecture,” explains Jeroen Michiels, lead UX/UI architect at the office. “The word ‘design’ implies that we are creating something visual or graphic,

but we do the opposite. We give shape to the user experience of all digital products, decide how things should function and determine which feelings the consumers should explore while browsing. We don’t design the website’s buttons, but we figure out what they should do. Actually, it is a bit like drawing a blueprint of a house. We create the fundamentals of your digital ecosystem, after which the visual interface designers can spruce it up with the right wallpaper and some nice furniture that perfectly match the way an end-user wants to interact and wants to feel.” Ideally, a UX architect is involved in the process from day one. In collaboration with the UI designer, they can make sure your website functions properly on launching day already. Yet, it is never really too late to get a UX architect on board. “A few years ago, many companies decided to invest grand budgets into their online presence,” says Debast. “Yet, today, they notice that the product they have created does not attract enough visitors or fails to keep them on the page. People get lost in its fuzzy navigation or get discouraged just looking at its homepage. At this point, our UX team can diagnose the exact problems and resolve them. Not only will this help you to attract more traffic, but it will also give a boost to your company’s image.” Web: www.wundermanthompson.be

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  29


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

FLTR Tanguy De Keyzer (Growth Marketer), Eveline Smet (Founder The Growth Agency, Head of Strategy) and Pawel Sokolowski (Head of Data).

Growth without the guesswork TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: GROWTH AGENCY

The Growth Agency is a marketing partner to help you achieve exactly what its name states. The agency’s main goal is to help companies grow their business and increase their revenue. Its weapon of choice: data. “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion,” says founder and Growth Strategist, Eveline Smet. “By basing our strategic plans on different data sets, we can predict and scope revenue.” “We are both thinkers and doers,” Eveline continues. “Our data scientists and strategists love analysing data and immersing themselves in a company’s market. This deep dive is used to provide the company with a growth roadmap that will be implemented step by step.” A lot of companies today are already aware of the importance of collecting data, but either their data sets are not accurate or they just don’t combine different sets to come up with actionable marketing insights. We help them make data-driven decisions based on cold hard facts. 30  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

“With data-driven strategies, we predict the effect on revenue. We helped travel insurance company Europ Assistance – a client with whom we have worked for almost two years already – analyse seasonal data and plot them on their sales figures to optimise the way we invest our media budgets to get the best ROAS. Based on data insights and A/B segmented tests we could efficiently optimise the sales funnels. This resulted in a 14 per cent increase in conversion rate. Together with their marketing team, we create digital and above the line marketing campaigns, too. We aim to first optimise the ‘low hanging fruit’, that results in a direct increase in revenue. And like these, we implement dozens of changes in our monthly sprints.” Alongside Europ Assistance Belgium, other corporates have long-lasting collaborations with The Growth Agency to create revenue growth. “We believe growth is a continuous process during which there is always something to im-

prove,” says Eveline. “We love working with corporates who have ambitious revenue targets, but lack the speed or the resources to implement the changes themselves. We strongly believe that data-driven companies are better equipped for the future and we are passionate to partner up with those with the same mindset! ” Some of The Growth Agency’s recent projects include: — Increasing user engagement and revenue from social media by 12 per cent for an iGaming company — Increasing revenue from organic search by 20 per cent with technical SEO optimisations for an insurance provider — Increasing website conversion rate from 3.2 per cent to 7.6 per cent for a Telco

Web: www.growthagency.co


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

‘Know where you want to go!’ TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: KIXX

Building a brand is much more than just having the perfect logo or website. It is about knowing yourself and your customers. “The most important question you have to ask yourself is: ‘What do I want to accomplish?’ Know that, and your brand almost builds itself,” says Mark Caelenberghe, founder of KIXX. “Our clients think of us as their external marketing manager. We provide solutions and strategies for everything that has to do with branding and marketing, both online and offline,” explains

Caelenberghe. KIXX’s team helps you build your brand from zero; starting with a strategy, before coming to a visualisation and then executing the campaign. “Our focus lies heavily on the strategy; think first, act later. If you don’t know where you want to go with your brand, you cannot create a good campaign. Once we know the goal, as well as the challenges that come with it, our team of strategists, designers and digital experts get to work.” Although online is a big part of branding today, KIXX also helps organisations with their offline branding, such as print media and at events.

A story does not end after the launch of a product or service. You have to keep telling your story. “That is why we also support our clients after a campaign. Together with them, we look at new ideas and opportunities,” continues Caelenberghe. “It’s important to always keep in mind the aims of each client. If the client knows what their goal is, KIXX will lead the journey to accomplishing that goal.”

Web: www.kixx-concept.be


Discover Benelux  |  Building your Brand  |  Top Flemish Branding, UX and Digital Design Champions

Your digitalisation partner TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: ELLEN CLAES

In 2019, an online presence is vital to keep your business relevant. Luckily, digital agency MWAD.be knows exactly how to enrich your analogue business with a digital extension. Whether you need a website, a webshop, an exciting app or the digitalisation of one of your company’s processes, they can create it for you from scratch. “We make products that fit our clients like a glove,” says Laurenz Mets, owner of MWAD.be. “Therefore, we keep a safe distance from standard templates. If we were to base our designs on them, we would not only limit ourselves in our possibilities, we would also end up with a website that looks very similar to a hundred others. We want to provide one-of-a-kind websites that do exactly what our clients need them to do. To achieve that, we have to code them from the ground up.” 32  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Yet, that doesn’t mean that MWAD.be only works for big players with big budgets. Quite the opposite, actually. “We enjoy helping small and medium-sized companies to explore the advantages of the internet. In some sectors, like the construction industry, digitalisation is still premature. We take them online in a very personal and accessible way. First, we have a chat with them over a cup of coffee to explore their expectations. Some clients have plenty of ideas already, others don’t. But we always end up with the perfect product for them.” And that goes beyond websites. When beneficial, MWAD.be builds you personalised applications as well. “Often, our apps help our clients to digitalise their daily processes. A custom-made planning tool, an app for invoicing… Implementing small systems like these in your company can be very beneficial and isn’t that expensive.”

Soon, MWAD.be will introduce its proper plug-and-play planning app, Schedl. This user-friendly planning app will allow companies to start digitalising with a low threshold, both financially and technically. As a cherry on top, MWAD.be also provides digital marketing services. This way, you can skyrocket your business from day one. “For this, our in-house experts collaborate with a handful of trusted partner companies. Yondr takes care of all to do with video and the young lions of Project Apollo provide all sorts of other content to share on your digital channels. At MWAD.be, we love collaborating with others. It allows us to explore new fields, be inspired by each other and improve with every day passing.” Web: mwad.be


T O P D U T C H E D U C AT I O N

Building a bright future When it comes to education, the Netherlands is an example for the rest of the world. According to Pearson’s prestigious ranking, its higher education is the eighth best in the world and third in Europe. Join us on a journey through the country’s modern and balanced talent incubators. TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: PEXELS

34  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

If anything, Dutch education is formulated for the student as an individual. From the age of 14, youngsters have plenty of opportunities to design their own individual learning trail. In brief, Dutch secondary school can be divided into different categories: for example there is vocational training (vmbo), technical education (havo) and general education (vwo). According to the level you choose, you are prepared for a different form of higher education. Within the system, pupils have opportunities galore to explore their passions and im-

merse themselves during their electives. These can vary from science or languages to arts or philosophy. After graduating from secondary school, most students choose the level of higher education that fits their high-school career. Vwo-students usually end up at a university (wo), havo-students opt for higher college education (hbo) and vmbo-students choose a mediate college programme (mbo). That last one is, once again, divided into various degrees of diffi-

culty. A degree in the highest level of them all also provides you with an entrance ticket to commence hbo-studies afterwards. This way, no door ever really closes on you within the Dutch education system. Those who want to, can always work themselves up to a higher level if they are motivated enough. In this month’s special guide, we present our top pick of the region’s finest educational establishments: for everyone from the youngest learners to the perpetual student.

THE NETHERLANDS’ TOP SECTORS: Although Dutch talent can be found in all fields, they play a global pioneering role in nine sectors in particular. In these industries, they are world champions.

High-tech systems and materials

Agriculture and food

Life sciences and health

While combining productivity, quality and safety, the Netherlands is leading the rest of the world towards a sustainable food industry.

In the Netherlands, top-notch healthcare is available to everyone. Yet, even more than curing illnesses, they aim to prevent them and increase quality of life.

Chemistry

Logistics

Today’s chemistry industry in the Netherlands focuses on relevant subjects like climate, circularity, food, mobility and health. It has, therefore, a significant global impact.

As a well-connected country in the heart of Europe, the Netherlands proves its talent for logistics on a daily basis; on land, at sea and in the air.

Creative industry

The cultivation of both flowers and vegetables is blooming in the Netherlands. Its long history in growing crops makes their produce popular at home as well as abroad.

As a country of innovators, the Dutch combine their limitless fantasy and urge to create with a fascination for new methods and upcoming platforms.

Energy With its long history of building windmills, the Netherlands is well on its way to becoming climate neutral. Their expertise, they happily share with the rest of the world.

High-tech is more than gadgets and luxury items. Dutch innovators create state-of-theart solutions for a range of social challenges.

Horticulture

Water and marine As a water-drenched country, the Dutch are experts in protecting themselves against it and using it to their own advantage. The power of water is never underestimated in the low countries.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  35


Learning without boundaries in the capital of the Netherlands TEXT: DEBBY GROOTEMAN  |  PHOTOS: ESPRIT SCHOOLS

Esprit Schools is a unique community of 14 primary and secondary schools in Amsterdam. Amongst them, is the Amsterdam International Community School (AICS), for students aged between four and 18, which is the only public international school in the capital of the Netherlands. At AICS, teaching is done in English and students can start at any time of the year.  “We focus on expats and people new to Amsterdam,” begins Ruth Kervezee, chairman of the executive board of Esprit Schools. “Since expats can move to another country at any time of the year, new 36  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

students are always welcome. Often, they will join us for a specific period of time.” However, Kervezee adds that because of Amsterdam becoming increasingly international, a tendency has been noticed that more (semi) expats are staying for a longer time. “Since Esprit Schools consists of different schools, to those children who are staying in Amsterdam for a long period, we also offer the possibility to change from the international school to a regular school – for example, with the change from preschool to middle school. Of course, this can only be done when their Dutch is at a sufficient level.” 

Teaching methods at the 14 Esprit Schools are continually designed to ensure learning is fun, and project education is key to this. In the group of schools, another lead school is DENISE, which stands for The New International School Esprit. The school’s programme is similar to AICS, with the difference being that students can enjoy classes in both Dutch and English.

A fitting education for all students The primary and middle school are open to both Dutch and international students, who want to profit from the Dual Language Programme. When finishing


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

the educational programme at AICS and DENISE, students gain an internationally recognised diploma. “The international bachelor diploma is widely known to expat families and is similar to the highest Dutch level. DENISE also offers other levels of education, so we can offer a fitting education to all students.”     

At the heart of the community Kervezee is keen to highlight that the intention is that international students really get to know Amsterdam. “We want to connect our students with the community and the city. Since they are studying in the capital of the Netherlands, we think it’s important they get to know the city. So we follow what is happening and participate. Our students take part in ´Kingsday´, go on cycling tours throughout the city and engage in neighbourhood projects, for example. We are not an isolated school – we put ourselves in the centre of society. That is also a big difference with private schools.”

Chairman of the executive board Ruth Kervezee (right) and member of the executive board Percy Henry (left). Photo: © Gerry Hurkmans

Global citizenship The motto of Esprit Schools is ´Learning without boundaries´. They are very proud to welcome around 60 nationalities at their primary and middle schools. “We want to offer education to every student that comes to Amsterdam. And we value global citizenship. Therefore, it is important that students in Amsterdam mix with each other, regardless of their background and for however long a period they are staying,” states Kervezee. “Another element that makes our community special is that children aged from four to

18 study in the same building. This creates a social atmosphere at a school.” 

Tailor-made learning Parents and students are always made to feel welcome at Esprit Schools. “At AICS, you find a lot of children from multilingual parents. Students who speak Indian and English, Turkish and Dutch or, for example, English and French at home. So we also offer classes in other languages. This way, they can keep up with their own vocabulary.” 

Depending on the language, Esprit Schools also offers group lessons. Kervezee adds that distant learning or a tailor-made programme for a student is also possible. And in some cases, a language school comes in to the building to teach the students. “If we can’t offer it ourselves, we help students to find a way to study the language they speak at home,” she concludes. Web: www.espritscholen.nl

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  37


U P D AT E Y O U R M A R K E T I N G K N O W L E D G E

‘Without it, your business will fail’ TEXT: MYRIAM DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: BEECKESTIJN BUSINESS SCHOOL

The world of business commerce has completely changed due to the global impact and rapid development of the internet. Online shopping, social media and smartphone use have drastically altered the way in which businesses reach out and interact with clients: not only for consumers but also in business-to-business. For professionals and companies, it is more essential than ever before to continuously update their knowledge. This is what Beeckestijn Business School aims to provide, by offering courses that allow experienced professionals to keep up with the latest developments in their field. Because, just having work experience is no longer enough to stay ahead, says director Hans Molenaar: “In the past, you could graduate from a decent 38  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

college or university and have all the knowledge you need to reach your pension. Experience was enough and that is no longer the case. Current knowledge is becoming more valuable than experience, you have to stay up to date with the latest developments.”

Blended learning

Beeckestijn has a unique approach to teaching, which they call ‘action learning’. They help students implement their knowledge by assisting them with creating a comprehensive plan of action that can be executed when the course is over, or even before. He continues: “We don’t believe in exams. Instead, we want students to leave the course with a completed business plan, including a vision, plan of execution and an overview of the costs involved.”

The classroom sessions are typically held once a week, and are usually in groups of around 14 people. Outside of those, students can request one-on-one feedback from teachers and get access to online tools to further their learning. “We allow students to study the theory in their own time and then the classes are all about unlocking that knowledge. We focus on the practical application by using cases or people’s own situations,” Molenaar says. “In order to ensure the best guidance, all of our teachers are top professionals who work in the field, and only teach part-time.”  

Dozens of courses offered

The business school was founded in 2000, alongside the rise of the internet, as it had such an unprecedented impact on jobs in the commercial industries. “We


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

started by offering one-off workshops, but it turned out there was a big demand among commercial professionals to brush up on their marketing knowledge.” The name, ‘Beeckestijn’, relates to the estate where the first classes were held, just west of Amsterdam. By now, educating around a thousand professionals and managers a year, the Beeckestijn Business School offers their 60 different programmes at locations throughout the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Leusden, Zwolle and Eindhoven.  

Adapted to professionals

Aside from providing valuable knowledge and teaching practical skills, Beeckestijn Business School also makes sure the courses are doable alongside a full-time job. Molenaar explains: “We intend not to make our courses too long. Most of them take around ten sessions over a threemonth period to complete. We found that if they last longer, they can start to impact business performance, people’s personal lives or even their day-to-day wellbeing.” With the practical nature of the courses, Beeckestijn Business School attracts a mixture of students. “The majority are employed and want to increase their performance at work. But we also get en-

trepreneurs who are working on a new start-up, people who are in-between jobs and want to become relevant to the job market again, or people who are simply interested in the subjects,” he says.

Reaching clients and managing expectations

As people spend more and more time online, it is essential to understand the digital landscape. With a trend towards bespoke, individualised services, customers have also become more demanding. Molenaar: “In this day and age, if you lack this knowledge, you just won’t be able to reach your customers anymore.”

Three popular courses offered are digital marketing, customer experience management and customer data management. Molenaar adds: “There is much more data available, including data on customers. It is important to know how to organise this, create value with it and how to store it safely.” Beeckestijn Business School offers various types of training with different durations in the fields of online marketing and communication, customer management and customer data. The courses are offered at three different levels: operational (working with tools), tactical (creating business plans) and strategic. 

International in-company courses Aside from their regular courses, Beeckestijn also offers bespoke incompany training for (international) companies. One example is a course they developed for marketing professionals from the Dutch animalfeed producer De Heus who wanted to streamline the marketing at their 15 international divisions and boost their digital transformation. For this, Beeckestijn developed ‘De Heus Marketing Academy’. Hans Molenaar: “It included e-learning modules, then a week of group workshops in the Netherlands, and a follow-up of online sessions to work with tools.”

Director Hans Molenaar.

Web: www.beeckestijn.org

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  39


‘Employees who love what they do, will get the best results’ TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: 12MPROVE

As a company, it is natural to want to add value for your customers. In doing so, you are always looking for ways to improve your results. One method for achieving this is to improve your employees - helping them work more efficiently and developing lean thinking, knowledge and practical skills in the workplace. “Employees who love what they do, will get the best results,” says Remco Rovers, Lean Master Black Belt and founder of 12Mprove, an organisation renowned for its impactful training sessions. Lean thinking is a way to shape your business processes in such a way that it will not only benefit your customers, 40  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

but also your staff. “On the one hand, it is about creating customer value by reducing ‘wasted time’. Rethinking existing processes, that often frustrate staff members, to make them more efficient. This will take those frustrations away, therefore helping to make your employee’s job enjoyable again,” explains Rovers.

first gave training sessions at a sourcing company. They made a real impact, and from there on, the ball kept rolling.” In 2015, Robert Zaaijer joined the partner team of 12Mprove and together, they focused on the further growth of the company. In 2018, Frank stepped back from the board.

Rovers was first introduced to lean thinking while working at a large energy company in the Netherlands. “I was immediately sold on the philosophy of it; putting people first, to get better results. I immersed myself in it and soon found a colleague who felt the same,” he reminisces. That was Frank Bossema, and together in 2013, they founded 12Mprove. “We

Today, 12Mprove - which is fully accredited by the Lean Competency System (LCS) of Cardiff University - gives training to staff and management, from organisations ranging from major companies to municipalities. Over the years, they have trained over 2,500 people. “Seeing our training sessions have such a positive effect on employees is tremendous.


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

They really seem to like it, given the extremely high ratings they give us on educational portals.”

Interactive, hands-on and energising The idea behind 12Mprove’s success? Their concept of ‘blended learning’. “If there is one thing employees do not like, it is sitting in a classroom, listening to someone for hours or days on end. They are more about e-learning in their own time. It is also less effective if they just sit and listen. It will not stick,” explains Rovers. But the success of lean thinking comes with group training. So, to get the best results, 12Mprove created blended learning, an approach that comes from a 10-20-70 learning model. Ten per cent is blended or classroom learning, 20 per cent is coaching on the job by 12Mprove coaches and 70 per cent of the learning comes from practising the new material in the students’ own working environment. Trainees will do some online preparation, then follow the class where they present what they have learned so far.” The classes are fully interactive, with the use of games and simulations to tackle challenges. “Games are a gateway to tack-

Remco Rovers.

le complex issues, which of course we deal with as well, via the simulations.” All the challenges they address, are real-life challenges from the job, brought by the students themselves. Rather than be on the work floor 24/7, telling them what to do, the 12Mprove trainers coach the staff members, by talking to them and sending bits of knowledge to help them with their challenges.  They also organise return days, where the whole group comes together to discuss how they are doing. “Training can only be impactful, if students follow up on it. We feel that coaching is so important, that we take our time.” In total, employees who follow the training, will be

Robert Zaaijer.

doing so for at least three months. Most of this involves using what they have learned in their daily practice. “The best thing we can ask for is seeing them come back energised and with increased enjoyment for their job, not to mention watching their organisation change and grow. Because that is the beauty of lean thinking – it is not about working harder, it is about working smarter and bringing employees more fulfilment. That results in growth and better service for their clients. A win-win for everybody,” concludes Rovers.  Web: www.12mprove.nl

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  41


Unique Chinese experience for Dutch hospitality students TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: KONING WILLEM I COLLEGE

The Koning Willem I College in ‘s-Hertogenbosch firmly aims to provide its students with the best possible preparation for the job market. As part of this effort, its hospitality department recently embarked on a collaboration that allows students to do a work placement at Intercontinental Hotel Group in Jiangsu. As a UNESCO school, stimulating equal opportunities, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue lies at the heart of everything Koning Willem I College, a School for Senior Secondary Vocational 42  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Education, Adult General Secondary Education and Adult Education in the Noord-Brabant province, undertakes. “We offer each one of our 15,000 students the opportunity to have an international experience during their training,” explains head of the school’s international office Renée Frommé. “Whether that’s a placement in an international company within the Netherlands, or an internship abroad.”

tal Hotel Group in the Jiangsu province. “We were contacted by Rob Spiekerman, director of operations for IHG hotels in Jiangsu and GM of the InterContinental

Chance of a lifetime Given the school’s international outlook, its international office jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the Intercontinen-

Paul Swinkels, Marc Raaijmakers, Yolande Ulenaers and Renée Frommé.


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

Anouk de Ridder, first student on the exchange programme.

Nanjing,” attests Paul Swinkels, coordinator of international placements for the school’s hospitality department. “He has a passion for education, and was looking for ways to enrich the learning experience of both Dutch and Chinese students in the hospitality sector.” “Collaborations with China are often challenging, because the culture and procedures are very different,” explains Frommé. “You need plenty of patience and good contacts to get established. Luckily, we have a new president of the Board of Governors, Yolande Ulenaers, who has close affiliations with China and speaks the language fluently. She was immediately behind the project.” “It really seemed too good to be true when Rob contacted us,” adds Swinkels. “He already found a school in Wuxi for us to organise exchanges with, and was committed to providing great placements at Intercontinental Hotels. On top of that, ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Wuxi are sister cities. Everything just clicked.”

Personal approach The first student on the exchange programme swapped ‘s-Hertogenbosch for Wuxi in mid-August, and was warmly received by Mr Spiekerman. In the first stage of the programme, four Dutch and four Chinese students per year will swap places for five months each. “The next two Dutch

students will leave in February, and we will welcome the first two Chinese students here in March,” explains Swinkels. A five-month exchange is no mean feat for someone who is barely 18 years old, and China certainly isn’t the most obvious location, either. “Of course, parents are anxious at seeing their children move so far away,” says Frommé. “But we organise information sessions to put their minds at ease, and we know our students well. This exchange is only offered to those who we believe can handle the challenge. Other students get equally exciting opportunities, for example in South Africa or Europe.”

Multi-layered cooperation The cooperation between the schools in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Wuxi comes at an apt time: the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Jiangsu have had a close relationship for 25 years, which they are about to celebrate with a trade mission to China in November. Various Dutch company delegations and local government officials will make the trip to Jiangsu province capital Nanjing. This offers a unique opportunity for the Koning Willem I College to showcase its exchange programme as well as the Dutch cuisine. “We will join the Dutch delegation together with four students from the chefs’ training department,” explains Swinkels. “They will cook up the final celebration din-

ner according to the five principles of Dutch cuisine: culture, health, nature, quality and value. We look forward to presenting a bit of the Netherlands to the Chinese dignitaries.”

Looking to the future For a school of 15,000 pupils, sending four people per year over to China might seem like a drop in the ocean, but the college has further ambitions. “We hope to expand this programme in the coming years, not only within the hospitality department, but in other areas too,” explains Frommé. “We will work with the companies on the November trade delegation to see if we can organise placements with them. That way, Jiangsu could become a real Dutch hotspot.” For Mr Spiekerman, it’s the collaboration he was hoping for when he contacted the college. “I love to see how much these students look forward to their experience, how they arrive as youngsters and return as young adults. Seeing the Dutch and Chinese students mingle, despite the language barrier, is fantastic. It’s enriching to students and teachers alike, and ultimately benefits our intercultural understanding and teaching standards on both sides of the globe.” Find out more about the Koning Willem I College online at: www.kw1c.nl

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  43


Photo: Sven Scholten

Future-orientated learning in Apeldoorn and beyond TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: WITTENBORG

There are plenty of universities to choose from for those looking to take the academic route, but Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, headquartered in Apeldoorn, approaches things differently. With a curriculum full of practical, applied programmes, a profound dedication to diversity, and classes exclusively in English, they create a firmly future-orientated environment for students. “No one is in the majority here, so everyone can learn from each other.” Wittenborg University started off as a business school, and its roots still show in the practical, job-orientated nature of the programmes offered. This practicality also shines through in the way the school handles admissions. 44  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

“The world is becoming smaller, so we respond by trying to make our university staff and student population as diverse as possible,” attests CEO Maggie Feng. “Our goal was to have 100 different nationalities represented by 2023. In fact, we already have over 100 now, but the challenge is to keep up that diversity on a permanent basis.”

Diversity as empowerment This 100-nationality goal is not just a target number for Wittenborg. The school firmly believes that diversity is an enrichment for students and teachers alike. “Because everyone is in the minority – even the Dutch, who only make up ten per cent of our school population – no single culture is dominant. So everyone has to adjust equally, it’s not just the for-

eign students who have to adapt to the Dutch culture.” “This means that no one is at a disadvantage. There are no groups or factions; everyone’s individual contribution counts. This also offers an exciting challenge for our teachers: a highly tailored approach is needed to make sure we cater to everyone’s learning styles, so they are constantly learning, as well,” beams Feng.

Challenge equals growth Wittenborg has a highly individual selection procedure that involves a one-onone Skype call with a staff member. “The call helps us assess whether we think the student’s English is up to scratch and whether they are ready for the level of independence required to adapt


Discover Benelux  |  Top Dutch Education  |  Building a Bright Future

to studying here,” explains Feng. “But it also functions as awareness training. We want to make sure that they are willing and ready to face the challenges that await them here.” Feng and her team are firm believers in the idea that these challenges ultimately lead to growth and understanding. “It’s like action learning,” chuckles Feng. “Within our super-diverse staff team, of course, miscommunications happen due to cultural and linguistic differences. But we use these as learning opportunities. It helps people become aware of how they communicate, which is ultimately very valuable in a globalised job market.”

Work-orientated learning The job market is always at the forefront of any initiatives at Wittenborg. “We are not a fundamental research university, we very much gear ourselves towards the labour market,” says Feng. “You cannot

forget the impact on society of everything you undertake. Sometimes the big, traditional universities forget that link. Their work is too far removed from daily life. You cannot influence policy or business if no one reads your research.” “Instead, we focus on what goes on in the world and adapt our programmes to match ongoing developments. Our relationship with our students does not end when they graduate, we want them to be able to use the skills they gain here in their careers.”

International adaptability To cater for the influx of students of all nationalities and backgrounds, the university also operates a unique, module-based curriculum. This means that students are not obliged to start in September; they can join the university at six different points throughout the year, and graduate accordingly.

“This approach makes sense for us,” explains Feng. “It helps new students integrate more quickly, because newbies will join a class of students who already know the ropes. It also means that no one has to wait idly for months until the school year starts. And, of course, not all jobs are published in summer. Delivering graduates throughout the year complements the job market much better.” Wittenborg also offers a double degree with the University of Brighton. “That’s particularly interesting in the current political climate,” Feng believes. “It allows you to study in Amsterdam but earn a UK-based degree.” As if the university’s international outlook was not clear enough already, it is also expanding its campuses, with a new location opening in Munich. “Practicality and diversity are at the forefront of our minds at all times,” concludes Feng.

CEO Maggie Feng. Photo: Sven Scholten

You can apply to Wittenborg online at www.wittenborg.eu.

Photo: Sven Scholten

You can also visit the various campuses during the upcoming Open Days: — Apeldoorn, NL - 25 September & 4 December — Amsterdam, NL - 4 October & 13 December — Munich, DE – 13 September & 11 November

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  45


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Discover Benelux  |  Cover Interview  |  Maarten Heijmans

MAARTEN HEIJMANS

Holland’s most versatile talent Since he shot to fame playing iconic Dutch singer-songwriter Ramses in the eponymous miniseries of 2014 earning himself an International Emmy Award - Maarten Heijmans has become one of the Netherlands’ most revered acting talents. Equally at home on stage and screen, he regularly collaborates with theatre director Ivo van Hove, and was awarded the prestigious Arlecchino prize at the Netherlands Theatre Festival in 2017, for his role playing Sebastiaan in Ibsen huis (Ibsen House). The 35-year-old will return to screens this autumn, starring in Dutch romantic comedy Wat is dan Liefde and Peitruss, a dark thriller directed by Luxembourg’s Max Jacoby. We caught up with the in-demand actor to find out more about the two very different roles. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: AMRITA PANDAY PHOTOGRAPHY

“It’s just more fun being the bad guy,” admits Heijmans, referring to his character Joakim in Peitruss, an upcoming film about a series of unsolved murders terrorising Luxembourg, with Joakim being a suspect.

and not that much fun. But when you play a character, you have to look for a way to like them. Even if it’s just a song they like which you like as well, what’s behind that? I think you have to get a connection.”

“It’s a thriller about this woman, Lara, who meets a guy and there are some murders taking place around the time, and the guy she meets is a suspect. She wants to be protective of him and she has no idea if he did it, she’s just met him. It’s not exactly a whodunnit, it’s more of a ‘did he do it?’ from her perspective. We hope to keep the audience guessing, just like the woman, Lara, has to guess.”

As a Dutchman shooting a movie in Luxembourg City, Heijmans was able to relate to his character’s sensation of being isolated. “My character is from Holland and he arrives in Luxembourg. So I also went through that experience - arriving in a strange city where you don’t know anyone,” he explains. “I spent two months away from home filming there and sometimes it can get quite lonely.”

Bad guy

Comic relief

“Joakim is a martial arts teacher. He’s very secluded, a very mysterious guy

Also out this October is the comedy Wat is dan Liefde, directed by Aniëlle

Webster, in which Heijmans plays divorce lawyer Gijs, who makes big money for his company through acrimonious divorces and is on his way to becoming a partner. However, his idealistic coworker Cato (played by Elise Schaap), believes a lawyer’s role is to help people separate peacefully from their failed marriages, and is also in the race to become a partner. “The movie isn’t that much about divorces or anything, it’s more about love in the broader context. In romantic comedy style, the characters start out a certain way and they clash in the beginning. Then during the film they have to learn to take some responsibility for their life and for their love. So, yeah that change was quite interesting to play,” reveals the actor. Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  47


Discover Benelux  |  Cover Interview  |  Maarten Heijmans

Despite his clear talent as a comic actor, Heijmans admits he finds comic roles harder: “For me, in a film like a romantic comedy, making a believable and rounded character poses a bit of a challenge. Although the film seems quite ‘straightforward’, ‘straightforward’ might even be more difficult.”

Emmy-winner One role that Heijmans got just right was his Emmy-winning portrayal of Dutch musical icon Ramses. “He was such a huge character,” enthuses Heijmans. “He was a great actor, an even better singer, a pianist and a composer. He was the biggest musical influence we had in Holland.” When he accepted the part, Heijmans was adamant that he would play the piano himself in all the scenes, and do his own live vocals. “I think mostly in films, when somebody sings or plays an instrument, they turn on a backing track during shooting and you play back what has been recorded months before. I felt like that wouldn’t work with this character — he was so ‘in the moment’ during his performances. He would always do something different depending on the moment. So that was a big, interesting choice we made. It was technically more difficult, but I’m really happy we did it.” So how did Heijmans prepare for the challenge? “I had singing lessons with a great man who trains a lot of opera sing-

Maarten Heijmans (left) stars in the film Wat is dan Liefde. Photo: StudioISA© Martijn van Gelder

ers and I had piano lessons from a man who worked with Ramses on his last two albums. It was great to work with people who worked with him as they’d tell you stories about him and their eyes would light up,” he recalls.

Treading the boards Heijmans graduated from the Amsterdam Theatre School & Kleinkunst Academy in 2007, and has remained loyal to his theatrical roots. Stage fright has long been a thing of the past, although the actor admits in his early days he found opening night a terrifying experience. “I feel stage fright less and less as I get older, so that’s really good. When I had just graduated from theatre school I hated premieres and I got unwell, physically and mentally. I thought ‘everyone in the

Maarten Heijmans (right) in the TV series Ramses by Michiel van Erp.

48  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

audience hates me’ as soon as I came on. That’s not a really nice place for an actor to be, but luckily that went away.” One of the things Heijmans loves about theatre is its volatile nature. “Sometimes you forget your lines, but I like that because it gives the evening an element of unpredictability. You have to solve it and that’s where the fun starts, when you have to solve problems that you didn’t see coming. It’s the same when you get into a laughing fit with another performer,” he grins.

Theatre for all Despite some people’s view that theatre can be intimidating, Heijmans is passionate about making it universal. “Of course, nowadays people watch Netflix. It used to be a local theatre and now it’s more convenient to watch in your home.” The actor is keen to ensure he reaches a wide audience, and enjoys bringing his work to the younger generation. “I’ve done some children’s theatre as well, that’s actually the most exciting because children are not that socially adapted. Their reactions are honest and true. I think doing a big children’s comedy might be the closest you get to what theatre really is. Really, theatre came from people hanging around a campfire. It was the person who told stories, a combination of a medicine man, a priest, and an actor. Nowadays, theatre can be so elitist, but entertainment is for all, not just a select club,” he concludes.


Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  49


NETHERLANDS SPECIAL

The ultimate autumn and winter destination From amazing hotels to the finest foodie hotspots, not to mention unmissable cultural events, we present our guide to the perfect autumn and winter break in the Netherlands. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: NBTC

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Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

Texel.

The colder months are arguably the best time of year to visit the Netherlands, as Amsterdam’s iconic canal belt is enhanced by beautiful autumn colours. In fact, the Dutch capital is one of the leafiest cities in Europe, and its famous parks, like the Vondelpark, look stunning when the trees turn orange and red. Meanwhile, the rugged Dutch coastline glows in the low sun and autumn is a magical time to visit the Dutch Wadden Islands. Texel National Park, complete with sandy beaches, dramatic dunes and inspiring forest trails is an absolute must. On the island’s northern tip, the 19th-century Texel Lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the North Sea and the Wadden Sea.

Texel.

Romantic winter strolls in North Holland’s Zuid-Kennemerland National Park are also particularly atmospheric. Animal lovers may spot fallow deer, roe deer and foxes, as well as Scottish Highland cattle and Konik horses. National Park Weerribben-Wieden is another must-visit, and is one of the gems of the province of Overijssel. History buffs will also not want to miss Overijssel’s charming Hanseatic towns, such as Deventer and Zwolle, which look magnificent in the autumn. Plan your trip now at www.holland.com

The Sassenpoort Zwolle.

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Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

52  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

Lighthouse of Texel.

D AT E S F O R Y O U R D I A R Y Stadsfestival 6 - 8 September Zwolle With a wonderful line-up comprising music, theatre and dance, not to mention delicious food and drink options, Stadsfestival offers cultural delights for all tastes. www.stadsfestival.nl

Texel Culinair 13 - 15 September Texel Calling all foodies! Texel Culinair is an unmissable event for gourmets of all ages. Some of the best chefs from Texel will prepare mouthwatering dishes for you, made using the finest products from the island. www.texelculinair.nl

Amsterdam City Swim 8 September Amsterdam Every September, the famous canal cruise boats make way for all the brave swimmers willing to take part in the Amsterdam City Swim. www.amsterdamcityswim.nl

Unseen Amsterdam 20 - 22 September Amsterdam With an emphasis on what’s new in the photography world, Unseen Amsterdam offers a platform for rising talent to showcase their oeuvre. amsterdam.unseenplatform.com

TCS Amsterdam Marathon 20 October Amsterdam The TCS Amsterdam Marathon takes place every October, attracting elite runners from all over the world, not to mention thousands of amateurs. www.tcsamsterdammarathon.nl

Amsterdam.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  53


Michelin-starred luxury on Texel TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: BIJ JEF

Texel harbours some surprising gems for those who make the trip to this peaceful haven. Despite its rural outlook, the island is home to Michelinstarred restaurant Bij Jef. Those who come to experience chef Jef Schuur’s magnificent cooking, are advised to stay the night in the eponymous hotel: breakfast is just as impressive as dinner, and served in as many courses. “We are truly spoiled on this island.” Texel, the biggest of the Wadden Islands in the very north of the Netherlands, is a quiet paradise for those seeking solitude, space and calm. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the islands are shield54  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

ed from high-rise builds and big hotel chains. This, however, has not stopped the locals from developing an offering of luxurious boutique hotels, bringing visitors the highest level of comfort in addition to a restorative environment. Bij Jef is foremost among these. “Our business has been developing steadily over the last 24 years, going through plenty of changes along the way,” reminisces owner and chef Jef Schuur. “I was born on this island, and even as a kid, my dream was to own my own restaurant here one day. That dream materialised when I was 25, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Recognition for hard work In 2009, chef Jef’s delectable cooking was awarded with a Michelin star, which the establishment has managed to keep for the past ten years. Unsurprising, given Jef’s insatiable thirst for progress. “To me, stagnation means decline. I always want to make things even better, more refined, more vibrant. We never stop working to improve,” he attests. Does the Michelin star add extra pressure on top of his own ambitions? “Not at all,” shrugs Jef. “It’s a nice recognition for the work we do, and it brings us joy to be appreciated. It also helps us reach a wider, international audience. But I don’t


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

feel any additional pressure because of that title.”

Vibrant local produce Chef Jef’s cuisine is centred around local products: an easy decision. “We don’t use Texel products just because they’re from here – we use them because they are of excellent quality. The sea brings us the best shrimp and cockles, we love using Texel lamb, and the local cheese is outstanding. We are truly spoiled here.” “With these local products, I like to cook food that is light, fresh, and easy to digest. I want people to come away from my table feeling replenished and recharged – exactly the reasons why most people come to the island in the first place. My food needs to reflect that.” Jef’s partner, sommelier Nadine Mögling, takes care of the service and the impressive wine list of over 300 bottles. “Nadine is a total wine freak, who makes the most brilliant pairings. She really manages to lift the dishes with her wine choices. One plus one equals three when she has a hand in the menu,” Jef beams.

Breakfast of kings Bij Jef isn’t only a restaurant, it also offers 12 luxurious suites for guests to relax in. The rooms boast comfortable beds, modern design and high-end bathrooms, but the crowning glory has to be chef Jef’s magnificent breakfast.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  55


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

“As a luxury hotel, we don’t want guests to have to serve themselves, so we don’t offer a buffet like most hotels. Instead, we cook up a different breakfast every day, which we serve in several courses. I find great enjoyment in impressing our guests with a daily parade of delicious breakfast dishes. In a Michelinstarred restaurant, they expect to receive a feast in the evening, but in the morning, they are always hugely surprised,” smiles Jef.

Special packages Bij Jef offers plenty of special package deals for those looking for a combined culinary and overnight experience, including weekend and midweek packages that allow you to savour both the succulent dinner and sumptuous breakfast Jef has to offer. Another particularity is an arrangement that includes a walk with the ‘duinboer’, Benno, who oversees Texel’s beautiful dunes and the horses that populate them. He will take guests on a guided tour of the hidden gems of the island, offering explanations on its natural beauty 56  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

and UNESCO protected status. A unique experience to top off an already extraordinary stay.

Nadine Mögling.

Savouring the island As for what the future brings, Jef can’t give an answer, but he is always looking ahead. “I am incredibly happy with what I do, and I have come further than I could ever have dreamed. I have no big plans that I feel I need to fulfil – but I am always looking for chances, and if an opportunity arises, we will grab it with both hands. We never lean back on the sofa and look at our work, thinking it’s done. We will keep pushing for more.” “Ultimately, we are only a small part of this island, and we are very lucky to be here,” Jef concludes humbly. “The island is insanely beautiful and full of riches. All we have to do is work with that, and respect it. The island does everything else for us.” Find more information about Bij Jef and book your table and/or room online at: www.bijjef.nl

Chef Jef Schuur.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  57


Wellness on the Wadden Islands TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: KOGERSTAETE

In recent years, Texel has developed a boutique offering of luxury hotels. A new player aiming to raise the bar even higher is the recently renovated four-star hotel Kogerstaete. With suites featuring hypermodern wellness facilities in the bathrooms, a splendid breakfast buffet and a beautifully designed lounge, owners Desiré Boks and Simon Fulcri put their guests’ comfort first. “The word ‘no’ is not in our vocabulary.”

“I was born on this island and grew up in the hotel run by my family, Bosrand. I worked there and co-owned it for a while, but the desire to have my own place together with my partner Simon grew over time. When we got the opportunity to buy Kogerstaete, we grabbed it with both hands – but we knew we wanted to change it completely to fit our own style.”

Visitors familiar with Texel might be surprised at the transformation Kogerstaete has undergone. “The hotel has been here for a long time, but it didn’t have a bar or lounge, the rooms were somewhere between studios and hotel rooms, and there wasn’t that much coherence to it,” explains Boks.

The result is a modern hotel that feels and looks coherent and cosy. “We created a place where we would like to stay ourselves,” Boks attests. “It’s not just slick design, this hotel fits our own style and character, which was important to us. We want to bring a personal touch for our guests. No request is too much.”

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The attention to detail the couple paid during renovations is obvious in the various room types. While all similar in style, they each differ slightly to suit various needs. There are comfortable double rooms, stylish suites, family options, and bathrooms with increasing levels of high-tech wellness for those seeking a little extra relaxation.

Personalised luxury

Simon Fulcri and Desiré Boks.


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

Infra-red sun showers with steam and rain functions offer an extra touch of luxury in the wellness suites.

Early success Boks and Fulcri’s hard work during the renovation process certainly paid off. “We finished only just in time for the reopening in April of this year, the dust still in our hair as we cut the ribbon,” laughs Boks. “And to our own surprise, our 26 rooms were full the very next day! I know the business on the island well, but this surpassed even my most optimistic expectations. The last four months have been consistently busy.” Kogerstaete attracts a diverse range of customers, also thanks to its various room options, accommodating couples, families and even pets. “We are trying to cater to a new group of customers, those seeking a little more luxury in these rural surroundings. We welcome a lot more foreign guests here than we used to get at my parents’ hotel: Germans, Belgians, Swiss, and visitors from further afield, too.

Tourism to Texel is diversifying, and we want to help facilitate that.”

Local delights Part of Kogerstaete’s mission is to celebrate the local island riches, which the owners showcase in a delectable breakfast buffet. “We love breakfast, so we put a lot of effort into our buffet,” says Boks. “This island has so many great things to offer, and we want our guests to enjoy them all to the maximum.” Of course it’s not just the food that’s great on Texel, it’s the surroundings, too. “We are located in the middle of De Koog, right outside of the village centre and on the edge of the forest. With a quick stroll across the dunes, you’re on the vast beach, but all the nice restaurants are also just minutes away. Everything you need is on our doorstep.”

direct guests to the best places, book restaurant tables for them, show them walking routes. We take the time to find out what our guests like and make sure we have suggestions ready for them.” To guarantee that visitors’ needs are always fulfilled, Boks and Fulcri are constantly present. “We welcome our guests personally, we are at the breakfast buffet in the morning and in the bar in the evening, so people can always come up and have a chat. We want them to make the most of their stay here, and we help in any way we can. ‘No’ is not in our vocabulary,” Boks concludes. Find Kogerstaete online and book your room at: www.kogerstaete.nl.

Boks’ own local roots come in handy for any guests wanting to explore. “I was born here, I know exactly where all the top spots are,” she beams. “I will happily

Photo: Stefan Krofft

Photo: Stefan Krofft

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  59


Taste the Indian Summer in Twente TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: DE BLOEMENBEEK

Set in the beautiful eastern part of the Netherlands, De Bloemenbeek is a Garden of Eden to those in need of a break. The soothing and nostalgic Dutch style of the estate hotel washes a sense of tranquillity over you, especially during an Indian Summer. “The beautiful colours of the trees, the seasonal food, the culture in the surrounding cities; it’s like you are living in a fairytale,” says Raymond Strikker, owner of the family business. Given its location in Twente, the green buffer between the Netherlands and Germany, busy city life seems a world away. “The nature here does not look typically Dutch. The landscape isn’t as flat here, some60  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

times it’s even a bit hilly,” explains Strikker. Major cities, brimming with rich culture, are just a stone’s throw away. For example, there is Enschede, a lively city where you will find art, festivals and music. “A must-see there is the Rijksmuseum Twenthe, with classic works of Jan Steen and Pieter Brueghel,” enthuses Strikker. “And close by, in Delden, the No Hero Museum is also definitely worth a visit; visual arts from five continents, from a world history perspective. It’s amazing.” If you are a fan of the holiday season, then you should hop over the German border to Münster. From late November, you can visit the famous Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets). “The whole of the old inner city is a sea of light. With over 300

market stalls selling mulled wine, food, jewellery and craft items, it is a day well spent.”

A beautiful season The autumn months are also wonderful for wandering through the nature reserves that are scattered throughout this region. “It is the perfect place to enjoy an Indian Summer. The area is full of woodlands. Their colours, changing with the seasons, provide wonderful panoramas.” Walk on amazing pathways through the forests and meadows, and stop at one of the many estates, like the Singraven Estate or Twickel Castle. “This castle is still occupied, but you can take a look inside.” In October, the area hosts the biggest outdoor event in the country: The Military


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

Boekelo. This equestrian extravaganza is attended by over 60,000 people. “It is where business meets pleasure. Here, you can have meetings in our hospitality unit, enjoy the ‘joie de vivre’ and watch Olympic medallists compete afterwards.”

Gastronomy The season is also a culinary highlight due to harvest time. In the De Bloemenbeek restaurant, you can discover the Michelin star-awarded gastronomy of chef Michel van Riswijk. “Van Riswijk has been working here for 31 years already, but keeps surprising us. Together with chef de cuisine Matthijs Mulder, he combines French-Mediterranean cuisine with plenty of local products and delicacies. At this time of year, the deer rack is exquisite. Actually, many delicious things, such as herbs, naturally pop up on the domain.”

Romantic style After a busy itinerary, a comfortable room is what you will crave the most. “We don’t like the sterile, modern interiors which most luxurious hotels swear by today. Instead, we opt for a contemporary classic vibe. We just stick with the romantic style our guests expect here and adore. Today, we are the best hotel in the region, the seventh-best service-providing hotel and the 12th-best hotel overall in the Netherlands, according to TripAdvisor. That means we must be doing something right, no?” smiles Strikker.

Masterpieces The nostalgic style suits De Bloemenbeek like a glove. The building has a 110-year history of offering top-notch hospitality. 53 years ago, Strikker’s father took over the business and turned it into the personal

yet luxurious oasis it is today. “We keep investing in our infrastructure to ensure no chance of deterioration.” Recently, artist Maureen Knobben redesigned four of De Bloemenbeek’s suites. Her work is well renowned and part of the Dutch Historic Art Archives. “Each suite has its own unique, colourful style, based on her own work. Truly masterpieces in their own right,” enthuses Strikker. If the rooms and the restaurant are not enough, you can always re-energise yourself at the fully equipped spa. “If the pool, the saunas and the steam room don’t do the trick for you, a visit to the in-house beauty parlour will surely help you get rid of that last bit of stress.” Web: www.bloemenbeek.nl

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  61


Discover Benelux  |  The Netherlands  |  The Ultimate Autumn & Winter Destination

Perfect seafood on the banks of the river IJ TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: RESTAURANT STORK

On the north bank of the river IJ is where you will find the finest fish and seafood restaurant in Amsterdam, accompanied by superb views over the water and the city centre. “Our fish dishes are true masterpieces in their simplicity,” explains Hanne Blom, who owns restaurant Stork with her husband Erik Buunk. At restaurant Stork, you can enjoy a variety of gourmet seafood dishes, such as the classic ‘fruits de mer’ and whole served fish of the season, caught daily. In the open kitchen,

all dishes are freshly prepared and filleted when desired. “One of our favourites is the Stork Platter, with North Sea crab claws, soft-shell crabpulp salad, codfish ceviche and blini with smoked salmon-tuna tartar,” elaborates Blom. In the lobster tank, you will find the best lobsters, which are prepared on the spot. Restaurant Stork is situated in an old industrial loft, part of the former Stork factory, where they produced machines for the food industry. “We kept a lot of the details from the old factory,” continues Blom. “Such as the

metal framework of an old annex, which gives the terrace that little extra. We only added in enormous windows to let the light in, and the pavement paintings on the terrace, by Favela Paintings, add more colour.” In the summer, when all the boats and ships pass by, the terrace gives you a true holiday feeling, in the heart of the busy city centre. “Along with our superb plates, it is one of the best places in Amsterdam North for good food and brilliant views.” Web: www.restaurantstork.nl


Photo: Stuart Forster

Ten rewarding rail journeys in the Benelux TEXT: STUART FORSTER

Rail travel is back in vogue. The concept of ‘flygskam’, meaning ‘flight-shame’, encourages people to eschew air travel and seek transport with lower environmental impact. Meanwhile, the phenomenon known as ‘tagskryt’, meaning ‘train bragging’, entails posting photos of train journeys on social media. Travelling by train or tram represents a relaxing way of getting about while minimising carbon emissions. Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam now have direct rail links from London’s St Pancras International, and from 1 March 2020, all public transport in Luxembourg will be free of charge, even for non-residents. Here’s a look at ten of the most rewarding journeys by rail in the Benelux region. 64  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

1.Luxembourg – Troisvierges The north-south rail journey between Luxembourg City and Troisvierges provides an opportunity to view a scenic swathe of the Grand Duchy. The line cuts through narrow valleys, rolling woodland and more than 20 tunnels. Breaking the journey in Ettelbruck gives you a chance to explore an attractive small town that’s home to the General Patton Memorial Museum. Troisvierges, the last stop in the country before the line continues into Belgium, was the first station that German soldiers disembarked at during World War I. Sit on the left side of the train for outstanding views of the Fortress of Luxembourg after pulling out of the capital’s station.

Luxembourg. Photo: Christian Millen LFT


Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Ten Rewarding Rail Journeys in the Benelux

2. Kautenbach – Wiltz The journey between Kautenbach and the small town of Wiltz, less than ten kilometres away, takes just 12 minutes. The spur is a single track and one that rail enthusiasts will enjoy. The train’s windows offer panoramic views into the valley. Set in the Ardennes, Wiltz is worth venturing to for its beautiful landscaped garden, the Jardin de Wiltz, and its castle. Luxembourg’s National Museum of the Art of Brewing is located within the historic building, whose oldest tower dates from 1573. There’s also a museum about the Battle of the Bulge, which was contested in the region during the winter of 1944-45.

Photo: Nico Berté LFT

3. Brussels – Antwerp

Antwerp central station. Photo: Visit Flanders

Just 41 kilometres of track separates Brussels and Antwerp. Journeying between the two cities by rail enables you to travel along a line significant in the history of European transport. In 1835, the line linking Brussels and Mechelen, roughly halfway between these hubs, was the first public railway to open on the continent’s mainland. A single-funnelled steam locomotive named Le Belge pulled carriages. Mechelen’s historic centre, home to a cobbled marketplace and the impressive St Rumbold’s Cathedral, is worth hopping off to explore.

Belgium’s coastal tram. Photo: Visit Flanders

4. Belgium’s coastal tram Belgium’s coastal tram service allows you to take to the railways and enjoy spectacular views of the North Sea lapping against the sand of West Flanders. The tram, known locally as ‘de kusttram’, operates between De Panne and Knokke-Heist. The line runs for 68 kilometres, making it the longest tramway in the world. Day passes, three-day and five-day tickets are available for the tram, enabling you to break the journey and explore attractions along the way.

Leuven train station. Photo: Toerisme Leuven

5. Leuven – Hasselt Leuven is home to one of Europe’s longest established universities and has an Instagram-friendly historic centre, notable for the ornately sculpted façade of its town hall. The city’s recently renovated railway station first opened in 1837. Boarding the train there, the journey to Hasselt takes as little as 38 minutes. Hasselt’s expansive Japanese garden and historic centre justify making the trip. Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  65


Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Ten Rewarding Rail Journeys in the Benelux

6. Tram 44 in Brussels

Tram 44. Photo: RMCA

Brussels’ tram 44 runs between the Montgomery Metro station and the town of Tervuren, which is the location of the Royal Museum for Central Africa. There are 17 stops along the scenic route, which takes just 22 minutes to cover and runs parallel to a cycle path. The line cuts through woodland and represents an easy excursion if you’re looking for impressions of Belgium beyond the capital city.

7. Amsterdam – Leeuwarden

Dordrecht. Photo: Toerisme NBTC

The train journey between Amsterdam and Leeuwarden takes a little over two hours. During springtime, when tulips are blooming, the upper deck of Intercity trains are ideal for viewing the colourful flowers cultivated in Flevoland. It’s worth looking out of the window near Lelystad. The landscape of the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve features wetland and habitat for roaming animals, including deer and herds of horses. An impressive fountain — Love by Jaume Plensa, depicting the seven-metre-tall heads of a boy and girl with closed eyes — was unveiled opposite Leeuwarden’s station last year.

8. Breda – Dordrecht

9. Groningen to Eemshaven

Travelling by rail between Breda and Dordrecht means crossing the broad waterway of the Hollands Diep, where the provinces of North Brabant and South Holland meet. The Moerdijk Bridge, spanning that body of water, was captured by German paratroopers during a military operation executed in May 1940. You can see a network of concrete bunkers, a legacy of World War II, in the landscape south of Dordrecht.

The railway line between the seaport of Eemshaven and Groningen skirts flat agricultural land with sizeable barns and farm buildings. The route passes through several compact settlements, including Winsum, which has two 19th-century windmills. Don’t miss the high-ceilinged waiting room at Groningen’s station. Dating from 1896, it features ornate mosaics and a glass cupola. The city’s museum is a matter of paces from the entrance to the station.

Amsterdam central station. Photo: Roel Baeckaert

66  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Leeuwarden. Photo: NBTC

Photo: Stuart Forster

10. Amsterdam’s tram line number 2 Amsterdam’s number 2 tram passes several key attractions in the Dutch capital. The line runs from the central station to the Hoofddorpplein, crossing the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site-designated network of canals along the way. The Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum count among the places of interest you can view from the tram. The city’s central station was designed by Pierre Cuypers, the architect behind the Rijksmuseum. From its platforms you can board trains to destinations across the Netherlands and beyond.


Benelux Business BUSINESS COLUMN  |  BUSINESS CALENDAR

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How to get managers we really deserve TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS

It’s said that we get the politicians we deserve. Organisations certainly get the managers they deserve. It starts at the top. Senior managers define a company’s culture and set the tone. Middle managers tend to mirror the behaviour they see coming from above. If middle managers get bullied by narcissistic empire-building blamers, they are likely to treat people lower down the pecking order in the same way. So helping all managers to develop both self-awareness and an understanding of the dynamics of organisational culture should be a priority for any business. Too many companies suffer from systemic cultural inadequacy. If the people at the top have the behaviours and skills we all need to work effectively in teams - able to respect difference, to listen, to give and receive feedback, to manage conflict then middle managers are more likely to do the same. Being treated like human beings will also make them feel a lot more relaxed. We need intelligent organisations run by emotionally intelligent people who understand what they like to do and why, how they like to work and communicate, and 68  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

how they like to lead and be led. Emotionally intelligent managers understand these things about their colleagues too. Psychometric tests are one way to help people learn about their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses. Strong teams are not made up of clones: they celebrate difference and harness diversity.

and mentoring. Managers who have learnt how their positive behaviours can shape organisational culture for the better, enjoy better results because their teams are happier, with lower absence and staff turnover. EQ is as important as IQ in today’s business organisation.

Intelligent organisations invest in their managers. They start preparing new managers for their managerial roles well in advance of their appointment. They look for candidates with strong soft skills and give them training before they take up a leadership position for the first time. They continue with that training throughout their management careers. Intelligent organisations give managers the time they need to manage so that they are not so taken up by their own operational tasks that they don’t have time for the people they’re in charge of. When management is poor, employee health suffers. Good managers pay careful attention to their people’s stress levels and their workloads. Intelligent organisations give their managers recognition and continuing support. They provide them with coaching

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their leadership and communication skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com


Discover Benelux  |  Business  |  Calendar

Business Calendar TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER

AutoSens.

The Roast of your Leadership 10 September Amsterdam, the Netherlands Are you a successful entrepreneur? Or, perhaps you are just starting out? Hosted by psychologist Joel aan ’t Goor, this unmissable event will offer you an insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, in whatever capacity that leadership may take, and help you understand how you can tackle these in an improved way. roastofyourleadership.com

The European Confederation of Institutes of Internal Auditing Conference

European Forum For Industrial Biotechnology And The Bioeconomy (EFIB)

18 - 20 September Luxembourg City, Luxembourg The European Confederation of Institutes of Internal Auditing Conference aims to promote the development of internal auditing and its position in the promotion of good governance across the continent. Its members include the institutes of internal auditors in countries throughout Europe. www.eciia.eu

30 September - 2 October Brussels, Belgium This September will see the 12th edition of EFIB, Europe’s leading event for the bio-based economy. This exciting exhibition comprises global brands and emerging innovators, not to mention special events reflecting existing bio-based innovation in everyday life. efibforum.com

AutoSens 17 - 19 September Brussels, Belgium The automotive sensor and perception conference and exhibition includes a three-day workshop and is the perfect setting to discover more about the future of vehicle perception technology. Thanks to the range of high-quality technical presentations, attendees can return to their office or lab armed with new solutions and plenty of food for thought. auto-sens.com

Agile Amsterdam 25 - 27 September Amsterdam, the Netherlands If being agile is part of the DNA of your company, how can you protect, sustain and further enhance your agile practice? This event looks at the opportunities and threats your business may face and puts you in touch with expert speakers in the realm of agility and agile organisations. www.agileamsterdam.nl

Photo: Agile Amsterdam

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  69


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Luxembourg City

Sofitel Luxembourg Europe - Luxembourg (ville). Photo: © Abaca Corporate/Donja Pitsch

HOTEL OF THE MONTH IN LUXEMBOURG CITY

Putting the ‘luxe’ in Luxembourg TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: SOFITEL LUXEMBOURG EUROPE

Ideally located on the Kirchberg plateau, the five-star Sofitel Luxembourg Europe enchants guests with superlative service, luxurious facilities and gastronomic delights. The magic begins the moment you walk through the door. Behind the hotel’s sparkling facade is the majestic Atrium, a glass dome which ensures total brightness throughout the year and creates a feeling of depth, freedom and lightness. “I would compare it to a ‘Grand Place’, somewhere you can admire the ballet of everyday life in the hotel,” begins general manager Fernando López Lens. Designed for ultimate comfort, the hotel offers 109 spacious rooms and suites, all of which were renovated in 2018 and are equipped with the latest technology. Flagship products, such as MyBed™ bedding or Hermès welcome toiletries, enhance the luxury feel. Service is given the utmost importance, and the hotel is renowned for the quality 70  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

of the amenities offered. “Every Sofitel ambassador, whatever his sector – be it reception, room service or catering – personalises their relationship with the client,” explains Mr. López Lens. “The ‘cousu-main’ approach consists of knowing your client and personalising every service to create a tailor-made experience.” When it comes to wining and dining, the hotel offers its guests an extraordinary sensory experience. Foodies will adore the gourmet Italian cuisine at the Oro e Argento restaurant, with the Risotto Oro e Argento (containing truffle, gold leaf and duck foie gras) being an absolute must. Meanwhile, the Le Stübli is the goto place for indulging in authentic dishes inspired by Luxembourg. After dinner, head to Havana Lounge, the only cigar bar in Luxembourg, where you can discover a large selection of cigars from around the world. “With a warm atmosphere and soft lighting, it’s the perfect place to enjoy one of the many

available whiskeys, or a cocktail expertly prepared by one of our mixologists.” While the hotel is popular with corporate groups and business travellers, it also welcomes families coming to discover Luxembourg, who wish to benefit from Sofitel’s exclusive service. As Mr. López Lens points out, the coming months are a wonderful time of year to explore the Grand Duchy. “The country is full of places for hiking and unexpected landscapes,” he enthuses. “In winter, visitors can enjoy the many Christmas markets here in Luxembourg City.”

Web: www.sofitel.com


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Westhalten

H O T E L O F T H E M O N T H I N W E S T H A LT E N

A haven for relaxation TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: HÔTEL DU BOLLENBERG

Ideally located between Colmar and Mulhouse, on the famous Alsace Wine Route, the family-run Hôtel du Bollenberg is the perfect place to relax and recharge. Hôtel du Bollenberg has been lovingly run by the Holtzheyer family for more than 40 years. “Our guests are made to feel completely at home, but with all the added benefits of superb hotel service,” begins Ophélie Holtzheyer, daughter of Véronique and Laurent Holtzheyer.

Magnificent views All of the hotel’s 50 rooms have been conceived for the utmost comfort, and offer stunning views over either the countryside, the mountains or the vineyards. Being surrounded by the beautiful Natura 2000 protected area makes Hôtel du Bollenberg the perfect spot for reconnect72  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

ing with nature. Meanwhile, oenophiles will not want to miss the opportunity to visit the nearby wineries for a tasting.

Explore Alsace

Keen to explore more of Alsace? Stunning villages such as Eguisheim and Kaysersberg are also only a short drive away, as is the vibrant city of Colmar. “We’ll be able to make the perfect daytrip recommendations depending on your personal taste,” smiles Ophélie. Back at the hotel, guests can enjoy a meal at restaurant Côté Plaine, which is set to launch a delicious new menu as of 1 September. A strong emphasis has been placed on local market produce, ensuring all ingredients are fresh and in season.  

A true moment of wellbeing

Guests over the age of 16 can unwind in the magnificent Spa de la Colline, which

includes a swimming pool with massage jets and underwater music, sauna, steam room and salt cave with heated water beds. The Spa is limited to a maximum of 15 guests at a time, meaning it always feels very private. “We want our guests to enjoy a true moment of wellbeing.” The relaxation continues with the hotel’s weekly yoga sessions, which have been running for a few months now. “The view during the class is truly exceptional. It’s certainly a revitalising experience,” enthuses Ophélie.   Hôtel du Bollenberg also boasts four seminar rooms, making it the ideal spot for business trips.

To find out more, visit: hoteldubollenberg.com


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Canach

Part of the Spa complex.

The resort from above.

HOTEL OF THE MONTH IN CANACH

Luxury, personalised TEXT: PIERRE ANTOINE ZAHND  |  PHOTOS: MERCURE LUXEMBOURG KIKUOKA GOLF & SPA

At once isolated and well-connected, the Mercure Luxembourg Kikuoka Golf & Spa is more than a four-star hotel: it offers peace and quiet, fun and stimulation, or the perfect atmosphere for a company retreat. Whether they are in town for business, tourism, or a downright relaxing time away from it all, the hotel has more than a few cards up its sleeve to offer guests exactly the experience they need. Nestled in a green, all-natural area in the village of Canach, the Mercure Luxembourg Kikuoka Golf & Spa does not look like it is located anywhere near a real city. The 120-hectare land that surrounds it and the lake that lies nearby are

One of the hotel’s four seminar rooms.

more evocative of a countryside retreat than a bustling European capital. And yet its proximity to the airport and downtown Luxembourg (ten and 20 minutes by car, respectively) make it the ideal choice for travellers who wish to take advantage of the city while enjoying everything a luxury hotel has to offer. The resort’s impressive surroundings and infrastructure make it an optimal fit for business seminars, corporate retreats, and holiday parties in the summer or over Christmas. Besides four spacious conference rooms and a mezzanine lounge for coffee breaks or refreshments, the hotel also caters for team-building activities. With its vast country settings, for instance, it is an ideal ground for an afternoon treasure hunt. The more adventurous groups can also choose to team up, participate in a professionally supervised boat-building contest, and race it across the lake. And then there is the golf: the Mercure Luxembourg Kikuoka Golf & Spa boasts an 18-hole, championship-grade golf course that regularly hosts international

tournaments – although the hotel does provide individual and group lessons for the uninitiated. Finally, after a day of work or play, visitors are invited to wind down at the hotel’s state-of-the-art spa complex, featuring a hammam, a Finnish sauna, a solarium and a massage parlour. And while the hotel is a natural choice for a business trip, it also has a lot to offer to more casual tourists. Families holidaying in Luxembourg, couples on a romantic getaway, and solo travellers alike will appreciate the lush, natural scenery and the myriad of leisure activities on offer. With gourmet visitors in mind, the hotel has developed a brasserie-style range of local cuisine, and organises tastings run by neighbouring wineries. With themed evenings, cocktail events and DJ nights, it is also sure to appeal to the party enthusiasts. If the Mercure Luxembourg Kikuoka Golf & Spa presents a single challenge to its guests, it may be this: to enjoy everything before their check-out date. Web: www.accorhotels.com

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  73


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Colmar

HOTEL OF THE MONTH IN COLMAR

Authentic luxury in the heart of historic Colmar TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: LE MARÉCHAL

Housed in one of Colmar’s most quintessential buildings, hotel Le Maréchal offers guests a luxurious stay in the heart of the Alsace wine route. “Dating back to the 16th century, the house is full of character and charm,” enthuses Alexandre Bomo, whose family has run Le Maréchal for almost half a century. All of the romantic rooms and suites have been individually decorated and boast their own unique beauty. While the decor is in keeping with the building’s authentic charm, guests can enjoy all the latest modern comforts and technology to ensure a luxury experience.

Start the day with a delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel’s gourmet restaurant A l’Échevin, with its beautiful terrace overlooking the canal. If you can’t drag yourself away from the comfort of your bed, however, then fear not - room service is on hand. Open seven days a week, A l’Échevin is one of Colmar’s most desirable lunch and dinner spots, with chef Thierry Chefdeville serving innovative gourmet cuisine inspired by French classics and local specialties. The finest ingredients are sourced locally, according to what’s in season. There are countless activities to be enjoyed in the areas surrounding the Le Maréchal. “Our guests come to enjoy nature, the countryside, good food and wine,” smiles Alexandre. The hotel offers packages including a gourmet stay with a gastronomic dinner and an ‘oenotourismus’ stay, which also includes a wine cellar visit.

74  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

The coming months will be particularly popular as guests flock to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the new wine season. “With the harvest period and the changing of the colours in the vineyards, autumn is a perfect time to visit,” points out Alexandre. But there is something for every time of the year in Alsace, and in December, it will be the region’s magical Christmas markets that attract city-breakers to Colmar. With its enviable location in the heart of Colmar old town, Le Maréchal is also a popular location for special occasions and seminars. A range of cultural activities can be arranged to ensure your event is unforgettable. Keen to make the most of the region’s famous wine tourism in a more unusual way? “We can even arrange Segway rides through the vineyards for you,” concludes Bomo.

Web: www.le-marechal.com


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Liège

HOTEL OF THE MONTH IN LIÈGE

Where Wallonia meets the world TEXT: PIERRE ANTOINE ZAHND  |  PHOTOS: CONGRÈS HOTEL LIÈGE

While it may sound excessive to state that a hotel could “have it all”, the Congrès Hotel Liège comes fairly close. Like the city of Liège itself (at once a historical jewel and a thriving economic centre), the hotel is a multifaceted environment conceived to provide travellers of any kind with maximum comfort and enjoyment. Set on the eastern bank of the 900kilometre Meuse river, a major European waterway, the Congrès Hotel also lies in one of Liège’s greenest areas, a few steps away from the Parc de la Boverie and its renowned art museum. Its central location within the bustling Walloon city makes it an ideal holiday residence for tourists and professionals alike, allowing the galleryhopping, locale-exploring crowd to tour the city on foot, while business-orientated guests can smoothly make their way to meetings or seminars. Whatever the object of your visit, however, comfort and relaxation are at the forefront of the Congrès Hotel’s approach to hospitality. While the modestly named standard

bedrooms come with all the trappings of luxury, the hotel also offers nuptial suites, hammam-equipped accommodation, and full-scale apartments for the long-stay visitor. With a variety of workspaces to rent out, the Congrès Hotel demarcates itself as a top destination for business trips and team-building stays: the Mezzanine will comfortably host a meet-and-greet buffet or a working dinner, while the Salle Léonard can host up to 40. And when the situation requires it to go all out, the hotel provides an imposing dining room, which can hold up to 250 and doubles as an indoors terrace. But it’s not all work at the Congrès Hotel, either. Beyond the sauna complex, featuring a hammam, a Jacuzzi, and an indoor swimming pool, the Zenao wellness & beauty area offers a myriad of relaxation treatments whose sheer range and benefits almost defy imagination: from classic body rubs to the Ancestral Gold Ceremony face mask and the full-scale, all-fragrance Japanese Voyage. And the gastronomy, too, is thought of as an elaborate treatment that caters to all tastes. Casual din-

ers can safely rely on the brasserie-style, Walloon-style bistro (also serving a hearty brunch on Sundays), while guests looking for a dash of the south will enjoy the Italian Corner, with authentic specials prepared on the go by an Italian chef. For special occasions, the restaurant offers a traditional three-course service, artfully paired by an impressive array of European wines and Champagnes. And for those in the mood for after-dinner revels, the Sky Bar offers not only an impressive cocktail menu, but also a sweeping vista of one of Belgium’s most scenic cities. The Hotel atop the Meuse River.

Web: www.congreshotelliege.be

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  75


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Charleroi

Photo: Sca/art photography

Photo: Sca/art photography

HOTEL OF THE MONTH IN CHARLEROI

A four-star hotel at the heart of Charleroi’s cultural scene TEXT: JANNEKE NIJMEIJER  |  PHOTOS: NOVOTEL CHARLEROI CENTRE

Located in the centre of Charleroi, on top of the modern Rive Gauche shopping mall, the brand-new Novotel Charleroi Centre is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. This stylish, family-friendly place to stay offers slick, modern rooms designed for ultimate comfort, not to mention an array of social highlights. For travellers who are looking for a sneak peek into Charleroi’s cultural highlights while enjoying a comfortable stay, the Novotel Charleroi Centre is the perfect choice. As Charleroi’s only four-star hotel, it is located right in the heart of the city. Near the hotel, you can find a variety of museums, such as the fascinating Museum of Photography and Le Bois du Cazier, a former coal mine. The Hotel de Ville, the Church of St. Christopher and the train station Charleroi 76  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Sud are all within walking distance. Meanwhile, as the hotel is only a ten-minute drive from the airport, catching your next flight is hassle-free.

A hip hangout As well as being a favourite among travellers, Hotel Novotel Charleroi Centre is known to be a popular hang-out for locals. The modern interior of the bar, restaurant and terrace are appealing hotspots for those who love to socialise, unwind, and go out to eat and drink in style. Hotel Novotel Charleroi Centre organises exciting weekly and monthly events, including Sunday brunches, daily happy hours and monthly cultural activities such as stand-up comedy nights. Now, there is also the very trendy Afterwork Novotel Rooftop. These social events attract locals as well as tourists, pro-

viding a great opportunity for hotel guests to indulge in Charleroi’s vibrant cultural scene.

Superb service After a long day of travelling, working or city hopping, an easygoing and modern hotel is just what you need. This brandnew, elegant hotel is a comfortable retreat for international travellers who are looking for an authentic experience. Hotel Novotel Charleroi Centre offers the ideal combination of a buzzing local atmosphere, superlative service and the ultimate in comfort. The hotel also boasts three well-equipped meeting rooms, making it a perfect choice for your next business event. To find out more visit: www.accorhotels.com


Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  Watermael-Boitsfort

Angelo Pepe’s creations.

The Repos des Chasseurs.

H O T E L O F T H E M O N T H I N WAT E R M A E L - B O I T S F O R T

A fusion of arts TEXT: PIERRE ANTOINE ZAHND  |  PHOTOS: REPOS DES CHASSEURS

The Repos des Chasseurs has a long, illustrious culinary history. Founded in 1683, it originally served as a meeting ground for hunting parties to rest and replenish their supplies. Now it is run by the Pepe family, an ItalianBelgian team of restaurateurs with an unparalleled approach to high-art gastronomy. Set on the edges of the Forêt de Soignes, a protected woodland still teeming with wildlife and vegetation, this traditional Auberge still serves the same hearty specialties that it was known for back in the day: rustic tartines and crêpes, as well as the famous ‘anguilles au vert’ (stewed eels served in a chervil sauce). But the Repos des Chasseurs is about more than replicating history. Angelo Pepe, the chef from southern Italy who heads the

restaurant, speaks eloquently about the balance of tradition and innovation when preparing a dish, referring to this process as “a composition”. For him, European cuisine consists of a multitude of cultural styles and products, and there is a lot to gain by combining them. Although the menu includes timeless regional classics such as Scandinavian poached eggs, French Charolais beef, or risotto, seasonal suggestions also include pappardelle (traditional Italian pasta) paired Scottish smoked salmon as well as scallops prepared in a curry sauce. The wine list is not only carefully selected, but rather directly produced in Italy by Milena Pepe, Angelo’s daughter. After studying oenology in Belgium and France, she now works from a winery in Campania, Europe’s smallest wine re-

gion comprising three AOC-grade wines: Taurasi, Greco di Tufo, and Fiano di Avellino. The expertise that runs through the Pepe family, from the cooking to the wine production, allows the hosts to not only have access to a remarkable range of wines, but also to be able to pair them ideally with the food menu. Beyond its leading culinary approach, the Repos des Chasseurs has much to offer to visitors who wish to relax and enjoy themselves for more than a meal. The Auberge contains six banquet rooms for holiday events, wedding receptions and business seminars, with a total capacity of 200 dinner guests. It also doubles as a three-star hotel, although with only 11 cosy, elegantly-furnished bedrooms, it puts the emphasis not on quantity, but on quality of service. This could be said of the Repos des Chasseurs at large: it is, in fact, the only ‘Logis de France’ in Brussels; an independent label exclusively granted to establishments that guarantee its guests a genuine experience of local tradition and terroir gastronomy. Web: au-repos-des-chasseurs.be

78  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Profile of the Month  |  Belgium

A lesson in catering TEXT: PIERRE ANTOINE ZAHND  |  PHOTOS: LA RÉSERVE - TRAITEUR LIEVYNS

Based in the town of Petit-Enghien at the intersection of Brussels, Mons and Charleroi, La Réserve - Traiteur Lievyns is one of the leading caterers in Belgium. Head chef David Lievyns’ mission is to apply his expertise and inventiveness so as to make every order unique, and provide customers with a personalised experience. Looking at David Lievyns’ creations, it is clear that he considers cooking a form of art: his colourful and eye-catching creations, arranged in captivating shapes and combining classic tastes with unexpected flavours, reveal a genuine passion for his craft. What sets him apart, however, is also his involvement in the greater culinary world: he is a member of such prestigious associations as the French Culinary Academy and Euro-Toques, the only European corporation of chefs officially recognised by the European Commission. La Réserve is greatly concerned with sustainable development,

and sources a minimum of 30 per cent of its ingredients from organic farming. While operating on a small, artisan scale, La Réserve provides a variety of flexible services: from home-delivered meals to six-course formal events such as weddings, baptisms, or business dinners. Its stately locale in Petit-Enghien, with indoor dining as well as a sizeable garden, allows up to 200 seated banqueting guests. The extensive outdoor area is ideal for a cocktail party and a casual buffet, accommodating up to 250. The garden is completely enclosed for a more private, celebratory feel, and features an

outdoor bar as well as a playground for children. The parking area, meanwhile, has a capacity of 100 vehicles, making it a convenient destination for large groups as well as smaller parties.

Web: www.lareserve.be


Brussels Museum Nocturnes, Wiertz Museum. Photo: Hiddenraven

Out & About When the school gates open again and the sun starts to hide that bit more often, the Benelux celebrates the best that autumn has to offer. With plenty of exquisite wines, finger-licking-good dishes and surprising cultural activities, the season is bound to be full of fun. And be sure to hit the road during the Heritage Days, to explore the region’s historic, hidden pearls. TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS

Prinsjesdag. Photo: NBTC

80  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019


Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar

Heritage Days, Gaasbeeck Castle, Lennik. Photo: Visit.Flanders

Riesling Open 13 – 15 September, Wormeldange, Luxembourg Few regions know how to bottle an elegant Riesling as the Luxembourgian Moselle. During Riesling Open, winemakers open their domains to the public for an exquisite dinner accompanied by the nicest Rieslings. Between meals, the region’s prettiest girl is granted the prestigious title ‘Rieslingskinnigin’ (Riesling queen). www.rieslingopen.com

you know that Belgium is the country with the most castles per square metre anywhere in the world? The tiny nation counts no less than 3,000 of them! During the Heritage Days, many of these historic buildings open their doors to the public. Peek behind private doors and discover the Benelux’ most extraordinary buildings and their long, long history. www.europeanheritagedays.com

Prinsjesdag OdeGand 14 September, Ghent, Belgium To kick off the Flemish cultural season with a bang, OdeGand fills the historic city of Ghent with music of all sorts. Brass bands, tango sessions, jazz quartets and piano battles brighten up the day and prelude the spectacular, nocturnal magnum opus, with its sky full of acrobats and fireworks. www.odegand.gent

17 September, The Hague, the Netherlands Prinsjesdag (or, Prince’s Day) is a celebration with rituals galore. With a grand parade, the royal family roaming the streets of The Hague in golden carriages, cannon shots, an elaborate speech by His Majesty the king and a traditional ‘acte de présence’ on the palace’s balcony, the third Tuesday of September is a true festival for royalty watchers. denhaag.com

for you to explore their collections in the moonlight’s shadow. On the first Thursday, among others, GardeRobe MannekenPis, Museum Market on the Grand Place and Maison du Roi will welcome your for just four euros. www.brusselsmuseumsnocturnes.be

Van Gogh’s Inner Circle. Friends, Family, Models 21 September – 12 January, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands Vincent van Gogh’s relationships were almost

Brussels Museums Nocturnes Heritage Days 14 – 15 September, Europe On the old continent, you will find tangible pieces of history anywhere you look. Yet, in the Benelux, they have that little bit more. Did

19 September – 5 December, Brussels, Belgium When the temperatures drop in the capital of Europe, its museums welcome you into their warm houses. Every Thursday, a handful of cultural temples open their doors in the evening

L’Arlésienne by Vincent van Gogh.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  81


Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar as turbulent as his dynamic pencil strokes. During his life, he managed to attract and repel many a loved one. With his paintings as a guideline, the Noordbrabants Museum explores his stormy life’s path and its many colourful characters. www.hetnoordbrabantsmuseum.nl

Netherlands Film Festival 27 September – 5 October, Utrecht, the Netherlands During the Netherlands Film Festival, the Dutch cinema industry points the spotlight at its country’s biggest talents. The best films of the year compete for the Golden Calf awards and the most promising new pictures premiere in the festival’s theatres. www.filmfestival.nl

Cher 28 September, Antwerp, Belgium Her biggest hit Believe is over two decades old, but Cher is still alive and kicking. In the aftermath of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, the godmother of autotune comes to Belgium to mix her greatest songs in with all your favourite tunes by ABBA; from Strong Enough to Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!. www.sportpaleis.be

Scheveningen Kite Festival 28 – 29 September, Scheveningen, the Netherlands In Scheveningen (the beach district of The Hague), flying kites is more than just a fun afternoon activity to occupy your kids with. Annually, the world’s best kite flyers come to the beach to let their kites hit the sky. Come and gaze at this colourful spectacle and see the highly-talented stunt kite flyers in action. vliegerfeestscheveningen.nl

OdeGand. Photo: Thijs de langhe

Kookeet 28 – 30 September, Bruges, Belgium As a city with tower-high culinary standards, Bruges counts more extraordinary fine-dining chefs than restaurants. During Kookeet, the best 32 of them hit the road to prepare their most delicious dishes out in the open air. Stroll past the many stalls and assemble the perfect menu to your own personal taste. www.kookeet.be 82  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

Netherlands Film Festival. Photo: Golden Calf

Brussels Museum Nocturnes, MIMA. Photo: Hiddenraven


Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar

Scheveningen Kite Festival. Photo: NBTC

Kookeet. Photo: Pieter D’Hoop

Riesling Open. Photo: Pixabay

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  83


Why race through all this? TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON  |  PHOTOS: ADHÉRENTS GITES DE FRANCE 62, ERIC DESAUNOIS, OT ARRAS, ISHAK PHOTOGRAPHY

On the doorstep for British and Benelux travellers, the amazing cultural, scenic, sporting, gastronomic – and via Gîtes de France, accommodation – riches of the Pas-de-Calais deserve to be better known. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of spending days in the car or enduring the misery of airport queues before beginning your stay in France, you could be there in next-to-no-time? Well, you can. “British people disembarking ferries at Calais, or leaving the Channel Tunnel, are here already,” says Sylvie Roussez, President of Gîtes de France’s Pas-deCalais region, “and the motorway network to the Benelux countries means it’s just a short drive away for people there.”

Wonderful accommodation When most of us think of gîtes we imagine picture-perfect cottages in idyllic rural settings – and the Pas-de-Calais has those aplenty. But there’s much more, and all with the Gîtes de France 84  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

quality of welcome. How about a luxury apartment near Wimereux? Rooms in a stunning chateau near Arras? Or a proper farmhouse welcome near Bethune? Or, a few miles from Desvres, a purpose-built eco-cottage specially adapted for the disabled? Maybe a stylish contemporary home near Cambrai, complete with spa facilities and pool, perfect for a romantic getaway? Or a cottage at the heart of the St Omer Marshes? The Pas-de-Calais may be close to both Britain and the Benelux nations, but it’s very, very French, and as people staying in accommodation offered by Gîtes de France readily find, it’s very, very hospitable: “The owners welcome you on arrival, they’re terrific sources of information on what to see and where to go, especially those little local places the guide-books may not mention,” adds Sylvie. “We think that makes a huge difference to a stay at any time of year.” And it is a year-round destination. In summertime, visiting the ‘Site des Deux

Caps’ is a must, likewise the fabulous beaches of Opal Coast resorts like Berck, Le Touquet (with which the British upper classes have had an enduring love affair) and Wissant. There are innumerable options for the active holidaymaker too, with great walking and cycling routes through mile after mile of fine countryside, a long list of excellent golf courses, and naturally lots of nautical activities on offer.

Country and coast “The scenery here is amazingly varied,” enthuses Sylvie. “Travel a few miles from the famous cliffs of Cap Gris Nez and


Discover Benelux  |  Tourism  |  Gîtes de France

Some of the major attractions: • The Louvre annex in Lens • Calais’ Lace Museum (and soon, its dragon!) • Nausicaa in Boulogne – Europe’s biggest aquarium • The UNESCO-recognised marshes of St Omer • The Pottery Museum at Desvres • Arras for amazing Baroque, Gothic and medieval architecture • The underground complex at St Omer’s La Coupole d’Helfaut V1 museum

Cap Blanc Nez and you’re surrounded by beautiful hills, or in quiet woodlands. There are absolutely lovely little valleys around Hesdin and Montreuil-sur-Mer, and it’s an area with a wealth of gardens to visit.” If Christmas markets are your thing, then consider Arras for an authentically French shopping, gourmet and gourmand experience. As a side trip then, or at any time of the year, the annex of the Louvre, opened in Lens in 2012, displays some astonishing artworks in an astonishing building.

Gastronomy This being France those ‘little local places’ that Sylvie mentions include a great many

where the best of the Pas-de-Calais’ culinary traditions can be savoured. “Our coast provides some of the most significant elements of our cuisine,” says Sylvie, “like mussels and scallops, and turbot and sole. You find restaurants throughout the region, not just those by the sea, where seafood is at the heart of the menu. Gîte owners will be happy to tell you about their local favourites.” In gastronomic terms, the Pas-de-Calais inland is most celebrated for its poultry and gin: the village of Licques is famed for the quality of its free-range grain-fed chickens; and the tiny village of Houlle has distilled a fine digestif gin since 1812.

Local cheeses like Coeur d’Arras and Sablé de Wissant, and a plethora of artisan beers are also well worth seeking out. “This region has some fabulous old cities to explore, and truly beautiful countryside and coastal areas,” says Sylvie, “and with such diversity in the attractions and the accommodation here, there’s definitely something for everyone – couples, families, big groups of friends – and at any time. Why race through all this? Stop here – in a Gîtes de France property of course!” Web: www.gites-de-france-pas-de-calais.fr

Gîtes de France Accommodation in Pas-de-Calais: • 440 Gîtes (houses, cottages and other homes to rent) • 24 Gîtes de groupe (for more than 15 guests) • 97 Maisons d’Hôtes (B&Bs) with 231 rooms in total Le Touquet.

Issue 69  |  September 2019  |  85


Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Columns

STATES OF AR T

Return of Tuymans TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK  |  PHOTO: NBTC

It is difficult to understate the importance of the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. In years to come, art historians will most likely talk about him in the same manner people talk about Magritte, Picasso and Mondrian. His blend of sensuous brushwork and dark brooding subject matter create works that are beautiful and haunting in equal measure. Belgium’s greatest living painter has had a busy year. In March, he opened a blockbuster exhibition at Palazzo Grassi during the Venice Biennale, and now opens The Return – a mammoth 50-work retrospective at De Pont Museum, Tilburg. In this aptly titled exhibition, Tuymans returns to the museum that gave him his first Dutch museum show back in 1995. Since

then, a strong friendship has developed with the artist and De Pont’s director Hendrik Driessen, who has worked closely with Tuymans on what will be his swansong exhibition before he retires. But what a way for Driessen to sign off. The Return not only features new paintings fresh from the studio, but also rarely exhibited works from 1975, when Tuymans’ was just 17. The exhibition is a rare opportunity to map the arc of Tuymans’ career – from the angry, confused teen through to the enigmatic and challenging artist he is today. Whilst these shifts in tone are considerable, and Tuymans’ anger might have subsided, the constant throughout remains the trademark washed-out palette. A swathe of neutrals, greys and pastels; a Tuymans’ painting is instantly recognisable and rarely forgotten.

Luc Tuymans’ The Return is on show at De Pont Museum, Tilburg until 17 November 2019.

De Pont Museum.

Matt Antoniak is a visual artist and writer living and working in Newcastle, UK. He works mainly in painting and drawing and is a founding member of the art collective M I L K.

BEER OF THE MONTH

Lowlander IPA TEXT & PHOTO: STUART FORSTER

Lowlander is an Amsterdam-based company that brews an Imperial Pale Ale (IPA) of the same name. Brewed with coriander and white tea, you may find this beer a refreshing alternative to face-twistingly bitter, heavily hopped IPAs. The brewery was founded in 2016 by Frederik Kampman, who refers to himself as the company’s Chief Botanical Officer. Following work at a distillery in the United Kingdom, Kampman began experimenting with botanicals in brewing. Lowlander has established itself as an eco-friendly, craft-orientated brewery whose beers feature eye-catching, arty labels. The label of Lowlander IPA features a cap-wearing monkey with a pipe in its mouth and a bottle in hand. The backstory is a tip of the hat to the Netherlands historic ties with Indonesia. IPAs were brewed to survive 86  |  Issue 69  |  September 2019

sea journeys and monkeys, according to the light-hearted blurb on the label, and were brought back by sailors who would sell them to bar owners to clear drinking debts. Gold in colour, this is a beer with hoppy aromas and a herby flavour with citrus tones. The white tea is lost beneath the coriander and hops. This brew has been measured as having 45 European Bitterness Units (EBU), a term that’s interchangeable with International Bitterness Units —a standard for measuring the bitterness of beers. That’s relatively light for an IPA, yet notably more tangy than lager, which typically measure less than half that. This is a beer that you may well see served in the Netherlands’ Indonesian restaurants. It is an IPA that pairs well with spicy food. Brewer: Lowlander Beer Co. Alcohol content: 6.0 per cent

Stuart Forster was named Journalist of the Year at the 2015, 2016 and 2019 Holland Press Awards. Five generations of his family have been actively involved in the brewing industry.


Profile for Scan Client Publishing

Discover Benelux, Issue 69, September 2019  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. On the cover of the September issue is International Emmy Award winning actor Maarten Hei...

Discover Benelux, Issue 69, September 2019  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. On the cover of the September issue is International Emmy Award winning actor Maarten Hei...