Discover Benelux, Issue 72, December 2019

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Discover Benelux  |  Contents

Contents DECEMBER 2019








Column, regulars and more We take a look at the month ahead in Benelux business, as well as profiling the companies you need to know about.


Ten reasons we love the festive season in the Benelux We step into Christmas with a countdown of our favourite Benelux festive traditions.

Flemish master architects We present our guide to the best of architecture and design in Flanders, as well as getting in the mood for the World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam.

Beauty experts of the Netherlands Whether you are looking to improve your daily skincare routine or seeking specialist advice on cosmetic treatments, our guide to the best beauty experts in the Netherlands has you covered.

All spotlights on Utrecht With a picturesque medieval centre, café-lined canals and gabled merchants’ houses, Utrecht is an ideal spot for a city break. Check out some of our favourite addresses in this beautiful part of the Netherlands.

Top Flemish restaurants Looking for somewhere to enjoy a magical meal in Flanders this Christmas? Do not miss our guide to the top Flemish restaurants.

Top lawyers & law firms in the Benelux We showcase the top legal experts the Benelux has to offer, with a profile of some of the most sought-after law firms in areas ranging from family law to immigration and much more.




Sports experiences special Whether you are searching for a thrilling driving experience, or you fancy a breathtakingly beautiful underwater walk, check out our exciting adventure guide.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui From choreographing Olivier Award-winning productions to collaborating with Beyoncé, Belgian dance supremo Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has been at the top of the game for over two decades now. Taking a quick break from rehearsals in New York for his latest surprise venture — choreographing the Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill — we caught up with the versatile artist to find out more about the inspiration behind some of modern dance’s most iconic moments.




Fashion Picks  |  8 Desirable Designs Out & About  |  102 Columns

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  3

Discover Benelux  |  Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux Issue 72, December 2019

Executive Editor Thomas Winther

Elodie Noel Emma Wesseling Ingrid Opstad Kate Harvey Laura Gozzi Lauren Walker Matt Antoniak Maya Witters Michiel Stol Myriam Gwynned Pierre Antoine Zahnd Stephanie Uwalaka Steve Flinders Stuart Forster

Creative Director Mads E. Petersen

Cover Photo © Chris McAndrew

Editor Anna Villeleger

Sales & Key Account Managers Mette Tonnessen Katia Sfihi Micha Cornelisse Petra Foster Jan-Hein Mensink Jelien Moerman

Published 12.2019 ISSN 2054-7218 Published by Scan Group Print Uniprint

Copy-editor Karl Batterbee Graphic Designer Audrey Beullier Feature Writer Arne Adriaenssens Contributors Bas van Duren Colette Davidson Debby Grooteman Eddi Fiegel Eline Joling

Publisher: Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3TY United Kingdom

Welcome to the final month of the year and a very festive edition of Discover Benelux. If you are not yet feeling the Christmas spirit, our December issue has plenty to help get you there, with a countdown of our favourite festive traditions in the Benelux. My best-loved event has to be the Amsterdam Light Festival, which each year sees an array of Dutch and international artists creating breathtaking light sculptures around the capital. Elsewhere in the magazine you can also find a guide to the perfect restaurants for a yuletide meal with friends, while this month’s cultural calendar is brimming with Christmas cheer, and our extended design section offers plenty of gift inspiration. Meanwhile, if you are already starting to feel festive fatigue, there is plenty of Christmas-free content to enjoy over the following pages, starting with an interview with Belgian dance supremo Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. From choreographing Olivier Award-winning productions to collaborating with Beyoncé, the Antwerp-native is known for defying genres while uniting art forms, cultures and traditions. It was a privilege to speak to Cherkaoui about his latest surprise venture — choreographing the Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill — which is based on the themes and emotions of Alanis Morissette’s eponymous 1995 album. Like so many of us, it was an album that had a big impact on the choreographer, and as he explained, the musical version looks set to have an equally powerful influence. I hope you enjoy this month’s magazine and that you have a peaceful and relaxing festive season. See you in 2020!

Phone: +44 207 407 1937 Email:

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 may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

4  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Anna Villeleger, Editor

Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Fashion Picks


Look chic in black and white With party season approaching, we suggest taking inspiration from the most timeless colour combination: black and white. The contrast of this classic pairing will make you look chic and smart in an effortlessly cool way. TEXT: INGRID OPSTAD  |  PRESS PHOTOS

Dance-floor ready Make a minimalist statement in this gorgeous jumpsuit. It oozes sophistication and elegance in a modern and simple style, and will make you sparkle on the dance floor. Snake-print is all the rage this year, so by adding a pair of these funky boots, you will be on trend for every party you attend. Gestuz, ‘Solingz’ jumpsuit, €139 Gestuz, ‘Vaneiagz’ boots, €299

Pure and simple Every wardrobe needs a classic and simple handbag, and this crossbody leather bag from Belgian brand Sweet Lemon is a great choice. Its round shape makes it unique and a stylish statement bag for your party outfit. Sweet Lemon, ‘Louison’ bag, €99.99

Classic It is important to stay warm and comfy on a night out on the town, and this long shearling-look knitted coat from Pinko will help you do just that. Its classic style and simplicity makes it fit any outfit you decide to wear. A staple piece for years to come. Pinko,‘Favola’ coat, €445 6  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Pattern party The Serious Dark shirt from Dutch brand SKOT has a white pattern on a black background. Made using 100 per cent organic cotton in a modern slim-fit design, this sustainable shirt will make you look stylish at any event. Also, because of the pattern, the shirt will look very different whether you look at it closely or from a distance. SKOT, ‘Serious Dark’ shirt, €99

Slick The signature geometric modernist motifs on this slim-fit blazer from Neil Barrett gives it a graphic energy. Crafted in Italy from smooth and breathable bonded jersey, this jacket combines the comfort of streetwear with a slick, tailored silhouette and when teamed up with these tuxedo trousers and trainers from the same brand, it will give you that cool edge. Neil Barrett, iconic modernist bonded jersey jacket, €1,245 Neil Barrett, tuxedo ribbed cuff slim trousers, €540 Neil Barrett, varsity ‘Bolt05’ high-top sneakers, €570

Off the cuff It’s all in the details. And we think these cufflinks are a great way to add a bit of personality and quirkiness to your party attire. Available in silver- and gold-style. Tiger of Sweden, ‘Tirin’ cufflinks, €79 Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  7

Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Desirable Designs


May all your Christmases be in style… Whether you open presents around the tree on Christmas Eve, light the menorah on Hanukkah or gaze at the fireworks together on New Year’s Eve, December is the month to invite friends and family to share an unforgettable meal. Yet, almost as important as what’s on the menu, are the decorations on the table and around the house. With these design items, the holidays can become as elegant as they are jolly. TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PRESS PHOTOS


1. Festive fur Is decorating tables not your forte? With Table in a Box, you can create a beautiful party setting in no time. All you need to spruce up your dinner for six is stuffed in one box, alongside a decorating manual. Our favourite one, the Merry Moose Box, combines different shades of gold with the softest faux-fur around to give your dining room a warm, wintery vibe. If you’ve got more than six people over, Table in a Box is happy to make you a personalised box that fits the size of your party like a glove. From €170 8  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Desirable Designs


2. DIY nativity scene If you have small children, you know that the box a present comes in is often as popular as the gift itself. That will most definitely be the case with the Dutch Design X-mas, a seemingly ordinary box which, actually, you can easily fold into a beautiful nativity scene. €17


3. North Pole Don’t automatically dismiss paper napkins these holidays. If you pick the right ones, they can be just as classy as their fabric counterparts. With these adorable, North Pole-themed ones, you are in for a heartwarming Christmas for all ages. €3

4. Treats in the tree Nothing feels as sad as taking down the Christmas tree once the holidays have passed. Luckily, this set of two elegant Christmas balls can brighten up that dark day. Inside each of them, you will find six delicious chocolates from Neuhaus, the chocolatier who once invented the nowlegendary Belgian praline. Let’s hope this shot of instant endorphins will be enough to cure your post-Christmas blues. €16.50



5. Miniature fireplace Nothing says winter like a crackling, open fire, indulging all your senses. If you don’t have one of those in your home, however, you can instead opt to light this huge candle from top Dutch designer Piet Boon and Belgian interior design brand Serax. It comes in four warm colours, each spreading a different fragrance. To fit inside smaller flats and on packed Christmas tables, the candle also comes in two smaller sizes. €104 Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  9

Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Windeshausen Joailliers



As the holidays approach, many of us are on a quest to find meaningful gifts for friends and family, or perhaps something extra special to wear to all those Christmas parties. Whether you are looking for a beautiful timepiece for a loved one, or a one-off customised jewellery creation for yourself, Windeshausen Joailliers are on hand to ensure you find exactly what you are searching for. ‘Les autres essaient, moi, JOZ !’ ‘(Others try, I dare)’. These words perfectly reflect the ambition of talented jewellery creator Jean Windeshausen, founder and namesake of Windeshausen Joailliers. The story behind the luxury brand, which boasts three boutiques in the Benelux, began in October 1982 with the opening of Windeshausen’s first store in the Belgian town of Bastogne. This first boutique launched a hugely successful family business, which Jean’s son Lionel - also a trained jewellery creator - soon joined. Lionel and Jean became renowned for their passion, expert knowledge and 10  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

beautiful designs, and set out to look for a new space that would highlight their talent. It was in 2009 that Windeshausen made its debut in Luxembourg’s elegant City Concorde shopping complex, located in the attractive town of Bertrange. Luxury watch brands were soon competing to be featured in the family business’ shopfront, with prestigious brands such as Rolex, Hublot, IWC, Chopard, Chanel, Cartier, Zenith, Breitling, TAG Heuer all finding their place alongside famous jewellery brands such as Messika, Hulchi Belluni and JOZ, Windeshausen’s own house collection. “The name is a nod to my fathers’ famous words, which promote individuality,” explains Lionel. In 2013, Windeshausen opened a second boutique at City Concorde, just a few feet away from the main shop. “While our main store offers the most beautiful jewellery and watches, we opened the second boutique to cater to our clients looking for trendier models,” explains Lionel. There, shoppers can discover the

latest creations by watch brands such as Swatch, Tissot, Bell & Ross, Tudor, Ebel and Frédéric Constant. Jewellery is also well represented with brands such as Fred and Dinh Van. And for clients looking for something truly personalised, Windeshausen can create stunning, custom-made pieces in their workshop. “We can create a unique design based on your desires, your budget and your personality,” points out Lionel. Meanwhile, watch enthusiasts will appreciate the expertise of watchmakers certified by the biggest Swiss brands and the quality services of Windeshausen’s repair workshop. Finally, keep an eye out for Windeshausen’s next exciting project coming in 2020, something still under wraps, but which will be unique in the Benelux.


Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  Rouge de Chine


A treasure chest for design lovers TEXT: ELODIE NOËL  |  PHOTOS: ROUGE DE CHINE

In Lasne, Belgium, Natalia Van Wassenhove has created something quite unique. Through her furniture shop and interior design service, she offers clients an exclusive vision for their home. In a time when people’s homes tend to look similar from Paris to Hong Kong, New York or Sydney, using the services of an interior designer can be a way to create a truly unique place, far from a global standardisation. This is what Natalia Van Wassenhove thrives to bring to her clients with Rouge de Chine, her shop in Lasne, and with her services as an interior designer. “Everyone can decorate their house. My role is to bring an artistic view, a certain sensitivity, brought by timeless pieces,” she explains. In her Aladdin’s Cave, Natalia cultivates contradictions and likes mixing styles, combining pieces from different periods, continents, different styles or textures; these unusual blends have become her signature. “I have a real taste for mix and match,” she says. 12  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Through her personal work and multiple collaborations, Natalia has made a name for herself in Belgium, Switzerland and France. She has been active for more than 15 years in the area, but the decorator recently chose to settle in a 400-square-metre space. Displayed in multiple rooms cradled in light, her selection of pieces, contemporary or timeless, is beautifully staged to inspire her clients. “I’m delighted when my customers, many of whom have become friends, remind me of a certain item that I found for them and that they cherish. My clients are demanding, they travel a lot and they appreciate different cultures. My challenge is to constantly bring them something new and unexpected,” she adds. From exceptional furniture, bookshelves to consoles, marble tables, settings of all kinds, to unique items of decorations, such as lightings, paintings, statuettes from Asia, Indonesian shields, hunting trophies and candlesticks from Argentina, the eclectic selection reflects Natalia’s personal taste. “All the pieces on offer come from different

eras and styles. I’ve gathered them during my extensive travels around the world, or from local artists, but each and every one of them is truly unique,” she says. This bold and laudable move has proved successful, as clients and window-shoppers always love browsing through Natalia’s latest purchases.

Natalia Van Wassenhove.

Rouge de Chine 2 Rue de l’Eglise, 2, 1380 Lasne Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 6.30pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. Tel: +32 2 653 80 48 Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Design  |  SD Project

Interior design that lives and evolves TEXT: KATE HARVEY  |  PHOTOS: SD PROJECT

If there’s one thing that SD Project can demonstrate, it’s that interior design is far more than just getting the right décor. By evaluating your property or office, and listening to your needs, this Luxembourg interior design firm based in Strassen can optimise a space in a beautifully human manner.

The best fit for every lifestyle When Christel Stegen founded SD Project with her husband Phillippe two years ago, it was her combination of honesty and eye for harmonious design that sealed the deal. “Our job is not to sell to clients. It’s to advise according to the client’s lifestyle, desires and budget,” she explains. Shaping a space according to their desires is one thing – but SD Project aims to surprise the client: “by presenting things they might not have discovered or liked without our advice.”

Seeing the bigger picture Their Luxembourg showroom features an impressive collection of Belgian, German and Italian brands to suit a variety of spaces. Christel Stegen is orig-

inally Belgian, and draws inspiration from her six years of working in different locations – but for her, it is less about big names and more about high quality. “I love discovering smaller brands of an exceptional standard.” She has reimagined a range of beautiful residential properties: including apartments, houses, chalets and commercial spaces such as offices and shops, and now also exterior spaces. “We curate the space as a whole. Whether it’s a kitchen, living room, meeting space or office – it has to flow from one room to the next. It must also delicately reflect the client’s personality.”

we see out entirely. The best part has got to be when we reveal the final result.”

Made to measure Shaped according to the individual, each SD Project space is like no other. The firm is particularly proud of each project for different reasons: “We ensure that every space is functional for the person that is going to be using or living in it,” hence why its service is entirely made to measure. Clients can therefore expect high quality, honesty and a wonderfully collaborative experience.

A trusted advisor from start to finish SD Project guides its clients throughout, and uses its showroom as a tool for inspiration. “We spend a lot of time with our clients, and in the beginning I’ll ask many questions to get to know more about their personality and tastes,” says Christel Stegen. “Some projects might take two months to complete, others two years,” but it certainly seems to be worth it. “It’s a well considered process, which


Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  13

Photo: Pixabay


Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux From family law, to immigration and much more, we present some of the most impressive legal experts in the Benelux region.

Photo: Pexels

14  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux


The Bar Association for French and German speakers TEXT: AVOCATS.BE, TRANSLATED BY ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: AVOCATS.BE

AVOCATS.BE is responsible for monitoring the ethical and professional standards of the profession, with a far more demanding mission than that of a corporation or a union. It ensures not only the respect of the rights and privileges of its members, but also the effective compliance by lawyers of their rights and obligations. Lawyers have voluntarily imposed a discipline to safeguard the honour and dignity of their profession. AVOCATS. BE has regulatory expertise in the areas of legal aid, internships, professional training, discipline, professional loyalty, the handling of client or third-party funds and their control, the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism,

and more generally, the practices of the profession which it unifies. It also seeks to improve the running of the profession: for example, by subscribing to collective professional and collective liability insurance, by offering its members numerous standard templates, and by setting up an ombudsman service, in charge of intervening in cases of difficulty between a lawyer and their client. AVOCATS.BE also defends the interests of those answerable to the law. AVOCATS.BE has been entrusted with a very specific mission that goes beyond the interests of its members: the Judicial Code has given it the responsibility to take initiatives and measures that

are useful in defending litigants. Therefore, AVOCATS.BE has been entrusted with a societal responsibility and a monopoly of representation that no other Order, Institute or Chamber has. This capability gives AVOCATS.BE a social legitimacy which reinforces its quality as an interrogator of the political world and makes it more than just a defender of professional or economic interests. The Order acquires a role as guardian of the administration of justice and defender of the rule of law. It is in the name of these litigants that AVOCATS.BE and the OVB have successfully lodged numerous appeals against legislation that infringed their rights before the Constitutional Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  15

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Court, the Council of State and substantive courts. AVOCATS.BE is therefore offering an added value for the citizens it protects. Since 2016, AVOCATS.BE has been an active partner in the computerisation of justice, at all levels, always with the aim of improving the functioning of justice, but also the organisation of lawyers, which allows a better transparency towards citizens and an ever more efficient and useful service. AVOCATS.BE makes the use of appropriate dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, collaborative law, conciliation or arbitration, more effective every day. AVOCATS.BE also fights for the defence of the values that ​​ represent the essence of the profession of law, namely professional secrecy, independence, delicacy and integrity. Every day, AVOCATS.BE is increasingly present in the city and in the media, demonstrating the role of modern justice. There have been increasingly innovative projects carried out in the general interest: lawyers in schools, the campaign to promote initial council for 50 euros, an awareness campaign about alternative methods of conflict resolution, presence in exhibitions and fairs, and communi-

cation campaigns via social networks, press and radio. AVOCATS.BE is also part of a resolutely European perspective and is a proactive interface vis-à-vis all levels of authority in Belgium. It is an active member of the Consultative Council of the European Bars (CCBE). Last but not least, AVOCATS.BE arduously represents and defends the 8,000 French and German speaking lawyers from Brussels, Walloon Brabant, Charleroi, Dinant, Eupen, Huy, Liège, Luxembourg, Mons, Namur, Tournai and Verviers.

These 8,000 lawyers, who work in one of the founding countries of Europe, and where the headquarters of its largest institutions are located, have developed a competence for those wishing to invest in Europe or Belgium. These 8,000 lawyers are at the disposal of their clients to carry out their projects in ever more complex European or Belgian legislation. They put their know-how at the disposal of all those who wish to settle in Belgium, in all areas of law.

The board of directors of AVOCATS. BE is composed of a president and eight directors, elected by the general assembly from the former presidents of the Bar or members of the councils of the lawyers’ associations. The former president sits in an advisory capacity.

For more information: do not hesitate to go to 65 Avenue de la Toison d’Or at 1060 Brussels, and visit, where you can consult the latest triennial report of activities, but also find a lot of practical information. Follow on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter (@oBarreaux). And do not forget: ’A lawyer is someone you should see in advance, to avoid problems later’.

16  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

TOP LAWYERS AND LAW FIRMS IN THE BENELUX We showcase the top legal experts the Benelux region has to offer.

K&L Gates K&L Gates provides personalised legal counsel to clients from every major industry and across a wide range of practices.

Peeters Euregio Law Peeters Euregio Law specialises in providing legal advice for companies looking to work across borders.

Simont Braun The expertise of Brussels-based law firm Simont Braun includes patents, trademarks, copyright, designs, trade secrets, and more.

Fragomen This year, the Brussels office of global immigration law firm Fragomen has been celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Janson Janson handles high-profile cases for a client base including corporate multinationals, banks and public companies, insurance companies and small businesses.


De Block Law Office

With offices in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, Everest Attorneys is well spread around Flanders.

The team at Antwerp-based business law practice De Block offers straightforward legal advice and dares to think outside of the box.

LMR-Avocats LMR benefits from the experience of three seasoned lawyers who joined forces to create a dynamic collaboration to start their own independent practice.

NC Advocat Operating in Luxembourg, NC Advocat is a legal advisory firm that favours a modern approach when it comes to its relationship with clients.

Photo: Pexels

APM LAW Founded in 1990 and currently situated in Brussels, Liège and Verviers, APM LAW strives to be a reliable yet modern legal services provider.

Wagener & Associés Wagener & Associés is a longestablished, boutique law firm providing tailored services to companies and individuals.

REAL Avocats REAL Avocats à la Cour has fast been win-

ning a grand-scale reputation for its quality, expertise and attention to detail.

Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis The small team at Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis have a close relationship with their clients, offering a personalised, boutique service.

Seeds of Law With its diverse team of talented and specialised attorneys, Seeds of Law helps businesses grow and flourish.

Strelia With offices in Brussels and Luxembourg, Strelia aims to provide its clients with a high-quality service combined with a personal approach. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  17

Global solutions, personal approach TEXT: COLETTE DAVIDSON  |  PHOTOS: K&L GATES

With business challenges becoming increasingly global, the need for an international law firm that understands its clients and is able to offer a diverse range of legal and commercial solutions is essential. K&L Gates, a fully integrated international law firm, works across five continents to provide personalised legal counsel to clients from every major industry and across a wide range of practices. Its Brussels office, ideally placed in the hub of European activity, operates in a dynamic, entrepreneurial and multicultural environment. The history of K&L Gates illustrates what it stands for today – east meets west; a meeting of the minds. In 2007, Pittsburgh-based firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and Seattle-bred firm Preston Gates & Ellis – whose partners included William Gates, father of Bill Gates – joined forces to create K&L Gates. 18  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Now, the global law firm is one of the world’s top legal players, boasting more than 1,800 lawyers in 44 offices across the United States, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America and Australia, with capabilities in legal issues facing the manufacturing, financial services, health care, technology and several other industries. In November, it was named the Law Firm of the Year in corporate law in the 2020 edition of the US News ‘Best Law Firms’ report. K&L Gates takes a fully integrated approach to law, with its legal counsel – and client base – knowing no borders. No matter the legal request, its global team is capable of responding to a diverse range of client demands, regardless of location. “The most important thing is that clients are served efficiently,” says Philip Torbøl,

partner at K&L Gates’ Brussels office. “We work across borders and across offices, which means that you always have access to the best resources, to the specific lawyer who can help you in the best way.” This cross-border approach is especially necessary in an ever-changing world, where global challenges related to trade, regulatory issues and the environment are a constant concern. The firm’s lawyers take an individual, personalised approach to each case, aiming to provide innovative, value-driven solutions. In that vein, the firm continues to invest in the latest technology, including artificial intelligence tools, to allow its lawyers to work as efficiently as possible.

Diversity in practice K&L Gates counsels clients in nine broad practice areas – corporate and transac-

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

tional; antitrust, regulatory and policy, real estate; energy, infrastructure and resources; labour, employment and workplace safety; finance; litigation and dispute resolution; financial services and intellectual property. Many subject matters and industry-based practice groups exist within each of these practice areas. In addition to serving individuals as clients, the firm responds primarily to demands from multinational companies, capital markets participants, middle-market and emerging businesses. It also serves pub-

lic sector entities, educational institutions and philanthropic organisations. K&L Gates is not only adept at handling a vast range of clients and their demands – it has made diversity part of the firm’s DNA. Creating and sustaining an inclusive working culture is one of the firm’s core values. K&L Gates’ Brussels office has been a leading force in the firm’s diversity initiatives. It is one of the founding members of the Legal Diversity & Inclusion Alliance

– More than 40 offices across five continents, – More than 1,800 lawyers globally, – Ranked among Top Global Law Firms in Law360 Global 20 survey, – Recognised globally among the world’s 20 leading global law firm brands in Acritas’ 2018 Global Elite Law Firm Brand Index, – Recognised among the top corporate law firms in America and as one of the most recommended firms in the area of litigation and dispute resolution by Forbes magazine, – Brussels office main practice areas: EU Antitrust, Regulatory and Policy, Corporate/M&A and Litigation.

(LDIA), which is committed to building a diverse and inclusive workplace where all employees benefit from equal treatment and opportunities.

Brussels office: a dynamic team, a hub of activity At the Brussels office, diversity extends even further. Its important location within Europe – home to EU institutions as well as numerous world organisations – means its lawyers must be skilled in a range of legal practices, from anti-trust and regulation to corporate and trade law. The Brussels office works to ensure that its qualified lawyers hail from a variety of backgrounds, with experience in European institutions, global private companies, national competition authorities and leading trade associations. Its lawyers come from more than ten different EU countries and speak more than 12 languages, creating a vibrant, multicultural environment. “This varied background allows us to better understand what our clients need,” says Mélanie Bruneau, partner at K&L Gates’ Brussels office Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  19

Marco Wirtz and Jan Peeters.


Prioritising cross-border business support TEXT: LAUREN WALKER  |  PHOTOS: PEETERS EUREGIO LAW

Expanding a business to international markets can provide new potential for growth and diversification. On the other hand, international business comes with the often-unpredictable pitfalls of the application of foreign law and tax systems. Peeters Euregio Law specialises in providing legal and tax advice for companies looking to work across borders. While working in a big law firm in Hasselt, Jan Peeters, lawyer and founder of Peeters Euregio law, noticed the increasing need for professional legal advice in international business. The fact that his former firm did not focus on cross-border activities was a shortcoming in the eyes of Mr Peeters: “I found it strange, as internationally the Euregion offers great potential.” Therefore, he founded Peeters Euregio Law, a law 20  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

firm specialised in providing legal guidance in international business.

Reside at the core of business Situated on the newly built Corda Campus in Hasselt (the former Philips site), the firm employs five lawyers specialised in business-to-business law covering multiple disciplines, including corporate and commercial law, tax law, intellectual property, IT law and employment law. Mr Peeters comments on the importance of the location: “Because we mainly focus on business law, we want to surround ourselves with companies and therefore reside at the core of business”. Peeters Euregio Law is equipped to represent its cross-border clientele, as Mr Peeters explains: “Our lawyers are specialised in dealing with cross-border legal

cases. We are fully capable of supporting companies, both big and small, looking to operate across borders. Among our clients are Belgian companies who aspire to move their business abroad, but we primarily deal with foreign clients who recognise the benefits of trading in Belgium.” What mainly distinguishes Peeters Euregio Law from others is its ability to assist foreign corporations, active in Belgium, in dealing with the country’s national law and tax system. As a result of many years’ experience in dealing with cross-border matters as well as foreign law studies, the firm’s lawyers have profound knowledge of several foreign law systems. This allows them to advise foreign entrepreneurs about the – often subtle but far-reaching – differences between Belgian law and the law of their home country.

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Building bridges over legal borders International business implies involvement of differing judicial systems, as Marco Wirtz, co-founder of the firm, explains: “There are considerable differences in the legal systems. For example, compare the Dutch legal system to the Belgian system. Both countries are often mentioned in one breath by foreign entrepreneurs, but they have very little in common apart from the language. From employment law to transferring property, there are great disparities.” Mr Peeters added: “Strange enough, if anything, the ‘legal border’ between the EU countries has become more strict in my past 35 years of practising law. If we are looking to stimulate economic growth in the Euregion areas, we must find a way to bridge the gap between these legal systems.” Mr Wirtz states that this is exactly where Peeters Euregio Law can assist: “We ensure legal support of the highest standard for those who are ambitious and internationally minded.” The lawyer’s office also includes a Dutch and a German helpdesk. These desks are created to assist Dutch and German companies who are looking to work across borders in Belgium. In this way, foreign entrepreneurs can easily contact the firm when they have questions about cross-border employment, tax or commercial law. However, Mr Peeters feels they should do more: “At the end of the day, this is not enough for us: if you

Jan Peeters.

want to grow internationally, businesses should be able to transcend these borders. In order to facilitate doing business in Belgium, our firm has created a onestop shop for foreign businesses, assisting from the start of the activities to daily tax and accountancy matters.” To adequately meet the increasing complexity of international business during times of globalisation, and to further improve the services offered by Peeters Euregio Law, the firm has established partnerships with both Belgian and foreign tax advisers, accountants and payroll

administration, all specialising in crossborder entrepreneurship. Mr Peeters concludes: “Although cultural and legal differences between the Euregion’s countries will always play a part when considering cross-border business, this shouldn’t limit progress. It’s important not to focus on what makes us different, but focus on the things that connect us.” For more information on how to access cross-border legal and tax support, visit:

Marco Wirtz.

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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Eric De Gryse.

Steven Callens.

Photo: Unsplash

Emmanuel Cornu.

‘Many businesses aren’t aware of the importance of intellectual property’ TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: SIMONT BRAUN

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are playing a very important role in Belgian business, and in this increasingly knowledge- and tech-driven economy, the importance of protecting intellectual property (IP) is high. From inventions and designs, to company names and images used in commerce, there are numerous aspects for a business to consider. To find out more on the subject, we spoke to Brussels-based law firm Simont Braun, whose expertise includes patents, trademarks, copyright, designs, trade secrets, and much more.

them to the investor or buyer in a socalled ‘due diligence investigation’.” “Many businesses aren’t aware of the importance of their IP and the protection thereof,” adds Emmanuel Cornu, partner and an expert in IP. During a due diligence investigation more and more of the IP is thoroughly scrutinised: are the trademarks sufficiently protected, who has the ownership and is entitled to the IP rights, does the company hold the registrations of the domain names it uses?”

“There are more than one million SMEs in Belgium,” begins Steven Callens, managing partner who specialises in M&A. “At some point in their life, many of these SMEs are confronted with a third-party investor; this can be to assist their growth (e.g. funding of start-ups) or when a company is sold. Concerns related to IP often arise.

“An important thing to consider is the transfer of rights by employees, freelancers or research centres when working on inventions,” concludes IP partner Eric De Gryse. “Inventions are often the fruit of a collaboration between the company and freelancers or universities. In such cases, attention is to be paid to the proper licensing or transfer of the IP rights from these freelancers or universities to the company.”

“When you are looking to attract an external financier or sell your business, you have to open up your books and show

“Another point of attention is to know precisely who holds the IP rights. Sometimes in groups of companies, one dedicated

company holds the IP rights for the rest of the group. When part of such group is later sold off, it has to be made sure that all necessary rights are granted or transferred to the sold-off business so that it can continue its activities,” points out Callens, referring to the well-known trademark dispute when Volkswagen acquired Rolls-Royce. In 1998, Volkswagen had acquired all assets to manufacture Rolls-Royces but overlooked including the right to use the Rolls-Royce trademark, and therefore could not brand the cars as Rolls-Royces. This case underlines the critical importance of IP in making an M&A deal a success. About Simont Braun: – Leading Belgian independent business law firm with 50 lawyers – Assists a broad spectrum of industries through dedicated expert teams – Strong international impact – Promotes excellence and efficiency


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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Jo Antoons, managing partner of Fragomen’s Brussels office, and Lance Kaplan, managing partner of Fragomen’s International Practice Group, at the celebration commemorating the firm’s 20th anniversary in Brussels.

Keeping global talent moving TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: FRAGOMEN

This year, the Brussels office of immigration law firm Fragomen has been celebrating its 20th anniversary. When the bureau opened in 1999, it marked Fragomen’s first office outside of the US. Today, the firm has more than 50 offices internationally, and is the world’s largest and leading immigration services provider.

from around the world, and to be able to move personnel across borders,” says Antoons, whose knowledge of all aspects of global mobility – including social security and labour law requirements – gives her an informed and strategic view of immigration-based and cost containment solutions on behalf of her clients.

As managing partner of Fragomen’s Belgium office, attorney Jo Antoons is responsible for managing corporate immigration compliance and advisory work for the Benelux countries. Working with a wide range of clients – from small- and mid-sized companies, to individuals and multinational corporations – Antoons and her team implement cost-effective and efficient immigration solutions for both inbound and outbound moves.

Located in the heart of Europe, the team at Fragomen Brussels maintains a strong, close relationship with the EU institutions, providing companies with robust, tailor-made mobility strategies for Europe. The firm can also bring the needs and concerns of companies to European stakeholders. “We have very good government relationships and work hard to influence policy changes both at European and national levels,” explains Antoons.

“It’s natural for employers to want to attract the most talented professionals

While Fragomen’s clientele comes from a host of different arenas, more recently,

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Antoons has seen an increase in individual clients. These could be foreign startups attracted to the region’s business opportunities, for which Fragomen can assist in acquiring an entrepreneur visa, for example. There is, of course, the issue of Brexit, which has given rise to British nationals, including those working at the EU institutions, seeking help to acquire Belgian citizenship. Antoons points out that the impact of Brexit will be even more complex from inside the EU, because of the need to navigate the various immigration and social security systems of the individual member states. “There are many variants and complexities,” she explains. “We work with companies to prepare for and overcome hurdles. We must ensure that it is business as usual for our clients.” Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Belgium’s legal eagles TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL  |  PHOTOS: JANSON

When it comes to choosing a law firm, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Do you opt for a large multinational or a smaller practice with more personal service? It’s a complex question, but Cédric Alter, partner at Janson – the renowned, 70-year-old, Belgian law firm – believes they can offer the best of both worlds. “For me,” says Alter, “what differentiates us at Janson is that we offer our clients quality rather than quantity. We have specialists with the highest level of legal expertise in a wide range of different areas and our partners are renowned in their respective fields. Some are widely known as authors of well-received professional papers, whilst

others are university professors, magistrates and judges. We are also recommended in the two major international legal guides: The Legal 500 and Chambers.” “Similarly,” he continues, “the fact that we are independent means that we can offer our clients a service which is both more personally tailored and flexible and also more competitively priced.” “This doesn’t in any way compromise the level of service we can offer, however. We have 90 specialist lawyers, many of whom are multilingual, across our four offices (in Brussels, Ghent, Mons and Nivelles), and we have contacts with toptier international firms all over the world,

so we can easily handle both domestic and international cases.” The practice regularly handles highprofile cases for a varied client base including corporate multinationals, banks and public companies, as well as insurance companies and small businesses. Particular areas of expertise range from banking, finance and dispute resolution, litigation, employment and arbitration, real estate, insolvency and restructuring to energy, mobility, transport and construction, as well as public, European, commercial and tax law. Janson is also perfectly positioned to advise clients regarding any potential complexities arising around Brexit. Janson may be the longest established and, arguably, amongst the most prestigious law firms in Brussels, but its outlook and expertise could not be more contemporary. “We are experts in our area,” says Alter, “and we have the skills, expertise and international contacts to provide effective and efficient solutions for our clients.” Web:

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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Marc De Block.


“It may sound like a cliché, but De Block Law Office really is unlike any other law firm,” explains Marc De Block, the congenial founder and owner of the Antwerp-based business law practice. “We don’t aim to build out an empire for ourselves, but put our clients’ needs first. That’s what has kept us in business for 33 years already. That’s why our clients keep returning. That’s what makes us unique.” When Marc De Block founded his firm in 1986, he knew exactly what he wanted it to become. He kept a safe distance of practicing law in the spotlight and decided to run a small-scale business law practice at which he could work on a wide array of interesting cases and forge relationships of confidence with his long-term clients: an approach that stands the test of time. “All

depends on why you are taking on a certain case. For me, there always has to be a sparkle of interest for the enigma I’m facing. If a case with small stakes fascinates me, I will sink my teeth into it just as much.” That doesn’t mean De Block and his team always opt for an aggressive approach. “Our first aim is always to settle a case outside of the court room. Solutions like these are beneficial for our client, their opponent and the business relationship between both. If it is, however, in the interest of our client that we settle it in court, we can do that just as well.” De Block’s passion for the field and his clients has taken him to all corners of the world. In his 30s, he had already won a high-profile case against a battery of respected lawyers in New York. Later, he

pled cases in Dubai, Africa, India and plenty of other places, where he always showcases a big understanding for cultural differences. “Every country has its own cultural sensitivities. We, Flemish, have a natural talent for adapting to those, as our region is so tiny that we have to work with foreigners every day and in different tongues. That puts us way ahead of lawyers from most other countries.” Yet, the main strength of De Block Law Office is the straight-forward legal advice that it provides. The team knows what it is doing and dares to think outside of the box. “Practicing law is not a gambling game. If you know what you are doing, you can win very often.” Web:

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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux


A ‘boutique’ law practice in Luxembourg TEXT: LAURA GOZZI  |  PHOTOS: LMR-AVOCATS

Preparing to move country? Among the packing, bureaucracy and relocation headaches, many don’t think about finding a local lawyer they trust – until they need one. Luxembourg has always been a coveted destination for Belgian, French and German citizens, but its appeal for expats has been growing steadily, bringing professionals from even further afield. The services provided by the law firm Loos Metzler Reinard (LMR-Avocats) are particularly useful for expats who might need advice as they settle in the country; LMR specialises in employment law, as well as civil, commercial and administrative litigation, contract law, construction law, debt recovery and real estate. 28  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

LMR benefits from the experience of three seasoned lawyers who joined forces to create a dynamic collaboration to start their own independent practice. “We have a medium-sized structure – three partners working personally on cases assisted by three attorneys – which means their clients enjoy personal involvement and great flexibility. We set time aside and tailor our work to the needs of the client,” says Robert Loos. He and his colleagues, Laurent Metzler and François Reinard, explain that their firm, nestled in the centre of elegant Luxembourg City, qualifies as a “boutique law practice” – enabling LMR to work with a variety of clients ranging from architects, engineers and real estate developers

to medium-sized businesses, banks and private citizens. Loos points out: “With our strong experience in litigation, working for old established businesses as well as for newly created firms, LMR is keen to offer advice on our specialised areas of law to local clients, visitors to our country and expats alike. Our practice is multilingual: all three partners speak French, English, German and, of course, Luxembourgish.” LMR’s mission is to listen to the needs of its customers and provide them with a personalised, high-quality service which is tailor-made to each situation. For further information, visit: Email:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Nadia Chouhad.

Using creativity and passion to deliver TEXT: KATE HARVEY  |  PHOTOS: NC ADVOCAT

Operating in Luxembourg, NC Advocat is a legal advisory firm that favours a modern approach when it comes to its relationship with clients. Nadia Chouhad explains how “the legal landscape is changing,” and law firms must change with it. Leading the way, the firm ensures that clients are fully involved throughout the legal process, and that each case is treated with creative vigour to achieve the desired result.

A result-orientated culture NC Advocat was established in 2015 by lawyer and managing director Nadia Chouhad, with the belief that results should be its main focus. “Our lawyers are dynamic yet realistic visionaries, and can offer different angles on each case, while also exposing potential risks and successes,” she explains. The firm is proud of its team’s creativity and ability to close even the most complex of deals. Clients are matched with a pair of lawyers to help with their case, with the possibility of another specialist offering their expertise. “We work passionately as

a team to find the best solution, whether it’s giving advice on legal rights, protecting through recourse, or defending a client.” The firm places particular emphasis on customer feedback to know and improve its strengths.

computer engineering. “Confidentiality is the most important element of our solicitor-client relationships. We use a high-level security system to protect our data from external threats,” explains Chouhad.

An evolving legal landscape

A compact team at the heart of Europe

The firm has grown out of the belief that it must respond to an ever-evolving world of law and justice. “The industrial approach to law no longer serves people well. A lawyer should be a trusted advisor, first and foremost. Our clients are involved throughout when building a case,” explains Chouhad. This certainly gives the firm a modern edge.

Its team comprises five highly qualified lawyers that have the capacity to work in French, German and English. Each individual shares a common passion, and that is to bring their varied expertise to their customers and partners: for businesses and entrepreneurs, families, landlords, renters and buyers, drivers and so on.

Opting for a personalised follow-up of each client, NC Advocat figures out their wishes and fears, and gets to know them closely in order to provide a tailor-made service. “We believe that the client should be in full control, and never excluded. The case is personalised to suit them, and they are made to feel understood.” In a world threatened by cyber hacks, the firm works closely with experts in

Luxembourg offers many advantages for existing companies, and NC Advocat works with foreign companies or individuals who have their business in Luxembourg or are looking to establish themselves there. “This environment creates a particular dynamic that is rarely found in Europe, and we accommodate that in the best way possible,” explains Chouhad. Web:

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Bert Bekaert.

Photo: Unsplash

The law firm that moves mountains TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: EVEREST ATTORNEYS

Finding a trustworthy partner who truly understands the challenges your company is facing can be hard to do. Luckily, the Flemish business firm Everest Attorneys does just that. Settled in all corners of the region, its doors are always wide-open for any business in need of legal advice, consultancy or assistance. “We are problem avoiders as well as problem solvers,” says Bert Bekaert, partner at Everest Attorneys. “We invest a lot in prevention and consultation but also have a strong practice in court. That is where the strength of our firm lies. We are not just there when things go wrong. We are always there for you.” With offices in Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels, Everest Attorneys is well spread around Flanders. Not only does this make it easier for the lawyers to stand 30  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

close to their clients and be approachable, but it also helps them to provide a better service in court. “Working locally also allows us to have a better understanding with the judges. It is usually not the first time they see us, and we know how they usually work. That is never a bad thing.” Their office in Brussels also has a more international focus. Here, most cases have an international touch to them. “That also reflects positively on the work we do in our other branches, as it links us to a global network of law firms. With a team that is fluent in Dutch, English, French and even a few other languages, we are perfectly suited to assist international companies as well.” Nonetheless, the lion’s share of Everest Attorney’s clientele is medium-sized, Belgian companies. “This profile fits us

best as we are a mid-range firm ourselves; midway between the more personal small firms and the big offices with their wide expertise. We combine the best of both worlds. This makes us perfectly suited to provide quick and pragmatic solutions for our clients’ problems and to give them tothe-point advice about whatever business decision they are facing.” Besides purely legal issues, Everest Attorneys also specialises in restructuring businesses. With plenty of in-house expertise on company law, mergers and acquisitions they skilfully help you start a new chapter in your company’s journey. “We also do plenty of matchmaking between companies and private equity, trying to find the right investors for every business.” Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux


Valuing transparency and modernity TEXT: STEPHANIE UWALAKA  |  PHOTOS: APM LAW

Founded in 1990 and currently situated in Brussels, Liège and Verviers, APM LAW strives to be a reliable yet modern legal services provider with a view to creating a greater international network, whilst advising, assisting and defending its clients in diverse areas such as fiscal, business, civil, and labour law. Its ten partners and 50 associates who make up the team at APM LAW aim to bring together both rigour and modernity to their firm, adapting to the continuous advances in LegalTech while making

a point of sharing their experience and knowledge, and fine-tuning their collective skill sets to better serve the firm’s ever-demanding clientele.

updating of deadlines, the rendering of a judgement or the conclusion of a settlement, while accessing any related documentation.

The mastering of current technologies to best meet the requirements of speed and transparency of today has led APM LAW to set up a secure online platform called ‘Follaw’, through which its clients can, at any given moment, access and consult their respective files and projects handled by the firm. They can be informed in real time of any developments, like the

APM LAW has also developed a modern approach to the financial aspects of the services that it provides, and hence created legal packages consisting of a pre-determined set of legal duties proposed for a budgeted, transparent and pre-arranged fee. Such packages concern many aspects of the legal practice, addressing family, housing, professional and business law issues. Preserving its core values of competence, humanity and transparency while adapting to constantly evolving technologies, in order to stand out as a trusted legal partner, is APM LAW’s motivation. Web:

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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Donald Venkatapen.

Long-term trust and a human connection TEXT: KATE HARVEY  |  PHOTOS: WAGENER & ASSOCIÉS

You may not have heard of this law firm for a good reason. Luxembourg-based Wagener & Associés is generally more than happy to remain discreet. Instead, it relies on a close-knit yet international team, which is one of its many strengths. We had the opportunity to get in contact with them to learn more about their practice. Founded in 1963, this Luxembourg law firm has amassed over 56 years of experience across a range of sectors, staying true to tradition by creating long-lasting client relationships.

Reinvigorating the term ‘boutique’ “Years of globalisation has meant many law firms today function like a retail business, which results in little continuity between a lawyer and his client,” managing partner Donald Venkatapen explains. Instead, he gives his own definition of what being an independent boutique firm means for Wagener & Associés: “It means having strong, long-standing relationships. We are not one-time lawyers; we dedicate ourselves to clients for the long run.” Although his years of experience in larger law firms gave him “access to a different 32  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

type of practice”, it allowed him to shape unwavering values of his own.

Establishing an atmosphere of trust Starting right at its foundation, Jean Wagener, the founding partner of the firm and past chairman of the Luxembourg Bar, established a key set of values for the client-lawyer relationship and the approach of legal practice. Those values continue to be followed in practice. “Our firm was founded on the assumption that this relationship should be the same you’d have with your family doctor. You should be able to trust that your lawyer will take care of you and your family into the future.” These long-standing connections ensure stability in the relationship between their lawyers and their clients. “It requires consistency over a longer period. It’s easier to practise if you know someone over time.” Thus, more time is dedicated to the clients’ demands.

An international environment Donald Venkatapen gained valuable experience since becoming a solicitor of England and Wales in 2006 and Jean Wagener as-

sisted families and businesses based all over the world, including in Asia and the Middle East. Jean Wagener is also a legal consultant in the State of New York and one of the founders of an international network of independent law firms. “Our team of eight lawyers are happy to advise in French, English, German and Luxembourgish, and this international outlook means our client base extends beyond Europe.” Their expertise can be used accordingly regarding Luxembourg business law, employment law and corporate litigation. Wagener & Associés has operated from the same location in Luxembourg City for over 40 years, demonstrating a reliable sense of continuity. “Knowing our clients so well means that we can be more proactive and agile with their cases. Equally, we do not hesitate to concentrate in detail on more complex case to provide the strongest advice,” concludes Donald Venkatapen. Within this intimate firm, clients can be guaranteed both unrivalled expertise and true long-term client service. Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Maria Ana Real Geraldo Dias.


A boutique law firm in the heart of Luxembourg TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL  |  PHOTOS: REAL AVOCAT

Luxembourg has no shortage of legal firms but one small practice, REAL Avocats à la Cour, has fast been winning a grand-scale reputation for its quality, expertise and attention to detail. “Because we are small firm,” says founder and managing partner, Maître Maria Ana Real Geraldo Dias, “we can offer a service that is tailor-made to our clients’ individual requirements. We build strong, close relationships with our clients so that they feel listened-to and have a sense of trust with us. We also pride ourselves on providing fast and efficient responses, as well as positive-thinking and a can-do approach.” Founded in 2015 by Maître Real herself, REAL Avocats à la Cour is based in the heart of Luxembourg City and specialises in general litigation, with a particular focus on civil and commercial matters, family and immigration law, real estate, criminal law, labour law and European

Union law. Maître Real also qualified as a children’s lawyer in June 2016 and regularly acts as legal counsel for minors.

bined, amongst which Luxembourgish, English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Maître Real had previously made a name for herself, first at the European Court of Justice where she spent two years and subsequently at one of Luxembourg’s most prestigious law practices where she worked closely with the name partner for over six years. Maître Real now runs REAL Avocats à la Cour as the sole managing partner.

Maître Real originally qualified as a lawyer in her native Portugal and the firm also has a Portuguese desk and partnerships in Lisbon making the practice exceptionally well placed to advise clients with investment interests in Portugal. Services include providing legal support, both from a national investment perspective and from a domestic legislation standpoint.

The legal team of REAL Avocats à la Cour collaborates closely not only with the national legal entities and the Luxembourgish Bar, but also it’s well established network of international law firms. Indeed, the practice is able to offer a personalised service and adapts its services efficiently to the diversity of its clients. The environment in Luxembourg requires a multi-lingual approach and the lawyers of the firm speak eight languages com-

“We offer something different and special to our clients,” explains Maître Real. “We have the legal expertise to handle major cases, but we also take pride in offering our clients a sense of confidence and trust that we build by really listening to their requirements and working with them, not just for them.” Web:

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Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Emmanuelle Delwiche.

Martine Gaillard.

Delivering concrete solutions for clients TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: GAILLARD, DELWICHE & DEGOUIS

Ideally located on the prestigious Avenue Louise in Brussels, the law firm Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis offers its clients far more than just solid legal advice. Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis was established in 2013 following the association of two young lawyers, Emmanuelle Delwiche and Pierre Degouis, and the highly accomplished lawyer Martine Gaillard, who brought with her 30 years of experience practising at the Bar of Brussels.

The small team at Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis have a close relationship with their clients, offering a personalised, boutique service. The firm are experts in family law, employment law and lease law. Pierre Degouis primarily practises in all aspects of employment law for both employers and employees, while Emmanuelle Delwiche and Martine Gaillard work mainly in the areas of family law and lease law.

In addition to the three partners, the versatile team is completed by five other lawyers: three senior and two junior lawyers. “We’re a well-balanced team,” explains Pierre Degouis. On top of their robust knowledge of the law, the team at Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis ensures all clients receive impeccable service. “Our main goal is to be responsive and available to our clients,” points out Pierre Degouis, who was granted the title of a specialist in employment law by the Bar of Brussels in September 2016. “We offer pragmatic advice and come up with solutions that will have a concrete impact for our clients.” The team at Gaillard, Delwiche & Degouis are able to practice in multiple languages including French, Dutch and English. It is an exciting time for the firm, and expansion could be on the cards in the near future. “We are looking into the possibility of opening a new office in Belgian Luxembourg in the coming years,” reveals Pierre Degouis.

Pierre Degouis.

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To find out more, visit:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Leo Peeters and Koen de Puydt.

Growing strong partnerships TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: SEEDS OF LAW

‘Seeds of Law’ isn’t your everyday law-firm name. Then again, it isn’t your everyday practice, either. With its diverse team of talented and specialised attorneys, this boutique law firm helps businesses grow and flourish; both start-ups and established enterprises. “Businesses are the core of our expertise: from corporate, business, tax and financial law to real estate, public procurement and employment law.” “Our firm’s name explains it all,” says Leo Peeters, partner at Seeds of Law. “With each client, we plant the seeds from which

a healthy collaboration and business grows. As well as lawyers, we also like to call ourselves strategic legal advisors, who proactively think about how to improve our clients’ businesses. This, we do best in long-running partnerships. The more we familiarise with our clients, the better the advice we can provide.” “Our service is way broader than solving the problems one is facing,” continues partner Koen de Puydt. “We also keep a close eye on the general course of events in a business and point out where there is still room for improvement. By presenting an out-of-the-box advice based on these observations, we help to tackle issues that one hasn’t even noticed yet. Often with major benefits for the business, as a result.” The firm’s strong beliefs in consultancy and guidance does not imply that it is afraid to take a case to court when required. Peeters: “In close collaboration with our clients, we always look for the most prag-

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matic and economical solution. Often, that solution is one of prevention or conciliation. To businessmen, proceedings are a waste of time and money. Yet, if it is beneficial for our client, we don’t hesitate to go to court. We never settle for a bad solution.” Despite its clear philosophy and the specific expertise of its lawyers, Seeds of Law is a young office but with tonnes of experience. It saw the light of day mere months ago when the established firm Peeters Law and the successful practice of Koen De Puydt merged. “We’ve noticed that our practices complemented each other,” explains De Puydt. “With our combined expertise, we can assist our clients even better with their legal issues.” With fluent Dutch, French, English, German, Russian, Arab and Spanish speakers in the ranks, and offices in Brussels and Ghent, they now provide exquisite assistance to businesses in Belgium, Europe and beyond. Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Legal Special  |  Top Lawyers & Law Firms in the Benelux

Strelia: local knowledge with global expertise TEXT: STEPHANIE UWALAKA  |  PHOTO: STRELIA

With offices in Brussels and Luxembourg, Strelia aims to provide its clients with a high-quality service combined with a personal approach. Its services include assisting Belgian and foreign companies in setting up or expanding in Belgium and Luxembourg, through joint ventures and distribution agreements. Its specialists deal with corporate and commercial disputes and advise on tax and labour law. They also provide their services for clients abroad, making use of their established and reliable network of law firms. In Brussels, most of the foreign clients are from Germany, France and the Netherlands. Strelia emphasises its strong ties with France, as many investors from France, in different sectors, seek help with their expansion in Belgium. In Luxembourg, there are more international clients using its services, such as investors from the US and China. Strelia also

offers support to clients looking to invest on the African continent. Through its understanding of specific issues that arise in operations in the region, and reliance on their cooperation with local firms, it can provide clients with tailored advice on joint ventures, M&A, private equity, commercial issues and dispute resolution. Strelia’s managing partner, Olivier Clevenbergh, affirms their international approach in how it provides its services, with many of its lawyers having worked for international law firms before joining Strelia. This exposure to other cultures helps its lawyers to better assist their clients and offer a broader perspective. Strelia’s lawyers also have a connection to local communities in Belgium and Luxembourg and understand how business works internally. The advantage this gives is a local knowledge and global understanding that aids the success of, for example, assisting foreign clients whether in their investments or disputes.

Having launched in 2013 in Brussels with a few partners from larger international firms, delivering technical excellence and a professional approach with a more personal touch, Strelia has grown while maintaining its philosophy. According to Dirk Leermakers, head of the Luxembourg office, the assets under management are growing each quarter; making its Luxembourg office a well-placed base to further attract international business.



All spotlights on Utrecht With a picturesque medieval centre, café-lined canals and gabled merchants’ houses, the 2,000-year-old city of Utrecht is an ideal size for a city break. This vibrant university town has a thriving arts scene and brimming cultural calendar, not to mention world-class museums and architecture recognised by UNESCO. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: NBTC

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Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

Going up Not to be missed (literally) is the impressive Dom tower, which can be seen from any point in the city and boasts the highest church tower in the Netherlands. Climb the 465 steps to the top and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the city. A less strenuous way to sightsee is via a relaxing canal cruise, which will show you all the city sights and give you a chance to admire the numerous historical wharf-side houses.

institution is Museum Catharijneconvent. With impressive artworks by the likes of Rembrandt, Pieter Saenredam and Jan van Scorel, it takes you on a journey through Christianity in the Netherlands. Also famous is the Het Spoorwegmuseum, the Railway Museum in Utrecht, which preserves historical equipment from the Dutch national railway. Not just for train spotters, the museum has plenty of attractions for all ages.

Marvellous museums

Wonderful surroundings

If you like museums, then you will love Utrecht. A good place to start is Centraal Museum, which explores Utrecht’s fascinating cultural history via Caravaggisti paintings, modern art, costumes and much more. From philosophy to art, you will find it here. Another renowned Utrecht

If you fancy exploring further afield, Utrecht province also offers beautiful landscapes, farmhouses, manors and magnificent castles. Do not miss the De Haar Castle, the biggest and most luxurious in the Netherlands. The verdant park and gardens surrounding it are also worth a visit. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  39

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

DO NOT MISS Rietveld Schröderhuis The Rietveld Schröderhuis is the architectural pinnacle of the De Stijl art movement. The house was designed in 1924 by Utrecht architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld for the widow Truus Schröder. It is the only building built wholly according to the De Stijl architectural theory and a true icon of the city.

Mondriaanhuis: The world of Piet Mondrian A visit to the Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort is a museum-like experience for all ages offering an innovative introduction to Mondrian, who was born in Amersfoort on 7 March 1872. Discover more about numerous places relevant to Mondrian’s ideas and work, as well as his artistic and spiritual development.

DOMunder DOMunder is the ultimate historic attraction in Utrecht. There, you can immerse yourself in the 2,000 years’ worth of history of the Domplein (Dom Square), Utrecht and the Netherlands. Go on an underground discovery tour filled with fascinating stories and archaeological gems. You can learn more about Utrecht’s Roman past, as well as the illustrious Middle Ages.

Centraal Museum.

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Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

An amazing night out at Stadsschouwburg Utrecht Located at one of the former defences of the city, Stadsschouwburg Utrecht is the place to enjoy exquisite food and amazing performances by internationally acclaimed artists. “Its doors may have been opened over 75 years ago, yet it still looks and feels as contemporary today as it did then,” says Ab Hooijer, head of information at the theatre. The Stadsschouwburg opened its doors in 1941 and was designed by the modernist Dutch architect Willem Marinus Dudok. Its low height and high windows make it fit perfectly

Photo: Dorien Hein

within its garden. “Throughout the war there were performances; mostly traditional pieces,” explains Hooijer. “Today, the programme consists of all kinds of great art, from opera to contemporary dance, music and comedy.” The shows that are on stage are for everybody to enjoy. “Not just for adults, but young people, as well. This December, our Christmas show Back to Oz is a feast for the whole family,” enthuses Hooijer. The show is a modern adaptation of the classic story by L. Frank Baum. “The switches between acting, music and film make Back to Oz an absolute

Photo: Flow Design


must to come and see.” It will be on stage from 20 to 29 December, with matinee and evening shows. A visit to the Stadsschouwburg is always a great night out. Dine in style beforehand at the restaurant, where the chef will have prepared a seasonal menu. Enjoy an amazing show and, afterwards, grab a drink and relive what you just saw. “All in a theatre whose architecture will take your breath away,” smiles Hooijer. Web:

Photo: Frank Hanswijk

Explore luxurious castle life near Utrecht TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: DE HAAR CASTLE

De Haar Castle is a not-so-hidden gem near Utrecht for tourists with a keen interest in history. This medieval castle, which underwent extensive luxurious renovations in the late 1800s, has something for everyone: rich tales of past glory, endless gardens, enthusiastic English-speaking guides, seasonal splendour, and even a maze. In short, everything you need for a delightful day trip. The history of De Haar Castle is fascinating. Built in the 1100s, it later fell into disrepair and stood ruined for decades, until Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt van de Haar and his wife Hélène de 42  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Rothschild decided to begin renovation works in 1890. They contracted architect Pierre Cuypers, already famous at the time for his designs of the Rijksmuseum and Central Station in Amsterdam. Cuypers restored the castle above and beyond its former glory, giving it a lavish interior in gothic revival style to match the stark medieval facades, which sport ramparts, moats and drawbridges. The result is a fascinating building that tells the story of its rich past via its design alone.

The power of volunteers However, visitors need not merely guess about the castle’s historical transforma-

tions while discovering its many rooms and hallways: a guide awaits in almost every room, ready to tell the unique story of its former uses. As these guides are all volunteers, they help tourists with ample enthusiasm and are highly knowledgeable about the history of the Van Zuylen family. “Since 2000, the castle has been in the hands of De Haar Castle Foundation, a private non-profit organisation that works to keep it accessible to the public. The baron wanted to keep the castle in the best possible state, something he could not accomplish alone given its massive size,” explains Samantha Huismans,

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

senior marketing manager for the foundation. “We do not receive regular public funding, which is why we rely on over 200 volunteers to help us keep this historical gem open and let as many people as possible see its splendour.” The volunteers’ stories bring to life the former inhabitants and visitors of the castle: after its restoration, the latter category included the likes of Coco Chanel, Maria Callas, Roger Moore, Yves Saint Laurent and Brigitte Bardot. Even today, descendants of the Van Zuylen family and their guests still stay in the smaller Châtelet next to the main castle, regularly.

Fairytale weddings and events De Haar Castle receives thousands of curious visitors yearly, but those who fall in love with its beautiful interior and endless gardens can go one step beyond the standard guided tour. “We have various locations for couples to get married: the old chapel in the grounds, the intimate library or the lavish ballroom, or even outside in the rose garden,” Huismans sums up. With such a décor, splendid wedding pictures are a guarantee. The castle is also available for private rental for other occasions, like fairs and festivals, company meetings or team events. The options for business rental are endless, and the décor will certainly impress staff and clients. “Private hire is an important source of income for the foundation, which helps us restore and maintain further parts of the castle and

provide visitors with an even better experience,” attests Huismans.

Seasonal splendour Of course, De Haar Castle becomes even more spectacular during Christmas time. From 6 December – once children’s patron Saint Nicholas has departed on his boat back to Spain until next year – the entire castle is cloaked in Christmas decorations. The outside walking paths will also be illuminated, creating a true fairytale land for visitors to revel in. If you can’t visit during the holiday season, there are plenty of other year-round and seasonal activities at the castle, like exhibitions, children’s scavenger hunts, and optional visits to hidden rooms. In short, everything you need to keep the

entire family, team or group entertained. “You can cap off your visit with a stop at one of the two restaurants and a gander through the castle shop. And the nearby village of Haarzuilens is also worth an afternoon stroll. Visit, for instance, the restaurant ‘t Wapen van Haarzuylen and enjoy a Burgundian lunch or dinner,” concludes Huismans. De Haar Castle is an easy bus and/or train ride away from the centre of Utrecht, and parking is available. Special group arrangements and tours in English, French or German are available on request. Visit for opening times, prices and other practical information.

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  43

Historic hospitality in a tranquil, urban oasis TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: KAREL V

In the heart of the vibrant city of Utrecht, adjoining the Netherlands’ biggest station on the one side and the charming historic centre on the other, you enter the tranquil oasis that is Grand Hotel Karel V. The majestic, century-old mansion lies in a walled garden, a world away from the city noise. Besides a five-star hotel, it also houses an atmospheric bistro and a world-class finedining restaurant. “Karel V has everything you need for an unforgettable week-end on its 10,000 square metres of greenery.”

great food, a comfortable night, top-notch service and plenty of unforgettable memories. “At Karel V, you don’t just come for a meal or a night away,” says Josseline de Boer, communication manager at Karel V. “You come for an unforgettable experience. The spirit of the building’s rich history still lingers through the corridors. Here, you feel just as special and important as Karel V, (Charles V), the legendary Habsburgian who stayed in the building with his sister Mary of Hungary and after whom the hotel is named.”

In a former life, it was a monastery and military hospital, today it is one of the Netherlands’ lushest hospitality sites. In its 20 years of existence, Grand Hotel Karel V has become the place to go for

The lion’s share of the building houses the exquisite five-star Grand Hotel Karel V, the only five-star hotel in the city and its surroundings. “The hotel offers so much more than most five-star hotels. The

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Sleeping in Utrecht’s green lung

whole of the majestic building contains details that refer to the past. Spread over many display cases, you can look at the intriguing objects that were discovered while restoring the building.” Yet, most impressive is the interior, which stays true to the historic nature of the building. That doesn’t mean that guests must sacrifice on 21st-century indulgence and facilities. On the premises, you can relax in the well-equipped spa with a sauna, steam bath, solarium and jet stream pool. On top of that, you are welcome in Puur, the hotel’s in-house beauty salon. If you prefer a more active moment of me-time, you can go to Karel V’s gym. “Or you can rent a bike and explore the city and its surroundings ‘Dutch-style’. Located centrally in the city, Grand Hotel

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

Karel V is the perfect place to commence your journey from.” If you roam the city on foot, you can start in the hotel’s big garden. As a green lung of Utrecht, it is a great place to clear your mind after a busy day of working or city tripping.

Weddings and business meetings Enchanting as it looks, Grand Hotel Karel V is also the backdrop of many an event; from picture-perfect wedding ceremonies to business meetings and receptions. “Our in-house team of event managers translate your dreams into reality. We have 13 venues here, all a different size and with a different atmosphere. They help you choose the right one and advise you on other choices, like whether there should be lunch, dinner or just drinks. They help you come up with the perfect party recipe for an unforgettable day.”

but always with a twist,” explains Mat Zwetsloot, chef de cuisine of the popular bistro. “You shouldn’t be surprised if you find Asian influences in one of those century-old classics.” His hunger for exotic flavours does not let him forget about his roots, though. The menu contains local ingredients galore, making its meals sustainable and delicious. “Besides our menu – which changes every three months, we focus on temporary specials. This way, we can use the delicacies

when they are in season, without having to worry about whether we can get them for three full months.” Those with a healthy appetite can order the five-course menu or the chef’s menu, both changing monthly. Here, Zwetsloot shows you what he and his team are worth with a perfectly-balanced lunch or dinner experience. “These menus keep the atmosphere in the kitchen lively. If you prepare the same dishes all year long,

Local ingredients, exotic twists Yet, you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy a great meal at Karel V. At Bistro Karel 5 you are welcome for casual dining, seven days a week. “We mainly serve French and Italian classics, Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  45

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

Vito Reekers.

Johan Kragtwijk.

you eventually work on autopilot. As we change menus so often, we always stay focused and remain excited about what we serve.”

“And if we have lobster on the menu, the bistro uses the heads to make a delicious bisque.”

More than just neighbours

“In the restaurant, it is all about creating ever-lasting memories,” Reekers continues. Seven years ago, he took over the kitchen of the prestigious restaurant and blew a contemporary wind through it. “I don’t have a classic taste. I like the French techniques as the basis of a dish, but only to combine them with international or contemporary elements. We, for example, made a dessert with the Redlove Apple, an apple variety from the region. We used it entirely, from the peel to the core, and made apple butter, juice and compote from it. We even used honey from the tree’s blossom. That’s the kind of food you can expect here. Creative dishes with a philosophy behind them.”

Alongside the bistro, the Karel V site has an elegant dining restaurant, called Restaurant Karel 5. Both restaurants have beautiful terraces with garden views; the bistro amidst the orchard’s pear trees and the restaurant in the central courtyard. “Although the bistro and the restaurants offer very different dining experiences, we are more than just neighbours. Often, the bistro gets people excited about what is awaiting them in the restaurant.” Some products even adorn the menus of both businesses. “If I make a sauce for the restaurant, I ask Mat if he wants me to make some more for the bistro,” explains Vito Reekers, chef de cuisine of fine-dining restaurant Karel 5. 46  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

‘Every menu tells a story’

Mat Zwetsloot.

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  All Spotlights On Utrecht

That also counts for the restaurant’s menu, a four- to eight-course meal with which Reekers and his team take you on a journey. “I like soft and fresh dishes that are easily digestible. If you opt for the full menu, I will first serve you a light, salty dish; perhaps something with shellfish or something vegetarian. Then, plate by plate, the food will become more potent, with the main course as its climax. For dessert, I would serve something fresh. If you opt for the four-course menu, however, I might prepare a sweet dessert. Every menu tells another story.”

Historic hospitality Upfront and in the wine cellar, sommelier and maître d’hôtel Johan Kragtwijk is in charge. “We have a great assortment of top-class European wines,” says Kragtwijk. “Yet, it is not because the wines aren’t exotic, that our pairings can’t be. Recently, we served a light dish

with turbot and celeriac with a soft pinot noir. While this is against all the rules in the book, it was a big success. Also, a fair share of Dutch wines adorns our menu. Lately, they gain more popularity.” Kragtwijk’s craftsmanship gains Restaurant Karel 5 high ratings in Dutch and international wine rankings, sometimes even maximum scores. That all of this is nested in a former hospital seems fitting. In the end, the words ‘hospital’ and ‘hospitality’ share the same roots. “They both take care of you when you are away from home,” concludes De Boer. “We offer our guests an historic hospitality experience; not just with our impressive setting, but also by keeping the warm spirit of conviviality alive.”


Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  47


The heart of the Netherlands: Beauty between the Lek and Linge TEXT: LAUREN WALKER

In the heart of the Netherlands flow two rivers, the Lek and Linge, forming natural borders which embrace a blooming region. When looking at a map of the area, the northern border is marked by the Lek and one of the area’s largest cities, Vianen. Drawing a straight line down, your finger would meet Leerdam, which is geographically located on the banks of the river Linge, hugging the municipality’s southern border. Between these two waterways, you will find countless attractions, from the beautiful water landscapes to forts which 48  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

have been transformed into breweries. Known as the ‘Green Heart’ of the Netherlands, it showcases some of the most scenic cycling paths and walking routes in the country. Here, you can discover historical monuments and landmarks, and enjoy bird-spotting in the fantastic Zouweboezem natural reserve.

The historical Vianen Less than half an hour from Utrecht, one of the country’s oldest cities, lies the historical Vianen. It is known for having over 190 national-listed monuments, which you will find on every other street corner. Most significantly, in the city’s old

town you can explore its medieval history and the significant defences such as the moat, the original city walls and the Lekpoort, which dates to the 15th century. Plan your visit to collide with one of the city’s many activity days, such as the ‘Horse Market’ or the ‘old-timer’ day. Or simply venture to the ambiant and buzzing Voorstraat and enjoy a cold drink whilst taking in the beautiful architecture of Vianen’s many listed buildings.

Fortified beer Is one drink not enough? How about trying a cold beer straight from the source? To the east of Vianen lies Fort Everdingen, a

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  Beauty Between the Lek and Linge

tower fort which was built in 1847 as part of the New Dutch waterline by the Lek. At one time it protected the river dikes from territorial ambushes. Now it is home to the Duits & Lauret brewery, where craft brews are produced on the banks of the water. Visit the tasting studio or relax on the fort’s terrace to try the local speciality. The site also boasts several attractions of military-importance for visitors to discover.

Fortresses of the New Dutch Waterline Explore more of this mass fortification defence line, around which Amsterdam and Utrecht are located. It is formed by over 45 fortresses and is 135 kilometres in circumference and has a protected status as a National Heritage Site. These

Leerdam, the city of glass. Photo: Hans van Vrouwerf

Fort Everdingen.

Fort Everdingen.

fortresses, which tell the age-old story of water as a means of defence, will appear while discovering the region’s pathways.


City hall Vianen.

Between the two major cities lies one of the most beautiful and relatively undiscovered nature reserves in the area, the Zouweboezem. Mainly known for its cane-field grounds, it also showcases an impressive assortment of flora and is the home of several marsh birds, including the largest colony of purple herons in the Netherlands. The recently built wetland boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the cane fields and the diverse birds you will find there. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  49

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  Beauty Between the Lek and Linge

Royal Leerdam Crystal. Photo: Hans van Vrouwerf

Rederij Leerdam. Photo: Rederij Leerdam




50  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Life by the water

Holey Leerdammer!

This area is known for its water landscapes, polders and rivers, the Lek and the Linge, which have a magnetic effect on tourists and locals. The waters are a great way to explore the region, either by boat or by walking or cycling on the pathways next to the streams, allowing you to visit the many significant sites located near the water, such as the dam in Hagestein. You can even camp beside the flowing beds at Fort Everdingen.

Most non-Dutch people would think of the creamy white cheese when hearing the word Leerdam, with most of the cheese produced at the city’s factory being exported abroad. Tourists hoping to try some of the holey produce will be accommodated at the Leerdammer Cheese tasting room in the heart of the city. Sample six different types of cheese alongside two delicious local drinks, whilst learning more about the products and their history.

Discover Benelux  |  Top Places to Visit in the Netherlands  |  Beauty Between the Lek and Linge

Leerdam: not cheese, but glass!

Lekpoort Vianen.

Leerdam is recognised by the Dutch as the country’s glass city. The industry settled here in 1765 and is the only remaining city in the country where visitors can view the artisan craft of glassblowing. Whilst wandering around the city, it is apparent that this industry is central to the community. In the city’s south, right on the banks of the Linge, lies the National Glass Museum, with its own glassworks, where visitors can see glass artists at work first-hand, creating the most beautiful works from hot liquid glass. To witness the traditional craft of crystal glass blowing, take a tour at the city’s Royal Leerdam Crystal, the only place in the country where crystal is blown by mouth. The attraction is moving from the 1878 Kristalfabriek to a new location in 2020. The city’s many glass galleries, including that of famous Dutch artist Bernard Heesen, also showcase modern examples of the glass artworks. Fast-track visit If you are an avid biker and want to enjoy the beautiful and idyllic scenery by the dwindling rivers, the newly built 53-kilometre bike route is the way to go. It connects both major cities and takes you to Everdingen and through the calming Zouweboezem, whilst allowing you to discover old farms and other unique locations. A great way to explore the whole region.

For more information visit: and

Nationaal Glasmuseum. Photo: Ben Deiman

Uiterwaarden Vianen. Photo: Herman Suiskind

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  51

A la Croisée des Chemins B2Ai Neder-Over-Heembeek Brussels.


World Architecture Festival comes to the Benelux World Architecture Festival (WAF) is the world’s largest annual, international, live architectural event. It is where the global architecture community meet to celebrate, learn, share and be inspired. From 4 to 6 December this year, WAF will return to Amsterdam — marking the second time the Dutch capital has hosted the event — and there are a number of Benelux bureaux nominated in the festival’s prestigious awards programme. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTOS: WORLD ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL

LocHal Public Library Civic architects (lead architect), Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau, Inside Outside Petra Blaisse Tilburg, Netherlands. Photo: Stijn Bollaert

52  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Master Architects  |  Designing the Future!

Sustainable future WAF includes the world’s largest international architectural awards programme, dedicated to celebrating excellence via live presentations to an audience of highprofile delegates and international juries. This year’s shortlisted entries include designs that demonstrate how buildings can play a major role in a more sustainable future. Amongst the shortlist is an eco-airport in Singapore designed by Safdie architects, centred around a 15,000-square-metre state-of-the-art, indoor public garden, which features a 40-metre indoor waterfall falling through the centre of a doughnut-shaped glass roof, alongside 3,000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from around the globe. In the culture category, Helsinki Central Library Oodi by ALA Architects, heralds a new era of library design where traditional functions meet modern technology, to create an almost zero-energy building with panoramic views. While there are a number of major world architects shortlisted, there are also many smaller firms competing with the big names. The shortlist ranges from private residential, to education, infrastructure, healthcare, hospitality, cultural/civic, interior and landscape projects across 70 countries. Presentations of the shortlisted designs will be made to more than 100 international juries in front of festival

Pand Noord Hollandse Nieuwe architecture & interiors Amsterdam, Netherlands.

delegates. Category winners will then compete against each other on the final day of the festival, contesting for the ultimate accolades of World Building of the Year, Future Project of the Year, Interior of the Year and Landscape of the Year. “We have been inspired by the levels of innovation in this year’s entries, that show the incredible range of ways in which architects are responding to the global climate and biodiversity emergencies we face,” enthuses WAF programme director Paul Finch. Prison Haren CAFASSO nv with B2Ai EGM Architecten Brussels, Belgium.

Prison Haren CAFASSO nv with B2Ai EGM Architecten Brussels.

Skypark BusinessCentre South Aravia Design & +FUN Luxembourg.

“WAF has attracted more than 1,000 entries, for the second year in a row, from 70 countries, and we look forward to more than 500 live presentations at the Festival in Amsterdam, showcasing these exemplar projects from around the world.”

Interior design Meanwhile, INSIDE is the sister festival of WAF, and celebrates the world’s finest examples of interior design. All nominees will present their projects to distinguished international juries to compete for one of the nine INSIDE category awards. Open to all festival attendees, the presentations are followed by a live exchange between the designers and jurors. The overall winner of the World Interior of the Year will be announced at an exclusive gala dinner on Friday 6 December. Finch: “INSIDE has been a growing part of the overall World Architecture Festival programme since 2012 and continues to grow in terms of quantity and quality. We are delighted with the intriguing designs and geographical spread of this year’s entries and look forward to the live judging in Amsterdam.” Find out more about the WAF Awards and the festival at:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  53

The constant development of new ideas with Sarchis Architects TEXT: EMMA WESSELING  |  PHOTOS: SARCHIS ARCHITECTS

He’s young, and you can see that in both his vision on architecture and the way he realises that architecture. Serdar Öztürk runs Sarchis Architects and his vision is clear: he wants to change the way architecture works. Serdar started Sarchis Architects after building experience at various different firms. He doesn’t work from a specific style but seeks to combine different styles to find the perfect harmony between the space and the way that people view and experience the space, not only making things beautiful to the eye but also focusing on functionality. He is young and ambitious, and so is his firm. Sarchis Architects was founded in 2010, but already has a large portfolio 54  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

of very different buildings. Among those are a mosque, various villas and houses, apartment complexes and industrial buildings. Being of Turkish descent himself, Serdar values his background and the way he can incorporate it in different projects. “Through my cultural background I can look at projects from a broader perspective and look at it from different sides. Your view of the world is literally bigger,” he says. It’s the combination of his fresh look on architecture and the cultural richness in his background that ensures Sarchis Architects speaks to a very big audience.

Multiple partners One unique aspect of Sarchis Architects is that they work with multiple external

partners to make the most of every building. These partners include a ventilation specialist and a stabilisation engineer, but more importantly, they work with a regular partner for interior design. This partnership ensures that every building that Serdar designs is delivered with a perfectly finished interior that exists in perfect harmony with the exterior of the building. Even the smallest details are taken care of. Looking at the interior portfolio that Sarchis Architects has built you can easily see how perfectly harmonised the interiors are with the buildings. Just as with the buildings themselves, the interior is full of light and the use of white, combining simple and modern furniture with

Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Master Architects  |  Designing the Future!

a few design pieces to really give every room a very subtle pop.

Mosque in Genk One of the most important projects for Sarchis Architects was the mosque that Serdar designed. Usually when an architect is asked to design a project, this is for an investor or maybe one or two clients, but in this case the client was an entire community who all had different ideas of what architecture is and what their mosque should look like.

sketches, research and talks with the community. This has resulted in a timeless architectural piece that combines the very distinguished Turkish architectural aesthetic with the sublime simplicity of a Flemish style. The service planning department of Genk called it ‘a pearl on Flemish territory’.

there is the budget and on the other hand there is the government who sets rules and guidelines on ecological building. As an architect, you always have to try to stay on top of the changes in technique, green building and aesthetics. It’s not easy, but worth the challenge.

X-Service in Genk

“As an architect, I feel like we’re translators. We serve the language of architecture and shape it into the true essence of architecture so it can be seen by the person who is in the space. The way an architect brings his vision to the client is always a matter of recognition and a signature style.”

It was an architectural challenge where the clients actually had a very good understanding of what they wanted. “You get tasked with making a design that should stand out by itself in a culture with a very different and breathtaking architectural history,” Serdar says. “Not an easy task!”

For this building, Serdar was asked to design a true statement piece. The industrial building should show what the client was capable of in the steel business, but it also had to be built on a very tight budget. “Most people underestimate how much of an impact a budget has on a design. It is this aspect of the building process that an architect should be able to distinguish themselves. Control of budget and planning are essential within architecture,” points out Serdar.

Just like every other project, this one required time and attention to the first

“It is not easy nowadays to build according to the guidelines. On the one hand,

Sarchis Architects Beverpad 20 - 3581 Beverlo


Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  55

Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Master Architects  |  Designing the Future!

Photo: Luc Roymans

Photo: Luc Roymans

Customisation to make each design unique TEXT: DEBBY GROOTEMAN  |  PHOTOS: LUCID

Sculp[IT] architects wants to show the individuality of its customers in each personalised design. After all, it is not only the context of each design which is different — every client is also distinct. Sculp[IT] wants to work with customers who want to really say something with their building. Whether focusing on sustainability or standout architecture, a collaboration with this studio will make a beautiful match. Owner and architect Pieter Peerlings explains that every Sculp[IT] project is special: “We have design principles. We want to use fair materials. And design custom builds — not something standard. Also, the outside and inside should form one whole. We really look at our clients. Most of the time they already have a material in 56  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

mind for us to work with, such as steel or concrete, for example. This makes each project unique.” The studio’s specialty is customisation. Outsiders may think this makes a design really expensive, but this is not necessarily the case. “Our way of thinking is to simplify everything. A design is only good when you can’t reduce it any more, whilst leaving out none of the components. This makes a design economically alright.”

‘Outside of the box’ personalised designs

When speaking about the future of designing, Peerlings has to think a moment. “We are realistic in our work. So we don’t really focus on the long-term, but on the here and now,” he asserts.

“We aim to be innovative in the details, and we always look to apply new techniques. In our design for a glasshouse home we worked with the recuperation of warmth. The excess of warmth is being used to heat water, for example. We also used the first ever white solar panels.” Another example of the personalised, detailed designs of Sculp[IT] is a project where it has incorporated the world’s largest glass doors. “We can go pretty far to execute our special ideas to surprise and satisfy the client,” concludes Peerlings.


Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Master Architects  |  Designing the Future!

Mathias Kerremans. Photo: Mathias Kerremans

Photo: School Eeklo VHH- smak architects

Photo: School Eeklo VHH- smak architects

Photo: BESIX STAY smak-A-tract architects

‘Architects design more than buildings’ TEXT: MICHIEL STOL

“In today’s society, which has become increasingly individualistic, multipurpose buildings where working and living are combined, are a way to bring people together again. I feel that as an architect, we should be that connecting factor,” says Mathias Kerremans, founder of Smak Architects. With its current projects, Smak aims to achieve just that. The best examples of this are the projects Smak are realising for A-STAY in both Brussels and Chisinau, Moldavia. A-STAY combines working with short- and extended-stay living facilities. “Sharing office and living facilities such as parking, lobby functions and laundry is a win-win situation for mobility, energy use and, above all, social contact,” explains Kerremans. “In the Brussels location, for instance, the cabinets in the conference rooms are also a kitchen. So, at night, after the meetings are done, you have a

communal dining place where you can eat and cook together.” There are other benefits, as well. “For offices, the south side of a building is a less desirable side, because of the sun. But that is perfect for residential purposes,” he continues. Mathias Kerremans found this passion for designing buildings that fit their surroundings – both physical as well as social – from the day he started working as an architect. Kerremans got the opportunity as an intern to move to London, to work with VK and Richard Rogers Studios on the designs of the Antwerp Law Courts, which was completed in 2005 and won multiple architectural awards. From there on, Kerremans worked for Foster and Partners on projects in Russia, Morocco and Paris. Back in Belgium, Kerremans worked on different projects including the now WAF finalist prison of Haren: “Instead of using the classic dogma of prison cells along long corridors, this design is based

on three pavilions with a central command post. The design makes it more human.” Other projects included a school in Eeklo, in partnership with Van Heyningen and Haward. “It is a big existing school campus spread over 5.5 hectares, which was given a new identity and entrance square.” In 2010, Kerremans founded Smak Architects. “Being able to work on a project from A to Z, instead of only overseeing it, has always been my goal. With my own studio, I can do that now,” he enthuses. The office is growing fast and enthusiastic architects are welcome to bring the office to the next level. “A successful project is one where everyone involved has been able to realise his or her dream.” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  57

58  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Cover Interview  |  Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui


The dance explorer From choreographing Olivier Award-winning productions to collaborating with Beyoncé, Belgian dance supremo Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has been at the top of the game for over two decades now. With his company, Eastman, the Antwerp-native is known for defying genres while uniting art forms, cultures and traditions. Taking a quick break from rehearsals in New York for his latest surprise venture — choreographing the Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill — we caught up with the versatile artist to find out more about the inspiration behind some of modern dance’s most iconic moments. TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER  |  PHOTO: RAHI REZVANI

“I’m an observer. You could say my one talent is that I pay attention,” grins Cherkaoui. Humble words from a man who has collaborated with an abundance of theatres, opera houses and ballet companies, and whose critically acclaimed productions continue to push boundaries and scoop awards across the globe. So where does he find his inspiration? “Reality is endless and it never stops inspiring you — you just have to tap into it,” he explains. “Even an elevator ride can become a whole experience for me — the speed it’s making, the sound, the type of people stepping in, the anxiety of thinking ‘is it gonna stop?’. I think everything is an adventure. It’s all about observation.”

Connecting the dots Born in Flanders in 1976, Cherkaoui had an affinity for the arts from an early age.

“When I was a kid I was more of a loner — drawing in my corner. That was my first expression in art,” he recalls, “but I got into dancing because I wanted to get into people.” Cherkaoui’s mother is Flemish and his father Moroccan, and his artistic identity has always reflected his openness to the world. “My father is from Tangier in the north of Morocco, so I always had this link with North Africa. I’ve always connected the dots between all these different cultures,” he points out. “Even though I was in Antwerp, my parents spoke French with one another, so I naturally spoke French in the house. From being a kid it was very natural to me to either express myself in Dutch or in French.” A gifted linguist, the translation of emo-

tions has always interested Cherkaoui just as much as the translation of words and cultures. “When I started to make my own work in 1999 I felt like anything was possible. I could connect anything that was natural to connect,” he reveals. “When I did Sutra [Cherkaoui’s 2008 production which came about after meeting the monks of the Shaolin temple in 2007] all the people thought I was mad! But monks had always influenced my way of moving so it was very natural for me.” Cherkaoui’s path to stardom began at the age of 19, when he won his first prize for a solo performance that included a mixture of vogueing, African dance and hiphop motifs, at the national dance competition initiated by Belgian director and choreographer Alain Platel. Cherkaoui’s early influences included the American Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  59

Discover Benelux  |  Cover Interview  |  Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

television series Fame, centred around students at New York’s famous High School for the Performing Arts. “I remember watching it and thinking ‘oh my God, you can study that!’” As a teenager, it was the work of Germany’s Pina Bausch that consolidated Cherkaoui’s passion for contemporary dance. “I saw her work and that really moved me,” he remembers.

Musical theatre Cherkaoui also cites the musical A Chorus Line, which tells the story of various Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, as one of his major influences: “It’s a beautiful musical and very deep.” Musical theatre has of course tackled serious issues for decades, and this brings us to Cherkaoui’s latest venture, choreographing the Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill. Based on the themes and emotions of Alanis Morissette’s eponymous 1995 album and directed by Diane Paulus, the show recently previewed in New York. It tells an original story about a family wrestling with uncomfortable truths about many of the critical issues affecting communities around the world today. “It actually has a real connection to society and the things we’re dealing with. Diablo Cody, the writer of the story, is really used to confronting very difficult topics head on. It’s been really exciting to see her and Diane work and to be part of a team of people who really engage with complicated issues and aren’t afraid to tackle them. Diane is a genius. It has been a blessing and I’ve loved working with her,” enthuses Cherkaoui. “The musical is very educational but without being school-like. It’s actually the things you don’t learn in school — empathy, nuance, understanding the layers of human behaviour. I think Alanis has always had this psychoanalytical approach. Her music is very raw and emotional, but at the same time very intellectual.” Featuring anthems such as Ironic,You Oughta Know and Hand in My Pocket, Jagged Little Pill is an album which defined a generation, and Cherkaoui counts himself as part of that group. “Jagged Little Pill had a huge impact on me, actu60  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Photo: Koen Broos

ally. I was still studying at the time it came out. I think I was probably doing my exams or something. It also kind of collided with my first heartbreak,” he remembers. “I felt like somebody had shown us all how we’re allowed to channel anger. It can become an energy for good. It’s not just ‘I love you, you love me too’, or ‘you don’t love me’. It’s much deeper, it’s much more layered. That album never left me and I think it never left a lot of people. It’s one of those timeless pieces of art where you feel like it keeps being relevant - and maybe even more so every second. There’s so much in there.”

From Beyoncé to Broadway At the age of 43, the prolific Cherkaoui has already made over 50 choreographic pieces. His gift for transcending genres has seen him work with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Chiwetel Ejiofor on the London stage, and he has collaborated with Beyoncé multiple times — with highlights including her iconic chair dance at the 2017 Grammys. “She’s fantastic,” smiles Cherkaoui. “She’s so generous and so attentive to her surroundings.”

While Cherkaoui’s long list of collaborations is undoubtedly impressive, the artist is not boastful about his A-list partnerships. “All these people are impressive, but I’m not afraid of who I am and what I represent,” he asserts. “The world is tough on all of us and we are tough on each other. I’ve learned in the last 15 years it’s very important to be supportive of others and of yourself. I’m proud every day because I know where I came from. We’re not born with all these skills, we have to work them out ourselves. I’m proud that I dare to make mistakes.” It is the choreographer’s thirst for knowledge and his willingness to explore the unknown which has resulted in so many of his pioneering productions. “Every day new styles are emerging and things are constantly mutating and transforming. I’ll never stop studying art forms, because they keep changing,” he concludes. “I feel like I’m still learning and even as I get better at things, there’s so much more I still need to experience. I’m an explorer and I will always be a bit of an apprentice magician!”

Photo: Chris McAndrew

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  61

Photo: Todi


Top sports experiences Are you an adrenaline junkie? Looking to try something new? Whether you are searching for a thrilling driving experience, or you fancy a breathtakingly beautiful underwater walk, check out our exciting adventure guide. Photo: Dutch Automotive Events

62  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  The Ultimate Diving Experience  |  TODI

The ultimate diving experience in Belgium TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: TODI

Set in the former coal mines in Beringen, west of Antwerp, Wouter Schoovaerts and Dirk Heylen opened Todi, the first indoor diving experience with fish in Europe, three years ago. Today, Todi is home to over 5,000 tropical freshwater fish. “It is not just about diving, it is also about respecting the underwater world, which has so much beauty to offer,” explains Schoovaerts. Avid divers themselves, Schoovaerts and Heylen wanted to create a place in Belgium where people could appreciate diving as if they were on holiday. “We used to dive in lakes and the Oosterschelde ourselves. The water there is blurry and cold, and there is not much beauty to see. We wanted to change that,” continues Heylen. So, in 2016 they opened the doors to Todi. “One of the issues we faced before opening was finding the necessary

filtration systems because, of course, the use of chlorine is a no-go with fish. Eventually, we found a solution and were the first in Europe to do so,” says Heylen. Todi is located in two former coal washing buildings of the closed mines, and is surrounded by industrial heritage. “For us it was the most logical location, not least because of its size.”

Diving, underwater walks and more At Todi, you can go scuba diving or go on an underwater walk and see thousands of bright-coloured fish, from small ones to big black Pacus. They also offer initiation dives, full diving courses, snorkelling and even freediving. Afterwards, you can relax and catch your breath in the brasserie. “It exudes the industrial heritage of the mines. The menu is very rich and healthy, with several meals by Pascale Naessens, one of Belgium’s best-known television cooks,” reveals Schoovaerts.

The brasserie is also popular with cyclists who ride through the mines. Todi is an experience for the entire family, with events such as a monthly fairytale-day. On these days, you can learn to swim like a mermaid and have a professional photoshoot. “We are also the host of the International Mermaid Convention, where mermaids and mermen from around the world come together.” Todi is also the perfect place for a wedding or for a team-building exercise. “The underwater world has so much beauty to offer,” smiles Schoovaerts. “We want everybody to be able to enjoy it so that they not only learn to love it, but also respect it. It is the best place on earth!” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  63

The rush of the drive in Wintery Scandinavia TEXT: MYRIAM DIJCK  |  PHOTOS: DAE

Imagine driving through an icy landscape with a bright blue sky above. The car rushes quietly over the frozen lake surrounded by dark green pine trees covered in thick layers of snow. Suddenly, there is a bend in the track, the car begins to slip and you are about to lose control. The rush of panic instantly turns into calm determination. Remembering your training, you steer into the slip and, with ease, you get the car back on track. “This turning point is the most exciting part,” says Dutch Automotive Events (DAE) founder and director Wilfried Giesen. “When you are not afraid anymore and you feel in control as the car 64  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

starts to break away. Then you can really start to enjoy the drifting or anti-spin.”

are a real experience you should do at least once in your life,” Giesen says.

This is a snapshot of the Ice Drive Experience offered by DAE. Since 2010 the company has organised trips to Scandinavia and especially Sweden where participants can take the latest Volvo cars for a spin on a frozen lake. During the multi-day excursion, you do not just experience the beauty of the Scandinavian landscape in wintertime, you also learn how to control a car in the most extreme situations.

While the focus is on the ice driving, cultural elements and Lapland activities are also included, such as riding snow scooters, doing a husky trip, going to an ice hotel or visiting the local Sámi population. Guests will stay in a luxury hotel in the idyllic surroundings of Arvidsjaur. He continues: “I also keep an eye out for the northern lights. That way, our guests can see them if they would like to, as otherwise, it usually means getting up in the middle of the night.”

Lapland activities “The trips are not just about the rush of the drive, it’s about improving your driving skills and much more than that. They

Extreme driving DAE caters especially for two types of travellers. On one hand are the car en-

Discover Benelux  |

Top Dutch Road Adventure Abroad  |  Dutch Automotive Events

thusiasts and Volvo dealers who will take their clients on an exclusive trip to try out the new cars and all their latest features. On the other hand, are the dedicated mid-week courses for driving instructors, allowing them to renew their Dutch license (the WRM-certificate). “While you probably won’t be driving in a metre of snow or on top of frozen lakes in the Netherlands, it is still useful to learn driving skills in this setting. If you know you can handle a car in the most extreme circumstances, then you’ll have the confidence to drive anywhere,” he says.

Improving your skills DAE heads to Sweden every year for a six-week period from January to March. During these weeks there is guaranteed snow and the ice on the lake is thick enough for cars to drive over it. The trips are held in groups of 20, whereby there is one Volvo car per duo. The facilities include a 2.5-kilometre track and an oval track for oversteering and understeering, where participants can learn to drift. “The area is so big, you can drive continuously and we keep expanding every

year. We now also offer people the option to practice the ‘elk test’, whereby you have to steer around an object that suddenly appears in front of you,” he says. Aside from the astonishing driving experience, the trips also help drivers to better understand the advanced driver-assistance systems (or ADAS) that are built

in to all modern cars. “These systems require so much explanation. Instead, it is much easier to experience what they do. When we do the ice driving, we will switch the systems off one-by-one. This reveals how much they correct for the weather circumstances,” says Giesen. “By the end of the trip we make sure everyone can drive with confidence without assistance features.”

Scandinavian Car Rally From a young age, Wilfried Giesen had a fascination for the stunning Scandinavian landscape. By offering driving experiences in Sweden he was able to combine this passion and his love for cars into one business. This began when in 2010 he organised the first Scan Covery Trial, a tenday 7,500-kilometre rally throughout Scandinavia. It starts and finishes in the Netherlands and runs through stunning landscapes to eventually go beyond the Polar Circle. After organising the Scan Covery Trial for several years, Giesen set up DAE. Scan Covery Trial is held in January and the latest edition (January 2019) will be broadcast in the Netherlands on Saturday 24 November and 1 December on RTL7.


Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  65

Photo: t’ Kreukeltje


Where the food’s the star! The festive season is the perfect time to get together with friends and family to enjoy an extra special dining experience. Fortunately, the Flanders region is home to an array of superb restaurants, where you can sample innovative flavours alongside seasonal classics, mouthwatering desserts and a wonderful holiday atmosphere. Photo: Restaurant Lijsterbes

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Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Restaurants  |  Where the Food’s the Star!

Eating in a green oasis TEXT: BAS VAN DUREN  |  PHOTOS: NENUPHAR

Situated just ten kilometres from Gent, restaurant Nenuphar in the town of Afsnee is ideal for anyone who wants to switch the busy city life for good food in a green oasis. Its stately mansion with exquisite terrace makes Nenuphar a worthwhile trip, not just for dining, but also for enjoying its beautiful surroundings and the paintings of Gustave De Smet that hang inside the building.

The first thing that draws your attention when arriving at Nenuphar is its mansion and terrace. The latter mostly for its rustic feel, situated next to the river Leie that used to have waterlilies (hence the name of Nenuphar). It’s not uncommon to see people mooring next to the restau-

rant if they decide to take a boat trip in the area. Its mansion was built in 1795 and was always in use as a restaurant, but closed down for four years before Nenuphar took residence. CEO Hugues de Breyne (also responsible for, among others, Cafe Theatre and Patyntje in Gent and ‘t Klooster in De Pinte) saw time hadn’t been too kind on the building, with its ageing ceilings and floors, but had everything re-done, resulting in a tasteful interior with warm, vibrant colours, and even the paintings by De Smet were restored. De Breyne: “There were nicotine stains everywhere, and since he had created a mural as a payment for having his wedding here, we thought it was only natural to get his work back to its former glory.”

With the authentic feel of its building, the menu follows suit. “We’re famous for our mussels that got a mention in the Michelin Guide, there’s our ‘paling in het groen’ (literally ‘eel in the green’), lovely salads during the summer and game,” says de Breyne. “There’s more to Nenuphar than just a restaurant; we have two meeting rooms available with a digital flipchart, and those spaces can be used for dinner parties and receptions, as well. In 2020, we’re expanding above the restaurant with eight rooms you can rent. Ideal for those who really want to take in the surroundings, because having such a lush setting just ten minutes away from the city is quite extraordinary.” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  67

Adventurous and affordable haute cuisine at Lake Donk TEXT: MAYA WITTERS  |  PHOTOS: RESTAURANT LIJSTERBES

Restaurant Lijsterbes in Berlare is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but chef and owner Geert Van der Bruggen has no thoughts of slowing down anytime soon. He looks back on 30 years of highs, growth and changes with contentment: “Let them give the Michelin stars to the young guns, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m just having fun.” Lijsterbes exploded onto the Flemish culinary landscape 30 years ago: after a mere two and a half years in business, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. It was a blessing and a curse, attests Van der Bruggen: “It’s a nice recognition, but it puts the pressure on you to keep that star. You keep adding new things, 68  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

expanding your menu, it becomes more and more expensive, and in the end, you lose touch with the essence of your business: to provide people with good food.”

Open for more Four years ago, Van der Bruggen had enough of the race to the top and decided to change the Lijsterbes formula completely. “We really wanted to be more accessible, to be able to provide more people with a great culinary experience without the usual price tag or the stiff, formal atmosphere of many haute cuisine restaurants.” It meant losing the long-cherished Michelin star, but Van der Bruggen doesn’t mind. “Our prices have dropped,

but the quality of the food hasn’t! Our motto is now ‘open for more’, a guiding principle for our menu and service. Let them give the Michelin stars to the young guns, it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m just having fun now.”

Cooking with nature Lijsterbes operates a seasonal menu that changes regularly and champions local, seasonal products, cooked to perfection to let the natural flavours shine. “Our rotisserie spit is a central tenet of the kitchen,” explains Van der Bruggen. “We use it to cook meat, but also vegetables and even desserts. It creates an indirect heat, which means a slower cooking process that brings out the flavour of each ingredient.”

Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Restaurants  |  Where the Food’s the Star!

To source the best, most flavourful products, Lijsterbes cooperates with an organic farm that doubles as a sheltered workshop – a win-win situation. “In supermarkets, it’s all about convenience and pre-cut vegetables these days, but they can’t match the quality of fresh, organic produce.”

Donc Vermouth In his commitment to procure the best ingredients, Van der Bruggen even ventured into product sales recently, with the creation of his own white vermouth. “We named it Donc Vermouth, a play on our location by the Donk Lake,” he explains. “Many vermouths are distilled cheaply, with only four or five ingredients. Ours has 25, making it much more complex, with a rich and unique perfume.”

16 people, and on Wednesdays, smaller parties can come together at the table for a dining experience like no other. “The Kitchen Wednesdays menu, with three courses for only 39 euros, changes weekly, and we use it to try out new things,” Van der Bruggen explains. “For example, at the moment we are trialling parts of our Christmas menu. It’s a really nice way to get direct feedback from guests and to get to know the people who come to the restaurant regularly.”

A unique dining experience In essence, coming to Lijsterbes means you don’t just get a meal, but a whole experience. Guests arrive in the handsome open bar for a drink and nibbles before being led to their table; once satiated, they can have coffee in the salon or take

a pick from the long and adventurous wine list. “I want people to have a good time and a relaxed experience,” says Van der Bruggen. “I’m in my 50s now, so people ask how long I will keep going, but I have no thoughts of retirement quite yet. Now that I run the business by myself, trying lots of different things keeps life interesting for me. I still stir the pots too, but I also get much more opportunity to meet guests and have that direct contact. I should have come out of my kitchen ten years ago,” the chef concludes. Book your dining experience online at For more info on and to order Donc Vermouth, visit

“Gin is all the rage these days and everyone seems to be distilling their own. We didn’t want to jump on that train, so we went with this prime vermouth, which makes for delicious cocktails. People are less familiar with it, so it takes a bit of marketing and education, but everyone who tries it here, falls in love,” the chef attests proudly.

Kitchen Wednesdays Another wonderful feature at Lijsterbes is the long kitchen table, which lets guests dine in direct contact with the chefs. The table can be booked for groups of six to Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  69

Discover Benelux  |  Top Flemish Restaurants  |  Where the Food’s the Star!

Fish, desserts and more, in Pajottenland TEXT: BAS VAN DUREN  |  PHOTOS: ’T KREUKELTJE

A family business ‘avant la lettre’, restaurant ‘t Kreukeltje in the Flemish town of Gooik is run by the Heylens family and situated in the beautiful area of ‘Pajottenland’, to the west of Brussels. Father Herman and son Bram press out every single drop of creativity in their kitchen, while wife and mother Monique welcomes each guest in the most hospitable of ways. A culinary household that’s devoted to serving up the finest fare that Flanders has to offer. Herman Heylens opening up a restaurant was a long time in the making. The chef worked at several restaurants in Brussels before he started a business as a traiteur in the early ‘90s with wife Monique, who also works as a teacher in the local Hotel School in the field of hospitality management. While the name ’t Kreukeltje has 70  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

been in use since then, its choice as a restaurant name came in 2005 when the family opened up shop in Gooik in a tastefully restored farmhouse. Son Bram joined the fold back in 2010 and is now a part of Visit Flanders’ selection of Flemish Kitchen Rebels, that encompasses 64 exciting top chefs under the age of 35. Having to share the kitchen with his dad is not a problem for Bram: “We work completely in tandem, bouncing ideas back and forth and sharing that feeling of inspiration when, for instance, something like fresh pheasants arrive. We both have our specialties: my father works miracles with fish, I’m very much into desserts, like my classic lemon cake or a combination of caramel chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts.” Asked about what his favourite dish is made by his father, it doesn’t take long for

Bram to answer: “His signature dish, panfried sole, ‘slibtong’ as we call it. He cooks it to perfection and it’s one of many reasons why people from all over the country come to ‘t Kreukeltje.” Bram stresses the restaurant is more than just a place for good fish and desserts. “We love to serve quality meat and have lots of herbs and spices that are homegrown. We always give priority to local suppliers and local produce, we do a lot of our shopping at wholesale markets and find inspiration from different places. Both my dad and me get a kick out of taking an already exciting recipe and making it our own, letting our ideas ripen over time and presenting nothing but the best.” Web:

Photo: hannah


Feel beautiful The winter months can take their toll on our bodies and leave us all feeling in need of a boost. Whether you are looking to improve your daily skincare routine or seeking specialist advice on cosmetic treatments, do not miss our guide to the top beauty experts of the Netherlands. Photo: IMAGE Skincare

72  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands


Clean clinical skin improvement TEXT: LAUREN WALKER  |  PHOTOS: IMAGE SKINCARE

Have you heard of high-end cosmeceutical brand IMAGE Skincare yet? The brand was founded in the United States in 2003. With establishments in over 60 countries, they’re still expanding and here to stay. Their motto states that everybody has a right to healthy skin, and its products offer an easy and effective way to achieve your desired results. Janna Ronert - founder and skin therapist - struggled to find a natural skincare product which could successfully treat her rosacea when she was younger. To this end she decided to launch her own brand, hoping to help others find a routine which suits their skin type. IMAGE Skincare stands for effective skin improvement. To this end, all their products contain a high concentration of stateof-the-art, natural ingredients which have been innovatively combined. The brand has specialised and tailored its products

to suit a whole variety of skin types, ranging from acne-prone, oily, combination and sensitive skin to conditions such as skin pigmentation and rosacea. With on average eight product innovations per year, IMAGE Skincare is always staying ahead of trends and market developments. Bearing this in mind, they’re on a quest now to make all of their products “clean clinical” – meaning their cosmeceuticals continue to have the desired effect, while eliminating unnecessary filler ingredients in their formulations. The recent re-launch of one of their bestselling product collections, ORMEDIC, was the first kick-off of more innovations to follow. ORMEDIC is the ultimate balancing act: a synthesis of potent botanicals with clinically smart ingredients that nourish, restore optimal balance to the skin and build up defences against stressors

of early ageing. Aptly themed ‘The New Natural’, this product collection brings clean clinical skin improvement to the next level. Answering to the green movement which can be seen worldwide, with ecoconscious customers looking more and more for natural solutions in skincare. Curious to see what IMAGE Skincare could do for your skin? You can now order online with a ten per cent discount on, using code IMAGE10. Besides that they have created highly effective treatments, including facials and peelings, which are available in several specialist treatment centres across the Netherlands and Belgium. Check their website to find an IMAGE Skincare Professional close to you for personal skincare advice and the best treatments!

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  73


Finding the balance in natural beauty TEXT: LAUREN WALKER  |  PHOTOS: CLINIC 28

Common preconceptions about cosmetic surgery, such as noticeable and unnatural results, can put people off considering medical cosmetic treatment, but these outcomes are often due to the poor quality of the treatment. Dutch cosmetic surgery centre Clinic 28 has been defying these prejudices for almost 20 years and believes that a professionally performed cosmetic correction should look natural and should make the client look refreshed without changing the original facial structure.

Two decades of safety and quality first Clinic 28, which has one branch in Den Haag and a second in Arnhem, specialises 74  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

in non-invasive cosmetic corrections which strive to emphasise natural beauty, such as injectables, botox, sculptra to restore facial volume, hyaluronic acid injection, skin correcting treatment and much more. For two decades, its specialists have adopted the most up-to-date and cutting-edge techniques in the business to ensure the safe completion of natural treatments with natural results and to stay true to their philosophy that the outcome should make the man or woman look revitalised. One of the clinic’s doctors, Dr Fred Tjan, emphasises that the consultants always strive for the corrections to complement every individual’s natural beauty, and adds that for them, the nicest compliment someone could give to a person who un-

derwent treatment at Clinic 28 is: “Wow, you look so good and refreshed.” Even though cosmetic medical treatment is a relatively new development and many of the treatments are new, there has been major progress in the industry in the last few years. The clinic’s 20-year expertise means it is aware of what techniques are safe to use, and its doctors have the knowledge to complete them correctly. In the Netherlands, since this year, any doctors looking to specialise in cosmetics must attain the title of Cosmetic Doctor KNMG to ensure safe practice of surgeries and to protect patients’ health. All Clinic 28 doctors, who always put safety and quality first, comply with all the

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands

industry’s regulations and have obtained the necessary titles. Furthermore, they are all passionate about working with the most up-to-date equipment and are frequently trained to use new techniques to do so. The clinic is also very international and welcomes many foreign patients, as most of the surgeons speak multiple languages, to cater to every client’s needs.

Putting the patient at the centre of treatment

At this specialist clinic, the patient always comes first and is central to the entire process. From the first consultation, which is free, the doctor will go into detail about the procedure and discuss what the different possibilities are to achieve the desired result. The face is always seen as a whole, and the specialists will make small and subtle changes to the complete picture without changing the client’s look. Clinic 28 knows every individual is different, and that it is not possible to create one solution for every person. Instead, the doctors work closely with clients to bring natural beauty to the foreground and highlight the individual’s facial strengths.

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  75

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands

By taking regular and 3D pictures, the face is analysed and, together with the client, a plan is developed to gradually make subtle changes to attain a natural, fresher and well-rested result. With facial treatments, quality and safety is a big priority, so to ensure this, the specialists make an echo of the face to discover whether there are anatomical abnormalities which may be critical for treatment. The clinic was one of the forerunners to adopt this technique and method, which further helps the doctors attain the best results. Dr Tjan explains: “We see the face as a whole, so the treatment is not about getting rid of one small wrinkle, it’s about understanding how this small part fits into the facial structure and how we can make the face as a whole look revitalised. “When you look at beauty and analyse it, you can strive to achieve a lot of different things, but for us, it is important to create balance and peace visually, and to rid the face of exhaustion. We want to emphasise the proportions which exist in nature and art. And looking at what methods to 76  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands

use, you could see the methods as paint: it is not the paint but instead it is the way the painter uses the paint on the canvas that defines what art is.” Although the main emphasis in the clinic is on facial treatments, it also has subspecialists who can complete other surgeries. The latest addition is the ‘peachlift’, which is a relatively new treatment within the field. It allows specialists to safely correct bodily shapes, and is mostly performed on the backside, arms or legs, by tightening and boosting the skin.

Without disruption or down-time

Since 2001, the clinic has created the highest level of service available in both branches, and by keeping up to date with popular treatments and training its staff to ensure the safest methods, Clinic 28 can ensure the patient’s life won’t be disrupted by the procedure. As all treatments are non-invasive, there is no general anaesthesia involved. Instead, the doctors use local anaesthetics, meaning the the down-time healing process

following the treatment is minimal, so the client won’t have to take one or two weeks off to recover. From start to finish, all treatments at Clinic 28 are designed to be as un-intrusive for the patient as they can be. To find out more about the treatments available at Clinic 28, visit:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  77

Give your skin a chance TEXT: ELINE JOLING  |  PHOTOS: HANNAH

‘It’s not about what you’re doing for your skin, it’s about how you do it,’ was the famous motto of Hannie Hakze (1954-2006). Getting the most out of what your own skin has to offer - that is what hannah is all about. hannah offers skin care for customers who don’t want cosmetic surgery, but want their skin to look healthy and beautiful, no matter their age. Their client base therefore unsurprisingly ranges from male to female, and from 16-year-olds with acne problems, to 86-year-olds with sagging skin and everything in between. “And what is the one thing they will have in common?” asks director Monica van Ee. “Beautiful, radiant skin.”

More than skin care From its start in 1979 the brand has grown to be represented by almost 450 ‘skincoaches’ in 2019. With a passion 78  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

for (female) Dutch enterprises, hannah wants to give her skincoaches room to set up their own independent companies across the Netherlands. Qualified beauticians can come to hannah for a four-day course where they will learn all about hannah’s treatment methods, the way their products work and how to empathically work with customers. After getting familiar with the basics of the hannah Xperience, they can enter follow up courses on hannah’s patented Connective Tissue Massages or Wrinkle Reduction Therapy, to name but a few.

lowed by a skin analysis to set up an individual treatment plan for each customer. During the analysis, the moisture and fat content of the skin get measured, as well as light sensitivity and pH measure-

Getting to know your skin The first introduction to the hannah Xperience is a quick-fire round of questions regarding the customer’s habits and health to really get to know the people and their skin. The questions are fol-

Monica van Ee. Photo: William Rutten

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands

ments, to establish how resilient the skin is to bacteria and outside influences. All these measurements guide the skincoach to the best products and treatments for each individual client. These personalised products are then used in the five steps of the hannah-system: cleaning, peeling, stimulating, repairing and protecting the skin. Seeing as skin improvement doesn’t just happen on its own but is an active process, it’s essential to the hannah Xperience to continue using the products at home for effective and long-term skin improvement.

Innovative massage When Hannie Hakze developed and first started giving her Connective Tissue Massage, the public didn’t take her seriously at all. Being used to only injecting the skin with products, the idea of ‘moving’ the skin around seemed almost like witchcraft, it was said at the time. 40 years on, the treatment has become a staple on the skincare market and different versions of it are being used by beauticians around the country. The Connective Tissue Massage works on the deeper located layers of skin, the subcutaneous connective tissue, to stimulate the circulation and reduce blockage so the skin can take in nutrients better. When the circulation is bad and the skin can’t absorb the nutrients, wrinkles and acne develop, as well as subcutaneous adhesion. The massage therefore doesn’t just temporarily make you feel relaxed, it has longer-term effects on the health and look of your skin too.

A scar of time The techniques of the Connective Tissue Massage have been further developed in hannah’s Wrinkle Reduction Therapy, where scars, wrinkles and volume loss get tackled to give the skin a lifting effect. Wrinkles could be seen as a scar of time: the main thing the two have in common is that the natural volume of the skin has changed in a specific part of the face. hannah’s Scar and Wrinkle Reduction Therapy was developed with the goal to return that natural volume to its original place with the aid of targeted massage techniques. Scars are areas of the skin where the subcutaneous connective tissue is adhered and the volume has shifted.

Through shifting the volume back to its original position the adhesion between the scar and the connective tissue is removed, leaving the customer with more supple skin and significantly less visible scars. The products and treatments hannah has developed give people a chance to stall or even eliminate the need for drastic surgeries. Instead, it allows them to celebrate their natural skin. “Luckily, we are getting older, a privilege not everyone has been given,” says van Ee. “Embrace it and let your skin speak. Give your skin a chance.” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  79

Aleida Dijkstra.


Starting out as a hospital dermatologist in 1998, before stepping into the world of aesthetics in 2010 and opening her own clinic in aesthetic dermatology, ‘Skinnocence’, in 2014, Dr Aleida Dijkstra has seen it all, in terms of skin. Staying true to her dermatologist background, Dr Dijkstra still sees the occasional customer with acne, rosacea or spots for check-ups on skin cancer, she has also worked her way up to become one of the best in the field of aesthetics. Most days, you can find Dr Dijkstra giving skin improvement treatments involving lasers and lights, as well as doing Botox, fillers and, increasingly more, skin boosters in the form of hyaluronic acid. The latter treatment is especially popular with younger people who feel fillers are too drastic at their age. The hyaluronic acid is injected in five parts of the face and 80  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

is massaged in while it spreads around and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin to improve the elasticity of the skin and prevent signs of ageing. Most notably, however, is how Dr Dijkstra has proven herself to be a true pioneer by introducing the Benelux to the latest and most unique treatments available in the aesthetic field. She says: “I really enjoy discovering brand-new equipment at aesthetic conferences and being the first person to bring them home to use in the Netherlands.”

Sculpting your body In November 2018, Dr Dijkstra revolutionised the Benelux with the new equipment she brought in after visiting one of the key opinion leaders, EMsculpt, in the US. This revolutionary treatment is based on the same magnetic waves you find in MRI scans in hospitals and is a first of

its kind machine that doesn’t just break down fat cells, but also builds up muscle mass at the same time. With one 30-minute treatment being equivalent to 20,000 sit-ups, the EMsculpt helps tone the body, leaving customers with a beautifully sculpted figure that only improves over the next six months. After the recommended four treatments over two weeks, various clinical studies have proven a muscle growth of approximately 16 per cent, while fat is reduced by 19 per cent. The treatment works in the form of a paddle on your stomach or one on each buttock cheek. The paddles send out magnetic waves that make your muscles contract for a long period of time. These contractions allow for more blood flow in the muscle and an increase of muscle fibres per muscle, which encourages

Discover Benelux  |  Special  |  The Top Beauty Experts of the Netherlands



the breakdown of fat cells. The result? A toned and sculpted body.

40s,” says Dr Dijkstra. “It’s a problem that affects a really big group of people.”

Say goodbye to underarm sweat In 2014, Dr Dijkstra introduced the Netherlands to another new treatment fresh out of America. The miraDry comes as a saviour to customers suffering from hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating). “Sweat problems can start as early as at 16 years old and can last until your mid-

Previously, Skinnocence treated hyperhidrosis with Botox, an easy treatment with no downtime that blocks 100 per cent of the sweat for up to six months. Although the Botox treatment is still in high demand, over the past five years miraDry has become increasingly popular. While the treatment can only provide approxi-



mately 80 per cent of sweat reduction and takes about a week of downtime while the swelling goes down, more and more people are opting for it based on the fact that the effects will last for life as the machine completely breaks down the sweat glands. “For a lot of people, the longer downtime is worth saving themselves from a lifetime of repeated Botox treatments.”

Rejuvenate your skin DNA A treatment to make you look younger, not just in your skin, but as deep down as in your DNA – it might sound unbelievable, but the Broad Band Light (BBL) treatment proves it is possible. Dr Dijkstra brought the equipment back from America in 2015, and since then, it has become one of the most common treatments Skinnocence performs. The treatment, which works with light rather than a laser, has been proven successful after a ten-year-long study by Dr Chang in cooperation with Dr P. Bitter at Stanford University. The standout element of BBL is that it rejuvenates the skin and has the ability to reset over 1,200 genes (especially those genes coding for collagen and elastin) to rejuvenate the skin on a cellular level if used repeatedly over a long-term period. “As you get older, certain genes become inactive,” explains Dr Dijkstra. “The light used in the BBL treatment reactivates those genes and makes your DNA look like that of a way younger person. It is truly incredible.” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  81





Education, education, education TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS

“Education, education, education” was the mantra of Tony Blair in the run-up to the 1997 British general election. It’s a pity that it translated into the silly target of getting 50 per cent of 18-year-olds into university while seriously neglecting vocational education. I was reminded of this while attending a teachers’ conference organised by the Ministry of Education in Malta recently. I learnt that ‘lifewide learning’ now accompanies the more well-established notion of lifelong learning. Lifewide learning is about how our learning occurs informally in many contexts – at home, in the workplace, on the internet, through friends, and not just formally in school and college. I also learnt about the EU’s Vision for Open Education - “a way of carrying out education, often using digital technologies... to widen access and participation to everyone by removing barriers and making learning accessible, abundant, and customisable for all.” It invites us to see our lifelong and lifewide learning in terms of a matrix of ‘journeys’ and ‘discoveries’, both guided and self-guided. 82  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Several speakers compared the motivation of video game players with the demotivation of students in schools. Video games offer achievable challenges with no stigma attached to failure. They are pleasurable and encourage curiosity and experimentation. Formal education all too often fails to replicate the successful learning processes which go on in games. And it too often fails to put the learner and learning how to learn at the heart of its purpose.

In my ideal world, we would all have learning mentors who would help us to monitor and reflect on the quality and quantity of our learning, both in and outside the workplace. Indeed, we would all mentor each other. Not to do so will be both personally impoverishing and damaging to business and national economic performance.

To compound all this, the physical environment in schools and training centres is often little different from that which learners suffered a hundred years ago and more. There are still too many colourless, impersonal classrooms with boring decor and obstacles masquerading as furniture which are depressing for teachers and students alike. 65 per cent of today’s primary school children will go into jobs which don’t yet exist, we were told. They will be able to enhance the opportunities they have and the effectiveness of their learning if they understand the complex nature of the learning environment in which they will function.

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

Discover Benelux  |  Business  |  Calendar


BAM Marketing Congress 5 - 6 December Brussels, Belgium The BAM Marketing Congress is the flagship event of the Belgian Association of Marketing. This unique event unites the marketing community and offers inspiration from an array of local and international experts.

TEDxAmsterdamWomen 9 December Amsterdam, the Netherlands TEDxWomen is a global conference that provides a stage for women to inspire; it specifically looks at the unique way in which women contribute to global change, helping to reshape the future.


Field Service 10 - 11 December Amsterdam, the Netherlands Field Service sees more than 350 cross-industry service, support and cus-

tomer success executives come together to build world-class operations. An unmissable event designed to help you attain service excellence and profitability.

International Conference on Business Management 12 - 13 December Rotterdam, the Netherlands Taking place at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the theme for the fourth annual International Conference on Business Management is managing organisations

in the era of artificial intelligence.

International Conference on Recent Advances in Humanities, Social Sciences, Education and Learning 28 - 29 December Amsterdam, the Netherlands This inspiring event brings together leading academic scientists, researchers and research scholars to share their experiences and findings on all aspects of social sciences. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  83

Nefab Runemo.

Global and sustainable packaging solutions TEXT: LAURA GOZZI  |  PHOTOS: NEFAB

This year, Nefab celebrates its 70th anniversary. That is 70 years of creating and developing the most cost-effective and sustainable packaging on the market for its customers. Products which are not just designed for our time but also for the future of both their customers and with our planet in mind. Founded in Runemo, Sweden in 1949, Nefab is now the cornerstone for many Benelux companies who want optimal and sustainable packaging. “Nefab works tirelessly across a wide area of product categories and is developing the next generation lOT technologies ensuring our customers to have the best competitive advantages on the market with the most effective and connected packaging to look after their current and 84  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

future products,” says Mitesh Chotai, Nefab’s managing director for Benelux. Packaging design, engineered packaging solutions, product innovation, optimising logistics processes and reverse logistics are just some of the services Nefab offers today. “Our vision is to become the preferred global partner for sustainable packaging solutions, and we truly are living by this vision by offering a quality local-focused service and leveraging on our global footprint to support our customers’ international flows.”

Global presence Nefab has operations in more than 30 countries across the globe. The brand is

strengthened by the close partnerships they maintain with their clients who are followed as they develop needs for packaging across different markets, such as multinational companies that manufacture high-value, transport-sensitive or theftprone products that require engineered, complete packaging solutions. In the Benelux alone, Nefab provides packaging solutions for the telecom, aerospace, vehicles, health-tech as well as semicon industries. “We have a very broad product portfolio and a highly experienced engineering team who is able to work with different materials to develop various packaging solutions,” explains Mr. Chotai. The global Nefab team includes 200+ engineers and five ISTA test laboratories, one of which is located in

Discover Benelux  |  The Best Packaging Solutions  |  Top Quality From The Netherlands

Son, near Eindhoven. “This is one of the most modern and best equipped labs in Benelux and has recently been added to the Amazon network to test Amazon certified packaging. The whole site can also design and supply these packages.” Other Nefab plants in the Netherlands include Voorthuizen, with its production and assembly area, while the Belgian multimaterial customised production plant in Ghent is also Nefab’s European hub for general and specialised packaging materials.

Electrical vehicle and sustainability Nefab is also ahead of the curve when it comes to 2019’s big topic: sustainability. The company was founded in a remote and densely forested area in the north of Sweden, and respect for the environment “has been a key part of our DNA since we started,” says Mr. Chotai. “Nefab works with customers to ensure our products give them the best protection and durability needed while cost effectively reducing customers’ carbon footprint resulting in a better future for all.” Customer markets are reshaped by the latest sustainability trends, namely the modern EV mobility drive in automative aerospace and home appliance markets. Nefab plays a key role in providing a multitude of new packaging solutions to manufacturers, service providers and rescue operations. From safe workspace solutions like work benches and mobile warehouses, transport and storage containers for critically damaged batteries, as

well as logistic services for new, damaged and end-of-life batteries, Nefab has developed global expertise and market coverage with approved and certified packaging solutions. Design solutions aimed at saving money by reducing the amount of material used have been at the core of Nefab’s expertise since the very beginning, although, as Mr. Chotai says: “in the 1960s, the environment didn’t get a lot of focus. Today, however, we know that sustainable packaging solutions and efficient logistic services can mean both lower costs and a greater care for the environment.”

High standards As a global multinational, Nefab works hard on environmental and also social sustainability. “We have a consistent and ethical code of conduct regardless of the country or region of the world that we operate in,” says Mr. Chotai. “Whether it’s a plant in China, India or Sweden, we consider all our locations to share one Nefab DNA. They might look different, but we make every Nefab site around the world operate to the highest standards. Our code of conduct has been aligned with UN Global Compact & RBA standards for many years. In everything we do, we act honourably and treat one another with respect, while following ethical and legal standards to the utmost level.” Mr. Chotai is also keen to emphasise Nefab’s solution-focused approach towards the most demanding projects. Issues which are faced not only by the

shipping industry, but also by most of us in our everyday lives: the repeated loss and misplacing of crucial objects. “Take the aerospace industry: when an aircraft lands on a tight schedule, they need to be sure that everything they need to get back airborne is there and ready for them. You cannot risk having the part you need lost in a huge warehouse. At Nefab, we’ve developed a software that allows customers to track and trace the parts they need, live and at any given time; they can see how it looks and where it is so they can locate it in a fast and effective manner, especially when every second counts.” Nefab’s ownership structure is simple and focused on the future. It is built on the original Nordgren/Pihl family and strengthened by the FAM AB Wallenberg Foundations, who each own a 50 per cent share of the company. The FAM AB Wallenberg foundation distribute more than 180 million euros a year for research and education. It is the desire to improve packaging solutions that propels Nefab forward, but its solid foundations and firm roots have allowed it to stand its ground for 70 years. Together with its commitment to sustainability and good practice, Nefab is set to continue to grow into a thoroughly modern company with many decades of innovation and global expansion still to come.

Web: and

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  85

Discover Benelux  |  Profile  |  Memola & Partners

Excellence, certified TEXT: PIERRE ANTOINE ZAHND

Established in 1994, Memola & Partners is a Luxembourg-based accounting and fiscal business consultancy. Headed by Elio Memola and a veteran team of Luxembourg experts in the field, it offers a wide range of consulting services. Memola & Partners is based in two locations, Luxembourg and Diekirch, two central cities of the country’s economy. Over its 25 years of existence, this close involvement has allowed

Photo: Pixabay

86  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

the company to flourish and develop a portfolio straddling the fields of finance, healthcare, automotive, technology and IT, among others. These areas of expertise are organised around five central poles: social secretary and work law consultancy, statutory auditing, accounting, societal consultancy, and fiscal optimisation. Out of their various fields, Memola & Partners are particularly noticeable for their work in social secretary and HR consultancy. In 2017, the company was awarded an ISAE

Photo: Pexels

3000 qualification, which is the standard for insurance over non-financial information. Issued after a thorough, year-long audit carried out by PwC, a company auditor, this standard is a set of guidelines and protocols applied to matters of ethical behaviour, quality management and performance. While Luxembourg is home to about 600 fiduciary societies, only a very few hold this certification for payroll management. This social secretary consultancy is an extensive wage service that aims to facilitate all facets of payroll. Among many others, Memola & Partners’ expert, dynamic team help clients in matters of wage calculation and distribution, instalments for social security and social contributions, admin work, certificates of remuneration, accounting documents, and national wage tax. Web:

Discover Benelux  |  Restaurant of the Month  |  The Netherlands


No longer is fine dining a solely culinary experience. It is a feast for all the senses, not least for the eyes. At Restaurant Rantrée, a fine-dining restaurant settled on the eighth floor of a building on the Dutch-Belgian border, the 360-degree panoramic view over the city of Maastricht and its surrounding woods are almost as stunning as the fabulous plates they serve. “Rantrée is settled amidst the greenery,” explains sommelier Jennifer SilviusHermans. One year ago, she and her husband, chef Ralph Hermans, moved their successful restaurant out of the centre of Maastricht to reopen in this spacious and unique location at the grounds of the brand-new luxury holiday resort Domino. “The views you have while dining here are truly magical. You can gaze at the woods on both Belgian and Dutch soil and enjoy the skyline of Maastricht.”

On the menu, you will find an interesting mix of familiar ingredients and exotic newcomers. Silvius-Hermans is passionate about both classic French cuisine and plenty of peregrine cooking styles and combines them all in a series of unique flavour explosions. “Many of our guests opt for one of two of our menus; the classic Rantrée menu or Vegalicious, an entirely vegetarian one. Both consist of three to seven courses and are real experiences. They let you discover intriguing flavours, come with a few delightful surprises and are made with a fair share of local and sustainable products.” Don’t hesitate to mention any intolerances while making your reservation, either. This way, the chef can guarantee you a worry-free meal. And what complements a great meal better than an exquisite wine? Being crowned ‘Best sommelier of Belgium’ by GaultMillau in 2012, Silvius-Hermans sure knows her way around a wine cel-

lar. “At Rantrée, most of our wines are organic. That doesn’t mean they are inferior, though: quite the contrary. Combining sustainability with exquisite quality is what we do best, both on the menu and wine list.” The menus and the à la carte selection are available with delicious selected wines, as well. If you prefer going alcohol-free, you can opt for the selected alcohol-free drink instead. “We pair up all our dishes with interesting virgin beverages that elevate their flavours, just like the right wine would do.” If you don’t want to miss out on an experience like this, you had better make a reservation in advance. “Where there is often a table available for lunch time, you should really book in advance if you want to come for dinner. For Saturdays, we are often fully booked six weeks in advance.” Web:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  87



Even in the world of high-end hostelry, Le Domaine Haut Jardin is one of a kind. Conceived by the Masson family in the verdant Vosges version, it consists of individual wooden chalets, elegantly sheltered from the outside world and equipped with state-of-theart Jacuzzis, hammams, and saunas. Over the years, it has developed out of a personal project into a small-scale village-hostel, with peace and tranquility at its core. Le Haut Jardin was born out of a dream chalet first imagined by Agnès Masson, who is behind the charming concept of a wooden village made up of personal88  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

ly designed chalets. A mother of three children with a busy professional life, Agnès did occasionally wish for the quiet and tranquility that an active household cannot guarantee. Determined to have a place that she could call her haven of peace, she drew the plans for several chalets, which now make up the Domaine du Haut Jardin. To maximise this peaceful atmosphere, all chalets are independent and furnished with a private balcony. This unique project has become particularly dear to the three Masson children, who were raised at the Domaine and have been very closely involved in its success, later bringing their own skill sets to the table.

Known as the ‘Pearls of the Haut Jardin’, the chalets themselves are separated from the Auberge by a spacious garden. They were all built using ‘noble’ materials, relying on natural components like wood and stone, but each chalet was conceived individually, with a particular character in mind. The spacious Suite, created for comfort and serenity, contains a relaxing, muted decor as well as a wooden spa with Himalayan salts. Built as a duplex, the Rondin mirrors the atmosphere of a comfortable forest cabin, and its capacity of up to five adults makes it ideal for a family or a group of friends. For couples on a romantic getaway, the Cupidon features a heart-

Discover Benelux  |  Hotel of the Month  |  France

shaped bed, while the Romantique is equipped with a spiralling snail shower and a spa on the balcony.

Masterpiece The Secret du Haut Jardin, tucked away higher up than the rest, is a masterpiece of intimacy. Nestled in the foliage like a cocoon, the Secret is its own selfcontained world: the round, open fireplace proudly stands in the centre of the chalet, visible even from the wooden bathtub on the other side. The private Jacuzzi contains three zones: one for each member of a couple to relax separately, and a third semi-spherical area where they can meet. But far from resting on their laurels, the Massons are continually working to optimise their guests’ experience. Two recent additions to the village are the luxurious Désir, featuring a Himalayan salt sauna, and the Étoile, which includes a hammam. Both chalets, of course, are equipped with a private Jacuzzi. Beyond the luxury of the accommodation, the cuisine itself (a collaboration between father and son) is one of the added perks. Agnès’ husband Didier Masson holds the prestigious title of ‘Maître Restaurateur’, but his son Luc is a talented young chef himself. Running the kitchen together, they combine an interest in the regional Vosges cuisine, an affinity for products grown in their own

Chefs Didier et Luc Masson.

garden, and a typically French flair for innovation and presentation.

Well-being Adding an extra touch of well-being, the Domaine has recently started to offer a Spa service. It is run by a trained therapeutic masseuse, who offers treatments from various traditions depending on individual preference: Indian, Californian or Ayurvedic massages, detox treatments and prenatal care. With a team that speaks French, English, German and Spanish, a four-star certification, and a general passion for hostelry,

Le Haut Jardin balances modernity with tradition. The limited number of chalets makes for a close, personalised service, ensuring the serenity and tranquility of guests. And looking back at the history of Le Haut Jardin, this is very much in keeping with Agnès Masson’s original project: what she works hard to offer her visitors is precisely her original vision of a quiet oasis. If anything, Le Haut Jardin is literally a dream come true: no wonder it works so well. Web: Instagram: @domainehautjardin

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  89

Discover Benelux  |  Tour Guide of the Month  |  The Netherlands

A completely tailor-made tour experience with Sarah’s Tours TEXT: EMMA WESSELING  |  PHOTOS: SARAH’S TOURS

Sarah’s Tours will provide you with anything you need when you’re visiting Amsterdam or want to get to know the area better. They cater for everyone, from daytrips to fully arranged and personalised experiences. Whether you just want to see the highlights of Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, or you want to look beyond Amsterdam and see what else the Netherlands has to offer, Sarah’s Tours will make sure you can make the most of your trip. One unique selling point about Sarah’s Tours is that it’s not just a tour company but more like a travel agency. They’ll gladly arrange your entire trip for you, from the best spots to drink and eat right up to the best hotel to sleep at. All their tours are 100 per cent private and tailor-made, so every experience is unique. All their guides are locals and their travel agents have different fields of expertise. There is one thing they do share, however: they all

have a mutual passion for assisting guests to make sure they enjoy their stay in a local and unique way. One of the experiences that Sarah’s Tours is perfect for is the Amsterdam Light Festival, which starts at the end of November and is available all the way through January. Sarah’s Tours also offers a highly requested tour along all of the Jewish history sites of Amsterdam. Want to get out of the city? Why not view the beautiful tulip fields? A guide will take you to all the best places to view the tulips and explain about Dutch culture along the way.

Sarah’s Tours is expanding! Look out for tours in further afield destinations including Belgium, Paris, London and Portugal.

Web: Email: Tel: +316 15 11 35 77

Discover Benelux  |  Foodie Hotspot of the Month  |  The Netherlands

Lavinia Good Food: Conscious eating at its best TEXT: LAUREN WALKER  |  PHOTO: LAVINIA GOOD FOOD

If you’re looking to get a taste of Amsterdam’s cuisine with a healthy and original twist, whilst contributing to the planet, Lavinia Good Food is the place to be. Its stylish décor and cosy interior make it a home-fromhome for every visitor and the creative plates are proof that eating consciously doesn’t mean missing out on amazing flavours. All dishes, which immediately stand out for their colourfulness, are freshly prepared inhouse every day. Working with local suppliers, the restaurant ensures all food is in line with its mission: to offer tasty, colourful and nutritious food. Whilst doing this, it caters to everyone’s needs with a wide variety of lactose-free, plantbased and gluten-free platters. The eatery’s passionate chefs go out of their way to produce innovative and adventurous dishes, and have discovered the best recipe for vegetarian meatballs, created a scrumptious winter Caesar salad recipe for vegans, and

have even concocted virgin Gluhwein, to keep everyone warm this Christmas. The restaurant has a small outlet, where it sells products from the city’s creative individuals, including sketch books made from recycled book covers and local boy Jelle’s ‘can’t go wrong’ compost. With two locations across the city, one just ten-minutes from the Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum, and the other on the rim of the Vondelpark, this eatery is a go-to spot for tourists looking to take a breather and fill up with nutritious food before further exploring the city. Visit Lavinia Good Food at: Kerkstraat 176 and Amstelveenseweg 192, Amsterdam

Web: Instagram: @laviniagoodfood Facebook: iloveLavinia

Photo: Sabino Parente Photographer

Ten reasons we love the festive season in the Benelux TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER

With its fairytale-like towns and charming traditions, not to mention the possibility of skating on a natural ice rink, the Benelux region transforms into a veritable winter wonderland in the run-up to Christmas and beyond. The region exudes a warm, cosy ambiance at this magical time of year, with markets, mulled wine and an array of gourmet delights. We step into Christmas with a countdown of our favourite Benelux festive traditions.

1. Natural ice skating When the temperatures drop below zero, there are lakes and canals across the Netherlands that freeze up enough to skate on. Skating fans keep a close eye on the weather forecast every winter, waiting to see if they’ll get the chance to head outdoors onto a natural rink. And if the canals don’t freeze this year, there are still plenty of rinks across the Benelux on which to practice your footwork. 92  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

Photo: NBTC

Photo: Photos:NBTC NBTC

Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Ten Reasons we Love the Festive Season in the Benelux

2. Saint Nicholas Day On 6 December, children across the Benelux receive toys and sweets from Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas). Saint Nicholas Day marks the feast day of Saint Nicholas, with different regions of the Benelux maintaining their own unique customs and traditions. In the Grand Duchy, Saint Nicholas Day is so important that the Ministry of National Education declared it a holiday for children in fundamental education. Sinterklaas. Photo: NBTC

3. Glühwein At the start of the Christmas season, bars across the Benelux begin to serve a delicious type of mulled wine, called Glühwein. In the Netherlands, Glühwein is called bisschopswijn (‘bishop’s wine’) and is made using oranges instead of lemons. Other popular winter warmers for grown-ups include the traditional Belgian and Dutch liquor jenever.

Glüwein. Photo: Pixabay

Amsterdam Light Festival. Photo: NBTC

4. Amsterdam Light Festival Now in its eighth year, the Amsterdam Light Festival has become a highlight of the holiday season. Taking place from November 2019 to January 2020, it will see an array of Dutch and international artists creating breathtaking light sculptures around the Dutch capital’s famous Canal Ring, the River Amstel and other locations.

Amsterdam Light Festival. Photo: NBTC

Amsterdam Light Festival. Photo: NBTC

Amsterdam Light Festival. Photo: NBTC

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  93

Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Ten Reasons we Love the Festive Season in the Benelux

5. Christmas markets Each year, the traditional Christmas markets in Luxembourg City turn the Place d’Armes, the Place de la Constitution and rue de Strasbourg into a winter wonderland. Meanwhile, Belgium’s fairytale-like towns such as Bruges and Antwerp are home to some of the region’s most beautifully lit-up markets. And in the Netherlands, don’t miss a unique experience with Valkenburg’s underground Christmas markets set in caves.

Photo: NBTC

6. ’Le réveillion de Noël’ Like their French neighbours, many Belgians enjoy a lengthy feast on Christmas Eve (and often again on New Year’s Eve). The Christmas Eve gathering is called ‘le réveillion de Noël’ in Walloon, and its name derives from the word ‘réveil’ (meaning ‘waking’), because everyone stays awake until midnight and beyond. The luxurious meal typically involves seafood, stuffed turkey and sparkling wine.

Christmas Market Luxembourg. Photo: Alfonso Salgueiro,

7. ’La bûche de Noël’

Photo: Pixabay

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Photo: Pixabay

Part of the ‘réveillion’ feast, but worthy of its own individual entry is ‘la bûche de Noël’ (‘Kerststronk’ in Flemish). The tasty yule log is made of sponge roll layered with cream. Traditionally made to resemble bark, its outside is covered with chocolate cream. Other flavour variations are available, with Belgian speculoos being our favourite.

Discover Benelux  |  Feature  |  Ten Reasons we Love the Festive Season in the Benelux

8. New Year’s Eve fireworks Amsterdam is one of the most popular cities in Europe for celebrating the New Year, and the fireworks are always a highlight. In recent years, the official New Year’s Eve display has taken place in various impressive locations, such as against the backdrop of the VOC Ship The Amsterdam at the National Maritime Museum.

New Year’s Eve Amsterdam. Photo: Menno Ridderhof-Redactioneel

9. New Year’s Dip

New Year’s Eve Amsterdam. Photo: Menno Ridderhof-Redactioneel

Pier Scheveningen. Photo: NBTC

An invigorating Dutch tradition is taking a New Year’s dive on 1 January. There are over 200 locations in the Netherlands where you can jump into the sea or a lake, and the seaside resort of Scheveningen has been a major location for this refreshing tradition since 1965, when a swim club there decided to start the year with a plunge into the North Sea.

Photo: Pixabay

10. ’Galette des rois’

Photo: Pixabay

Carrying on the festivities, the ‘Galette des rois’ (‘Driekoningentaart’ in Dutch) is a gourmet treat that is typically shared between families, friends and colleagues in Belgium and Luxembourg on 6 January to celebrate Epiphany. A ‘fève’ (bean) is often hidden inside the frangipane-filled pastry, and whoever finds it is declared king or queen for the day. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  95

Photo: Happy Brussels

Out & About In December, the chilly Benelux is Christmas crazy. At medieval Christmas fairs, floating ones, beer fairs and even prehistoric Christmas markets, you can celebrate the season in a myriad of ways. In between the carols, you can also enjoy both the sound of steady dance beats and that of dancer’s feet elegantly taking to the stage. The Benelux has been great this year, yet it has saved the best for December. TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS

Photo: Ice Sculpture Festival

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Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar

New Year’s Dive Scheveningen. Photo: The Hague

Medieval Christmas market Until 15 December, Dudelange, Luxembourg Christmas has been celebrated for centuries. In the village of Dudelange, they particularly like to take it all the way back to the Middle Ages, traditionally giving their annual Christmas market a medieval touch. 20 of the 60 stalls are dressed up as taverns or sell artisanal, medieval-style products. At the other end, the regular Christmas market, if you will, you can enjoy the traditional Christmas carols and wintery scents of mulled wine and hot chocolate.

December Dance 5-15 December, Bruges, Belgium There is no better place to spend these cold winter nights than in a theatre. Enter December Dance; the last big dance festival of the year. For this edition, the famous Belgian art collective Needcompany curates the event. Not only do they invite an impressive selection of international dancing stars, but they also host the premiere of Traces, the new show of Wim Vandekeybus’ Ultima Vez.

Midwinter fair 7-8 December, Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands In the Archeon park, time stands still. The

Midwinter Fair. Photo: Hans Splinter

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Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar open-air museum brings you face to face with people from prehistoric times, the Roman Era and the Middle Ages. During the Midwinter Fair, the park’s historic inhabitants show you how they celebrate the light during the darkest days. Dance, music, food and workshops will keep you occupied all day. Unless you prefer strolling through the big, indoor market instead, where craftsmen and traders sell their unique products.

Are You Series?

Are You Series? The New Pope. Photo: HBO

11-15 December, Brussels, Belgium Not only the silver screen deserves its proper festivals. Also, the gems of the small screen are entitled to their annual moment in the spotlight. At Are You Series?, the first episodes of Belgian and international series are featured on the big screen, often in premiere. This year, The New Pope is the one to look forward to: Paolo Sorrentino’s sequel of The Young Pope with Jude Law.

Floating Christmas Market

Photo: Christmas Beer Festival

13-24 December, Leiden, the Netherlands Christmas markets you have aplenty. Floating Christmas markets, however, you only have one. In the historic city of Leiden, the Christmas extravaganza takes place on top of a raft on the Rhine. They even have a skating rink on it. This means you can definitely get the opportunity to ice skate on the river here, regardless of how cold this winter might or might not get.

Christmas Beer Festival 14-15 December, wwEssen, Belgium As if there weren’t enough reasons to adore Christmas already, we’d like to add Christmas beers to the list, as well. During the annual Christmas Beer Festival in Essen, you can try around 200 Belgian Christmas and winter beers. They are served in tiny, 15-centilitre glasses, so you can end up trying plenty of them.

Ice Sculpture Festival

Photo: Ice Sculpture Festival

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14 December – 1 March, Zwolle, the Netherlands While walking between these colossal, crys-

Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Calendar tallised pieces of art, you could almost forget that they are sculpted from just frozen water. Every year, the best ice sculptors in the world gather in Zwolle to create the biggest iceexposition in Europe. With ‘journey through time’ as its general theme this year, over 550,000 kilogrammes of snow and ice will be transformed into fully-sized dinosaurs and Rembrandt’s famous The Night Watch.

Tomorrowland presents: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike – Garden of Madness 20-21 December, Antwerp, Belgium They carry the title of ‘World’s greatest DJs’ and are the resident DJs at the planet’s most impressive dance festival, Tomorrowland. Antwerp-bred Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike are most likely Belgium’s most influential artists. To end the year with a bang, they gather all their fans at the country’s biggest arena for two nights of unbridled partying. Get ready to shake every joint in your body to the beats of the dynamic duo, as well as to those of their talented guests.

Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. Photo: Tomorrowland

Happy Brussels 31 December, Brussels, Belgium You are most welcome to kick off 2020 in style in Brussels. On two squares, enormous clocks count down to the new decennium, after which the party starts. With the Happy Brussels-card, you can even enter all the amazing parties in the city with one single ticket. Just hop from club to club until the break of dawn.

Midwinter Fair. Photo: Hans Splinter

New Year’s Dive Scheveningen. Photo: The Hague

New Year’s Dive 1 January, the Netherlands & Belgium Some call them crazy, others call them brave. But every 1 January, hundreds of people kick off the new year with a plunge in the ice-cold North Sea. In the Netherlands, Scheveningen is the place to be to release your inner polar bear. In Belgium, you are welcome in Ostend. If you’re further away from the sea, you can probably dive into a designated river nearby, as well, as in many cities, daredevils gather together annually to jump en masse into their local appointed streams. Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  99

Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  NEMO Science Museum


Science, technology and humanity TEXT: MICHIEL STOL  |  PHOTOS: DIGIDAAN

To celebrate a five-year operation to modernise, NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam opened the last instalment of this project with a permanent exhibition about the human race. In Humania, by participating in physical challenges and brain teasers, you discover how your body and brain work. It combines the curiosity and wonderment in all of us: who was I, who am I and who will I be? “Humania is an interactive exhibition that looks at both the biological and scientific nature of humankind, but also to the social part of it; nature versus nurture. With Humania we want to focus on all these aspects,” says Anne-Marie Gielis of NEMO. “How will I look in the future? What effects do cigarettes, sun and nutrition have on ageing? Well, take a picture and find out how you will look!” You can also discover what your name really says about you and check if there is Neanderthal DNA in your genes. 100  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

For over 20 years, NEMO Science Museum has been the place where science comes alive. With over 655,000 visitors per year, it is the fifth most popular museum in the Netherlands. Throughout the museum, young and old learn about technology and science through educational games and experiments. At The Machine, for instance, you become a planning expert by sending ‘data packages’ around the globe, and at the museum’s Laboratory, you put on a lab coat and safety goggles and perform your own chemistry experiments.

Humania is also full of experiments, for one to test their willpower. “Willpower can get you further than you think, but it might not get you everywhere. One of the challenges is to hold the cooling elements in your hands for as long as you can.” One of the all-time favourites, Teen Facts, has also returned, where you can learn what type of French kissing

you like best. “Humania focuses on everybody from age 12 and up. That is why it also deals with more sensitive subjects, such as death, sex and gender,” Gielis continues.

A Handstand The eye-catcher of Humania is A Handstand: an eight-metre-high sculpture of an upside-down person in a skeleton suit, made by artist Florentijn Hofman – whose son stood as model for the sculpture – surrounded by pictures of people. “Everyone is unique, but there are also a lot of similarities between us. And everybody changes, physically and psychologically. With Humania, you can find out how. If there is one thing clear in NEMO, it is that science and technology are the best tools to discover ourselves,” smiles Gielis.


Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Atelier Floor de Bruyn Kops

Floor de Bruyn Kops.

‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls’ TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS  |  PHOTOS: ATELIER FLOOR DE BRUYN KOPS

Art is not just about what you see. It is about the long path that led to the artwork you are witnessing. Artist Floor de Bruyn Kops describes this process as a continuous treasure hunt. “You know where you start but you never know where you’re heading. Along the way, you stumble upon new elements that give your work an unexpected spin. This struggle makes your work layered and, therefore, interesting to look at.” When entering De Bruyn Kops’ atelier, the first thing you notice is the vibrant mix of colours on her many paintings. “Colours and shapes form the foundation of my art,” she explains. “But expressing myself with colours can just as well happen in the form of minimalism of colours.” That was the case in her Justitia series, a large set of paintings with what goes on inside a courtroom as her inspiration. Along the

way, she discovered dozens of ways to create greys and black. “Court intrigues me. Just like a painting, a courtroom seems very quiet and serene, while it actually conceals a storm of emotions and drama. That is what I tried to capture in these paintings.” Regardless of which series she is working on, De Bruyn Kops’ work always comes from within her. “With every brush stroke, you reveal a part of yourself. I make my art because it feels right to me, not because I expect other people to like it. Therefore, my art grows along with me. The paintings I made two years ago are no longer the paintings that I would make today. Yet, every series I create seems to lead me to the next. This way, my work is one continuous story.” Besides her own work, De Bruyn Kops also collaborates with other disciplines and companies.

Among other things, she created Splash Art for Akzo Nobel with Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. When asking her what we can wish her for the future, her answer is: “That there may be many more pleasant surprises on my path. I enjoy not knowing what my next series will be about and discovering it as I go. Today, I’m working on a more philosophical series about the luck of existence. But I have no idea what comes next. In the end, the result is always irrelevant. Only the act of painting matters. The true purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Feel free to visit De Bruyn Kops’ atelier upon request.For more info, visit:

Issue 72  |  December 2019  |  101

Discover Benelux  |  Culture  |  Lifestyle Columns


Surrealists back together again

Through the 100 paintings, sculptures, objects and photographs on view, it is interesting to note the similarities in the artists at the start of their careers, but the different routes they ultimately ended up taking. Dalí’s veneration of the old masters shines through in his realistic renderings of dreamscapes, whereas Magritte’s slicker, more artificial paintings favour illusion and tricks of the eye. We might be nearly a century on since their first meeting, but this exhibition is timely in a world that seems increasingly more and more surreal. Dalí & Magritte runs until 9 February 2020 at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels.

In the spring of 1929, two fledgling artists meet for the first time. A Belgian and a Spaniard, they get together in Paris. There is instant rapport and a mutual respect and, with a few others, they spend the summer painting together in north-eastern Spain. Little do they know that this summer would be a pivotal moment in their lives, and become the catalyst in the boom of one of art’s most famous movements; Surrealism. The artists in question are of course, Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. 90 years on from that first meeting, they are brought together once again – at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels. Dalí & Magritte celebrates ten years of the Magritte Museum and provides a comprehensive overview of the artistic and personal links between the two men: what drove them, their common philosophies and also what ultimately pushed them apart.


Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala- Salvador Dalí – Figueres © 2019, Succession Magrittec /o SABAM. Photo: J.Geleyns-ArtPhotography

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.



Hoegaarden Witbier is a Belgian wheat beer that’s widely distributed and available internationally in bars and shops. Native English speakers tend to pronounce the beer’s name as if it’s a long-handled implement used for weeding, followed by a place of horticulture. To ask for it in Flemish-speaking Belgium, where it’s brewed, you should pronounce it ‘who-haarden’, the ‘g’ sounding more like a rolling ‘h’. Hoegaarden is one of the stable of brands owned by the world’s biggest brewing company. The popular wheat beer shares its name with the village approximately 20 kilometres south-east of Leuven, where local enthusiast Pierre Celis began brewing wheat beer in the mid-1960s. Featuring orange peel and coriander seeds, the recipe is said to be inspired by one used by monks six centuries ago. 102  |  Issue 72  |  December 2019

The result is an easily palatable drink. The colour of pale straw, Hoegaarden Witbier is cloudy and froths into a white head when poured. The technique for the perfect pour involves decanting two-thirds of a glass then swirling the bottle before topping off. The beer has aromas of fruit and spice and a smooth mouthfeel. Many bartenders add a slice of lemon to emphasise the citrusy notes of this beer. It makes for a refreshing beer that is a good choice as a first drink of the night. Hoegaarden’s exotic flavours mean it complements spicy food. Singaporean style softshelled crab, prawn crackers with a sambal dipping sauce and grilled chicken doused in satay sauce are three of the dishes that I found paired well with this wheat beer. Brewer: InBev Belgium Alcohol content: 4.9 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.

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