Gardens of Belgium - GOB
Number of Days: 10
Gardens, massed floral displays, picturesque medieval towns, canals, history and culture – this tour has got the lot! The city of Brussels was officially founded in 979 by Charles, Duke of Low Lotharingia, who set down Brussels’ first city charter. Since then Brussels and Belgium have seen many rulers, renaissances and revolutions. It is known as a mecca of style, art, food and design. The streets of the Belgium towns and cities feature art and architecture created from an unmistakably point of view that cannot be replicated.
10 DAY ITINERARY
Tour commences in Brussels 23 September 2018 and 22 September 2019.
Day 1: Brussels
Upon arrival at the airport, make your way to the Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre. Centrally located in the heart of downtown 12 km from airport, just steps from the city’s main shopping street and a 10 minute walk to the Grand Place. Classic rooms for either twin or double sharing or double bed or single use. Check in from 12 Noon. Free WIFI, coffee/tea, hairdryer, private safe, comp. water. Tonight enjoy our Welcome Dinner (included) at the hotel restaurant.D
Day 2: Fleuramour
After breakfast our coach will take us to the show… Bilzen is approximately 1 hour away from Brussels. Fleuramour is held in the beautiful Alden Biesen Commandery in Bilzen. This magnificent castle has an English park of 43 hectares with its sleek symmetrical flowerbeds in a French style, is a real attraction. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to admire the beautiful courtyard and interior of the castle and the church, bedecked in a sea of flowers. Combine this with a unique floral event and you’ll find yourself in a veritable fairy-tale. A wonderful day out for us to enjoy this spectacular floral delight. During Fleuramour, the largest international floral event, the Alden Biesen Commandery will be filled to the brim with a floral marvel. Following months of preparation, over 100 floral designers from home and abroad will dress over 35 rooms inside the castle with tens of thousands of flowers. Floral designer and garden lover alike will be amazed at the variety and scope of the designs presented by some of the world’s best. Afterwards we return to our hotel by coach.B
Day 3: Brussels
After a hearty breakfast we set off on foot for our incredible walking tour to include the Groete Markt. The Grand Place or Grote Markt is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe with architecture from 3 different eras (Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV) making their marks on the square giving it an eclectic flavour. This eclectic quality earned the Grand Place a listing as one of the Sites of World Heritage by UNESCO in 1998. Historically, the Bruxelles Grand Place was essentially a market place where traders and citizens sold and bought food. Therefore you will notice that all the streets surrounding the square are named after foods like chicken (poulet), herbs (herbes), cheese (fromage) and so forth. Nowadays you will see grand old buildings standing in the place of market shelters. The Maison du Roi, in French means King’s House but the lesser used name of Broodhuis in Dutch, means Bread House. Most of the buildings were rebuilt or restored after the bombardment of Brussels by France in 1695. Overlooking you is the glowing Gothic tower of the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) which one may mistake for a church or a castle. It acts as a great landmark because you can see the tower from most corners of the city. Just a short stroll away is what you are all aching to see, Mannekin Pis who has no less than 700 costumes to his name. From here we visit the Petit Sablon Square. Originally a horse market, in 1890 it was converted into an elegant and charming flower garden with lavish fountains, surrounded by wrought-iron fences decorated with stone statuettes. Each figure represents a medieval trade or craft that brought prosperity to Brussels. And the Art Nouveau area with some free time in the afternoon for shopping or sightseeing on your own.B
Day 4: Meise, Van Buuren Gardens
Today we visit the beautiful Botanic Garden Meise, one of the largest botanic gardens in the world, for our Guided Tour. The greenhouse and outdoor collections together hold nearly 25000 accessions of living plants (about 17400 taxa and 3170 genera) which is about 6% of all known plant species of the world. Half of them can be seen in our greenhouses (Plant Palace), the other half, comprising cultivated and indigenous plants, grow outdoors. In the Plant Palace, you can experience plants from around the world no matter what the weather is, from carnivorous plants to succulents in the thirteen interconnecting glasshouses. The Museum David and Alice van Buuren is a private house built from 1924 to 1928 for banker and art collector David van Buuren and his wife Alice in Brussels, Belgium. The house was decorated by David and Alice as a total work of art to present their art collection in a rich Art Deco interior. The house is surrounded by gardens designed by Jules Buyssens and René Pechère. The house was declared a National Heritage site in 2001.
The garden is divided into three parts: the first one is “Picturesque Garden” designed by the landscape architect Jules Buyssens in 1924 that recalls the spirit of the “roaring twenties” and represents the geometrical ideas of the Art Deco. The second one, the “Labyrinth”, is inspired by the Song of Salomon and decorated with seven sculptures by the Belgian sculptor André Willequet in 1968. The third one, “Garden of the Hearts” was designed by Belgian landscape designer René Pechère in 1970 and brings a touch of romanticism to the park. There is a great harmony of style and time between the J Buyssens’s garden and the Art Deco house. 45 years later, Alice considered René Pechère’s gardens as a complement of her villa.B
Day 5: Antwerp, Rubens House, chocolate
Our visits today include meeting our local guide for a walking tour of Antwerp. After our tour we will visit a very special house. Many renowned painters worked in Antwerp during its heyday but Peter Paul Rubens is undoubtedly the most famous of them. Rubens House stands as one of the most renowned artist residences in the world. Together with his first wife Isabella Brant, Rubens bought a house with land in 1610 on the Wapper in Antwerp. Based on his own design, he had the house renovated and expanded. It became a home in the old Flemish style along with a lavish Southern Baroque studio. The two sections were elegantly joined by way of a grandiose portico. Together they formed a genuine palazzo on the Scheldt. Almost all of the works Rubens and his pupils created in the Rubens House (Rubenshuis) have been dispersed over major museums across the whole world, but there is still an impressive collection well worth the visit. Besides paintings from the maestro himself you will find other works of art and furniture from the seventeenth century as well as paintings from his pupils including works by Jacob Jordaens and Anthony Van Dyck.
For the reconstruction of the 17th-century renaissance garden, reference was made to visual sources such as Rubens’ painting, ‘Wandeling in de tuin’ (Strolling in the garden) (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), horticultural data and botanical works. The pride of the garden was undoubtedly the pavilion, which has remained practically intact. Rubens certainly knew the fountain, as well as the divisions into sections, the little wooden gates and the leafy pathway. It is also certain that newly discovered plants were present in the garden, such as the sunflower, tulips, the fritillary and potato plants, which were imported as decorative plants from the New World. Orange, fig and other fruit trees were also to be found here. Listed in the ‘Gardener’s Garden’ Book of Outstanding Gardens of the World. We will finish off our day with a visit to a chocolate shop where we will enjoy a nice hot chocolate and have time to shop for those special people back home.B
Day 6: Les Jardins d’Annevoie, Maredsous Abbey, Chateau de Freÿr
Les Jardins d’Annevoie is just so special. Designed and laid out between 1758 and 1776 by Charles-Alexis de Montpellier, the chateau and gardens are an authentic historical record and, a living work of art. Graceful fountains and waterfalls fill the garden and the arbors with music. Above all, the Gardens of Annevoie reflect the history of the de Montpellier family, whose roots go back to the middle of the fifteenth century. Only at the beginning of the seventeenth century did Jean de Montpellier inherit the Annevoie estate, formerly owned by the de Halloy family. In those days, the de Montpellier’s were famous forge-masters. Jean de Montpellier’s son, Charles-Alexis, who was Mayor of the Court of Iron-merchants, made the means to lay out his Gardens and to extend the castle from this thriving industry (the work started in about 1758). To this end, he found inspiration in his many travels through Europe. Thus the gardens’ concept is based on three philosophies: The French style or “art corrects nature”: The Italian style or “art adapts to nature”: and The English style or “art imitates nature”. These Gardens, where the splendour and majesty of the French style mix harmoniously with English romanticism and Italian refinement, have been designed to unveil their treasures only little by little, gradually as the walk goes along, and to lead you from one surprise to another, along with the extraordinary diversity in contrasts. Come and discover these magnificent, seventeenth century water gardens. Over twenty ornamental lakes and ponds fed by some fifty water jets, fountains and cascades go to make up water gardens which are unique of their type. Four springs act as feeders, while the Rouillon, the river that runs across the site, takes care of water collection and distribution. Charles Alexis had the sheer genius to locate the main reservoir, a 400 meter long canal at the highest point as well as installing a spring. Everything works entirely naturally; the water has been flowing non-stop for over 250 years.
From this wonderful visit, we journey to another unique and peaceful place, Maredsous Abbey where we might meet some Benedictine Monks who make this place their home. The abbey itself is an impressive structure, built in the neo-gothic style, and towering over the Molignée valley. Its buildings emanate a strong sense of spirituality, a calm which is quietly infectious. Here you can relax and enjoy the beautiful Abbey gardens, soak up their tranquil atmosphere, and admire the natural splendour of the abbey’s setting. Maredsous Abbey was founded in 1872 and was one of the first Belgian abbeys to re-establish its links with the country’s rich monastic past, after the destruction of the French Revolution (1789-1799). Today, thirty-two monks live, pray and work in this pastoral location. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict – ‘ora et labora’ (pray and work) – a tradition that goes back to the year 529AD. We stop for a lunch break here.
We end our day with a Guided Visit to another gem, that of the Chateau de Freÿr. Named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty, the castle of Freÿr with its gardens in the style of Le Nôtre is located on the left bank of the Meuse, between Waulsort and Dinant (province of Namur, Belgium). They form one of the most magnificent natural sites in Belgium. It is classified as one of Wallonia’s major heritage sites. Dating back to the Middle Ages, Freÿr was a keep given in fief by the Count of Namur to Jean de Rochefort Orjol in 1378. Their descendants have kept the estate until today. Designed in the style of André Le Nôtre in 1760 by Canon Guillaume de Beaufort-Spontin and enlarged by his brother Philippe in 1770, the gardens are set on walled terraces on the left bank of the Meuse. They offer views towards the woods to the north and towards the Meuse to the east, and their peace and serenity contrast with the naked rockface on the far bank. Ponds and fountains babble on the lower level where orange trees spread their delicate perfume. The trees came to Freÿr in the first part of the 18th century from Lunéville, the residence of the Duke of Lorraine. They are the oldest trees in cases in Europe. The wooden cases are still built according to the original design. The upper level is covered by hedge mazes (6 km) that unveil their mysteries one by one: a set of patterns inspired by card game figures, a theme also present in the terra cotta statues made by Cyfflé. At the very top of the gardens, the Rococo pavilion commands the view on the Meuse and seduces by its delicate stucco decoration, based on the theme of fertility with cornucopia and Tritons. The right bank of the Meuse is dominated by cliffs (more than 100 meters high, 340 million years old), from which one has an exceptional view of the estateB
Day 8: Bruges
After breakfast, we set off for Bruges and once there meet our local guide for a walking tour of this most magical city. After our tour, we visit the Groeninge Museum. A splendid and very valuable collection of Flemish masters is the pride of this museum. First of all, there are two works by Jan Van Eyck, the first and most important ‘Flemish Primitive’. The museum’s masterpiece is ‘The Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele’, which Van Eyck painted in 1436. The rich detail of the clothes of the people in this painting make it one of the true treasures of early Flemish medieval painting. A second work by Van Eyck is the portrait of his wife ‘Margareta Van Eyck’. Overnight hotel: 4 Star Hotel de’Medici, Bruges for 2 nights (or similar).B,D
Day 8: Bruges
I cannot think of a nicer city to enjoy a day of leisure in than Bruges. If you set out to design a fairy-tale medieval town, it would be hard to improve on central Bruges. Picturesque cobbled lanes and dreamy canals link photogenic market squares lined with soaring towers, historic churches and old whitewashed almshouses. And there’s plenty of it. And in the evening enjoy the many sights that are lit up. With over 50 chocolate shops, the choice will be hard. Check out Restaurant Patrick Devos which is housed in a historic building in the heart of Bruges. According to earliest sources available, dating from around the year 1300, the house was a refuge of the Ghent-based Saint Peter’s Abbey. Behind the beautiful late-Gothic facades one discovers authentic Art Nouveau and Art Deco salons from 1900-1935, something which is unique for Bruges. The Art Deco dining room was completely designed by the renowned Ateliers d’Art de Courtrai De Coene Frères. Adjacent to it is a breath-taking Louis XVI salon. Behind the house, the intimate winter garden can be found dating from the early 1900’s and laid out in an Arts and Crafts style.B
Day 9: Bruges, Friet Museum, Bijsterveid Garden
This morning after breakfast we will have some more free time before we leave for lunch at again, a very unique place, the Friet Museum. Belgian fries are different from the French fries, they are thicker and are baked twice. They are eaten with meals or as a snack and they are served with a large selection of sauce like mayonnaise, tartar sauce, Russian dressing, or béarnaise sauce. Then we make our way to Brussels with a stop at a private garden along the way. Bijsterveld Gardens owned by Birgit Rouseré. And finally we are at our hotel at the airport, the Thon Hotel Brussels Airport to repack, rest and get ready for our flights home tomorrow. Farewell dinner (included) tonight.B,D
Day 10: Brussels
The tour concludes after breakfast. The hotel offers free shuttle to the airport.You make your way airport for onward travels.B
OPTIONAL 3 NIGHT GHENT EXTENSION:
Explore the medieval city of Ghent – the capital of Flanders, including the picturesque and historic canal front city centre, the Gravensteen Castle of the Counts, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painting by Van Eck and the Korenmarkt area.
Ghent is still a well-kept secret and is definitely worth a visit. Visitors who are already familiar with the city have become loyal ambassadors. Ghent has so much more to offer than the Castle of the Counts and the splendid views of Graslei and Korenlei. It offers a unique combination of authenticity, creativity and natural local flair. What’s more, it’s a human-scaled city in the heart of Flanders with added value thanks to its many waterways.
Includes 3 nights hotel accommodation, breakfasts and return rail transfer from Brussels.
Gardens of Belgium - GOB
Brussels to Brussels
- 9 nights accommodation
- 9 breakfasts, 3 dinners
- Transport and guidance throughout your stay
- Entrance fees to all gardens and events as per the final itinerary
- $6,795 per person - Guaranteed Single room please add $1,495