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Groot Bijgaarden

April 24, 2015

On Sunday I was bound and determined to go SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE!, rather than stay in on a sunny Belgian day with this stupid sinus infection.  I threw out some options at my husband, ranging from Kinderdijk in the Netherlands, graffiti town in Antwerp, to more castle ruins in Walloon Belgium.  In the end, we weren’t too keen on driving two hours to anywhere and my husband suggested Floralia at the Groot-Bijgaarden castle grounds. I had suggested this last year when we decided instead to visit the Abbaye de Villers, a place which is now a favorite and the origin of some of my most popular shots. I was convinced I’d never get my husband to go to Floralia, due to the likelihood of crowds, but he surprised me this year.

Groot-Bijgaarden is an ancient château dating back to the 12th century (with some expansions and improvements made over the next several centuries). The chateau itself is available for hire for weddings, parties and corporate events, but not open to the general public. You can, however, climb the four levels of the “dungeon” (really a tower, but whatever) built in 1347 for some great views of the grounds and the surrounding countryside – with Brussels, the Atomium, and the basilica all the in the background. In the early 1900’s Raymond Pelgrims de Bigard undertook a massive restoration of the estate and in 2004 the family decided to open the grounds up to the public in April for an impressive flower show.

 

Floralia is held every April. This year the exhibit runs until May 3rd. The grounds are covered in tulip beds, azaleas, daffodils, hyacinths, and more. The variety and quantity were just amazing and the setting, with its tower, moat, and drawbridge, was something out of a fairy tale. In my opinion, it’s another “must-see” on your Brussels bucket list. And it’s another “Belgium is boring” myth buster! Click here for information on Floralia and Groot-Bijgaarden.

 

Did I mention this past weekend was Venetian Carnival Weekend at the Groot? The costumes were pretty awesome. Though given that Venetian carnival is held in February, I’m sure these poor actors were boiling in these get-ups this weekend!

My next spring destination?  The Royal Greenhouses of Castle Laeken are open!  I must not have been reading my embassy newsletters lately, because this totally snuck up on me.  Each year, the Belgian royal family opens their private greenhouses up to the public for a few weeks. This year they opened up on April 17th and will continue to May 8th. I went as part of the Embassy CLO trip last year and really enjoyed it. I vowed however, that I would go this year on my own, as soon as the doors opened at 9:30, so that I could take my time and hopefully not get jammed into the crowds of school children that were there with us at lunchtime last year! I will keep you posted on my adventures there next week.

Information on the greenhouses, including directions, opening times, and entrance fees can be found on the Brussels City page here.

I would also like to remind my comrades in arms out there, especially those in the Foreign Service, but also to those who have yet to find the time to search out the hidden gems in your home state (you Okies know who you are!), not to let yourself be pulled into the ruts that can overtake our lives. Make yourself break out of your routine, out of your comfort zone (without putting yourself in great danger of course!) and go explore your world. Whether you search out a great new lunch spot, a quaint little park, or a historical amazement, just get out and explore!

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Arklahoma Muse Photography and Design and commented:

    The latest castle jaunt in Belgium – I just love this country!

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