Throwback to an oasis called Borgoluce

On depressive rainy days like today, the thing I like to do most is to go through all the mental pictures I have from our last summer holidays. Days filled with happiness and lots of sunshine on our faces resulting in instant smiles. I do like colder weather, but let’s be honest everybody prefers spring and summer over autumn and especially over winter (although I do like the extra time inside the house during these periods).

We spend our last summer, that is only 1 month ago but feels like at least a year ago, in the recently UNESCO protected “Prosecco” region aka the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene region. This region is 20km up North from the Treviso airport. Most people would only know Treviso from flying to Venice with Ryanair as that’s the town where they land. It is a pity that most of those many people landing in Treviso immediately get in a bus towards Venice and don’t take the time to visit the charming city of Treviso. It is true that before actually visiting this region (and even when was already there for the holidays) I had already had prejudices about the town not being very nice to visit… but BOY WAS I WRONG. We actually went back 3 times during our holidays as we just loved wondering around in this beautiful little town with lots of cozy corners and streets with little canals in-between them (with the mandatory ice-cream in our hands).

A place we got to call home for 2 weeks was a beautiful 2 floor 3 bedroom apartment in the equally beautiful 1200Ha domain of Borgoluce.  Borgluce is an Azienda Agricola that was founded 10 years ago by the Noble Collalto family. I specifically added the ‘azienda agricola’ as although myself and many other people mostly know Borgoluce for their very nice Prosseco , they make soooo much more besides the Prosecco. The question would rather be what don’t they make 😊 . I remember tasting their entry level Prosecco called Lampo and immediately liking it and 9 years later still having at least a few bottles of  both the Lampo and their Prosecco BRUT DOCG in my fridge.  A year ago when I was breaking my head on where to go on summer holidays this year, it was actually my brother mentioning that Borgoluce also had an Agriturismo. When consulting their website both myself and my wife were immediately sold and immediately booked a room. I did also appreciate it a lot from them to call me to check with us which room or apartment would be most fitting for me and my family to have the ultimate time upon our stay at the farm. A few weeks later they had even renovated all their B&B rooms and apartments, so that made us even more impatient to be there.  Not that I specifically look for a holiday place where they make wines, but if they do that only makes it better 😉

As I mentioned it was only 10 years ago that 2 of 5 sisters of the Collalto family decided they wanted to not only continue the wine making their family had been doing for many decades before, but also start farming in ecological and sustainable way.  In those years they have made enormous progression… it is true the fact they already had over 1200Ha of land at their disposal helped, but nevertheless the products don’t make themselves and especially not high quality. Besides the grapes from which they both make Prosecco and still wines they also have around 400 buffalos, pigs, cows and chickens they both use for their milk as for their meat. On top of that they also have olive trees, beehives, lots of wheat. Again all made and handled  with respect for nature. If you would see the space these animals have between the Conegliano Hills… they have a huge amount of space.  Over the years the Collalto sister in collaboration with experts in their domain they have studied the best ways to be as respectful to nature and sustainable. I can only give them my upmost admiration and respect as they have done an incredible job and the circle is round. If you would ever get the chance to visit I’m sure you’ll agree 100% with me.

If you would see the amount of both local as non-local people that pass by the little factory shop to buy their charcuterie, meats, wines, honey or dairy products like freshly made (every morning) yoghurt, ricotta or mozzarella (made from Buffalo milk) you immediately know the quality has to be there. Especially when you see older Italian ladies (la Mama or Nonna) in the shop as they are very very picky on products as they only want to use the best. When you tasted their fresh mozzarella, the ones you buy prepackaged in the supermarket won’t do the trick anymore 😊 😊

The fact they had 3 bedroom apartments and did help us to decide to go there, the fact they made wine was an extra bonus, but that they also had a local shop with own products, a Frasca and an Osteria where you could eat their products only made that more checkboxes were ticked. The only thing that didn’t convince me 100% was the natural pool (there you go, I said it). Even now that I’ve stayed there, it might be the only thing that I didn’t like the most… but I’m sure it is me, as both my kids and my wife loved it. The oasis of silence you have at Borgoluce (far away from all the noise (besides the ones products by my children))  is so relaxing and kinda addictive, because when you come back home you have to get used to all the hard noises and sounds again. Even now some nights when I lay in bed I close my eyes and imagine I’m back in the garden together with my wife (children already sleeping) at Borgoluce with a nice glass of Prosecco in our hands enjoying the sound of silence and grasshoppers overlooking the beautiful hills while the sun goes down…. That for me is what holiday is all about and the thing I love thinking of on rainy depressive days like today.

Before I leave you to it, I do want to say something about Prosecco 😊 as I find it a shame don’t see prosecco as a high quality product (the same actually goes for the Spanish nephew Cava). I think most of those people just didn’t try the right prosecco yet and only drunk some of the mass products that are out there and went for the cheapest bottle instead of for the bottle that might only cost 2EUR more and probably is more qualitative. A few posts ago I did mention that Franciacorta and Prosecco are not the same thing. Which is true, first of all because they are made from a different grape. In fact you should not even be comparing those 2 or even with other bubbled drinks as they are all different in some way although they all have bubbles… it is all about drinking the drinking the good ones 😊 which is something personal (obviously) and different for everybody, but for me Borgoluce’s Proseccos can definitely be seen as reference for a good Prosecco with the good quality/price balance.

Just by writing this article I can already feel the sun shining on my face

My fiancée’s birthday weekend the final part

In the first part of the blog about my fiancée’s birthday weekend I told that my favorite lady chef Ingrid Neven (from Pazzo) had worked at Château Neercanne for a few years and therefore also knows Maastricht really well. Why am I telling this, well she actually gave us a tip where we had to take our apero before dinner (or sometime during the day) at the “Kruisherenhotel” winebar (from same group as Château NeercanneKruisherenhotel used to be a church that has been rebuilt into a hotel, restaurant and winebar and it is a very beautiful place combining the old elments from the church and some modern parts… Unique!  I’ll let the pictures below speak for itself. (Thanks Ingrid!) BTW you can also drink other things besides wine, it is really worth a visit.

Kruisherenhotel (2)

Lounge kruisheren

the ceiling

wine cellar

Check this link for more beautiful pictures. I do forgot one thing, I’m not sure how it was in the ladies room, but in the boys room there something special just above the urinal. What you see on the picture below is this special thing and it is actually not a real light bulb, but it is a special light effect… sorry just wanted to share this with you 🙂

light effect

For our dinner I chose to go to a restaurant called “Baumont” aka Harry’s.  Which according to tripadvisor is the 4th best restaurant of Maastricht (Chateau Neercanne was n°1).

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At Harry’s it is Lady Chef Audrey Eussen and her team try their best to give you a good culinary experience and want to show you that you can also create great njammy dishes with products from local farmers and producers…So they do their best to mostly use local products if possible. I must indeed  admit they do a good job. It is true that we had to wait a long time for our 1st course, for which afterwards they apologized a million times (these things happen everywhere). Besides that there I can’t say anything “bad”… the food was good, the wine was good, the location on itself was great and I had great company 🙂 What I do would like to say is that I think it would have been great to find more local wines on the wine list (maybe even to drink by glass), as there are so many great local Dutch and Belgian wines.  Don’t get me wrong I drank some great wines at the restaurant, but it would have been nice :-).

Chef Audrey Eussen

Anyhow  we started off with some “scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree” which I accompanied first by a glass of Grüner Veltliner Langenlois from Weingut Summerer and after that with a glass of Muscat d’Alsace from Bernard Schneider I do think the second one was a better match (for me). As a main course I had” Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta” accompanied by a little nostalgic wine for me a Saumur from Langlois Château (this is why). My fiancée at the other hand had a Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus and decided to have a glass of Shiraz with it.

scallops with lardo di Colonnata and parsnip puree

Limburg chicken with morel mushroom sauce and polenta

Baby turbot with warm potato salad and green asparagus

The dishes were as tasty as they look 🙂 glad tripadvisor pointed me to this restaurant! A professional staff.  The minor part of the evening was me finding a fine under my wiper when I got back at my car 😦 Still not sure why as there were 2 contradictory street signs close to each other, but ok…. that’s life.

The next morning I just couldn’t stay in bed (I think my fiancée could) as there was soooo much sunshine coming into the room I just had to get breakfast and go enjoy the sunshine… and let’s just say that Maastricht does really look beautiful when sun is shining.  The plan normally was to rent bikes and explore the area around Maastricht, but we were just too lazy…

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Sunny Maastricht

My mission was accomplished as I saw a beautiful smile on my fiancée’s face (even before I gave her actual birthday gift) so I was one happy little camper 🙂 Up to my birthday now 😉

If you also feel like having a weekend like me, let the “Heart of Europe” website help you to create a wonderful weekend away and explore and beautiful piece of Europe!

The end

ooooh yeah

Ibis, a wind of change

Ibis, I’m sure most of you know this hotel chain and maybe have even stayed at one of these hotels. In the past Ibis were in my eyes hotels that you didn’t stay at for the luxury, the rooms were rather small  and getting a bit outdated(not even mentioning the bathroom). You didn’t really feel like staying more than 1 night at these. (Besides their breakfast, I’ve always liked their breakfasts. From the whole Accor group, they were my least favorite.  (My favorites are the Sofitel hotels, but I guess for everybody)

I did indeed speak in the past tense, as I now had to review my opinion on the Ibis hotels. There has blown a fresh wind through the company. Ibis has done many investments to make all of their hotels more modern, colorful and more suitable for today’s travelers.

Ibis has now got 3 different kinds of Ibis hotels. Besides the regular Ibis hotels, but next to that they now have Ibis Budget (previously Étap hotels) and Ibis Styles (previously all seasons). I can say for a fact that it was not only the name that got changed. They really did a good job renovating their hotels and lifting them up a level, without also upgrading the prices!

It was actually during my stay in the Ibis Barcelona Plaza Glories and the ibis Styles Beaune Centre (Beaune is the capital of the Bourgogne wines) that I had to change my opinion. The rooms were more spacious, more modern with some heavenly beds (really like on the pictures) and breakfasts as good always.  This in combination with great and friendly staff makes these hotels even better. My experience was so good that I just booked a room at the Ibis Styles hotel in London.

I can really recommend you to stay in one of the new or renovated Ibis hotels as to me they have great price-quality value that is in everybody’s reach. You can find more information on the Accor hotels website or the website from Ibis hotels.

The big apple – part 1

‘The city that never sleeps’, this is soooo true. New York is one busy city, no matter at what time you go outside there is always something to see or to do. Last month my fiancée and I decided to set sail to New York City to discover as much as possible during our 7 days in the Big Apple.

The hardest part of this trip to NYC was actually finding a hotel in a list of over 800 hotels that had a good price/ quality value. During this quest I was really surprised how expensive the hotels are in NYC (maybe another reason why this city never sleeps 🙂 ). For me it is important that the hotel (when doing a city trip) is in a good location so I can walk everywhere or at least have some good public transport connection. The room must be clean and last but not least I must be able to have breakfast. I know NYC has lots of great breakfast places, but when I wake up I need an instant breakfast fill up 🙂 otherwise I just can’t function correctly (I am one hungry man).  After a long search I did find a hotel that even topped my criteria, it was the one and only Yotel.

  • 10-15 minute walk from Time Square (where you have all subway trains at your disposal, all sightseeing busses, etc…)
  • They serve complementary muffins (10 different types) accompanied by coffee, tea, … at breakfast time

  • Has a rooftop cocktail bar (mmm, I loved their Margarita’s)

  • You can sleep up to the 27th floor (we were on the 24th floor),

  •  Very modern

  • Normal NYC price
  • Friendly staff
  • Walking distance from Broadway (I love musicals, don’t care what you think 🙂 🙂 )

Something that might initially scare you is the size of the room, but you shouldn’t be scared. I can say for a fact that the architect who has designed the rooms made sure every millimeter of the room got used in a good way and that you have all the comfort you need. If I go back to NYC, I wouldn’t doubt of staying there again.

A little tip if you go to NYC (or North America in general), no matter which kind of hotel you stay in (5 star or a B&B), you must always check the room (before putting your bags down) for Bed Bugs.  This seems to be a big problem in North America. (FYI, the Yotel didn’t have any).

Hotel -> Check

For me the best way to start your visit in NYC (or any other city of this size) is by using the sightseeing bus lines on the first day! Yes, I know it seems very touristy and usually I’m also not too keen on it. But for a city of this size taking these busses is just common sense. It helps me to get a good overview of the city, plus, during this ride I can write down the things I definitely want to see. (And as there is a tour guide on the bus you also learn some stuff). We took the Grayline on our first day and are proud of it :-).

After the first day the best en fasted way to get around is the subway or at least, that’s what we did. The NYC subway is very easy to use and it is best if you buy a pass for your whole stay (this might be most convenient)

To be continued with some great eateries and must see’s in NYC….

Some ideas for Valentine’s day

We all know Valentine’s day is approaching, not that I’m really into this whole celebration

As I’m of the opinion that you should spoil your loved one every day and not only on Valentine’s day (or at least, that’s what I do).

February 14th has actually always been another special day for me, my brother’s birthday.

But for the people who do want to give this day something extra or make it a romantic getaway, here some romantic tips.

Maybe a trip to Tuscany? No better place than Hotel San Simeone in Val D’orcia (close to Siena). This old monastery ‘village’ has been renovated and is now a very romantic place where you can enjoy incredible views over the Tuscan landscapes. At this hotel everybody gets its own little house. I’ve enjoyed this hotel A lot!

Or maybe you prefer having a little SPA weekend?  Mmm, For this I have a very nice hotel in Portugal

Hotel Vilalara Thalassa Resort, I took my girlfriend here when I was 22 :-). This is the perfect combination of luxury, wellness, sunny weather  and Portuguese atmosphere . FYI, the standard room is a Junior suite. + The treatments are heavenly!!

Or maybe you prefer just to Have a romantic dinner? In that case restaurant Les Foudres has something romantic… This old wine warehouse seems like the perfect spot for some romance.

Or maybe you can make something yourself? And make a romantic dinner for your loved one????

As long as it says ‘I love you’, I’m sure it will do!!

My dad and I

Ok, we’re back in business… Not that I’ve ever been out of business :-),but just a matter of speak

I’m sure all of you guys have read that I actually went on a trip to visit my family or my grandmother to  be more précised .What actually was supposed to be a wonderful trip and time with my dad and family

Turned out as a week inside my grandmother’s apartment.  Why because as of day 2 day I was sick and this up to today :-(. But let me focus on the 1 day I was still perfectly ok 🙂

So me and my dad decided to visit my grandmother who lives near Bormio a well-known for skiing and is located in the Valtellina valley in the north of Lombardy . This time it had been 4years since the last time I was here…. But every time I come here it is more beautiful and for the week we were there, the sun kept shining… it couldn’t be more perfect.  Getting here is usually the tricky part… as we didn’t want to drive the whole way from Belgium up to Bormio, we booked a flight to Verona (we paid 24 EUR per person, YES 24), were we rented a car to drive via Lago d’iseo towards to Val camonica  to than take the passo del tonale or Edolo/Aprica…. To make a long story short, this takes you through nature’s most beautiful sites, even after 28 years I’m still as stung by its beauty like the first time I saw it.

As we arrived in the evening we went to my aunt’s house to have dinner… She prepared my favorite dish (from the region), Pizzoccheri … They were really nice, but not just yet like the once from “La nonna”.

Up to day 2 and to a trip filled with food, food and family :-).

Now that I’m in Italy with my dad, the theme food is evening more present than when I’m alone 🙂

Our first lunch just had to be at my and my dad’s favorite hotel/ restaurant ‘Sassella da Jim

Where they combine the best of the mountains with the right know how and a sauce of friendliness.  Coming here even just for a quick lunch is a must!!  We took the “Menu del giorno” that today was: veduri ai ferri (grilled vegetables), Crespelle al bitto e bresaolo, (I LOVE), bocconcini di manzo ai funghi and a dolce della casa (I took the apple pie, I soooooo love apple pie). You look at these pictures and tell me you wouldn’t want to taste this???

YUMMY. We drunk a Mazer from Nino Negri with this

To be continued….

Europe’s weirdest hotels

It might seem like my weekend was full of discoveries :-). I was  looking to a few websites, when I suddenly fell on the one from “Stedentripper”. On this website they listed the weirdest hotels in Europe.

Not all of them are too weird,

The Dasparkhotel, Ottensheim (Austria) for example. In this hotel you stay in a sewer pipe ( a clean one). The only ‘scary’ part would be that it is quit narrow, but besides that I would see myself sleeping her.

Or a more romantic hotel if you ask me would be the Elkep Evi, Urgüp (Turkey). This hotel is built in the a mountain … or actually they gave this previous mountain homes a new destination 🙂

BUT the hotel I would NEVER go to, would be the Propeller Island City Lodge, Berlijn (Duitsland). Just look at the picture… I’m sure you’ll agree. Who wants to be sleeping in a coffin (accept maybe Dracula)

But apart from that hotel you I think most of them don’t seem that weird 🙂

Which one is your favorite? Let me know (if you don’t speak dutch, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell me which one …  Here’s the weblink