Saturday, 25 June 2011

Huize Colette, Ghent (BE)

My most recent discovery in my home town Ghent is Huize Colette, a chocolate and book house my husband had recommended. He was sure I would love it. He was right.

So I grabbed my Kindle and took off for a much-needed break in our beautiful medieval city centre, where I found Huize Colette tucked away in the shadow of the town hall.

Huize Colette's ground floor looks like a cosy tea room, which is nice enough, but if you're 'that kind of person', you need to follow the row of books up the stairs and discover the first floor.

Upstairs, the 'chocolate and books' house consists of a landing and what I can only describe as the perfect living room: funky colours, comfy armchairs, lots of books and bookshelves, and friendly people who bring you delicious hot chocolate.

I was so intensely happy when the chocolate turned out to be scrumptious. Underneath the hope I had braced myself for grave disappointment, but it didn't happen.

When I arrived, I asked the young woman downstairs what she would recommend (always a good way to get a feel for the people behind the place), and after enquiring about my tastes in chocolate, she recommended the 'fondant' hot chocolate. 

'Fondant' is the default name here in Belgium not just for the famous chocolate-cake-with-the-gooey-centre, but also for a type of dark, bitter chocolate that is still quite sweet. If I still fancied a more bitter taste afterwards, I could try the 'bitter', which is the darkest hot chocolate milk they're serving.

So I installed myself in one of the comfy chairs, took my Kindle, put my feet up and waited for the chocolate to arrive.

The 'fondant' was gorgeous: full of flavour while still creamy, and obviously made fresh. Quite a large mug as well, as you can see.

I also tried the 'bitter' afterwards, which I loved but is not to everyone's taste I'm sure. If you're into dark chocolate, starting off with the 'fondant' is definitely the right choice.

If for whatever reason you don't like chocolate, they offer a wide range of coffees (including several with a 'kick', i.e. a dash of liquor), teas, organic fruit juices and a few alcoholic drinks (no beer). I've heard great things about their pastry, breakfast and brunch as well, which will have to be tried soon.

After about an hour and half in hedonist heaven I was more than ready to face the world again and I left Huize Colette in a state of nerve-tingling, chocolate-induced bliss, temporarily in love with the world.

I've already arranged to meet with a friend there next week, and I will drag along several others in the months to come. Huize Colette is the perfect place for great conversation as well as for quiet reading or writing.

Too bad it's not open at night, but if this means the ladies behind the business continue to enjoy it for many, many years and keep the place as cosy and authentic as it is now, I am happy they've made this decision.

Contact details:
Huize Colette
Belfortstraat 6
B-9000 GENT

Open Tuesday to Friday 9:00 - 19:00 and Saturday/Sunday 10:00 - 19:00.

What's your favourite hideout?
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Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Giant's Tomb (BE)

Le Tombeau du Géant, Belgium. May 2011.

I spent the past weekend with a bunch of friends in the Belgian Ardennes, in a former water mill near the river Semois and a site called 'Le Tombeau du Géant' (the Giant's Tomb).

It is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of the country, and very special to all of us. Some of my friends have been going there for over 20 years, and are still as much in awe as the first time.

I'd been looking forward to this weekend for a while. After a busy few months, I needed some time away from my computer with nothing but good friends and my Kindle for company.

Two days later, I've come home with sun-kissed skin (sun-nibbled and sun-bitten here and there), recharged batteries and a brain buzzing with the remnants of laughter and good conversation.

Of course, being me, I can't help pondering the paradox of wanting to go to places that are wild and virtually untouched by mankind, while by going there, we touch them - inevitably.

However, there are ways of being a respectful visitor, and I count myself lucky to have found so many people who understand this and try to live it.

Here's to friendship, laughter and heart-warming, mind-blowing beauty!

What are your favourite places to unwind?
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