It’s been months since I left Belgium, and even though I resolved to devote my future blog posts to those adventures had outside of its borders (I have such a backlog of wonderful memories!) and to my new life in the western hemisphere, I just cannot help myself.
Spring brings such treasures to those lucky enough to be in Brussels this time of year! A number of events with limited timeframes cause me to want to shout from the rooftops that if one has not experienced them, they must do so this year without fail.
First there is Floralia at Groot-Bijgaarden running from April 6th to May 6th. It’s like a mini Keukenhoff for those unable to make the trip up to The Netherlands, or for those who want to avoid the crowds of tourists. Sure there are a lot of visitors to Floralia, but I never felt the press of people that you get in Keukenhoff. For a sneak peak, be sure to read the blog post from one of my visits on my personal blog, Observations of an Okie – Groot Bijgaarden.
Secondly there are the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, open to the public from April 21st to May 11th. The greenhouses were the brain-child of King Leopold the II and took 30 years for architect Alphonse Balut to complete. Located on the castle grounds of the official residence of the King of Belgium and the royal family, the greenhouses are only open to the public once a year and generate quite a draw for locals and foreign tourists alike. My advice is to get there early around opening and to avoid lunch time, as you may get caught in the press of school children that I found myself in the first time I visited!
I suggest a night visit as well. Go during the day to get a good look at the grounds around the greenhouses and for photographing the flowers inside. But go back again at night for a completely different feel and a chance at some truly unique shots of the complex. I didn’t go every year as I had planned. With everything that is going on at this time of year, the Royal Greenhouses were easy to miss. So now you are forewarned! Put it in your diary, on your calendar, and see it before you miss it!
And last, but far from least, there are the bluebells in the Hallerbos (located just off the Ring Road at exit 22 Tubize- turn left at the light and go under the overpass – or go into Halle and enter the forest from that side). This magical wood carpeted by a haze of purple/blue is truly something to behold. I didn’t even know what to expect the first time I went and just happened upon a Facebook post saying the bluebells were in bloom. I threw the dog in the car, not even sure where I was going, and I was struck almost immediately by the purple glow that seemed too emanate from the forest floor. You can bet from that point on, I visited every single year – even when I said I wouldn’t as I’d inevitably run into some friend or acquaintance who’d never been. Each year I would keep close watch on the official Hallerbos website and raise the alarm when the time came to friends and colleagues. For a preview of the bluebell game, check out my blog posts – Purple Haze and Get Thee To the Hallerbos!
This year winter has not wanted to leave the northern hemisphere alone, and Belgium has been no exception. As of April 6th, spring has just begun to visit, with wild daffodils blooming and the white wood anemones blanketing the forest floor in anticipation of their more colorful brethren. I do recommend a walk through the Hallerbos at this time as well and you can clearly see why by visiting Happenings in the Hallerbos. Actually, I recommend a stroll through these well maintained forests at any time of the year as the beauty and peace you find there can ease any troubled mind and set your world back in balance!
As for best times to visit the forest when the bluebells arrive: I suggest going early morning during the week if you are able as there are fewer people. There will be quite a few of us photographer types out then! I prefer early morning or overcast and foggy days to those with brighter sunlight, but of course what you find all depends on what mother nature has in store!
Happy Spring Everyone!
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