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Caravanning in France


When spring returns and the weather takes a turn for the better it’s time to start planning your first caravan trip. And where better to start than with a caravan trip to France, says John Hillman

As we turn into the home straight and race towards the finish line, I think it’s safe to say that even the most diehard fan, of these dark and frosty months, will be glad to reach the welcoming arms of spring after this particular winter.

And of all the people in the UK to rejoice the return of warmer climes, there are perhaps none more eager and more grateful than the nation’s caravan owners.

March marks the beginning of the caravanning season. Any of you toying with the idea of joining this troupe of intrepid roadsters can now begin registering with the Camping and Caravanning Club, who run courses from March to September.

The short course will teach you everything you need to know about towing, loading, hitching and unhitching, reversing with safety, and any legal issues surrounding caravans and the roads.

Once you’re ready to hit the open road there really is an endless list of possible destination for you to consider. P&O Ferries has been transporting caravanners over to France on the Dover to Calais route for many decades now. This is because the French have a very strong tradition of camping holidays, in their culture, so as a result they have the excellent facilities to match.

Whether you wish to explore the foothills of the Alps, the rugged coastline of Normandy or the rural charms of Provence, you’ll find an endless supply of excellent locations to hook up your pitch, open your deckchairs and fire up the barbeque. Then sit back and marvel at the scenery.

Image Credit: MGspiller

Museum Night Fever!

night_museum logo

For one enchanting evening in March some of the most famous museums in Brussels will be opening their doors to the public for some after hour’s, art filled entertainment. Rosie Khdir takes a look at what’s in store…

On the 6th March 2010, twenty museums in Brussels will open from 8pm to 1am for the Night of the Brussels Museums. This, the second edition of the event will include exhibitions of music, dance, workshops, DJs and of course the art.

Museums included in this artful extravaganza are the BELvue Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, the Museum of Costume and Lace and the Museum of the City of Brussels.

This rather unusual and delightful event has been organised in cooperation with youth organisations and students and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

It will be a night of spontaneous performance, electro-architectural exhibitions, dancing and guided tours. The best part is that those of you who come alive at night can party on until 3am at Bozar, where the event’s after-party will be held.

This truly is an extraordinary event that should not be missed by any art lover. Advanced tickets can be bought on the official Museum Night Fever website up until the 5th March but be aware that children up the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more a program of events, places, transport information and ticket prices visit the official event website.

The Year of the Tiger

chinese tiger

In 2010 we will say goodbye to the Year of the Ox and welcome in the Tiger! Rosie Khdir explores the Chinese New Year celebrations across Europe.…

This weekend Chinese communities all over the world will be celebrating the start of a new year. The Year of the Ox will end on Sunday 14th of February so for those of you, who don’t fancy celebrating St. Valentine’s Day, why not join the Chinese in celebrating the Year of the Tiger?

Celebrations will kick off all over Europe for this major event in the Chinese calendar. In Paris’ 13th arrrondissement, where the largest Asian community lives, a party will begin with the traditional procession of the dragon. A colourful parade featuring firecrackers, music, dancing and this giant serpent will take place in the heart of the Chinatown in the French capital.

In the Netherlands the festivities will begin on Saturday 13th February in the city hall in The Hague. A one kilometre log red carpet will connect the city hall to Chinatown and at 1pm a firework show and dragon parade will mark the start of the party.

For the last few months Brussels has been the host for the Europalia a festival celebrating Chinese culture. This event will end on the 14th February as the new Chinese year begins. The Hong Kong Economic Trade Office, along with various other organisations in the country, is putting on a celebration on Friday 19th February at the Concert Noble in the Belgian capital, complete with delicious Chinese cuisine, performances and prizes!

A person’s Chinese zodiac sign is based on the lunar year in which they were born. The Tiger is the third animal in the zodiac which is the sign for people born in 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962 and 1950 and is characterised by its courage, optimism, rebelliousness and vigour.

Image credit: Dalliano0925翹鬍子周末

Fashion for thought


The Central Museum Utrecht is opening an exhibition this weekend dedicated to Alexander van Slobbe, an international pioneer of Dutch fashion. Rosie Khdir takes a look at Fashion for thought…

Alexander van Slobbe, already celebrating his 20th anniversary, has taken the Dutch fashion world by storm and the Central Museum Utrecht is celebrating his successes with a show of his works.

The exhibition, entitled Fashion for Thought, displays the designer’s unique attitude to the design process and allows visitors to reflect on the role of fashion in society. The exhibition shows Van Slobbe’s finished designs along with some of his personal archives including patterns, fabric samples, film footage and photos.

Van Slobbe is the front runner of Dutch modernism with his sleek and simple straight lines, inspired by the works of Dutch painters like Johannes Vermeer. As part of the rebellion against the industrialisation of fashion in the late nineties Van Slobbe remained intensely involved in all processes of his clothing lines, from drawing sketches, to sourcing materials to crafting his creations.

The designer graduated from the art academy of Arnhem and has, since the late eighties, had his designs admired worldwide. In 1988 he founded his women’s fashion label, Orson + Bodil and in 1993 a men’s label called SO.

He has also collaborated with Claudy Jongstra, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, Marc Mulders and PUMA and some of these creations are on display at the exhibition in Utrecht.

The exhibition opens on Saturday 13th February 2010 and ends 16th May 2010. Visit the official Central Museum Utrecht for more details.

Image credit: Horia Varlan

Peter Paul Rubens – old master of Antwerp


Peter Paul Rubens is Antwerp’s most famous son and the prolific baroque painter is famous the world over for his pieces that glow with colour and movement. Tomas Mowlam looks at the best places to see his work in Antwerp.

Rubens was born in Germany in 1577 and returned to the family home in Belgium in 1589, following the death of his father.

From 1600 – 1608 Rubens travelled through Italy, where he became influenced by the paintings of Italian masters such as Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto.

He returned to Antwerp in 1609, where he married and became court painter to Albert and Isabella, governors of the Low Countries.

He painted dozens of commissions for the royal families and nobles of Europe. His works shine with colour, and those of hunting scenes and battles have a whirling and captivating energy.

His villa and workshops are now a museum dedicated to him, the Rubenshuis. It shows many portraits and self-portraits by the master himself, as well as work by his apprentices and contemporaries.

It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the man himself, and his way of working, with authentic 17th Century artefacts, sketches, half finished paintings and illustrations.

Many of his pieces can still be found around Antwerp; at the Carolus Borromeus church which he designed, as well as St. Pauls, the little St Jacobskerk, where Rubens and his family are buried.

The most impressive masterpieces are in the Cathedral of Our Lady. In its own right one of the most awe inspiring churches in Europe, it took 169 years to build and stands 123 metres high, and inside is the breathtaking Raising of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross.

The Rubenshuis is open from 10 am until 5pm, Tuesday until Sunday.

Image Credit: dbking

Belgian Gay and Lesbian Film Festival


This year’s Belgian Gay and Lesbian Film Festivial is going on as we speak, in ten different towns for ten days. Rosie Khdir finds out more…

This year marks the 24th festival of its kind, and will be held in ten towns around Belgium including, Anderlecht, Anvers, Charleroi, Liège, Mons, Namur, Tournai and Verviers and of course Brussels.

The event, presented by Tels Quels, is supported by Marthe Alphonsine Djilo Kamga, “an author of recognised works on female homosexuality in Cameroon and initiator of two cinematographic projects on this theme”, and Charles Gueboguo, “author of several books on homosexuality and AIDS in Africa”.

This year events will coming to three new locations in Brussels; cinema Le Vendôme, for screenings, the Palace for 3 shows, the European Gala and the Closing Party and the Smouss Café for a “Special Thé Dansant” (Tea-dance) as an Opening Party.

As for the actual entertainment, there will be films, plays, exhibitions showing photos and paintings and parties galore! The three shows held at the Palace in Brussels are “Comme ils disent” (”As they say”), from Pascal Rocher and Christophe Dauphin, “Le Plongeoir” (”The Diving Board”) by Patrick Lowie and “Mmmmmmh Libido!” by Anne Calife with Rachel Logel.

The various exhibitions explore the questions faced by our communities today, such as Gay and Lesbian rights, Trans-identity in Belgium and homosexuality and religion. These issues will be put to audiences in numerous forms, through performance, films, art and the written word.

The festival closing party is to take place at the Palace on Saturday 6th February featuring music from DJ Walibi. Please visit the official website for more details.


Nyon and the First Press Oil Festival


This week sees a celebration of our 8,000 year relationship with the humble olive. John Hillman discovers a festival that’s a perfect combination on delicious scenery and gorgeous food.

Olive oil has been around a long time. Long before the Pharaohs, the Greeks and the Romans. Indeed, before any concept of civilization began the peoples of the Mediterranean relied on its properties as a food, body cleanser, perfume and lighting fuel.

It began life in the Eastern Mediterranean and was carried west by Greek and Phoenician sailors, having already underpinned the wealth of the Minoan Empire of Crete a thousand years before.

Such is its ongoing importance to the civilizations of the Mediterranean that Olive Oil continues to be found in the religious ceremonies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Today it underpins the regional economies of the Mediterranean – we consume 2.8 million tonnes of the stuff each year, with people from Australia to Iceland recognizing its enormous health benefits and willing to pay handsomely for their annual share.

It only makes sense, therefore, that we celebrate the annual harvest of each newest batch, which comes around the end of winter. (Hooray it’s the end of winter!). This takes place at the end of the first week of February in the medieval fortified town of Nyon in the Drôme Region of Southern France.

Known as The First Press Oil Festival, visitors to this delightfully picturesque town are invited to sit at enormous communal tables in the centre of Nyons, at the Place des Arcades, where they can rub toast in crushed garlic before dipping it in the newest batch of local olive oil, savouring the most genuine, fresh and delicious flavours of the Mediterranean.

Organised by a group known, entertainingly, as the Knights of the Olive Tree Confederation, the festival also includes folk music, dancing, concerts and special conferences. If you are heading through France this week then this is a culinary pit stop that’ll be well worth your gastronomic inspection.


Image Credit: M. Minderhoud

Antwerp Diamond Trade fair


Next week, Antwerp will host its first ever Diamond Trade fair in the beautiful and historic Antwerp Diamond Bourse. Rosie Khdir finds out more…

The Belgian city of Antwerp is widely known as the Diamond capital of the world, but it also has a sophisticated financial and trading sector, making it ideal for this Diamond Trade fair.

The fair will have a “members-only” trading floor, open to buyers who can come and make great contacts in the diamond industry. A select group of 43 Antwerp diamond firms have been chosen to display and offer their gems, expertise and knowledge. There will also be a display of the incredible jewels for all the guests’ viewing pleasure.

It will take place at the 105-year-old trading hall of Antwerp Diamond Bourse, where over 2,000 members for around the world have traded and brokered diamonds since 1904.

Although this event is run on an “invitation only” basis, all you holiday makers can still enjoy the sparkling pleasures of Antwerp. The city has four prestigious international diamond bourses: Antwerp Diamond Bourse, where this event is being held, the Diamantclub van Antwerpen, Antwerpsche Diamantkring and Vrije Diamanthandel.

There are dozens of specialist diamond shops around the city and there is even a diamond museum, containing replicas of the British Crown Jewels and two of the world’s largest diamonds.

The Antwerp Diamond Trade fair begins on the 7th February 2010 and ends on the 9th. For more details take a look at the official site.

Image credit: Swamibu

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