The choice for our trip destinations are anything but based on objective criteria. Coming from Holland I must totally confess I’m terribly biased towards putting certain events on the calendar. As a Dutchman, I’m namely born with a total love for flowers. It should therefore not come as a surprise that our very first trip on 1 May 2013 went to the number 1 flower destination in the world, the Keukenhof Spring Gardens.
The Keukenhof is a must-see destination when you’re an expat in Brussels, or when you live somewhere else and you visit Holland in the early Spring. It is by far our most popular trip in terms of people that are joining us every year. And since 1 + 1 is still 2, meaning my bias towards beautiful colours, shapes and scents on the one hand, and the enthusiasm among our members to get a serious dose of vitamine F (from flowers) on the other hand, new flower destinations were added to our calendar.
So let’s dive in to all those places Expat Club can take you to next Spring to cheer you up a bit after a long grey winter.
Keukenhof Spring Gardens
As already said, the world’s favourite flower destination. The Keukenhof is just unbelievable. Every fall a huge team of professional gardeners and landscape architects are planting over 7 million bulbs. They do so in 2 or 3 layers, which results in flowers coming out at different times. Despite that also the Dutch cannot control the weather — a warm winter or a cold early spring significantly influences the blossoming season — the flowers come up still in different weeks which guarantees that the park is always lovely to visit through it’s 8 weeks opening. If you join us we arrange a nice guided tour for you, while you can also join us for a boat tour or cycling tour through the flower fields.
At only 45 minutes from Brussels city center, near the city of Halle, we visit the Hallerbos, the forest of Halle. It is known for its tremendously beautiful and magical purple carpet of millions of wild bluebells. Several forest guides will take us to the most impressive parts, while telling us about the history of the forest and its flora and fauna. This trip normally takes place on the 3rd and/or 4th weekend of April, and we offer both a morning walk, or an afternoon walk with a visit to the city of Halle.
The main reason for travelling to this lovely village in Northeast Normandy, at about 70km from Paris, is not the abundance of flowers. Well, maybe a bit, and in particular the water lilies. They were namely favourite painting objects for the world-famous impressionist artist Claude Monet.
According to the Villes et Villages Fleuris it only gets 2 out of 4 fleuries, although we believe it really deserves at least 3 if not 4. The village is namely filled with flowers, and that does not only concern the gardens behind Monet’s house and the gardens of the Musée des Impressionisms.
Holland Cherry Blossoms
Besides the flower fields in the west of Holland, including the Keukenhof, there is another region in the Netherlands that is full of flowers in the Spring. Or better said, full of blossoms. The Betuwe region, locked in between Holland’s big rivers, is known for its fruit orchards. Countless fields are filled with apple, pear and cherry trees, providing a lovely white and pink panoramic view. This trip begins with a visit to the lovely historic village of Woudrichem and a walk-by the Loevestein castle, before we go for nice buffet lunch. In the afternoon we see two castles, walk over a river dike, drive through many orchards, visit the Royal village of Buuren, driver over the famous Apple Dike, and end up in the Dutch “glass city”.
One of our most favourite trips takes place once or twice a year, in May and sometimes also in September. The reason we travel in Spring to the Opal Coast is simple… flowers! Our comfy bus stops at seven points: Dunkirk, Gravelines, Calais, Cap Blanc-Nez, Cap Gris-Nez, Wimereux and Boulogne-sur-Mer. The part of this route between the two capes can even be hiked (13km), if you’re up for it. In that case you can also see the coastal town of Wissant. The views during this trips are as diverse as they are stunning, from industrial areas (incl. steel and nuclear energy plants, as well as a busy ferry port) to steep cliffs, beach and sea views.
But the most amazing view is for sure the rolling hills covered with yellow rapeseed flowers. You can find them in many places in Northern France, but seeing them right next to the Sea is rather spectacular. On top of that our group is treated to lovely flower exhibitions in front of the town halls of Calais and Boulogne.
Yes another spectacular forest at just a short drive from Brussels. The forest of Bertem has basically not changed in shape and size since medieval times. It’s primarily covered with oak and birch trees, but in the spring time an equally magical even takes place as in the Hallerbos. In this forest it’s not millions of bluebells that give it a purple glow, here it is the wood anemone that turns the floor into a white carpet. Equally stunning, equally worth visiting. And from 2021 onward we will combine it with a visit to Leuven.
Alsace Wine Route
Hmmm, maybe if we would call this trip Alsace Flower Route you would believe this trip is really about flowers. Nope, it is primarily about wine and wine tasting, while visiting and learning about lovely towns and villages of this Eastern French region. And that last points holds the key. As you know by now, France has an annual Concours des villes et villages fleuris to make places more attractive through public landscaping, and in particular with flowers.
During this trip we visit four amazing places that received the maximum 4 fleuries: Colmar, Bergheim, Eguisheim and Ribeauvillé. We spend a lot of time in each of these places to walk around, both with a guide and during some free time. Oh, and of course we’ll invite you for a nice wine tasting too!