Timeworn but magnificent, dilapidated but dignified, fun yet maddeningly frustrating – Lonely Planet Cuba.

This quote. Nail on the head. Cuba is such a multifaceted destination, with its unique culture, colourful sights, vibrant streets and warm people. But admittedly: as a spoiled Western tourist, there can be a few minor hiccups in your smooth holiday experience :) Who ever said good things come easy? Yet, as with most things, an open mindset and a little preparation go a long way! Based on personal experience, and tips I got from other Cuba survivors/lovers, here are my 10 Cuba Commandments:

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1/ No time like the present

It’s becoming a bit of a cliché about traveling to Cuba, but now really is the time to go there. Although you can already feel the effect of the big bad Western Wolf sneaking into the Cuban streets (hello, tourist facilities on every corner), there are still plenty of authentic Cuban elements to enjoy. A stay among a Cuban family, a drive in a classic 50ies car, salsa tunes resonating through the streets, leisurely walks amidst decaying colonial wonders and discovering revolutionary relics all around.

2/ Su casa es tu casa

For anyone looking for the true Cuban feeling, staying at a casa particular is really the way to go! You can go the planned route (control freaks, represent) and book through mycasaparticular.com or go rogue and just wing it. In high season this could be a bit tricky (yes yes, control freak…) but there are plenty of options. A great way of going about it is asking the owner of one casa you stayed at (and liked!) to recommend/call the next one (especially if your Spanish is pretty much non-existent, like mine is). Chances are they’ll recommend you another great spot with a similar spirit.

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3/ Come prepared

Beside the summer holiday basics, there are a few Cuba-specific things you might want to stuff into that backpack: Pens and notebooks for the kids you meet on the streets (felt a bit weird about this myself, but turns out it was a real winner!), plenty of sunscreen (because no, you cannot just buy it there and yes, you will have to take a bus out to a resort somewhere to get a ridiculously expensive bottle of the precious good), for my fellow bookworms: enough reading material (because the only one’s you’ll find there are about the revolution) and of course the good old lonely planet. Oh and paper tissues. Trust me on this one.

After all your essentials are packed, make sure you leave some room for the 2 bottles of rum and 20 cigars you are allowed to bring back ;)

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4/ Suspicion will protect you

With the growing flux of tourists, the Cuban hustlers are on the rise as well. Especially in Havana, we felt this very strongly. I’m sad to say that after a few days I was suspicious of anyone trying to start a chat with us on the street. They all seemed to have a friend/brother/cousin who can get you the best mojitos/cigars/party. And want to gain a little money in the process…

5/ Suspicion will limit you

On the other hand, the jineteros we met were always pretty friendly about it. I’ve never really felt threatened and honestly think Cuba is not a country where you should fear getting aggressed or anything like that. Poverty is just an everyday reality on its streets, and if some friendly smooth talker can gain a few bucks (because it really never is much more than that) by bringing you to a local salsa party or a great place to have a mojito, what’s the harm, really?

Imagine the experiences you would be missing out on by just blocking every local person trying to have a chat with you. Let’s share the wealth and the Cuban vibes, shall we? I know, I’m terribly naive… Which is probably why we got hustled as much as we did, but what the hell, we had a great time in the process :)

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6/ Push yourself

So you never really rode a horse (check) and you’re pretty scared of getting on the back of one (double check). That shouldn’t stop you from trying out the best way to explore the beautiful hills of Pinar del Rio (since you would be crazy to try to cover that much ground on foot, and even crazier to drive a bike in that heat…) And who cares your back makes you feel like a granny for the next few days? #worthit

7/ Take a breath

While you should push yourself to get on that horse, there’s no shame in spending a little down time at the beach or on a Plaza Vieja terrace while listening to some salsa either, is there? Especially when you had a few too many mojitos the night before, and walking up and down the cobblestones of yet another (granted beautiful) colonial city under the Caribbean sun just seems like more than you can bear. Take a breath. Have a coconut drink. 

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8/ Walk the untrodden path

We went the classic route for a 2 week stay (Havana – Vinales – Trinidad – Varaderos) and even though you’d definitely want to see those highlights (except for the last one which was a bit of an all-inclusive-mass-tourism bust for us), you’re not the only one… It’s funny to realize that the person you met on a terrace/pool/bus in Havana is sitting next to you at a restaurant/bar/beach in Trinidad, on several occasion. Chances are you are all doing the same itinerary. Which can be pretty great when you meet some awesome peeps along the way (you know who you are <3), but does make you feel like somewhat of a herd animal after a while.

So even though this is a bit of a hypocritical recommendation (since we didn’t really do that ourselves), I’d say: take the time to go explore some of the less traveled areas. I have this feeling there might be a lot more authentic Cuba to be found there.

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9/ Make it about the journey

So yes, a 5-hour bus trip might not be your favorite way of spending your Cuban days. Nor is the 2 hour wait before you can even set foot on that bus (what, you expected it to leave when planned? You should know better by now). But here’s where that cliché about it “being about the journey, not the destination” should be your new personal credo. Because you will be driving through some amazingly beautiful sights on your long-ass bus drive. And the bus station waiting room is a weirdly perfect place to people watch or exchange experiences with fellow travelers.

10/ Discover YOUR highlights

Be it through recommendations or by accidentally stumbling upon them: you are sure to discover some unforgettable experiences and wonderful spots in Cuba. A sample of our favorites? Sipping a de-li-cious Mojito at El Dandy and tasting the wonderful food in the vintage ambiance of La Lamparilla. A ride across the city in an old 50ies convertible. Discovering the beautiful Vinales greenery on horseback and rewarding ourselves with tapas at the 3J Bar afterwards. Wandering the “photographic tour” of Trinidad (thank you, Lonely Planet!), having drinks on Plaza Major’s rickety stairs and shaking our booty at Disco Ayala (also known as “The cave”) in Trinidad.

Hasta Luego :)

<3 C.

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I think it’s fair to say this week was a dark one for our little country. I feel shocked, scared, sad and a little numb. But most of all, I feel this burning need not to let them win. Let them scare us into changing the way we think, the way we act, the way we live our lives. So I’ll allow myself to feel shocked, scared and sad. Just for a little while. And then I’ll pick myself right up again. And celebrate the good in this strange and harsh world. Because if there is ever a time to cherish the little things and enjoy every minute spent with the people you love, it’s now.

So I hope you’ll be spending your Easter weekend doing exactly that. I know I will be. Beside some family quality time, consider having some Easter fun with your girls. After all, they add so much sunshine to your life, don’t they. A small tip for extra fun: surprise each other with little Easter gifts, to celebrate your friendship. Because who said Christmas was the only holiday for giving gifts? Your girls deserve a treat!

I personally had a little pre-Easter brunch with  lovely ladies Petra, Liesbeth, Jessie and Hanne last week. Yummy food, inspiring chats, girly gifts and lots of laughs: it was such a positive energy boost! Exactly what the doctor ordered to fight the darkness that was this week. Fun fact: a bunch of digital girls together means not having to feel bad about taking ages to photograph/snap/instagram your meal before anyone can take a bite. Love these girls!

Happy Easter darlings
Lots of Love ❤️ C.

PS: Yup, couldn’t help but adding a little new-job-goodies to the brunch table… Still riding that new-job-high!

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So here we are again. I can’t believe it’s been over 15 months since I wrote this post. And now, I’m getting ready to start a new adventure all over again. No big changes in my personal life this time (except for saying goodbye to 20 cms of my hair that is: hello, bob cut!), but an exciting new professional chapter.

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Logically, starting a new chapter means ending another one. Saying goodbye to a story I helped become what it is today, a team I love to pieces, a company that offered me amazing opportunities and a job through which I learned so much. It wasn’t an easy decision, I can tell you that much. But sometimes, you need to have the b*lls to do what’s right for you. To make a change you believe will improve your life. Yes, change can be scary as hell. But I still aim to live by the credo that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. So here I am, taking a leap right out of that zone again.

Being the goal getter that I am (no shame, #girlbosses!), my job has always been an important part of my life, my feeling of personal identity. Combining this ambition with my love for my family and my hometown logically meant a commute to where the exciting opportunities were. Never willing to compromise on building my career and doing what I love, I reconciled myself to the daily commute. But it became harder and harder (also: longer and longer… what’s up with that, Belgian traffic?) Up to a point where I was tired, grumpy and fed up on a daily basis. I just knew I had to make a change. This was not the person I wanted to be, the life I wanted to lead. And I swear, sometimes it seems like the universe hears you. Really hears you. Unicorns, rainbows, wishing on stars and all of that stuff. Well hello there, dream job right in my back yard!

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Starting tomorrow, I’m taking on a brand new challenge as Digital Innovator at Alpro. As you can imagine, I’m totally thrilled to get started. This last week I took a little breather in between chapters, to take stock and get fully focused on this new adventure (the plan was to do nothing but what’s written on my sweater, but I should have known that was wishful thinking…) But playtime is over! And yes: there is definitely a certain first-day-of-school vibe going on here today :)

Wish me luck! ^^
<3 C.

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Wasn’t spring supposed to start yesterday? I’m pretty sure the Belgian weather gods missed that memo… Enough with winter already. I’m over it! After months of coats and jumpers, I’m really looking forward to those first bare-legs-days… So in the spirit of both anticipation (bring on the skirts!) and nostalgia (bring back those sunny African days!), I wanted to share this simple look I wore on a beautiful night out at the Waterfront in Cape Town.

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After weeks of shorts, tees and messy hair, it was fun to get a little dolled up! Apart from my good old All Stars I actually got all items in this look on African soil. The hat at the brand new H&M in Waterfront (with an H&M ambassador like Katrien in your travel party, you just have to check out this hot new store ;) ), the bracelets at a Pad Stal on our way to Port Elizabeth and the dress at Mungo & Jemima, one of our discoveries on the corner of Long street and Church street.

In hindsight, it actually isn’t surprising that we stumbled upon a cluster of dreamy shops, all offering pretty pretty pieces from local designers, in that exact location. It appears Long street is considered to be Cape Town’s creative spine, attracting both established and emerging local designers with its urban energy. A true Walhalla for every visiting fashionista!

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My personal Long Street top three:

1. Mungo and Jemima, the brainchild of Kirsty Bannerman and Marian Park-Ross. It instantly caught our eye and delighted us from the moment we stepped over its threshold, to when we stepped back out into the African sun. This cute, colorful little store offers handmade basics from local designers, including dresses, skirts, jewelry and accessories, all in happy colors, pretty prints and/or simple, flattering cuts. The girl behind the counter was super friendly and helpful, and we basically spent a fun, enjoyable moment in this hotspot (resulting in the purchase of this black baby doll style dress, which I still adore! <3).

2. WAG, the design hotspot of fashion entrepreneur Shery Bakos, where the racks are filled with unique pieces designed by herself or other local designers. Walking into this vibrant space is an instant mood booster! Between the friendly, enthusiastic reception and the happy colors, original cuts and bold prints you find yourself surrounded with, how could you not have a smile on your face… Moreover: your attention is immediately drawn to the atelier at the back of the store, where Shery and her team create custom-made designs, do alterations and give fashion training courses (Shery is known to mentor young local designers <3). It really adds to the atmosphere of creativity and authenticity. Can you tell we were totally charmed? :)

3. Me Me Me. A warm South African welcome, a counter full of  beautiful accessories (both bold African style and fine, minimalistic jewelry) and a mix of feminine, romantic, simplified and nostalgic designs with a twist. What’s not to love, right? Even though the clothes were a little too out there for my humble Belgian taste (we can be such bores, can’t we…), I did treat myself to a minimalistic geometric ring, which I’ve been wearing almost non-stop ever since.

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Intrigued by this love song for South African design? Both Mungo and Jemima and Me Me Me have a webshop! They don’t usually ship outside South Africa, but if you send them an e-mail, they can let you know how much shipping to your country would cost. Worth a try, if you ask me ^^

Finally, on a totally unrelated note: this will be the last post featuring my long locks! Had quite a drastic cut last week… But more on that (and changes that actually matter ;) ) later!

Love <3

C.

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Sources:

Cape Town Magazine

SouthAfrica.net

So I’ve taken a page out of my dear friend Mara’s book and decided to scale down the shopping this year. Goodbye impulsive fast fashion, hello thought-out or head-over-heels purchases. Easier said than done, I give you that. But it’s worth a try, right? Both my wardrobe and my bank account could use the change of pace. So far, I’ve been a pretty good girl, limiting myself to a few winter basics and South Africa “fashion souvenirs” over the last few months. But the arrival of the SS16 collection is dangerous, oh so dangerous… Especially with a few mouthwatering web shops just one click away… So as an alternative version of online retail therapy, I thought I’d “write it off” and share the three webshops which are currently tempting me the most :)
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Fabrikk is the online style spot of Eline, one of my favorite Belgian style bloggers, where she aims to share her imaginary wardrobe. You can buy her favorite pieces of the moment with a very personal service (to which I can personally attest!). Fabrikk’s style is hip and preppy with a dash of sporty, featuring flattering silhouettes, fun quotes, minimalistic jewelry, lots of stripe prints and cozy sweaters. What’s not to love? BTW: there are some crazy sales to score at the moment (including some of the pieces here above), so definitely worth to go and have a look right now. #justsayin
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JUNEs adventure started with a series pop-up stores, organized by creative soul Aude Storckel, where she presented a personal selection of fashion items. While still organizing the pop-ups every other month (there is a spring version coming up very soon by the way!), Aude decided to take the JUNE universe online with her very own e-shop. I was introduced to JUNE by Adrien, Aude’s partner in crime/life and MBP’s kick-ass Art Director. And man, talk about love at first click! JUNE’s style is slightly normcore, combining minimalism and femininity in a strong selection of pretty basics, interspersed with some hot „IT” pieces. (That jumpsuit! <3 *hiding credit card to resist temptation*)
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The third webshop that is seriously tempting me to abandon my resolutions is Charline’s Closet. Charline Vyncke’s virtual closet is filled with girly and colorful pieces at very reasonable prices. While starting off as a purely online endeavour, Charline even took her story offline. In her cute little store in Ghent, she prides herself on an ever-changing offer (new arrivals every two weeks!). Charline’s Closet stands for a happy-go-lucky style, featuring fun quotes, cute prints (serious pineapple game! <3) and a mix of casual and dressy silhouettes.
Happy shopping :)
<3 C.

We crowned our South African adventure with a stay in one of its most brilliant gems: beautiful Cape Town. Like so many before me, I was struck by the city’s dualities and endless facets: concrete giants next to some of nature’s most stunning miracles, a town that’s hip and happening yet very much in touch with its history, open minded but undeniably marked by the ghost of the past, with a touch of Europe alongside deep African roots.

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The highlights

During our first days at the Cape, we visited the beautiful “Victoria & Alfred Waterfront” for some nice dinners and late night shopping sessions, spent a morning at Muizenberg beach, admiring its charming colored little beach houses, headed out to Cape of Good Hope to witness the not-so-southernmost point of the peninsula and went to meet the super cute suited-up inhabitants of Simon’s Town (PINGUIIIIIINS <3).

Later, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset walk on Lion’s head and went on two great daytime (guided) walks, one in the historic center and one in the Malay Quarter, better known as Bo-Kaap. We also set out to sea, towards the impressive Robben Island, and on our very last day we took a detour to Stellenbosch, to visit a craft market/padstal and discover “The World of Strawberries”.

Cape Town Route

the tips

To shop: While wandering the city, we stumbled upon a cluster of super cute stores on the corner of Church Street and Long Street. Mungo and Jemima, which offers a beautiful (and affordable) selection of fresh and wearable pieces from all local designers, Babette Clothing, a vintage wonderland for all you boho lovers, Mememe, the embodiment of African chic, also from local designers, and Ceramic Factory, a little treasure room filled with pretty printed design wannahaves.

To stay: We booked an apartment at the Icon Luxury Apartments and were not disappointed by this choice. Not at all. Standard but not too basic, nice but not too pricey. Quite centrally located and with a kick-ass rooftop swimming pool (believe me, after an afternoon of walking the city under the African sun, you’re gonna want that refreshing dive!)

To eat: For the healthy/yummy hipster experience, one of Cape Town’s food markets is definitely the way to go! We really liked the happy vibes at the V&A Waterfront Food Market and had a top lunch at the Earth Fair Market (which you can find every Thursday at St. Georges Mall).

Should you Belgians be feeling a bit homesick, you can always head over to “Den Anker” at Waterfront, which has some pretty funny African interpretations of Belgian food on its menu. For a “classic” African meal, on the other hand, you should head to Mama Africa in Long street (be sure to book your table in advance, though!)

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To explore: Like many other big cities, Cape Town offers free walking tours, to discover the city guided by a local. We took 2 free tours, one of the historic center, and one of the Malay quarter with its brightly painted houses, also known as Bo-Kaap. We were blessed with a great (albeit slightly sarcastic…) guide: Paul, who told tales of the city’s history with exceptional verve, interlaced with authentic personal anecdotes of growing up under the reign and fall of Apartheid.

To drive: Fancy a scenic road trip? Chapman’s Peak drive, which stretches out from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, is said to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. You shouldn’t always believe what “they” say, but I can personally attest to the marvelousness of its sea view! Extra tip for you fellow lovers of all things yummy: we ended our drive at the lovely Dunes beach bar in Hout bay, with cocktails and ice cream ^^

Mind the fog! A stop at Cape of Good Hope is a definite must for an all-rounded Cape experience. Sure, it’s not really the most southern point of the peninsula, but there’s just something symbolic about it. However: make sure to plan your stop a bit better than we did. We did the Cape point walk when it was covered in fog and even though it’s quite a remarkable feeling to find yourself at the tip of that massive continent, a little glimpse of the outstretched waters at your feet might be a considerable plus :) Same goes for Table Mountain: when it’s not covered in its cloudy table cloth: get your ass up there. You might not get another chance.

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The memories

PINGUINSSSS. Ok, they’re a bit smelly. And funny looking. And they don’t do much more than stand there and soak up the sun. But there so freaking adorable! We obviously went crazy for these suited up inhabitants of Simon’s Town. Btw: on the beach in Simon’s Town you can take a casual dive and swim right beside these black and white cuties. No biggie.

Robben Island Testimonies. On Robben Island, we got a tour around the prison facilities by a former political prisoner. Sure, he might not have been the most eloquent guide we had throughout our trip. But he was definitely the most impressive one. What a strength of character it must take to go back to that place of suffering, to share your stories with future generations, helping ensure history never repeats itself…

Badass grannies. Imagine: you’re sitting on a boat, on your way back from Robben Island. Waves are pretty hefty (yes: you almost fell on your face/in the arms of a friendly sailor). You are surrounded by a group of retired school teachers from Soweto. All of a sudden, one of them starts singing an African folk song. Another one chimes in. And another one. And another one. And all of them! There’s clapping. And chanting. And dancing! A delightfully surreal experience… Gotta love badass old ladies <3

Oom & Tannie <3 Travel memories are made by the people you meet, and we were lucky enough to meet some of South Africa’s finest. Katrien’s Oom & Tannie welcomed us with open arms on our very first day in Pretoria, and waved us goodbye in Cape Town. They introduced us to South African life, the art of Braaj and the beautifully quirky Afrikaans language (Drukkies – hugs – will forever be my favorite word!) Lots of love and baie dankie to these two warm and wonderful peeps!

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  Pics by me, Katrien and Lore

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Even though temperatures suggest otherwise, it has happened: winter has come. Despite being a summer spirit at heart, there are a few things I adore about winter time…

1. Holiday Spirit! I’m such a sucker for the holidays. Christmas movies, trees, jumpers, carols, gifts, markets… you name it, I LOVE it! I’m currently in full Christmas-eve-prep-mode, and might be driving the people around me a little crazy… Oh well :) Can’t wait to gather around the tree with the people I love most and see how they like the presents I got them! (As said here, I get a little gift obsessed). Also: shameless laziness watching Xmas movies with some hot chocolate, beside my pretty pretty tree: YES PLEASE!

2. Sweater weather! If like me, you own quite the collection of sweaters (question: do you really need another grey sweater with print? Answer: ALWAYS YES), you’re kind of looking forward to the days when it gets cold enough to wear them all day every day.

3. Knitting! Granny in training, reporting for duty! A little over a year I’ve been bit by the knitting bug (many a recipient of handmade gifts can attest to my condition). It’s just so relaxing and quite fun to create something soft and cuddly with your own hands. I’ve even added a little crochet to the mix lately! Somehow, this knitting fever is more socially accepted in winter, so hurray for movie/knitting winter nights and knitting coffee dates with like-minded souls!

4. Layers! A warm coat on top of a snuggly sweater over a crisp shirt over a soft top: hello winter uniform! Topping it all off with a giant scarf and a knit hat, of course… Probably not the most sexy look ever (remember the man repeller paradigm…) but who cares, it maks me feel so warm and cosy…

5. Cozy Crafternoons! Nothing like a day where you just don’t want to face the cold outside, to inspire an afternoon of staying in, having a nice hot drink and messing around with everything crafty. Been a while since I got out my scrapbook (yez, I’m a craft nerd), but looking forward to it!

6. Winter food! I’m sorry to break it to you salad/bbq-lovers, but winter food kicks summer food’s ass any day. Tasty roasts, winter veggies, heartwarming oven dishes, cozy soups, Christmas spiced sweets (like these!), and basically everything with hot chocolate. On that note: one of my lovely colleagues treated us to a tartiflette lunch today and it was TO DIE FOR. (All them cheeeeese <3 )

7. Marathons! Obviously I don’t mean the running kind… Personally I’ve been recording every Xmas movie that’s being ran on Belgian tv lately, in preparation of a few days off, where I think I might combine all of the above, with some Xmas movies on the background. However, there might be a few series that demand some serieus benchwatching sessions as well… Decisions! :)

8. Books! Granted, my favorite place to read a book is on a lounging chair in the sun… But a cold afternoon spent bundled up inside catching up on my reading (cause who has the time for it throughout the year :( ) must be a close second! Perfect formula for some quiet time after the hectic holiday period.

9. Cuddles! There is something about cold weather that makes me feel even cuddlier than usual (yes darling, even more :p ) Snuggled up on the couch (damn, I’m sensing a couch-theme in this post…) with your favorite blanket/cat/lover (whatever floats your boat ;) ), it’s just the best way to get warm on cold days. (See, I’m not cheesy, it’s just very practical!)

10. Winter Wonderland! They are pretty rare in our little country, but I have to admit: there is something magical about those sparse mornings when you look out of your window and everything is white and untouched… Provided you don’t have to get in your car and drive through this wonderland that is, obvs.

11. Rosy cheeks! You know that feeling, when you’ve been on a long walk in the cold and your cheeks get all tingly and rosy? <3!

Keep warm and enjoy these merry days!

<3 C.

photo-1421986527537-888d998adb74by Morgan Sessions

Pics by Padurariu Alexandru & Morgan Sessions

It’s that time of year again! Time to fill the space below that pretty tree with pretty gifts for all your pretty peeps! Personally, I get a little gift-obsessed every December (ok: even earlier in the year..), I just love that quest for the perfect gift for all of my favorite people! <3 However, I don’t necessarily feel like leaving the house for that quest… It’s so warm and cozy inside! There’s twinkly lights! And Christmas sweaters! And hot chocolate! Anyway: if, like me, you prefer to score those awesome Christmas presents from the cozy comfort of your own couch, here are 10 great gifts you don’t have to leave the house for:online christmas shopping cropped



1.For your best friend: nothing is as good a gift as those fun/beautiful/sad/silly moments you share together. But a little Instagram photo booklet of those moments might just be the next best thing ;) I had one printed at Hema a little while ago and was really happy with the result!

2. For that lovely crazy cat lady: we all have at least one of them in our friend/family circle, don’t we? You just know that nothing will make her happier than goodies picturing her furry little friends (except for an actual cat that is, obvs). One of my favorite crazy cat ladies introduced me to the brand cat vs human, and I’m sure they will have the purrrfect gift for any of your feline-loving friends!

3. For your favorite happy crazy girl: if she has the right brand of craziness, she will surely LOVE the designs of Eva Mouton! Head over to Eva’s webshop and assemble a fun package, especially selected for this special girl! (Tote bag: Yes! Pins: yes!! Nail tattoos yes!!! Neuters gonna neut print: YEZZ!!!)

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4.For every girly girl:  As a true girly girl, I do indulge in a little beauty splurge from time to time. I have to say: the best beauty investment I ever made was my Urban Decay Naked3 palette. At the time, I still had to get it abroad (thanks again for bringing it Kattebel <3) but today you can also get it in Belgium, hurray! Even better: you can order it online via ici Paris XL: double hurray! Easy success-proof gift for every girly girl: check!

 5. For your bon vivant dad/uncle/brother: not always easy to find this one an original present, is it? Basically he just wants to enjoy the good things in life, and those aren’t that easily wrapped… However, I recently got one of my favorite bon vivants Luc Hoornaert’s “Must Eat”, a beautiful book full of original resto addresses, all selected because of their originality and focus on a “house specialty” (their “must eat” :p ), and it was a big hit!

6. For your sweetest softie: why not reward her softness with even more softness? Whether it’s your mom, grandma, sister, girlfriend or best friend: get this softie wrapped in the dreamy cloud that is an EllePaca scarf. My favorite? The Nightingale! In minty fairy, of course (of only because that color name is just the sweetest ever).

7. For your digitally savvy little brother/sister/niece/nephew: I recently got overwhelmed with social ads from Osmo, a game system combining iPad games with hands-on play (this movie explains it better than I ever could) and I have to admit: those sneaky stalkers got to me! My little brother is also part of that iPad-loving-speedily-sweeping generation and I think he would love it!

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8. For the girl who deserves something special: Want to show someone you have been thinking about their gift a little longer than right before Santa’s big night? Nothing screams not-last-minute like a personalized gift! One of my favorites is still personalized jewelry (I am a child of the Carrie Bradshaw generation, after all). Two of my go-to web spots for this: Onecklace (Carrie-style necklaces) and Ijcandie (name-stamp arm candy!)

9.For your amazing crafty friend: Sure, she will most likely get you a totally pinteresty handmade gift (no biggie), but if you’re not feeling too DIY-ish yourself, go for the next best thing: something she can get crafty with! I recently discovered one of my favorite web shops, Wander & Co, offers a selection of super stylish DIY packages, and they seem like a great gift! My personal favorite: this Cactus cushion package!

 10. For your hipster lover: You really want to find something nice for this one, don’t you? Not always easy though! But if he’s a bit of a hipster, a little Komono around his wrist will definitely be a winner! A little arm candy for your eye candy ;)

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Merry shopping!

<3 C.

It takes quite a bit to shut me up. Ask anyone who knows/has met me. But I have to say: nothing like a glance at some of Mother Nature’s miracles, to render even this girl speechless. Those moments you can’t do anything but stare in wonder, and thank the lucky stars that led you to this place, this moment. So if you’d ask me what I did the most while traveling the Garden Route, the answer’s pretty simple. I stared. I marveled. I thanked.

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The highlights

After a stop for lunch and an afternoon lounge on the beach in Jeffrey’s Bay, we headed towards Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, our home base in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park (Waves, rocks & water falls!). Next, we drove further West towards Wilderness National park (kayak!), with a stopover in Knysna for a yummy Cray Fish lunch. Final stop before going down to the Cape: Hermanus, for some epic whale watching!

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the tips

Pad stalls! On the road towards Port Elizabeth, make sure to keep your eyes open for pad stalls beside the road! In these little shops you can find all sorts of pretty/yummy regional and handmade goodies. Guess where 70% of my souvenir gifts came from…

Tasty Table is definitely a solid lunch tip in Jeffrey’s Bay. Fresh yumminess (try the calamari!), beach views (hello pretty surfer boys) and super sweet service.

Surfers (Shopping) Paradise. After you’re fueled up on all that that tastiness, you might want to put that energy to use and visit some of the Jeffrey’s Bay Factory stores. Top surfer brands (O’Neil, Billabong, …) at outlet prices: score!

Kayaking in Wilderness. Wilderness appears to be a stop a lot of SA travelers skip. But if you have the time, definitely consider a detour to this beautiful piece of greenery. And while you’re at it, get yourself a kayak and your ass into that water.

Hermanus Backpacker. This was definitely one of the nicest backpackers we’ve stayed at during our journey. Beautiful pool, cosy rooms, friendly people and a nice braaj dinner. The perfect home base for your whale watching adventures.

Wild pass. If you think of doing several of the San Parks National Parks, consider buying a Wild Card. It will give you unlimited access to the parks at a very reasonable price. (Yups, we were dumb enough to pay for each park separately. But at least you can learn from our mistake ;) )

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The memories

Tsitsikamma Love. One of the most breathtaking sights of our entire trip must be the beautiful waterfall we saw in Tsitsikamma. Talk about a rewarding hike! (Or should I say rock crawl :p ). Overall, Tsitikamma National Park was definitely one of my favorite stops on our trip and one of the first things I would recommend someone to visit in South Africa (after the Bush of course <3). We stayed in the Storms River Mouth Rest Camp, which is built along the Wild Coast, with cozy, comfortable wooden huts looking out on all that rough gorgeousness. We caught some beautiful sunsets and I spent one afternoon just reading on our deck, basking in the soft sun and looking out on the crashing waves. Bliss.

Dassies! These soft and furry cuties were literally ALL around in Tsitsikamma! They’re a little shy but if you’re very very carefull (and have a top notch 200mm lens <3 Katrien) you’ll be able to approach them enough to (figuratively!!) catch them in all their melt-worthy cuteness

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GO Springboks! During our time in South Africa, the Rugby World cup was taking place, and even for a sports-noob like myself, it was hard to not get infected with the „Bokke-fever” In Wilderness we were lucky enough to catch the semi-finals in the company of some lovely South Africans. We got totally into it! (Yes, there was yelling). The fact that the Bokke didn’t win did spoil the fun a little bit (by then we felt like they were „our team”, you know), but we got to meet and chat with some very interesting people, so I guess we did win in some way…

Whale Watching Wonders. The timing of our trip was perfect for whale watching (excellent planning skills, Katrien! <3) and we got so spoiled with sightings! Can you imagine, just having lunch (Sexy Hoender burger x Hermanus brewed beer = yumz), while spotting those magical creatures right from your terrace on the shore! Crazy. On our whale watching boat tour we even came across an albino baby whale. Such a big little miracle!

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 Pics by me, Katrien and Lore

I can’t hide from it any longer. I can’t pretend anymore. It’s there, and I will have to deal with it. Winter really IS coming. I got a bit of an extension on enjoying my Summer wardrobe during our South African days, but this weekend the cold hard Belgian truth really (and quite literally) hit me. However, saying goodbye to colorful dresses and floaty tops means welcoming cosy knits and snuggly sweaters. Silver lining? I think so!

Since I am taking a page out of my dear friend Mara’s book, and trying to cut down on the shopping the following months (year?), I want to be very deliberate about my winter purchases. Nothing like a cold night to do some pre-shopping homework (on my couch, with a warm blanket and some tea, obviously) and assemble my Winter Wish List.

Winter wishlist

The stars of this story: a calf length grey wool coat (got my eye on this Marco Polo one. Pretty hefty price tag though, so saving up a bit, or waiting till I spot a similar, more budget friendly one :) ) and a minty fairy (<3 that color name!) EllePaca Nightingale scarf, to add some happy punch to that grey silhouette

Also starring: a winter version of my beloved Stan Smiths, some cosy cashmere (love the ones & Other Stories has in its winter collection!), a super soft cardigan (this June one is sooooo soft! I touched it, so I’m not making this up ;) ), happy headwear (not sure if I can pull this Esprit one off, but thinking about giving it a try), this burgundy Komono wrist candy and last but not least: a little reminder of summer in my pocket, with this Moonloft phone cover from Wander & Co!

What’s on your Winter Wish List? <3 C.