I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the treesHenry David Thoreau

As much as we loved our stay in the animal kingdom, when it was time to continue our journey we were all excited to stretch our legs. Enough (spotting) excursions on wheels! We got out our hiking boots and hit some of the many beautiful paths, trails and hills this land has to offer. I’m far from the active-Dora-the-explorer type. But you know what? I LOVED it! (Yes, I was almost as surprised as you are). Granted: there were some tomato-faced-out-of-breath moments. Hiking up yet another hill, wondering how the hell I was going to make it to the end of this trail. But the sights. Oh those beautiful sights… They make it all worthwhile. Catching your breath while having it taken away.

On another (yet related) note: don’t expect any outfits from this trip. Besides our days in Cape Town I basically spent three weeks in shorts and T-shirts, with messy hair and no make-up. That felt like vacation all by itself! But all this sartorial practicality aside, my hiking boots did have coral-colored accents. You cannot expect a girly girl to totally dismiss her sensibilities, now can you? :)

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The highlights

After saying goodbye to the bush, we headed towards the Amphitheater area, where we spent a day hiking the Drakensberg and another visiting Lesotho, a teeny tiny country, completely enclosed by South Africa.

After that, we set off towards the coast, which we were to follow for the rest of our journey. First stop: Coffee Bay, perfect home base for a hike along the coastline to the beautiful “Hole in the wall”.

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the tips

The Amfitheater Backpackers Lodge, is definitely a fun location to stay while visiting the Drakensberg area. (From basic camping to en-suite deluxe rooms, whatever floats your boat ;) ). Nice braaj area, beautiful pool and chill jaccuzzi: check! They organize guided tours to different locations, which (if our Lesotho experience was a representative sample) are definitely worth trying!

Lesotho Love. We took the Lesotho tour organized by the backpackers and were fortunate enough to find ourselves with an amazing guide (<3 Sila!), who didn’t only showed us its beautiful landscapes and rock paintings, but introduced us to some local people and told us fascinating stories about both Lesotho and South Africa. Stories are the best kind of history lessons, aren’t they? <3 Nice plus: the backpackers has a collaboration with a local school in Lesotho, which offers a little history lesson and a taste of local cuisine (and the locally brewed “Maluti” beer) for their visitors, in exchange for help buying teaching materials and food for the kids. Top!

Be Sweet! When visiting/walking by the local villages, make sure to stock up on some candy. Something to fill the cute little hands of those cute little ones that will be running up the hills to meet you (I know, SO not good for them, but those happy faces <3)

Friends Café. On our way back from a particularly exerting hike in Coffee Bay, we found safe haven, a yummy lunch and a beautiful view in this lovely place owned by a charming South African-Texan couple. Delicious fresh food, made with <3 It was so yummy we went back for dinner the same night. And we were not disappointed :)

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The memories

Pajama Party. After our days in the bush, as amazing as they were, we have to admit that a night at Aberdeen House ordering in food, lounging on our luscious bed and watching Coach Carter felt like the best pajama party ever.

Back to basics. So we booked this stay in a traditional round hut through Airbnb. Sounds cool, we thought. Because no: we didn’t mind a bit basic, and yes: we definitely wanted to try a unique traditional experience. Ahum. Let’s say our interpretation of a bit basic slightly differed from what we found upon arrival. And that the sanitary traditions were a little more than we bargained for. There was a small “let’s-get-out-of-here-NOW” moment… But we put on our big girl pants and decided to tough it out. We’re badass like that. Ahum. Ok, it really wasn’t THAT bad… You get used to that “solar powered aka plastic bag” shower. Plus: there is something to be said for that wonderful view and the friendly reception <3

Doggie! When leaving for our walk from Coffee Bay to the “Hole in the wall”, this beautiful sheep dog just walked up to us and decided to tag along. She was so sweet! For some mysterious reason she felt called upon to take care of this group of stupid tourists and stayed with us the whole way. Like a real pro, she was running from the head to the tail of the group and back again, all the while fiercely protecting her newfound flock against the “Transkei Big Five” (mostly cows ;) ). We baptized her Doggie and felt like the biggest a*holes in the world when we had to leave her behind to take the bus back :’(

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 Pics by me, Katrien and Lore

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We can all use a little closet cleanse from time to time, now can’t we? Decluttered closet, decluttered life! So when Liesbeth & Jessie, the lovely duo behind the Clean Closet events, contacted me for the third edition of their sale, I thought: “C: Time to get your act together, and the clutter out of that closet!” No sooner said than done, I got myself a spot and immediately dove into my closet to start the selection process. (You know, while I was still in the decisive cleansing spirit, the volume of items selected being directly correlated with that particular state of mind).

I have to say: I was particularly rigorous and some very nice pieces found their way into those “Clean Closet” labeled boxes. If I may say so myself. And no, I will not be opening those boxes again until this weekend. For fear of changing my mind :) Feel like a sneak peek? Here’s a small selection of some of the pieces that are looking for a new home:

So: if you see something you like or just feel like a fun afternoon (because those Clean Closet ladies sure now how to plan a cozy fashionable event with lots of lovely people  <3) – come by this Sunday between 2 and 6 PM for a chat, a drink and a little rummage!

Hope to see you there! <3 C.

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I’m back! Three weeks of wandering from Johannesburg down to Cape Town left me mesmerized, sun burnt and with a full-on country crush. And out of the abundance of the heart… Because boy, does my heart have stories to tell! But instead of writing a novel-sized blogpost with all of the things I want to share, I’d thought I’d break it down and start by the beginning. The first (and if you ask me: most magical) part of our journey: our days in the South African Bush.

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The highlights

We started our bush adventures the moment we drove through the Polaborwa gate into Kruger National Park (and spotted our very first impalas!). And yes: we were very tourist-cheesy about it, playing The Lion King theme song while doing so. (No shame!) We spent our time in this beautiful Park driving around (in the rented 4×4 we lovingly baptized Feisty Fonz <3), peering out of our car windows and trying to spot animals (with every sighting being accompanied by a big STOP scream and a test of dear Fonz’s breaks). The first night we slept in Olifants Restcamp and the next we laid our heads to rest in Lower Sabie Rest Camp. After these days of DIY animal tracking (guided and coached by our very own ranger Katrien <3), we headed to the beautiful nThambo Tree Camp in Klasserie. We took a little detour through the Blyde River Canyon, to check out the “potholes”, admire the three “rondavels“ and gaze out of “God’s window”. 

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Plan ahead! Tempted to try your own Kruger experience? Make sure to book it (WAY) in advance! We started planning our trip about a year beforehand (this was the first thing we booked) and even then we snatched some of the last lodges in our preferred rest camps. Do splurge just a little: the bit extra you pay for a lodge with a view is REALLY worth it!

Find your perfect game combo. We found that the combination of the “DIY” stay in Kruger Park and the more “guided” days in nThambo was a perfect cocktail. You have your first “bush discoveries” at your own pace, trying your hand at tracking and spotting the animals yourself, after which your wildlife experience gets kicked into a higher gear with the help of experienced trackers and rangers. And yes: you’re more likely to spot those Big 5 with their guidance :)

The Bush Pub and Inn, where we stayed for a night between Kruger and nThambo. We had some difficulty finding the place (as it is located at the crossing of 3 private parks, so rather deep into the bush) but were delighted with the friendly reception. We originally booked a backpackers room, but they were nice enough to upgrade us to one of the Inn rooms, score! The place has a really chill atmosphere and very cozy rooms.

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The memories

Bad Baboon Behavior. We had rather comical (but also a tiny bit scary) experience in Lower Sabie, where a Baboon stole our breakfast rusks (South African specialty! Look it up :) ). Smart little bastards…

(Bogus) Ranger stories. In the Bush Pub we ended up having some drinks with 2 rangers, who told us fascinating tales about their days dedicated to wildlife…and about all the bogus stories and nature facts they make particularly annoying tourists believe :) (Oh yes, giraffes’ necks are this long because they sleep with their heads stuck between two high branches…)

Sweet Savannah. NThambo’s domesticated African Wild Cat honored me with her friendship and cuddles one day after morning drive. I was assured “she does not do that with everyone” and felt very privileged!

nThambo Love. To me, our stay in this Tree Camp was nothing short of amazing. Contrary to the rest camps in Kruger, nThambo is not fenced, so you sleep in pile huts smack in the middle of animal kingdom. Granted: I was a tiny bit chicken-shit. But what an experience! On the game drives we got to see the animals from (really!) up close. (Definitely NOT DIY, and only possible when accompanied by a trained ranger). Again: a bit chicken shit. But wow. I mean WOW. I started this trip with an open mind, curious about how the experience would affect me. Witnessing the wildlife in this way (especially all the baby animals we were lucky enough to see): the awe… Oh, and sipping GT’s and watching the sunset in the heart of the bush (while stretching our legs in the middle of a night game drive), wasn’t bad either :)

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Pics by me, Katrien and Lore

It might be a tad quiet here over the next few weeks! Heading for an African adventure with a few of my all-time favorite peeps <3 I can’t believe after all these months of planning and counting down, the moment is finally here… So psyched I can’t even. You know, that so-excited-you-can’t-sleep-eat-think pre-travel state of mind? Yup: that’s where I’m at! Might be doing some gramming from the road if I get the chance, so keep an eye on my IG account if you’d like the occasional update ;)

Anyway, time to stuff some last items in my suitcase and say goodbye to my little Nalu… (A big shout-out to one very special friend who is coming to stay with her while I’m away!)

Sien jou later! <3 C.

person-beach-holiday-vacation-large by Ed Gregory

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So yes, I’m a girly girl. I have a love affair with dresses, love me some pastels and created quite the girly happy place for myself. But don’t be fooled :) As the only girl amidst a band of brothers, I’m not averse to stepping out of my girly zone. You’ll never hear me refer to myself as a tom boy (cause let’s face it, I’d be lying), but I do love a look with a dash of androgyny. Somehow, when you’re dressed comme les garçons, you feel even more aware of the feminine fire within. Those fiery red lips help, of course ;)

Fitting with the lovely days of Indian Summer we’ve had these past weeks, one last bright colored look before switching to an Autumn color palette? I got this color blocked top at a ZOOT sale a few months ago and even though I was a bit hesitant before buying it (it’s not the most flattering model ever for the feminine form..) I’m so glad I caved because it has turned out to be one of my go-to pieces these last few months. Light, comfortable and super easy to style (I feel that it’s enough of a statement on its own, and doesn’t need much to create an outfit). And what can I say: its bold brightness just lifts my mood :)  Nothing beats a happy look!

Happy Days! <3 C.

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French Connection top – Vintage blazer – American Eagle jeans – Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers

Pics by Mara

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Nothing like a little getaway to recharge that mental battery, am I right? We kicked off September with a week of wandering the Dalmatian Coast, and it was just what the doctor ordered! Besides the obvious joys of traveling, discovering new places and experiencing new things, it’s the little things which I secretly look forward to just as much and which trigger that state of total holiday bliss…

Reading Reading Reading! Yup, I’m a closet bookworm! My everyday routine rarely allows me time to read as much as I would want to. So selecting which books to pack and stretching out in the sun with a good read is one of my favorite parts of going on holiday. In the relaxed holiday state of mind I also feel like I’m more receptive for what’s written between the lines, more inclined to think about what a story really means. I usually end up with a book that will forever be the symbol of that specific holiday, one storyline that lingers in my mind. This year, that title definitely goes to the tragically beautiful “All the lights we cannot see

Disconnecting. As a natural part of my digital job, I’m ALWAYS connected. Yes, a slight social media addiction might play a role here to :) Taking a break from all of this is an important part of really getting into the chill-vacation-spirit. Granted, the social media disconnect is often largely due to a lack of mobile data abroad, rather than an actual choice… But it’s the result that counts, right? :)

Contemplating the big and little things. Disconnecting from both your real and virtual life opens up quite a bit of space to let your mind wander, now doesn’t it? After a few hectic months it feels so wonderfully luxurious to just gaze at a beautiful view and take stock. It tends to clarify what matters most, and energize for challenges ahead.

Getting inspired. When you give your mind the room to wander, it might end up in magical places. Nothing like a relaxed and open mind in a stimulating environment to get those creative juices flowing. I often return from holiday with plenty of new ideas, plans and stories in my luggage.

Enjoying the moment. You don’t need to be any specific place at any specific time. Just enjoy where you are and what you are doing there. Cherishing that moment while it lasts = total bliss.

Enjoying the company. Whether you’re traveling with friends or that special someone, I love how holidays give you the opportunity to really spend time together. To talk about everything and nothing. To discover that little thing you never knew about each other.

What could I find on your holiday bliss list?

<3 C.

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Tondelier20150517_083The Man Repeller. My fellow fans of the fashion blogosphere will probably be familiar with this concept, conceived by the wonderfully witty Leandra Medine, founder of the Man Repeller blog. On this “humorous website for serious fashion” (seriously, you must check it out, the writing is so clever and snappy, I love it!), she describes it as follows:

man·re·pell·er1 [mahn-ree-peller]

–noun

she who outfits herself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex.

I’ve always felt like there are definitely trends and styles that are strictly “a girls thing” (or even a “fashion girls thing”). Outfits we put on to please no one but ourself or our fellow girls, because we just know most guys will hate them (or just don’t get them, you know ;) ) So when I stumbled upon this blog in one of my online wanderings I was like YES! THIS GIRL GETS IT!

Meanwhile, the term has become somewhat of a common phrase amongst me and my girlfriends. When out shopping or giving each other outfit advice something in the sense of “Love it! A bit man repeller though” is standard conversation. (I realize we’re not using the term 100% accurately – more as an adjective than a noun – but I’m sure Leandra won’t mind).

Now: which pieces or styles, you ask, are commonly known to deserve this title? A little field research amongst my girls (and some of our boys – thanks for the input guys!) resulted in the following (probably non-exhaustive) list of garments which will most likely inspire a degree of aversion in the male specimen:

Dungarees / Platform shoes / Boyfriend jeans / Harem pants / Wool sweaters / Floral prints / Maxi skirts / Retro patterns / Ballerina flats / Flared pants / Christmas jumpers / Everything oversized or baggy

As a true #girlboss evangelist I’m all for dressing for nobody but yourself. Who cares what any guy, even your significant other, thinks? As long as you feel great wearing it, nothing else really matters. But you know what? If you feel like wearing something you know he’ll love, that’s perfectly fine to. There is no shame in wanting to dress up for your man every once in a while (and feeling hot as hell doing so). There is girl power in that to, isn’t there? Whatever makes you feel confident and beautiful. That being said, if he’s the right kinda guy, you’ll sweep him of his feet wearing your most man-repelling look. (Oh yes, we’ve been known to put a guy to the dungaree-test on early dates). Something about the book and its cover, right? ;)

<3 C.

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Lee dungarees – Zara top  – Nike Sneakers

Summer sure is flying by! Luckily I still have some exciting travel plans (with a few of my favorite peeps <3) to look forward to ^^ In case you are considering a little weekend getaway of your own, but haven’t fixed on a destination yet: Paris is ALWAYS a good idea ;) Visiting this beautiful city with a “first timer” a little while ago, it got me thinking about what my all-time favorites in the City of Lights are. So if you would ask me what you should do to experience “my Paris”, here’s what I would say:

1. Have breakfast or brunch at a classic Parisian bistro. Make sure to start your days in beauty! And who doesn’t love a little croissant-café au lait combo? Yes please!

2. Rent a Velib bike and drive along the Seine. I’ll be the last to suggest a full-blown tourist style trip to Paris, even if you’re a first-timer, but  you might want a little culture to feed your soul, now don’t you? Especially in summer, a bike ride along the water is the perfect way to get your quick tourist fix. Start at the Eiffel tower and pedal on merrily, past the Grand Palais, Les Invalides, Musée D’Orsay, the Louvres, across Ile de la cite (Hello Notre Dame!), right up to Ile Saint Louis.

3. Have lunch at “Le Marché des Enfants Rouges”. All this sightseeing gets a girl hungry! Why don’t you cross that stately river and head to the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest market in the city? I adore this roofed-in food Walhalla’s relaxed boho atmosphere and think you might too!

4.Get lost in the streets of Le Marais. The little cobblestoned streets of this historic yet so contemporary area are crammed with art galleries, cute little bistros, cozy coffee houses and pretty boutiques. Coming from the  Marché des Enfants rouges (because I just know you’ll follow this list religiously ;) ), you might want to stop by Merci first, and also foresee a quick touristy stop at the beautiful Place des Vosges, before starting your leisurely stroll in the neighborhood between Place des Vosges & Rue du Temple. Oh and if you’re up for some vintage shopping, you can find my favorite spots in Le Marais here.

5. Wander or lounge along Canal St Martin. While Le Marais is probably my favorite Parisian neighborhood, this one is definitely a close second. Not a classic tourist destination just yet, the area around this 4 km canal still has an authentic feel about it. Beautiful views, colorful people and interesting little shops (for all you lovers of books and all things creative, definitely stop by Artazart). If you find yourself in the area in the late afternoon/early evening: the perfect place for a casual aperitif on the edge of the canal.

6. Take a breath at Jardin Catherine-Labouré. Paris is a voluptuously vibrant city, but sure can get hectic at times. Hidden behind thick walls in the heart of the 7th arrondissement (29 Rue de Babylone, to be precise) lies this little green gem. Nothing spectacular really, but just a beautiful “secret garden” you can flee to for a nice quiet moment.

7. Snoop for vintage treasures at Les Puces. A Parisian Sunday classic: a trip across the northern Périphérique to visit the Saint Ouen Flea market aka Les Puces! This vintage wonderland is Paris’ most famous flea market and hosts 15 different markets, each with their own story and characteristic atmosphere. Don’t expect to score great bargains here (these guys know what their goods are worth) but the atmosphere and treasures on display alone are worth the trip.

Bon voyage! <3 C.

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Every reason for a trip to Pars is a good one in my book. Even no reason at all :) I guess the growing size of that “Paris” tag on this blog’s sidebar (yes, feel free to have a look at that tag cloud to see what else has been on my blogger’s mind ;) ) is undeniable proof of my weak spot for this beautiful city. This weekend I had the pleasure of introducing someone to it for the very first time. Oh the joy of seeing the City of Lights through a newbie’s eyes… But also: dilemmas!  So little time, so much to see and share… It really made me consider what my all-time- Paris-must-sees are. I have a feeling a future blogpost might be in order here ;)

But anyway: since a first time visit inevitably entails some touristy activities, I thought I’d dress the part (no halfway measures for this girl!). Nothing screams tourist like a good tropical print (for me personally, the word tourist always invokes this image of a skinny, sun-burned Englishman with Hawai print shorts…), so this happy comfy palm tree number was a no-brainer. The fact that it’s by la petite française is just one of life’s perfect coincidences. Topped off with a sturdy pair of sneakers (yes, like so many before me – and half of Le Marais it seems – I caved for a pair of Stan Smiths. Not very original but what can I say: they were too pretty to resist…) and some light layers, and I was set to hit the town, tourist style.

Happy tourist tip: the Velolib bikes are a perfect (and budget friendly!) way to get around the city, especially if you want to hit several neighborhoods in a day, and admire the beautiful sights along the way. Biking through those pretty streets or along the Seine: <3 it!

Bisous! C.

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Kiomi shirt – H&M jacket – la petite française pants –Addidas Stan Smith sneakers – Suiteblanco Bag – Paul Frank glasses

Nothing like a good glass of wine to wind down after a hectic day, am I right? Are you a lover of the best grapes have to offer, cozy hangouts and most of all: beautiful projects by kick-ass #girlbosses? (Check, check and CHECK!) Then I have just the thing for you: meet Ona: the girl and the bar :)

The Girl

There are certain people in life you cannot help but instantly like, gravitate towards. This girl is definitely one of them. I guess it might be a charisma thing. But most likely it’s an Ona thing. A 26 year old lover of life, music and all things yummy, Ona radiates the kind of positive energy that can instantly boost anyone’s mood. Ona according to her friends? Warm, passionate and energetic (tx for the intel Lore Maene ;)  <3). Seems about right to me! Fun fact: she also has been playing basketball for over 15 years. A driver on the court as much as in life ;)

Graduated in the field of communications, Ona has always had a soft spot for the hospitality industry. After running a coffee bar for about a year, she tried her hand at a more “classic” office job, with the idea of putting her degree to use. But as much as she liked the people she worked with, she realized this was not her passion.

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The Story

“I started to think about what I really wanted: what do I like to do, what am I good at? I had all this energy and was looking for a challenge, somewhere to channel it into. It was pretty simple really: what I am most passionate about is enjoying food, wine and the good things life has to offer.” So why not share this passion with the world? And more specifically: our beautiful city of Ghent?

Granted: Ghent already has a lot of nice places to hang out and enjoy a drink. But I felt like there was still something missing. You either find those really hip “hotspots”, where everything feels almost too well thought out, too spick-and-span, or the classic, more rugged pub. I was missing a cozy middle ground here.”

Moreover, much like yours truly, Ona loves to enjoy a good glass of wine when going out. Sadly, a lot of the places we like to hang out at serve horrible wine. That’s how the first inkling of an idea took root. Ona enrolled in a sommelier course, to gain more insight into this drink she was so passionate about. “The more I learned about it, the more disappointed I was with the offer in a lot of bars. I really felt like there was something there. An opportunity. To offer a good glass of wine at a reasonable price, in a nice environment. I’ve been playing with the idea for over a year, developing the concept so once the right time, the right opportunity, came along, I would be ready to grasp it with both hands.”

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The Bar

And that time is very much now! This weekend, Ona is opening the doors of her very own wine bar ONA, which will be marked with her name as well as her distinctive personal touch. The main goal of ONA is to offer a good, affordable and honest glass of wine to anyone who feels like it. No matter whether you’re a connoisseur or an amateur, ONA invites you to discover and enjoy. “It’s important to me to offer a good range of wines by the glass: I’m starting off with 8 whites and 8 reds. Rather ambitious but I really hope I can keep it up, so people can come and try out different things.”  

Sustainability and proximity are a big part of what Ona wants to bring. She chose her assortment very carefully, only selecting sustainable growers from within Europe, preferably from small vineyards.  80% stems from bio production. Wines that each have their own identity, their own story. “I really want to go back to the roots of the product. To quality and the way good wine has been made for ages. There is so much heritage and quality close by, why look any further?”

This concept of proximity also extends to the rest of ONA’s offering. Because yes: even if you’re not into fermented grapes, you’ll be sure to find something to your liking ;) No big brand soft drinks around, even the mineral water originates from as close as the East of Flanders. In the afternoon, you can stop by for a yummy cup of coffee or tea. Or how about some home-made iced tea and lemonade or a glass of 100% chardonnay grapefruit juice? (the second best thing grapes have to offer ;) ) YUM!

Anyway: ONA is opening this Friday, and will be celebrating all weekend! Hope you’ll be sipping a glass during her opening weekend, I know I will :)

Cheers! C.

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Pictures: Yann Bertrand