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Tell Flemish Brabant about your day trip and win holiday vouchers
Daytrips are set to become a big part of the spring and summer, as many would-be travellers have thought twice about booking a holiday abroad. Many Brussels expats who have limited their travels both outside and within Belgium over the last year have ventured into the countryside for the first time.
Among them are Veena and Dorka, who we talk to about their discoveries and who invite you to join them in an initiative by Flemish Brabant. The province that surrounds Brussels is launching a series of monthly surveys to see what people do when they spend a day roaming around outside their own city.
The province is convinced that any study on day trips should incorporate the expat factor. The English-language survey launches this month, and expats are asked to sign up now. Participants fill out a quick survey every month for a year. It’s anonymous, and comes with a shot at winning holiday vouchers worth €150.
The Gaasbeek Castle park and forest are always freely accessible
©Sofie Devalckeneer/ArcheoNet Vlaanderen
Veena Nawle will be taking part in the survey, having had some great times in Flemish Brabant over the past year. From India, she has lived in Brussels for three years and had, she says, “only been to famous places and didn’t know about the hidden gems around me”.
While she knew that Belgium was split into three regions, she didn’t realise that Brussels was completely surrounded by Flemish Brabant. “We always look at our neighbour’s house and don’t know what’s in our own backyard,” she says.
Veena lives in a studio apartment and was really craving some open space last year, once lockdown measures relaxed a little. “History is my favourite subject, and I like castles, but I had never visited one in Europe. So I just googled castles near me, and there it was: Gaasbeek Castle. It has a great history behind it and is in beautiful surroundings. I just loved that place. There are proper hiking and cycling trails, proper signboards, ponds, birds, ducks. It was really just picture perfect.”
Veena is planning to take part in the monthly survey. “There are many places to explore in the Flemish Brabant area, which I am planning to do once corona is over.”
Idyllic walks are just a few kilometres away ©Lander Loeckx/Flemish Brabant
Dorka Demeter feels the same way. Despite being in Brussels for a decade, she was only familiar with a few places. “Before last year, I only went to Leuven and Tienen, to visit friends and family. I seldom ventured into nature or the smaller villages in the region.”
Covid convinced her to look for destinations close to Brussels that she had never seen. “My first discovery was Beersel Castle. That particular trip impressed me so much that an urge was born to discover more. I could hardly believe there was such an impressive sight under my nose for so long and I had never even heard of it!”
She uses Instagram to save photos of beautiful places she would like to visit, and she also got a hold of the booklet Walking in Flemish Brabant, which contains 24 suggested walks using the node-to-node network. “It’s an extremely useful book with fact sheets and a short description for each walk,” explains Dorka. “The more of them I do, the more I want to do!”
With longer days finally upon us, she is looking forward to heading out more often. “The walks in the book are only 30 or 40 minutes away by car, so they are possible to do as after-work walks. I find that particularly useful when one needs a good walk after closing the ‘door' of their home-office.”
Sign up now to take part in Flemish Brabant’s survey
Photos top: ©Lander Loeckx/Flemish Brabant