The Siren Song of the Sea
July 2021 | Gimber gems
Holidaying close to home has never been as popular as it has been in recent years. And rightly so, because the grey shores of the Low Countries have so much to offer. Which other countries can boast of having a ‘Queen of Seaside Resorts’, complete with its own thriving community of shrimp fishermen and the ‘Venice of the North’ nary a stone’s throw inland? Not to mention the nature reserve we share so convivially with our neighbours to the north. From checking out high rollers in posh Knokke to gawking at bare bums in Bredene, the Belgian coast caters to all tastes. So many tastes, in fact, that deciding what to do here can be a vexing dilemma indeed. Pack some jam sandwiches if you’re headed to the jam-packed Belgian coast, because you’ll need sustenance as you’re navigating its offerings. We made a beeline for the southern stretch of the North Sea coastline to catch some saltwater pearls for you.
Our first stop is clothing boutique Caprice in Sint-Kruis, which has been giving its customers the Cinderella treatment since 2011.
Fashion is in Marylinn Buyck’s blood. “That’s no surprise, really, because my parents ran their own fashion business for 43 years.” The fact that it’s been almost a decade since Marylinn decided to follow in their footsteps still brings her joy on a daily basis.
“I believe that fortune smiles on people who do what makes them happy.”
A quick browse through the racks confirms the truth of that statement. The store is all Italian-sounding names and richly luxurious fabrics that won’t break the bank. New items arrive every week, none of which you’ll find on the high street – only on Marylinn’s Instagram and Facebook pages, where the boutique’s owner presents every item with the same ardour she reserves for helping her customers look their best. Caprice prides itself on its exceptional tailoring.
“For trousers in particular, fit is crucial. Letting a pair settle on your hips? Sure. But any stretching is out of the question. Clothes should make you feel a million dollars!”
But outfits are just part of life’s puzzle. Marylinn firmly believes that we are what we eat, so she puts those million dollars where her mouth is. For years, she’s lived a healthy life and eaten a healthy diet – starting with a shot of GIMBER in the morning. “Served straight, or with some ice-cold water or a splash of juice. A shot of pure positive energy to start my day with.”
“If Caprice were a mocktail, it would be a Pineapple Ginger Sparkler. Sweet and sunny, fresh and feisty!”
More info : https://www.instagram.com/marilynnbuyck/
We’re greeted by a similar sentiment in Blankenberge, albeit with a twist. Because while Joëlle De Bruyne grew up in retail just like Marylinn, she has made a conscious decision to abandon the course her parents and grandparents had charted.
“I closed Scarpo, gutted the place and opened a brand-new concept store in 2018.”
The result is impressive. Escape is all about experience:
The store offers a feelgood world of dreamy escape-ism, a holiday retreat right here at home.
“We love to combine natural materials with pops of colour and plenty of greenery. Which is why we offer an ever-changing lush selection of tropical plants to turn your home into an urban jungle.”
Apart from all that foliage, hand-made design from around the world also graces the shelves, taking you on a trip through different cultures. The store offers an escape from the daily grind by adding an eclectic boho touch to your interior in the blink of an eye.
“We even import flavours from the furthest reaches of the earth. When we developed our concept, we knew we simply had to have a tasting corner – which wouldn’t have been complete without GIMBER. Our customers love the drink, and my boyfriend uses it to concoct the tastiest creations.”
More info : https://escapestore.be/
Home by Lily
Ostend | concept store
There’s never a dull moment at the Belgian coast. But if you find yourself running out of inspiration in spite of everything, your safest bet would be simply to head for the Queen of Seaside Resorts and let the city’s many lovely hotspots surprise you.
No list of hidden gems would be complete without Ostend’s ‘Home by Lily’: a delightful discovery featuring a physical store, an online shop and a holiday rental. Before she knew what was happening, young mum Ellen Distave was co-writing the next chapter in the story.“When I was pregnant with my second child, I realised I wouldn’t be able to commute back and forth to the office all the time anymore. When a couple of friends told me one evening that their ‘Lily’ in Mechelen could use a baby sister, we raised our glasses to the birth of a new partnership there and then. Two months later, I was the proud, self-employed parent of a new business. Baby Sam arrived four months after the birth of his sibling!”
The store is a beauty, with a fresh and joyful feel that is bound to appeal to a wide range of target groups. “I tend to favour sustainable brands with a long-term vision. If they happen to be Belgian as well, I’m sold.” When we ask Ellen to summarise the selection of brands she offers, she answers with a mocktail metaphor: GIMBER with apple juice, sparkling water and a slice of lemon. “Wonderfully refreshing, anything but sickly sweet, and with a fierce fire.”
More info : https://homebylily.be/
Oostduinkerke | Coffee bar
Even during the low season, the Belgian coast is a vibrant destination. While you may associate it with beach towels and melting ice cream, the setting of the summer sun does not silence the siren song of the North Sea. Sure, the punishing power of icy waves might be best left to surfers, but the innate romanticism of stormy shores stirs something in us all. Nothing beats clutching a cup of coffee while staring at the horizon, losing yourself in the selflessness of the sea.
Dorien Lammar agrees: she takes us determinedly by the hand and gives us a tour of Nordsø, her coffee bar in Oostduinkerke.
“The North Sea is and always has been the one for me. When I stumbled across this vacant property, we didn’t have to think twice; we swapped our holiday home for a more permanent place.”
The coffee shop exudes tranquillity, the sort of homely cosiness that warms the heart in winter and brings pleasantly cool relief in summer; a place to escape the madding crowds. Which is precisely what Dorien was aiming for. “Nordsø means ‘North Sea’ in Norwegian. It felt like the perfect combination: the roughness of the sea here and the untamed wilderness of Norway.”
Both the bar’s interior and its menu emanate the kind of purity usually only found in Scandinavia. “Delicious, healthy and simple” is how Dorien puts it.The description applies to both the products she sells and the people that make them. “The story needs to feel right; all of my choices are based on intuition. I enjoy healthy, natural and locally-produced food and drinks. There’s nothing at Nordsø I don’t fully support, as both a retailer and a human being.”
The Scandinavian way of life may be cool and reserved; Dorien’s approach is anything but. She’s passionate and 100% committed to everything she does. “Hot and spicy, kind of like GIMBER. The energy boost I get from GIMBER provides the same kind of kick I get from interacting with my customers.”
More info : https://www.instagram.com/nordso_coffeebar/
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s never a dull moment at the Belgian coast. While this list may feature our choicest coastline picks, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. So let that salty sea breeze entice you away from the beaten path and go explore for yourself. Refreshing mocktail in hand or steaming GIMBER tea in your mug, the message is always the same: dare to live!