BELGIUM: All the Food and a Long Weekend in Ghent

We left a big storm behind us in the UK, power cuts and trees down, (including one of our own, the witches tree, which fell graciously and away from the cars) and took the DFDS ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, making use of the premium lounge service and free pastry joy.

It didn’t feel like it took long, driving from home to Belgium in just a few hours, arriving in the afternoon in Ghent, and checking in at the neoclassical Hotel de Flandre. We were given directions to an annexe building across the street and down the road.

Through an alley, past some long grasses that whispered in the breeze, around the corner and into a lift. Up, and out, past the ironing board, down a corridor, over the door mat and into a tall modern room. Dark grey concrete beamed roof, like a lid on a carton of two humans. Doors banged shut like gun shots, echoed down concrete corridors. No soft edges.

The bathroom was kind of open-plan, with a sliding door, but an open ceiling, it’s walls falling short of the extra metres needed to reach the roof. Good light, beautiful light, and interesting views of the neighbouring apartments. I watched a man tie up a piece of meat and place it on his window ledge.

We took an evening walk, via Frites Atelier (Adam’s overly curious interest in potato products meant it was a must) and ate cherry ice cream as the light fell and the sky turned pink.

In the morning we went on a ‘nibbling tour’. We met our guide, Katelijn De Naeyer, outside the beautifully presented Oude Vismarkt (old fish market).

Bypassing the closed shop of Jean Daskalides, a renowned chocolatier, film maker and gynaecologist, (yes, that’s right) we headed past the castle to meet Hilde Devolder, Chocolatier.

I placed a small chocolate in my mouth. Green tea and cherry blossom. ‘Just let it melt on your tongue’ she said. It tasted like a rose garden and lingered like perfume. We took a tiny bag of tastes away with us for later – ginger, lavender, bier, salted caramel.

On to the confectioners of Temmermar for the famous Cuberdons, or Gentse Neuzen (noses). These ones were not in the traditional cone shape, but formed as little venetian masks. Sweet firm raspberry sugar gum, with gloopy fruit syrup inside. So sweet.

I ate three noses in one day, and I swear I’ll never do that again.

Another stop on the tour was Groot Vleishuis (big meat house) where they only sell produce from the East Flanders area. We tasted young cheese from Hinkelspel (which means hopscotch) Ganda ham (Ganda is the old name for Ghent – or Gent, as it should be) and Advocat in a jar, that you could eat with a spoon, and I did – a tiny silver spoon.

Over the square to the famous Tierenteyn Verlent  mustard shop. A crescent moon sits over the door of the timelessly serene shop . Beautiful stoneware jars line the walls and barrels of mustard sit ready for their contents to be ladled out (you can take your jar back for a refill too).

We wandered the streets with Katelijn, for the two hours of the tour, and then another hour or so as she told us stories of the city. Finally we let her go, up near the three churches (like some kind of middle-age church Manhattan), and carried on our explorations.

Our City Cards included a free boat trip, so we took it. Squished in with strangers, we motored up and down the river. A little girl kicked Adam throughout the trip, and a lady fell and banged her head. I gave her a Savlon wipe for the bleeding bits.

After the excitement we ate €2 chips from an interesting man in a potato filled window. He told us that Simon Calder (renowned travel writer and broadcaster)  had been there and filmed him (and his frites) twice. Adam paid extra for Samurai sauce.

More walking, a bit of resting, and then a wander across town to Cochon de Luxe for one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Eight courses of pure delight – the whole dynamic of exceptional flavours and textures, topped with good humour, was a real joy to experience. Lekker!

 At the end of the meal, tea (or coffee) with petit fours, pretty pink seabuckthorn roses  with vanilla gel, and bullet shaped Russian Roulette chocolates. I could hear the excitement and expectation on the table behind us as they wondered if they’d find the 1 in 100 that contained tabasco!

Cochon de Luxe is the triumph of husband and wife team Tom and Alison, they work, live, and laugh together here. You’ll find my full story on this wonderful dining experience in this Foodie Finds feature over on Surf4.

It was my birthday and they gave me a book on culinary Ghent and a sad little bag of candy (their words, not mine!)

I slept well, dreamt of gold faced piglets and bathrooms with sound proof walls.

On Sunday morning we visited the craft market on Grooten markt (where I stroked a dog with the softest ears, like white velvet clouds) then hung out in Graffiti Street with the Instagrammers and their over the shoulder pout poses, before heading over to Groot Vleeshuis for lunch. I had a Ganda Croquette and Adam had a meatball in in creamy tomato sauce with vegetables. Basically, it was a hot scotch egg and it was excellent.

A mix of desserts, including chocolate icecream, jellies, Geraaedbergse matterntaart (a pie with curds and almond paste) and Aalsterse vlaai, which was like a magical cross between a spiced bread pudding and an Indian barfi sweet. It was amazing. The addition of Guylian chocolates seemed an odd choice but apparently Guylian was the product of Guy and Liliane, husband and wife, before it became a famous brand. Last time I received chocolate seashells was after I helped an old man with his bowels. (If you need that story explaining!)

After lunch we went to the Design Museum, again using our City Cards. The museum is in a fabulous building, a blend of Rococo grandeur and modernist delight.

There was an exhibition about how we see/use animals. Creatures made to Measure.  It was quite incredible, and to be honest, I didn’t realise how much it’d had an impact on me at the time, but I’ve thought about it a lot since.

We listened to a record made from waste blood playing the heartbeat of a cow. It was loud and immersive, shocking and beautiful at the same time.

I learnt how in the 1930s a zoologist injected human female urine into an albino African Clawed Frog and found that if the frog produced eggs within twelve hours or so this was an indicator that the human was pregnant. And that was the beginning of the development of the pill.

Watch this ‘Meet the curator’ video to find out more, it’s worth it.

When people say art and science are two different things they’re missing the point. Everything is about investigation and experimentation.

In the morning we headed to Calais for the ferry. Priority boarding meant we were pretty much first on, so we picked the best spot to enjoy the crossing – front window, squishy sofa.

I know DFDS have put a lot of investment into their food offer (they have a new campaign called Field to Ferry) but I wasn’t expecting lentils, pomegranate seeds and edible flowers! There’s made to order pizza, pasta and salad, and also cake… I can recommend the lemon and poppyseed cake 100%.

Our weekend ended with a tour of the bridge. We enjoyed the views over Dover, the storm clouds rolling, lightening striking down. Then we watched the captain reverse park the boat and went home. 👌

DFDS operates services from Dover to Dunkirk and Dover to Calais, offering up to 54 daily sailings, with prices from £49 each way. All Dover-France ships feature a Premium Lounge, which can be booked for an additional £12 per person each way. Priority boarding is also available from £10 per car each way.

Ghent City Card €30 gets you 48 hours free access to all the sights, monuments and museums in Ghent, public transport and a boat trip.

More information on Ghent:  Visit.Gent.be

With the greatest thanks to DFDS and Visit Flanders for making this trip possible, and to Visit Gent for hosting us in their charming city. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to eat 3 weeks’ worth of food in the space of 3 days, probably something I should keep to myself!)

CAR SHOW: RollHard x Bicester Heritage 2019

I’ve always been more in to race cars over show cars, but I still don’t know how I’d not heard of RollHard.

Branded as the all makes, all models, one community’ event, and celebrating all kinds of custom and enhanced vehicles, RollHard was founded almost 10 years ago when a group of lads who loved cars got together and decided to make something happen.

I’d come across RollHard whilst perusing Larry Chen’s Instagram feed (if you like cars and photography, you’ll want to follow him too) I saw that he was heading to the UK event in August, in a borrowed Rolls Royce Black Badge Dawn, and I thought this seemed like a very good idea and I should do the same, except I turned up in a £150 Golf.

The sun was shining, paintwork glinted.

So many beautiful cars, so many men squatting around the place trying to get that low to the tarmac stanced shot.

The smell of polish and hot pork wafted.

Ice creams, food trucks, aircraft hangars and cars for miles.

I’m probably more used to gaffa tape than I am polished perfection, but I do like the details.

The little things that have been really thought about – original cut keys, the stickers, steering wheels, upholstery and custom additions. Not to mention the spacious engine bays, gleaming turbos and air suspension.

So many cars that I’d like to own, or at least drive, but one that became my favourite, probably swung by the Harris tweed interior.

This little beauty – a 1980 Mk1 Golf GLS in custom paint (based on the original Canyon Red) looking super slick with bronze tinted glass, tweed Porsche 914 seats, widened arches and custom wheels. Just look at that gear knob! The engine has been swapped for a tweaked turbo diesel and boasts 190bhp, which on such a light little car must be pretty joyful to drive!

Alex, the cars parent, (who is also co-founder of The Drivers Collection) bought it as a complete wreck and over the space of 3 years has spent 3500 hours on creating his ultimate Mk1 Golf. It’s an absolute beauty, an obvious labour of love, and has already won around 25 awards since it debuted on the scene just over a year ago.

If you’re in the north of the UK check out Steel City Classics in Sheffield on 08 September if you want to see this Mk1 Golf and other pre-1995 classic cars on show.



Thank you team RollHard for a super day. Please can I show my car next year?

I was a guest of RollHard. I did all my own wishing and pointing  at cars, and as always, my opinions are my own.

Everyday Life: Mrs Pollock & the Dutch Ambassadors Carpet

Het schildpad eeten het boterham.

The more time I spend in the Netherlands, the more I want to learn the language. I am sorry, my Dutch friends, I am trying!

In June I did a mini tour of  Dutch Castles and Country Houses with Visit Holland and DFDS. It was an utterly lovely experience. I learnt so much about the beautiful buildings, ate wonderful meals, saw the most fabulous gardens full of roses, and a dog called Percy tried to put its football in my handbag. Read about it here, you won’t be disappointed!

I’ll be back in The Netherlands again next month for one of the most exciting exhibitions I have ever been lucky enough to curate – STREET / FORM at POW! WOW! Rotterdam, Europe’s leading street art festival. I’ll be spending a couple of weeks in the city and I am really excited about it.

(You can find the STREET / FORM call for entries here, if you’re interested).

I’m also working on an exhibition called HOME, which is a collaboration between Shutter Hub and Gallery at Home in Usk, Wales. (Call for entries, here). We’re raising money for Crisis, Shelter, and Toiletries Amnesty.

Adam and I took part in the annual village yard sale. No one asked for guns this year, but there was an old man with a pro-Trump hat on.

I repotted Mrs Pollock the pelargonium.

I helped judge graduate photography at the Freerange Awards 2019, and Shutter Hub gave prizes to 6 photographers.

I wrote Foodie Finds #19 and #20 for Surf4, ate parma violet flavoured fudge and drank ginger beer.

A lady told me she thought I was very attractive, tall and slim, and about 28 years old. She was also blind. This is not a joke.

I went to the Dutch Ambassador’s residence in London for breakfast (nice carpets). Then I went to Brixton and power chugged hot tea in Van Gogh’s kitchen.

We endured a super hot heatwave day of hell. 38.7°C. The chickens were really sick, we gave them frozen sweetcorn and iced water.

Shutter Hub took an exhibition to Festival Pil’Ours in France. Time to Think includes the work of 145 female photographers from 15 different countries, and a total of 435 images (It runs until 31 August 2019, technically, but the festival organisers have already said they want to extend it).

Jayne and I flew into La Rochelle, picked up a hire car (a Renault Clio with a stoved in door) and took the two hour drive to St Gilles Croix de Vie, stopping for pastries and a packet of mustard and pickle flavoured crisps on the way.

We arrived at our  little seaside chalet. Welcomed by the sea, and a drunk man who wanted Jayne to touch his hair. It did look soft.

Beach front picnic under pink skies. Lapping waves. Sticky sea air.

In the morning we walked to the town, over bridges and through the brocante, for the exhibition launch event. People came from across the region, and beyond – Italy, UK, Ukraine and 14 hours on a bus from Amsterdam. I gave the opening speech, Jayne took photos, I told everyone to eat fish balls. It was fun. There was iced peach tea and a beautiful cat who had a number written in his right ear.

If you want to see lots more photos of the exhibition (and read some lovely words) you can find them all here.


We walked back as the light faded, through the night market, passed the pink neon glow of the fairground. Candy floss, and a massive grey dog that looked like a bear.

A couple of days of sea air and perfect sunsets, interspersed with meetings, project work, and plenty of cheese. Time to think – definitely. 

At home Tutti Biscotti managed to catch two birds in the space of two days. Not bad for a house cat! Kamikaze sparrows were delivering themselves to her through the open windows.

And look! I found my first comb in over two years. #combtheory

Holland: Dutch Castles and Country Houses


Up early, past the Banksy and onto the ferry at Dover before 8am to eat Eggs Benedict off linen-imitating paper placemats in the tranquillity and comfort of the DFDS Premium Lounge. A good way to start the day.

We drove through France and Belgium to the Netherlands, stopping at the motorway services for snacks and 70¢ loo stops (thank you Polly for paying for my pees!) At one place there was a cockerel chilling in the picnic area, so I took a few minutes to share a stroopwafel with him.

When I was invited on a mini tour of Dutch Castles and Country Houses I squealed with joy. You’ll never hear me turn down a nose around someone else’s house.

There was one time where I thought I was being lured into a house by a sturdy old man, but his William Morris wallpaper and spiral staircase won over my fears of being murdered, and it was only when I entered the living room and saw the naked bodies on the tele that I feared I’d been sucked into a pensioners porn den. All was well, he had an amazing collection of art books and it turned out to be an advert for Dove.

Slot Loevestein. First stop. A Medieval castle dating back to 1361, which in the 16th Century, during the Eighty Years’ War, became a State Prison. One of the prisoners was a chap called Hugo Grotius (known to be a founding father of international law) who was given a life sentence (and also allowed to take his wife, children and maid to prison with him). He escaped in a book chest and became the Queen of Sweden’s ambassador to France.

Later additions to the castle in the 1800s included bomb-proof bunkers and military housing. Loevestein’s role as an army stronghold finally came to an end after World War II in 1951.

These days you can explore the castle at ease, stay the night in the Officers house, or rent out a little soldiers’ cottage, have lunch in the Taverne, get a boat to a local restaurant in the evening, see a child’s skeleton in the museum, visit the shop and even get married. All areas covered.


We sat outside in the garrisons’ street, breeze rustling in the trees, sun streaking through the leaves. Cakes with strawberries, and chocolates, and tea in nice packets.

Someone asked, ‘Which are the most popular castles?’ and I couldn’t help but answer, ‘Bouncy’.

Landgoed Hotel Groot Warnsborn for the night, after a wander in the grounds and a four-course dinner. A beautiful ‘18th Century’ mansion set in magical gardens, within an ancient forest. In 1932, after full renovation, the house was opened as a hotel. Anne Frank stayed at Groot Warnsborn in September 1941; they think that was her last holiday.

Throughout World War II the hotel was a recreation resort for German soldiers, but during a party the whole house was burnt to the ground. The orangery, icehouse, and terraced gardens remained, but the house we now see was built in 1952.


Acres and acres of towering trees. Ferns and foxgloves, and beautiful scented roses. Somewhere there were burial mounds and crayfish in freshwater, but it was time for dinner.

Drinks on the terrace, then into the private dining room. The sunlight cast shadows from candelabras. Asparagus amuse bouche. Piglet with sweet onion, citrusy balsamic, crisp brown rice. Venison sausage and mashed potatoes. Beef with white asparagus and green bean puree. Hibiscus, rhubarb, matcha pudding.


Then bedtime, in my very wooden bed. A central wall in the room acted as a divider between the bedroom and the open bathroom. I only learnt that the table moved up and down the bed when I leant on it and it slid away from me. Split-second poltergeist moment there. After all the excitement I slept like a log (must have been all that wood!)


Huis Middachten was a delight to see. A fully working family estate, owned by the 25th Lord of Middachten, Count zu Ortenburg. Above the entrance the coat of arms reads ‘Malo Mori Quam Foedari’ (‘rather death than disgrace’).


Inside, a pair of beautiful wooden staircases swept upwards, luring us to look up at the Italian ceiling and take in its glorious form – like an elaborate blancmange mould. Rooms of traditional furniture, china, panelling and family portraits. Middachten happens to house the largest portrait collection in the Netherlands.

The gardens are very lovely, three centuries worth of design and care, and a dog cemetery. The Cedar of Lebanon, Weeping Chestnut, and male and female Ginkgo Biloba trees are a real treat to see. More roses – beautiful roses (54 varieties), rhododendrons, and so many lily pads on the moat, where frogs chirruped away at maximum volume. (Apparently the head gardener brought the frogs from home as they’d been bothering her husband).

We ate sponge cake with hot tea in the orangery. I got told off by the Count and his dog tried to put its football in my bag. A morning well spent.

Landgoed Hotel Rhederoord for lunch. I felt immediately at home, the hotel was luxuriously serene and welcoming. In the dining room the rain pelted the windows, blurring the view of the trees. We gathered round the long table and ate the best pork belly I’ve ever had, followed by veal and beef with broccoli puree. All absolutely delicious.

We went to one of the balconies and looked across the garden. Beautiful, even in the horizontal rain. Set in 15 acres of park and woodlands, the estate has its own farm and provides fresh vegetables through a Food Bank for 1500 families.

Not only does Rhederoord have an almost totally organic kitchen, but they also produce their own range of products – Water 159, bottled from their own spring (159m below ground), a blonde beer Het Geheim (The Secret) made using their spring water and delicate, smooth and delicious honey.

I definitely intend to go back. Come with me?

Kasteel de Haar is branded as Hollands’ one and only jet-set castle, aside from being the largest castle in the Netherlands, it’s selling point is that Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent used to party here.

As we walked towards the ‘Medieval’ castle I couldn’t believe how immaculate it was, how polished and new it looked, like it was from a film-set, almost Disney. Turns out it was built in 1892. Yes, I could be a detective.

Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijevelt inherited the ruins of De Haar and when he married Hélène de Rothschild they decided to rebuild the castle. It is not known exactly what the original castle looked like (not like this!) but they brought in architect Pierre Cuypers (Rijksmuseum and Central Station Amsterdam) who went at it with elaborate Neogothic aplomb. The family threw in all mod cons (central heating, hot water, and electricity) and the castle became a place to entertain and party, used only one month each year.


240 rooms, huge fake fireplaces, 16th Century tapestries, ornate brass chandeliers, tiles and patterns and wood panelling. And an interesting bathroom with what looks like a cigarette burn on the bathroom scales (I blame Brigitte).

It’s a fascinating display of wealth and workmanship, but give me frayed edges and faded grandeur any day. Or maybe – just give me the garden.


Kasteel Kerckebosch for dinner and sleeping. Both a success.

Owner Ingmar Sloothaak dubbed it the ‘Culinary Castle’ and I like that. Best kind of castle (after ‘bouncy’, of course). Kerckebosch is a lovely building, not overstated, not oversized, just lovely and made up of a mixture of period and reclaimed materials from other buildings including churches, abbeys and castles.


The original owner, Egbert Lintelo de Greer, finished building in 1911, then in 1940 the castle became a hotel. Over time it became less cared for, and in 2015 the main facilities were refurbished and Kerckebosch was reopened, much to everyone’s delight.

Dinner in the orangery – a new addition to the building, and perfectly, simply, in-keeping. The menu was eclectic, something for everyone – lobster rolls, Gado Gado, Rendang, salmon poppadums’, and short rib beef with whiskey cola sorbet. Tasty.


A wonderful evening and a peaceful night’s sleep. I sleep best in castles after big dinners.

In the morning I was ready for croissants and more castles, but it was time to go home already. 48 hours of castles and country houses – not an endurance contest, but, if it was, I think I could be quite successfully placed in the rankings.

Back on the ferry, back to the peace and pastries of the DFDS Premium Lounge. We went up to the bridge, met the captain, watched the waves through the glass floor, asked questions about engines and fuel tank capacity. We looked at the refurbished public areas, the cakes and the healthy lunches, and mostly the carpets.

Always looking for carpets, cats, or combs, sometimes castles, cars and stray croissants.

DFDS operates services from Dover to Dunkirk and Dover to Calais, offering up to 54 daily sailings, with prices from £49 each way. All Dover-France ships feature a Premium Lounge, which can be booked for an additional £12 per person each way. Priority boarding is also available from £10 per car each way.

Slot Loevestein Loevestein 1, Poederoijen 5307 TG Gelderland

Landgoed Hotel Groot Warnsborn Bakenbergseweg 277, 6816 VP Arnhem

Landgoed Huis Middachten Middachten 3, 6994 JC De Steeg, Gelderland

Landgoed Hotel Rhederoord Parkweg 19, 6994 CM De Steeg

Kasteel de Haar Kasteellaan 1, 3455 RR Haarzuilens

Kasteel Kerckebosch Arnhemse Bovenweg 31, 3708 AA Zeist

More information on Dutch castles and country houses: www.holland.com/castles

With the greatest thanks to DFDS anVisit Holland for making this trip possible, and with whom I was a guest. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to lure other peoples dogs, something I might rely on for a future career).

Everyday Life: Interviews & Chocolate Crayons

I should write more often, because when I do, I like it. I like sharing stories – the good, the weird and the wonderful. I love to read back old blog posts. Notes to strangers become notes from my past self, and I am always grateful for them.

So, what can I tell you?

I was interviewed by the marvellous Loupe Magazine. I’ve read the article several times. You can read it too, it’s nice, I think so. (Read it here).

I was interviewed by Judith Weik at the Centre of Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge University, for their blog. (Read it here).

I made a cake that tasted like play doh smells.

Everything I Ever Learnt was a super success. An exhibition of photography at Cambridge University, a collaboration between Shutter Hub and Art at the ARB, that got some great media coverage, was received by its audience with kindness and intrigue, and had a private view that felt more like an exciting reunion of dear friends. It was so good actually, that we organised a closing event– a symposium of talks, print swaps, and an array of biscuits.

I was a guest on a BBC radio arts and culture show. This involved being wedged into a tiny room with four men and a euphonium. (Google euphonium and offer me sympathy and a free hearing test).

Everyone I know went to Japan (well, maybe not everyone).

I wrote Foodie Finds for Surf4, ate cherry cake and drank peach and elderflower iced tea.

Tutti Biscotti turned 12. She’s lived with us for two years now. We didn’t have a party as she doesn’t like a fuss.


I went to the Netherlands and ate chocolate crayons in my favourite hotel in Haarlem.

I gave a talk about photography in the marble-lined chapel of rest of an old pathology laboratory in Amsterdam. Probably one of the best sentences I’ve ever written.

I peered in windows and car-spotted in Rotterdam.

And I stayed in a mouldy hotel hovel in Amsteelveen.

Read the full story and glorious mouldy hovel low down here.

I signed up for the CEO Sleepout, again. Last year was a real experience and it feels important to be reminded. This year I am fundraising for Toiletries Amnesty and would really appreciate your support. Will you join me? If you don’t fancy sleeping outside on a wintery night, maybe you feel like sponsoring me to do it for you?

I’ll just leave my fundraising page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karenharveyok



Welcome to the World of Karen Harvey: photographer, writer, creative consultant… self proclaimed cat whisperer, chicken wrangler and chief cake taster!