Belgium and the Rhine Valley
This tour led by horticulturalist Sandra McMahon is a feast of splendid classic & contemporary private gardens, great museums and natural landscapes of Belgium, Southern Netherlands & the Rhine Valley. See the work of modern European giants of landscape design including Jacques Wirtz, Chris Ghyselen, Cassian Schmidt and Daniël Ost, as well as a new generation of rising stars.

Tour Highlights

•Led by Sandra McMahon and Diane Perelsztejn, this tour is a feast of splendid classic and contemporary private gardens, great museums and natural landscapes of Belgium, Southern Netherlands and the Rhine Valley.
•View the work of leading Flemish designers and horticulturalists including Daniël Ost, Erik Dhont, and Piet Blanckaert.
•By special invitation explore the private gardens of Jacques Wirtz featured in Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens and Marc Moris.
•By special invitation visit Domain Hemelrijk, the former home of Robert and Jelena de Belder who designed their private garden with their close friend, Russell Page.
•Meet landscape architect Chris Ghyselen, known for his use of fine grasses and perennials, who will show us his own private garden.
•Explore classic Dutch country gardens, and designs by Mien Ruys at the 14th-century Kasteel van Oostkerke which features flower-filled gardens, moats and polder meadows.
•Learn about the New German Style: at Hermannshof where Cassian Schmidt has developed one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe; and at HORTVS the garden of Peter Janke, a rising star in German landscape design.
•View the abundant rose collections in the traditional ‘kasteel’ gardens of Hex, and Coloma, the latter containing over 3000 varieties.
•View the great Gothic churches, town halls and merchant palaces of Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.
•In Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges visit world-class collections of paintings, sculptures and drawings; we view works by Peter Paul Rubens, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, Peter Bruegel, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Anthony van Dyck and René Magritte.
•Explore the Art Deco home of David and Alice van Buuren; the private house and studio of Art Nouveau Architect, Victor Horta; and the house and studio of Rubens with a garden inspired by his painting The Walk in the Garden.
•Spend two nights in the charming medieval town of Durbuy; walk through the Forest of the Ardennes, and view ancient dolmens and menhirs in the neighbouring village of Wéris.
•Take a cruise from Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein; this UNESCO World Heritage listed stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is dotted with castles, historic towns and vineyards.
•Enjoy fine food, dining at the 2-star Michelin restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt, in Brussels, after taking the aperitif in its vegetable garden where Erik Dhont combines landscaping with art and the use of abstract forms.

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Belgium and the Rhine Valley

Overnight Antwerp (5 nights) • Bruges (3 nights) • Ghent (2 nights) • Brussels (3 nights) • Durbuy (2 nights) • Maastricht (1 night) • Boppard (2 nights) • Rüdesheim am Rhein (2 nights)


This tour, led by Sandra McMahon, director of Melbourne’s important studio, Gardenscape Design, and multi award-winning Belgian documentary filmmaker Diane Perelsztejn, explores the contemporary renaissance of garden design in Belgium, the Southern Netherlands, and the Rhine Valley. We visit a diversity of private gardens by leading Flemish designers such Jacques Wirtz, Daniël Ost, Erik Dhont, Piet Blanckaert, Marc Moris and Dutch master Mien Ruys, and spend time with landscape architect, Chris Ghyselen, in his private garden noted for its use of fine grasses and perennials. We visit Domain Hemelrijk, the former home of Robert and Jelena de Belder who designed their private garden with their close friend, Russell Page. We learn about the New German Style: at Hermannshof where Cassian Schmidt has developed one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe; and at HORTVS the garden of Peter Janke, a rising star in German landscape design. The Northern Renaissance flowered in the great paintings of Flemish and German artists like Jan van Eyck and Joachim Patinir, who set their figures in wondrous landscapes, paralleling the region’s leadership in Renaissance and Baroque gardening. We explore the emergence of Northern Art in Antwerp’s and Bruges’ fine collections and in masterpieces like Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. We also encounter Peter Paul Rubens’ own studio and garden, and the emergence of Art Nouveau and Surrealism in architectural masterpieces of Victor Horta and René Magritte’s extraordinary paintings. The tour visits grand castles and country houses, wonderful historic towns like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, beautiful medieval villages like Durbuy and fairytale castles perched on mountain tops along the Rhine Valley. We enjoy fine food, dining at the 2-star Michelin restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt, in Brussels, after taking the aperitif in its vegetable garden where Erik Dhont combines landscaping with art and the use of abstract forms. We explore the lovely forest of the Ardennes and end our tour with a cruise down one of the Rhine’s most beautiful stretches, recognised in UNESCO’s World Heritage listing.

Antwerp – 5 nights

Day 1: Wednesday 3 June, Brussels – Antwerp
•Arrival Transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
•Short Orientation

Our tour commences in Antwerp. Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Brussels in the mid-afternoon. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to the Hotel ‘t Sandt in Antwerp. If you are travelling independently, please make your own way to the hotel or contact ASA for assistance with a private transfer.

Time permitting, we will take a short orientation walk around the hotel precinct. (Overnight Antwerp)

Day 2: Thursday 4 June, Antwerp – Berlaar-Gestel – Lier – Antwerp
•‘Morishof’: private garden of Marc Moris, Berlaar-Gestel
•‘t-Kranske’: City garden renovated by Marc Moris, Lier
•Private garden design by Erik Dhont, Lier (to be confirmed)
•Welcome Dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant

“Flanders was once the leading horticultural nation of Europe. In the sixteenth century the Antwerp humanists turned Flanders into a centre of botany. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dozens of fruit varieties were created and the rarest plants grown and improved. But … war and foreign occupation put an end to this thriving garden culture. In recent years we have witnessed a remarkable revival of gardening and beautiful new gardens are now once more [being] created”.

Today we are introduced to the work of two of Belgium’s leading landscape designers, Marc Moris and Erik Dhont. Marc Moris founded Groep Moris in 1986. Considered a master of simplicity, he has acquired a reputation for designing gardens which have an air of maturity. Part of the secret to his success has been his 25ha nursery where he grows solitary trees and large shrubs which are up to 100 years old, and which are allowed to develop as naturally as possible. This makes his plants particularly suitable for the ‘timeless’ gardens which he creates. This morning we visit ‘Morishof’, Marc Moris’ private domain, located in the small picturesque village of Gestel. His 3ha garden includes a vegetable garden, a meadow, natural swimming pool and a flower garden; Gestel itself is surrounded by four castles.

In the nearby town of Lier we visit ‘t-Kranske, a monastic complex restored by Marc Moris. Originally an 18th-century convent, it later became a school which built additional classrooms over the courtyard. As part of his renovation, Marc Moris cleared the courtyard and developed a 6000m2 city garden. Key elements of the original convent including the main chapel were also restored. We shall tour the gardens and visit the flower shop of resident artist Raf Verwimp.

Erik Dhont is an internationally renowned landscape architect. Based in Brussels, his portfolio includes a huge range of projects: private and public gardens, urban developments, farms and restoration work. One of his projects in Lier involved the restoration of an early 19th-century park. Today this private garden, which we hope to visit, includes an extensive collection of shrubs and flowering trees, ancient garden follies and a spectacular walk of cut flowers among flowing box hedges.

Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant located in the medieval quarter of Antwerp. (Overnight Antwerp) BD

Day 3: Friday 5 June, Antwerp – Schoten – Essen – Antwerp
•Private garden of Jacques Wirtz, Schoten – featured in Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens
•Private garden designed by Jacques Wirtz
•Domain De Hemelrijk, Essen
•Museum aan de Stroom (exterior only) and Antwerp’s historic port

This morning we visit the private garden of the late Jacques Wirtz, the world-renowned Belgian landscape architect who, in his innovative gardens, enhanced his sculptural treatment of boxwood and yew hedges by drawing on his deep knowledge of plants and flowers. Wirtz, whose career began when he opened a flower nursery in 1946, would ultimately be compared to André Le Nôtre, the French landscape architect who designed the magnificent gardens of Versailles. His son, Martin, who is now CEO of Wirtz International, has kindly agreed to show us the family’s private garden. Nearby we also visit another private garden designed by his father.

From Schoten we travel north to the small town of Essen located just south of the Netherlands border. After lunch at Restaurant Kiekenhoeve we visit the private arboretum and gardens of De Hemelrijk, home to the De Belder family since 1961. These private gardens were designed by Jelena and Robert De Belder together with their close friend, the internationally renowned garden designer Russell Page, who regularly stayed here. Page’s close association with the De Belders explains the uniqueness of this garden in his oeuvre, for it was not designed as a formal project but rather evolved informally during his sojourns there; often a section to be developed on a particular day would be sketched out roughly at breakfast. The result has been described as ‘a natural looking, idealistic, Arcadian landscape’.

During our return drive to Antwerp we make a short diversion to view the impressive exterior of Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). This extraordinary ultramodern tower, composed of great blocks separated by undulating glass walls, was designed by the acclaimed Rotterdam firm Neutelings-Riedijk Architecten. Across from the MAS is Antwerp’s Port Authority which includes the new Port House designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and the Red Star Line Museum designed by New York architects Beyer Blinder Belle. A short visit to the rooftop of the MAS provides panoramic views of the city and its historic port. (Overnight Antwerp) BL

Day 4: Saturday 6 June, Antwerp
•Rubens’ House
•Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady)
•The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) (subject to reopening in 2020)

This morning we visit the house and studio that the great 17th-century artist, Peter Paul Rubens, built for himself. Rubens was not only a famous painter but also a great humanist and diplomat. Having garnered great wealth, he was able to build this palatial house, living here and working in his adjacent studio. He entertained Europe’s royalty and aristocracy in the house, displaying his impressive art collection in a beautiful art room. We visit the house, the workshop and Rubens’ charming garden inspired by his painting The Walk in the Garden (c. 1631).

We also visit the Cathedral of Our Lady. Four of Rubens’ most important paintings, including the Raising of the Cross and his Descent from the Cross, embellish this vast seven-nave Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the afternoon we visit KMSKA, a world-class museum due to open in 2020 after extensive renovations. The collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings, dating from the 14th to the 20th centuries, includes work by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, and his pupil Anthony van Dyck. (Overnight Antwerp) B

Day 5: Sunday 7 June, Antwerp – Hoeven – Schijf – Vrasene – Antwerp
•Tielens and Tielens, Hoeven
•De Jorissenhoeve, Schijf
•De Wiedenhof, Vrasene

This morning we drive across the border to visit two private Dutch gardens. We first visit the garden of Albert Tielens in Hoeven. Albert is a passionate gardener; his work is characterised by straight lines and circles which are perfectly balanced by sumptuous plantings. Within the garden lies a fifty-metre long swimming pond lined with mixed borders. Avenues of pear, lime and maple trees divide the peaceful lawns, and to the rear of the garden is a vliedberg – an artificial hill surrounded by a canal. Such man-made hills were climbed in order to escape rising flood waters.

In the neighbouring village of Schijf we visit De Jorissenhoeve, an historic 19th-century farmhouse owned by garden designer Ineke Lambregts. This garden ‘flows’ between verdant ‘rooms’: stunning flower court with scented roses, herb garden, heritage vegetable garden, water features, woodland garden, and the pasture where very contented Lakenvelder cows graze.

From Schijf we return to East Flanders to visit De Wiedenhof, the private garden of Leo and Suzanne Laureyns-Wynter. This long, relatively narrow garden (150 x 25m), a brilliant innovation in design, has been laid out by the owners in a most unconventional way. The length of the garden is emphasised by two 90m-long grass strips with superbly maintained pleached hornbeam hedges forming a powerful framework for sumptuous seasonal plantings. In summer we will see roses, iris and many other perennials. (Overnight Antwerp) BL

Bruges – 3 nights

Day 6: Monday 8 June, Antwerp – Oosteekloo – Damme – Sijsele – Bruges
•Bijsterveld, Oosteekloo
•Medieval village of Damme
•Kasteel van Oostkerke, Damme
•Private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, Sijsele

Today we travel to West Flanders, visiting three very different private gardens. Outside the historic village of Oosteekloo lies Bijsterveld, an old walled farm that once belonged to a 14th-century Cistercian Abbey. Its wall, lined with majestic pollarded willows, encloses a 2.5-acre romantic garden originally created by artist Nina Balthau in 1988. A series of hedged enclosures leads to arches which groan under roses, and to meadows that erupt in sheets of wildflowers. A walking path gives access to the lovely old canals which surround the farm. Birgit Rouseré purchased the garden in 2013 and has continued to develop it with the assistance of landscape architect Steven De Bruycker.

From Oosteekloo we journey to the picturesque medieval village of Damme which lies 6kms northeast of Bruges. Before the Zwijn inlet silted, this village served as the customs point and outer port of Bruges and thus enjoyed great importance and prosperity. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the village, which features a magnificent Gothic Town Hall, the impressive Church of Our Lady, and the canals that are lined with magnificent wind-twisted poplars.

Oostkerke Castle in Damme had lain in ruins for hundreds of years before Allison Campbell-Roebling and her husband Baron Joseph Van Der Elst, with the help of the great Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys, restored it to its former glory. Mien Ruys was a specialist in hardy plants; she also had a special feeling for the use of axes and perspectives. The result is an idyllic combination of intimate spaces and grandiose avenues. Separate gardens, including a private courtyard, a Maria garden and a rose garden, combine harmoniously with surrounding polder meadows. Footpaths have been laid out on the foundations of the old ramparts, and the ancient moats have been excavated to form an important section of the current garden. The gardens, which have undergone further restoration under the direction of André Van Wassenhove and Maurice Vergote, are considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens of West Flanders.

Our final visit today is to the private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, an internationally celebrated floral designer. We visit this gentle and welcoming artist in her own idyllic 7500 m2 garden. Here numerous garden ‘rooms’, a huge Wisteria arch, pond and flower borders, harmonize perfectly with the surrounding landscape. At the end of the visit we will be treated to afternoon tea with delicious home-baked waffles.

From the village of Sijsele we continue to Bruges, the capital of West Flanders. One of a few canal-based northern cities, it is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’. The historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Overnight Bruges) B

Day 7: Tuesday 9 June, Bruges
•Private gardens designed by landscape architect Piet Blanckaert
•Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady)
•Saint John’s Hospital & the Hans Memling Museum
•Canal Cruise of Bruges

We spend the morning visiting private gardens designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Piet Blanckaert, who is based in Bruges. His recent projects include the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, which is located at Wellington Barracks adjacent to Buckingham Palace, London.

This afternoon we take a walking tour of Bruges. We begin with a visit to the Church of Our Lady, the interior of which is a treasure house of art. In the choir behind the high altar are the tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Mary. Their gilt bronze full-length effigies lie on polished slabs of black stone. The most celebrated treasure of the church is, however, Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna (1504), a marble sculpture of the Virgin and Child probably originally sculpted for Siena Cathedral.

We next visit the St John’s Hospital Complex, which also includes the small Hans Memling Museum. Hans Memling (1430-1494), who was born in Germany, worked in Bruges from 1465, and was closely associated with the Knights Hospitaller. One of this museum’s greatest treasures is his late masterpiece, The Shrine of St Ursula, a carved and gilded wooden reliquary containing panel inserts painted by the master.

Until around 1600, Bruges was an important Hanseatic League port city linked to the sea by the Zwijn canal. Other canals were dug to facilitate the passage of goods to this canal and thence to its commercial outpost, the aforementioned harbour at Damme. We conclude the afternoon with a short canal cruise. This evening we dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Bruges) BD

Day 8: Wednesday 10 June, Bruges – Oedelem – Beernem – Bruges
•Private garden of André Van Wassenhove, Assebroek
•Private garden of landscape designer, Chris Ghyselen, Oedelem
•‘Boereweg’ in Beernem: Chris Ghyselen’s first garden design
•A new cottage garden, designed by Chris Ghyselen

This morning we visit a private city garden designed by the late André Van Wassenhove, a well-known landscape architect who was based in Bruges. We then travel to the rural municipality of Beernem where we will be joined by Chris Ghyselen who will show us his own private garden. Chris Ghyselen’s parents’ garden was designed by Van Wassenhove, whose use of perennials inspired the young man. After training as a landscape architect, Chris worked with Van Wassenhove for six months before forming his own landscape company in 1984. Known for his use of fine grasses and perennials, Ghyselen enjoys the combination of strong structure, often using hedges, with informal planting. Chris’s 4500m² garden is located on a cliff that extends from Oedelem to Ursel. The presence of clay in combination with compost and sand allows plants to grow very well here. The garden, created in two phases, features playful hedges, water features, and a double border of high and small perennials. There is also a swimming pond and a flower meadow. The use of many grasses provides a perfect transition to the surrounding landscape.

In the afternoon we visit two other gardens by Chris Ghyselen: a new cottage garden, and ‘Boereweg’, Chris’s first design project created over 30 years ago. Owned by Rita and green journalist, Marc Verachtert, an original farmyard and garden were developed into a spacious garden of 8000m². By using low hedges, Chris was able to preserve open character of the farm garden. The house has two terraces: one with a pond, the other with a view of a perennial ‘room’. Various other garden ‘rooms’ contain an orchard, a nut garden with vegetables and cut flowers, and an animal meadow with pollarded willows. (Overnight Bruges) BL

Ghent – 2 nights

Day 9: Thursday 11 June, Bruges – Deinze – Ghent
•Ooidonk Castle
•Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent

Today we depart Bruges and travel to Ghent, the capital of East Flanders. Our journey takes us Ooidonk Castle, near the city of Ghent. The moated castle stands stately, strong and sumptuous, set on a bend of the river Leie. We take a private visit to this medieval fortress, rebuilt in 1595, widely considered as one of Belgium’s finest castles and often called the ‘Chambord of Flanders’. It is a unique example of the Hispanic-Flemish architectural style that emerged during the Renaissance, and is still the living home to Count and Countess Henry t’Kint de Roodenbeke and their three young sons. The salons are filled with original paintings, engravings and antiques including 17th-century cabinets, 18th-century Beauvais tapestries and Delft porcelain.

The castle is surrounded by nearly four acres of magical landscaped gardens in the French style. In the summer, roses adorn the garden beds, supplemented by orange trees. Red beech avenue and age-old oaks are planted together in groups of five. A bridge leads to a formal English park, laid out around a 19th-century pavilion.

This afternoon we visit the monumental masterpiece of Flemish art, the huge 24-panel altarpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in Ghent’s Cathedral of St Bavo. This great work was begun by Hubert van Eyck (c.1390-1426) and completed after his death by Jan van Eyck in 1432. Commissioned for the chapel in which it still stands by a wealthy alderman in 1420, the painting is arguably the greatest work of the Northern Renaissance. It is a triumph of the use of thin oil glazes to bathe scenes in a rich luminous atmosphere and of the naturalism that represented a giant step forward from the rigid style of Gothic religious art. Its vast intricacy is spellbinding. St Bavo’s other treasures include Rubens’s recently restored Conversion of St Bavo (1623) and the magnificent funerary monument of Bishop Anton Triest by François and Hieronymus II du Quesnoy. The Romanesque crypt holds a wealth of religious antiquities, vestments, sculptures, and paintings. (Overnight Ghent) B

Day 10: Friday 12 June, Ghent – Temse – Ghent
•Full day visiting gardens designed by Daniël Ost (to be confirmed)
•De Uil (The Owl), Temse

Daniël Ost began his working life as a florist; he is now celebrated throughout Europe and Japan as the world’s leading floral artist. His company, Gardens Daniel Ost, however, is about much more than floral art: his design team is highly sought after for projects, from roof terraces in Tokyo to public and private gardens all over Europe. Daniël will accompany us (or if unavailable his General Manager) for a full day in Ghent, as we visit four of his gardens, including the garden of Huis De Uil in the Fonteinstraat, the former residence of artist Karel Aubroeck (1894-1986), now the home of interior designer Marc Massa and Roger Liekens. This garden is noted for its beautiful wild shadow garden and a particularly stylized south garden. (Overnight Ghent) B

Brussels – 3 nights

Day 11: Saturday 13 June, Ghent – Gaasbeek – Sint-Pieters-Leeuw – Brussels
•Baljuwshuis, Gaasbeek: Private garden designed by Erik Dhont (to be confirmed)
•Rose Garden of Kasteel Coloma, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw
•Brussels: Orientation Walk

Erik Dhont is internationally renowned for his free and sensitive interpretations of historic garden design. Based in Brussels, he has created a number of spectacular private gardens throughout Belgium and Europe. He has also undertaken numerous large-scale projects including the gardens designed for the Musée Picasso in Paris (2014) and the 55-acre park for fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Outside Brussels, in the town of Gaasbeek, he designed a contemporary maze of hedges and trees to embellish a 17th-century manor house, which we hope to visit.

This afternoon we visit the internationally renowned rose gardens of Kasteel Coloma which contain approximately 3000 varieties of roses and 30,000 rose bushes. Originally built as a fortress in the 16th century, the estate was later transformed into a lusthuis (Flemish country residence). Its gardens are divided into several areas. The first incorporates a traditional geometric structure with varieties of red and white roses planted in designs representing the herarldry of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. The second garden, which offers fine views over Coloma, displays roses cultivated by Flemish horticulturalists. The third rose garden traces the evolution of the rose from the 18th century to the present with roses from all over the world. There is also a Japanese rose garden, an area devoted to 400 long-stemmed rose bushes, and a rose orchard with more than 125 varieties of rambling and climbing roses.

We spend three nights based in a charming boutique hotel in the historic centre of Brussels. On arrival there will be an optional short orientation walk to Brussels’ Grand Place. (Overnight Brussels) B

Day 12: Sunday 14 June, Brussels
•Musée Victor Horta
•The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium: Musée Magritte
•Time at leisure

Brussels was the cradle of Art Nouveau, which spread across the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Julius Norwich has described its Belgian inventor and most famous exponent, Victor Horta, as ‘undoubtedly the key European Art Nouveau architect’. Horta, for example, inspired Hector Guimard, France’s most important exponent of Art Nouveau, who applied Horta’s whiplash design in his work for the Paris Métro.

We first visit the Musée Victor Horta, located in Horta’s private house and studio. Built between 1898 and 1901, the two buildings making up the museum exemplify Art Nouveau at its height. Their utterly exquisite, finely detailed interior decoration has largely been retained, with the mosaics, stained glass, and wall decorations forming a harmonious and elegant whole.

After a coffee break we move to the museum dedicated to Brussels’ most famous modern artist, the Surrealist painter René Magritte. The Musée René Magritte, displaying some 200 original paintings, drawing and sculptures mostly donated by the artist’s wife Georgette and by his principal collector, Irene Hamoir Scutenaire, is the world’s largest collection of his work. We explore all phases of Magritte’s oeuvre, especially that in which incongruous, fantastic subject matter is presented in a style of crisp realism.

The remainder of the day is at leisure. You may wish to continue exploring the wonderful world of Brussels’ Royal art collections. The old masters’ section reflects the vibrant artistic traditions of south Flanders. Artists represented include Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Lucas Cranach, Gerard David and Pieter Brueghel the Elder, whose Fall of the Rebel Angels and The Census at Bethlehem are collection highlights. Other later masters include Flemish Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacques Jordaens, and works from the Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish schools, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vouet, Claude, Ribera and Tiepolo. (Overnight Brussels) B

Day 13: Monday 15 June, Brussels
•Arboretum Kreftenbroek Foundation
•Chalet de la Forêt: Lunch & vegetable garden designed by Erik Dhont
•Musée David et Alice van Buuren: House and garden

We begin this morning with a visit to the Arboretum Kreftenbroek. In the fall of 1980 Etienne and Rose-Marie Van Campenhout purchased a dilapidated farm in Rhode St Genèse on the outskirts of Brussels. The following spring they began the huge task of renovating the farm and transforming its waist-high wild growth into a garden. They later purchased adjacent land that has enabled the creation of a magnificent series of gardens. This sublime series of green spaces begins in front of the house in what is known as the natural garden, the main focal point of which is a small pond. Behind the house is a more classically designed garden with a canopied alley of apple trees linking two large Louis XVI urns. From here open areas, intimate green ‘rooms’, an alternating serpentine pond and an elegant staircase lead to the final goal; the valley garden designed by Jacques Wirtz. This most recent garden links the slopes of the valley, with focal points of hedges, trees, water and sculpture.

At midday we dine at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Chalet de la Forêt. We take the aperitif in the structured vegetable garden designed for Chef Pascal Devalkeneer by Erik Dhont. This is a magnificent garden of diverse flavours and mixed styles. The English-style flowerbeds of herbaceous plants are organised by colour and are divided into plots in the style of French gardens. Surrounding plots of vegetable gardens specimens of local rustic varieties such as plum trees, mirabelle plum trees and apple trees together recreate a natural Belgian habitat.

We end our day with a visit to the extraordinary house bought in 1928 by the banker and art patron David van Buuren. While its exterior is typical of the so-called Amsterdam School, its interior decoration presents a feast of Art Deco by Belgian, French and Dutch designers. Van Buuren and his wife Alice Piette collected rare furniture, carpets, stained-glass windows, sculptures and masterpieces of painting from the 15th to the 19th century. Along with a historical collection including two Brueghels there are works by Fantin-Latour, Ensor, van Gogh, Signac, Van Dongen and Max Ernst. Van Buuren was also the only patron of van de Woestyne, the precursor of surrealism; the house possesses 32 of his paintings. The gardens, which cover 1.5 hectares, were initially designed by Jules Buyssens, one of the main theorists of the distinctive Belgian Picturesque Garden movement. Between 1927 and 1928 Buyssens created a geometrical ‘Picturesque Garden’ to reflect the Art Deco style of the house. “Its main characteristics were, by the creation of different levels and viewpoints, to give in a confined space an evocation of a variety of natural forms: a wild garden, water and bog gardens, a rock garden, a walled garden, a fernery and herbaceous border. His ingenuity in the use of water is illustrated by a stream which trickles around the site.” In 1969 the Brussels designer, René Pechère, enlarged the gardens with the addition of the ‘Garden of the Heart’ and the ‘Labyrinth’. (Overnight Brussels) BL

Durbuy – 2 nights

Day 14: Tuesday 16 June, Brussels – Wépion – Dinant – Durbuy
•Le Sous-Bois, Wépion
•Gardens of Annevoie
•The provincial town of Dinant

We spend the day in the Meuse Valley visiting a private garden, the garden of a beautiful château and the lovely provincial town of Dinant.

Outside Wépion we visit Le Sous-Bois, a private garden designed by owners Philippe Taminiaux and Karine Fonsny. This 35-acre garden, which includes an English garden and over 100 varieties of climbing roses, affords sweeping views of the Meuse Valley. From the entrance gate a path leads through a pine forest, in which views repeatedly open up. Biodiversity reigns supreme in this garden: from the expanses of shade-loving plantings to long, lushly planted borders that lead the visitor deep into the garden. Mixed borders incorporate not only perennials, but shrub roses and a huge variety of other shrubs grown for their foliage colours and textures.

Our second visit is to the Jardins d’Annevoie in the Haute-Meuse, a region of forests and rivers. The gardens of Annevoie combine the splendour and majesty of the French formal style harmoniously with English romantic whimsy and Italian refinement. As we walk through these 250-year-old water gardens they will reveal their great diversity of cascades and fountains, majestic hundred-year old trees, trimmed hornbeam lanes and false grottoes.

From Annevoie we journey to the pretty, historic riverside town of Dinant, home of people as diverse as Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone) and Joachim Patinir (the ‘inventor’ of landscape painting in Western Europe). Here we shall have time at leisure to explore the village. You may wish to visit the Collegiate Church of Our Lady or the Citadel, walk across the Charles de Gaulle Bridge with its giant futuristic saxophone sculptures, or even visit the Adolphe Sax House Museum.

From Dinant we travel east into the province of Luxembourg, the southernmost province of Wallonia. Relatively sparsely populated, about 80% of the province is covered by the densely wooded Forest of Ardennes. (Overnight Durbuy) BLD

Day 15: Wednesday 17 June, Durbuy – Wéris – Durbuy
•Nature walk to view the Wéris megaliths (6kms, 2.5hrs)
•The Maison des Mégalithes, Wéris
•Afternoon at leisure

Durbuy, nestled on the banks of the Ourthe River, is considered one of the most charming medieval towns of Wallonia. It is composed of tiny cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and a castle; it has also been home to generations of award-winning chefs. The town provides an excellent base from which to explore the Ardennes, a mountainous region of extensive forests of broadleaf and fir, rich in fauna and flora, with steep-sided valleys carved by swift-flowing rivers. Amongst its greenery lie picturesque villages, castles, forts and citadels.

This morning we enjoy a guided six-kilometre walk to the village of Wéris. A member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie, this village is well known for its half-timbered houses of limestone or sandstone, and its megaliths, including dolmens (chambered tombs) and menhirs (standing stones) which date from 3000 BC. Whilst in Wéris we visit the Maison des Mégalithes which traces the history of the region’s megalithic sites.

This afternoon is free for you to explore Durbuy at leisure. (Overnight Durbuy) B

Maastricht – 1 night

Day 16: Thursday 18 June, Durbuy – Heers – Stokrooie – Maastricht
•Kasteel van Heks (Hex Castle), Heers
•Dina Deferme, Stokrooie

This morning we visit Hex Castle to view its world-famous rose collection. The 18th-century castle was built by Count Charles-François de Velbrück, an enlightened ruler, an advocate of liberal thought and patron of education. Originally built on a hilltop as a hunting pavilion, it was surrounded by 12 acres of formal gardens, inspired by French models including a rose garden, a Chinese garden, and a vegetable garden. De Velbrück later added a landscape park inspired by Capability Brown. The original formal Renaissance garden, which was restored by Jacques Wirtz, includes a Nut Garden and a walled vegetable garden. Today Hex is privately owned by Count Ghislain d’Ursel who carefully maintains the estate. The celebrated rose garden contains an exceptional assortment of about 250 varieties, of which the oldest were planted in the original garden. In 2003 the Garden of Roses was granted the Award of Garden Excellence by the World Federation of Rose Societies.

At midday we continue north to a wonderful 4-hectare romantic garden with an English touch, constructed around a restored farmhouse. Here, landscape architect and boarder specialist, Dina Deferme, has created a unique atmosphere using plant combinations which change colour every month. The garden, which also includes a natural pond, a shadow garden and herb garden, offers magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. Dina is author of several books including Magie van een tuin (Magic of a garden).

In the late afternoon we drive to Maastricht, located on the River Meuse in the Southern Netherlands. (Overnight Maastricht) BL

Boppard – 2 nights

Day 17: Friday 19 June, Maastricht – Neusse – Hilden – Boppard
•Museum Insel Hombroich, Neusse
•HORTVS Peter Janke Gartenkonzepte, Hilden

We begin this morning with a visit to the Museum Insel Hombroich, located in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. Art and nature unite in perfect harmony at this beautifully designed private modern art museum, scattered across eleven permanent pavilions, (‘chapels in the landscape’) set within a 25-acre nature park. Landscape designer Bernhard Korte resisted the temptation to restore the gardens of the Rosa Haus (‘Pink House’), an overgrown industrialist’s villa which was built in 1816. Instead, he created a mesmerising arcadian landscape of meadows punctuated by remnant old trees and overgrown box plants, which have long since ceased to be pruned or clipped. The valuable art collection includes Persian sculptures, Khmer art and Chinese figures dating back to the Han period placed side by side with the works of Gotthard Graubner, Jean Fautrier, Franz Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Eduardo Chillida, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Kurt Schwitters.

From Neusse we drive north of Hilden to visit HORTVS, the garden and nursery of Peter Janke, who is a rising star in German landscape design. From childhood he studied plant communities in the wild, and later was inspired by the work of Beth Chatto, with whom he studied. He is that rare combination: a true plant collector with an excellent design eye. Set on 14,000m2, the garden contains over 4,000 plant varieties grown without irrigation. Throughout, there is a very strong sense of structure and rhythm, yet it is in no way a ‘formal’ planting.

In the late afternoon we drive to the beautiful small town of Boppard located in the UNESCO heritage-listed Middle Rhine. (Overnight Boppard) BLD

Day 18: Saturday 20 June, Boppard – Eltz – Braubach – Boppard
•Eltz Castle
•Medieval town of Braubach
•Marksburg Castle, Braubach
•Time at leisure

This morning we drive through the forest to Eltz Castle, a medieval fairytale castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River. Eltz Castle is considered the German knights’ castle par excellence. It is still owned by a branch of the same family (the Eltz family) that have lived there since the 12th century, 33 generations ago and was never destroyed, so many of its original furnishings still remain in situ. The castle is surrounded on three sides by the Eltzbach River, a tributary on the north side of the Moselle. It is on a 70-metre (230 ft) rock spur, along an important Roman trade route between rich farmlands and their markets. To reach Eltz Castle, we take a short walk through the Eltz Forest, protected since 2000 as a nature reserve of 300 hectares of forest and an arboretum for its rich variety of indigenous and foreign tree species. The castle counts myths and great art as part of its history. For example, Victor Hugo, the great Romantic poet, wrote enthusiastically about the castle. William Turner, the English painter and inventor of the Rhine Romanticism, was a regular visitor and painted the castle from many different angles.

Then we drive to the beautiful small city of Braubach that nestles below its grand castle on the right bank of the Rhine. You will have lunchtime at leisure to explore its picturesque streets lined with half-timbered old houses before we drive up to Marksburg Castle that occupies a dramatic high spur above the town. In 1276 King Rudolf of Habsburg made Braubach a free city under Count Gottfried of Eppstein. Count Eberhard I of Katzenelnbogen bought the city and castle in 1283. Until 1479, his descendants constantly altered the castle. We shall take a guided tour of the castle before returning to Boppard for the night. (Overnight Boppard) BD

Rüdesheim am Rhein – 2 nights

Day 19: Sunday 21 June, Boppard – Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Cruise along the Rhine Gorge: Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein

Today we cruise along the Rhine Gorge (Upper Middle Rhine Valley), a UNESCO World Heritage region, from Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein. This 65-kilometre stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen with its castles, half-timbered medieval villages and vineyard terraces, graphically illustrates the long history of human involvement with this dramatic and varied natural landscape. It is intimately associated with history and legend; the poetry and prose of some of Germany’s finest writers, Brentano, von Schlegel and Heine were inspired by this landscape. We shall take a cruise along the Rhine from the town of Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BL

Day 20: Monday 22 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Weinheim – Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, Weinheim
•Afternoon at leisure in Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Farewell Dinner

This morning we drive to the charming medieval hilltop town of Weinheim to visit Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, a renowned experimental botanical and trial garden encompassing 6 acres of centuries-old rolling parkland. A mecca for plantspeople and garden designers from around the world, it is considered by many to be one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe. Director Cassian Schmidt is internationally recognised for his work using natural plant communities as models for sustainable plant combinations in urban environments and private gardens. His work is at the forefront of the New Perennial movement. The garden contains over 2500 different types and species of perennials and a number of notable trees.

This afternoon we return to Rüdesheim am Rhein where there will be time to explore this winemaking town with its cobbled streets lined with historic buildings. In the evening we gather for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BD

Day 21: Tuesday 23 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Frankfurt Airport
•Morning at leisure
•Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

The tour finishes in Rüdesheim am Rhein. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the Frankfurt Airport to take their flight home to Australia in the early afternoon. If you wish to extend your stay in Germany please contact ASA for further information. B

NOTE: The above itinerary describes a range of gardens which we plan to visit. Several are accessible to the public, but many require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

  • ASA Cultural Tours: Belgium and the Rhine Valley Itinerary Reservation Application Download

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AUD $11,380.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 July 2019

AUD $11,580.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2100.00 Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:

•Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3- and 4-star hotels
•Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
•Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
•Transportation by air-conditioned coach
•Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
•Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
•Lecture and site-visit program
•Entrance fees
•Tour Notes
•Use of audio headsets during site visits
•Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals

Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:

•Airfare: Australia-Brussels, Frankfurt-Australia
•Personal spending money
•Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
•Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
•Travel insurance
•Visas (if applicable)