May holds a special place in my heart, not only because it marks my birthday but also because it offers plenty of long weekends, making it the perfect time for local trips. This year, we set our sights on the tranquil countryside surrounding Breda, a charming city in the Netherlands. As we left the highway, the landscape changed to large farmhouses with many horse and a tractors dotting the fields. Our adventure began right away as we admired the rural landscape while walking around the place we stayed. Natuurgebied Pannenhoef was our first destination, a green area on the map that turned out to be a nice place for walks and bird watching. We not only saw birds but also horses and sheep. It had really beautiful surroundings with many cycling routes and wooden bridges. Along the narrow paths, we discovered small benches strategically placed in the most breathtaking spots. These hidden resting spots offered the perfect opportunity to pause and enjoy the best views.

The Strawberries Terrace was situated just several hundred meters from our rented house, so it was an obvious choice for the next day’s visit. The picnic area around the strawberry farm is great, with lots of toys for kids and bikes in different sizes. We were there at the very beginning of the strawberry season, and it was still not allowed to pick them ourselves, which is the biggest attraction of this place. Fresh strawberries were on sale, but you could taste the difference; they were not as sweet as we would have liked, but the really sunny days were just starting. Our main disappointment was regarding the food. We ordered waffles with whipped cream, and both were of very poor quality. Simply re-selling waffles from the supermarket is really not acceptable to us!

Since we know how much our daughter enjoys looking at animals, we found a perfect place to visit: a children’s farm called Kinderboerderij Leijhoeve. Well-maintained playgrounds, a small café with affordable prices, a mushroom forest, and especially a meadow with goats accessible for petting made this place so interesting. It’s really quiet there. You can just sit and enjoy the coffee while your kids are running around. You can keep a good eye on them from the terrace. The place is run by disabled people, and it looks like they do a very good job!

Staying close to Breda was our intention to have some backup places to visit in case of bad weather, or mostly to have options for indoor playgrounds. However, the weather was so nice that instead, we walked through the city park, passed by the castle, and ended up at the Italian restaurant on the main market. Afterwards, we took a short walk on the shopping streets situated around the main church and then headed back to our place.

On our last day, after checking out early in the morning, we drove towards Grenspark Kalmthoutse Heide, a national park situated on the Belgian-Dutch border. The hiking trail “Dune” was our choice, leading through vast heathlands which are a popular attraction in late summer when the purple flowers bloom. At this time of the year, the landscape was quite monotonous, with green and brown dominating the scenery.

However, once we reached the dunes, it became more interesting, especially for our toddler who loved this giant sandbox. It was less enjoyable for me, as I was carrying her in the carrier, and the extra 12kg made my feet sink deeper into the sand. Oh, my calves were burning the next day! It’s worth noting that dogs are not allowed on this hike because it passes through a grazing area, even though we didn’t see any animals.

May truly proved to be the ideal time for local trips, allowing us to immerse ourselves in nature’s embrace while creating cherished memories along the way. I found myself eagerly looking forward to my next adventure. This time, the excitement was amplified as it marked my first weekend trip without my daughter. It was a chance to immerse myself in the vibrant energy of Paris, accompanied by a friend. With a mere 36 hours in the City of Light, we were determined to make every moment count and create lasting memories. More details in upcoming post.

Practical info:

  • We rented a cottage house on Airbnb close to Rijsbergen, only a 1.5-hour drive from Leuven. The house had an amazing playground for kids, and there were two horses, chickens, and a dog living on the farm. It was a very quiet area, perfect for cycling and running. Every morning and around sunset, we could see hot air balloons on the horizon.
  • Our hike in Kalmthoutse Heide park was about 8km. We parked next to the Kalmthout Visitor’s Center (free parking but it’s better to be there early in the morning as it gets very crowded around lunchtime). We got a little bit lost around the 4km mark, as you can see on the map. We turned left too quickly and ended up at the parking area, but we were actually supposed to follow the long path through the park before turning left to reach the dunes. This part of the hike was not marked clearly enough for us. It would have been much easier if maps of the trails were available in more places. We didn’t take a photo of the trail at the entrance to the park, and that would have helped us greatly. You can find more hikes with detailed descriptions on the park’s website

  • There are several parking spaces around Natuurgebied Pannenhoef. We left our car once at Pannenhoef Parkeerplaats het Vaartven. This is not a proper parking lot, just some spaces between trees where you are allowed to park, and I can imagine it can be difficult to drive there after rain.
  • Every evening, I went for a run in the surroundings of the nature reservoir Pannenhoef and Rijsbergen city. Below are the maps of my runs, both around 8km. The first one, in the nature reservoir, was very nice, mainly exploring wetlands. On the second day, I headed towards the mini zoo that we visited, trying to use small paths that crossed the surrounding fields.