Need to unwind from your stressful daily routine, but not one for sterile surroundings? I have found just the place to unplug ànd spoil your inner drama queen all at once. (Very important detail: this place also has the best house slippers in history!)
The Ark van Zarren is a charming 17th-century farm and B&B ran by a fascinating husband-and-wife duo. Elsje and Chery were rock stars in another life, dominating the Belgian pop charts in the eighties and nineties. Nowadays their days are filled with scouring brocante sales and enjoying country life. Their passion for antiques -especially Swedish finds- and craftmanship bursts from every corner of their Bruges interior decorating store, where you can score everything from delicate toile de Jouy embellishments to antique portraits -one of Elsje’s most recent obsessions. The store is only a small prelude however, to their home in the West-Flemish countryside…
The Ark van Zarren is a palace of everything bygone and cool, exuberant, impossibly romantic, hugely poetic and also a tad kitsch in an otherwise austere landscape that hasn’t succeeded entirely in shaking off its World War I heritage. The farm lies in the middle of the Ypres area indeed, where fighting was at its worst between 1914 and 1918. Mass graveyards, memorials and museums galore to remind visitors of this dreadful past. Strangely enough however, Zarren was considered the place to “be” for soldiers during wartime -at least, compared to the frontline a few miles further. German soldiers were sent here to unwind from the trenches and even have a bit of fun. Postcards -yep, postcards!- from that time stating “GrüBe aus Zarren” even show a war-time cinema, the so-called Kriegs Kino. Said movie theatre was settled up in a barn just down the road from the Ark van Zarren, so the latter’s vague out of place feeling is actually not out of place at all, as it seems this specific area has always been meant for the extraordinary.
And extraordinary it is: everything about this B&B screams period drama. You wouldn’t be surprised at all to find Marie-Antoinette chilling in one of the two barn suites, nor to have Elisabeth Bennet and other Jane Austen drama queens bursting into the kitchen. Even the house dogs and resident donkeys look like they just leapt out of a neoclassic painting. And then there’s the laundry room: words will never do honor as to its level of awesomeness. Upon request, it’s not impossible to buy some of the furniture, home linen and other little treasures the house is decorated with.
The B&B can accommodate up to ten people, its flowered garden and green surrounding inviting for endless strolling and napping. Rainy days are a treat here too, as guests get to cuddle around the fireplace and sift through the big stack of books and magazines in the homey barn. Fresh flowers in every corner, home-made pie, delicious breakfast and fascinating talks about design, rock music and antiques with the hosts are the cherry on the cake.