2017 – What to remember

Once again, a year has passed and it is semi-mandatory to look back into what on earth happened in the last 365 days. How odd we people are.

So, as I don’t want to rebel and do this in April, here we are. The moments to remember from the year 2017 in the lives of Veera and Waffle:

1.

We started the year off by visiting Cyprus in the midwinter. We often like to break the winter with a little bit of summer. Cyprus was a destination from which neither of us really expected much, but it turned out to be a fairly positive surprise! We indulged on the rugged coastal line and tried to find some turtles.

Lesson learned; travel with an open mind, where ever the ticket in your hand is taking you!

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2.

It was pretty quickly after Cyprus that we headed for Terceira island in the Azores. It had been my dream to visit these islands, and since Waffle is very keen on spoiling me (my inner strong and independent woman screams at him for this), he bought us tickets to go there for my birthday!

Oh my. I was gobsmacked! From the very beginning the island sprouting from the volcanic core of the earth was taking my breath away. From the starlit skies, to raging ocean to the green jungles I felt like I was in a paradise! The air is so fresh you taste it in the cheese they produce!

So far I think it is the most rewarding travel experience we have had. So far so, that we are traveling to the islands again, very soon!

Lesson learned; Fish of the day on an island in the middle of the storming Atlantic is not going to happen…

Terceira, Azores, Coast

I could have woken up to this every morning for the rest of my life.

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Terceira, Poolsof Biscoitos

Pools of Biscoitos.

3.

One of the best moments in the spring time was having my dear dear friend over from Finland! I wiped off the dust of my girlier side and we took a train to Paris. Spend there a day running around the city like mad men, enjoying the slowly awakening spring. Waffle came to rescue in the evening and took us to the seaside, to  jump on the rocky shore of Ambleteuse.

How grateful I am for having such a friend, whose eyes see your soul and with whom you can connect with no matter the time or space in between!

Lesson learned; A freshly made chocolate fondant in France is a perfectly justified breakfast!

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4.

Easter and Normandy. We can’t seem to get rid of that duo. Normandy was probably the first landscape I really fell in love with in France, I am always eager to return there. This Easter too, it was as pretty and serene as always. We brought friends along, hiked the coast and the meadows, enjoyed the tender spring sunshine and aired out our brains!

Lesson learned; Sea is well able to eat away the white cliffs, so be careful when camping on top of one. Also, if you are looking to surf, go further. 

 

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Normady, Hiking, Coast

5.

The half marathon project. The venture where Waffle soared and I tumbled down with my knee problems. Not much of a happy experience, giving up never really is. But I was happy to start trying, in any case, and I still am running, at least to get in better shape, maybe eventually aiming for some speeds at 10 km. Maybe.

Lesson learned; Patience. Patience in letting your body get a hang of jogging. I am not 20 anymore. Sadly. 

Jogger, Runner, Mist

6.

Oh, the biggest accident we have yet had in our lovely little relationship. Buying a cottage in Finland. I say accident, because that’s was it really was. We rolled the thought of it on the table for 3 days before sending our final offer and receiving the keys.

Such excitement I have not felt too many times in my life. I actually had acquired a piece of my childhood and one of the prettiest landscapes in Finland! I could return to my family more often now. My my, so very happy about this!

Oh, and the sauna in that cottage – marvelous!

Lesson learned; 4 trips to Ikea in a week is definitely enough!

Log cabin

The main hut.

Family!

Family!

Finland, lake, Autumn

7.

For a while now, we have been inspired to travel to the Eastern Europe. For 2017 the destination was Bulgaria and the Pirin mountains. It was not a disappointment. The country is pretty and the mountains with all the lakes scattered around make it a unique surrounding for hiking.

Spending the night high up there under the stars, in freezing cold at the lakeside was a memorable experience. A night slept outdoors is never quite like the other.

Lesson learned; Taking a smelly cheese up to a mountain with bear population, might make you nervous… 

Pirin, Mountains, Bulgaria

Ice crusted tent anyone?

8.

The home extension project is finally hovering above the finish line! What a thrilling feeling to see the work of your own actually get realized and exceed your hopes! Every little bit is there, just some moderation, improvements and finishing touches need to happen, as we gain experience in using this little house!

A more detailed post will follow, once I have time to put my thoughts into words and online.

Lesson learned; With a project like this, it is a winning lottery ticket to have an actual carpenter in the family. 

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9.

Israel. Double feelings. It was a pain in the back side to get this holiday starting. First to make our way out of the airport, then get a car, and lastly get going through the desert. But once the starting hiccups were over the country treated us with beauty and bizarre flotation experiences.

The part where we left the country was even bigger pain in the derriere, making us thinking whether we will ever be back. What would bring us back, is the magnificent camping facilities Israel has to offer, plus we would still like to see the northern Israel.

Lesson learned; Salt from the dead sea tastes bad. Also, try not to piss off an Israeli customer servant. 

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10.

The year ended for us with another Christmas road trip. Once more, we headed south, to the space between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in France. And then we camped. Our small home proved to be just what we needed; a shelter from wind and rain and a functional living room, kitchen and bedroom combo.

We had gathered a bunch of special people around us and the atmosphere was, if not Christmassy, at least warm and welcoming around the slightly too big campfire. The weather was not on our side when it came to hiking the mountains, so beach life was what needed to entertain us.

Lesson learned; Putting a bunch a relatively crazy people around a campfire with little social supervision can result in inappropriate songs. 

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That was 2017. 2018 is here with us and it is looking promising. The travel year starts with Azores, we have a bit of Finland in the planning too (Waffle’s parents first visit!), and who knows which other places Waffle comes up with.  Hope you’ll hang along too!

Oh! aand the pictures, once again, here: Flickr!

 

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A Mini Getaway to Cyprus

To be honest, our expectations for Cyprus were not that high. We were expecting to find a similar touristic island as Mallorca is. So no wild nature, no peace and people everywhere. Friday the 13th was our date to fly. The curse of the date seemed to be true this time.

The winter had arrived to Belgium once again, and snowy roads were waiting for us as we headed to Zaventem to take our early morning plane to Larnaka. Against all the odds, there were no accidents on our route and even the flight got up and going in time. Fabulous things!

The whole of Europe seemed to be under a duvet of snow, as we flew over, the winter had really set in. On the southern coast of Cyprus snow was only a distant glimmer on the mountain top in the horizon. Gentle sea breeze and pleasant temperatures welcomed us as we walked out of the plane.

We faced the first surprise as we went to find the car. The steering wheel was not where we were expecting to find it. Cyprus is indeed a right-hand driving country. Waffle was understandably delighted to find this out right on the spot when he needed to get on and drive.

It was early afternoon as we left the airport behind us. We stopped by a small hypermarket to buy unnecessary supplies, like food and drinks and Cava. The supermarket seemed to be something in between French Carrefour and British Tesco, selling Finnish cheese, believe it or not.

There is a reason for all this Britishness on Cyprus. This piece of history came as all new information for me. Cyprus used to be part of the British Empire, getting its independence in 1960. In the 1940’s Turkey has invaded the northern parts of the island and there is now a disputed border. Some British bases still remain on the island, thanks to the strategic importance. (Wikipedia  helps tremendously in finding these facts.) 

We still seemed to have time for a hike before the sundown. Our destination was Pissouri beach. Our book (Rother walking guide, Cyprus) hinted us to that direction. There are some spectacular cliffs to explore.

The walk was a good 2 hour trail, perfect for the occasion. There had been a lot of rainfalls and the brittle ground of silt hadn’t been able to hold the trail still. Small canyons were everywhere. There it seemed that the Mediterranean and rain would be able to eat the whole island away with not too much effort.

The sun set as we returned to the car, painting the coast in orange.  It was time to search for a camping spot. Google said that around the Limassol Salt Lake there were some shrubs, perfect for camping. Plus we were hoping to catch a glimpse of the massive flamingo flock supposedly living in the salt lake.

That idea was not so welcomed by the British forces at the nearby military airfield. We were kindly asked to leave. So we headed back to the cliffs of Pissouri. There we got our car stuck into the slippery mud left behind by the rain. Some pushing, revving and swearing later our camp was set and the calm waves hitting the crumbling cliffs brought helped us to sleep.

We survived Friday the 13th with only small hiccups, on Saturday we pointed our mud-coated car towards the western end of the island and drove to Lara beach, which during summer is famous for the sea turtles  that come to shore to lay their eggs.

In the winter months the island is beautifully green, thanks to the rains. Also the orchards are everywhere, the ripening citruses were calling us to come and collect them. What came to us as a surprise, was that they also farm banana trees in Cyprus!

The last kilometers of the road to the walk of the day (Rother, walk 6) were fabulously bumpy. We were very much afraid that our small rental Peugeot would not survive the trip. But as we took it calmly and drove around the worst of the pot holes, we got to the restaurant, that over looks the Lara beach, that was the starting point for the hike.

The trail looked like it would be flocked by tourists during summer. it was a wide muddy and dusty path, following the coastal line. We were again happy to be there in the off-season. It was beautiful out there. White stones under our feet, the blue sea next to us and clear sky above us. The wide path was partially full of puddles and we had to jump over shrubs and rocks, but before long we reached the nesting area of turtles.

The return route went via the hiking trail E4, which goes also through Greece. The same trail we took up Mount Olympos a year back. We had a quick lunch, nibbling on the locally grown pistachios before heading on to the northern side of the peninsula, with a famous walk, called the Aphrodite trail.  There is a small pool, where according to legends the goddess herself had been bathing. It is a beautiful region, but unfortunately we did not have time to head for the trail, since the sun was setting and we still had a campsite to be found.

On the way there we had passed a large picnic area in a pine forest, that should do as a camp. The forest smelled strongly of pines and cypresses, and the picnic area supported some homeless cats, who kept us company while we cooked dinner.

The night had been chill, but we slept good. The morning brought a bright day of sunshine. It was our last full day on the island, so we decided to go and explore the mountains, hoping to find the roads still open with the snow.

Waffles driving on the right had improved, and I was not nearly as scared as I was in the beginning as we cruised through the mountain serpentine. The starting point for our hike was around 1300 meters of altitude, with nicely fresh temperatures. The walk chosen (Walk 17 / 19) took us first to the Kaledonian falls and up to a peak of some 1600 meters. The ending part of the trail was barely walked and the snow was deep, we had to wade our way through, luckily the underlying trail was  wide and still visible through the snow.

After the walk we drove our car a bit higher, to Troodos, close to the peak of Cyprian Mt. Olympos. Apparently the occasion of having snow gets even the locals rather excited and they were building snowmen. On top of cars. And just about everywhere possible. It was difficult to pass the touristic attraction without driving over someones toes.

Needles to say, we got ourselves out of there quickly. For the last night we had booked an apartment. We ended up into a small village of Pentakomo. There is an apartment hotel called The Stone House, where we got a very nice small apartment for a bargain of 29 euros, a place I warmly recommend.

We got going efficiently early in the morning. Ryanair would be taking us back to Belgium a bit after noon, so we had the whole morning to spend exploring the Larnaca salt lake, and the flamingos.

At first we only found a picturesque mosque at the shore of the lake and cats, no flamingos in sight. We headed for a muddy stampede at the lake shore, and noticed that all the birds were on the other side.  Finally we got rather close to those pink birds, who were focusing on eating. It is a funny sight, dozens of flamingos, without heads, moving across the calm water.

That was our last experience in Cyprus. We left happy, the trip had been a success and we had had many positive surprises, starting from extreme friendliness of the people and ending to beautiful bits of nature! It is not a bad idea at all, to visit this island during the calm winter months.

 

 

Teeny Weeny Winter

The weather has been on the chilly side for a while already all over Belgium. Finally, this Saturday it snowed a little in Flanders! That is a rare event and is a cause for joy for many. I spotted the first kid running around with a sledge outside before 9 in the morning.

We were less amused, since it was that day that we had to take Waffle’s new buggy to be adjusted. That meant driving to Roosendaal in the Netherlands, on the snowy roads. You see, snow on the road in Belgium is not a very good thing. It causes panic and screaming and upside down cars, usually not a pretty sight. And sure enough, before we passed Antwerp we saw 3 accidents and judging by the radio, more was in the making.

With good luck we managed to get to Roosendaal in one piece and dropped of the buggy to be made narrower. That caused some discussion since the maker of Xxtreme buggies is a sworn competitor. He did not have much understanding for Waffle’s style of driving. The narrowing would change the weight balance of the thing, which would make it slower, etc. etc.

We were told to call him in two hours time to check if he was done with the thing. That gave us enough time to head for Rotterdam. The snow covered Netherlands is a beautiful sight with its muffled colors and bolders and trees appearing from the haze. Such a pity we left our camera home.

Netherlands, Winter, Snow

Here is a pic for you from couple of years back…

In Rotterdam some shopping happened. Yes. You read correctly, we went shopping. We found a street, right in the center of town, with coffee shops mixed with all sorts of small boutiques selling oddities, vintage and trinkets. Luckily we had no time to go circling too many other streets. We went home with a pair of very seventies dresses (I actually do wear normal people clothes outside of the trail), and a remarkably narrower buggy.

By Sunday all the snow was gone. It seemed to have evaporated and turned into mist. The white cloud wrapped around everything: The windmills seemed to appear from nowhere as we drove past them towards Dendermonde, where we wanted to have a walk.

There we did a loop between the rivers Scheldt and Dender. The side of the Scheldt seems to be the Dendermonde villa district.The walking path took us in between the grand houses and the river, hiding in the dense fog. I must admit, I like looking at peoples homes. Especially if they are houses I would not be able to ever own, and the ones some architect designed and by some miracle managed to sell to some poor fool.

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We were following the wonderful numbered crossing system, and our selected route took us quickly into more calm countryside. Everything was white, it felt like we were walking through a cloud, that only slowly revealed what was coming up ahead. A surprisingly lovely weather for a walk.

That was such a calm weekend. After that it is good to turn our gazes towards the trip Cyprus, which is here in a day or two. We are especially looking forward to the flocks of flamingos and the empty beaches. Maybe some mountains too!

Till then, behave all my dear people!