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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Small is sometimes better…

As we travel and explore the world it is rather seldom, that we venture into, and get to see and feel the life in the small towns. Big cities and the tourist destinations we do go to,  they are easy to find, everybody is talking about them and of course, normally a city is just has more live into it. More things to see, do and experience.

But that is by no means a reason not to go to the small towns and villages. I might be a little bit biased in this matter. I have somewhat an allergy towards city trips. Cities do not usually end up into mine or Waffle’s travel “to do” lists. But there are just so many hidden jewels in those small, sleepy towns in every single country I have traveled to. Often in those places, in my opinion, you get to see the real culture and the real people, life is less global in these places. And in a way, the culture of the capital and cities, it stems from the villages and countryside.

Take Italy for example, at best, you find a remarkably different cuisine from one village to another. France is not left far behind. Do I need to even mention cheeses and wine? Not forgetting the ever changing architecture from coast to the mountains and back? Not forgetting Belgium, every single village here has a brewery to visit, sometimes even a good one. I am pretty sure the small towns in every country have something similar to surprise people with.

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We have traveled through dozens of cute little villages, some downright ugly ones too, but what would life be without good contrasts! Some of the nicest lingering memories from our travels we have collected for a village here or there. Like the unbeatable surveillance system of Romanian villages: grannies sitting by the road. Or the vines in the pergolas of almost every house in Montenegro. And the faint smell of smoke in winter lingering around the mountain villages of France, when people are keeping their toes warm. All in all, the atmosphere is different in towns compared to bigger communities. Everybody more or less knows each other and a traveler is always a stranger.

These things don’t end up in travel guides. Which is understandable, no bureau of travel has the time or resources to go through and discover an endless amount of small places people have chosen to live in. It can indeed be time consuming.

The way me and Waffle travel, almost always takes us to these places. Sometimes randomly, sometimes by planning.  I like these small strolls we have in towns. It gets me into the mood of being abroad.

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How do we manage to end up in the small places then? A car. A car is the answer. Unfortunately relying on public transport would be time consuming in this business. Most every time when we head abroad we leave the airport or harbor in a car. Then as we plan on crossing half a country in that said vehicle it is more or less inevitable to pass some villages. Bit of magic on the Google maps will often help us to get started and lessen the randomness factor. Sometimes we even manage to take a photo or two of them, before disappearing for days into the shrubbery.

I guess there needs to be a purpose of this rambling. Let it be an intro to the pictures we actually managed to capture of the villages we have passed during our travels. Maybe this will be an inspiration too, to some of you out there, to take a break of your city/beach/nature holiday and take a step towards a small town somewhere. Sometimes it is worth it to go explore these places in your home country, trust me!

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Normandy and Easter – A Perfect Duo

Normandy. The green, softly flowing valleys, glistening sea, shining white cliffs and sky so close you could hug it. Normandy is such a picturesque place, I think my soul has found a second home from its shores. I am always happy to return there, and bring some friends along, like we did this time.

Normandy is starting to be our Easter habit, it seems. It is just close enough to get to for a long weekend, and just far enough to feel like you are abroad, or at least, somewhere else.

Early in the Saturday morning we hit the road. Despite the masses of people on the road we reached our first walk early. We had chosen a small loop around the countryside near the town of Yport. Yport, as many of the towns on the coast, sits there where the cliffs lower down to a valley. The streets climb and wind up from the beach onto the cliffs to go off finding other villages. The houses are a harmonious combination of natural rocks and bricks. I would imagine happy people are living in them.

After a good walk we headed to camp at the same place where we have been every time when we go to Normandy. On the cliffs, a few kilometres to the west from Étretat. Good weather and long Easter weekend had lured out some other wild campers too, so we did not get our favorite spot, right on top of the cliff, but no-one let that ruin the mood.

We got our camp up and campfire going at the edge of the cliff just perfectly to be able to enjoy the colors of the sunset. After dinner the cooling air shooed us away to our tents as the stars started to litter the sky. The night was chill and I could not sleep too much. Instead I listened to the sea and the calmness of the night… and Waffle, sleeping next to me.

I was surprisingly well rested in the morning, as we prepared for the coming day, by munching breakfast. The hike for the day was something we had already done with Waffle a couple of years back. The trail would walk us via the cliffs to Étretat and beyond, and return back deeper inland, stretching a distance of about 16 km.

Waffle and Bram found their inner children and were soon enough climbing and crawling into caves, eventually managing to get me and Maria into that business as well. The beaches and cliffs with their caves kept us rather busy for a while, but the crumbling tummies demanded us to climb back up and find our way to Étretat to get some food.

The closer to the village we got, the more people there started to be on the trail, everybody want’s the hottest selfie with the famous arches. I do think they are better seen a little bit further away, down from one of the beaches, rather than by sitting on top of one.

At one point Bram’s face went sour. He had dropped his phone somewhere. A vigorous search started. Me and Maria were left on the important duty of watching over the stuff, as the guys ran up and down the path in search of the phone.

It was nowhere to be seen.

After the shock treatment Bram swallowed his fate, blocked the sim and life started to go on again. We had a quick lunch in the beach boulevard of Étretat, trying not to get annoyed by the massive crowd of tourists.

Finally we headed on, over the cliffs again, before turning back via the fields. Half way back we ended up at the goat farm Le Valaine, where we had visited earlier too. The place where they make amazing chocolates and ice creams out of goats milk! Of course we had to pay a visit, after which Maria and Bram were rather sold too. The only sad thing is, that they are shutting the place down, since there is nobody to continue the business.

So if you happen to be into goat herding and ice cream / chocolate making, please go there, me and Waffle will promise to be your most loyal clients!

Another tired and serene evening followed with campfire rattling on the cliff and sun putting on its best show while setting. It felt good to crawl to bed and lat the sleep take us away to another world.

Monday was the last they we had in the beautiful Normandy. We started driving off towards Dieppe and another set of cliffs. We were passing a series of very beautiful Normandian villages and farmlands on our way to the destination, which was Criel-Sur-Mer.

Those cliffs covered in whispering grass were bathing in the sun as we climbed them. The northern wind had turned a little warmer with the sun, and hiking was very pleasant, even our Portuguese addition was unwrapping herself.

It was a very beautiful walk to end the trip, not a spectacular one, rather the beauty was more hidden in its subtle colors and warm sunshine. In any case it left me wanting to stay there. Normandy just feels like an improved Finland sometimes, very homely.

We’ll be back, soon I hope.