Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

After returning from any trip, I would often reflect and browse through my photos.  Goodness gracious me, or rather, shame on me … I have loads !!!  If a photo has a  tangible weight, seriously, I would not be able to carry my iPhone around with me anymore.  It would be mucho grande heavy. Every time I browse through my photos, I usually feel an outburst of guilt.  Why did I  have to take so many photos and then, having to keep them to myself? To moulder and to fade into oblivionNo way, Jose! It just doesn’t make any sense.  A photo is taken to be shared.  In my own vocabulary, every photo I take tells a story.  And so it goes, sharing is caring 😉

Timestamp: July 2018

Phew! How time flies! 

Has it been a year ago since my trip to the Far East? Gosh! I needed another far-away getaway so badly…

I wish I could take a year long sabbatical leave and backpack to places I have not been to, but I’m not that bold and agile 25-year old anymore. Instead, I feel more secure with my travel sidekicks in the persons of my younger sister and younger son. We did Saigon last year. Saigon is not just about the touristBen Tanh markets and the noisy streets inundated with motorcycles. I’m amazed there’s so much to see and experience off the beaten tracks. We had an awesome experience exploring the Tunnels of Cu Chi, cruising down the Saigon river on the Bonsai River Cruise, taking the Sampan and cruising the many canal ways of the Mekong Delta, cycling in the rain and taking the tuk-tuk on narrow backroads around the Mekong villages and feasting on one of the most memorable home style lunches ever with Vietnam’s famous Elephant ear fish as centrepiece! Unlike Ben Tanh Market, the Ben Tre Floating Markets on the Mekong Delta are magically special. And then there’s Saigon’s yummy Banh Mi and the moreish Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá).

Memories are made of these …

Sigh!

Getaway 

Vietnam came and went and remained a sweet memory in my mind’s eye. Could our next holiday destination beat Saigon?

Okay … Bali, here we come!

Timestamp: July 2019

Millionaire  

I felt like a millionaire all over again in Bali after Saigon

Oh man, it’s the unending zeroes on the Bank Notes.  LOL!

A million Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is only ca EUR 65 or MYR 300!  There’s no wonder why there are more tourists than the local Balinese on the island of Bali! 

Ngurah Rai International Airport

My son and I met my sister in Kuala Lumpur and we flew together with Air Asia to Bali. I was quite impressed when we touched down I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport Bali, aka Denpasar International Airport. What more could I say if it’s the second busiest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta?  The first thing we did upon arrival at the airport was buying SIM cards for our mobile phones during the period of our stay in Bali. Seriously, it’s so convenient, as we were out and about most of the time on the island!  Who would want to coop up in the hotel room 24/7 on a not very cheap long-haul trip all the way from Europe, right? Thanks to my sister with her in-depth knowledge of the telecommunication world and lingo, we were not easily deceived by seller(s) at the booths. Uh-uh!

Next (and a must), I bought some IDR. The rates were quite OK at the airport, and of course, better but varying rates could be found in every nook and cranny of Bali.  Be warned, though, of dodgy money changers!

By the way, my holiday to Bali was the maiden trip for my son and I, and the third for my sister.  She made it even easier for us with arranged pick-up from the airport to our hotel in Ubud.  The drive though the busy roads of Denpasar to the narrow roads of Ubud took almost 2 hours in the heavy traffic. Jun, our guide and his cousin (driver) made our journey flawless with on point pick up from location to destination.

Ubud

Originally, I had planned a 10-day stay in Ubud only, however, my Indonesian colleagues said “there’s nothing to see in Ubud” (really??), hence, Kuta was included at the last moment in our itinerary, hence we shortened our stay in Ubud to 7 days while including 3 days in Kuta. We shall see …

Luckily for us, I told my sister to pre-book some arranged tours with Jun.

Jun, by the way, is a freelanced guide for private tours around the island of Bali. As we all know, Bali thrives on tourism and Bali tour planners are mega BIG over there. If tours are not pre-booked, there are booths almost everywhere and one could make day trip arrangements on the spur of the moment. Initially, we were being audacious with our choices of tours and wanted to do and see almost everything, so from a selection of so many different tour packages offered, we decided on 2 full-day packages and 2 activity packages as following –

  • FULLDAY BTO 01. Kintamani – Waterfall tour
  • FULLDAY BTO 03. Marine sport – Uluwatu – Spa – Dinner tour
  • ACTIVITY BTO 02. White water rafting.
  • ACTIVITY BTO 07. Mount Batur sunrise trekking.

However, as time drew near for our ETD from BRU, I told my sister that the activity packages were too physical for our seemingly short stay in Bali.  Furthermore, I needed a relaxing break away from my already hectic day job …

So from 4, it was down to the final 2. We confirmed with Jun the full-day tours of Kintamani – Waterfall and the Marine Sport – Uluwatu – Spa and Dinner. As much as I wanted to experience the beautiful Mount Batur sunrise, the idea of trekking as early as 2 or 3 am in the morning puts me off, actually it puts all 3 of us off 😏.  Why is it so hard to get up in the wee hours of the morning when one is on holiday?  Hmmm… me think we’re not the only ones 😅

Dirty Ducks

Not that Ubud is plagued with dirty ducks; infact I have not seen a single duck while we were there!

It was our first day in Ubud and the much talked-about Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner) became our first dining stop in Ubud.

Be warned!  Yours truly is a foodie, hence be prepared to read some honest verdicts after a slap-up meal 😜

 

According to the site’s write up, Bebek Bengil was opened in 1990 in Ubud. It soon became an iconic restaurant branching out to other locations in Bali. The Original Crispy Duck Diner is so popular that local politicians like Ibu Megawati and Presidents Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jokowi have waddled their way to Bebek Bengil 😉

Why ducks?  Why dirty ducks and not dirty monkeys (there are LOTS of monkeys in Ubud, by the way !). Well, it’s even explained on their menu book! 

So the story goes, in the words of the owners (husband and wife team) … “Many people have asked us how we got the name Bebek Bengil … When we were building the restaurant, we thought long and hard of a name. Many suggestions came from our friends, but none seemed right; we knew we wanted a Balinese name that translated well into English. However, for a long time, the metaphor eluded us. One tropical monsoon morning, when the restaurant was very close to being finished, a flock of ducks from the rice fields across the road ran quacking and squawking into the restaurant and across the floor and tables.  They left their muddy, webbed footprints all over the place. They were our first guest .. these Dirty Ducks !

OK, got it!

Oh by the way the rice fields across the road are no longer in sight. There are shops burgeoning everywhere now. The restaurant itself has become a sight to behold!

To live up to the ducky name, there were several duck dishes on the menu. We had Bebek Bakar Sambal Hijau served with sweet potato rice and vegetable and Grilled Duck served with Balinese sauces and steamed rice, and of course fresh Coconut water

We were told by Jun that a proper and fancy restaurant in Bali with a certain pricetag is where a small portion of  nicely presented rice is served. Yup, we noticed the neatly presented small rice portion on our plates 😀

My verdict? Great location with a gorgeous and comfortable ambience. Friendly staff with surprisingly very fast service. Now the taste? To be very honest, our dinner was so-so. Nothing special. The duck meat portions were rather small too. The grilled duck was rather dry and bland if not for the sambal or Balinese sauces. And the price is somewhat steep, even for non-Balinese standard. For me, a one-time experience in this iconic restaurant was enough.

Healing, Royal, Holy and Sacred

Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali and home to one of Bali’s royal families. My first visual glimpse of Ubud is the innumerable sight of royal palaces and ancient temples. Pharmacies are easily available in Ubud as well.

And that’s how I would define Ubud : Healing, Royal, Holy and Sacred

Healing

Jun told us how Ubud got its name. I thought it was interesting. The confluence of the 2 rivers, West Wos River meeting East Wos River is called Campuhan by Balinese (or Bahasa Indonesia). The meeting point of the 2 rivers serves as a source of holy water with peculiar property to heal sickness. This healing water is called ubad (medicine), hence the word ubad has been transformed and coined into ubud

Royal

The hotel where we stayed was a walking distance to the Royal Palace of Ubud.

Puri Saren Agung is the palace of the Ubud royal family. It hallmarks well-kept Balinese architecture with charming garden setting. The palace is best known among Balinese art lovers as one of the main sites to view traditional Balinese dance performances. We were there a wee bit late and had missed the performances. Anyway walking on our own within the palace compound was already a blessing.

 

Holy

Stop!! Do not step on them! That’s what we’ve been told.

 

For many years, Balinese families have passed down the ritual of daily offerings. Each day, Balinese women create little hand-pleated baskets or trays made from coconut leaves. The little tray is adorned with colourful flowers, fruits, rice and edibles as daily devotional gifts meant to appease and please the various Dieties and Demons of Balinese Hinduism.  These little baskets of offerings are perched all over the city, temples, sidewalks, shops and private house’s doorway and shrines.  That’s right, the Canang Sari (as it is called in Balinese) can be found in every nook and cranny of Bali.

 

I asked Jun what would happen if we accidentally stepped on one of the Canang Saris.  He said, if it is not done intentionally or if we stepped on one accidentally, that’s OK.  A word of caution: out of respect, it is not allowed to step on the Canang Sari when the incense stick is still burning.  The locals believe that the Dieties are feasting while the Canang Sari is freshly offered and by stepping on one, would mean that the spirits might enter your body and possess you as it is simply translated to mean that you have abruptly disturbed their meal.

Sacred

The monkey and its folklore are key elements in Balinese art tradition. This is appearing in some of the traditional Balinese dances, such as Kecak and Ramayana, where the monkey is a notable figure in the story.

 

The type of monkeys that dwell in the Monkey Forest is known as the Balinese long-tailed monkey aka macaques. I understood there are about 900 monkeys in the forest and they are divided into 6 groups, ie, the group that dwells in front of the main temple, the Michelin group (not sure what or where this is), the Central point group, Cemeteries group, Eastern group and Southern or the forest conservation group of monkeys. Each group consists of 100-150 primates ranging from infants to adults. Because of the considerable population, conflicts between groups of monkeys are unavoidable. The common thing about macaques is that they are active by day and will rest as nightfall.  In other words, pretty much like Homo sapiens 😉

 

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a leisurely 15-minute walk from our hotel.

Why a Monkey Forest in the heart of the city? The mission of the Monkey Forest is built as a sacred sanctuary based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana which is one of the philosophies in Hinduism. Tri Hita Karana means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical wellbeing”

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is not just a tourist attraction or an important component in the spiritual and economic well being of the local community, but it is also a paramount location for research and conservation programs

 

What not to do (in case you didn’t know …)

In general, the monkeys will not come to you if you do not bring bananas or any other foods 😉

By the way, I noticed the monkeys’ daily diet include sweet potatoes, corns, bananas and coconuts

Babi Guling

While Fish & Chips are synonymous to England, Nasi Lemak to Malaysia and Waffles to Belgium, Babi Guling (suckling roasted pig) is a must-have dish in Bali. We vowed not to leave Ubud without having a taste of the infamous babi guling at Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 1.

The restaurant we went to is the first and main restaurant, located just opposite the Royal Palace of Ubud while Warung Ibu Oka is one of the branches where the late Anthony Bourdain’s loving coverage of the babi guling made the restaurant virally famous.

 

My verdict? Simple and honest homestyle dishes. We ordered a portion of the complete babi guling dish with soup and an extra portion of meat with crispy pork skin.  The complete meal comprised a portion of steamed white rice, vegetables, deep fried crispy pork nuggets, black sausage, meat from the suckling roasted pig and a piece of the prized crispy pork skin.  The price quoted on the menu list is pre 10% tax, so be warned. Either you like it or not, the star item on the platter, ie the crispy pork skin was not my son’s favourite at all, so my sis and I had a piece from each plate. To be honest, the suckling roasted pork and skin were just okay, however, the star dish that stole our heart was the deep fried crispy pork nuggets.  We really enjoyed the crispy, tasty and a bit chewy nuggets. I noticed we were not the only table ordering the extra crispy pork nuggets.  Several tables around us did the same. Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka should be renamed to Warung Babi Gorengan Ibu Oka 😉 . Total spend (after tax) was 253k IDR (ca Eur 17) for 3 pax including fresh juices.  Not bad at all.

Would I go back?  Without a doubt …

 

The Day Unfolds …

With a good pair of shoes or slippers, walking around Ubud on our own was not difficult at all.  While there was a bout of heatwave in Europe in July with a record high of > 40 deg C for a few consecutive days, the weather in Ubud or Bali for that matter, was surprisingly, crisp and cool at a max of 28 deg C! I did not remember sweating profusely at all even with the long walks down Jalan Raya Ubud, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman … all done on foot!

After the long and winding walks through the narrow streets of Ubud, we returned to our bungalow and spa, feeling knackered and dead beat from the day’s galivanting. We hit the sack but only to get up early the next morning as a new day unfolded.  As we finished our brekkie in a jiffy,  Jun, our tour guide for the entire day was waiting for us.

A new day unfolded with unexpected tsunami of adventures in store ~ mythical, breathtaking, nerve-racking, impressive, disappointing, addictive

Wanna read more?

Stay tuned to Part 2 😉

 

Cheers

xxx

 

Radda in Chianti is one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany. It is one that perched the highest on the Tuscan hill. The highest point I noted on the GPS was at least 700m asl! It’s ca 15km away from San Sano, our Summer hols based location in August this year.

My memory of Radda was not as positive as the rest of the Chianti towns, at least on the gastronomical aspect at the material time and day. Well, unforgettable memories can be either good or bad, right?

We had originally wanted to dine out at Osteria Le Panzanelle in Radda but could not find the restaurant. Instead we ended up at Ristorante Vignale. It had a lovely patio overlooking the most beautiful view of acres and acres of vineyard!

After having one of the most memorable dinners in San Sano the other evening, we assumed every Tuscan restos offered similar quality of amazing foods. Unfortunately, not at Ristorante Vignale. The menu card looked ambitious and sadly, we were sold by the artistic descriptions of the items on the list.

The plates that were brought out to us were stylishly presented, but the execution was very poor.

On paper, the starter I ordered sounded too good to be true: summery and almost music to my ear. In reality, the actual presentation was quite disappointing. There were way too many goat’s cheese on my starter plate that I hardly tasted or saw any truffle-flavoured bread crumbs! The summer salad was just simple iceberg salad. My verdict? A boring ensemble of the so called, The Vignale Summer Salad with pine nuts, walnuts, goats’ cheese and truffle-flavoured bread crumbs

You bet I was looking forward to my main course that sounded pretty alluring; Medieval style spiced young pork stuffed with prunes and apricots. Too bad, the glamorous sounding Medieval porky were merely thinly sliced, hard pieces of rather salty and dry meat smothered with some sauce with a bit of green salad and 4 wedges of very small potatoes.

And finally, I left the verdict of the pannacotta to my older son. He had the pannacotta at Trattoria Grotta della Rana in San Sano the other evening. By comparing with the one at Vignale, his first bite and comment in one word was “Bubblegum!”

Yup, that’s his honest verdict of the oodles of gelatine used in the pannacotta at Ristorante Vignale! What a shame, it looked nice but the taste was something else. What can I say, looks can be deceiving…

Oh by the way, to add salt to injury, my younger son’s dessert of Cheese Cake with fruit coulis and handmade ice-cream missed out the most crucial item. The handmade ice-cream was missing!!

By not crucifying too much of Radda, I’d like to mention that the best part of Radda that remains mesmeric in my mind’s eye was the view.

Night fell and we left Radda without turning back.

We walked the lighted pathway looking forward to a new tomorrow …

Have a great week!

Ciao!

There are actually 5 Chianti towns perched on the hillside of Tuscany, in Italy. We have explored 4 of the 5 Chianti towns. The one we did not go to was Lecchi in Chianti. It was less than 3 km from the holiday home we stayed in San Sano. It’s the smallest of the 5 Chianti towns, quite similar to San Sano, hence we gave it a miss.

To give you an idea where Chianti is on the map, here’s a scratchy but ‘magnetic’ image of the map of Tuscany 😉

Gaiole in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti is one of the five main Chianti towns in Tuscany. We stayed in San Sano in the summer of Aug 2018. Gaiole was about 9 km away. By the way, San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole.

All Chianti towns are best remembered by the iconic rooster standing resplendently before entering the centre.

That’s the very reason why we see the distinctive insignia on all Chianti Classico bottles, the silhouette of a black rooster on a white background, surrounded by a burgundy ring. Chianti Classico is considered the most traditional wine made within the original production zone of the 5 Chianti towns. Chianti wine produced outside the geographical area is simply called, “Chianti”.

With only one tiny and crammed grocery shop in San Sano, we did most of our groceries at our favourite Coop supermarket in Gaiole.

And here were what I have prepared in the most challenging kitchen with no chopping board, blunt knives, broken pair of kitchen scissors, insufficient pots, pans and serving plates with ingredients bought at the Coop supermarket in Gaiole in Chianti.

But, hey! I got by, hopefully? 😉

Market Day in Gaiole

If you have read my posts of our summer hols in the Provence, I mentioned my love of the outdoor markets. It’s all part of the fun, the sun and the local ambience, the colours and smells and strolling and exploring the unending quaint streets.

Market day in Gaiole is the second Monday of every month. I was excited at the thought of going to one up on the Tuscan hills. But alas! Poor Gaiole only boasts of one stretch of road with only a few stalls.

However, it wasn’t the market that enchanted us that day, it was a shop, called L’Eroica. Gaiole in Chianti is perhaps the best known town as the starting point and birthplace of the cycling route of L’Eroica.

No wonder we saw serious bikers taking the route every time we drove past Gaiole in Chianti. The L’Eroica shop tells all with curious passers-by popping in 😀

We had wanted to spend the entire day at Gaiole but it was not meant to be. We headed for the unplanned trip to Siena, instead. Ha ha …

Next up: Radda in Chianti

See you there!

Ciao!

Tschüss Tirol! Ciao Tuscany!

We left Gästehaus Maria in Nassereith after having a humble breakfast of buns with cold cuts and cheeses. We needed that because of our impending journey to Tuscany which was a long and winding 615km away.

Nassereith is 845m above sea level. It’s a mountainous region in Tirol.

We bade farewell to the colossal mountains and the cool air of Tirol while heading for North East Italy.

While on the highway to Italy, I suddenly felt like a Chipmunk or a Badger or a Mole burrowing through tunnels.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened; the highway crosses the heart of the mountains, passing through countless tunnels, viaducts and bridges.

After 9 gruelling hours on the road, we finally reached our holiday home, situated in a medieval hamlet, nestled in the Tuscan hills. While in Tirol, our B&B overlooked the mountains from our balcony; it was at San Sano that we had the extensive views of billowing vineyards acres after acres.

I had a quick inspection of the facades and knew that I could appreciate my stay there. I could see myself curling up on a chair tapping away on my iPhone and sharing with you my moblogs.

It was hot and humid up in the mountains of Tuscany, so unlike Tirol. One thing’s for sure, I don’t need my pashmina 🙂

What’s up next was a mystery as much as San Sano is mysterious …

Ciao!

I have been away sporadically in hot and humid climes quite a bit this summer. When I got back to Belgium in early July I felt the emergence of the European summer heat in the air. I was again away for 2 weeks in mid July to Saigon and Penang. I think I have gotten used to the sweltering heat. Before I flew back to Belgium, hubs told me that there were heat waves all over Europe. Belgium was not spared, with the mercury level soaring to as high as 39 deg C some days. The prolonged periods of warm and dry weather were the intrinsic theme of the summer across Europe anno 2018.

Wednesday 8th August was my last day at work. Although it was nice to work in a fully air-conditioned office, I was more looking forward to our family trip ~ our annual summer hols.

It’s completely different this summer, because we have entirely excluded the predictable definition of ‘Provence‘ in any shape and form. You will understand this statement if you have read several of my previous posts about our annual summer hols ~ yup, always to that predictable location called the Provence! 🙂

Last summer, we included both the Provence and Spain in our holiday plan. We wanted something different, but obviously, we did not let go off the South of France part that easily. Ha ha …

So this summer, we’ve gone 180 degrees. We chose Austria and Italy (yup, no Provence) as our holiday destinations. That’s why I was excited and was looking forward to these different itineraries. It has been a while since we did something different now that the boys are no longer little …

A fluky Journey

The road trip to Tirol, Austria was 790km with the ETA time of 15:44. The BIG question was, would a quarter to four remain our ETA more or less??

Hmm… let’s see …

We left on a weekday for the obvious reason to avoid reaching gridlocks.

But ….

Just 20 minutes of driving, we were trapped in a 45-minute long of traffic congestions due to an accident and roadworks on the Brussels-Luxembourg highway!

Not long after we left Luxembourg enroute Germany, the skies turned immensely dark and gloomy with the most unwelcoming thunderstorm. Visions were blurred and signposts were literally illegible.

With all these obstructions, our ETA was stretched further. Hmmmmph…!!

We tried not to stop or rest too long lest our ETA would be too late.

We did, however, stop briefly for the last 97km to stretch our legs.

We continued on with the journey until we saw the majestic mountainous landscape before us. It was a welcoming sight. We knew we would be reaching our ultimate destination soon.

A Frigid ETA

With the heat waves across Europe, I expected the same for Austria, but I have miscalculated. We arrived in Tirol with grey skies cascading above us. It was cold at 14C after leaving Belgium at 32C! And guess what? I did not pack any warm clothing. Ouch!

But the lovely B&B looked so cosy with the breathtaking mountains just in front of our balcony! That took the cold temps off my mind a bit.

With the long journey we had gone through, we hit the sack and went down slumberland as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Quest for Warmth

The following morning was equally numbing and frigid.

We had wanted to walk to the centre of Nassereith, but with the unforeseen cold summer temperature, we drove to the centre, instead. Nassereith is a very tiny village which is self-contained. My intention of getting a warm shawl was dashed. There were none in sight, hence, we took to the road and headed for Innsbruck.

There was a traffic jam on the road to Innsbruck. If you noticed, Austrians would drive on extreme ends of both wings of the lanes, right and left. That, to give way to motorbikes to slide through the parted traffic and as well, for emergency vehicles to pass through. I give the Austrians 10/10 for road traffic etiquette 🙂

Secluded Nassereith is just the opposite of crowded Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is a very touristic city. Lots of shopping galleries and eateries. Well, that’s where we had our lunch. It was cheap with enormous servings. We were famished and ate all up. Mind you, that was our first proper meal after binging on unhealthy snacks during our 11-hour drive the day before.

Oh by the way, I found a pashmina to keep the cold away 😀

A Jinx?

The day we left Tirol, the temperature went up to a lovely 24C.

I’m sure we jinxed our way to Austria. Lol!

We shall miss the fresh mountain air of Tirol.

Tschüss! Auf Wiedersehen!

By the way, I think it is appropriate that I end my post here, in the famous catchphrase of an American Austrian-born actor and politician, Arnold SchwarzeneggerHasta la vista, baby! I’ll be back!

Off to Italy next!

Stay tuned 😉

Ciao!

I wish you a Blessed Assumption Day!

Cheers!

My 2 sons were bored with the same holiday destination year after year each Summer. “It has become too predictable“, they said.

My younger son whinged, “Why are we always spending our summer hols in the Provence? We’re becoming the real experts of South France and Van Gogh!” *chuckle*

Hmmm… true!

So, early this year, while planning our annual family summer getaway, hubby and I rethought our summer destination.

Hubby prefers to drive and rents a holiday cottage rather than flying and staying in hotels if the stay is a week or more. By excluding France in the picture, we went for the elimination theory. Germany is too near and the summer weather sucks! Just like Belgium and the UK! Luxembourg is too small. We have been to the Netherlands and they speak pretty much the same language (as Flemish), hence nothing new.

The weather played an important role in the choice of our holiday destination, too. It’s got to be warmer than Belgium!

Oh-kay! Got it!

Spain!

Si Señor(a)! España, por favor!

Mind you, it’s almost 1.5k km away! I told hubby to split our summer hols by staying a night or two half way through the journey somewhere in mid or South France and then to resume with the rest of the journey to Spain. Instead, hubby opted to rent La Maison Blanche at St-Rémy-de-Provence for the entire week and 2 weeks in Spain! So yes, we were back in the Provence … again! 🙂

Well, anyway we were super excited and my younger son was especially thrilled to learn about our NEW summer destination… finally! 🙂

We’re headed to Caldes de Malavella in the province of Girona, North East Spain. Very little is known of Caldes de Malavella. It’s a sleepy town, by the way. However, we found out that the place was formerly renowned for its thermal baths or spas!

The remains of the Ancient Roman Bath in Caldes, for instance. Photo credit to Josep Renalias (Wikipedia).

We have never got any closer to the city because the summer residence we’re headed for was self-contained, and very well connected to other cities in Spain. That’s a plus point for us.

By the way, our knowledge of Spain as a holiday destination was nil. Zero! Being first timers to Catalonia, our summer hols this year became more challenging. We have only heard and read about the popular coastal region of Costa Brava and of course Barcelona, so Barca’s definitely on our itinerary! Other than that, we knew the eccentric Spanish artist and surrealist icon, Salvador Dali came from that region.

From La Maison Blanche to Can Fonzo

After one nostalgic week in South France, we left La Maison Blanche en route to Girona. The GPS flashed a distance of ca 370 km, and ETA at around 2 pm.

It was late morning on a Saturday and with a heavy traffic from Béziers all the way to Costa Brava, our ETA stretched to almost 6 pm when we arrived at Villa Can Fonzo in Caldes de Malavella.

OMG! The house was huge! I did not expect that at all. It’s located on a hill slope.

According to Barcelona Life, “Caldes became a prosperous place and today around the outskirts of the town you’ll find plenty of attractive private mansions and summer residences, built in the Modernista – ie. Catalan art nouveau – style.”

So true!

When I entered the house, I exclaimed, “oh oh, I will have to remember where I place my handphone or cable or the charger or just about anything… ” Lol!

South East Asian Connections

The house is owned by a Dutch couple. It’s interesting to see their connections with Asia within the house.

I was looking for coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet, and found these mugs. Singaporeans may know this pottery factory 😉

And of course several memorabilia of Indonesia, being once a Dutch colony.

There’re many books of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the many book shelves in the house, too.

We have never met the owners, but they left a strong message behind 😉

First Meal in Spain

After exploring the house, I decided to cook us a simple meal of Fusilli all’Arrabbiata, with the fresh chillies, garlic and fusilli I brought from Belgium and red peppers, dried herbs, smoked bacon and tomatoes from the Provence in the kitchen at Can Fonzo.

A simple yet satisfying meal 😉

While enjoying my plate of Fusilli and a glass of rosé on the patio, I gazed ahead of me a vision of a new and exciting tomorrow 😉

Ah …. what Peace and Serenity …. until I heard the buzzing sound of mosquitoes flapping their wings!

Arghhhh!!!!

Have a Blessed week!

Cheers!

Our holidays in the Provence were coming to an end…

Arles

We returned to Arles, but again and again, what a surprise… we discovered a new location that we had not been to in our previous sojourns in the Provence! It’s a drawbridge which was a subject of several paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. It was the replica of the original Langlois Bridge (Pont de Langlois) or better known as Pont Van Gogh.

Walk

Nearby the Pont Van Gogh was a lovely walking trail that seemed to run to infinity. The surrounding flora were very simple; dried thistles, wild berries, shrubs and bushes, fathomless stream and dusty trails.

We seemed to be walking for ages until thirst and hunger got the better of us 🙂

We returned to the car and drove back to the centre of Arles. We found a good spot under a shady tree but had to walk quite a distance passing deserted alleys and back lanes.

We finally stopped at the first resto we saw, Le Bistrot des Artistes. Surprisingly, the choice of dishes were fab, but the service was quite slow, despite the fact that we did not order a set lunch for once. From too much of walking, we did not feel like eating too much variety of dishes, but were definitely more parched. Or perhaps we wanted to save space in our tummy for the much talked about artisanal ice-creams in Arles!

Last year my friend and her family stayed in Arles and she recommended an ice-cream parlour that served only artisanal ice-creams.

We thought we found it. It’s located just outside Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles de Vincent Van Gogh (once upon a time a hospital). Whew! It’s a bit of a mouthful, innit?

It was there that Van Gogh was admitted after cutting his left earlobe. The Hospital of Arles is the subject of Van Gogh’s 2 paintings; one of them was the painting of the inner courtyard of the hospital called Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles (Courtyard or Garden of the Hospital in Arles).

Oh by the way, the pink-coloured ice cream parlour we went to (Glacier Fraîcheur et Délices) was not the one my friend mentioned. She went to the yellow coloured ice cream shop called Soleileis. Anyway, there were several artisanal ice-cream makers in the vicinity of Arles. We just found one that succeeded to ‘cool’ us down on a hot day and both parlours were in close proximity to Place du Forum.

Unfortunately, the day was still young and there were no stars in the sky! Sorry, no starry night, Vincent 😉

Finally at Le Bistrot de La Galine!

It was Friday and our last day at La Maison Blanche. We were to check out the next morning.

Before wrapping up our stay at La Maison Blanche, we were looking forward to lunch at the nearby Le Bistrot de La Galine. We had missed that place just a week before because it was closed on a Sunday.

I had the Bistro menu of smoked duck salad and the local specialty of Camargue, Gardiane de Taureau à la Provençale served on a bed of tagliatelle. Both the starter and the main course were good until the house dessert came. The banana chocolate tart was an anticlimax, for me at least. It was just not my favourite, however, my younger son hit a home run with his choice of dishes; ravioli, burger and fries and tiramisu!

Back for the Muscat

Last year our trip to Beaumes-de-Venise was extraordinarily special with a hint of nostalgia. This year we only went to the wine tasting cave of Coyeaux. Yes, we came back for the muscat Beaume-de-Venise! After tasting 4 different Muscats, hubby bought the muscat Beaume de Venise rosé (2016). The 3 bottles followed us back some 1k km…

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

We headed back to La Maison Blanche and guess who came to visit us?!!

Yay!!! Our friend came back! He may not have the friendliest of faces, but I guess for a dog’s expression that would probably be translated as his sensing our imminent departure from La Maison Blanche, hence the sad drooping look through the glass door of the back yard.

By the way (not in the photo), before the littlest hobo scampered away, he peed on the shrub bed, as if to tell us that he’d be back.

I’m sure he would or did, but with new tenants to pick up where we had left off…

Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir!

À bientôt!

Until we meet again!

From Bonjour to Hola!

We checked out La Maison Blanche at 10 am and left St-Rémy-de Provence in South France direction Girona, North East Spain!

Thus, ended our Provençal vacation, and the beginning of Catalonian summer escapades!

From Bonjour et Au revoir France to Hola España!

Spain, here we come !!

To be continued…

Enjoy the rest of the week. TGIF!

Cheers !