On their way

Had a bit of a busy day today. This morning some chores, this afternoon Mr E, mini me and I spent the afternoon in the beautiful city of Utrecht (it’s my favourite Dutch city) and had dinner there right next to one of the canals…

When I got home this evening it was straight on to packaging all the Richard-Armitage-with-a-whiskey-glass coasters from the fixed-price fundRAising sale for LOROS hospice and the puzzle from the auction for LOROS. I had printed packaging slips and sorted everything this morning, so all that was left for me to do was write the accompanying cards, addresses on the envelopes, fill the envelopes and buy the postage online. We don’t even need stamps anymore, just a code to jot down on the envelope and voilà, ready for the mailbox!

There’s a mailbox at the end of my little street, so I dropped off all the envelopes with coasters immediately. This means that everything is already on its way, starting their journeys to the US, UK, Finland and even New Zealand! The puzzle package will be dropped off at the post office tomorrow morning. Thank you so much for enthusiastically buying in the #2022RABirthdayFundRAiser! I hope everything arrives safe and sound and that the buyers will enjoy their new RA goodies.

Italy, Switzerland, France and Belgium

The final travel blog post for this summer holiday is here. The last leg of our journey took us through 4 European countries before we finally came home to The Netherlands.

The last post ended with Pozzuoli and I thought I’d also open this post with Pozzuoli. We found out which house had been the house that actress Sophia Loren had lived in as a youngster (from a video of Sophia Loren driving by the house a few years ago and pointing to it herself) and we stopped to take a picture as well. I’m not a real La Loren fan, but it was still nice to see her house…

The house is not far down the road from a volcanic crater called Solfatara (the house is on the Via Solfatara, pretty much next to the amphitheatre) so we took a look there as well. You can still see some yellowish colouring on the ground from the sulfur.

We drove around the whole area that day and ended up visiting an old Roman bathhouse and villa in Baia, with an upside down tree (with roots in a roof) and a huge dome which still (or again) housed water.

The next day we went to Napels. We had driven there one day before but traffic was chaotic, we even got caught in a little street where a wedding party was assembling…

We didn’t know where to park (nothing we saw looked that trustworthy to us as tourists with a Dutch numberplate), so left again that day, researched public transport and found a garage with P+R facilities so we could take a tram into the city. That first day in Napels we visited the archaelolgical museum with so much beautiful Pompei art (murals and mosaics and such) and also beautiful old statues. We could publish a book with all the beautiful things we saw, but here are just a few quick examples (as usual, click on images to enlarge)…

We walked into the city of Napels after our museum visit and the next day returned to just walk around and take it all in some more, which was very nice. It’s quite a chaotic and not so very clean city, but there’s a life and a charm to it that made me really enjoy it. We ate pizza Napoli (Mr E) and pizza Nuovo Napoli (me) in Naples and did not regret it. Pizza is sooo good there, which is nice to know as it’s the birthplace of the modern pizza now eaten everywhere around the world.

An evening and dinner in the nearby Pozzuoli was also charming…

After our few days in that area we took to the road again and drove north to Assisi. Boy, is Assisi beautiful! Very hilly with steep climbs but so beautiful. It was almost too much to take in. We were there for an evening and a morning and even happened upon a lovely free concert with an Italian singer infront of one of the many churches of Assisi.

We went on to Turin where we stayed for two nights which was fine but turned out not to be a fave. There were certainly pretty parts and we think it has a lot to offer culturally, but the city itself just didn’t do so much for us (although, those evening pictures sure are pretty). We also saw the long box in which the Turin shroud is kept and a replica image.

We then drove further north and took the St. Bernard Pass into Switzerland. The Alpine views were quite stunning. We took a little break, just so we could take it all in…

… then drove to Lake Geneva…

… and stopped in Vevey, the village Charlie Chaplin had lived in for the last 25 years of his life. His old house is now a Charlie Chaplin museum and as a film fan I just had to visit it. It was very nicely done, with actual Chaplin furniture, documents and a lot of info. Afterwards we drove by the graveyard to also visit his and his wife Oona’s grave.

Switzerland is quite expensive, so we went on to our hotel outside of Lausanne (which was only slightly cheaper) and then took a metro into town with the free metrocard we had been given. Lausanne didn’t quite impress us either, but maybe we weren’t looking in the right place and finding a dinner spot was a little challenging too, which didn’t help. Still, a little impression…

The next morning we drove a little to the west of Lausanne to the village of Tolochenaz. This is the village in which Audrey Hepburn lived in from 1963 until her passing in 1993. It’s also the village in which she was buried. I’d visited her grave before in a flyby visit back in the late 1990s but this time we took our time to walk around the village and also pass by her house which is closed to the public. I loved getting a better sense of the village and there’s even a little square now called “Place Audrey Hepburn” which features her bust.

We drove to France after and as we had some time left, we stopped to look around and eat something in a town called Besançon, which turned out to be the birthplace of French author Victor Hugo.

We ended in St. Dizier, a small town where we had booked a hotel for the night. Nothing special really, but nice for an evening.

On our almost last day, we drove on north in the direction of Belgium, where we had booked a hotel for the night in the city of Gent (Ghent). Junior and his friend were also heading up north after a two week holiday in the south of France. As we were texting each other during the journey we found out in the afternoon that we were only 60 km apart on the same highway! So, we arranged to meet up for a coffee at a stop along the highway. We got there half an hour before the boys, but it was fun to see them!

While the boys drove home, Mr E and I drove on to Ghent. We decided on a last minute boat ride there, had dinner and later in the evening Belgian beer (for Mr E) and wine for me. Ghent is such a beautiful town. The next morning we visited the famous Ghent Altarpiece, painted by the Van Eyck brothers in the 15th century. It has been recently restored and was absolutely beautiful!

We got home again yesterday at around 2 pm (Ghent is only a two hour drive away from where we live) but it already feels much longer as I immediately got roped into helping my dear aunt, who is not feeling well and is staying at my mom’s house for now, get a specific prescription filled which had its complications.

Still, this was a beautiful holiday with so much we have seen! Also, Mr E and I haven’t had that amount of time alone together since before we had kids and we really enjoyed it. We’re great together, with or without kids, and that’s a nice thing to acknowledge once again. It’s been beautiful but also quite busy so we’re glad that we don’t start back to work until next week…

In the footsteps of the Romans

Time flies when you’re having fun! Our week at the cottage at the bottom of the Vesuvius has just ended. We had a grand time there, following in the footsteps of the Romans. We visited remnants of their villa’s, with the Vesuvius visible in the background…

On our 23rd wedding anniversary (July 26th, yay us!) we drove to the Amalfi coast. Beautiful there but very narrow and busy (overrun by tourists, really) and we couldn’t find a parking spot, so never actually got out of the car in either Amalfi or Positano.

We ended up in Sorrento, which turned out to be a really lovely town!

On a fun side note – as we walked through Sorrento I was thinking of Pierce Brosnan as I knew he had filmed around there some 8 or 9 years ago for the Danish movie Love Is All You Need, a movie I absolutely love and made two fan videos for. And sure enough, in the middle of the old town center, we stumbled across the location of the café that featured in the movie! Images from the movie…

… and my pictures…

We of course also visited Pompei which was quite impressive. It was a dream come true for Mr E to visit there. He went twice, while I went there once. Very hot, of course, and our feet got quite filthy, but very much worth it! Mr E wore his Monty Python “What have the Romans ever done for us?” t-shirt on his second visit (my first visit) there, which garnered some smiles here and there and one guy calling out enthusiastically: “Hey, Monty Python!”

We also visited Herculaneum, another town that got buried under the pumice and ashes of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Much smaller than Pompei but very impressive too with even the first known street billboard (or so they say) advertising wine. And yes, that’s a real cat in that last picture taking a nap in the souvenir shop.

We also took some time to relax while we were at that cottage (suriving the mosquito bites better after we bought mosquito repellent ointment), I even watched the new Persuasion over on Netflix (my thoughts on that to follow another time) and most evenings we cooked our own meals. And yes, I bought some cat food to spoil ‘our’ 3 cats with. The owner of the cottage also fed them, but not daily I think, so I wanted to spoil them while we were there.

Today (or actually yesterday as it’s after midnight) we left our cottage and drove along the northern part of the Naples bay and found a beautiful spot to have lunch. It is from somewhere here that Pliny the Younger witnessed the Vesuvius eruption (Vesuvius is visible in the background of the picture I am in) and 25 years later described what had happened in letters.

We have now driven to our new hotel north of Napels, on the coast, in a place called Pozzuoli. After we dropped our things at the hotel (we have a sea view, albeit along a busy street), we walked into town. Pozzuoli is the least touristy place we’ve been to (and it’s apparently also the city actress Sophia Loren grew up in) and we really like it. We also caught gimpses of the old amphitheater on the way. It’s got a lively center filled with Italians going out on a late Saturday afternoon/evening (no evening pictures here, though, but it did get very busy as we walked back to the hotel after our dinner).

We’ll be here for a few days as we want to visit Napels and maybe see something of old volcano craters in the neighbourhood. And so on we go…

We’re going on an adventure…

Well, sort of. Mr Esther and I are on our summer holiday right now.

As I type this I’m in a little cottage at the bottom of the Vesuvius, near Pompeii, in Italy. Mr Esther and I drove here, we arrived Saturday evening and it took us seven days to get here. This is our first summer holiday for just the two of us in 21 years and I admit that especially at the beginning it felt very weird to me to not have at least one kid with us. But we’ve been keeping in touch, so that is something. Missing the kids doesn’t mean I am not loving our time away, though. Mr E and I do really enjoy each other’s company and that is no different on this holiday.

Day 1 was Sunday, July 17th. We covered the longest distance that day, some 550 km to Würzburg, taking turns driving and eating our first Käsekuchen (German cheescake) of the journey in a little village called Münzenberg just off the highway to the north of Frankfurt.

We arrived in Würzburg at the end of the afternoon, dropped our things at our hotel and then walked into town to do our first exploration. After dinner we sat along the Main river and read while we also chatted and watched the people stroll by.

Incidentally, that was the last evening my e-reader worked! It has since died… Luckily I also have loads of books on my laptop and was able to transfer a few to my phone to read from there. Not that I particularly like reading from my phone but needs must. Anyway, we had booked two nights in Würzburg and good thing too because I was tired after working so hard leading up to my holiday, then of course the Ed Sheeran concert, then Saturday packing and Sunday travelling all day.

Day 2, Monday, was also spent in Würzburg. We slept in for a bit and then walked around town, visited the castle (no pics allowed to be taken inside) and also bought cheap but functional summer hats because we really needed them to protect us in the heat. I was annoyed by some of the tone in explanatory texts pertaining to last century’s German history (or lack thereof) in one of the churche