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…

Twenty One

There are almost exactly 21 years between the image on the left, taken on July 8th 2001 when I became a mother, and the image on the right taken yesterday evening.

My son turns twenty one today and is officially grown up everywhere in the world. He can now even enter that over 21 bar some of his friends frequent but he hasn’t been able to before. 🙂 Junior is a social, smart, empathetic, funny and independent young man trying to find his way in the world and doing so in a style all of his own that we love to witness. We are looking forward to his next chapter at uni starting in September. We are so proud of him and love him to the moon and back.

Happy 21st birthday, Junior! May your future be bright and merry and meaningful and full of love. We are so lucky to have you.

The best part…

… of Father’s Day today are the hugs.

It’s been a low key, normal day with my son’s handball match, some care for my daughter who’s feeling a little off, and a visit to my father-in-law but best of all are these little moments. I’m so happy my kids have a dad they love and who loves them back.

The week that was

  • Doing more and more for my new job and am still really glad that I took the step to switch jobs! The work is more fun and the people are great. There are some real challenges but I know I’ll be fine even with those as I feel a real community spirit in trying to get things done and solving problems. I go in to work at the university twice a week now and it feels a little weird to be away from home so much, I’m not used to that anymore!
  • The four of us went out for a lovely dinner for Mr Esther’s birthday last Tuesday, I love little family moments like that. Got a bellyache from laughing too, which is always a good release in these trying times.
  • Helped my son a lot, whenever I could, to change his room, which included a lot of clearing out of old things and help him build up some of the new (Ikea) furniture. He finally got the double bed he wanted so badly for so many years and also a new desk. It was a combined birthday and graduation gift and conditional on him getting his diploma which he did last December. By the time he got his diploma, the shops were closed again due to Covid lockdowns here, so we only got around to doing this now. The young man is very happy.
  • I accidentally broke the handle to our back sliding door yesterday. The whole mechanism inside the door broke, so the door is completely stuck and we can’t get into the garden anymore (unless we walk around our little block of four houses and get into our garden via the back gate). Mr E has had contact with some guy who can fix it, hopefully this weekend. There go another €500,- or so…
  • The war in Ukraine remains so depressing that I found myself working on fan videos again this week. My mind needed the occupation and it was fun to do. This time the videos are for Random Harvest with Ronald Colman and Greer Garson. I set up a page for them on my blog in my fan video section, so you can watch them there if you are so inclined.
  • The weekend is here and it’s good to relax with a glass of wine. Time for another Colman movie perhaps? Have a good one, dear readers!

The Tree of Life

So, today I finally did something I have been wanting to do for many years.

Yes, I got a tattoo! I normally hate strangers touching me (that includes spa treatments, massages, hairdressers, doctors) but for today I overcame that and made an exception. My son getting a tattoo close to three weeks ago inspired me to finally get mine done as well, after saying for years that I want one.

When Mr E and I got married in 1999, my mother painted a beautiful tree of life for us as a wedding gift and when my father passed away in 2015, two very good friends of mine in the USA sent me a tree of life to hang in my window. Ever since then I was sure that I wanted to get a tree of life tattoo.

I had specific wishes. For one, I was adamant about it being on my foot and not on the side of my leg as was suggested to me a few times at the tattoo shop. I just like the idea of it being in a non-standard spot. It can also easily be hidden when I wear shoes (not popping out of low socks as it would be if it were placed above my ankle) and it is easily visible to me when I am barefoot around the house or when I wear my Birkenstocks in summer when I don’t have to work. In addition, I wanted a couple hidden in the tree trunk, similar to what my mother had painted, and I wanted the initials E M A S (the first letters of the names of the four of us) somehow incorporated.

This is the end result. In the picture on the left my foot is somewhat reddish just after it was done; in the picture on the right taken this evening the image is a little shiny from the tattoo balm I put on it.

I am extremely pleased with my brand-new tattoo! The tattoo guy called it an upside down tattoo, he had expected the roots to go near the toes. I wanted it this way around, however, as it’s a tattoo for me personally and not really for the world. I didn’t want it to look upside down when I look at it. Junior was with me, even got a little nervous for me when the tattooing started and gave me sweet encouraging smiles when it got a little uncomfortable here and there. It was very heartwarming to see how pleased he was with the end result and how happy he was for me. Now he, my daughter and my husband are literally etched into my skin for the rest of my life.

I’m really glad that it turned out how I like it, especially as getting a tattoo is a once in a lifetime thing for me. As interesting as the experience was, I don’t need any more tattoos than this one. Here’s to it staying pretty for a long time yet!