Holiday during Corona, part 2

The last overdose of pictures of our holiday is coming up right now. First, some relaxation shots…

… and then last Saturday afternoon we drove just across the border to Belgium, to the little town of Remouchamps which houses caves. You can walk through the caves and actually ride a boat inside. We had done that once before with the kids back in 2005 when they were 4 and 19 months young respectively.

Of course they don’t remember but why not do it again and have at least our daughter remember it this time, we thought? So, we returned again now, 15 years later, with the difference being that this time we had to walk through the caves wearing masks. The boat ride at the end to get back to the entrance was still a lot of fun to do.

We then drove on to Germany, to Aachen again, to have dinner there.

Yesterday, on Sunday, we went into Maastricht again, this time for the sole purpose of visiting the inside of the St. Servaas church and see the treasury there.

I always love when there’s a crypt to visit and there was one in this church where Servaas from the 4th century (him after whom the church is named) is buried.

We then went into the treasury which housed St. Servaas’s bowl and key…

There were many other beautiful and very old and sometimes also weird treasures, like a severed head plaque of a saint…

There were relics with the bones of saints in them…

… and very old silks from the 10th/11th centuries…

… and some really old crosses! The cross here below on the left is from the 5th/6th century, the one on the right is even older from the 2nd/3rd century (Syrian or North-African).

The inner couryard was filled with wonderfully flagrant lavender…

It was really hot, so we went back to the coolness of our holiday cottage before heading into Maastricht again in the evening for a sushi dinner in a Japanese restaurant that housed a huge Buddha statue…

We ate so much, we needed a little walk around the city before heading back again.

This morning we packed up our things and left the holiday cottage at 10.30 am. We drove to the nearby US military cemetery in Margraten where over 8000 US soldiers are buried who fought to help free The Netherlands and Europe from Nazi terror in World War II. Such places are always very sobering to visit.

We then took a scenic route to Roermond and had lunch there. As from today you need to leave your name and phone number at all restaurants in The Netherlands so that you can be traced should a Corona outbreak happen again in the area. This already happens in Germany, now with Corona cases on the rise again here in The Netherlands, it is also done here. After lunch we walked around a little bit before we headed to our own home again.

It was lovely to see Mr Esther junior again when we got home (we really missed having him around on holiday – first time in 19 years that he had not come with us). He was extremely happy with the NBA basketball jersey we got him (from his fave player Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks, bought at an NBA store in Aachen) and he admired his father’s ever growing Corona beard…

And now it’s back to quarantine at home again. Mr Esther and I still have one more week off work left to enjoy.

Holiday in times of Corona

I never only take one picture when I’m out and about, I take tons and Mr Esther takes even more. We’ve been quite busy on holiday, seeing a lot. Today is a day for doing nothing so I thought I’d post pics of what we’ve been up to. If reading people’s holiday stories and looking at endless slide shows are a chore, feel free to skip this post!

Our holiday cottage in the southern tip of The Netherlands near Maastricht is nice.

On our first real day trip we went to the Three Countries Point where the borders of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet. It’s also the location of the highest point in The Netherlands. My country is very flat, so being here in the southern tip of The Netherlands almost feels foreign in itself as the scenery is so different from the rest of the country (OK, technically the following first picture is just across the border in Belgium).

There’s a marker right near the Three Countries Point that shows the highest point of The Netherlands in Vaals (322.5 meters above sea level). Peanuts in a lot of countries but a small matter of pride here.

A few meters on at the Three Countries Point we were told in German and Dutch that wearing a mask was desired but in Belgium that wearing a mask was mandatory.

So we donned our masks for the first time this holiday (not everyone did, but better safe than sorry, we figured)…

… and admired the pie-points that signified where The Netherlands is (smallest part of the pie), followed by Belgium, and half the pie belonged to Germany.

From there we drove on to Verviers in Belgium which turned out to not be the most amazing place but we did sit down there for drinks. In the center of town masks were mandatory, so we donned ours again.

We drove through the Belgian village of Limbourg, which is the source of the name of the Dutch province Limburg (our holiday cottage is in Limburg).

We ended the day with a little stop in the woods. Mini-me chased butterflies and we even saw deer.

The next day we went into Maastricht for the day, to get to know it a bit and walk around.

Except for in public transport, masks aren’t mandatory anywhere in The Netherlands. It was quite busy, though! We did our best to keep a distance but it felt like many people didn’t pay that much attention to how much distance they were keeping. There were signs up reminding people to avoid crowds, keep a distance, stay right, adhere to one way traffic…

Mini-me needed a shirt to sleep in, so she and I went into two or three stores until we found something while Mr Esther went to a bookstore inside an old church building. We were going to join him there but by the time we got there it felt too crowded for me, so mini-me and I sat down for some drinks instead on the square in front of the store and awaited Mr. Esther. It had been doable inside, he said, but it was good to be out again.

We soon left the busy shopping streets, visited the Basilica of Our Lady Maastricht and explored the somewhat quieter other streets of Maastricht.

We still plan on returning to Maastricht to actually visit the St. Servatius church, hopefully sometime this weekend. It’s hot here now and will be for the next few days, so it will be good to do something inside.

The day after Maastricht we went to the German city of Aachen.

The cathedral is in an octagon form and is a thing of beauty, especially the ceilings. It was constructed by order of Charlemagne and he was buried there at the beginning of the 9th century. Now his bones are held in a 13th century golden chest. The church was used for coronations of German kings and queens until the 14th century.

In the gift shop they sold “Corona angels” (i.e. tiny angels with masks on)! Couldn’t resist and bought my mother one (she loves angels).

Aachen is a lovely city, with old features and modern shopping and mini-me was happy to finally eat a German bratwurst again! It was busy but a little less busy than Maastricht, which was good.

The next day we went to Heerlen. Not a special city (although there were some nice murals on houses) but we especially went to visit the museum housing the remains of an excavated Roman bath house…

We drove on to the German town of Jülich which isn’t so special either but it has a huge old fort there. I liked the little street library there in an old phone booth and as we were back in Germany, where masks are mandatory inside public spaces such as shops, we were back to carrying our masks openly on us so we could quickly put them on as needed.

After some busy days sightseeing we got lazy and spent a day at our cottage. That evening we did go out for dinner in a neighbouring village, with a nice view over the countryside that does not feel like The Netherlands.

Yesterday we drove to Luxemburg for a day. We stopped at Clervaux in the north of Luxemburg (about an hour away)…

… and then drove on to Luxemburg city (another hour on). It’s a nice city which has huge gorges, pretty cool to see. I had been there many years ago during my first holiday with Mr Esther but didn’t remember much about it, except for the gorges. Luxemburg too was busy but not too busy.

On our way back, we stopped in the Belgian city of Liege for dinner, donning face masks in the city center yet again…

So, that’s it, our summer holiday away up till now! Mr Esther and mini-me went away with the car this afternoon. Mr Esther wants to try and follow some old Roman roads and they’ll get some groceries on the way back while I sit here with my laptop at the cottage in the shade and blog.

It’s hot today, so it’s good we’re not marching through some hot, busy city right now. The battery on my laptop is running low and even in the shade I’m hot, so I’m heading inside our air-conditioned cottage soon to read. Even with restrictions, this holiday during Corona times is still fun. I just love to be travelling again, even if it isn’t that far away.

Happy 2020 from Frankfurt!

Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, Mr Esther, my mini-not-me daughter and I spent strolling through the center of Frankfurt. Mini-not-me is tired of Mr Esther’s and my preference for older looking towns, she wants to see modern skylines and buildings and such, so we stuck to the newer part of town. We all especially liked the Zeil shopping mall.

One store called Saturn stocked an amazing collection of cd’s and dvd’s, the likes you rarely see in The Netherlands anymore, where streaming online and digital copies are I think overtaking the cd and dvd collections. Mini-not-me found a collector’s item BTS cd + booklet she really wanted and I was amazed at how many classics were to be found on dvd. I took a trip down memory lane from when I lived in Germany in my teens, when we used to watch these shows on TV as a family (and bought myself an old Rock Hudson & Sidney Poitier movie I’ve never seen before)…

We strolled some more, then mini-not-me and I returned to the hotel for a rest as mini-not-me has been battling a flu, while Mr Esther went to the historical museum.

Our experience last year in Hamburg had taught us that it would be good if we reserved a restaurant for New Year’s Eve dinner. A few weeks ago we had called a few restaurants and finally found a spot at an Italian one that we thought would be nice. On the phone at the time they told us they only served a special standard New Year’s Eve menu and we said fine and didn’t think anything of it. When we arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm we felt slightly under dressed as it all looked fancy. We were welcomed with champagne…

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…  they only served wine per bottle (not per glass) and the courses started coming. There were six (!) courses in all! Halfway through the evening we figured out the actual standard menu price per person (hadn’t thought to ask beforehand) and as the fancy courses started coming we figured it would probably cost a pretty penny. We were right, it did cost a pretty penny, probably close to what our hotel stay was costing us. Oops! Honestly, though, we just laughed it off. Our own fault for not asking more details in advance and the dinner and all the courses (mostly marine-themed) were absolutely delicious! We figured, what the heck, we’d just enjoy it and that we did. It was long, though, we sat there for close to 4 hours!

We then walked down to the river and crossed one of the bridges to the other side of town (just outside the main party area, an area that was too busy for us to want to brave). A lot of fireworks were already going off but we found a nice spot at the end of the bridge, near police and security, where we felt safe enough to stand and enjoy the fireworks that were already lighing up some of the Frankfurt skyline.

Then at midnight all hell broke loose with people setting off their fireworks. Seriously, I think I have rarely stood in the middle of such a mighty fireworks explosion before.

I made some gifs from the small video I made, you’ll just have to imagine the deafening noise along with it!

It was a little scary but also exhilirating and beautiful at the same time, despite the air polution and the garbage. The atmosphere was festive and not grim, which was also cool. Things calmed down relatively quickly, I found, and we were back in our hotel rooms by one am.

This morning we slept in a bit, took it easy at the hotel after breakfast and then in the afternoon, in glorious albeit cold weather, we walked down to the beautifully reconstructed Alte Römer area. We first went to the river hoping to secure tickets for a Main river cruise at the end of the afternoon (the website had said the cruise was also available on Sundays and Feastdays), only to find that there were no cruises on New Year’s Day. And yes, the trash in the picture was trash from the night before. Wow.

We then visited the cathedral where Mr Esther had hoped to go on a guided tour only to find that the tour had been cancelled for the day. Oh well, we enjoyed looking around anyway and Mr Esther was able to photograph some coats of arms as well (his hobby is heraldry).

We walked through the Alte Römer area…

… but couldn’t find many cafés open for tea and cake. We finally did find the café at the Hauptwache open (closer to the modern part of town) to round off our afternoon. We had another little hotel rest after (mini-not-me is still not feeling great), then dinner at an Italian fastfood kind of place (cheap, compensating nicely for the evening before) and then went on another evening stroll around town.

Tomorrow we head back home again. Our son, who’s been at home working and celebrating New Year’s with friends, has also come down with the flu, poor thing! He’s never ill and I hate that we’re not near him while he’s feeling bad. He did go in to work today but left a bit early and is now crashed at home. Luckily he is free tomorrow and can hopefully recuperate a bit. And apparently I mind him being on his own more than he does. 🙂

Before we leave tomorrow (or really, later today – I see it’s 1 after am now!) we want to go up one of the towers for an overview over the city (also closed today). Despite stuff being closed it’s been a great few days and it was nice having mini-not-me to ourselves for a bit. She really liked Frankfurt, by the way, and says this will be a trip she will always remember fondly. That makes my heart very happy in this new year. We’ve started 2020 well (despite illnesses) and I hope you have too!

Andalusian pictures – segunda parta

So, the Andalusia holiday continues, these pictures are from the middle part of our holiday.

Close to where we’re staying there are caves. In this particular one, the Cave of La Pileta, they found pre-historic wall paintings from 10.000 – 5.000 BC. Pictures were only allowed at the entrance of the cave but Mr Esther snuck two in (without flash). That last one was of a calender, with those lines counting the days. The fish belly drawing we saw as well, the picture included here is from the information board outside.

What was most impressing were these huge stalagmite and stalagtite columns that had grown together and when you hit them they reverberated with sound. The guide called them the “organ”, pre-historic people would make music hitting those columns, each column had a different pitch. Totally fascinating and a pity we couldn’t film what that looked and sounded like.

We also went to Granada for a day. Nice town…

…and we made our way up to the Alhambra palace, which overlooks the city. The Alhambra, as in The Tales of the Alhambra mentioned in North & South by Fanny Thornton. The book was even for sale in the souvenir shops, but I decided against buying it because, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll ever read it.

The palace and grounds are huge, it was a hot day, so we took many shade and drinks moments. We had booked tickets to the main palace a few weeks ago and good thing that we did as the tickets were all sold out. We got in, though, and viewed the palace with many, many other tourists. It was a bit over-run to my liking but beautiful nonetheless! The palace was built by the ruling Muslims in the 14th century near the end of their reign and all the Arab decoration is still there today. Very beautiful!

It’s a huge place with many buildings, so I can imagine that justifying any amount of tales! On our way out of the palace grounds we came across a big fountain with close to that a statue of Washington Irving, the author of The Tales of the Alhambra.

We ended the day with dinner in a village halfway between Granada and where we were staying and there, in Archidona, there was an evening festival…

What we didn’t realize before coming here is that Spanish villages here in Andalusia are full of festivities and celebrations in August, even here in ‘our’ village. We stayed for a day at the pool and that evening took a peek at the rock festival in the village square around the corner… it was Spanish rock, not the best ever, but entertaining enough.

We also spent a day in Cordoba, which, together with Sevilla, was our fave city to visit.

The 9th century (!!) Le Mezquita mosque which later also became a church was stunning. For the newest era, it also included the first painting of Mother Theresa that I have ever seen in a church.

We came across a lovely middle-eastern looking tea house in the city and went inside for a drink. I had one of the best ever chai tea lattes there.

We walked through the Jewish quarter, where we didn’t have the time (or the kids have the energy) to go to the Sephardic Jewish Museum but we did pass by the synagogue (one of the oldest in Spain). We had wanted to visit that but alas it was closed for the day by the time we got there. We did get to see the nice statue of Maimonides in the nearby square.

On our drive back we were treated to a beautiful moon rising in the sky and a stunning sunset.

The next day Mr Esther and I left the kids by the pool while we drove around the nature reserve area around here with stunning mountains, beautiful vistas, half stripped cork trees and eagles circling in the skies.

I haven’t looked at the last set of pictures yet, but there will a part three to these (we fly home again on Monday so probably after then). So many beautiful things here in Andalusia!

Andalusian picture spam

It’s so beautiful here, I just have to share a whole lotta pictures.

This is en route to where we are staying:

 

Ronda is the nearest big town from where we are. Apparently Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles liked to come there, their plaques are right next to the bull fighting arena that we refuse to visit. It’s a beautiful town, situated on top of cliffs with a bridge across a very steep valley. We had dinner in a side street that was filled with restaurants.

 

In ‘our’ village Montejaque there was a cultural festival. I was too tired to go see the Queen tribute band (they started playing half an hour after midnight) but we did catch some Flamenco dancing earlier in the week.

 

Close to the village we took a beautiful, not too long (as my ankle is still not fully healed yet), hike which included vultures checking us out. The scenery here is stunning!

 

We also had lunch in Setenil de las Bodegas, a small town with buildings built inside, or really set up against, caves.

 

Sunset outside our apartment the other evening…

 

Yesterday we went to Sevilla, with the cathedral that holds the Christopher Columbus grave monument and still shows its Moorish roots in its arches for instance, then out in the streets there are sheets covering some streets to offer shelter from the sun. We plan on going back again later to visit the castle.

 

We ended yesterday in Ronda again, this time looking up at the city from below and then having dinner there in a square.