Thursday
Apr102014

Tangier, Morocco

Tangier in Northern Africa is just a short 40 minute boat ride from Spain close to our second home. We couldn't pass up the chance while we were visiting in March for a fun boat trip to Morocco, where Europe meets Africa. Tangier is steeped in history with founding settlers arriving in the early 5th century BC, the city is a mosaic of Afro-European cultures and Jewish, Muslim and Christian influences throughout the centuries.

As you can see in the photographs below the colors of yellow, light blue and white are predominant all over the narrow back streets where you see school kids, sellers, food markets, and bustling bazaars, from the Kasbah all the way to the Medina. 

Maricela and Seba did amazingly well, enjoying the local cuisine including cous-cous and tagines, inquisitive locals, tiny back street shops, and the yummy treats in the food markets.


Saturday
Apr052014

Vejer de la Frontera, Spain

In March we visited the picturesque Moorish hilltop town of Vejer de la Frontera. As we drove south from Seville just before arriving at the coast between Tarifa and Cádiz, ancient steeples surrounded by a white wash of houses appeared along a mountain top dotted with ancient flour mills. We arrived in this hidden gem of a town made up of winding cobble stoned streets, delicious food, wine and sherry and the unspoilt beaches of the Costa de la Luz just 10 minutes away, it makes for the perfect Spanish destination for our home away from home! 

A little history behind the town of Vejer.... it was originally used as a fortress town by the Phoenicians, Carthagians, later by the Romans, Visigoths and ultimately occupied for five centuries of Moorish rule until it was reconquered by King Ferdinand of Castille in 1248. Vejer then became a border town against the Moors and hence "de la Frontera" was added to it's name. You can see the influence in the architecture of many doorways and in paintings scattered around the town depicting women in burka-like apparel. It was until as recent as the end of the 20th century that the women of Vejer wore long, black cloaks that veiled their faces.

You’ll find it in the architecture of many door frames and spot it in paintings scattered around the town depicting women in burka-like apparel. It was until as recent as the end of the 20th century that the women of Vejer wore long, black cloaks that veiled their faces. - See more at: http://www.thespainscoop.com/white-village-of-andalucia-vejer-de-la-frontera/#sthash.eZKbO78p.dpuf
You’ll find it in the architecture of many door frames and spot it in paintings scattered around the town depicting women in burka-like apparel. It was until as recent as the end of the 20th century that the women of Vejer wore long, black cloaks that veiled their faces. - See more at: http://www.thespainscoop.com/white-village-of-andalucia-vejer-de-la-frontera/#sthash.eZKbO78p.dpuf
You’ll find it in the architecture of many door frames and spot it in paintings scattered around the town depicting women in burka-like apparel. It was until as recent as the end of the 20th century that the women of Vejer wore long, black cloaks that veiled their faces. - See more at: http://www.thespainscoop.com/white-village-of-andalucia-vejer-de-la-frontera/#sthash.eZKbO78p.dpuf
You’ll find it in the architecture of many door frames and spot it in paintings scattered around the town depicting women in burka-like apparel. It was until as recent as the end of the 20th century that the women of Vejer wore long, black cloaks that veiled their faces. - See more at: http://www.thespainscoop.com/white-village-of-andalucia-vejer-de-la-frontera/#sthash.eZKbO78p.dpuf

Our home is located in the heart of the city along a narrow pedestrian alley in the old town. To find us during Dutch school holidays walk past the Plaza de España, the main square with its beautiful fountain, walk under the oldest & best preserved gate to the old town, Arco Sancho IV, and our house is located behind typical Moorish doors leading to an inner patio with lots of flowers and plants. Inside needs a lot of TLC so I will be sharing some before and after transformations during the renovations which hope to be finished by this summer.  The ancient 15th century city walls reach our house and can be seen from windows in each room and from the double roof terraces we have stunning views of the countryside, the Atlantic coastline, Mediterranean and North Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar.

We are so happy to have found our second home in magical Vejer de la Frontera, one of the most impressive pueblos blancos in the region. It is easy to imagine oneself being drawn back into another distant part of history, a perfect place to escape and enjoy rest and relaxation near the beautiful nature reserve and Spanish coastline.

View of Vejer as we drove into the town at sunset

Sunrise from inside the walled town

Plaza de España, just a few feet from our house

The local Catholic School

Cobbled narrow streets of Vejer and on the right the door to our courtyard

Views from our balcony of the old town and Church of the Devine Saviour

The Church of the Divine Savior

Views of the ancient wall, surrounding fields, the Mediterranean and Morocco

Arco de la Segur at sunset

A monument to the veiled women of Vejer in times past

Beautiful winding back streets and Maricela with some new local friends living in the old town

Marcila and Seba enjoying Conil Beach, one of the many beaches a short drive from Vejer

Daddy and Maricela playing on the beach before heading to the airport back to the Netherlands

Thursday
Feb202014

Weekend in Paris

My lovely hubby surprised us with a wonderful weekend away to Paris for Valentine's day! We snuck Maricela out of Dutch school on the Friday and took the Thallys (high speed train) from Aachen directly to Paris in around 3 hours. Andres booked us into a wonderful little Bed and breakfast run by a lovely lady called Johanna located in the Montmatre part of Paris.

As we arrived on St. Valentine's Day we headed straight down to the famous lovers bridge, Pont des Arts where we attached a lock that Andres had engraved for us. It was bustling with couples from all over the world attaching their special locks of love. We were so lucky to enjoy a beautiful sunset from the bridge with amazing views including the Place de I'institut. We then walked the city side roads and stumbled across a wonderful little French brasserie and enjoyed a delicious home-style cooked meal and some yummy wine.

On the Saturday we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower and from there saw all the tourists sites including the Parc du Champ de Mars, Notre Dame, Pont Alexandre III, Grand Palais, and walked through the Jardin des Tuileries, past the giant carrousel to the Louvre. We then walked back across the river to see the Notre Dame which is on a small island on the Seine. Maricela was hoping to see the hunchback of Notre Dame but left dissapointed bless her! We walked the better part of the day from breakfast till dusk stopping off along the way to nurse the baby, enjoying some tea, coffee, crepes and other yummy goodies! As the sun was setting we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and enjoyed a lovely Italian pizzeria restaurant right on the historic Avenue des Champs-Élysées. After dinner we walked to the Palais de Chaillot to enjoy the beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower across the river. It was just the perfect end to a wonderful weekend away to the city of love! We will be back many more times over the next 3 years to enjoy some more wonderful food, sites and really super friendly locals in the French capital!

 

Thursday
Feb202014

Weihnachtsmarkts - 2013

Historic Weihnachtsmarkts or Christmas Markets, originally from Germany are now becoming more popular all over Europe. This year we visited a few different Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas Markets close to us in Germany and the Netherlands. This is a great link to see all the locations in Germany.

Next year we plan to visit many more but here are some photos of the ones we visited - when I remember to take my camera along! With having a 4 month old baby at the time I kept forgetting, so I blame it on baby brain! One of my favourites was Cologne, Germany which is about a 2 hour drive from us. It not only had great markets, delicious food and drinks but also a wonderful ice-skating rink all in the altermarkt (old town) area. There are lots of other markets in the vast city including a must see market at the foot of the gigantic twin towers of the Kölner Dom (cathedral).

The first set of photos are from the beautiful city of Aachen just 30 minutes south from us. It is super easy to find parking in the city and a nice easy walk around the three levels of markets starting at the top of the center in the market place, the Katschhof and down the side streets to the Cathedral square. You will find lots of unique stalls selling lots of interesting gifts including wooden musical boxes, nutcrackers, lanterns, home-made hats, scarves, wooden toys, Christmas ornaments etc. There are also a huge array of food stalls selling potato fritters, cakes, gingerbread, and marzipan bread which are distributed all over the world by Aachen bakeries. There is also a lovely old fashioned carousel for children and mulled wine for us adults.

Another wonderful Christmas market we visited was just down the road from us in the Netherlands. This next photo is just a tiny corner (due to the fact I only brought my 50mm lens) of the amazing 900 year old Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, an impressively preserved monastic abbey. The Christmas market in the beautiful cloisters of the ancient abbey had more than sixty stands together with a varied cultural program. Various choirs and other musical groups performed in the ancient abbey church, it really was a breathtakingly beautiful chapel and the choir I heard was out of this world. There is also plenty to do for children including getting dressed up as an angel in their living nativity in the courtyard. As you can see Maricela loved this and they even had a real live baby in the crib! In the outbuilding here they sold hot chocolate, mulled wine and freshly made waffles, all delicious! Christmas World at the abbey is an event organized by the local Rotary Club, with the proceeds going to charity. I think the entry fee was around 6 Euros and the funds went to a specific charity for refugees living in the area that can not read and write Dutch.

If you want to see wonderful market stalls combined with ambiance from years passed I really recommend Burg Satzvey in Germany. The market is located in the castle grounds with vendors dressed in medieval costumes. They have so many different activities for children from seeing Father Christmas and his elves, a living nativity complete with animals, old fashioned rides, a giant advent calendar, to a working blacksmith. There are also a number of different place to eat indoors and I loved their freshly made thin slices of pizza with various toppings to choose from! It was also a wonderful indoor "shack" where I could wait with the baby while the rest of the family enjoyed many of the outdoor actives in the cold! Be warned it can get very muddy if it has been raining! A wonderful day out all around, so good we ended up going back again for another full day of fun!

Aachen Weihnachtsmarkt

Rolduc Abbey, Kerkrade

Burg Satzvey, Germany

Tuesday
Feb112014

Brussels, Belgium

A one hour day trip to Brussels is a great day out for the whole family. This capital of the European Union is famous for chocolate and beer but there are many other attractions including almost 90 museums, beautiful parks, walking tours, trendy restaurants and bars.

We parked in the city center for the day and walked to The Grand-Place, seen below, which is an outstanding example of eclectic architectural and artistic styles that characterises the culture and society of this region dating mainly from the late 17th century. Here we met our good friend and Indonesian teacher from Jakarta who we hadn't seen in over 3 years!

With it being a Sunday when we visited the chocolate factory was unfortunately closed for the day but we enjoyed walking around the center, stopping off at the many chocolates shops along the way!

A side note: Please be very aware of pickpockets. A lady sat opposite us in a coffee shop had her bag stolen and our friend we met there for the day also had her wallet stolen out of her handbag in one of the chocolate shops. When we visited the central police station to report the theft there was a ever growing line of tourists reporting stolen property.

 

Monday
Dec092013

Monschau, Germany

The gorgeous quaint city of Monschau is only about an hour drive from us in the Eifel region near the Belgian border. Monschau castle overlooks the town and dates back to the 13th century

We parked at the edge of town by the Brewery Museum and walked the beautiful narrow cobbled narrow streets with cross-timbered houses with gray slate roofs. You can't miss the impressive and majestic Red House (now a museum, open from Good Friday - November 30), built by the cloth maker and merchant Johann Heinrich Scheibler in 1760.

The river Rur which runs through the Eifel platform winds its way through Monschau itself and along side the central marketplace which is surrounded by medieval houses and the 12th century Romanesque church. In the main square and surrounding side streets you will find many good restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. There are also some wonderful local mustard shops too, so delicious and so many different types to try!

We were lucky enough to view the "The Trash Army" by HA Schult which were on display in the market place. These life size trash people and since 1995 these monuments have been traveling all over the world.

On the drive home near the German boarder you will see many lines of these anti-tank obstacle defences left over from the Second World War at the side of the road. We stopped off to look at some of them briefly on the way home, they cross through fields and roads as far as the eye can see, a rather depressing end to the day but interesting to look out for none the less.

 

“We produce trash, are born from trash, and will turn back into trash" is a famous saying by great artist HA Schult.
Read more at http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-trash-people#PTV51Kp5Ctbkk2uK.which were on display in the market square. 

Monday
Nov252013

Roermond Market, Germany

Roermond is rich in cultural heritage and the town center has been designated as a conservation center. The historic city Roermond holds a market every Saturday from 09.00 till 17.00 hrs (in the winter time till 16.00). The weekly market in front of the Stadhuis (town hall) in the old marketplace is widespread and colourful with lots of different variety of stalls. You can see in the photos below the wonderful array of cheeses, meats, fruits, veggies, bread, material, dog treats etc. There was even a fresh juice stand which Maricela enjoyed squeezing her own wonderful fresh drink for the trip home!

There is also a Designer Outlet Centre within easy walking distance of the city center. On Thursdays shops stay open in Roermond until 9pm and on the first Sunday of every month, many shops are open in the afternoon. Roermond is also a heaven for biking, walking and water lovers.

 

Thursday
Oct242013

Weekend in Bruges

The beautiful and historic city of Bruges in the Flemish Region of Belgium is a perfect weekend get away! It is widely known as the "Venice of the North" with gorgeous medieval architecture, rambling cobblestone alleys, endless canals, windmills, chocolate shops, not to mention great beer and food, this city really has something for everyone.

We stayed at a wonderful apartment which we found though this site below. We telephoned the owners and even though the B&B was full they do have a few apartments to rent which were perfect for a family of four! We had our own kitchen/eating area which was great to prepare pack lunches, make breakfast and cook the occasional meal if you are on a budget!

Koen & Annemie Dieltiens Waalsestraat 40 B - 8000 Brugge Belgium

http://www.bedandbreakfastbruges.be/ 

 

Besides all the historic sites to see in the city there are also some fun rainy day activities including the wonderful Chocolate Museum and Friet Museum (fried potato). The Friet museum has a little coffee shop in the basement where you can try their amazing friets and other lunch snacks! (Remember not to ask for French Fries!!! :)  You can also stop by the oldest running pub in Bruges called Café Vlissinghe, 1515. A great place to pop in for a light meal and of course amazing beer.

 

 

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