Traveling

Aric and I like traveling and in the past twenty years we have visited many countries. In this blog post I have collected all the trips we have made between 2002 and 2019. Most of these trips I have documented in reports, in which case I give the link with a short description and a few pictures.

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Europe, May 2002

Aric’s first trip in Europe. I had planned an ambitious itinerary, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France ūüėČ . In those days I didn’t keep a blog, so details have become vague. We traveled by car, stayed mostly in hotels, camping occasionally. We did Venice as a daytrip from Padua and took a train from Florence to Rome, because Aric absolutely wanted to see the Colosseum!

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Bali, February 2003

We visited Bali only a few months after the Kuta bombings, tourism had come to an almost complete standstill. I kept a diary and published four picture reports about various aspects of the trip: Nature, Culture, Sawah and Personal.

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Sydney, October 2003

In 2003 I didn’t have a MM2H visa yet, therefore I had to leave Malaysia every three months.. Originally we had planned a trip to Beijing, but finally we decided for a short holidays Down Under. Sydney is a very pleasant town and we could easily have spent a much longer time there. Even with the sometimes winter-like cold weather, so we have hardly visited any of the famous surf beaches!. Here is a pictorial report Sydney 2003. The captions of each picture link to separate sub-reports.

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Beijing, June 2004

When my three-months visa expired, we decided to visit China this time. Beijing was our destination, but we also visited the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs etc. Here is a report with the Highlights of our trip. Detailed reports can be found in Beijing 2004.

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Cambodia, January 2005

Of course Angkor Wat was the main destination of our Cambodia trip. But we started in Phnom Penh and visited the Killing Fields. By boat to Siem Reap and after three days of Angkor Wat, we continued to Battambang. I created a kind of travelogue this time: A Pictorial Travel Report of a Trip to Cambodia.

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Sabah, May 2007

An adventurous trip, well organised by a friend of Aric. First we went snorkeling on Manukan island, next there was wild water rafting on the Padas river and the culmination was climbing Mount Kianabalu. I stopped at Laban Ratah, Aric made it to the top. After a relaxing time at the Poring Hot Springs we went back to KL. Here is the travelogue: Sabah Trip.

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Vietnam, July 2007

Air Asia had a promotion with free tickets to Hanoi, we could not resist the temptation and went to Vietnam. First we stayed a few days in Hanoi, a very pleasant town, although it was very hot. We made a trip to Halong Bay, very worthwhile. Instead of visiting Hue (too hot), we took the train to Sapa in the mountains. Finally a few more days in Hanoi. Here is the travelogue Vietnam, July 12-21, 2007.

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Sarawak, December 2007

A short trip to Sarawak to attend the wedding of a Dutch friend with a Bidayu lady. Of course we managed to include a few waterfalls and also an Orang Hutan rehabilitation center. More details in Sarawak, (14-17)-12-2007.

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Thailand, November 2008

A friend of ours, Dick Sandler, has a resort near the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand and Marcia, another friend, has a house at Railay Beach, near Krabi. We took a flight to Krabi, spent some time there, then took a boat to Railay , where we celebrated Loy Krathong on the beach. In Khao Sok we stayed in a romantic tree house and visited a waterfall. More pictures in Thailand (Krabi & Khao Sok) 2008

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China, July 2009

In July 2009 we went back to China for a very special reason, to see for the first time in our lives a solar eclipse! Solar eclipses are only visible from narrow regions on Earth, in this case a part of China. We decided to start our trip in Hangzhou and watch the eclipse there. Then to continue our trip to Suzhou and finally Tong Li. All three places famous tourist attractions. Our trip resulted in three albums, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Tong Li.

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Melbourne, October 2009

A few months later we visited our friends Pat and Roger in Melbourne. I had visited them before, so I could guide Aric around in Melbourne. Our hosts took us on a very nice trip along the Great Ocean Road. We also saw kangaroos and had delicious food. Here is the travelogue Melbourne, October 2009.

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Sarawak , March 2010

Our friend Keong invited us to join him on a trip to Semban. This village in the Bungo range south of Kuching, is famous for its “ring ladies”. High up in the hills, it is called the “Village above the Clouds”. We stayed a few days in the village, enjoying the hospitality of the Bidayu people and hiking to impressive waterfalls. Here is the report, Village above the clouds, February 2010.

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China, family visit, May 2010

For our third trip to China we visited the Teochew region, where Aric’s family originally came from. For a long time already it had been Aric’s wish to organise a trip for his parents and his favourite uncle and auntie to their roots. It was a very successful and rewarding trip, resulting in three albums, Shantou, Chaozhou and Chenghai

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Thailand, August 2011

We were invited to attend the wedding of my former student Raoul with his Thai boyfriend Aunn and decided to combine this event with a visit to some world heritage sites and waterfalls. We took a flight to Bangkok and rented a car there. We visited Ayutthaya, Kamphaeng Phet and the Khlong Lan waterfall. After the wedding party we drove back to Bangkok where we stayed a few more days. Here is the travelogue Thailand (16-24)-8-2011

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Greece, September 2011

If I had to make a list of our most fascinating holidays, our trip to Greece would probably be number 1. We did a lot during 16 days, starting with Athens, followed by Delphi, Meteora, the Sporadic Islands and Santorini. I compiled four albums, one about Athens, one about Delphi & Meteora, the third one about the islands Skopelos & Skiathos and the last one about Santorini. A magical world.

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Singapore, November 2011

The reason that we visited Singapore again was to attend a concert of the MozART GROUP, classical music with a humorous twist. The concert took place in the concert hall, nicknamed the Durian, We stayed in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and of course enjoyed the infinity swimming pool. We also visited the Haw Par gardens. Report is here: Singapore, November 2011.

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Europe, September 2013

Our second Europe holiday, two weeks this time. Again a full program, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein (!), Switzerland and France. Many highlights, the most spectacular one was the Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe. Four albums about this trip, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.

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Barcelona, September 2013

Back in Amsterdam we still had some time before Aric went back to Malaysia. So we booked a flight to Barcelona , one of my favourite towns. The town of Gaudi, for me it was the first time to visit the Sagrada Familia cathedral, still unfinished. We liked the tapas, the paella and the sangria. But, like Amsterdam, overcrowded with tourists (like ourselves, I know).

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Taiwan, March 2014

For quite some time Taiwan has been on our list of countries to visit and this year we finally booked an Air Asia flight to Taipei for a 12-day trip. One reason was to try the Taiwanese food, but of course there was also the culture and the nature. We got addicted to onsen, the hot baths. Below pictures of the iconic 101 tower, the Chang Kai-shek memorial, the Shifen waterfall and the Yehliu Geopark. Many more pictures in the album Taiwan Trip.

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Norway, June 2014

Several times we have chosen a holiday destination because of a specific tourist attraction. We had never considered Norway until we saw a picture of the Pulpit Rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. We discovered that it was a doable hike, access from Stavanger. We booked a 10-day trip combining it with Bergen and Oslo. A very nice holiday, more pictures in the album Norway June 2014.

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Japan, October 2014

For many years we have been thinking about a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. Would there be a language problem? We booked a 9-day trip, booked a flight to Osaka, where we stayed a few days. Then Kyoto and finally Wakayama. Osaka and Kyoto are well known, Wakayama not really, we went there especially because of our addiction to onsen, the Japanes hot baths. Three reports: Osaka, Kyoto and Wakayama. A country to visit again.

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Melbourne, January 2015

Another visit to our friends Pat and Roger in Melbourne We explored the town and enjoyed their hospitality. They took us on a trip to Bendigo (goldmines) and Echuca (paddle boats). Two albums, one about our stay with them, Melbourne, and a separate album about our trip, Victoria

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China, September 2015

Our fourth trip to China, this time with our friends Pat and Roger. For them it was their first visit, Aric had organised the trip and was also our guide and translator. We started in Xi’an with its famous terracotta army. Next we went to Suzhou, where Aric and I had been before and after that to the water village of Zhouzhuang. Then they returned to Australia and we stayed a few more days in Shanghai. I created four albums about these holidays, Xi’an, Suzhou, Zhouzhuang and Shanghai.

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Laos, November 2015

A few months later we made a short trip to Laos. Writing this report I discovered that I had written several albums about details of our trip, but never a comprehensive report. Here is a summary with links to the detailed reports. We took a flight to Vientiane and from there a bus to Luang Prabang, where we stayed a few days. We attended the (touristic) Alms Giving ceremony and visited many temples. We made two trips, one to the Pak Ou caves and one to the impressive Kuang Si waterfalls. On our way back to Vientiane we stayed two nights in Vang Vieng, where we visited another cave, the Tham CHang caves and made an interesting excursion in a Hot Air Balloon. Back in Vientiane we visited the Buddha Park.

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Portugal, September 2016

When Aric and I visit the Netherlands , we try to include a short trip to another part of Europe. This time we decided to visit Portugal. I had visited Lisbon in the past, now we also visited Porto and a few other towns. A very pleasant and friendly country. Two albums, Part 1 about Lisbon, Sintra , Obidos and Porto. Part 2 about Aveiro, Monsanto and Evora

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Taiwan, August 2017

Our second visit to Taiwan (for Aric even his third). This time we wanted to explore the whole island, so we rented a car. But first we visited the Penghu islands, off Taiwan’s West Coast,. to see the Twin Hearts. A beautiful country, full of nature, culture, food and onsen. Better read the report for the details Taiwan, August 2017. .

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Singapore, January 2018

A short trip to Singapore, to visit our friend ST Lee, explore the Gardens by the Bay, visit the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum. Here is a report Singapore 2018. I was so impressed by the museum that I created a separate album about it: National Museum, Singapore.

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Japan, March 2018

We timed our second Japan visit so that we could attend the famous HŇćnensai fertility festival on 15 March. We were hoping to see the Fuji mountain, expecting lots of sakura blossom and planning to visit as many onsen as we could find. We were very fortunate to achieve all these goals. I wrote a report about the highlights, Japan 2018, in which I announced more detailed albums, but that never materialised.

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Bhutan, April 2018

One reason that I didn’t write detailed reports about our Japan trip was that one month later we visited Bhutan. You can not travel on your own in this isolated country, we booked a tour for the two of us and were very lucky with our guides, who became friends almost immediately. There were many highlights on this 10-day trip, culminating in our climb to the Tiger’s Nest. Here is a travelogue with many more photos: Bhutan 2018.

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France, August 2018

My former principal is living in Southern France, we are friends and he invited us to visit him. We took a flight to Montpellier and rented a car. There are many historical places in that part of France, we visited quite a few of them. We enjoyed a few days the hospitality of my friend and his wife. Two reports about these holidays. France 2018, part I about N√ģmes, Arles, Avignon and Pont du Gard. Part 2 about Robiac, Millau, Albi, Carcassonne and Cap d’Agde.

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Guilin , March 2019

There is so much to see in China. This time we visited Guilin in Southern China, famous for its limestone karst hills. We explored the town and its surroundings. the weather was not very favourable, cold and grey. We stayed two nights in Longji with its terraced rice fields. Next we visited Yangshuo, the main tourist center of the Guilin region. In my report Guilin, March 2019 I announced three more albums, another promise I never kept.

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Paris, April 2019

When Aric’s sister visited us in Amsterdam, we still found time to spend a few days in Paris. We managed to see quite a few of the Paris highlights, one of then, the Notre Dame, sadly destroyed by fire just one week before we arrived. More photos in Paris, 2019 .

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Italy, May 2019

During our stay in the Netherlands, after visiting Paris with Aric’s sister, we made a short trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy. We stayed in La Spezia and made daytrips to the various fishing villages, sometimes walking from one village to another. Here is the travelogue: Cinque Terre, May 2019

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Singapore, December 2019

A social Singapore visit to meet friends and to see the Christmas decorations. In Orchard Road they were disappointing, but in the Gardens by the Bay quite spectacular. We also visited the new airport at Changi and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. And our friend ST Lee invited us for a ballet performance of the Swan Lake. Here is the report: Singapore 2019

That was our last traveling trip abroad. Of course we had plans for 2020, another China trip with Aric’s family and in summer a visit to Iceland with its waterfalls, glaciers and hot springs. But then came Covid-19, the borders were closed in March 2020 and still are.

We have been very fortunate that we were able to visit so many beautiful places. Those times may never come back..

Paris, April 2019

During Aei Ling’s stay in the Netherlands, we decided to visit Paris a few days. By train! The fast Thalys train takes only a bit more than three hours to reach the Gare du Nord. From there to our Airbnb we took the Metro. It has been many years ago that I visited Paris, they still use the old ticket system ūüėČ

Aric had discovered and booked an Airbnb with a view! Located on the tenth floor with a balcony. Metro and supermarket around the corner.

From the balcony we had a view of the Eiffel tower, the Sacr√©-CŇďur and several other Parisian landmarks, like the Pantheon and the Notre Dame.

After some rest and a visit to the supermarket, we decided to have a picnic dinner at the foot of the Eiffel tower! Here is a view of the tower from the Palais de Chaillot, at the other side of the Seine river.

After taking “tourist” pictures from its terrace, we descended to the river, crossed the bridge and walked past the tower to the Champ de Mars.

Many hundreds of tourists were having their food there and we joined them, with wine, cheese, saucisson and baguette. Really fun.

While the sun was setting, slowly the lights on the tower came on, some blinking, like a gigantic christmas tree.

The next day we started with the Sacr√©-CŇďur, we went there by Metro. I love the Art-Nouveau entrances of the Metro stations, dating back to the early 20th century. The basilica of the Sacred Heart is not an old church, construction on the top of the Montmartre Hill was completed in 1914.


It is the second most visited monument of Paris, so we were not the only visitors ūüôā

The Butte Montmartre is the highest of the seven hills of Paris, if the sky is clear, the views are extensive. It was quite grey and a bit hazy during our visit, in sunny weather the church is bright white and sometimes nicknamed the “Sugar Cake”. We had a look inside the church, but did not climb up the tower.

Next we walked to the nearby Place du Tertre, where dozen if not hundreds of artists try to earn some money by painting tourists. Aei Ling could not resist the temptation to have herself painted ..:-)

We walked down the steep streets from Montmartre and had a cup of coffee. The electric scooters are very popular, you can hire them everywhere, but we took the Metro again.

Our next destination was the Notre Dame, but on our way we first had a look at some other monuments. Left the Sorbonne, the famous university of Paris, and right the equally famous Pantheon, burial place of many French celebrities.

Left a close-up of the Pantheon, in the center the Facade of the Faculty of Law (with a young doctor in front of it), and right the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, next to the Pantheon. It is a very nice neighbourhood of Paris.

One week before our arrival, a devastating fire had destroyed the spire and the roof of the Notre Dame. Here are two photos. One (taken from the Internet) with the church in its full glory, the other one how it looked during our visit. Spire and roof have disappeared.

Of course many tourist wanted to see the destruction. The region around the church was cordoned of, but from across the Seine you had a good view. Protection work was going on.

It had been a long day, we were tired and decided to have a microwave dinner at home. The last day we would go out for a real French dinner ūüôā

The next day we started with la Défense, the modern business district of Paris, dominated by the Grande Arche.

From the Grande Arche you can see, about 4 km away, the
Arc de Triomphe , our next destination. Click on the right picture to enlarge

We didn’t walk, but took the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe.

This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, beneath the Arc.

A few more pictures. Construction of the Arc was started in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Napoleon, but only completed in 1836.

From the Arc de Triomphe we followed the famous Avenue des Champs-√Člys√©es to the Place de La Concorde.

On our way we passed the impressive buildings of the Petit and Grand Palais, built in 1900 for the World Exhibition. The Petit Palais is now a fine arts museum. As access is F.O.C, we decided to have a look inside…:-)

The Place de La Concorde is the largest square of Paris. During the French Revolution a guillotine was placed here, where King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette and many others were executed. In 1829 one of the Luxor obelisks was given by the Egyptian government to France and placed in the center of the square.

We continued to the Tuileries gardens and the Louvre. When you enlarge the top left picture, you will see the obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe in the background. Pity that it was rather cold and grey weather.

The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. We didn’t visit , just had a look at the Pyramid, designed by famous architect I.M Pei (who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 102!)

It was a long, but rewarding walk. After a short rest, we went out again to a restaurant, Au P’tit Curieux, where we had a nice dinner.

The next day we still had some time left, because our train back to Amsterdam was leaving Paris in the afternoon. After checking out we first visited the Places des Vosges. Built in 1612, it is one of the first examples of city planning.

Our last destination was the Mus√©e d’Orsay, a former railway station, my favourite Paris museum. When we arrived at the museum, we noticed the very long queue of visitors, we should have bought tickets online! So that is what we did on the spot, with the help of Aric!

The station was built around 1900 and houses French art from 1848 until 1914.

I could have spent the whole day, but we had not much time. Here are a few pictures.

There was an interesting exhibition: Black models:from Gericault to Matisse. Famous paintings, like Manet’s Olympia and Rousseau’s Snake Charmer, but also interesting works, unknown to me.

Then it was time to go back to the Gare du Nord and catch our train back to Amsterdam. Amazing how much you can do in only a few days.

France 2018, part II

Status

See France 2018, part I , for the first part of our trip to France. Here is again a map of the places we visited.

In 1976(!), after my graduation, I applied for a position as a physics teacher at a school in Amstelveen. The rector (headmaster) in those days was Dr B.C. Poeder, he interviewed me and decided to give me the job. He retired long ago, but we had become friends and kept in touch. Therefore I knew that he was now living in France, in the region that Aric and I were going to visit.

I wrote to him, and he invited us to stay a few days in his house, in the small village of Robiac, about 50 km north of¬†N√ģmes. Take the road via¬†V√©z√©nobres, he suggested.

I had never heard about that village, but we followed his advice and decided to have lunch there . A romantic, medieval village, no cars allowed, we had to park quite far outside the walls

Walking around we were wondering if there was a place to have some food. We were lucky, found a nice shop where they prepared crepes and galettes. I had a glass of cider. Very nice people too.

When we arrived in Robiac, Carel was already waiting for us at the roadside, otherwise we might have missed the small road leading to his house. The nameplate on the letterbox still refers to his past as headmaster :-).

We were warmly welcomed by Carel and Joanne, his wife. The house is part of what before has been a school. The basement, formerly a goat stable, has been transformed in a guest room.

A big garden with many flowers.

Our hosts invited us for a nice dinner in Barjac, a nearby village.

The next day we enjoyed the swimming pool and the hospitality of Carel and Joanne, but also made a trip to a cave, the Grotte de la Salamandre. This cave was discovered in the 60s, access was possible only by abseiling through a hole above the cave! Five years ago the cave was opened to the public after an access tunnel had been excavated from the side of the hill.

You can still rappel down in the original way ( for an extra fee), we chose the tunnel..:-). A guided tour, clear explanations, the stalagmites and stalactites were illuminated with varying colors, some really very bright, but also with normal white light.

A very rewarding experience.

When you click on the left picture below to enlarge it, you can see at the top people who are abseiling from the hole in the roof!

The next day we said goodbye to our hosts and continued our trip. We had decided to follow the Gorges du Tarn, a long but very  scenic route. It is a canyon, 400 to 600 meter deep, eroded by the river Tarn. Spectacular views, like here of the village of Castelbouc, deep down.

The river is a favourite playground for kayakers.

We had lunch in La Malène

We stayed overnight in Millau, our Airbnb was a nice apartment, located in the historic center of the town.

Millau is nowadays known for its viaduct, but it turned out to be a surprisingly attractive town itself. The next morning we climbed the Beffroi, a bell tower consisting of a 12th-century square tower topped by an octagonal 17th-century tower.

It was a steep climb, but the view was worth the effort. The Millau viaduct was of course clearly visible and deep down the Halles, built in 1899.

In the Middle Ages Millau was an important town, especially because of a bridge across the Tarn river, consisting of 17 spans. Nowadays only one span remains with a house built on it, formerly a watermill. Very scenic.  In a nearby cafe we had coffee with a piece of fouace, a cake specialty of Millau.

The Millau viaduct is (at the time of writing) the tallest bridge in the world, with a height of 340 meter above the river Tarn. It is considered one of the great engineering achievements of all time.

The viaduct has become a major tourist attraction. We drove over it and also under it, when you look up at the supporting pylons from the river valley, they look so fragile!

Our next destination was Albi. Here a view of the town with the Sainte Cécile cathedral and the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) in the foreground. This bridge was originally built in 1035.

We stayed two nights in Albi in a very nice Airbnb , a complete house, a bit outside the historic center, easy parking, with a very friendly hostess, who advised us where to eat where to shop and where to park when we wanted to visit the town center. Airbnb at its best…:-)

The cathedral is an amazing building, constructed between the 13th and 15th century. Those were the days of the Cathar Heresy, and the Roman Catholic church wanted to make a clear statement of strength. What a contrast with for example the Notre Dame in Paris! It looks like a fortress and is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world.

The monumental doorway was added at the end of the 14th century

The austere outside forms a strong contrast with the flamboyant interior.

Next to the cathedral the fortress of the¬†Palais de la Berbie, the Bishops’ Palace, dating to the end of the 13th century

Nowadays it is the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. We had a quick look , I am not really a fan of him..:-)

But the gardens of the Palace are beautiful.

For dinner, our hostess had advised us  restaurant Lautrec in Albi and that was a good choice!

Albi has of course many interesting old houses. The left picture also shows the belltower of the cathedral

Another useful advice of our hostess was to visit the small village of Puycelsi, one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France . There are more than 150 of them…:-)

The weather was a bit grey during our visit, here is a view of the village

We parked our car outside the walls and explored the narrow streets, visited the church and had lunch.

During our trip we had already passed  many sunflower fields, but on our way to Carcassonne we found such a beautiful field that we really had to stop to take pictures..:-)

We visited Lautrec, another of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The view of Lautrec might look similar to the view of Puyselci, but careful inspection of the two pictures will show you they are not the same…:-)

The weather was beautiful again, that could be the reason that we liked this village better. The walls are still there and the 14th century market square is attractive

We had lunch in a nice restaurant , Le Clos d’Adele. Good food, pleasant service, value for money.

After lunch we visited one of the other attractions of Lautrec, a 17th century windmill. A steep climb, but worth the effort, we could enter the mill and had a nice view of the surroundings. When there is enough wind the mill is still operating.

With Airbnb the host often doesn’t live in¬† the same building, so you have to contact him/her about your arrival time. That works well in general, but in Carcassonne it took us some time, the apartment also looked more like a hotel room. But it was ok, from our window we could see the medieval fortress in the evening light. But what were those strange yellow surfaces on the walls and towers?

The next day we explored the old town. It  the largest walled city in Europe and really impressive.

Not surprisingly it is a major tourist attraction with crowds of visitors in the narrow streets. We were lucky to find a restaurant with a secluded garden, where we had a nice lunch, again value for money

The name of the restaurant is Le Jardin du Carcasses, it has good reviews

The Church of Saints Nazarius and Celsus was built in its Gothic form at the end of the 13th century on the site of an earlier church. It was the cathedral of Carcassonne until 1803. Beautiful interior. But keep in mind that this church and also the citadel itself have been “renovated” in the 19th century by the French architect¬†Viollet-le-Duc!

Access to the medieval city is free, but to access the fortress and the walls you have to pay an entrance fee.

Carcassonne is  a Unesco World Heritage site already for 20 years and of course that had to be celebrated. The Swiss artist Felice Varini was asked to create a project.

Quoting Wikipedia:

Felice paints on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets. The paintings are characterized by one vantage point from which the viewer can see the complete painting (usually a simple geometric shape such as circle, square, line), while from other view points the viewer will see ‚Äėbroken‚Äô fragmented shapes.”

In this case he projected concentric circles on the walls and towers of the citadel. They look broken, only from one vantage point they are circles. Quite spectacular, of course many specatators, not easy to take a picture without people.

In the evening we came back especially to admire Varini’s work

Our trip was coming to an end, our last destination was the naturist village of Cap d’Agde. On our way we passed this strange landscape, the¬†√Čtang de Montady, a wetland, drained in the 13th century.

What to say about Cap d’Agde? Here is a picture of the beach, when you enlarge it, you will see that the sunbathers are naked…:-)

Nudist beaches are common in Europe, but Cap d’Agde is a nudist village, where you walk around, have a drink/ food on a terrace, go to the supermarket etc, all in your birthday suit..:-)

We had booked a room (Airbnb) with Bernard and that was a lucky choice, because he had been living there for many years and could tell us the do’s and don’ts. One don’t is that you can not take pictures of other naked people. Another one is that at night, during dinner, you are supposed to be a bit dressed at least…:-)

Bernard had two other guests, Christiane and Alain, a nice couple who had been regular visitors of Cap d’ Agde for many years. We became friends almost immediately…:-) The village itself is a nondescript conglomerate of concrete apartment complexes, but the company made our visit very enjoyable.

The second (also last) night of our stay we were invited to join our new friends to a dinner in a nearby restaurant. There was music, there was drag, and both Aric and I have been dancing! A fun evening and a worthy ending of our trip

It is amazing how much you can do in twelve days. After our return ot Amsterdam we needed several days to recover…:-)

France 2018, part I

When Aric and I visit the Netherlands, we always try to combine it with a short trip to another European country. In 2014 we have visited Norway, and in 2016 Portugal. This time we went to the Languedoc region in Southern France. We wanted to visit the famous “village naturiste” of Cap d’Agde, in combination with some of the numerous historical towns in the region, like Arles, Avignon, Carcassonne.

We took a flight from Amsterdam to Montpellier, where we rented a car. The map below gives the places (in red) where we stayed overnight. To guide the eye I have connected the different locations with blue lines, the actual roads were of course winding and much longer..:-)

Our first stop was in N√ģmes where we stayed three nights in an Airbnb. A nice apartment, on walking distance from the historic center, only a bit difficult to find a parking place.

After arriving in the apartment, I discovered that I was missing my passport and driving license! Searching my luggage and the car, nothing. Panic! Could I have dropped it when I entered the rental car? A telephone call to Avis in Montpellier finally gave the solution, they apologised that they had not given back the documents after photocopying them! Of course it was my fault not to have asked them back, but what a relief.

After this commotion we went out to explore the town a bit. N√ģmes¬†was an important regional capital during the Roman Empire

We were not in the mood to look for a restaurant, so we bought food in a nearby Carrefour supermarket and had a drink on our own balcony followed by a microwave dinner, Brandade de Morue, a typical Nimois specialty .

The next day our destination was Arles, but first we had to go back to the airport to collect my documents. From there we drove to Arles through the Camargue and on our way we found a very nice place for lunch, le Resto de Paty. Isolated location, we wondered if it was open, but it was , friendly service. We had tellines as a starter, a kind of clams, similar to the Malaysian lala. The main dish was grilled Camembert with charcuterie , delicious but filling ūüôā¬† Really a lucky find!

You can easily spend days in Arles, but we had only a few hours. Fortunately we could park near the center. Here is a GE view, with the places we visited.

The Roman theatre was built in the 1st century BC and is one of the oldest stone theatres in the Roman world.. It is used now for concerts and events, which rather spoils its visual appearance.

Much more impressive is the amphitheatre, built in 90 AD and capable of seating over 20.000 spectators. In Roman times it was used for chariot races and gladiator fights, nowadays for bullfighting and concerts.

Many visitors will come to Arles because van Gogh lived there more than one year and created some of his most famous paintings. Through narrow streets we walked to the Place du Forum, with the cafe, painted by van Gogh.

Here is the painting (1888) and the cafe, where I had a lousy ice coffee for a ridiculous price. To be avoided!¬† I hope you will understand why I cover my ear…:-)

Our last destination in Arles was the Saint Trophime church, but on our way we passed the entrance of the Cryptoporticus, and we visited this intriguing foundation of the former Roman Forum first. Crowds of tourists in Arles, but this place was deserted. I loved it!

Saint Trophime was built between the 12th and 15th century  and is famous for its cloisters.

Some details of the columns, fine examples of the Romanesque style, and a photo of the church interior.

It had been a long and very hot (38 ¬įC !) day. Before going back to N√ģmes, we relaxed for a while on the Place de la Republique, with a 4th-century Roman obelisk in its centre.

The following day we visited Avignon and it was even hotter.(38 ¬įC). Probably almost everyone will associate Avignon with the famous children song¬† Sur le pont d’Avignon but the real importance of the town is because it replaced Rome as the seat of the Pope in the 14th century, the Avignon Papacy . The Palais des Papes is what remains of those turbulent times. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. More of a fortress than a palace, here is an overview taken from Wikipedia to show its size. Bottom left you can see the beginning of the Pont d’Avignon.

Because of the hot weather we limited ourselves to the bridge and the palace. Here are my own photos. In the top left picture you see the cathedral of Avignon with the prominent statue of the Virgin Marie on top of the belltower. Notice the massive fortifications. The bottom right photo shows a door in the palace. Enlarge it to see the damage that has been done to the statues.

And here are pictures of the interior. You can easily spend many hours here.

Here is the famous¬†¬†Pont Saint-B√©n√©zet, which is the official name of the Pont d’Avignon. To take this picture we crossed the Rhone river. The bridge was built in the 12th century and had originally 22 arches of which nowadays only four remain. In 1995 the bridge, together with the palace and the cathedral were declared¬† Unesco world heritage sites.

We walked across the bridge , but it was too hot to dance…:-)

On our way back to¬†N√ģmes, we visited another Unesco world heritage site,¬† the famous Pont du Gard. It is an ancient Roman aqueduct, built in the first century AD to bring water to the town of¬†N√ģmes.¬†¬†It is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts and really impressive.

Back in¬†N√ģmes, we decided to have a real French dinner. We walked to the Place aux Herbes, with many eateries, and had our dinner in restaurant O-Delice. Nice food

After our dinner we walked back to our apartment. Nice atmosphere, it was a Saturday evening, big crowds everywhere.

Although we had chosen¬†N√ģmes only as a convenient location to visit Arles, Avignon and the Pont du Gard, we discovered that the town itself has also many interesting places. Before leaving next morning, we visited two of them.

First¬† the Halles de¬†N√ģmes. It is considered a major tourist attraction, but for somebody used to the Central Markets of Asia, it was a bit disappointing. Lots of fresh food of course, always nice to take pictures.

The Jardins de la Fontaine are a public park, established in the 18th century around a water source. In Roman times this was the center of¬†N√ģmes, ruins of the so-called Temple¬† of Diana (not a temple, probably a library) and the Tour Magne can still be seen.

Our next destination was Robiac, a small village north of¬†N√ģmes. Why did we go there? That will be explained in part II of this blog.

Journal 12-7-2014

From 29 May until 9 July I have been back in the Netherlands. During that period I¬†have been so busy ¬†that I had no time to update this blog. Here is a journal¬†about what I have been doing. More detailed reports will follow. I arrived on Ascension day and had not much time to overcome my jet lag because two days later Yolanda, Paul’s sister, celebrated her 65th birthday with an afternoon party. Here she is showing her youngest grandchild.¬†It was an animated¬†party, where I met several old friends. The picture to the right shows our former music group, numerous times we have come together to play (classical)¬†music¬†and¬†enjoy ¬†the¬†fellowship (and the food!).

Yolanda My friends

The next few days Paul and I have been done some long-distance walking, an activity we also started decades ago. We had planned to walk three days, a part of the Pelgrimspad  in the southern part of the Netherlands. But the first day I developed a few painful blisters, so we had to cut short our trip. Beautiful countryside, here is a detailed report: The Dutch Pilgrims Path

Pilgrims Path When I am back in Amsterdam, one of the first things I do is to call Inez, my long time friend and soul mate. ¬†We had a nice dinner together in a Turkish restaurant. She is also a proud grandmother now…:-). By the way, don’t laugh at me that I am always complaining that I gain weight when back in Holland (this time it was only 2 kg) Turkish food Inez Turkish food

 

 

Aric arrived a few days later, just in time for the family gathering. My siblings and I always try to have a reunion during my visits, and this time we decided to do it in a grander way, because we had much to celebrate. My brother-in-law and I turned 70 this year, my brother Ruud 65 and my brother Pim 60, nephew Jasper 40, nephew Stefan 35, twin nephews Xander and Aswin 15. And there were several relationship celebrations. So we rented a number of bungalows in a recreation park and spent there the Whitsun weekend. Here is part of the crowd Family meetingAnd here a few more pictures

We¬†had decided to make a trip to¬†Norway during this visit. I had seen pictures of the Preikestolen, near Stavanger in Southern Norway and had become¬†fascinated by this rock, rising 600 meter above the water of the Lysefjord. So we booked a flight to Stavanger and climbed this Pulpit Rock! Here we are. I can tell you that It is quite scary to get¬†close to the edge…:-)

Preikestolen Preikestolen

As it was our first visit of Norway, we also visited a few other places, Bergen and Oslo. Traveling from Bergen to Oslo by bus, boat and train is quite spectacular, beautiful fjords, numerous waterfalls and still a lot of snow in the higher regions. Stavanger and Bergen are picturesque towns with their brightly-coloured wooden houses. In Oslo we visited the famous Vigeland park, an ice-bar and the local nude beach. Our overall impression of Norway is positive, we like to come back. But the country is really very expensive. I took about one thousand picture, here a few. Click here for a detailed report.

After we came back in Amsterdam, we took two days absolute rest, because the trip was interesting but also tiring. The last day of Aric’s visit we decided to go cultural and visit two musea. Not sure if you can call the Erotic museum and the Marijuana museum cultural, but it was fun…:-) After lunch with a pancake, we went to the beach. At 7pm it was still warm and sunny.

Although the water was still very cold (~ 16 C) I even took a bath. It happens not often that you have the beach completely for yourself…:-)! Beach Time flies, so the last two weeks of my stay were quite hectic. One day I met Nellie, my friend of 50 years, in Zwolle. ¬†It was a real cultural visit, the Nijenhuis castle (part of the Fundatie museum) had two¬†interesting exhibitions. We also visited the bookshop Waanders in de Broeren, I was very impressed by the way this old church had been given a new destination.

The next  weekend I did another long (20 km) walk, with two of my former students and the partner of one of them. After heavy rain at the start, the weather became sunny. From the train station of Amersfoort we took a bus to Woudenberg and then walked back to the station. I have documented the walk in an EveryTrail report

Heiligenbergerbeek wandeling

Another tradition during my stay in the Netherlands is that I visit my (only) sister and my brother in law. They live in a nice bungalow near Schagen and this time they took me around the countryside. We visited a plant nursery, specialised in unusual/exotic flowers and got a private guided tour by the friendly owner. Also a windmill, where the miller explained finally what had puzzled me for a long time: why do rotate windmills always counterclockwise! He is living in the mill and was so kind to give us permission to have a look inside. We also went to the seaside. In that particular region there are no dunes, so the hinterland has to be protected by a dyke. And the next morning we visited my brother Arie and his wife Ineke, who proudly showed us their new house in nearby Alkmaar.

Here are a few more pictures of my activities. From left to right, visiting my former vice-principal and good friend Dick, dinner with Yolanda, lunch with Edmund and Johan and dinner with my ex-student Raoul and his Thai husband Aunn.

On the last evening for my departure I had dinner with Pim and Inez in a restaurant in the northern part of Amsterdam. A pleasant surprise, we had to cross over the river by ferry to an industrial area, the restaurant was located in a former machine factory. Delicious food and very friendly service. The name of the restaurant is Hotel de Goudfazant

Then it was time to go back. The last days it had started raining, maybe the country was crying to see me¬†leave…:-) But I¬†was looking forward to Malaysian food and to celebrate Aric’s birthday…:-)

Rain Hokkien Mee IMG_9011

Down Memory Lane

In 1964, fifty years ago, was a young student at the Free University of Amsterdam. With two friends I went to Austria during our summer holidays. Both also named Jan, so in the following pictures you will see Jan St (me) , Jan V and Jan Str. Camping in Tirol, hiking in the mountains. On one of these hikes we met Robert, a friendly German and an experienced mountaineer, who took us to the summit of the Wilder Freiger, 3418 m. It was a fascinating experience.

We were hooked and wanted to become mountaineers ourselves!

Robert

Wilder Freiger

We became members of the Austrian Alpine Club and the next year we followed a training course at the (in those days) famous Kaunergratschule. Here we got a thorough instruction in the handling of rope, ice axe and crampons, how to rescue somebody who had fallen in a glacier crevasse, we learned how to rappel down steep rock faces, to brake our fall on the snow and much more.

The course took two weeks, a balanced mix of theory and practice. As a part of the program we climbed several of the majestic mountains around the hut. Most impressive was the Watze Spitze with its hanging glacier.

After the training program, we felt confident enough to make our own alpine tours. We stayed in the same alpine region, but hiked to another hut, from where we climbed a few beautiful mountains, culminating in the Wildspitze, the second-highest mountain of Austria at 3770 m.

Here are more pictures, taken during these holidays. Most of them still in black and white. I found them in one of my photo albums, it was quite fun to reconstruct this part of my past, as I had forgotten most of the details. The last picture is a scan of the trip diary I kept during our stay. With information about weather and snow conditions, information about the route chosen, the difficulty (I – VI, I = easy, III= difficult)

To keep my family informed, I sent them postcards regularly. Later they had given back these postcards to me and I had put them in my album. Had completely forgotten that I had written on the backside of these cards. It is in Dutch, it gives a nice “travelogue” of our holidays.

A nice trip down memory lane!

Europe trip 2013 Barcelona & Amsterdam

After our two-week trip through Europe we needed some time to relax and do our laundry. Only a few days because we had one more destination on our program: Barcelona in Spain. The town of Gaudi, the country of paella and sangria!

It was a short visit of three nights only. Instead of looking for a hotel we found a nice apartment, a loft on the fourth floor of an old building, near to the Ramblas and in the middle of the Red Light district…:-) The dimensions must have been something like 30 x 5 meter!


Of course we spent most of our time in Barcelona visiting and admiring the wonderful works of art created by Gaudi.. A pity that we were not the only ones! I have created a separate album about Barcelona on my Stuif’s Adventures site. Here only four pictures of the places we visited
We had lots of tapas and sangria. Not always top quality. One night we had really a wonderful meal in a local tapas bar suggested to us by the hostess of our apartment. Spanish style, We started our dinner at about 10 pm..:-). Delicious food. The name of the restaurant is¬†Ca√Īete¬†and you should not miss it when you visit Barcelona!
Back in Amsterdam, we had a few days left before Aric went back to Malaysia. The weather was still ok, so we looked for some more of the KLM houses. And we visited the Rijksmuseum, opened last year after an extensive renovation. With a spectacular result, I will post a separate blog later about it. We had a look at the Night Watch by Rembrandt, one of the most famous paintings in the world. Also here we were not the only ones…:-)
Night Watch

Here are a few more pictures of these last few days in Amsterdam

Europe trip 2013 part 4

My idea was to travel back from Switzerland to Amsterdam via France. Last year I had visited a few Loire castles with my brother Pim,  and I wanted to show their beauty to Aric, so I booked two nights in Blois. However, planning in more detail, I found that the distance between Grindelwald and Blois was almost 700 km, a bit too long for a comfortable drive. Therefore I looked for a suitable stopover halfway. Beaune! To be honest, the name did not ring a bell. Now I know better.

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Wine lover friends will scold me, because Beaune is the Wine Capital of the Burgundy region. The most important wine auction of France is held here yearly, but we were too early for that. Besides, Burgundy wines are too  expensive for me.

It is a medieval town with a famous tourist attraction: the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor, founded in 1443 (!)

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Well worth a visit, here are some pictures.

The hospices also possess a very famous medieval work of art, The Last Judgment (1445-1450) by Rogier van der Weyden. Impressive.

DSC_5917

After a nice dinner and a good night sleep we continued the next day to Blois, situated on the banks of the Loire river. The weather had changed, it drizzled when we arrived. We did a short walk in the town