Cinque Terre, May 2019

When Aric and I are visiting the Netherlands, we always try to include in our program a trip to another country. This time we wanted to visit Italy again. But which part? Aric suggested the Cinque Terre, the five coastal villages in northwest Italy. I had visited that region long ago, in 1991, and did not mind going again! Here is a map of the region.

We booked a flight to Pisa and from there took a train to La Spezia, where Aric had booked an Airbnb, near the station. A frequent train connects La Spezia with the five villages.

Our Airbnb was really something special and deserves a few pictures. It is the former home of Pietro Ravecca, an Italian Sculptor. After his death, his daughter decided to transform it into an Airbnb apartment. It is located in a traditional building with an old-fashioned elevator and massive doors. It feels like entering the past (but the bathroom and kitchen facilities are up-to-date 🙂 )

Many of Ravecca’s works of art are still kept in the apartment. A wonderful experience.

The next day, after breakfast, we walked to the station, passing a modern fountain in the Garibaldi square and, surprisingly, a marihuana shop (in Italy!). At the station we bought a 2-day Cinque Terre pass and discovered that several hiking paths between the villages were closed (because of landslides). Only the path between Monterosso and Vernazza was open.

We decided to walk that path and took the train to Monterosso. Mostly through tunnels. The Monterosso station is in the modern part of town, nothing special, but with a popular beach.

Monterosso al Mare

To reach the old town you have to cross a short tunnel. The village is at the
center of a small natural gulf, protected by a small artificial reef. It is the only Cinque Terre village with a substantial beach.

Here is a collection of pictures. Romantic, narrow streets, a church, many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.

We had a simple lunch in one of the cafes. A popular aperitif is the Spritz , Aperol with prosecco. Aric tried it, it was stronger than expected, I had to help him finish it 🙂 .

It was almost 3 pm when we started our hike to Vernazza. A well-maintained path, with some steep stretches.

AFter about 1.5 hour we got our first views of Vernazza. It was not always easy to take pictures.


Vernazza is very old, first mentioned as a fortified town in 1080! The only Cinque Terre town with a natural harbour. Basically still a fishing village, although of course nowadays crowded with tourists.

Narrow streets and an elegant church, the Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, c. 1318. We had ice cream, and tried cone calamari, fried squid. Delicious!

Vernazza is famous for its elegant, colorful houses. We stayed quite long there, to take pictures in the evening light, before we took the train back to La Spezia. A long, but very rewarding day.

The next day we took the train to Corniglia. It is the only Cinque Terre town that is not adjacent to the sea, but built on a promontory, 100 m high. From the station a shuttle bus brings you to the town, if you don’t like to walk 🙂 .


Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre towns.

After visiting the town, we took the shuttle bus down to the station. It is only a few minutes to the next stop, Manarola, the second-smallest Cinque Terre town.


Francesca, our hostess in La Spezia, had suggested us to have lunch in restaurant Nessun Dorma, because of the superb view of Manarola. There was a queue, but it was worth waiting. The food was good too.

It is only 1 km from Manarola to the last village, Rio Maggiore, but the trail has been closed for many years already after landslides. So we took the train.

Rio Maggiore

From Rio Maggiore you can reach a small pebble beach, but it was too cold to sit down and relax.

We were back in our Airbnb around 8:30 pm. Having finished all five Cinque Terre villages, we decided to visit Portofino the next day, another picturesque town, southeast of Genua, 50 km northwest of the Cinque Terre.


The weather was a bit dull and grey. When we arrived, we first walked up to the Castello Brown, dating back to the 16th century, later transformed into a villa. From there you have a beautiful view of Portofino with its harbour.

Castle Brown

We walked down to the old town, took more pictures and found a nice restaurant for our lunch. For the first time during this trip we had pasta 🙂

Here are a few more pictures, before we took bus and train back to La Spezia.

As it had started raining , we skipped the plan to visit Portovenere in the afternoon. We took some rest and in the evening we walked to a restaurant where we had the regional speciality farinata, a pancake of chickpea flour. Later we walked to the harbour, but it was too cold to protect the mermaid against the rain 🙂

The next morning we checked out, had our breakfast and took the train back to Pisa. The rain had stopped, we had time enough to visit the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral, the Baptistery and of course the Leaning Tower.

There were crowds of tourists. Many tried to support the leaning tower and of course I helped them 🙂 .

We flew back to Amsterdam with Transavia.

Nice views, of the Swiss Alps and, just before landing, of my beautiful country. In the centre of the right picture you can see fort Krommeniedijk, part of the (historical) Defense Line of Amsterdam .

It was a wonderful trip.

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 😉

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 Sacré-Cœur 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 Sacré-Cœur, 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 🙂

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 🙂

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-Élysées 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 Musée 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.

Aei Ling’s visit, April 2019

My usual visit to the Netherlands started this time in a special way! During the first two weeks, Aei Ling, Aric’s sister, stayed with us in Amsterdam. As it was her first visit to the Netherlands, we showed her many of the Dutch tourist destinations. Here is a report.

Monday 15 April

We arrived early morning at Schiphol airport, took the train to Amsterdam Zuid station and decided to walk to my apartment, although it was only a few degrees above zero! Just outside the station we saw our first tulips 🙂

After a few hours rest (and having our first Dutch strawberries) , we went into town. It was cold but sunny and everywhere the “cherry” trees were in full bloom. Aei Ling would have liked to ride a bicycle, but I thought that would not be wise…:-)

We took the metro to the center of the town, the Dam square with the National Monument.

Back home we had our first Dutch dinner. Of course with potatoes.

Tuesday 16 April

We visited the windmills of the Zaanse Schans, one of the top tourist attractions of the Netherlands. Several of the mills are working and you can visit them. In this picture Aei Ling is standing on the jetty at the left.

After coming home, we had another Dutch traditional dinner, mussels with fries. Yummie.

Wednesday 17 April

Our destination was the Muiderslot, one of the historical castles in the Netherlands. We took a ferry from Amsterdam, which lands at the castle itself, a very romantic approach.

The history of the castle goes back to 1280. In the 17th century P.C. Hooft, a Dutch writer and poet has been living in the castle, many of the rooms are furnished in the style of the Dutch Golden Age. It must have been many decades ago that I visited this castle, so it was a nice experience for me too.

It was my 75th birthday and I had invited a few people for dinner at the Zoku restaurant. A very pleasant evening.

Thursday 18 April

My sister Lous had offered to show us around in the tulip fields of North-Holland. We arrived by train, enjoyed their garden and had lunch with them.

The Keukenhof is the most famous flower garden of the Netherlands, crowded with tourists from all over the world. Not many people know about the Poldertuin in Anna Paulowna, a miniature Keukenhof, quiet and F.O.C ! We were lucky, it was a perfect time to visit.

There were so many species of tulips, daffodils, etc, that I kept taking pictures…:-)

After visiting the garden, Lous and Arend drove us around through the flower fields.

We visited one garden where you could pick your own tulips, for 25 euro cents per flower.

We had dinner near the beach, it was not cold, we could even sit outside.

We stayed overnight, enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Friday 19 April

The famous Cheese Market of Alkmaar was the destination for this day. Arend dropped us near the Waagplein, where the market is held every Friday morning. It is a colorful spectacle, attracting massive crowds of (mostly foreign) visitors. Background information can be found here.

It is a honour to become a cheese carrier and you need years of training. Each cheese weighs 12-13 kg, and a barrow carries eight of them. The market started in 1365 and the whole process is steeped in tradition.

Alkmaar is a beautiful historic town, where you could easily spend hours.

We took a train back to Amsterdam and had a late lunch in the Pancake Bakery, one of Aric’s favourite eateries. And at home a late dinner with escargots. By the way, Aei Ling is drinking 0.0 % alcohol beer, getting more and more popular these days .. 🙂

Saturday 20 April

The Amstelpark is in walking distance from my apartment. Many years ago I had visited in this park the rhododendron valley, and after breakfast we tried our luck. It was a nice , easy 20 minute walk to the park, you can easily forget that you are in a suburb of Amsterdam.

And lucky we were, the rhododendrons were in full bloom

Near the park a beautiful windmill is located, the Riekermolen (1636). Almost any time of the day tourist buses stop here., we had to wait a bit for a picture without people ..:-)

Before walking home we had lunch in the park. I had an uitsmijter, a visit to the Netherlands is not complete for me without this traditional lunch of fried eggs with ham and cheese on bread 🙂

Later we went out again, because a tourist visit to Amsterdam is also not complete without a visit to the Red Light district. Too many tourists, the ladies of the night are not happy about it and often close the curtains of their rooms.

It is actually a beautiful, old part of the town.

We had snack food at a FEBO outlet, a typical Dutch institution with vending machines for the different foods provided.

Sunday 21 April

Easter Sunday! My friend Inez had invited us for lunch. With eggs, that is the tradition.

In the afternoon we visited the Vondelpark where lots of people were enjoying the nice weather and even sunbathing. We joined them and also had a look at the Boomzagertje, a hidden jewel near the Leidseplein

The next day we took the train to Paris, where we stayed four days. I have written a separate post about it, Paris, April 2019, and continue this one, after we came back to Amsterdam.

Saturday 27 April

Koningsdag! The celebration of the King’s birthday is very popular in the Netherlands. Unfortunately the weather was not very favourable this year, cold with rain showers. But of course we went to town. The Vondelpark is a huge freemarket on this day, where kids try to earn a few coins by playing music etc. Pity that it was so cold.

Sunday 28 April

My friend Yolanda is singing in a choir and they were performing Mozart’s Requiem in the Dominicus church this Sunday afternoon. Before the concert we had apple pie in restaurant Winkel 43, supposedly the best apple pie in town 🙂

It was a beautiful concert, in a beautiful church.

After the concert we had a drink in a cafe nearby with Yolanda (left) and friends.

Monday 29 April

Aei Ling was flying back in the evening, still time enough for a last activity, a visit to Leiden. During my last stay in Holland I had “rediscovered” this beautiful town, near my “hometown”, see my report Leiden 2018

Only a few pictures here, to give an impression.

Then it was time to say goodbye. It was very nice to have Aei Ling as our guest!