Holiday on the rocks #2

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All kinds of cacti could be seen on Fuerteventura. These ball-shaped ones are always impressive, especially in clumps

Following on from yesterday’s reminiscing about the ingenious ways to use all those volcanic rocks lying around on Fuerteventura beaches, here is part two.

The second thing I had never seen before was on a day trip to Lanzarote. We caught the ferry for about 50 minutes from Corallejo to the port of Playa Blanca. Then we shuffled onto a bus for a five-hour tour of the island, stopping at an Aloe Vera factory, a winery and the Timanfaya National Park.

When I found out a winery was included on the tour, I admit I rolled my eyes. Seen one vineyard, seen them all. Rows and rows of vines, try some wine, on you go.

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Seen one winery …

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… seen them all?

But this winery is one I will never forget, because these are the vineyards …

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Each plant has its own hole, protected by a volcanic rock wall to stop wind damage. Have you ever seen anything like it? And for the record, the sweet white was too sweet but the dry white was quite nice (not that I know anything about wine).

So, the scenery was memorable for many reasons – the ground was so dark and the mountains looked amazing, with various red flecks from different minerals – but this Canary Island version of a vineyard takes the cake! Totally eye-popping moment and well worth the visit.

To find out more about the La Geria vineyard, and to see the plants in a better state than we saw them, go to this website. http://www.lanzarote-virtual.eu/lanzarote-round-island-trip/la-geria-vineyards-of-lanzarote

Here are some other snaps, taken from the bus, of Lanzarote. Around the port, it had a much cleaner, almost clinical, feel to it than Fuerteventura. Like the rich and famous, rather than the surfer crowd, would be comfortable there. But these are countryside pics.

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Yaiza has been voted the loveliest village in Spain – twice!

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Like being on Mars or something, but still incredibly beautiful and interesting

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Camel, anyone?

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Our tour guide making sure we were all prepared to hold a handful of small stones from one of the ‘hot points’ at Timanfaya National Park. They were damn hot! I had to drop mine quickly.

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Dry twigs caught on fire very quickly when put down this hole

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Water poured into this funnel burst back up within three seconds

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The restaurant in the park cooks meat on a naturally heated grill!

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We learned about the different types of lava flow as well. You’re not allowed to walk anywhere off the track because it’s so unstable and fine in places

So there you go! It’s nice to be surprised, isn’t it?!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Holiday on the rocks

Two things have really stuck in my mind from our recent holiday in the Canary Islands, and they both involve the volcanic rock found everywhere.

From Corralejo, on Fuerteventura, we walked to the big beaches, or grande playas, near the extensive sand dunes on the north east of the island, and as we came around the coastline past the great holiday houses and beach bars …

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They even built some houses with the volcanic rock. Normally it was a garden feature but some houses used them for walls and not just pavers

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I went to uni in Toowoomba. Nice to know it’s a mere 18,000+ kilometres away

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A chilled place to hang out with a drink, looking at Lobos Island

… and hit the sand, Leo pointed out some circular formations, obviously built by man, using volcanic rock.

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What could this round mound be?

From a distance, I could only see two, so I thought they were places to barbecue (check me out, the classic Aussie, thinking of a barbie) and smartypants Leo, who’s been here before, laughed at my stupidity.

Do you know?

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What could …

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… they be for?

They’re for people to lie in, normally naked!, to protect themselves from the wind. And boy what a wind. It’s a windsurf/kitesurf mecca, which makes for tough conditions on the beach if you want to bare it all.

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Kites all over the beach. The ones with a human attached at the bottom, going through water …

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… like this guy

Of course, people wearing swimmers also used them, but I have to say (from the cheeky peeks I was taking as we walked past them, and there were dozens of the formations, some in better states than others) that the majority were filled with rudie nudies. I’d want to to save my bits from being whipped by the sandy wind too!

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Three wise monkeys

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I stayed fully clothed!

I’ll tell you all about the second weird man-made rock formation thing that I’ve never seen before tomorrow.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

p.s all the good quality photos were taken by Leo. Thanks Leo!

December 19-January 2: Canary Islands

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Sunrise in Corralejo

Buenos Dias señoras y señores. Feliz año nuevo!

Ok, all that came from Google Translate but my wishes are hearty and authentic, even if my methods are somewhat dubious!

We had a wonderful holiday in the Canary Islands, where I faked a Spanish accent while ordering dinner and found two new Latin lovers. Leo isn’t concerned.

Our base was in Corallejo at the north of Fuerteventura and we travelled all over the countryside, leaving the island only once for a day-trip to Lanzarote to visit the impressive and Mars-like Timanfaya National Park.

Lonely Planet map of the Canary Islands. West Africa is less than 150km to the east

Lonely Planet map of the Canary Islands. The north west coast of Africa is about 150km to the east

Three days in a hire car were enough to see a fair whack of the island, especially the impressive bottom western tip, and one day we rode 44km on an unpaved, rutted coastal path on bicycles. We’d hired the bikes for two days but couldn’t face another day in the saddle.

My favourite moment was watching brave kids in El Cotillo jump in and out of the rough surf.

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Love this shot – captures the moment perfectly. I had heart palpitations watching them dive in and out, doing flips and being crazy

We ate and drank like kings and queens, lazed in the sun, were impressed by the kitesurfers, windsurfers and stand-up paddleboarders and I caught a cold at 2pm on New Year’s Eve. Woo me.

So here are some “wrap of the day” photos from the trip:

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Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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Day 8

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Day 9

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Day 10

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Day 11

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Day 12

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Day 13

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Day 14

At first I was worried I wouldn’t like the arid landscape, but even though it was sparse with barely a tree around, the old volcanic mounds were beautiful and changed dramatically with the moving sun. We’ll definitely be going back. I might need to re-learn all that Spanish I forgot when I moved to Switzerland!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

December 11-18: Another adventure and Season’s Greetings

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Sunrise 18 December 2015

The days of having hours to prepare and plan for holidays have gone, so I’m frantically trying to stuff too much into a suitcase for our holiday to Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, which starts … in a few hours! This trip we have the luxury (or hindrance, I’m still not sure) of having check-in luggage, so the temptation is to just pack it all.

I finished work yesterday in a mad rush, and now it’s all about getting the house and my suitcase ready. Leo had saved all his holidays for the end of this year, thinking we would be going to Australia for a month, but I went and did a crazy thing like getting a job :), and such a long break was no longer viable. But luckily my work said it was quiet over Christmas, so we could still take some time off, which is great as Leo needs it. Going to Australia for two weeks would be crazy and cost prohibitive (especially with the pending house move February 1) so we found a cheap package holiday to a place where the days will be warm. It’s been unseasonable warm here though too.

The plan is to read some books (unfortunately I won’t hit my target of 52 books in one year … by a long shot), do some day walks, eat some seafood and generally unwind. I’m looking forward to being surprised by the island, as I haven’t had much time to research what there is to see and do. We might try to do a few day trips to other islands. It will be too cold to swim, but the swimmers are in, just in case! Wishful thinking perhaps? 😉

Ok, enough writing. Here are some photos from the past week.

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Another lovely clear day

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Icy cobweb outside our house

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The Christmas market in Bern

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A nice sunset on our way to pick up my cousin Anna from the train station

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Anna had been at COP21 in Paris and stayed with us for three nights. She’s such a good egg

I don’t know if I’ll write while we’re on holidays, but as a fan of never saying never, we’ll see what unfolds.

Here’s to a sensational festive season, however you choose to celebrate, and a healthy and happy 2016!

And of course, as always, wishing you a wonderful day.

August 12: Last of the summer sun

I think a change is acomin’ … the last of the summer wine, I mean summer sun, could have been today. Maybe we’ll have a bit more tomorrow morning, but then it’s changing to the low 20s instead of the low to mid 30s. Hello autumn.

This change reminded me of the Sam Cooke song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Listen to it here if you like. What a tragic end to the founder of soul’s life at just 33. What a voice.

After work today, I soaked up those blessed rays in and by the pool with Lotti, Fritz and Liliane. It’s been such a fantastic summer, and I know it has to end soon, but maybe the blow will be softened a little bit because … drumroll … I’m flying to London tomorrow for five days. Ahhhh!

My good friend Bronwyn from New Zealand will be there, so we’re ‘getting the band back together’ so to speak, with friends Carla, Cara and Mike. We’ve been friends since we all lived in London in 1995. Wow, I hadn’t really thought about this being a 20-year reunion, but it will be. The last time we were all together was in 2013, and Leo was there, but unfortunately he can’t come this time. I feel very lucky to be going at all, to be honest, only having just come back from Sicily.

So I don’t think I’ll be blogging while I’m in London (never say never!), but more than likely I’ll do a wrap of the long weekend when I get back. I’ll be seeing a few other friends while I’m there too, which is also very exciting. The days are full.

Tomorrow, if I have time, I’ll bore you silly with a “What I’m taking to London” post. Hopefully not much! A jacket and long pants will definitely be required, because it’s going to be rainy and in the low 20s there too (I’m chuckling, thinking about those temperatures being an Australian winter).

Oh and I haven’t mentioned it – Bruce the Töffli is running like a dream! When I was leaving work, I walked a part of the way (pushing the bike) with Pastora. A little boy in a pram called out “Töf!” when he saw it. So cute.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

August 1-7: The Sicilian Wrap!

Amazing how a holiday can slow you right down … so slow, I didn’t feel like a daily wrestle with the internet, writing on the iPad or uploading and posting photos while we were in Sicily. We’re home now, after a wonderful adventure.

Currently, I’m digesting the fact the notes I took about our time there have disappeared. For one very rare and welcome moment, my writer’s cap returned and I scrawled notes and phrases about the whole adventure that I would have been proud to share with you. But now, at home, they’re no longer lodged inside the guide book where I carefully placed them. Pages of notes – insights and observations that now escape me. I’m devastated!

So, I’m afraid, for now, it’s just a diary-entry kind of post, not the ‘literary masterpiece’ 🙂 I’d scrawled in peace sitting next to Leo as he drove along a road under the Etna, through lava flow and vineyards with views of barren but beautiful hills.

If you’d like to read some short posts and see photos from the start of the holiday, head here for the first day, here for our first few days with Leo’s family and here and here for a bit more of Taormina.

August 1: Another relaxing day spent on the beach. I never thought I’d be a fan of the umbrellas and sun lounges but when the beach is so stony, it’s fantastic! With the umbrella, we could just move the chairs around to remain in the shade all day. Glorious! In the evening, we went back up to Taormina town and watched Carmen at the old Greek theatre. A wonderful experience.

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The beach in front of the little island Isola Bella in the bay where we spent lazy days on the beach

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Love this underwater photo of Leo

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Sitting on cushions in the Greek Theatre. The original stones would have meant a numb bum in minutes!

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The Greek Theatre in Taormina, watching Carmen

August 2: We said goodbye to Taormina after four beautiful, sun-filled days and headed south to Syracusa. The drive wasn’t too bad, but seriously, the Sicilian drivers are insane. There are road rules and speed limits but everyone ignores them! Surprisingly, we only saw a few accident scenes. Once in Syracusa, we rode the hotel bicycles to Ortigia, the old port town beside the more modern city and had an early dinner in a small restaurant near the main cathedral and cooled down on the hotel rooftop as the sun set.

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Looking down to “our beach” and Isola Bella. Bye bye Taormina!

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The plaza and cathedral in Ortigia

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We weren’t staying directly in town, so bicycles were a warm but fun way to look around

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There aren’t many beaches in Syracusa, so anything goes!

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Our beer didn’t last very long in that heat!

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Back to our hotel rooftop bar and a refreshing drink!

August 3: We drove four hours to see a statue, but it was worth it! We went from Syracusa to Porto Empedocle on the south coast, past the horrible looking Gela (industrial) and the stunning Agrigento (more Greek ruins). We’re big fans of the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri, who wrote the Inspector Montalbano police/criminal books which were turned into a tv series. Porto Empedocle is Camilleri’s hometown, and they’ve recently embraced the Montalbano tourism opportunities. We then drove to the tv home of Montalbano in Punta Secca, and then had a twilight dinner in the impressive town of Noto. A 13-hour day but well worth the drive.

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Leo with the statue of Montalbano in Porto Empedocle. The tv actor looks nothing like this book version

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Oh, hello, Montalbano sono!

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We had lunch where Camilleri stopped for coffees and I tasted my new favourite beer

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Montalbano’s house from the series. It’s now a B&B and hopefully we can stay next visit!

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The view back to Montalbano’s house

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The arid countryside on our four-hour drive

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The buildings in Noto are all made from this lovely honeycomb-coloured stone

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Part of festival celebrations in Noto

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Sunset in Noto

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Love these old Fiat 500s! Found in Noto

August 4: More Montalbano tv series location hunting! We spent time in Modica and Ragusa/Ragusa Ibla, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to go to Scicli, which was used for filming the outside of Montalbano’s office and many other scenes. It rained today too, luckily while we were driving. In Modica, I ate my first and only brioche bun filled with ice cream – something I’ll always remember! We went back to Ortigia for dinner with Leo’s sister’s husband and his family, who were on holidays too.

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The church of San Giorgio in Modica

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A view from the church steps

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Ice cream in a sweet bun! Only in Sicily!

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The main square and church of Ragusa Ibla, which was the scene for much action in the fictional Montalbano town of Vigata

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The beautiful baroque town of Ragusa Ibla, where a lot of Montalbano was filmed

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Another angle of Ragusa Ibla

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The boardwalk around the fishing village of Ortigia

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Dinner with Leo’s brother-in-law’s family. Not sure why we’re all red!

August 5: We left Syracusa and the Montalbano trail to go back to Leo’s dad’s house near Taormina, in a small village of 400 called Passopisciaro. On the way, we stopped in Milo for a light lunch and to admire the coastal views, and then drove on a scenic road (when I wrote my missing notes, sob) back to Passopisciaro, via Randazzo. We visited the father and mother of Leo’s dad’s godson, then surprisingly went back to Randazzo for a night-time walk and then had a very late dinner, where the restaurant had closed, but opened just for us.

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The dry, lava flow landscape around Mt Etna north

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Amazing lava formations

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Visiting with Leo’s dad’s friends

August 6: Our last day, once again at the beach! We went back to Fiumefreddo with Tony and Bossy and spent a relaxing time reading and swimming, and admiring the dexterity of the people selling wares on the beach. We then went home for an early dinner and later joined in the village festivities (the start of the month-long festival season in August) and said goodbye to all the people we’d meet and seen, mostly family members!

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How to carry stuff

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Another good photo of Leo underwater!

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Leo’s aunty Elvira, Bossy and Tony at the beach

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One last beach shot …

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Festivities in the town were a human football field, like the table football game but with people strapped to the bars

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Action in the blow-up field

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One of the human football teams, with our new friend Paula on the right

August 7: Up early to drive back to Catania, drop off the Fiat 500, which we loved driving around the country, for our two-hour flight to Basel and 90-minute trip back to Wohlen bei Bern. Luckily we didn’t experience any temperature shock when we arrived – it was 36 degrees in Switzerland! Went swimming at home then joined The Usual Suspects for a fish festival/dinner in Hinterkappelen, the village next to ours.

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Saying goodbye to Bossy in front of their house in Passopisciaro

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Back home! With Liliane, Lene, Nuri (Eve’s very funny grandson) and Eve

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The outdoor dining theme continued at home thankfully!

So there you have it, a far less extensive tour of Sicily as I’d hoped (maybe I’ll find those notes one day!) but to sum up our two-week trip, here are some bullet points.

  • Toilet seats are optional in Sicily. Sit on the porcelain or squat
  • Driver’s licences seem to also be optional
  • Mt Etna emits smoke constantly, which is thrilling and nerve-wracking at the same time
  • The people were generally friendly. It helped that Leo speaks the language and I want to learn!
  • We should have tried more wine – there were vineyards everywhere
  • There’s still so much more to see/do/taste/explore, so we will be back

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 25: Meet me in St Louis

We’re in St Louis! Not the famous American version, but a small French town a few minutes north of Basel. Our overnight stop before the early flight to Catania tomorrow has thrown up some lovely surprises.

A free music festival! Love a good festival. We couldn’t be in Byron Bay for the current Splendour in the Grass festival, so this was a close second … except all the songs were in French. We think they must be quite popular bands because there’s a good turnout in this small village – the town slogan is ‘village of the future’. A pretty sign near the train station said it was more than 16,600km to Sydney.

It was quite cool when we left Bern today, so I threw on my denim shirt as an extra layer and it turned out to be an inspired choice for tonight, as the town square created wind tunnels in the side streets. We stopped for a beer then watched a trio who were so French. I don’t know how to explain it other than ‘so French’.

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Our first holiday beer!

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A very tasty amber

A very funky food van

A very funky food van

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An arty snap of the action

The locals had a laugh watching me lick my ice cream straight off the cone, onto my handbag and then the ground – luckily not in my shoes! Leo was laughing too much to snap evidence. I trod back to the ice cream van and the man looked at me as if to say, “What’s happened? You were just here!” I theatre-sported the whole schemozzle and he wanted to replace it for free. I did my best French-accented, “Ohhhh no, no, no, no, no” and he happily took the cash.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

July 23: Getting excited … and new hair!

Rode Bruce the Töffli to the hairdresser and I have new (helmet!) hair! Not exactly what I was hoping for, but it’s ok. There’s a bit of a language barrier problem, as she speaks a lot of Bern-Deutsch, so I occasionally nod like an idiot, completely lost.

Like today. I thought she was using two different shades of blonde as streaks, but she only used the lightest shade. So I have very streaky hair now – platinum blonde with my natural ash blonde. Here’s to the Sicilian sun melding it all together a bit better.

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Shorter and blonder and wavier

Leo said “You can’t use that photo – you look about 50 years older than normal” so I figured I should use this photo. It’s funny posting photos of myself, as I can only imagine what people who don’t know me think when they see the pictures. “Doesn’t smile much”, “Big teeth”, “Look at that zit!”, “Rudolph”, “Boring” come to mind. Funny how we always think strange things (c’mon, I know it’s not just me!) but it’s human nature, don’t you think?!

I think I explained my hair-washing experiment quite well to the hairdresser, but could tell she wasn’t impressed, so my hair has been washed and primped with hairdressing products to be ‘clean’. What really made me laugh was the stickiness of the curling cream she used, to make the waviness a bit more exaggerated, is very close to how my hair was feeling using the Dr Bronner liquid soap! Touche!

Tonight we finished season two of Broadchurch, a BBC series about a murder investigation in a small coastal town. We enjoyed season one, the start of season two was heavy going and a bit too much melodrama, but the ending was very satisfying. I gave myself a pedicure and manicure while watching and now my hands are also primped (or should that be pimped?!) for the holiday. I’m getting ex-CITED. Not looking forward to the plane, though, I just do. not. like. being in small flying sardine tins.

Today, thanks to the paris-to-go.com website, I did some further reading about the pH balance (I almost wrote pHD) of our hair and scalp. Ariana linked to Sonya’s website, which had some very interesting articles about making your own shampoo, like rye flour or coconut milk and aloe vera (which are balanced for our pH 4.5-5.0 skin), after the author ruined her hair using baking soda. I also tried baking soda and worked out very quickly (quicker than using Dr Bronner!) that it was not going to work on my hair. I found Sonya’s experiments very interesting, and nice to see some scientific analysis of the whole shebang.

Happy reading if you fancy … and wishing you a wonderful day!

April 7-10: The Alsace Region – updated with photos

I’m back! We came home this afternoon after a great four-day/three-night adventure in the Alsace Region on the border of France and Germany.

Sorry for the absence, but as mentioned before, I find it hard to write while on exploring holidays. And we did a lot of exploring! I’ll write more about it over the next few days. (I’ve decided to just do this one post with photos.)

How are you feeling? I’m feeling mentally and physically fit, but definitely not nutritionally! We ate a lot of yummy/bad things while away and my body’s ready to attack healthier food from Monday.

And now? We’re off to dinner to celebrate Rene’s birthday (our neighbour). More meat and potatoes I’m sure!

Wishing you a wonderful day.