Europe 2017…let the planning begin

Maps and Apps and Guidebooks are spread on the dining table as we hover above them and ponder where our route will take us this time around.


Hiking in Ireland sounds great as long as you are willing to “embrace the rain”…we figure if we managed last October/November on the liquid Sunshine Coast, we can handle anything the Emerald Isle can throw at us!

We are really looking forward to visiting our friends, Jaap and Simone in Hilversum(near Amsterdam) and to explore more of the Netherlands by our favorite mode of transport…bicycles!  We have been hearing and seeing photos of their cycling adventures from them this winter as they are staying and skiing here in Rossland.  Last fall they rode from Hilversum to Rome in 5 weeks!  A true inspiration to those of us who have ‘hill-phobia’!  They are a fabulous resource with all their knowledge of maps and apps (thank you Simone for Pocket Earth!!!)  as well as their experiences ‘on the trails’.

So from Netherlands to Germany and the Vennbahn ( yes, again!)  back and forth along the Belgian border to Luxembourg, land of the €2 train ride ( yes, that includes the bike), the Sùr (Sauer) River to the Mosel(Moselle) and…..well here is where we need to study our options…one could carry on heading west and south along the Moselle or go east to Konz where we could head south along the Saar River into France.         The flaky French Croissants and Café Allongée  are awaiting, along with the olives, the cheeses, the …. yummm!

What about our bicycles?  Should we take them with us?  How to pack a bike for the airplane ride?  Panniers, handlebar bags with see thru iPad pouch?  What to do with our bikes when the riding is over ( which could happen rather suddenly as in our last trip!)  Bicycles on High Speed Trains in France?  More research needs to be done!

Then there is the dreary month of November…after last fall, we feel there is no need to hurry home to the Wet Coast!  We have been pouring over the weather stats for Europe…Southern France, Majorca, Corsica, Canary Islands, Madeira, Greek Islands, Southern Spain, Portugal???  Another ‘hmmmm’!

Food for thought and lots of it…time to get back to the The most amazingly helpful planning tool of the Century….the World Wide Web!  Stay tuned for updates….

Paulson Norwegian Trail

Despite the COLD temperatures, we venture out to the Paulson trails today at -18C.  It is a glorious sunny day…the white tipped mountains are dramatic against the clear blue skies!  There are a few others heading up the Glenmerry trail but we veer off and we follow a cat track all the way up the Rossland-Paulson to the Norwegian intersection.  Gorgeous views of Old Glory!  We are passed by Natalie and Anne…that’s ok, hopefully they will have the fire stoked by the time we get to the cabin!  And, yes, the fire is blazing and we can cook our paleo grillies and warm up before heading back down the Glenmerry road to enjoy the Alpenglow sky.

We make it home in time to watch the young Canadians beat the Czechs in the IIHF junior hockey tourney!

Another day in winter wonderland!

The longest leg…

A 2 day drive and 2300 kms later, Jaap and Simone make it home from Spain and we get one more fun visit with them. Plus,we get to meet another family member, their son, Lex, before we head home on Sunday.
Simone kindly drives us to Schipol Airport and in due time we are airborn once again and off to Iceland where we have a brief stopover (and an upgrade to Business!!! Happy Day) before continuing on to Edmonton, where we are able to catch the last half of the CFL Grey Cup game (Edmonton vs. Ottawa)…well, at least Mark does, I was sawing logs shortly after my head hit the pillow…..zzzzzzz!

Monday we awoke to a very crisp and clear Alberta Day.  After a great breakfast of bacon and eggs, we went for a quick walk around the block. Brrrr!  Then we had a fabulous flight over the many mountain ranges on the way to the coast and Comox, where we stayed and had a lovely visit with Mark’s Mom.  The plan was to get up early Tuesday morning to catch the 10 am ferry….meanwhile, the weather had other plans….it was blowing a gale and it was too rough so the ferries were not sailing!  Boohoo….so close and yet so far from home!  So we made the best of the situation and took Joyce (Mark’s Mom) to Value Village….where I found the score of the day….a new ski jacket.

Although it was still windy, it didn’t seem to be quite as strong as earlier so we made the call and headed for the ferry terminal not knowing for sure if the 3:15 ferry would sail?????  As luck would have it, away we went!

Murray met us at the other side, took us to the grocery store and we arrived to our cold dark house, tired but soooo very happy to be HOME!  It didn’t take Mark long to get the wood stove blazing!

Well that is pretty well the end of our 2015 European adventure, now we have all winter to plan the next one!  Yes, it was that much fun!

PS.  I have had so much fun writing this blog that I am thinking about another one….gypsyrozbudonskiis????   Stay tuned!


Return to Amsterdam

This favourite city of ours never fails to surprise and awe the imagination. This time around we discovered the Albert Cuyp street market…a kilometer of booths great for browsing for everything from souvenirs to flowers to cheese, clothing, shoes,….one of the most interesting was a booth with very unique and beautiful silks and sequined fabrics!  (It seems that all the markets have fabrics and notions stalls…are there more DIY seamstresses in European?)

The street and market are named for Albert Cuyp, a painter from the 17th century.
The market began as an ad hoc collection of street traders and pushcarts. By the beginning of the 20th century, this had become so chaotic that in 1905, the city government decided to set up a market, at first only held on Saturday evenings. In 1912, the market became a daytime market open six days a week. Originally the street was accessible while the market was taking place, but more recently the street has been completely closed off to traffic during market hours.

The product selection at the market varies from the traditional range of vegetables, fruit and fish to clothing and even cameras. There are many products sold that are of interest to the city’s residents of Surinamese, Antillean, Turkish, and Moroccan origin, giving the market and neighbourhood a strong multicultural feel.
The market is the busiest in all of the Netherlands and is reputedly the largest daytime market in Europe. It is also an important tourist attraction. The famous Dutch Stroopwafelsare prepared fresh here.

From the market, we found our way to the ‘Museum’ Quarter, where we saw quite a few kids skating on a pond that was frozen and decorated up to resemble a canal from back in the day (complete with a  zamboni!)  (that is the Rijksmuseum in the background.)


There was also another temporary Art display set up and open to the public.  My favourite piece  was “Beach” by artist Janet Van de Graaf.  Each of the photos in the mosaic is actually about a foot square so the installation filled the wall!

Darkness descends early these days, but all the better to appreciate more ‘street and canal art’ in this great city.  I also have a YouTube video of the top display as it was an action installation and very well done!

Go to ….Festival of Lights art installation on canal in Amsterdam.(on YouTube)


Back in the saddle…


The radio tower in Hilversum

It wouldn’t be Holland if we didn’t get on a bicycle!  Being in this country of cyclists certainly encourages one to hop on and get riding! So we did just that, courtesy of some borrowed bikes(again!) from our dear friends, Simone and Jaap. When the sun finally broke the horizon, we packed a picnic in our panniers and headed to Muiden/Weesp via Muiderberg. S&J’s location is so easy to get out of town…just a few minutes from the Knoopunten network and the forest trails with some of the biggest trees we have seen in this country!


More fun!

Another Warm Dutch Welcome!

As the wheels of the jet touchdown, the clouds break up and a big blue hole lets the low lying sun shine light up the city !  Ah, enjoy the moment, because it is sure to change back to a rain shower at any time.  We are becoming ‘old pros’ in the Amsterdam Airport;  land at 15:30, bags are waiting on the carousel when we get there, straight to train station, buy tickets from kiosk, pick up a couple of Dutch coffees and we are on the 16:40 train to Hilversum!

The town is often called “media city” since it is the principal centre for radio and television broadcasting in The Netherlands. Radio Netherlands, heard worldwide via shortwave radio since the 1920s, is also based here. Hilversum is home to an extensive complex of audio and television studios belonging to the national broadcast production company NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting), as well as to the studios and offices of all the Dutch public broadcasting organisations and many commercial TV production companies. As a result, many old AM radio sets in Europe had a Hilversum dial position marked on their tuning scales.

Even Van Morrison was listening to the radio in those days…before Rock ‘n Roll….
I am down on my knees
At the wireless knobs
I am down on my knees
At those wireless knobs
Telefunken, Telefunken
And I’m searching for
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Athlone, Budapest, A F N
Hilversum, Helvetia
In the days before rock ‘n’ roll
Read more: Van Morrison – In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyrics | MetroLyrics

But, I digress, here the story gets a little complicated….we are met at the home of our dear friends, Simone and Jaap, by Simone’s mother Connie.  Jaap and Simone are still enjoying sunny Spain and have made the generous offer for us to stay in their home in Hilversum until Sunday when we fly home.  What a wonderful way to end our journey!  Connie is a sweetheart…she drives us all over Hilversum so we can get our bearings ( and pick up a pannier from our German connection, Alexander, Toni’s son),supplied us with groceries, then took us to her place for a cup of tea!

After a very full day, we climb into a warm comfy bed and immediately nod off!

Adios y Hasta Luego España

Our last day in Spain…and we are up to watch the dawn (which is at 8:00 am, so we didn’t miss much sleep!)  another gorgeous day.  We drive to Cadiz and drop the car off, then to the train station, where we are whisked off to Jerez de La Frontera, the Sherry Capitol of Spain.  There are certainly many ‘bodegas’ where one can taste the different sherries.  Personally, it’s not my favourite.

The Alcazar is an interesting Moorish built fortress and residence.

A first fortress was probably built in the 11th century, when Jerez was part of the petty kingdom of the taifa of Arcos de la Frontera, on a site settled since prehistoric times in the south-eastern corner of the city. In the 12th century, a new structure was erected to be used as both residence and fortress by the Almohad rulers of southern Spain. Later, after the Reconquista of Andalusia, it was the seat of the first Christian mayors.

Features include:

a grossly quadrangular line of walls, with a perimeter of c. 4,000 m
the Octagonal Tower, in Almohad style
the Tower of Ponce de León (14th century), annexed to the keep.
mosque, the only remaining of the eighteen once present in the city. After the Christian conquest of the fortress in 1255, it was turned into a church dedicated to Virgin Mary by king Alfonso X of Castile. The minaret, still extant, was turned into a bell tower. The praying hall, preceded by a small room of ritual ablutions, features a mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, and a rib vault with a circular window at the top.
Palace of the Patio de Doña Blanca, dating to the 12th century Islamic structure, originally a leisure pavilion
Baths. They include an entrance area for undressing, leading to the cold and tepid rooms, the latter being the largest in the complex. The final room is the hot room, whose heating system is still partially visible.

The next day it’s “Hasta Luego” to sunny Spain and hello to cool wet Amsterdam!