Hello, home!

My goodness, have I got fun news for you! I moved! No no, let me rephrase that. WE moved!

About a week ago, me and the boyfriend moved in together in a spacious apartment that we’ll be renting for the next three years. The time scares the hell out of me, when are we gonna go adventuring when we are stuck in this place until the end of my contract at work in just over three years? But oh my, is it nice to have our own place!

Although I have to admit, moving was a lot more work than I had thought. I have moved before, a little bit bigger every time. It started with my first year at boarding school. I bought a few trinkets to cheer up my room. A pillow here and there, some lights, a kettle, and a few tea cups.

The year after, I went back to boarding school with all of that plus the things I collected during the year. A picture to put on the wall, a plant.

The year after, I had to move back home for university. So all my stuff went back home, and my parents took me to ikea to get the room study ready.

Two years after, I went on erasmus to Finland. My parents decided to come see me off, so we drove there and I could stock up the car with the pillows lights kettle tea cups pictures plants study stuff, and I bought some more kitchen things and bathroom accessories. After one year, load up the car again with my things and the extra free stuff I got through the year from leaving erasmus students.

Then one year in Ireland. I could only bring one suitcase. Whoaaaat! I brought two back. Some travel books, a hot water bottle, woollen socks.

And then one more year of university, a few new cooking things should do the trick.

Australia of course only needed a backpack with the essentials, my stuff stocked up at the parents’ house.

Then there was my studio. Ikea again. And some secondhand furniture from the previous owner of the studio.

So now, I have an insane mismatch of stuff. INSANE! And oh my, to get it all together in boxes, deciding what to bring and what to throw away, or what to store on mom and dad’s attic. At first I thought that was the craziest part. I was wrong. The unpacking was even more mental. You simply do not need more than six coffee cups. Let alone ten different kind of trays.

And the ikea stuff. Ugh. Never again! One ikea piece is okay, but bloody hell where did the times go it was all dead simple? It took the whole family (thanks for the help, mom and dad) two days to get the bed together! We slept on a matras in the living room (no curtains no lights) the first night. Camping in our new place, it had its charm 🙂 It took us two trips to ikea as well, one with a rental van, one with the car. Knocked off a mirror of the van while we were at it. Stressy days.

But it is starting to look like a home now. We still need to put up some pictures, but we are both to scared to damage the walls. When you are used to leaving a place before the year is over, you try to not leave a mark. But I guess since we will be here for a while, we can drill some holes. We put up curtains before. In the wall. Booyah wall, take that!

Tonight we went for our first walk in the area. It was starting to get dark. There are so many houses, it’s a very built up area, but it was so peaceful! No matter what hour of the day, it’s always quiet around here. It is amazing, even weird and creepy sometimes, but I am not complaining! And then when we came home, … well, … we came home! Home! I can’t get enough of that 🙂 With all the rushing here and there and moving this and that, this short evening walk finally made me feel like I came home.

Hello home, we’re gonna have a good time.

Hector and the happiness of pursuit

I watched the most adorable movie yesterday!

Hector and the Search for Happiness

I couldn’t tell you if it is a good artsy movie with a deep theme and shizzle, I don’t know much about the art of movies. All I want to do when I watch a movie, is be entertained.

This movie was actually a bit out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone being the usual guilty pleasure kinda movies, stuff that only teenagers should watch, the occasional animated movie, some good old action or a cheesy home-alone style family movie. This one actually had a story to it, didn’t go flashing images and insane car chases fast. It was simply about a guy trying to discover what happiness means. Sounds a bit corny, but it was adorable. There was a good amount of deep philosophical one-liners, but mostly with a funny note to them, so no eye-rolling or gagging necessary.

There were a few really funny bits, I won’t tell you them because you just have to see it yourself. The events themselves weren’t always funny, just the way they were portrayed and staged. It made the movie feel so light and cheerful, even though it wasn’t always.

I’d definitely recommend the movie to anyone who needs a little hope in life, I think if there is anything I can say about this movie, it’s that it’s hopeful. Anything is possible, everyone deserves to be happy, and anyone can make their own happiness. Amen.

Bye bye long distance!

I’m at the airport!

Not to go on holiday again, nope, even better! I’m about to pick up my boyfriend! No more airport goodbyes, no more late night Skype sessions resulting in sleepy mornings at work, no more missing him for the stupidest reasons (such as hearing someone open a can of soda). No more long distance relationship! This time, I’m taking my fella home with me!

It’s been a crazy ride, having met on the road in Australia and travelled for four months, to then do one year of long distance. The distance wasn’t too long, a one hour flight (with a three hour trip to the airport that is, damn you public transport). But long enough to make us suffer.

We’ve worked hard and saved loads during t the past year and now lots will change for us. More for him than for me. As much as I would love another abroad adventure, my work has me stuck for another three years. And as amazing as he is, the boyfriend has decided to quit his job and relocate to me! I found an apartment for us close to the train station so I can get to work easily but we don’t have to live in the capital. It’s painted and cleaned. Can’t wait to show him! In one week, we’ll be living in OUR apartment starting OUR lives together! 😀 I’m so bloody excited!

Everything will be so different, no adventuring like in Australia, or forgetting about the world around us like we did when visiting each other the past year. No sleeping in tiny tents or stealing each other’s blankets because we’re not used to sharing our bed anymore. It’ll be real life. With work stress and shopping cleaning laundry that needs doing. But we will be stressing shopping cleaning laundrying together and as weird as this may sound: I’m so looking forward to all that 😀

The last year has been an inbetween year. I missed the adventuring so badly, and my baby even more. Now, with my baby by my side again, I’m sure I can find the adventure in everyday life! Bring it on, home-based adventure, WE are ready for you!

Coffee in Leuven

I found a new coffee place today! Which inspired me to write a little post about coffee places.

The place where you have your coffee, it’s like your favourite pillow: it has to be the perfect fit, and that’s a different fit for everyone. For me, a coffee place needs to be quiet. Or rather, peaceful. When I was still at uni, I used to come to these places to study or read some books. There was some nice mellow music, some soft chattering in the background. It is nice to be busy in your own little world, while at the same time noticing you’re not alone. The coffee was excellent, it also came with a free chocolate. And the seating was perfect for my aim: I always sat at the big table in the middle, surrounded by like-minded people trying to get some work done. Sadly, my cafe is no longer. And I’ve been looking for a new one ever since.
I went into the replacement of my favourite cafe, BarBoek!, but it is not the same. My cafe was a cafe with a book store. The new one is a book store with a cafe. Still awesome, but no longer the perfect fit.
So I went to another one I had been to before, The Coffee Cafe. It has all these old coffee grinders on the wall, cosy small wooden tables, and very good coffee. But since it closes at 2pm, again, not the perfect fit.
The one I am sitting in now is almost perfect, it’s called Anna, opposite of the museum in Leuven. It again has a long table, which is perfect because that way I don’t have to take up a whole seating arrangement for just me and my book or laptop. I can be just one of many working souls around this table. There are some couches as well, in case I would want to bring a friend for a chat. The lighting is perfect, and cosy. And even fascinating, since I keep staring at it. Maybe not the best idea.
The coffee stil has to prove itself though. I started with a filter coffee, which was not as nice as I had hoped. People always go for these fancy frothy coffees, I saw the barista do one up, it looked stunning. But I like my coffee simple and strong, no milk no anything. Either an espresso, or a filter coffee. I hate these Americanos, where they just fill up your espresso with water until they reach a bigger cup of coffee. That is not coffee. Filter coffee then is the ideal solution, that is, if it is good filter coffee. This one, not so much. But then again, filter coffee is hard enough to find, so I’ll try an espresso after to give them a second chance. (Later addition: the espresso is STRONG. That means GOOD! Though not as good as the ones I had in France a few weeks ago.)
The other minus point about this place is the music. The set up is modern-cosy, but the music is what you would hear in the town’s cheap club, 5 years ago, mixed with what the depressed teenager would listen to 10 years ago. This place needs lounge. Or jazz, even better. Or some singer-songwriter stuff. I’m not a big fan of the latter, because it can be so depressing, but it would definitely better than the stuff on now. Titanium. Really? And Rihanna? Whattt?!
Oh my god I just found a massive plus that will beat ANY Belgian cafe: they offer free water. It’s just standing there for you to poor into fancy glasses. Bazinga, well done new coffee place!
Oh and did I mention their free coffee-side biscuits are super tasty? Sticky oatmeal biscuits. Yum!
(Also, they’re playing Coldplay now. Much better. Thank you.)

Brignoles, La Provence Verte

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( I took this photo in Bormes Les Mimosas)

Check this out: I am now relaxing on a comfy garden chair on the beautiful patio of my friend’s auntie, overlooking their amazing property with the sun setting behind the farthest trees. The garden is insane. Around every corner there is something else. For example, the place I am sitting in now is a gazebo with some beautiful oleander bushes around it. Further up the hill there are some terraces with a few small olive trees and some vietnamese sculptures. On the other side of the house there is an outside kitchen with a stone grill, a built-in barbecue, and a pizza oven. Home made, or better even, garden made pizzas are the best. Around the corner again, there is a small elevated swimming pool, perfect to cool down all day long, of course with the accompanying chairs to relax. I could spend days discovering every nook and cranny this garden is still hiding from me.

But this area of course has more to offer than just these wonderful people’s garden. I am now in Brignoles, about one hour drive inland from Marseille. We haven’t been to Marseille though. There is so much else to see and do in the area, Le Var! Also, it is insanely hot, and the blue-eyed fair-skinned easily burned person I am, no matter how much I enjoy being outside, all day adventuring simply will not happen on this holiday. Which is why that pool is so insanely welcome. And my two jugs of sunscreen are too.

Barjols

Our first day, me and my friend visited Barjols. The small town has 27 fountains, and we saw 19 of them. The coolest one by far, was something that looked like a tree covered in moss with water dripping from its leaves. We finished our walk with a petit café in one of the many cafes, and what a bon petit café it was: small and strong, like you simply do not get them at home. The smell alone gives you a caffeine boost and your nose an orgasm, just imagine what a few sips of that black goodness can do for you!

Cassis

When we were in Cassis, we took a boat tour to Les Callanques: the small bays in the impressive cliff shoreline. The cliffs got higher and higher, the bays smaller and smaller, and the overal feeling more out of this world. Just being on a boat always entertains me more than enough. The sun not being as fierce anymore with the strong gusts of wind and splashes of seawater, the rocking of the boat and the thumps as it goes over a bigger wave, the feeling that you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything but sit, wait, and smile. Add to that the open sea on one side and the lively cliffs on the other and I am a more than happy girl. Rounded off with some banana ice cream and another one of those heavenly coffees.

Bormes les Mimosas

The people I’m staying with own a deux chevaux oldtimer. In this weather, I wasn’t really prone to taking an unairconditioned tiny car for our next trip, bit since it was a convertable, what would’ve been a simple one hour drive suddenly turned into a whole adventure. The car wasn’t that tiny either. It was just as big on the inside as it was on the outside, no airbags or any kind of “fortification”. So all four of us had plenty of space to make ourselves comfy and enioy the wind in our hairs / try not to lose our hats and caps. After one hour of puffing and tuffing, the good ol’ deux chevaux got us to Bormes Les Mimosas, a beautiful village on a hillside close to the Mediteranean. This place wasn’t just another French village with cheerful yellow and orange houses, red tiled roofs and the bright blue sea in the background. What made it so special were the flowers. Oleander bushes in purple red and yellow, bougainvilliers climbing up the walls trying to hide the blue green white window covers, mimosa trees providing lovely spots of shade, and a thousand more flowers I don’t know by name. It was more than stunning. The colours were so vibrant and the city felt so quiet. The whole place smelled like lavender as well. What an experience.

Cotignac

But the cherry on top was Cotignac. First records of the city date back to the 11th century, and the little town is full of history. With the cave dwellings as the highlight. Cotignac is again built on a hillside. On top of the steep rocky hill, there are two big towers overlooking the city. The hill itself consists of many caves, and little houses built into them, which you can still visit nowadays. Just walk to the back of the town, then go up hill and scramble up some rocky stairs to enter the caves, don’t forget to duck (I am quite short and even I had spiderwebs all over my hair), and enjoy a view of the typically southern French village. Back down, we caught our breath at the only not overpriced cafe we found on our holiday, Le Temps des Pose. It was by far the best one as well. We had a good view on the hillside, a nice table in the shade of a pretty flowery tree, another delicious coffee, and the company of a small black cat stretched out completely over the ice cream freezer to get its bearings.

Holiday-style relaxing

As I mentioned before, the holiday wasn’t all exploring and discovering. We enjoyed a fair bit of sieste time. First on the sieste schedule: food. De-li-cious food. The people we’re staying with have a fairly mixed background and as such, bring the most varied and amazing dishes to the table. To name just a few: We had some Vietnamese nems, a sort of spring roll but better, rolled in a leaf of lettuce with some snips of mint and other unidentiefied herbs, and dipped into a home made fish-chili-garlic sauce. Or some couscous, with courgette, pumpkin, chick peas, lamb steak and merguez sausages. And every morning and lunch we have baguettes and cheese. For those of you who know me: cheese! Lots and lots of French cheese! It’s like being in cheese heaven.

I’m reading the perfect holiday book as well. Usually I like to read about the place I am actually visiting, some book about the Provence or southern Europe would’ve been ideal. But instead I went with one about Australia (because I can simply not get enough of the down under storiesto add to mine): The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville. The story takes place in the first British settlement in Australia, Sydney Cove. It doesn’t seem to be very historically accurate, not describing any of the difficulties the first settlers ran into (or I feel they would’ve run in to) like the extreme weather conditions, the spinifex, the lack of food, the creepies and crawlies,… But it is only a novel, and a very fluent and fun one at that. Perfect pool literature.

We’ve also been playing a fair bit of The Settlers of Catan. For those of you into board games: it’s not the board game, it’s the card game. The one specifically designed for just two people. It has the basic game, which is difficult enough to start with. But we’ve been playing this for a while now, so we like to play some of the theme sets as well. On this holiday, we finally played the full game for the first time, with the three theme sets. It’s a really good game, it takes so much tactics and knowing how the other person plays. We finally got the hang of it, and tonight, I will beat my friend… Ending our holiday in a high note and all 😉

The Lake District

I’m back! Not that I’ve been gone. I’ve been the usual busy and stressed, but I decided I’ll try not to talk about that anymore here. This blog is for the fun stuff, the little travels and adventures that keep me sane.

Last you heard from me, I was getting ready to go on holiday! I didn’t bring any computerdevicethingies and there was hardly any internet, so there was no blog. But why don’t I try to recapulate for you now.

So me and the boyfriend went to the Lake District! The holiday season hadn’t really started yet, it was mid May when we got there and the holiday park (Parkfoot, at the northern part of Lake Ullswater) was quite quiet. We stayed in one of the lodges, holidaying in style. Since we don’t get to see each other very often, and either spent time at his parents house or in my tiny studio (I like to refer to it as a whole rather than my home), having a whole house to ourselves already made this holiday spectacular. I usually quite enjoy winging it, not planning too much in advance, camping,… But we only had one week and I wanted to detox. Not only-juices-and-no-carbs style, more like doing all the things I don’t get to do during work life, being just the two of us and being utterly relaxed.

So we spent our week chilling out. In the evening on our couch in front of the telly or with a book. Sitting on our balcony in the morning with a cup of coffee just… sitting really. Cooking delicious food with the few ingredients we could find in the few shops around. Eating massive breakfast basically every morning (hurray for English breakfast). And of course, we did a lot of hiking.

We started with a hike around Aira Force, a popular waterfall at Ullswater. We picked up some maps from the visitor centre, and I have to admit it was tricky! I’m used to walks that are either signposted very clearly, or there is really just one way you can go. But here, there were a thousand little pathways, some of them probably only used by sheep but how am I supposed to know. We only just left as we realised we should go the other way first. And then two minutes in, we decided right looked prettier then left, so we took a little detour. Well, not really a tour, more like there and back. We walked up the side of a hill, slightly climbing, to get a magnificent view of the lake. Then it got too windy and I thought we were gonna fly off, so we returned to the real track. It was a stunning walk and we didn’t take any wrong turns after that. The first part up to the waterfall was quite crowded and touristy. But our map guided us higher up and we made a nice tour around and over the river above the waterfall, to end with some sheepy fields. Day one: successful.

The next day we decided to walk closer to our holiday park (as Aira Force is located closer to Glenridding, a 30-minute drive from Parkfoot). So we walked from the holiday park through a field (the directions read: enter the field and look for a gate in the opposite fence) and a little pathway towards Pooley Bridge, and from there we had a nice walk. Not a lot of climbing, as this part of the lake is quite flat, but there was hardly anyone there and it was lovely relaxing.

Of course holidaying in the north of England in May, is bound to get you some rain. So when the clouds weren’t on our side, we went on a little daytrip to Penrith. Technically, Penrith isn’t in the Lake District anymore. But the drive there did give us some good views. The town itself was really cool, one of those sceneries to see on old English biscuit tin boxes. So I bought a biscuit tin box. Duh. The rain didn’t bother us too much, we did some good sight seeing. On the way back we drove to a stone circle. The circle was larger than I thought it would be, the stones smaller. And in the middle: the road. Weird. Again, there was no one there so we had the field all to ourselves. Hopping between the cowpats we tried to take some pics of the stones against the ominous clouds. And when I say ominous, I’m not talking about gloomy. I’m talking about pitch black scary looking stuff. To only turn around and see beautiful blue skies. Yes, the English talk a lot about the weather because quite simply, the weather is fascinating!

After that we had two more hikes planned. The first one involved a boat ride. We took the boat from Pooley Bridge to the east side of the lake. From there, there are no more cars or roads, just a path on the hillside next to the lake. The sun came out now and again, but when it didn’t the lake looked pitch black dark. Stunning. After about 11km we got to Glenridding, where we took the boat back to Pooley Bridge and walked back to our cosy lodge. What a day!

And our last hike was the cherry on top. I don’t remember the name of the hike, or the place we hiked to. We left from Glenridding again. This time, we were going up a mountain, away from the lake. As soon as we left the lake side, we started going uphill and it seemed like we would never go back down again. The path got smaller, rockier, steeper, and sheeper. The lake behind us got smaller and the view in front of us more rugged and desolate. Just hills mountains rocks, little bit of grass and sheep here and there, and some snow on top. The tops further ahead looked all hazy and it seemed like this unforgiving landscape just kept going forever. Mission accomplished: I felt all alone on top of the world.

Sadly, we didn’t make it to the top of our mountain. Again, it was very windy. And with no shelter at all next to the track, it didn’t seem like a safe plan to continue. So when we got to the pass where we had to turn left to start climbing up, we turned right to circle back around to our starting point. The description on our map said: look for a bridge in the valley floor and make your way towards it. We saw the bridge, but not the path. We stomped around a little bit trying to find the path, but my boyfriend was right in the end: “make your way” really does mean “MAKE – YOUR – WAY”. So we did. This side of the pass wasn’t rocky anymore. It was more swampy really. Grass and heather, and one big puddle. So we slushed down the hill, about half way down not even trying to walk on the “dry” bits anymore. We made it to the bridge with slightly damp toes, and a rumbling tummy. From there, rocks again, some slippery slopes, and some comfy mountain-made seats on the hillside. Sandwich time! And sun!

The walk back was so different in scenery. We were at the back of the mountain so the lake was gone. But all around us there were hills and tops. And sheep. So many different sceneries in just one hike! Wow.

I could tell you a lot more about what else we were up to, like the amazing drive to Ullswater from Windermere, over this beautiful mountain pass with lakes and mountains on all sides! Our run-ins with scary sheep. The most delicious lemon cheese cake you have ever tried. But I’ll leave it at this.

Tomorrow I go on holiday again. Not really sightseeing this time, just relaxing. A friend of mine needed a holiday buddy, so I am happy to comply. We’re visiting her aunt who lives close to Marseille. I wonder if we’ll do lots of sightseeing. She’s not much of a hiker so my boots are staying at home. And if I have to be honest, I’d be happy reading my book by the pool for one whole week. As much as I like discovering, I also like relaxing. I’m not really used to one-week travels, how do you combine the wonderful relaxed holiday feeling with getting everything out of your destination? Well, I guess I can tell you in one week 🙂