I Dream of a Hike

I just read an article / blog post with ten tips for long hikes. It made me dream.

I’ve always wanted to do a long hike. One of those that take a few days and you carry a tent or hike from hut to hut. Why have I not done it yet? My fitness.

I used to be a very lazy child. Never loved sports and PE at school was my most dreaded time of the week. The only thing I ever enjoyed was swimming, but I had to give it up because I didn’t have enough time. I was busy playing theatre, learning music, and being a creative dork.

Whenever my parents took me on a holiday, I suffered. You see, they love walking. And I, I was that annoying child asking “are we there yet” before we even took off properly. I often just sat down and refused to keep walking. My poor parents. I don’t know how they always managed to get me home safely.

But then we went on this awesome holiday to South Africa. The views were so spectacular but I was puffing and panting and everyone was feeling sorry for me, I guess me most of all. But I also started to realise the things I was missing out on by staying home rather than struggling my way through the hike.

I finally changed my ways about four years ago. I was an au pair in Ireland and I had a lot of free time. And in that free time, I really wanted to get out of the house that was both my home and my work, with both my family and my bosses. My favourite place: the cliffs. Just that little bit too far away to walk. So I started running.

Say What?

Yes.

I started running.

I used this Flemish podcast called Start To Run. It’s a lady who tells you when to run and when to walk with music that fits a good running tempo, and it builds you up from running one minute, walking three, running another minute, to running twenty minutes non-stop. I went every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. By the time I left Ireland, I ran about 45 minutes 3 times a week.

The most fun part: my parents came to visit me half way through my stay and were well surprised. First of all: when they asked me what I wanted to do when they came over, I said I wanted to roadtrip and walk. Secondly, when they actually did come over and we did hike (we did some parts of the ring of Kerry, hiked on Valencia Island, over the Burren, along the Cliffs of Moher,..), they were surprised by how much my fitness had improved. I was well proud of myself and that holiday is still up there with some of the best ones ever. (Also thanks to Ireland of course, the most surprising country I have ever been to for sure.)

But for you fellow hikers out there, you know it is addictive and you want more and longer and further and more impressive. So I’ve been wanting to do a several-day-hike for a while now. Maybe first try a three-day one. Then move up to ten-day ones. One day maybe even a month. A crazy adventure.

Sadly I’ve been slacking with the running and the gym. I work out only once a week with a friend, kickboxing style. (It’s not really kickboxing. It’s more like a group class where you work out by punching a bag. Great way to get rid of any work frustrations.) I want to get back into it. I’ve read so much about hiking and heard so many awesome stories. Like that Australian storie Tracks or the movie about the Pacific Coast Trail, Wild. I feel like I know perfectly well how to prepare and organise and go about it. But will I ever really go through with it?

Tonight I’m going for a run. For real. When I get home from work: straight into the running shoes. I really hope I do.

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“What Is Your Travel Destiny”

Check out the new post on my shared blog! I have to admit, I am quite proud of it. Please like and share, we are only just starting and really want to get our blog out there!

Two Stories One World

I love taking these little quizzes online. “Which season are you” or “Which city should you have been born in” and that kind of rubbish. Why do I like ‘m? Dunno really. But this is the last one I tried, and I wondered which country Adam would get.

It’s one from Lonely Planet, which makes me feel a bit less stupid because it’s not about “what kind of sock are you” or anything like that. As you might expect, it’s about travel. More specifically: my travel destiny! Woooo. Sound exciting? Yes, it does!

Question 1: If your ideal destination was a drink, it’d be…

I picked craft beer. Although I have to admit, it isn’t just a drink, it’s also a challenge. You’d be surprised at how many (less than)average craftbeers are out there.

But anyways, off to the next question.

Question 2: You simply can’t travel without…

Now…

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Last weekend we went on a wonderful birthday weekend. Rather then asking for presents, I told the boyfriend I much rather just go do something. You see, the boyfriend is really good at birthdays. Last year, when we were still doing long distance, he took me to Liverpool and we went for a meal in this super fancy restaurant, Panoramic 34, with the most amazing view over the city. We dressed up all smart and fancy and I just felt like the most special girl in the world. The rest of the weekend we were touristing and I absolutely loved it. An organised tour with all the fun facts about the city, checking out where the Beatles used to hang out, we even visited a museum. My goodness, Liverpool is an awesome city! And on top of that, he got me some really fun presents and took me out shopping. Best. Birthday. Ever.

But then it got to his birthday and I failed. I couldn’t fly over on his birthday and all I had was a voucher for a play station game. Worst. Girlfriend. Ever.

So basically, from now on, he’s not allowed to do his birthday magic for me anymore because I cannot compete.

But what can I do, last weekend was out of this world.

We decided to book a hotel in Gulpen, the Netherlands, close to the border so we didn’t have to drive to far. We booked through Travelbird and chose for an arrangement with basically everything included, because with it just being a weekend in between normal work weeks, there wasn’t a lot of time for extensive googling and preparing.

When we arrived, we were welcomed with a simple but nice dinner: chicken schnitzel with a nice salad and chips. Tasty, and just what I needed after a long day at work.

We had a big room on the top floor, but I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by it. I loved the interior of the room and all, but it simply had not been taken care of well for a while now. Having worked as a housekeeper in a hotel myself, I know the things you are asked to do and I know that with 15 minutes for a daily upkeep and 30 minutes for a departure, you can keep the rooms looking sparkling and spotless quite easily. By doing basic daily upkeep and more extensive cleaning after a departure, a room will never look as worn out as the one in this hotel did. The hotel obviously invested in their furniture, having beautiful teakwood cupboards and modern bathroom facilities, but it simply wasn’t as vibrant as it could have been. The paint on the walls had stains, the shower had mould, the tap didn’t work well because of the built up calcium, and some of the lights weren’t working. That doesn’t happen when you have regular and decent housekeeping. I just find it odd how they would spend all that money on the fancy furniture and then not spending money on the upkeep. What a shame.

But that is really as far as the disappointment went, because our stay there was wonderful. I absolutely loved the breakfast buffet. It was an extensive continental breakfast. Several different kinds of bread, including croissants, raisin and sugar bread; a wide selection of spreads going from a variety of cheese and meat to chocolate sprinkles, honey, and jams; yoghurt, cereal and fruit; coffee, tea and juice; and a boiled egg for the fans. I love breakfast buffets. I went for seconds the first morning, and the second morning I think I even went for fifths.

Next on our planning: a hike. Also organised by the hotel. They had mapped out a 11km hike with a stopover halfway where we would be served a cuppa coffee and some vlaai, the local fruit pie (ours was a cherry one and it was delicious). The weather was quite decent for the end of October and we got to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours. (Seriously, autumn is my favourite season ever. The bad weather really can’t ruin the amazing colours and smells of a rotting forest 😉 ) Not really an out of this world feeling though, as we were not the only ones by far, but it hit the spot nevertheless.

In the evening we had a four course dinner planned for us in a partner hotel. We got back from our hike, had a read, had a shower, slid our feet under the table and enjoyed the heavenly food. My favourite was the soup: they served us a plate with some slow cooked duck, and in a big teapot they had the creamy mushroom soup that they poured over. It being mushroom season and mushrooms being some of my favourite things on this planet, I almost quacked like that duck would’ve done out of utter delight.

And how else to finish off the night then to find the local pub, play some pool, and have a secret laugh at some of the passers-by giving us the eye for being the worst but most fun pool players ever?

Before we went home the next day, we had one more hike in our feet. This one took us along the apple orchards the region is quite famous for. I had no idea apples that big could grow on trees that small, they don’t really look like trees but rather like oddly placed single branches. This hike we came across less people, and by the time we drove home we were utterly relaxed and I felt successfully celebrated.

I better start preparing now for the boyfriend’s birthday. Ow dear.

Autumn Time – Tea Time

Tea season has started. Although to be honest, I drink tea all year round. But now I don’t just drink tea because it is yummy, also because it is cosy.

I love autumn and winter. Occasionally. My love for the cold has decreased since coming back from Australia, I have to admit, but these colder seasons still have their perks. Colourful hats and scarves, and that wonderful feeling of feeling all warm and fuzzy except for your face, which feels fresh and awake. I also like the dark evenings. Not all year around, but once in a while they can be super cosy. Switch on some cosy lights, listen to some mellow jazz, hide under a colourful blanket, and drink a cup of tea.

It’s really herbal infusions I drink, rarely ever real tea. With the amount of hot beverages I like to drink, it is not a bad idea to stick to the non-caffeine ones.

So, I’ve noticed how it’s really hot nowadays to blog by making lists. Therefore, I would like to present to you: my first list, a list of my (currently) seven favourite teas, in chronological order. (Chronological as in: from the one I start with in the morning to the one I end with in the evening.)

  • Alps Breeze: An invigorating infusion with mint and eucalyptus. I have one every morning first thing when I get to work. It wakes up your senses and clears up any sleepiness or blocked noses you would have had over night. Also, it smells like the Australian forests around the Snowy Mountains and makes me happily nostalgic.
  • Lemon and Ginger: Once awake, lemon and ginger is the perfect combination to keep you that way. Its taste is once again fresh, but also quite sharp. You can try making your own: squeeze a lemon and scrape of the zest. Add hot water to the juice and put the zest in an infuser together with a whole load of grated ginger. (Since ginger is good for digestion and helps against nausea, it is perfect after a way too big meal.) When I have finished the tea, I like to eat the ginger as well, but most people find the taste to strong.
  • Forest Fruit Tea: Now, this one does have caffeine. It is a black tea with some forest fruit added. The scent alone will get you all cosy, and the caffeine will wake you back up after lunch. The only problem: the scent is so strong you might not want to have this when you share an office. Your colleagues will smell your tea so strongly they might try to steal it from you.
  • Camomile: Camomile is good for basically anything. I like to have it as my last cup of the working day. It calms you down, and is also supposed to be good for the digestive system. Its flavour is subtle, and a warm welcome after all the strong flavours from before.
  • Sage and Honey: This is one to make yourself again. Get a bunch of sage, add some honey, and you have the perfect medicine for an autumn sore throat. Its taste can be quite sharp, but the honey makes it soothing. You can also try pineapple sage. The sage itself doesn’t taste like pineapple, but it sure does smell like it. And sage grows all year around so if you have a little plant in the garden, you will never fall short.
  • Apple and Cinnamon: It’s like having a dessert, perfect straight after dinner to stop you from craving any sweets. It’s basically like you are drinking apple pie. At least if you find a good one, not all brands are as good. But if you look long enough everyone can find his perfect combination of sweet and spice. Christmas Teas can also have the same effect, although they tend to be slightly more spicy, often adding orange and cloves.
  • Cranberry and blood orange: Or any other red fruit with blood orange. Like any other citrus fruit, it’ll burst with Vitamin C and boost your immune system. But unlike any other citrus fruit, it doesn’t have any of the bitterness and is wonderfully sweet instead, especially when combined with the sweater forrest fruits. Perfect cuppa to accompany your mellow jazz right before you go to sleep.

What are your favourite teas or infusions? Do you have one for every mood and time of day as well?

To Verb: I Verb, You Verb, He Verbs, We Verb!

Ladies and Gentlemen. As you might know by now, I am a PhD student working on theoretical linguistics. I have blogged about travels, food, work, etc. But now, I am proud to present to you: my first blog about language.

Don’t worry, this will not be an academic paper or even contain any interesting facts about language. It is just my ramblings about my favourite wordplay, which I like to call “to verb”. Basically, I like turning nouns into verbs.

The other day I was talking to a linguist colleague of mine from England on our way out of the office, and I asked if he still had to “train back home”. His response: “Did you really just use train as a verb?” My response: “Oh yeah, I do that really often. I’m waiting for it to become a thing”.

Let me quickly give you some examples. “To train”: the act of taking the train. It is a lot more concise and since you can already say “to sail”, “to cycle”, “to fly”, “to drive”, I think it is high time for “to train”.

Also: “to ikea”. When you go to the pub on a Saturday evening and your mates ask you why you look so tired, you can easily say “Oh, we ikead all day” and everyone will know what you’re on about. “We went to ikea” might give an idea, but simply does not paint the whole picture.

Another one: “to couch”. “So what’s your plans for tonight?” – “Hmm. Dunno yet. I’m fairly tired to be honest. Maybe just some couching.”

Am I right? Do you see the value of these wonderful verbs?

But by far my favourite one, and I think this one is used by many more people: “to adventure”.

Nope, I am not “going” on an adventure. “Going” implies that you have planned something and that there will be a designated beginning and also ending. That is not how “adventuring” works. “Adventuring” is a way of life, a state of being.

And that is where I end my plea.

Thank you.

Just a Random Evening with a Magnificent Dinner

The other night my parents invited me and the boyfriend to go out for dinner. Apparently, their date had cancelled last minute and we were the honoured second choice.

And was I delighted to be their first second choice! It wasn’t just any dinner in any restaurant. We went to the Voltaire in Heverlee because the restaurant  was celebrating its 20th birthday. And for this joyful occasion, the chef had invited famous Belgian television chef (think the Flemish equivalent of Jamie Oliver) Jeroen Meus. As he told us later on the evening himself (the good man made time to have a chat with everyone in the restaurant), he used to be a kitchen hand in this restaurant many years ago before his career took off. And now he had helped put together the menu for this wonderful evening.

We started off with some pre-dinner drinks. The gang ordered a variety of different gin tonics, for me a cava as I simply do not like gin tonic and will not give in to the hype even though it does look awesome in the big glasses with the funky stuff in it. As an appetiser, we got ham with tuna. Say what now, I hear you say. Yes indeed, ham with a tuna sauce, as delicious as it sounds surprising.

But this evening had more on offer than yummy food and casual chats with a famous person. We went for the menu with the wine tasting. This meant that before the starter and before the main, the waiter would poor us three tastings of white, then red, and let us do a blind tasting. Now, both me and the boyfriend do not know much about wine, but we do know the kind of wines we like more than others. All wines were always very distinct and even though all of them were tasty, it was fairly easy to pick the one you wanted. The waiter would then come back to the table and explain a little bit about the wines. Where they were from, the kind of grape, the kind of dirt they grew in (apparently you can taste the minerals in the dirt in some of the wines), and what kind of food they would accompany well. And all of it smoothly in English as well, so the boyfriend could follow! I was well impressed.

Turns out I like my white wines quite “mineral” and my reds with a lot of tannins. My favourite red in the supermarket in the section of affordable wines, is an Australian Shiraz. The red I went for, was a blend of different grapes, including the Syrah grape, as the Shiraz is called in Europe. I was quite proud of myself that I could actually tell the difference between the wines and obviously know my kind of wine. I consider it my first step to become a snobby wine specialist. Hooray.

For starters, I decided to go for the salmon, a mix of smoked and raw. I am sure “raw” would not be the correct culinary term as it sounds a bit untasty, but it was tasty I can assure you. The only downside was that, since the two kinds of salmon were mixed up on the plate, the smoked salmon flavour massively predominated and it felt like a bit of a waste of the lovely fresh uncooked salmon. It came with a tzatziki and some fresh green apple, brilliant idea!

For mains, I had a hard time deciding. I wasn’t really in the mood for fish, and I am always to scared to order a steak as I secretly like mine well-done, and having worked in a kitchen myself, I know that chefs go berserk if anyone orders a steak well-done because it is a waste of the good quality meat. So I went for the duck. A slow cooked duck leg with veggies and spuds. And this is where I tell you what heaven tastes like. My goodness, that was the best duck I had ever eaten. The meat just fell of the bone, and I ate every last string of it. It was deliciously stringy, like the meat you get in stews, but so juicy at the same time! And the sauce, I don’t know what it was, but it was so perfect for the dish! The taste was subtle, so as not to ruin the delicious duck flavour but to add just that little bit more deliciousness. I was a happy bunny.

For dessert, I picked the mascarpone with white chocolate and cherries. I wasn’t a big fan of the cherries, but I guess that’s just my own taste, since I have never really liked cherries. I merely ordered it for the white chocolate to be honest. It also came with some berries (raspberries, blackberries,…) and I am more than a big fan of those. But of course raspberry season is already over, and the raspberries weren’t the tastiest I had ever had. But now I’m just nitpicking.

The evening was truly wonderful. Just the other week I mentioned to the boyfriend how I would like to see my parents more often, so of course we had loads to talk about. The restaurant has a really nice lay-out as well, it was a joy to look around. It was a spacious room out of a dark wood, with some hunting-themed decorations. The lighting was perfect, bright enough to inspect the food meticulously but dark enough for a super cosy atmosphere. We were sat in a quiet corner by the window and taken care of excellently by the waiter. By the end of the night, we wobbled down the stairs wonderfully satisfied and ready for bed. Evening at the Voltaire: successful!