Scotland in Love

I feel slightly guilty saying this, but I went on a holiday and I didn’t blog! To be honest, I even forgot about the blog. You see, this holiday was going to be an “away from everything” one. We were staying in a cabin by Loch Ken close to Galloway Forrest Park in the south west of Scotland. There were no plugs, no phone service, no appliances. The whole cabin operated purely on solar energy and some gas for the cooker and the hot water. So it didn’t really make much sense to bring our electronics as we wouldn’t be able to charge them anyways, and as we really wanted to get away from it all!

I can’t tell you how amazing it’s been to be away from all emails and social media! I really haven’t missed it for a second. And now that we’re back home, I really notice how different my day is when I forget about social media for a while! It’s amazing! For the Boyfriend as well, since he is always checking his emails for work and is a mad social media fan. His phone was out of power for a few days and it really changed our days! Sadly, his camera was out of juice as well, so there went his planned past time. But I secretly may have liked it. At least for that big hike we did. 21kms! Booyah! Longest hike we’ve done so far. And there was NO camera, NO phone, just us two and the forest and the sea and the birds and the sun. A whole day of each others company with nothing intervening. Fun fun fun!

Especially because at that point, we had something to celebrate…

Ladies and Gentleman! The Boyfriend is now the Fiancé! He proposed at the shore of Loch Ken at sunset, with the sky all purple and pink and the most perfect peace and quiet and oh man it was SO romantic! And spontaneous! Apparently he’d had the ring for a while and planned to do it in Scotland, and that night he just felt like it was the right moment. It really was. It was perfect! I have never been so happy before in my life, blahdeeblah cliché I know, but I really don’t know how else to say it. I felt a rush of emotions I had never felt before, I was crying and laughing and jumping up and down and kissing him and felt like there were fireworks of fluffiness exploding in my chest. (My  brand new Fitbit put my heart rate at 120bpm! Madness!) I am so happy that I am going to marry this most extroardinary person who makes me smile and giggle and burst with laughter every single day! Who gives the bestest cuddles and makes me feel so comfortable and at home. Who still makes me feel so insanely in love and fluttery just by smiling one of his thousand different amazing smiles of me. And now I don’t only get to tell everyone about how perfect he is for me and how I want to share my world with him, we’ll get to show everyone by marrying each other! I AM SERIOUSLY BURSTING WITH JOY!!!!

I was going to write a whole post about our holiday and what we’ve been upto but oh well, I got distracted again. I might just leave it at this and go cuddle my FIANCÉ 😀

Our Hike of 2016: Val Gardena and the Dolomites

When we were talking about our 2016 holiday last year, the boyfriend and I were thinking of a camping-mountain holiday: three weeks with the car and the tent to Austria, finding maybe three or four fun camp sites and hiking around the mountains and lakes. But with our work situation of this year, three weeks was just not an option unfortunately. And then I arranged to go to Bolzano for work, so we figured we’d take a week off after the work thing and spend our holidays in Bolzano. A random turn of events, but one we are now super happy about. Because our holiday was absolutely spot on. And of course, one important thing to cross of our list last week, was that mountain hike we had been craving for. So we took a bus to Val Gardena…

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 20.29.56

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 20.33.36.png

The bus ride itself was a good way to ease us into the different landscape. The Bolzano vineyards slowly disappeared, the mountains became higher and the deciduous forests made place for pine forests and eventually tall rocky peaks. The Dolomites.

We got off in Santa Cristina, the middle of the three villages of Val Gardena, and headed straight off to the tourist centre to pick up some maps. (Which, from now on, we will probably try doing before we actually leave on holiday so we can spend our time maximally on hiking and not on figuring out which hike to pick.) We went for a hike up to the edge of the Sassolungo, a pretty impressive peak. There was also a hike around it, but for that we’ll have to continue training a bit and try again another time.

First, we had to take two chairlifts up to the start of the hike. The boyfriend had never taken a cable cart before, let alone a chairlift, and it was hilarious to make him nervous. Every time the chairlift slowed down to let someone off, I told him it’s what they do when someone falls off. Hehe. But soon he was too distracted by the amazing views to worry about the swingy ride.  The clouds were slowly fading away and in the distance we were starting to see more and more mountains. And more. And more. They just kept coming as the sky was clearing up. By the end of our second chair lift, we found ourselves on a big grassy slope leading up to the foot of the mountain. Which is where we went.

We hiked all the way up to the Vicenza hut, built at the end of the 19th century and now still a popular spot for hikers to take a break. From way down below, we could see the tiny hut standing lonely between all the rocks. And all the little specks of hikers making their way towards it. It was a busy path, felt like playing leapfrog with other hikers: we overtake, stop to take a photo, they overtake, we overtake,… But I didn’t mind too much. I was a woman on a mission: I was gonna be the first one on top of that hill. I don’t know if you remember from my previous blogs, but when I got back into the gym, I gave myself a challenge: I wanted to be the first one on top of the mountain when we would go hiking in Austria, and prove to the boyfriend and mostly to me how much fitter I’d become. And booyah I did it! (The boyfriend would tell you it was just because I happened to be walking first at the time and that he was right behind me, but I’ll take it :p At least he didn’t have to wait for me and stuff!)

14231372_10153895055366009_5057462689885614986_o

We sort of spoiled ourselves in the hut: espresso and Kaiserschmarrn please! With a view, of course 🙂

Unknown

The way back was very different. We soon left the gravel path that we took up and walked along the side of a mountain, until we found the little path down that was going to take us into the valley. It led through a little pine forest and for the first time since we started hiking, it was just us two. Lovely hiking! When we got out of the forest, we found ourselves in troll land. You know, these kinda trolls… (Sorry for the Disney reference :p) Perfect spot for lunch. Sorry, lunch number two. We had a drink and a sandwich and just enjoyed the view. I think that’s the main reason we never manage to go on truly long hikes. We like to “enjoy the view” extensively around every bend. Which we did for the rest of our hike.

Unknown1

It was gorgeous and so much fun. I totally love it when we’re adventuring. Adventuring our way. Just us against the mountains. Mission accomplished.

 

Bolzano The Holiday – Some Hikes

Our holiday is three days in now and they have been wonderful! So far: two hikes, a picnic, a museum, a pool session, some ice cream, a lot of espressos, and not to forget some wining and dining.

For our hikes we have stayed in Bolzano up to now. (Tomorrow, we are taking a bus to Val Gardena for a new challenge.) Our first one was super cute. I had planned it meticulously in the previous weeks when the boyfriend was still at home and I was filling up my free time between the classes at summerschool with scouting for our holiday.

In the afternoon of our first day, we walked along the river to the Runkelstein Castle. Sadly it was already closed, but we admired the outside and marched on. We went up quite steeply between the vineyards and had some insane views of the city, but didn’t dilly dally for too long since we were on a tight schedule: we had sunset plans. A little bit before sunset, we arrived at our planned picnic destination: a viewpoint over the city, with bench, on the Oswald Promenade. The sun was slowly sinking behind the hills, battling heavy with the clouds for an impressive sunset. We opened a bottle of Lambrusco and got out the bread cheese salami ham for a picnic Alla Italiano. We watched the sky go dark and Bolzano go light as the lights in the city came on. When the first stars came out, we put on our head torches, packed up, and headed home (where we got to enjoy a well-timed lightning storm above the hills from our hotelroom window).

For the second hike we went to the other side of town, to the Haselburg Castle. Sadly, also closed! Note for self: check castle opening hours before you plan a hike. But nevertheless, the hike was totally worth it. Very different from our picnic one. The path was a lot more challenging, and the views more forresty and less vineyardsy. And which better way to celebrate our new achievement than to head straight for ice cream on the town square: raspberry and straciatella, don’t mind if I do!

For our third one, we’re heading to unexplored territory! The Mountains of Val Gardena! I’m so super excited, I’ve been training so hard for this in the gym… We haven’t really picked a hike yet but we’re hoping the tourist office on site will sort us out. Bring it on 😀

Bolzano Day 2: My First Bolzano Hike, sort of

So yesterday was fun. I did do a fair bit of studying and I think I have a good idea of what’s going on in class, and for today’s class I didn’t really have much work because it’s a lot less relevant to what I’m doing, so no need to go the extra mile. I even managed to do some other work, well done me! That’s work sorted, yay.

I also went for a long walk with my roommate yesterday, just along the river. Turns out the river splits at some point. So when we crossed the river to walk back on the other side, this  appeared to be less ideal than anticipated. Not the nicest walk, but at least I got those legs moving. You see, I’ve been working super hard at the gym and gave myself this self-imposed challenge: when the boyfriend and I go hiking in the mountains (which will be in less than two weeks now, can’t wait!), I will be the first one at the top. But now the cheeky bastard has really upped his game at the gym as well so I totally have to step it up. Which I really did today. I stepped up, up the hill, and it was gorgeous.

I didn’t have too much time because I was going for this hike between classes, so I told myself: one hour in and then you have to turn back. I decided to tackle the Oswaldpromenade. (Some statistics for you: I walked 1h20, covered 5,9kms with a height difference of 150m.) It’s a lovely little path at the side of the centre going up one of the hills between all the vineyards. There were amazing views of the town centre and the mountains on the other side, and the level of the walk was the perfect little challenge for an in-between-important-stuff hike.

The path was perfectly accessible, not too steep, and relatively easy to navigate. At the end of the path (or maybe it wasn’t the end, but it was as far as time allowed me to go), there was a massive super fancy hotel, the Eberle Hotel, with an amazing view of the city and I bet it would be the ideal place for an evening cocktail (but my glass of wine in town this evening suited me just fine). The map told me the way back would just be road, but really it was quite fun! The road was super narrow, therefore, very cute. And insanely steep! It took me almost an hour to reach the top on the way in, and only 5 minutes to go down because it was simply so steep you just had to run down to make it easier on the knees. That was fun 🙂 The last part of the walk I went straight through the bustling town centre, shops and Italians eating ice cream everywhere. Back nicely in time for a shower and back to the lectures I went.

So far, this combo of work and holiday is going quite well. Bring on tomorrow!

A Weekend Away to Home

Our weekends are out of this world lately. I’m starting to find that perfect balance where the weekends are so more than lovely that I can handle the weeks a lot better. This weekend, we had a weekend away in my childhood home.

My parents are currently on holiday (the bastards went to South-Africa and didn’t take me along!) so my brother and I each got a weekend to go water the flowers. And then I thought, rather than cycling 9kms there to water some plants and then cycle back, why not make a weekend out of it?

My childhood home is located 9kms away from the city, in between 2 villages. To most people, I can imagine that sounds as if I actually grew up in the city. But with Belgium being so tiny, I can assure you I didn’t. Our street connects two big forests, Heverleebos and Meerdaelwoud, where I created some of my my fondest childhood memories.

The latter forest is one of the oldest ones in Flanders (the northern part of Belgium), also having our oldest deer colony. Heverleebos shares a lot of its history with Meerdaelwoud, however, it used to belong to the local Dukes or Counts, being their hunting grounds. Up to this day, the lay-out of the forest brings these days back to mind, with its wide lanes for the carriages lined by massive old trees that were once planted by these Lords.

Unfortunately, some of these Lords picked the wrong side of history. During the first World War, the forest belonged to the house of Arenberg, who were loyal to the Germans at the time. After the war, the government seized their property. Which is why the forest is still around now. Their castle now belongs to the university, the hunting grounds are a public forest.

So going back to my childhood home for the weekend, definitely counts as a getaway. We arrived Saturday morning, and installed ourselves in the chairs by the window looking out into the garden. Temperature-wise, spring hasn’t arrived just yet, but the flowers seem to disagree. We made ourselves a nice coffee with my parents’ super fancy coffee machine, and just let the stress drift away. No computers to tempt us, hardly any service on my mobile. Just what I needed.

In the afternoon, we went for a little walk. It took us less long than I’d anticipated. I remembered that walk as taking forever, but that’s probably because back in the day, my little legs really did take forever to get round. Back home, we enjoyed a nice sauna session and then it was back to the book. (I’m currently reading Tracks by Robyn Davidson, I’ll tell you all about it when I’ve finished it.)

To finish off our day, we cycled to the local pizza place: Il Daino. By far the best pizza in Belgium. I went for my usual: the Li Vorno: a pizza with a super thinly sliced kind of bacon, fresh tomatoes and gorgonzola. Omnomnom.

The next morning, I borrowed the parents’ car to drive down to the bakery in the next village. We made ourselves a lovely Belgian breakfast: bread rolls, cheese, bacon and eggs, and chocolate buns for my sweet tooth. To then go hiking again. Unfortunately, there are a lot of roadworks going on in the street, and cars are being redirected through the forest. A lot of the roads are now paved with gravel to make the driving easier, and the magnificent forest views are broken up completely by these grey-blue gravel veins running through the trees. So we did away with our mapped-out hike and just tried to stick to the nice unpaved paths. Not what we expected, but it definitely hit the spot.

And what better way to finish the weekend than with a massive batch of homemade pancakes?!

Next weekend, we are traveling to England to visit the boyfriend’s family and friends. So that’ll be a good one too. And the weekend after that, we celebrate our two-year anniversary! Oh my, I can’t wait for it to be weekend again!

Why I Will Never Diet, But Opt For an Active Lifestyle Instead

I finally started going to the gym again! I got a bit bored of it a few months back, so I decided to go kickboxing once a week and to take up running again. But then I had a problem with my foot and I was out for 2 months. And I gained so much weight, again 😦

Weight and me have always had a bad relationship. I blame it on a thousand things. I have never been skinny, not even as a child, so I think I can safely blame it partly on my metabolism. Also, as you might have noticed from some of my previous posts on food, I absolutely love eating. It is one of my favourite hobbies, rather than merely a necessity. And an annoying little side note: I hardly ever feel full. It is insane how much food I can eat without feeling ill. So naturally, if it is yummy, I eat too much of it. I also like cooking and baking. And if I decide to bake some brownies just because it’s a fun way to spend your Sunday afternoon, of course I end up eating them all. Even when I know perfectly well exactly how much butter and sugar go in there. Not to forget one of my all time favourite foods: cheese. I could have cheese for breakfast lunch and dinner, months at a time, and not get sick of it. Dutch cheese French cheese Italian cheese, even the English cheddar can take my fancy, not to forget some mature Stilton!

Once, I went on a diet. I even went to a food specialist, wanted to do it right. I was 15 years old and 15 kilos lighter than I am now. Yes, it didn’t go so well. Let’s just say I tend to overcompensate. 1 weak of good dieting (i.e. a lot less cheese, smaller portions, no more sandwiches with chocolate spread for breakfast, bye bye to the occasional pizza,…) usually ended with one meal consisting of a bag of crisps, a massive pizza, a whole package of chocolate, and all the cheese I could find. I never crave all this stuff (at least not in those quantities and combinations) when I’m not on a diet. Dieting makes me binge, badly. So to conclude: I will never go on a diet again. Not only does it make you moody as fuck, I end up gaining more than I wanted to lose. And those binge kilos stick. I’d even dare say: I am too scared to try dieting again!

The only way for me to feel more healthy: sports! When I lived in Australia, I was at the most skinny (yes, that is relative) I had been in a long time. 68 kilos. And I didn’t even try. I worked as a waitress and housekeeper, so I was on my feet all day. In my free time, I’d go running simply because the scenery was so nice, it was a good way to enjoy it. Or I’d go for long hikes with friends. Or I’d go swimming. It’s just the perfect country for an outdoor and active lifestyle and I miss it every day.

Since I got back, it’s been nearly impossible to keep my brand new active lifestyle up. I’m back at the old 72kgs. If you know I am only 1.64m tall, you know it is too much. I sit behind my desk all day at work, the furthest I walk is to the coffee machine and back. When I get home after a boring train ride, I want to spend some time with my boyfriend and enjoy a nice meal together, and then there is no time left to go to the gym. And I don’t like running in the dark. It’s boring. And cold.

But now the boyfriend decided he wants to go to the gym too! So we can go together! I am absolutely loving it. I had a sufficient break from the boring work outs and I know so many different exercises, I can mix my work out up a little bit and have little chats with my favourite person in between. And when I’m on the cross trainer and he’s on the treadmill, I like staring at him and making faces when he notices me. We try to go three times a week and I hope it’ll get me healthier again.

I’m trying to cut back on the food as well, but not as a diet. The only changes I am making are changes I am willing to be permanent. So I am NOT saying goodbye to cheese. I’m simply trying to maybe not put it in every dish I make. I choose lighter breakfasts in the week and when I feel like it in the weekend, I only have three chocolate spread sandwiches at most. (Mind you: I could eat a whole loaf of bread with the heavenly spread if really wanted to. So cutting down to three slices will do for now.) I cook slightly less food as well, so that I am not tempted to go for seconds. It’s not that I am ever still hungry after the first serve, more that I just want to have more. And if I want the occasional pizza, I will have the occasional pizza! That way I ease my craving and won’t go binging.

Ever since I can’t wear make-up anymore because of my allergies, I am a lot more conscious about my weight. I have chubby hamster cheeks, and somehow they are less prominent if I make my eyes jump out a bit more. Really, make-up was never the solution, but it did make me feel more pretty. Now, I guess I’m gonna have to really work hard to feel more pretty.

I will never be skinny and I have been fine with that for a long time, but I would like to feel healthy. And finally, I feel like I am on the right track again. When it gets to summer, I’ll be ready for spending all my free time outside again! And hopefully this time it won’t stop!

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 🙂