Sicily, May 22-26 2016

A few days on a fantastic, sun drenched island. All this thanks to my son and family, who were traveling the south of Italy in a camper van, and who had asked me to join them somewhere on this trip. I decided on Sicily, one of their stopping places.
I flew from Amsterdam to Catania on May 22 and from Catania airport I took a bus to Taormina, where I had booked a hotel for that first night, not knowing when exactly I would meet up with my family. The hotel, Villa Nettuno, was a charming family hotel with a gorgeous view from the terrace off my room. It was walking distance from the bus station and very close to the bustling downtown area. Checking my emails I found out that the family had just arrived  on a campground just north of Taormina. We agreed to meet the next day after breakfast. After soaking up the beautiful view I set off to explore some of the town. I meandered through the narrow streets, visited the Teatro Greco, checked the delicious goods in the small shops and finally decided on an outside patio for my seafood dinner. Good choice. View of another patio where people were enjoying, what I found out later, granita with brioche. After a good night’s sleep and breakfast on a sunny terrace, surrounded by flowering shrubs and plants and with again that amazing view, I packed and went outside to wait for the kids to arrive, while checking out the sights in the area. They did arrive with some delay after taking some time consuming wrong turns. Once they had parked the van, and the little ones were enjoying the promised gelato, we took the funivia (cable car) down to the beach. We had a wonderful time there, enjoying sun and water. Afterwards we went back up with the funivia, and started our drive to Miscarello, where we were invited by friends of my kids. A tiny village, peaceful. The villa overlooked Giarre and the Ionian Sea.
Dinner outside, view of the sea on one side, Mount Etna on the other.
Next day after breakfast we loaded up 2 cars and drove via Milo to Zafferana Etnea, where, after eating some delicious pastries, we checked out Oro d’Etna (website under construction), a honey place. There we all sampled olive oils and many different kinds of honey. Loaded with several purchases we drove on to the Silvestri craters in the Parco dell’Etna. It was quite a drive up. We noticed a spot with a great view of Etna and decided to have a photo stop there on the way back. After parking near the Silvestri craters, we hiked down there. Was it ever windy! We could really lean into the wind and not fall down! The scenery is of an incomparable beauty. The men challenged each other to go up for a fast hike while we wandered around and enjoyed the surroundings. Later that day, back at the villa, we enjoyed a delicious barbecued meal, followed by talks and limoncello. And very late, out on the courtyard, we experienced the “escapades of Mount Etna”. She rumbled and spewed. The sides on the top had a red glow. It was an eerie and awesome sight! Etna thundered all through the night. We watched her through an upstairs window very early in the morning and listened to her rumbling and thundering.
Breakfast outside again and then off to Catania. We experienced the very busy city streets and lack of available parking spots. But we did get to where we planned to go: the Pasticceria Savia with its delicious pastries and desserts. Bellies full we drove to Aci Trezza where we had hours of fun on the rocky beach. That evening we had dinner at a small restaurant by the water and enjoyed the most delicious seafood meal I have ever had in my life! Then it was time for me to check into the airport hotel as my flight back to Amsterdam was fairly early next morning. Good byes all around. Sad to leave but full of happy memories of a beautiful island. I have seen only a tiny part of it, but it will stay with me forever.




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Harrison Hot Springs. March 23-25 2016

I am starting off with paying homage to my mom, on whose birthday we started our zigzag road of marriage, 45 years ago. A road which took us to the USA, Kuwait and Canada with side trips to places all over the world.
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This photograph of my mother was taken 5 years before our marriage, by my dad.
(photo source: Birgit)

Now, 45 years later, we celebrated our anniversary with a couple of days at  Harrison Hot Springs, just about an hour’s drive from our place, passing through Mission, Deroche, Lake Errock, Harrison Mills and  Agassiz.
A drive via very scenic Hwy 7, even though it was in the rain.

And it kept raining that day, that night, and the next day. But with the 5 mineral pools at the hotel, 3 out- and 2 inside, we stayed cozily wet and warm. The hotel is huge, consisting of the original main building, (not really the original, as that one,constructed in 1886, was destroyed in a fire and later rebuilt), and 2 new towering wings. Total capacity is something like 1100 people. It was like a happy beehive. People everywhere, coming in, going out, in robes, in rain jackets, T-shirts and sweaters, swim suits and fancy clothes, dragging suitcases and/or kids, cups of coffee and what not.
A fire was blazing in the lobby and free tea and cakes were served at 4:00 pm every day.
We had a very comfortable room on the top floor of the main building, in the corner. This meant no walk-by or overhead noises. And imagine our surprise finding a tray with cheeses, crackers and fruit, as well as a bottle of wine in our room! With congratulations from Raj, Ailish, Priya and Neve. A good beginning of 2 wonderful, relaxing days.
We soaked in the hot pools, enjoyed relaxing meals, walked around in the rain or in between the raindrops.
We discovered the source of the hot springs, barely 10 minutes walk from the resort, protected by some old structure. We started to walk around the lagoon but the high winds send Hari back to the fireplace, while I braved rain, wind and cold and finished the walk.
The day we checked out blue patches showed in the sky and  the sun peeked through the clouds. And lo and behold, it turned out to be a gorgeous day. We took our time going back home. We did another leisurely walk along Harrison Lake where we could finally see the mountains, previously hidden by rain clouds. We walked the “Spirit Trail” just south of Harrison Hot Springs, stopped several times along the highway to photograph the majestic mountains. We had lunch at the Sasquatch Inn, definitely favoured by bikers, and serving good food. We drove to the end point of Hatzic Island where we discovered daffodils growing in a tree. Next stop: home.

It has been great! Thanks Hari ♥




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November in BC, Canada

To celebrate a momentous birthday in our family, my sister came over from The Netherlands to celebrate with us.

The second day of her visit, or first full day to be precise, the sun was shining so we hopped in the car and drove to Deer Lake Park in Burnaby where we enjoyed the gorgeous weather and the beautiful surroundings. We checked out the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts and had a bite to eat there. From there we drove to Burnaby Mountain. We enjoyed the view and the Playground of the Gods exhibition.

November 10 was a rainy day. We took it easy, did some shopping and in the afternoon we watched the ultraAVX version of James Bond’s Spectre.
It was definitely a worthwhile experience.

The next day we drove to Tsawwassen and met with cousin Norah and her husband Sam, who had come over from Victoria. We spent some very enjoyable hours with them, having lunch at the Beach Grove Café  and walking the dyke trail with a beautiful view of White Rock on the other side of Boundary Bay.

After driving Norah and Sam back to the ferry terminal we decided to go home via White Rock as the day was still young and the weather beautiful.
We walked the White Rock promenade, checked out the pier, strolled until our stomachs indicated it was time to head back home.

It had been another beautiful day.

November 12, a day which started out wet and got very, very wet as the day progressed. A perfect day for “the mall”: Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby. Quite a bit of Christmas decorations already and of course we had to sample the NY fries….

The next day we had to prepare for our trip to the different birthday destinations. On Saturday, November 14, we took off for celebration #1, lunch in Horseshoe Bay with the whole family.
This one was followed by a couple of nights at Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. We stayed at Pacific Shores Resort, a place where we stayed a couple of years ago as well. Peaceful, beautiful location, lots of amazing rocks…  And to top it off: beautiful sunny weather. A bit chilly but that didn’t bother us.

Next on the program was an overnight stay in Poole Creek. The drive to Poole Creek was definitely not uneventful. What started out as rain in Horseshoe Bay turned into wet snow which in turn changed to big snowflakes by the time we reached Squamish. Several cars had ended up in the ditch. We trusted our new tires, continued very carefully and made it safe and sound to Poole Creek, where it was not snowing….

The family photos of these days may be seen here (private photos)

The last 2 days of the celebrations were spent in Whistler.
We were lucky to be able to check in early and park the car safely.
We had chosen Whistler Village Inn and Suites. The location was very convenient and the rooms comfortable. We strolled through the village, had a bite to eat, wandered around some more. The Christmas light came on, changing the whole atmosphere. the Olympic Plaza looked very festive. The next day (yes, sunny), we walked to the Upper Village after a delicious breakfast at “Hot Buns“. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre was unfortunately closed but the grounds were open so we walked the trail. We also hiked the Lost Lake trail. Slippery sections on the paths at times but peaceful and so nice. After a late lunch we checked out the Fairmont Chateau Whistler before walking back to Whistler Village. Earlier this morning, before going to the Upper Village, we had purchased our gondola tickets to go up Whistler Mountain next day. We were told we were the first sightseeing visitors to purchase tickets for opening day on the mountain. We were so lucky: The mountain opened a week early because quite a bit of snow had fallen already. The Peak 2 Peak gondola’s would open a week later but we didn’t care. We would not have gone there anyway (a bit too high for our taste…).
The next day, after breakfast at our favourite place (yes, “Hot Buns”), and a visit from daughter and grandson, we went up the mountain. It was another gorgeous day. We kind of overcame our fear of heights while going up, as long as the gondola moved, but were happy when we reached the top. It was breathtakingly beautiful up there. With all the skiers and snowboarders we had to be careful where we walked but we managed to wander around without being overrun, sometimes sinking deep in the snow. After a couple of hours we took the gondola back to the village where we were just in time to wave goodbye to daughter and grandson, who were boarding the bus back home. We piled ourselves into our car and drove back home.
6 Days of birthday celebrations. Quite worthwhile!!

Friday morning we were on the bus to Vancouver. We could have taken the train but in that case we would have to be out of the door at 7:30 am. Considering the fact that we got home only the evening before we decided to take the West Coast Express bus. After a cup of coffee in Vancouver we started our sightseeing tour. We walked and walked and walked. It was beautiful weather once again, Christmas decoration were sprouting up and the general mood of the city was happy. We stayed until sunset and took the train back to Maple Ridge. A day well spent.

On November 21 we first checked the early morning mist over the Fraser River. A little later we drove towards the Pitt Bridge in Pitt Meadows and started our walk along Pitt River from there. We walked up to the Pitt River Marina. There were some fallen trees over the path, due to a recent storm but that was no problem for us. We simply climbed over them.
We saw a bird of prey (I don’t really know what exactly it was), Sandhill cranes, a Bald eagle and a lot of happy walkers, with or without dogs.

There was just a little time for a walk in Pitt Meadow’s Osprey Village before driving to the airport. A whole new community has been developed there, adjacent to Katzie First Nation’s land. A beautiful view of the Golden Ears Bridge as well as Mount Baker (U.S.A.).
Then it was really time to drive to the airport and say good-bye. It had been such a wonderful visit!
In the evening I walked by the river, watching the sunset.  Birgit’s flight should just have taken off and I was hoping she would be able to catch a glimpse of this beautiful farewell from above. I later heard she indeed saw that gorgeous sky from the plane! A perfect end of an awesome holiday!

Thank you Birgit!




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The last day of summer, 2015

Inspired by my brother in The Netherlands, who went out in the rain to take some amazing  photographs of fungi, I drove to the beautiful Golden Ears Provincial Park yesterday, for a short hike. Not many toadstools or mushrooms to be found though. Too early in the season I guess, and it has been a very dry summer. I will go for another hike in a couple of weeks time and see what nature has to offer then. But it was a gorgeous day , and I enjoyed my walk immensely.
For now, I have some photographs of Gold Creek, now with more water than during the mid-summer months, trees, tiny spider, big slug and of mostly minuscule members of the fungi family.

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The Weerribben-Wieden. The Netherlands. June 13-15, 2015

As a birthday present for my sister, we went for a long weekend to National Park Weerribben-Wieden. Our hotel, Huis ten Wolde, was even better than expected. The room was very spacious and had a large patio with a breathtaking view over low, green lands and a huge sky. We had rented e-bikes for the 3 days. Considering the wide, open space we expected lots of wind so an e-bike was not a luxury. Or maybe it was. We didn’t get out of breath trying to bike against the strong wind and we actually moved at a good pace!
Breakfasts at the hotel were buffet-style. We got a packed lunch to take with us on our bike rides, and at dinner time we had 3-course surprise dinners with accompanying wine. The meals were served in beautiful rooms, decorated with very interesting pieces of art.
Our bike rides took us through the Weerribben-Wieden National park and several little towns and villages like Giethoorn, Steenwijk, Ossenzijl and many more. We had selected different routes for each day, covering of an average of 60 km each day. Bicycle routes are very well indicated.
The Weerribben-Wieden National Park is located in the north of the province Overijssel. Regardless of how untouched the area may look, most of it has been man-made. People used to cut the peat our of the water and produced turf. Everywhere in the national park you can find the pattern left behind by the holes dug out in the marsh and the lands strips in the peat bogs. At some places too much peat was removed. Due to the wind and waves large lakes ensued. Nature managed to adapt to the created conditions at every turn. This national park is of great importance as a habitat for animal species (information: Nationaal Park Weerribben-Wieden).
We started out with a bit of drizzle, but that didn’t dampen our mood. We were dressed for the weather! Our first coffee stop was in a restaurant with as decoration (?) a large statue of Mary! Continuing our trip my sister noticed she had a flat tire. Where to find a repair shop. In the restaurant they directed us to a gas station, a couple of km’s down the road. Would there be something else? We asked a mailman. He knew someone, very close by, but didn’t know if he was home. He wasn’t. What next. We phoned the “ANWB-wegenwacht” the equivalent of BC Canada’s BCAA. Normally a car service but they do help other vehicles, regardless of the number of wheels. In an hour the service car appeared and the very kind gentleman fixed the tire and we were on our way again. The weather improved and we had a great day. We filled the next 2 days with riding our bikes through the beautiful country side, enjoyed the weather, the sun, each other’s company. We had picnics , except one day when there was an invasion of mosquitoes and we had our lunch while riding our bikes. Next day the mosquitoes were all gone….
We saw plenty of storks, nests with young, a deer that could not find a way out of the field, heard the song of mating frogs, spotted all kinds of birds (but don’t know the names or species), crossed a water on a small bicycle ferry, saw windmills and tjaskers. Could not get to see an “eendenkooi” as it is only open under the guidance of a guide and it was breeding season, but the area was lovely and peaceful. The farmhouses in this area are beautiful. They are very well maintained, have almost all thatched roofs.
The Netherlands is a small country and even though I have traveled there extensively, growing up in The Netherlands, there are still places that are a total surprise!

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The Netherlands, June 2015. Cycling the art route along the river Meuse.

Once again we hopped on our bikes (yes, an e-bike for me!) and like last year we followed the route of the art along the river Meuse (Maas). Somehow we found this year’s art not quite as impressive as last year, maybe because most of the works seemed smaller, but it gave us a wonderful excuse for a bike trip. My brother and I made it our personal challenge to take worthwhile photographs of each and every artwork. Unfortunately we could not get close to the “Black Widow” as the meadow had been closed off due to wandering steers and cows.  And “Meandering” apparently had been taken down by the artist due to high winds. So, 8 pieces remained.
One of them, and my first photograph listed, is of the “Plankers“. Strangely enough this has been google translated on the site as “Plan Cherry” which doesn’t make any sense to me.
The Planking fad (or the Lying Down Game) is an activity consisting of lying face down—sometimes in an unusual or incongruous location. Both hands must touch the sides of the body. Some players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play.  The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank. Planking can include lying flat on a flat surface, or holding the body flat while it is supported in only some regions, with other parts of the body suspended. Many participants in planking have photographed the activity in unusual locations and have shared such pictures through social media (information: Wikipedia).
No translation is given for “Struiners“. This means “walkers”.
All the other images speak more or less for themselves. Information can be find on this link by clicking on the tab “artworks”.

In Neerlangel we visited the tiny church of St. Jan de Doper (St. John the Baptist).
Originally a Romanesque church hall built in the eleventh century. The Romanesque tuffstone tower is probably the oldest Romanesque building in North Brabant. In the fifteenth century the church was expanded with a Gothic choir. In 1869 the church was demolished because of its dilapidated condition and changing insights. On the old foundations, the current Neo-Gothic church has risen. The Romanesque tower was spared.

Some of the other photos show Nature’s art. Judge for yourself. Who is the winner here?
We also saw thatching roofers. To build a thatched roof is quite an art.
Another trip saw unexpected animals at a seemingly very Dutch farm: cows, goats, sheep and…camels!
My sister also showed me a gorgeous house, with rust coloured slate siding, built on stilts. It stands on the floodplain between river and dike and had to be demolished. The owners fought this order and won. No doubt tons of disclaimers had to be signed. But as only the garage is on floor level, it doesn’t look like the water will ever get high enough to reach the living areas.

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India, February 2015 Bangalore