Beautiful Capraia

IMG_3167

Just back from Capraia with sparkles in my eyes about how beautiful the island is. With its 20 square kilometers it is the perfect size to explore by foot: walking to small coves for a swim or hiking up the hills to see the steep west coast plunging into the sea, with Corsica visible on the horizon.

The summer colours of the plants on the hills were beautiful (green, orange, yellow…) and apparently in spring with many flowers blooming it is even more spectacular (a good reason to come back;).

IMG_3214

The village at the top of the hill is very pretty with its warm colours and many tiny winding streets to explore and get lost in.  We had our appartment there, it is blissfully quiet, perfect for a good rest (indeed many afternoon siestas were enjoyed!).

IMG_3253

The sea is amazingly transparent, and it beckons you to jump in from the rocks and refresh yourself after hiking under the sun. Underwater a ballet of fish awaits you, swimming leisurely around the rocks. So beautiful!

IMG_2978

Cycling around Bang Krachao

IMG_0717

While researching what to do in Bangkok I had read about Bang Krachao, a “smog-free, government-protected oasis of green on the mighty Chao Phraya River”.  It sounded like the perfect place to get some rest from the bustling city, so one morning I made my way to the pier in the south of Bangkok and took the boat across the river with many motor bikes and a few pedestrians. On arrival, I rented this wonderful red bike, and was handed a basic photocopied black and white A4 map.

IMG_0730

Loving the sensation of freedom of being on a bike, I pedalled away enthusiastically and promptly lost my way. Most roads looked identical and they had the same name, being distinguished only by a number. Soon my sweaty map made all details  completely illegible and was no use at all.

IMG_0713

So after a while I gave up trying to figure out where I was and just rode around aimlessly, enjoying whatever I discovered on my way. There are these concrete paths which allow you to cycle through the mangrove.  Going at a slow pace in order not to inadvertently ride off the edge into the water and mud, it was a great way to soak up the atmosphere.

IMG_0718

I spent a great day watching local people going about their daily tasks, passing many colourful temples and enjoying having lots of time to observe all the details of the plants and butterflies.

Capraia calling

IMG_2711

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #34

Today some flowers that look kind of like fireworks to celebrate the fact that I’m on holidays! I’m going to Italy with Paolo to a small paradise island called Capraia. The plan is not to have any plans.  I’m packing my camera, my journal and a pile of books… I can’t wait to explore the island, swim, eat good food and relax by the sea:)

IMG_2710

Magical moments

IMG_1950
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #30

I am extremely grateful for the lovely time spent last week on Knoydart peninsula with Paolo and some dear friends.  It felt so good to spend all day outdoors in such a peaceful place and go for long walks in the breathtakingly beautiful landscape, as the light and clouds constantly changed over the mountains and the lochs.

There were so many magical moments during our stay… like sharing fudge and a nice chat on the gorgeous train ride up from Glasgow; quietly observing an otter eating a crab it had just caught for it’s evening meal; reaching the top of a mountain with an unpronouceable name and looking down at the incredible view of the hills, the lochs and the islands all around; listening to an amazing concert of bagpipes, flute and guitar as the room shook with the audience tapping their feet to the beat and dancing all together as the musicians played on and on into the night…

Highlights and lessons from the Camino

One year ago, at this time, I was enjoying my adventure on the Camino del Norte. It had been one of my dreams for many years, however I had no idea what was in store for me and what it felt like to walk about 6-8 hours a day along the coast of Northern Spain.

Looking back after having processed the trip in the last 12 months, here are some of my personal highlights and lessons learned.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Architecture-wise, the coolest place was the guided tour of the El Capricho designed by Gaudi, so many insanely creative ideas built into one house!

    20160522_175434

  • The favorite albergue where I stayed was La Ferrería in Alimandi. I remember the warm welcome from the host Sergio serving us local cider and picking fresh japanese plums in the garden. Great chats with the other peregrinos over a delicious vegetarian dinner, while rainshowers came and went outside.

    20160529_165923

  • The most improbable place I visited was the sand cemetery near Bayonne, where the tombstones are made from sand and decorated with beautiful scallop shells. Since the elements erode the sand, the tombstones need to be made again every year.

    IMG_3586

  • The awesome people from all over the world who I met and travelled with on the Camino made the experience unique.  I’m so grateful to have shared this experience with Tom and Cindy, Kim, Sara (and her courageous dog Freccia), Anna, Isolde, Justine and Mike, Maricruz, Carlos and Irene. It’s funny how quickly conversations with near-strangers become deep and personal when you walk kilometer after kilometer together and share a ‘menu del día’ after many hours on the road. Also the joy of meeting pilgrim friends again by chance after our paths seperated was wonderful.

LEARNINGS

  • Take more time off that seems necessary. I regret having shaved a few weeks off from the 2 months I had initially asked to have off work. In the end the difference between 6 weeks and 8 weeks off is minimal when you are at the office, but 2 weeks extra would have been wonderful on the Camino.

IMG_3884

  • People always want to give advice and tell you how you should walk the Camino, but in the end it’s your Camino. You will see people doing it differently and making other choices. They may walk more or less kilometers per day, stay in cheaper or more expensive accommodation, carry heavier or lighter backpacks, get up earlier or later, spend more or less money, taking leisurely breaks to drink wine at lunch time or rush to arrive first in the albergue…  Comparison is the thief of joy, in the end you have to do it your way if you want to really enjoy it. It’s your Camino.

20160528_113856

  • I loved the power of the Camino to make everybody equal. It is humbling to see that when we walk several hours a day we are all the same. No matter what our age, nationality, sex, strength, equipment or how healthy we are, everyone is doing the same thing, putting one step in front of the other and doing their best. There’s an amazing common feeling of empowerment linked to the simple act of being able to walk great distances.

Things I loved about Thailand

IMG_0809

  • Fresh fruit vendors in the street

Imagine if there were people selling fresh fruit that was peeled, chopped and ready to eat on every street corner in Europe?? It would be so much easier for me to be healthy and reach for fruit instead of getting a piece of cake when I feel like a snack:) Loved the mini-pineapples, watermelon, papaya, mango…

IMG_0753

  • Hundreds of colourful temples

I couldn’t get enough of the beauty of the temples with their flashy colours and intricate designs, the golden buddhas, feeling the cool pavement inside the temples with my beare feet, the quiet compared to the bustling city, only interrupted by the sound of monks chanting or people shaking budhist fortune sticks to find out what the future has in store for them…

IMG_0742

  • Offerings

Colourful offerings of bright flowers, water, ribbons, soft drinks and more near buddhas and spirit houses.

IMG_1046

  • Paradise beaches

Soft sand, colourful boats, transparent water, snorkeling with multicoloured fish and  observing the details of corals, finding tiny sea shells… It was so relaxing, good for the body and the mind.

IMG_0964

  • Children playing in the sea during magic hour

I loved to walk up and down long stretches of the beach at that time when the sunlight gets golden and the colours soften, and watch kids playing, laughing together and collecting sea shells in the magic hour.

IMG_0975

  • Amazing sunsets

On the western side of the islands the sunsets are gorgeous with their spectacular colours bouncing off the whispy clouds. Every day the colours are different and breathtaking. Such a simple pleasure!

IMG_0928

  • Wandering around night markets

Exploring the night markets was so much fun. I could spend hours walking around looking at the beautifully presented vegetables, trying to figure out what the plastic bags with bright mixtures contain, and people watching as locals buy their dinner… The markets are such a feast for the eyes (and tummy;)

50 shades of orange

IMG_0845

Hi my name is Fanny and I have an obsession with buddhist monks. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help myself. Their stunning orange robes attract my eye with an irresistable pull and I love how each monk expresses their own identity with a slightly different hue of orange.

Also, they have these wonderful shoulder bags in different colours, with gorgeous designs.  I love these bags so much that I searched to buy one on my last day in Bangkok. I even tried asking one monk for some shopping tips (he didn’t understand English, so I dropped it). But to no avail, I couldn’t find a shop selling them.

IMG_0833

The monks seem so calm and somehow otherworldly, so it always makes me smile to see buddhist monks posing for a photo or a selfie and speaking on the phone like anyone else.

IMG_0831

I would like to be able to claim that this is a recent obsession, triggered by the multitude of monks peacefully milling around the temples in Thailand… however that would be a lie.  I vividly remember stalking a bunch of buddhist monks who were simply enjoying discovering the Bean in Chicago back in 2014… The camaieu of their robes is just so beautiful!

Discovering Thailand

IMG_0612

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #23

My trip through Thailand was amazing!  It was a perfect blend of exploring Bangkok and making my way down to the South via Suratthani on my own, and then meeting up with wonderful friends to celebrate a wedding and travel on the paradise islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Everything was so different from Amsterdam that it took no time at all to switch into holiday mode, forget any thoughts about work and be in the moment. I must say trying all sorts of delicious foods, learning to navigate my way around Bangkok, observing buddhist rituals in the colourful temples, exploring the bustling streets with their tuk-tuks and street vendors, as well as getting regular massages really helped to disconnect from daily grind back home:)

I feel so privileged to have had the possibility to discover some of this beautiful country and had the time to explore at a leisurely pace without rushing.  I will be sharing some pictures and impressions over the next weeks.

Amsterdam Bee Park

IMG_6491

While Paolo was living in the Far West (Geuzenveld) we discovered a few lovely places to escape from the rhythm of the city for a while. The Bee Park is one of them, a hidden haven of peace, where you can admire flowers and observe bees close up.

IMG_6507

It’s lovely to walk along the tiny paths between the hedges of the allotments, catching glimpses of the carefully tended gardens and small sheds.

IMG_6504

As you explore you may bump into a beekeeper, fully clothed in this protective gear like an astronaut, carefully taking care of his bees and hives. If you’re lucky there may even be some of this delicious local honey for sale to take home with you.

IMG_6509

Bijenpark Amsterdam is open from April to October, I recommend to check the times and dates before going.

Discovering Nijmegen

img_4955

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #18

I’m very grateful for a lovely weekend with Paolo discovering Nijmegen for the first time. Despite the cold, we walked around the park overlooking the river Waal from Nijmegen’s hill and wandered down the little streets of the town.

We had to warm up regularly and which was a great excuse to stop in wonderful cafés and indulge in hearty sandwiches and rich cakes:)

Thanks to Paolo’s perseverance and good luck, we even got the last two tickets to watch a play version of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road that just happened to be playing that evening at the theater. The actors  were captivating and their way of telling the story was gripping!

20170225_172839