August 30, 2019

France - An evening in Bordeaux

I do agree, Bordeaux deserves more than just an evening, but that was all we were willing to give it this time. I'm sure we will be back someday. 

First thing that popped out of google as soon as I've searched Bordeaux was a statue of a turtle. So all I wanted to see was that statue. We checked in at the hotel and then took a tram to the exact place the statue was and then walked in the centre and tried a burger at one of the restaurants.

It was a warm evening with a gorgeous sunset and as little as I've seen it, I liked the city. I also think you will have a lot of things to do and visit. I will not tell you about the wine as I don't usually drink, but as someone used to Moselle Valley, I thought all the land surrounding Bordeaux would be only vines and from the motorway I haven't seen none. 

Still, the turtle statue is a monument dedicated to the wine industry related to Bordeaux and it took a while for all the people to clear the statue so I could take a decent picture of it. Its shell has a lot of symbols sculpted on it, including the myth according to which the whole world is build on a tortoise shell. The monument is in Place de la Victoire and from that point starts the walkway through the centre of the city, the longest pedestrian street in Europe.

For us Bordeaux was an easy city to navigate as it is well connected by tram, I also liked the river promenade and its terraces. We enjoyed one last beer outside as the next day we went home where for the past two weeks it rained daily. 

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 26, 2019

France - A pit stop at Carcassonne

When my husband found out that we might pass near Carcassonne went crazy and did everything in his power, including driving for another 5 hours after the visit, to check it out. I was responsible with checking if Luna was allowed inside and after a short google search I agreed to this little detour.

Have I searched more maybe I would have found what is this Carcassonne really about, but I found out as soon as we stepped on the cobbled stones that it is similar to Mount St. Michael in the sense that it is a castle/fortress surrounded by a city, where of course Luna was allowed, but she was not allowed inside the castle. I was happy to find a shaded terrace and tour the souvenir shops while my husband visited the thing. 

So much about the castle you will not find in this article, my husband loved it, but then again he likes most of the castles we visit. It did not have furnished rooms which led me to believe it was more of a fortress than a castle, in my head the difference is, a fortress was used to defend something as opposed to a castle where lords and ladies or even kings and queens would live. I am not moved by the way people chose to defend a structure in old days, but I am fascinated by the way they lived, how they managed to decorate those creepy castle walls, how they kept warm during winter, what they were wearing, those sort of things. 

Still, if you are in the area, or if you are passionate about castles, it is worth a visit. Inside the citadel (I guess I have to explain this one too, in my head a citadel is a castle surrounded by a town, similar to Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings, so not only a defensive structure, but a living one as well) you will find a lot of affordable terraces with decent food and souvenir shops, you can discover all the hidden alleyways so, if you like me, have to stay outside with the dog, rest assured you would have plenty of things to do.

I don't remember parking being a hassle, but I think it was a little hard to find as usually in France they have a different logic, in the sense you really have to solve a puzzle to find the parking as opposed to say Ireland, where all is easy to find. 

In total, I think we spend three or four hours visiting Carcassonne and on the same day reached Barcelona in Spain, so if we did it, you can also do it. Here are the pictures:

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed putting it together and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 23, 2019

Spain - Salobreña, the lovely town we discovered by pure chance

Spain, or south of Spain, lives on a different timetable than ours. So much so that when we were hungry everything was closed, when we left the beach because it was too hot, around 12 p.m., the locals would only arrive to the beach, if I wanted to eat something before 8 p.m. I would starve, I walked Luna on the beach around 8 a.m. with the tourists, so for us it took some time to get on Spain's schedule.
And on one of those days when in our town all we could find was a filthy terrace serving seafood for "our lunch", we decided to check out a fortress and then go to lunch on their schedule. The closest one left un-visited was the one in Salobreña, so in a short 20 minute drive we were parked on a steep slope and on our way through town to the fortress.

The town was something unexpected for me at least. White houses surrounded by gardens with red and pink flowers, narrow streets, crockery little benches from place to place where one could rest on the steep climb, small shops, of course closed as it was full on siesta time, and very close to the church and the fortress a lovely little square with a fountain and a terrace where me and Luna stopped as my husband would go and visit the fortress.
All I wanted was an agua con gas fria, por favor, when the waiter said the magic words: "would you like to have lunch?". I was exactly where I needed to be, Luna was treated with cold water, my husband was visiting something he liked and I had a menu with a lot of yummy stuff I could choose from.

We had lunch and a bit of sangria and then we went down the hill to our car, taking pictures and glancing over the fences in people's gardens. An unexpected little gem we stumbled upon by pure chance and I'm glad we did.
What I wanted to say was even if you purchase an all inclusive holiday at your hotel, visit the area, check the local attractions and you might be in for a treat. We are more interested in discovering the local way of living, admiring the local flora and taste the food from a small tavern forgotten somewhere, than having the biggest room with the most amenities and stuffing the most instagramable meal. But this is just the way we are and if in these more than 10 years since I'm writing on this blog I got to know you a little bit as well, you might like the same stuff.

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 19, 2019

Spain - Renting a boat for a day

If you, like me, are not the beach potato kind of person (google couch potato!), meaning you dislike sitting all day long on a beach with occasional visits to the sea, I truly recommend you rent a boat for a day and explore the nearby towns and beaches.

We did exactly that on a Sunday, while on holiday in Spain, and I have to say it was an experience. I was sceptical at first, as we travelled with Luna and she is a shepards sheep dog, not so accustomed with water, but turns out that she is well behaved and she likes the water as long as we are in it.

My friend took care of renting the boat, so I don't know much about that, but a short browse on google would get you all the answers you seek. I will only tell my experience.

We started the "journey" relatively early in the morning (on 10 a.m.) in the marina of Fuengirola, a town about an hour away from our place. There we met our skipper, a very nice Dutch man who was our guide for the day.

The boat, a Bavaria Yacht, was a sailing one, meaning that it had an engine, but was mainly powered by the force of the wind. Our skipper was very enthusiastic in explaining how everything worked, involving the guys from time to time in pulling the strings and from what I understood inflating or deflating the sales. Sorry for my lack of knowledge or willingness to document it, but I assume there are a lot of my readers who, like me, would want an experience like that for the fun of it, and not because they are really passionate about sailing boats.

The boat had three cabins, two bathrooms, a living-room/kitchen, a terrace and a deck. I spent most of the time on the terrace (again I'm positive it is not called terrace, but bear with me) watching the sea, hoping to see some dolphins, eating and drinking, but my friends tried the water, sunbathed on the deck and at one point paddled to shore to buy ice cream.

So, overall a nice day spent at sea, learning a little bit about this sea lifestyle, as our skipper slept on the boat, found out that it is sustainable to live on a boat and also cover long distances at the same time. So in a nutshell one could sleep on a different port/marina every night.

Here are some pictures of our adventure

I hope you enjoyed my little article as much as I've enjoyed writing it and as usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 16, 2019

Belgium - Spend the evening on top of Saint-Donat Church in Arlon

I wrote about the tower of St. Donat Church in Arlon two years ago and almost thought I've covered the subject already, but after reading the post I realised how many things are changing in our little bucolic village.
Two years ago I advised you to drop them a call or check the posters to see when the Belvedere (the tower and the whole area is called Belvedere Arlon, maybe easier to search on google this way) would be opened. This year they have a Facebook page and also Facebook events populated with people's photos of their visits. So although you might think Arlon is stuck in the past, it is slowly evolving.

On another note, also on Facebook you can find the page of the residents of the old neighbourhood, it is so interesting to see how they come together to clean up the area, to plant flowers and how they take care after each other.
Back to the St. Donat Tower here are some facts:
  • The whole tower structure weights almost 6 tons
  • The height of the tower is 35 meter
  • To reach the top of the tower you have to climb 144 stairs
  • You can see from the top to up to 50 km (on a sunny day you can see the Kirchberg towers in Luxembourg)
  • It has three clocks weighing 900, 600 and 450 kilograms
Les Nocturnes du Belvédère de St-Donat took place from the first of May to September, one evening each month. The last one would be on September 7th, on the National Heritage Day.

To visit the tower costs 3 euros (you cannot pay by card) for adults and is free for children up to 12 years.

For me it was a different experience. Somehow the whole summer I managed to miss this event, I was away or it rained and we did not go to walk Luna around the church or something happened, but on August 14th after a heavy rain I wanted to smell the fresh air from the Belvedere, Luna needed a walk and it happened that the tower was opened.

A word of advice, dogs are not allowed inside the tower, but as it was a nice evening we left Luna in the car for a couple of minutes, windows opened, and she was fine.
From the "balcony around the church" you cannot see your neighbourhood so it was nice to see it from the tower and also discover the other places in Arlon and around Arlon. I think we might have spotted a lake we did not know. Also it was a nice way to meet the local community, as only 12 people are allowed one time on the platform, we helped a couple take a picture and in their turned they helped us, we exchanged some impressions.

Also, as I was not aware of the event I did not bring my camera and all the photos are taken with our phones, but it was a gorgeous full moon on that evening and it was a real spectacle to watch the clouds pass by her.
If climbing the St. Donat Tower in Arlon in the evening is something that might sparkle your interest, the next nocturnal visit is on September, 7th.

As usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 12, 2019

Spain - Is it worth to visit the Alhambra Palace?

The short answer would be NO.

So if you are looking for that STOP reading right now and enjoy your day.

If you made it this far, let's expand:
The Alhambra Palace was my dream experience for the south of Spain and somehow every time I was in the area I've missed it. So maybe that is why I've ignored the red flags on their ticket website and purchased tickets for me and my friends, the full ones, 14 euros. The whole shabackle with printing your tickets and only print them, with everyone holding on to their ticket, even the kids, with introducing all your personal data on their website, passed my mostly vigilant mind, and hit next upon next to get to the downloadable tickets. Not even the fact that there were tickets on only specific dates and you were somehow forced to pick a time out of your holiday schedule, raised any questions on my side. I wanted to visit Alhambra Palace and nothing mattered.

So, never mind that on the day I forgot about Luna, who is a dog and so not allowed inside, and had to stay with her and not visit the Alhambra Palace which made me more determined to really visit it this time and went again through the same process and purchased the next available ticket and went on visiting the palace on my own.
Talking strictly about my visit now. Of course, it sucked I was alone and had to rely on the willingness of strangers in taking a photo and as a consequence all the photos of me are bad, blurred, with my mouth open explaining how my fancy camera operates or even on one side of the picture. But talking about the visit, it sucked.

Although I started the visit at 6.30 p.m. so almost in the evening it was hot as hell, so I've suffered throughout the visit because I forgot to buy water. Than I had to rush the visit to the gardens because they were closing, than I had to queue to get inside the Nasrid Palace, then when I've finished with the palace the Generallife was closed, then I couldn't take one singe photo without people in it, then did I say it was hot as hell?
So overall not a pleasant experience. And on top of it all as I've rushed through all the things to visit, I forgot to buy any postcards or even a magnet from the inside boutiques and they closed. And to make things worse, from the palace I followed the same route back to the front gate, only to find out as I've reached the gate it was closed so I had to go back to the palace and use the car exit. I was pissed!

Don't get me wrong, the Palace Alhambra is great, its history is great, it looks great, the gardens (the ones I did manage to visit) were great, but the small things ruined that experience for me. Not having a sign on the palace that after 7 p.m. the gate would close and you had to use the other gate, still allowing people inside after 6 p.m. although knowing they would not have time to visit it all, closing the gardens with people inside, and if I am really honest, after visiting Morocco (even just Marrakesh), Alhambra is just but a bad joke.
Still, I'm glad I've visited it, I'm glad I took my mind off of it. So if, you like me, dream about that visit, do it! But if it is just a fling, just because you are in the area, save those 14 euros and go to the other smaller fortresses and palaces build by the Moors in Granada. Yes they lack the grandeur given by the Spanish Touristic Board, but your experience would be far better. And don't forget to have water!

As usual, you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

August 7, 2019

What is the best time for a Summer holiday?

Long time no sea! as they say on Instagram together with the iconic already, feet on the beach.

Today I come to you with a bit of lamenting as my Summer holiday is over and I still haven't got into the daily routine and feel that life is unfair and that every day should be a holiday. But we are grownups and somehow we have to fake it till we make it, right?

So, what is the best time for a Summer holiday?

I used to have this theory and the best time for a holiday in the Summer would be late August, beginning of September. The logic was the following: everyone takes their holiday in August, or at least late July. So in that time you take some of the responsibilities from your working buddies and you endure only thinking about that glorious day on the beach. Then, coming late August, beginning of September, the weather is just the same, the tourist are all gone, the prices are a little bit lower, as the season is over, and that is the time you take your holiday. As your colleagues suffer over the holiday reminiscing their adventures, you are about to take on yours. Genius!

That was my logic until this year when we decided to take our holiday at the end of July and so, now, early August, I'm writing about my long gone holiday, sobbing about routine and wondering "who works in August anyway?"

I'm still struggling to grasp the advantages of our choice for this year, but what about you: What do you think is the best time for a Summer holiday?

As usual find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu