December 8, 2020

Corona Times - Ornaments for Christmas 2020

 I don't know about you, but for me 2020 was not that bad. Yes there was a lockdown, yes we cannot travel as we used to, yes covid is very serious and people have died and yes it was a depressing year. But, it is the year Ilinca was born, the first year of her life and for that one thing for me 2020 is a great year.

So much so I have nothing against Corona themed Christmas ornaments. Working in communication meant that since September if not earlier we cooked up the Christmas strategy for this year and we adapted it to reflect the events of this year. Let's face it, our life has changed dramatically and we spend a lot of time at home, with our family, in cozy clothes, dreaming of the vaccine and a vacation. So even if you want this year forgotten, here are some small tokens to hang up in the tree, or give to your co-workers once you are back in the office cafeteria :)

Forgot to say they are all on Etsy, my partner in crime when Amazon was not enough :)
As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu drop a line there if you want to talk.

November 16, 2020

Luxembourg - Castle Brandenburg - The castle that doesn't want to be visited

We came across Castle Brandenburg a couple of years ago on our way to another visiting sight and we put it on our mind-list for things to visit. So three years have passed, I've heard that the castle was sort of restored and could be visited. 

With a history going back to the 9th century, the ruin of Castle Brandenburg is located just above the village with the same name. So if you enter the village the same way we did, you will spot the castle easily. What is not so easily found is the entrance. We circled the castle by car and turned around and the only way we found to get to the castle was a hill above some houses. So we parked the car near a pompiers (fireman) station and form there we went on foot.

After a not so steep hill through a forest we reached the castle gates only to find out that indeed the castle can be visited, but just till the end of October. We were already at the beginning of November... just a few days back... well, no matter, we will come back, especially now that we have the confirmation that the castle can be visited. It says so on a billboard in front of the gate, that the castle was set up for visitors by the Monuments Service in Luxembourg.

According to Wikipedia the castle was a wooden castle in the 9th and 10th century and the first stone castle dates to the 13th century. A century later a chapel was added to the castle, then a bailey, two towers, cellars and curtain walls. So for us it was only left to the imagination the grandeur of the castle we could only spot through the gates.

The castle was inhabited till the 18th century and then was left in ruin until the 80's when restauration and consolidation works were carried by the state. So, let's hope that in the Spring we will be able to visit this castle and who knows maybe by then the Monuments Service in Luxembourg will bother to add some signs pointing us to the entrance and maybe a parking. 

I hope you liked my post about yet another castle, but as the weather is getting fussy in this little Grand Duchy we only have a limited number of sunny days when we feel like visiting sights and discovering new places.  As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu drop a line there if you want to talk.


September 29, 2020

The Netherlands - Castle Haar

Could we go on a holiday without visiting a castle? Don't think so.

Our history with this castle is not a new one, we wanted to visit it once, but it was during the Elf Fantasy Fair or Elfia and the entrance fee was preposterous. So we almost forgot about it until this visit to the seaside.

Facts about the castle that might interest you: it was built in 1391, burned and rebuild in 1892, it has 200 rooms and 30 bathrooms, it is the largest castle in the Netherlands and it was inhabited up to 2001 and opened to the public in 2011, its rooms were once inhabited by the celebrities of those times such as Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, Elisabeth Taylor or Michael Cane.

We went there on a Sunday, so be advised if you want to visit it during the pandemic you have to book your tickets in advance. What I found interesting about the castle is that it doesn't look the same from all angles, it's almost like if you step one foot in any direction the castle changes its appearance. I've tried to capture that in pictures, but I don't know if you can notice.

Also for the people traveling with their dogs, as we do, you cannot visit the castle with your dog, but your friend can go in the gardens of the castle, but please, please be civilized, as there are less and less places one can travel to with their pets because of the people that misbehave.

As everything touristic in the Netherlands, the Haar Castle is on the expensive side, but I would not consider it a rip off, as you do see a castle and if you are patient enough I think you can spend hours touring the gardens, visiting the castle, having a coffee at the restaurant, so you can consider it a day out, but it's still a castle. For two people and a child with the parking and gardens we payed 40 euros. 

I will not post many pictures of the interiors because once you have to see it for yourselves, it's decorated in a shabby chic style which I'm not a fan of, with a lot of rose tones and ladylike furniture. BUT, it has a big entrance hall, which reminded me of the entrance hall at the Peles Castle in Romania, well I guess all the royals in Europe are relatives of some sort. If you do visit the castle and you are Romanian you might spot the figure of Queen Marie of Romania in one of the videos running in some of the rooms.

As the castle was inhabited up to 2001 it has contemporary items such as newspapers, so I was trying to pose next to a pink bed, but in fact I was checking the news on the paper left there.

The castle is richly decorated so even on the staircases pay attention to the details

I hope you liked my post and once in the area you will visit the Haar Castle and also Utrecht is a nice city with a lovely old town. As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu 

September 21, 2020

Belgium - Le Tombeau du Geant

Do you still believe in stories? I've found out that I do. When I moved to Ireland I embraced all their folktales about fairies and giants and leprechauns, they have this way of protecting a tree which stands alone on a field by calling it Fairies Tree, some weird looking rooks? the Pass of the Giants and don't get me started with every rainbow... but as I've said it got me hooked and I will love and yearn for Ireland forever, even more than for Romania.

So this being the background, imagine how much I've wanted to go and see this Tombeau especially as it is only a 40 minute drive from Arlon, an hour from Luxembourg. Tombeau even in my rustic French is tomb, so who was the giant, why does it have that shape, why did he died?

Turns out that this loop that the river Semois is making is classified as an "exceptional heritage of Wallonia" and is one of "the most photographed places" in this French speaking part of the country. It took me only eight years to find about it, but ok. As an advice, since the staycation, the tourist information centers in Belgium and the Walloon region have become very active on Facebook. If you are interested give them a like and from time to time a gem like this will pop up.

The Giant, which is nameless was from Trier (Treves) so you will see it mentioned in some sources as Treviso, but we don't know his name. Legend says he fought at the battle of Sabis (57 BC between the Romans and the Belgian tribes) and was captured by Romans (weird as Trier was built by the Romans) and decided to take his life rather than being made to fight at the Colosseum in Rome, so he threw himself in this valley. Let's embrace the legend and not try to explain it as I've just did. 

The Tombeau du Geant is also called "Le point de vue Botassart" so if your GPS is not into legends than try to find it this way. It has a large parking space and a place from where you can buy drinks and also it is the starting point to a lot of trails, some accessible even with a pram.

These days I am a bit all over the place as Ilinca started going to the creche. No doubt you will have a post about that, too. As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu 

September 14, 2020

France - First holiday with Ilinca

 If you know me/us, you know we are really fond of travelling, for a day or a city-break or longer periods, we like to travel, to discover new places. So when Ilinca came into our lives it was only natural that we would make her a traveler as well. BUT then a global pandemic came and all the traveling was put to a halt. Fortunately little by little I face my fear of getting contaminated if we travel out of the safety of our cocoon, and this blog is a silent witness of our small or big trips.

So we looked around and everybody was at the seaside enjoying life and we were stuck at home because of our fears. So we decided we will travel locally so no planes for now and that meant we would either go to the seaside in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK or France. We choose France because we wanted to rent an entire house if it was possible all to ourselves, so we would limit the risk of contamination, and in France this was cheaper. So I left aside my dream of touring the seaside in UK with a caravan, for another year, because the train to cross the canal has the same price as an entire week in the south of France.

So despite my love-hate relationship with France, we decided to go in a small and lovely town called Martigues, very close to Marseille. We found a sandy and empty beach which allowed dogs in Fos-sur-Mer and discovered its lovely church/fortress. So overall it was a nice found gem and we hope we would go back there next year, that is how much we loved it.

We all tend to only focus on Corona and forget about any other dangers. So even though ideal, the holiday was not without stress. We booked the house and a couple of weeks before the holiday they told us the booking was canceled because the camping burned out. I quickly did my research and it was true and we passed by the site and it was horrible. They gave our money back but not in time to book something else. So we looked online and found that in that area the camping sites are more popular than hotels. It was ok for me as I would have preferred something secluded anyway so we went for a house in camping suggested to me by another blogger (Blogul Larisei), go and check her stories if you know Romanian or use Translate and I'm sure you will love it. She lives in the Loire Valley so imagine what stories with castles she writes about.

The house (I'm saying house because it has all the things you would need in a house, it has two bedrooms, an equipped kitchen, a toilet, a shower, a terrace with chaise-longs, just that it is smaller than a normal house) was empty when we arrived, so that is maybe a downside, you have to bring your own bedding and things to cook with such as salt or oil, your own towels and of course the food. The camping has a restaurant and we ordered that each morning we would have croissants (cause what is a holiday in France without croissants?) and the neighboring camping have restaurants as well so if you choose so you could eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner, but in Corona Times we said we would limit our eating out. We cooked very light meals, a BBQ and salad most of the times.

But our chalet was in a camping which was over a cliff so I would start each morning drinking my coffee there watching the sea while walking Luna. The Tamaris small harbor was easily reachable and that was another route we would take when walking Luna. 

This was the view on the evening we arrived from the cliffs. 


And this was in the morning

Luna was delighted with the morning walk

Another view

And from the evening walk as well

On the highway, Alin saw we are very close (an hour) to Avignon. So guess what we visited first?

While he was visiting the pope palace (I think) we looked for the Avignon Bridge. If it sounds familiar is because of a little children song which goes a bit like this: 
Sur le pont d'Avignon,
L'on y danse, l'on y danse,
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse tout en rond.

We did not dance and in fact no one was dancing, but the bridge allowed us all to go up and both our girls were excited.

A blue corner of Avignon 

A road, I don't know where I took the photo, but it looked so nice

Photos similar to this one got me in love with this town. 
This is called "Miroir aux Oiseaux" the Bird's Mirror and is not the only nice place in town as I thought from the Internet as everyone was taking pictures of only this spot.

Us three on an evening on the cliffs

If you are wondering, Luna was always with us, it's just she is become a fussy toddler who doesn't want to be in the pictures all the time.

The small harbor of Martigues

The bigger harbor

As we were so close to Marseille on a cold a dump day we decided to check it out and also visit a museum if we could not visit the city because of the combination rain+small child. 

We went for MUCEM - The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, an ethnographic museum located very close to the old city and harbor. 

The main temporary exhibition was of clothes which at the beginning were used by workers or athletes and then passed into fashion, such as the espadrilles, the blue dungarees, the stripped t-shirt, the clogs, the yellow rain jacket, the kilt. So to my surprise at the shop I found Romanian Blouses, old, but not very authentic. Still the sellers were not sure what they were selling, there was no poster as there were for other items of clothing indicating the origin and story of the clothes... Sad.

The next day, because we had a lazy start we decided to visit a small town, one of the most beautiful towns in France, called Roussillion 

Us on one of the belvedere spots
The town is also famous for the ochre quarries and red hills.

It is a lovely little town with colored houses
This is the Town Hall
As I've said the closest beach to us that allowed dogs was at Fos-sur-Mer and the town had a similar look as Roussillon meaning it stood on a hill and on top of that hill was this picture taken.
It seems that Ilinca loves to discover new places as much as we do.
It is a church
and a former fortress
Luna at the beach
At first we did not know why Luna was barking on the beach, but then we figured out that she wanted to go swimming with us.
Ilinca discovering seashells
About Ilinca and the water, initially we planned to get her in the water, with proper pampers and swimsuit, but in none of the days the water was warm enough for her. You know when the water is cold until you are fully submerged and when you go our is very cold? Well, it was like that. So we tried the first day, with just the feet and it took her half an hour to warm up under two towels and under the sun. So we decided it was best that this year would skip the water. But she liked it nonetheless. 
Her tiny feet
On another day we went to Nice. A three hours drive from our position. My objectives were the Matisse Museum and Promenades des Anglais. This is me in front of Hotel Negresco
And this is me at the Matisse Museum
It was the first museum I've visited with Ilinca, just the two of us. So initially I've done a quick walk around the museum and was prepared to exit as soon as she would have becomed fussy, but she liked the museum as much as I did and when I saw she was calm and smiling, I toured the museum slowly explaining to her the paintings or the sculptures. Hopefully I will write a separate post about all the places we visited and I've liked, so stay tuned :)
This picture was taken by one of the security guards at the museum
It was too hot for me to wear my Matisse Romanian Blouse and also small children are very dirty, but I've put it on outside for pictures and also as I was standing in line to buy the tickets.
Nice is lovely and I do hope we would get the chance to visit it some other time and enjoy the old town and harbor and its beaches. Some other time...
This is again us one evening on the cliffs
Martigues harbor

Martigues old town

That was it folks
We stayed there for 10 nights, initially we wanted to stay 7, but it was too beautiful and quiet and we felt safe to stay three more nights.

My biggest concern was the 8 hours driving to Martigues from Luxembourg, but Ilinca was an angel, she slept the whole way there, we took a lot of breaks and although we were prepared to spend a night at a hotel on the highway, it wasn't necessary. Also she adapted very well to the small house and we bought a travel bed for her so overall the nice and calm holiday. I'm glad we dodged the bullet and went there as the staycation was clearly not for us. We took all the necessary precautions during Corona Times and as a result I'm writing this post covid-19 free.

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