The ruined castle

I wrote this post ages ago but seem to never have published it… Well, now that the weather is fair and we are far from beautiful Scotland, it seems like a nice thing to remember one of the first ever exploring trips that we set out on with what would turn out to become great friends!

It was one of those weekends where we set out in the search of a castle. Yes, I know, there are many of them in Scotland. But they are all special in their own way, and I can never get enough of them.

We certainly weren’t prepared for the adventure that was waiting for us on that Saturday afternoon though. Because when we arrived, we found this:


A ruined castle, big barbed wire fences, and signs saying ‘Danger! Keep out!’

Well, what were we to do? There was a fallen tree that served as a bridge across the fence. It didn’t take a lot of scrambling, and the mysterious world of the ruined castle lay before us.




Nature had already started to claim it all back, but there were still traces of the people who used to live here, long long ago… I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating when I say we got super excited and explored the heck out of that place!






Some stairs were a bit shaky, but it was kinda ok until quite high up, so we got to enjoy the view and to feel like we were inside one of these old temples in a jungle, Indiana Jones style!











In the end it was the waning light (and the fact that we had no torches – what a calamity!) that had us leave, we could have spent days in there!



Yes well… don’t tell anyone, ok?!

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Glasgow times

After Paris, we decided to hop back to Glasgow for a bit. We didn’t really have much to do and visiting the friends that we were missing seemed like a good idea.

It was good to be staying with people we knew well, especially since I spent the first few days being super sick with a fever and throat infection. I was relieved to have a bed to just rest in for as long as I wanted without worrying to take up somebody’s space.

When I started feeling better, it was luckily just in time for the West End summer festival. We had a little walk along the stalls and then watched the parade from out friend’s livingroom window.


I might also have got my face painted with glitter and butterflies, but that’s only a rumour.

Veronica made me this amazing little friend for my birthday! Isn’t he lovely? We decided to call him Donatello Sheeperson.
It’s quite incredible that Veronica learned to knit in fall last year, and in March finished her first scarf (she has made two more since), and now just whips up something like this!

We had a few wonderfullly sunny and warm days (probably the only proper summer days they’ll get, judging from Scotland experience), so I was out and about a bit, looking for nice and peaceful spots to read my book in the fresh air. I discovered a pretty beautiful backyard full of pretty birds and flowers…



Of course Glasgow wouldn’t be Glasgow without long evenings in pubs with burgers, drinks, friends, and hipster puns on your way to the bathroom.

We also rekindled old traditions. Our favourite one is: “Let’s meet up at somebody’s place and Trev cooks dinner for everyone and their cousin.”




These pictures are actually from two different evenings, because there were enough leftovers to last for a second dinner!

Sunshine makes every place prettier, and I kind of like the way these dainty shadows adorn what would otherwise be a very sad typical Glaswegian street corner.

Of course we made sure we got plenty of park time during the sunny days. Well, let’s say I made sure everyone got plenty of park time – regardless if they were willing or not!




We are currently staying in London and enjoying some family time. There’s not a lot to take pictures of at the moment, so I will have to think of another way to fill this blog. Maybe I’ll start writing poems… no, don’t worry, I wont!

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Princess Crêpes

For people who visit Paris from somewhere where crepes are not a common food article, it is probably a very exciting place. Traditional French crepes are yummi and there are definitely a lot of places in Paris where you can eat your heart out trying your way through all the sweet and savoury varieties.

However, in Switzerland, and probably other countries close to France, it is not hard to find crepes and so to get me excited about crepes in Paris, you need to take me to a special place.

And that special place is called Princess Crepes.



Right. So not only is it a creperie all in pink and ruffles and hearts, with stuff toys and the girls there are wearing cute maid outfits…. ALSO it is a creperie where you can totally order a crepe with ice cream, cheese cake, chocolate sauce and kitkats, and not be immediately sent to gluttony prison.




I don’t really know how and why, but the first time I came to Paris with Tref, we somehow ended up here, and ever since then, I have made him come back here every time we’re in town just so I can have a riddiculously sweet and crazy treat (really, they’re not even that good!…I swear!)

Oh and yes, I totally had a super vegan birthday and then a few days later came here and had this crepe… my life is weird like that at the moment.

I’m not trying to make too much publicity… I’m always positively surprised to find that they still haven’t made it into a Lonely Planet or something, and there aren’t scores and scores of tourists queuing outside… But I’m always afraid someday that will happen!


I’ve told so many people about it thought that I thought I’d show the pictures so you can see what it looks like… and yeah, if you happen to be in Paris and want something fun to do for an afternoon, do give them a shot!


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Bonjour Paris!

We had decided to go to Paris from Switzerland pretty spontaneously, because Tali had never been there.

Paris is a weird place for me to describe. It was one of the first places I visited on a city trip. I liked it but, never harboured a personal attachement or passion for it (for France, these feelings are reserved for the South, I’m afraid). For some weird reason or other though, it is one of the places across Europe that I ended up visiting again and again, so that by now it feels quite familiar.

And even though I can’t say I’m in love with the place, there are a few reasons why I have soft spot for it. One of them is that Trev and me got together after spending a weekend in Paris with friends. Yup, we hooked up in the TGV Lyria somewhere between Paris and Basel… I’m not sure if that sounds adventurous or just super weird, it definitely was neither of the two.

It felt pretty funny then, to sit on the same train together once more, and to imagine that the same landscape was rolling by our window just like all those years ago. (And then this happened: Me – “Funny isn’t it to think that last time we barely knew each other and now we’re talking about out future and stuff.” Tref – “Now we’re married my dear.” Me – “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”)

Something that I’d definitely never realised – because so far I’d always traveled with a comparably light backpack – is that the Paris Metro is a maze of different levels, all connected by randomly placed stairs, no escalators, and very few lifts. With my 20kg suitcase, I definitely got a good workout from our way between the trainstation and our first stop.

We got a cute little place through airbnb and as soon as we saw this we knew it was a good place!

Whilst waiting for Tali to arrive from Berlin on a later train, we went for a random walk around the neighbourhood and then stopped for the first Pastis and beer of the trip.

We were talking randomly, and at some point our conversation turned to Dule, who is an old friend of Trev’s from Zurich who now lives in Paris and who we were going to meet later in the week.
I’m really not exaggerating when I say that not two seconds after Trev uttered his name, Dule came walking around the corner.

Strange things happen and Paris is smaller than you think!

 

This lovely chance meeting proceeded into impromptu wine and chats sitting by the side of the canal with some other friends and a lot of strangers who were all also enjoying the evening sun (and luckily were more prepared than us and had a corkscrew with them!)

The next day was my birthday and it was a lovely day of relaxing, food, and socialising. The day after we had to move to a different place to stay which was a bit annoying, but also good because the new place was in a lovely part of town and was also really cool.

Tali went off to do the touristy stuff and Trev and I just had a relaxed stroll around Montmartre, enjoying the sunshine, scouting for street art, and meeting ugly little kitties.





I really wanted to take this one home! He was so derpy and his eyes were really pussy and disgusting, but he was so desperate for cuddles, so we tried to pet him without touching his face…

When we went shopping for dinner in a neighbourhood store, we found this:

  Tali had to leave the next day, and we went to stay with Dule and his partner for the rest of the week. It was awesome to see both of them again after such a long time. We cooked a lot of food, mixed a lot of drinks, and Dule and Fabrice were so nice and welcoming, even though they were both super busy.

For some weird reason, I had got lots of mosquito bites at some point during the week (never noticed any mosquitoes, and neither of the other guys had any bites…). I have had this weird thing happen to me over the past few years that sometimes I overreact on bites. So not only were the blasted things so itchy I could barely think straight, but a few of them started to blister and made my ankle swell up. It’s nothing super dramatic, but it’s not comfortable, and it eats away at your nerves.

I’m not sure if that also weakened my body a bit because a couple of days before we left I started to get sick with a throat infection.

I’m super glad it only happened towards the end though and it wasn’t too bad until we left so I could make the most of my time in France.

By now I am sure that one way or another, we’ll be back!

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Here we go again! (Tale of a birthday)

So, yeah, it actually happened…. I turned thirty this year. 30. Three – Zerooo.
I’m still not quite sure how to feel about it. Ageing is such a funny thing… I remember when I was younger and convinced that being old would be super boring.

But looking back now I feel like at least in my experience, life gets more exciting the longer you practise. I definitely feel like I’m doing more fun and exciting stuff now than I did when I was twenty! Also, I don’t feel much older than back then. A little bit more experienced maybe. Definitely more sure of myself and more at ease with myself and the world. Less stressed, more confident, and… maybe even a little happier. Altought that’s hard to compare.

I don’t really feel like writing a lot of philosophical stuff – I prefer to talk about these things at the moment. Also something that changes with age? Anyways, long story short, I decided to make 30 a magical age and a magical year. And I started out pretty perfectly with my birthday.
Tref and I met up with Tali in Paris again, she was joining us from Berlin, as she had never been to the capital of France before. We stayed at a cute little place through airbnb (awesomest thing right after couchsurfing!), and on my birthday we just slept in luxuriously before getting dressed and venturing out in search for some late lunch.


We found a fun litle place that sold vegan burgers and other takeaway stuff and had a blast tasting our way through their menu.


Takeaway wine in resealable plastic cups? Really? Really! (I kept the cups!)

After lunch we went in search of something that would count as a birthday cake, and hit the jackpot in a neighbourhood organic store:

Hard choice, but we decided on mango-maracuja, raw chocolate mulberries, and vegan whipped cream.

Feast by the canal!

Vanja’s flatmate had given me these pink sunglasses in Amsterdam. She bought them to celebrate a special day, but then thought they suited me better than her – it just felt perfect wearing them for my own celebration! (Yes, I know they’re riddiculous. No, I won’t stop wearing them!)



After fooling around in the sun by the canal, we made it back home in time for a short nap and getting ready for birthday drinks and dinner.

Trev’s old friend Dule took us out to the wonderfullest spots in town..





(Cock – Tail. Ha!)


We had pre dinner drinks at a lovely bar called the Little Red door. Then we stuffed ourselves with sushi at the place where six years ago I had the very first sushi of my life (yeah, I’m a late bloomer like that), and then we had absolutely amazing cocktails and great music to round the evening off.

I’m not a big party person, never have been. I like to dance and smile and make little things feel special. I wore a super special dress and got dolled up with one of my best friends. I got spoiled to bits with vegan food without anybody makeing me feel like I was complicated. I sat in the sun. I laughed and shared hugs with friends. I got to just be myself and know that was enough. I danced because I felt like it. I received messages, good thoughts and virtual hugs from friends and family all over the world.
I had a perfect birthday.

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A little bit of Switzerland

Sorry, I couldn’t resist… somehow a post about Switzerland always has to start with a picture of kitty. From Amsterdam, Tali and me took a night train into Zurich and stayed with my parents for a few days.

Our first day was abolutely brilliantly sunny and warm. So much so, that we decided to hop on the bikes and spend the afternoon at the lake shore. We chatted, read, and even had a short swim!


We also made it into Zurich for a bit of shopping, cupcakes, and some administrative stuff. I think we both shared a feeling of finding it both lovely and weird to be back… a lot of thing were different from what we remembered, but in general, of course, the place is still the same.

I enjoyed spending as much time as possible with my family. It was only a short stay this time – shorter than I had anticipated because we made some changes to the schedule – but lovely nonetheless.


(Kitty playing with – and destroying – one of my knitting needles. Who could be cross with her!?)

I didn’t have time to be as social as I might have liked, but met a couple of good friends to exchange news and memories over dinner and a lovely brunch. Life moves fast these days!


On Wednesday evening, Tali was scheduled to catch another night train to Berlin, but because the Deutsche Bahn was on strike, we had to reschedule and she was off with an early morning connection the day after.

On Friday, I picked Trevor up from the airport. He was joining from London for my birthday dinner with the family on Saturday.

We hadn’t seen each other in about seven weeks, so it was good to be together again! What a jetsetter life!

My birthday is one day before my Mum’s, and my godmother’s birthday is a couple of days after, so it is a bit of a tradition in our family to have a joined celebration.

It was lovely to have everybody together! Although it felt like it wasn’t enough time to properly catch up on family time, I was very aware how blessed I was for everybody to make time and space to spend this evening with each other, and really appreciated it.

Also: Look at my awesome birthday dress!

From Switzerland, we spontaneously decided to spend a few days in Paris for my actual birthday. All about that soon!

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New and unknown shores

If I  had to choose one thing that 2015 has already taught me it would be that the only constand in life is change.

It’s alright to plan, and it is good to have dreams. But it is also vitally important to stay flexible, as life happens all around you and you will most certainly have to adapt to reality day by day.

Even though the end of 2014 was a bit of a whirlwind with new decisions and challenges, by the beginning of this year, we had a pretty good plan of how our 2015 was going to be.

We got married in January, got visas for our move to the U.S., left our jobs and home in Glasgow, and at the beginning of April, Trev traveled to Connecticut to start his new job. I had planned to stay in Glastonbury for a month, travel to Amsterdam for a few days and then spend time with my family in Switzerland for my birthday and finally move to the US at the beginning of June.

But things turned out differently than we expected. Tref didn’t like his new job as much as we had hoped. Further troubles with one of his coworkers, and a lot of sleepless nights and long discussions, led to us making the decision that the environment was not beneficial for him. He had already struggled with motivation and mental strain during his time in Glasgow and it relly didn’t seem like the time to take on another stressful and uncertain situation.

So he quit his post doc at Yale university and came back to Europe after a month.

It may seem like we are giving up too soon and losing too much in terms of effort, time and financial investment. And that might be true. But sometimes things happen in life that we cannot control and our only chance is to listen to our intuition and do whatever seems best and most healthsome at the time.

It’s been a dramatic few weeks full of doubt and back-and-forth on decisions, but in the end I am confident that we did the right thing. Tref is of course very exhausted and frustrated with the experience. He is still trying to come to terms with the feeling of losing a great opportunity but also with the shock about certain things that have happened. The decision also made it painfully clear for him that academia might not be the place where he wants to be anymore, which of course means readjusting his life and career goals.

We decided that the best thing we can do at the moment is to be gentle with ourselves and take all the time we need to map out a new course to follow for the next few months and the coming years. We’re taking time to grieve for what we lost, taking time to settle with what we have, reassess our values, our goals, and our life choices. And we trust that from there, life will show us the next steps.

Paris is the perfect place to take a time out of course, with it’s culture of laissez-faire, and the fact that we have lovely, patient and supportive friends here, bless their hearts!

Our next stop at the beginning of next week is Glasgow, where we hope to reconnect with dear friends, and take some further steps towards realising our needs and goals.

We don’t know how long we will stay or where we will go after that. For now, it feels pretty good to be adrift and hand control over to let life take the wheel for a bit.

 

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The Texel files

I knew that I had a few days until Tali’s arrival in Amsterdam, and so I decided to take a trip up to Texel, which is a large island in the North of the Netherlands, to visit another friend that I hadn’t seen in ages (theme, much?).


I wasn’t aware that Texel is actually a big tourist attraction especially for travelers from Germany. It doesn’t surprise me though, the place is just purely magical! It has dunes, the sea, tulip fields, bluebell woods, rugged windswept landscapes, and plenty of sunshine. What more do you want for a beautiful holiday, especially for bike tours? Maybe big nature reserves and lots of interesting and rare wildlife? Well – Texel has that too!


Since Sarina, my lovely friend and host, had to work during the days, I explored the island by myself, venturing out on foot and by bicicle wherever my fancy took me.
It was lovely to be ‘traveling’ by myself for a bit. I really enjoyed being able to rest and eat, stay or go wherever I wanted, and I enjoyed the silence. I spent a lot of my time chanting and processing a lot of things.


When I walked along the beach the first day, it was super windy, and the patterns and sculpures that the breeze had created with the slightly wet sand were breathtaking!







It was great to feel like not only the sky, but also the landscape was endless.


And on my return back to base, there were Sarina’s two kitties to keep me company. On this trip I have come to believe that as long as there is a cat wherever you stay, everything’s going to be ok.





I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was lucky to see tulip fields here. As we were told later, the mainland tulips that are cultivated for cut flowers are being harvested in April or early May. But the fields on Texel are left to bloom longer, as these flowers will be harvested for their bulbs, not their blooms.


I spent my second day on the bicycle, exploring the excellent bikepaths all over the island. The winds had calmed down a little, which made riding much easier (the day before I actually had to step down and walk my bike as the winds picked up in the evening – I just literally couldn’t get the bike moving!) and more enjoyable.


















Many many hours later (about seven, to be exact.), I arrived back where I started, and celebrated the save return with a lovely apple.
(My finger points to where I am, I made it up to De Koog along the coast and circled back via De Waal.)

Sarina then took me out to a seafood restaurant that has a vegan seaweed burger on the menu – which was super tasty!

I just had to put this picture in here because it really cracks me up every time I see it… not only because his facial expression is priceless, but also, the kitty’s name is Jack. So here we have a real Jack-in-a-Box!

And how cute is this house with it’s own copy as a mailbox!!?

I was very glad I finally made it out to visit Sarina, and I totally loved Texel! I was both excited and a little bit sad to go back to Amsterdam, but this little friendly ladybird gave me a nice goodbye!

If you can, go see something of the countryside in the Netherlands. It really is worth it!






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Yaga in Amsterdam

From the quiet and dreamy West Country with its hills and orchards, I ventured back into busier environments at the end of April.

It seems like a long way away now, although it only just happened a few weeks ago. I was back in London for a couple of days but was not sorry to leave it behind me. This city is just too huge and scary for a country girl like me.

A short flight took me to Amsterdam, where I met a very dear old friend.

Vanja is one of the most hospitable souls that I know. Her place in Amsterdam is tiny, but she was sharing it not only with a (lovely!) roommate, but also with me and my friends during the almost two weeks that I stayed there and you could not wish for a more welcoming and accommodating host.

On our first evening together we discovered an absolutely adorable African restaurant and chatted until long after midnight. We felt like best friends even though we hadn’t seen each other in about five years!

The next day, I took the train to Texel in the North of the Netherlands for a few days. It was nice to leave city life behind again and I’ll tell you about my island adventures in the next post.

On the Saturday after my return to Amsterdam I picked a very special friend up from the airport. Tali and me were friends back in Switzerland when we met through couchsurfing and lived across the street from each other. Before she left to go back to Brazil we traveled to Amsterdam together and so it felt super special to meet up in the same city four years later!

Tali’s friend Hana, who lives in Amsterdam at the moment, joined for the welcome party.

We spent out days exploring the city, going on girly shopping tours, discovering fun street art, and of course chatting chatting chatting.



In the mornings I would meditate, do yoga and exercise in the park with Vanja, spend the days hanging around the city with Hana and Tali, and then we’d all have cookouts together in the evening.

Vanja made her amazing avocado chocolate pudding, we experimented with vegan mac and cheese, and many other yummi things!

Sometimes, a pic nic in the middle of a busy square in town was also in order.




(I didn’t eat the kitty, of course. But it used to sneak into Vanja’s house in search of treats!)

I did realise a lot about how food is such a lovely way to connect. I used to think of it as a drawback because social eating (and drinking) is sometims hard to combine with eating healthy and control your portions. But if we shift perspective and are creative, the bonding experience that a lovely (healthy and clean) meal provides, and the energy that consciously sharing a meal creates is amazing.


Amsterdam is not Amsterdam without bikes of course. It’s such a big part of why I love this place so much! So one sunny sunny day, Tali and me set out on a countryside tour, exploring the outskirts of the city. We hoped to see tulip fields, but sadly it was already a bit too late in the year for that. Biking along the canals and into the green, meeting baby lambs and goats on the way was not too bad though!



We stopped for lunch in a lovely tiny restaurant where we lounged around on the terrace for ages, enjoying the sun and chatting, eating lovely salad.


The little old town that we reached at the end of our trip was just dreamy, it even had a castle.



It was a long way back into town, but we found some tulips finally…


And made it back just in time for a lovely (if a little bit chilly) pic nic with everybody in one of Amsterdam’s big parks. There was a festival going on, so we hit the stalls for some crepes tasting and music afterwards. I’m so grateful for all the lovely weather we had during out stay, which made every day feel truly special.



Vanja generously agreed to cut my hair (which was really necessary), and spent a good couple of hours (plus some youtube researching) giving me the most professional home-haircut I’ve ever had!
It also meant that our dinner was laaaaate, but we managed to keep going until the awesome pancake feast was ready, and we killed time listening to old Swiss children’s songs and watching cartoons from our childhood.



Its almost the same as in January, when I had it done at the hairdressers!


On our last day, we ventured into the library, where we spent a couple of hours reading random books and admiring the most amazing doll (mouse) house ever made!






Seriously, that thing is fascinating! I have no idea how Tali managed to just fall asleep right next to it… must have been overwhelmed by its amazing-ness!

We closed the circle by having dinner at our new favourite African place before Tali and me left for Zurich on the night train. Super lovely evening and we were all really sad that our time together was coming to an end. Of course we are all hoping for the next time!






(With Marise, the most charming host you can imagine!)


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Glastonbury impressions

The majority of my time in Glastonbury was bathed in sunlight and spent outdoors, with bare feet, sunglasses, and flowers in my hair. I could not have wished for a more perfect place to spend the first precious summer days at.

Wandering through the extensive grounds of the historic abbey, reading under a magnolia tree, dipping my toes into the icy cold waters of Chalice Well… I feel so continously blessed with the beauty of Mother Earth!







I also felt so lucky to have loving hearts and beautiful souls to share this abundance with. Lalita, Lakshmi, John, Mark, Iris, Helen, Cleandho, and so many others who, for shorter or longer moments, sparked the connection of my soul and taught me that love and a loving heart are the answer, always.















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