A week in western Germany

Last year, during our 3000 km, 11-day driving trip, we spent a week based in a timeshare resort (Landal Wirfttal) in Stadtkyll, Germany, just over the Belgium border.

It was our second visit to Germany, but the first time in a rural area, and I was caught off-guard when checking in – I don’t think I have ever been so completely language-less on our travels before. Nevertheless, pointing and nodding sufficed, and we found our basic, but perfectly comfortable cabin perched quietly on the hillside.

Exploring the adjoining woods was most enjoyable – fresh air and exercise at its best…

with lovely vistas overlooking the quaint village of Stadtkyll – providing plenty of photo opportunities.

We used the resort as our base, and spent most days driving off in one direction or another for big days out, sometimes screaming along the Autobahn at top speed while other vehicles zoomed past as if we were standing still.

We had a great day visiting Trier – said to be Germany’s oldest city…

Called into Koblenz – nestled in the junction of the Mosel and Rhine rivers…

and followed the magnificent Rhine from Koblenz to Assmannshausen…

then across to frantic Frankfurt – where we found a quiet corner.

Took a calming cruise in Cologne…

And closer by, went to see the medieval moated castle at Satzvey

and centuries-old semi-timbered houses at Kommern.

So many fabulous sights and experiences – I hope to tell you about them in more detail in future posts.

The German countryside was so lush and green everywhere we went, and the resort such a peaceful place to relax after a busy day out.

Or to freshen up and venture into town for a hearty meal.

We really had a wonderful week in western Germany.

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Back to it!

I can’t believe how long it is since I last blogged. Changing jobs and moving house were all-consuming tasks over the last 6 months (as we opt for a more “normal” lifestyle for a time), but now that I’m settled in on both fronts I can turn my attention back to those things I enjoy doing, in those precious moments of free time.

What better, then, than to share some photos of our beloved Argenton-sur-Creuse, and the simple but satisfying lifestyle it represents to us, as we count down the weeks till we are back there once more…

Walking around town is always an enjoyable pastime.

A stroll by the River Creuse always offers plenty of photo opportunities. We never tire of this view:

Our favourite spot by the River Creuse

And of course there are plenty more beautiful vistas!

We love going for walks by the River Creuse

It’s equally good to hike up the hill to La Bonne Dame…

La Bonne Dame

and enjoy the view across the rooftops of Argenton, and beyond as you catch your breath.

Argenton rooftops

Or wend your way around quaint streets lined with stone houses…

Quaint streets

or up enticing alleys.

Enticing alleyways

There are many places of historical interest to stumble upon, and let your imagination take you back to times long ago.

Places of historical interest

And a daily walk is a good way to build up an appetite for the obligatory baguette…

The obligatory baguette

or something sweeter, still warm from the baker’s oven at any number of the town’s boulangeries (bakeries).

Croissants still warm from the bakery

Ah, that’s the life! Don’t you think?

Can’t wait to be back.


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Visiting the land of beer, waffles and chocolate

When in Belgium it’s only right and proper to drink beer, eat waffles and indulge in some chocolate, don’t you think?

On our one day in the city of Brussels we did just that.

First things first though – stopping for a coffee.

It seems that good coffee is the one thing my husband misses about our home town of Melbourne, Australia. Personally, when travelling, I would much prefer to visit a café unique to the city we are in, but hey, I’m not the coffee drinker! So Starbucks it was. Again.

Mind you, the fabulous view of Brussels’ main square made this one unique.

Thank you Starbucks

La Grand Place (known in Dutch as De Grote Markt – market square) is truly magnificent, with highly decorative, gilded architecture on all sides, dating from the 14th to 17th centuries. No wonder it’s UNESCO listed.

Brussels Markt square

The more you look, the more you see.

Markt square

All that sightseeing builds up an appetite and waffles were calling.

We took the opportunity to compare the Brussels Waffle to the Liege Waffle. Although it was hard to choose between them, I preferred the lighter crisper Brussels version, and Tony the slightly heavier, doughy Liege waffle.

Belgium or Liege waffle

Later on, after trekking the cobblestoned streets and sleek shopping arcades (Galeries), it was time for a refreshing beer. Who knew I would turn into a beer drinker? There are so many to choose from here, all served in their own glass – on our travels we saw a shop that boasted 500 different Belgium beers, but I hear there are over 1000!

We were recommended to try the local triple-cooked chips. Beer and chips? Why not? Obviously we weren’t counting calories.

Une biere et frites

And chocolate… almost every second shop was a chocolate shop! We window-shopped in the highly priced “Mary’s” but decided on a beautiful box from “Neuhaus” (who bill themselves as “the inventor of praline”) featuring delectable chocolates from across their history since 1857. Oh my!

Neuhaus chocolates

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere. Every type, shape and size imaginable. Even in the shape of “Manneken Pis”…

Belgium chocolates

… a quirky little bronze fountain (not far from Grand Place) which has become a tourist attraction…

Manneken Pis

“Peeing Boy” (to be polite) is often dressed up in various festive costumes, but on this day he was naked.

Lucky for him it was a warm day.

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In bustling Bruges

Although it wasn’t on our original itinerary we decided we would visit Bruges – the capital of West Flanders in Belgium – to see this pretty (and pretty touristy) UNESCO-listed city of canals and cobblestones for ourselves.

Arriving on Ascension Day public holiday, the town was gearing up for the “Procession of the Holy Blood” parade and roads were blocked off. Navigation by car, and then on foot with barriers in place and crowds building proved challenging.

Parade Bruges

The Venice-like network of canals were of course the highlight.

Canal in Bruges

But unfortunately we ran out of time to enjoy a canal ride.


Flemish stepped facades abounded – which are also referred to as Dutch Crow-stepped gables. A clever design – handy for chimney sweeps!

Stepped facade Bruges

We found a shady spot to relax over lunch. (Waffle and beer for me!)

Lunch Bruges

And although Bruges (also known as Brugge) was bustling with tourists it was surprisingly peaceful (though watch out for cyclists at every turn!)

Quiet corner Bruges

How beautiful it must be at night.


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A perfect resting place

It’s always exciting to venture into another country, and of course one of the beauties of Europe is that you can do that so easily. Not only are countries small but for those in the EU there is no border control making it so easy to drive between them.

With a friend having moved to Brussels recently it was the perfect incentive to venture into Belgium.

We were blown away by the view from our hotel room at the Belvedere in Heuvelland, just over the French border. You can just see Lille on the horizon. Stunning!


I could have happily sat on that balcony for the next week – but we had an itinerary to follow, and on the agenda was a visit to one of the many military cemeteries in West Flanders: Nine Elms British Military Cemetery just outside Poperinge.

Military Cemetery Belgium

Tony dabbles in a bit of genealogy and ever since he had found out his great-uncle George had fought and died in Ypres in World War 1 he had wanted to visit his war grave there. (Details were found on the CWGC website.)

Great uncle George

Sadly, this is just one of many cemeteries in the area. Row after row of headstones standing at attention in perfect formation, just like the soldiers who now lie silently buried beneath.

Nine Elms Cemetery

So many young lives given for our freedom. But you couldn’t find a more peaceful resting place than here in the Belgium countryside.

After signing the visitors book we headed into the town of Ypres (known in Flemish as Ieper) where we were greeted by the sound of bells ringing out from the belfry atop the huge Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) complex.

Belfry Ypres

We arrived in Market Square (or Grote Markt) just in time to see the end of a Lotus sports car exhibition.

Ypres Lotus Day 2016

The brightly coloured vehicles were set against the backdrop of gorgeous architecture on all sides – reconstructed after the war, and many with the typical stepped facades.

Lotus Day Ypres

It was a certainly an impressive sight to see and perfect timing to hear the roar of the engines as the cars moved out, before we too had to move on.

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Lead me up the garden path

A visit to Monet’s Garden (or “Les Jardins de Claude Monet”) in Giverny, France, was definitely on my bucket list.

A little difficult to get to via public transport, it was a perfect place to break our long drive from central France to Belgium this month – especially since May was touted as the best time to go to see the garden in full bloom.

And, in keeping with the garden theme, we also drove via Versailles to visit the gardens of the Chateau (and just as well that was all we planned to do, because the palace – with the gilt sparkling in the sun – was truly enormous with hoards of visitors pouring in).

The gilted Palace of Versailles

I was a little disappointed that the gardens were not planted out, however they were still stunning in their design.

The gardens of Versailles

And the fountains, though not running, were also amazing.

Apollo Fountain at the Chateau de Versailles

The enormity of the grounds was breathtaking.

Latona Fountain Versailles

And the groves, fenced off but with an enticing gate ajar here and there, were a relief against the rigid structure of the rest of the garden.

Gate enticingly ajar

Only an hour’s drive away, we arrived at Monet’s Garden and I held my excitement at bay just in case they too were not at their absolute best (France had experienced some very late snow this year which may have disrupted normal planting cycles). But I had nothing to worry about.

Oh, it was food for the soul!

Groupings of harmonising or contrasting colours, every which way you looked was a feast for the eyes.

Contrasts - Monets garden

Lily pond Monets garden

Monets garden

Path at Monets garden

The house was also interesting (and included in the entry fee)…

Monets house

but for me, Monet’s Garden was absolutely spectacular and a sight I will never forget.

Favourite garden bed

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Life is a fleeting adventure

Life has a way of slipping us by.

The older we get, the quicker time goes – each day, month or year being a decreasing percentage of your lifetime to-date. And somehow our life keeps getting busier, with more and more demands on our increasingly limited time – many of them of our own making.

Our dreams get bigger and bolder and yet are often subjugated by the things we need to do rather than the things we want to do, and there is that underlying sense that we will never be able to do all that we would like to in the time we have left on this earth.

And yet, looking back on our short 5 years of marriage we have already done more than some people do in a lifetime:

We bought and renovated a house in France – living there for almost a year

Argenton sur Creuse, France

We travel as much as we can afford (and often a little bit more!)

Up up and away

We pursue many diverse hobbies and interests (and for me, blogging is just one of those – and my excuse for my spasmodic posting)

I meet new people and learn new things in my temporary admin work

Tony is ever-edging towards his dream of working in the food industry


We are constantly moving around the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, house-sitting or house-swapping

And with 9 children between us there is always something going on in the family – the latest being another leaf on the family tree.

Life is full, busy and exciting – some of which I manage to blog about!

Our life together is an adventure, and we aim to enjoy every precious fleeting minute – wherever it takes us.





New York

New York

New Orleans

New Orleans





Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

Hong Kong

Hong Kong














Where to next?

Where to next?

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My happy place

There is a little gem of a place quietly tucked away in central France called Argenton-sur-Creuse, and we are privileged to own a piece of it.

Here is a glimpse of what this treasure of a town holds:

Argenton sur Creuse town centre

A meandering street

Calm reflections

Fast flowing Creuse

Venice du Berry

The old bridge

The old mill

My happy place

Can you see why this is my happy place?

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Alone in London

I have been lucky enough to travel far and wide during my lifetime. Perhaps being born in South Africa and voyaging across the Indian Ocean to a new life in Australia when I was only 2 years old firmly planted the travel-bug seed in me? No matter how it began, travelling is what puts the twinkle in my eye and the spring in my step.

It was a first for me, however, to be alone in a foreign country, this February. Not as daunting as it sounds, I only travelled from France to London on the Eurostar by myself for a short stay, in order to attend a job interview of all things.

St Pancras

Alas, I was unsuccessful in landing the job (I don’t think they understood my lifestyle), but I did have the fantastic experience of being alone in London. Now that’s not something I do every day!

London Eye

Whitehall Gardens

I found a neat little hotel a short walk from Paddington underground station (and just one street away from lots of eateries, although mostly the big breakfast at the hotel and a late lunch on the run was plenty for me)…

Alone in London

and once the interview was over and done, I set about enjoying my few days alone in this fabulous city.


So what’s a girl to do on her own? Shop of course! I think I went into every single shoe shop in Oxford Street and beyond in search of the perfect pair of boots.



Those boots were definitely made for walking, and that’s just what I did:

A stroll through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park…

Italian Gardens

Albert Memorial

en route to a cultural visit to the fabulous Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Took a cruise down the River Thames to Greenwich.

Cruise down the Thames

Tower Bridge

And although it’s a bit of a hike up to the Royal Observatory…

Royal Observatory Greenwich

it’s worth it, if only for the panoramic view of London.

Panoramic view of London

For me it was a chance to cross something off my bucket list when I straddled the Prime Meridian (and you don’t even have to pay to access this area, situated outside the Meridian Courtyard).

Astride the Prime Meridian

And I patiently waited to watch the red Time Ball rise and drop at precisely 1pm.

Royal Observatory Greenwich

I enjoyed some fascinating interactive displays in the Astronomy Centre (again, free) and even more so, the inspiring exhibition of amateur photography.

I toyed with the idea of going to Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant, but opted instead for the atmosphere of Greenwich Market where you are spoilt for choice with flavoursome food from all over the world.

Greenwich Market

I hope to return to London next year. Maybe then, better prepared, I might just land a job and be able to earn money on the “right side of the world” – closer to our beloved Argenton-sur-Creuse in France.

Now wouldn’t that be love-a-lee?

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Ever been to Evreux?

Sometimes plans just slot together perfectly, as if they were meant to be.

We had already booked our side-trip from France to Berlin when Tony was presented with the opportunity to visit a chocolate factory in Northern France (via a contact he made through his patisserie course in Melbourne) and the date of the tour fitted in perfectly with our return flight from Berlin to Paris.

Michel Cluizel chocolate factory is close to Évreux – a lovely French town in Upper Normandy, an hour west of Paris on the train (departing from Paris St Lazare).

Evreux train station

We made the most of it and stayed 2 nights at Hôtel de Normandie which lies on the outskirts of the town centre.

Hotel de Normandie

Although it was a bit of a hike to get there with baggage in tow, once checked in, it was an easy to walk back into the centre of town for a bit of shopping and sight-seeing.


French Patisserie

The spectacular Cathedral of Our Lady of Évreux (Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Évreux) dominates the town…

Cathedral of Our Lady of Évreux

and is one of the largest cathedrals in France.

Evreux cathedral

The Museum of Art, History and Archaeology is also worth a visit (right next to the Cathedral, with free entry).

Evreux Museum

And they weren’t the only interesting things to see around town.

Bell tower, Evreux

Canal Evreux

But the real purpose of the trip was the guided tour of the Cluizel chocolate factory. Not the public tour, but that which is reserved for those within the industry (even still, some areas remain off-limits, lest their trade secrets get out!)

Michel Cluizel chocolate factory

We were met and chauffeured to the factory in Damville, about 1/2 hour away, along with 2 other visitors from Australia (but who were actually French).

During the course of the morning we learnt how they make their chocolate with total control over every step – right from the bean to final distribution. It was refreshing to hear that the quality of the product is more important to them than profit. These are the things which set this 3rd generation family business apart from the “big players”.

Of course, the tastings were the highlight. It really is quality chocolate – not too sweet, with a taste that lingers in the mouth – and you can distinguish the subtle differences in flavours of the various chocolates, made from cocoa beans grown in different locations – just like in wine tasting.


It was rather exhausting however, especially trying to understand all the French spoken between the others.

Back in Évreux we relaxed over lunch together at Côté Rôtisserie (the number 1 rated restaurant in Évreux on TripAdvisor) – where even more French was spoken as the others lapsed into their native language.

Cote Rotisserie

Ah, how I wish I could just lapse into French.

Now there’s something to aspire to!

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