TBT Thursday – Passing through Piran

After having enjoyed the dolce vita in Italy, our next destination was Piran in Slovenia. We did not stay there, but we paid a short visit to it.

Getting to Piran is very easy, getting rid of your car is something else, because it is a very popular destination, with tourists and locals alike. Actually, we spent more time driving around to find a parking space than being on the road towards the town itself.

Piran has got two official languages, Slovene and … Italian. It has been part of the Republic of Venice for some time and afterwards became part of the Austrian Empire. In the beginning of the 20th century, Piran was still a Austro-Hungarian city. Anyway, the history of the town explains why so much of the architecture has an Italian style.

The place to be is the Tartini Square, which is surrounded by restaurants, pubs and historical buildings.

What adds to the charm of Piran, is that there is a harbour. Well, you do know that Lars and I like waterscapes!

We drove a bit further along the coast to find some sandy beaches, but didn’t find any.

I am not sure if I have already told you this, but 2015 was the year that Lars and I tried staying in a camping place. And we really liked it. In Slovenia we stayed in a cabin and it was very comfortable. And the restaurant on-location served excellent food and drinks.

There is actually a lot more to see in this region, but we only stayed here for a short time on our way to Albania. But nothing can stop us from going back there one day!

 

A Not So Successful Day in Dinant

The last Sunday before Christmas, Lars, Vanessa Morgan and I decided to visit Dinant, a beautiful town in the French-speaking part of Belgium. But things didn’t go as planned…

Problem number 1. There is no direct train between Brussels and Dinant. The only solution is a two-hour train-trip with lots of stops, something I wasn’t aware of when I bought the tickets.

Problem number 2. I had skipped breakfast that morning because I wasn’t feeling hungry and I thought we would be in Dinant very quickly, so I would grab a croissant in a bakery. But after the long train-trip I was actually starving.

Problem number 3. When I am very hungry and I can’t eat very soon, I become very grumpy and disagreeable. I am certainly aware of this and I am not proud of it.

Problem number 4. When we finally arrived in Dinant around 11 am, it took us more than half an hour to find a place to eat. Snack-bars were closed and most restaurants apparently serve hot food starting from noon only. I felt my blood-sugar going down and the troll in me was manifesting itself to the fullest.

Problem number 5. When I had finally eaten and had become my old self again, we decided to visit the Christmas market. Very quick visit indeed, since of the 10 (!) stalls, only half of them were open. And not the most interesting ones… Dinant is not actually a small town, so this Christmas market was a huge letdown.

Problem number 6. Miss Morgan wanted to buy the famous “Couque de Dinant” (Cake of Dinant). We had found a bakery who sold them, but Vanessa didm’t like their “Couques”; they were ugly and the wrong shape and size. So, we had to find another shop… And I hate shopping… But we did find them at last!

Problem number 7. It was very misty and the mist simply didn’t want to disappear. The weather conditions turned Dinant to the least photogenic place ever. Going up to the citadel and admiring and photographing the view was out of the question.

Problem number 8. We returned to the station quite frustrated, only to find out that our train to Brussels was limited to Namur, where we had to wait half an hour in the freezing cold for a train to Brussels. Why is every train station in Belgium so bloody cold?!?

Problem number 9. You are never going to be believe this… All the pictures I had taken that day had become corrupt!!!!! Can’t edit them, can’t put them on the website!!!

But…

  1. We can always go back, preferably in Spring or Summer when there is more to do and see in Dinant. So stay tuned!
  2. I do have a video of Lars trying to eat the (in)famous “Couque de Dinant”. They are made with only two ingredients, honey and wheat flour and they are extremely hard. As you can see for yourself in the video…

TBT Thursday – Enjoying La Dolce Vita in Berbenno di Valtellina

A new item on the blog! Since Lars and I still have to share lots of stories and pictures of our summer trip of 2015, we will feature these on TBT Thursdays. The reason why we didn’t write about these earlier, is due to my severe depression (which now belongs to the past).

Anyway, after our adventure on the Stelvio Pass, all Lars and I wanted to do was to relax and enjoy life in a small Italian town. And we found such a place in Berbenno di Valtellina, where we had booked a cute and cozy B&B.

First things first, a walk along the sunny narrow streets with the occasional speeding Italian in an old Fiat. A small piazza with flowers. Old men spending the afternoon in a coffee bar. That was the scenery laid before us.

Trattoria Traversi welcomed us with open arms. Since the weather was warm, Lars and I installed ourselves us in the garden.

Lars and I started with a beer to refresh ourselves, but soon continued with some “vino”.

After an hour, food joined the wine on the table: fresh fruits, nuts, an excellent vitello tonato (veal with tuna sauce) and yummy pastry. Now, this is what Lars and I call “la dolce vita”!

And then, fulfilled and happy, we went back to our B&B.

Where We Slept and Ate in Groningen

If you want to stay in the heart of Groningen without paying a fortune, then the Martini Hotel is the best choice. The name of the hotel refers to the nearby Martini Tower.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the room, but I can assure you that they are cozy and comfortable and of course come with a free Internet connection.

I did however take pictures of the splendid bar! Follow our example and taste some of the local beers!

There is an on-site restaurant, called WEEVA. Not the cheapest option in town, but the decor is warm and stunning and the food and drinks are delicious. Highlights were my starter with blood sausage and a main dish inspired by Indonesian cuisine.

Looking for a place to have a snack or a light meal or a drink? Opposite the Martini Hotel, is de Oude Wacht, a very cozy pub with great food and drinks (especially beers and jenever, a local strong drink).

Popular snacks are a “tosti” (“croque monsieur” in Belgium, grilled ham and cheese sandwich, usually served with a small salad) and a “uitsmijter” (also popular in Belgium, open ham and cheese sandwich, with fried eggs on top, also served with a small salad). Lars and I had them for brunch twice.

I was adamant on eating in an Indonesian restaurant before we left Groningen and we did it! Just a few footsteps away from the Martini Hotel is Het Satéhuis and there I could finally taste some of the Indonesian specialties. I went for salmon satay and Lars went for beef. Everything came with a huge portion of rice and vegetables and at least 2 sauces.

We hope that all of these places inspire you to visit Groningen as well!

Gorgeous Groningen – Part 3

When it comes to art, Groningen has one major thing to offer: the Groninger Museum.

The museum dates from the end of the 19th century and the current building consists of three main buildings, designed by Philippe Starck, Alessandro Mendini and Coop Himmelb(l)au. (source: Wikipedia)

During our visit, part of the museum was closed, due to preparations for a huge Rodin exhibition. Anyway, Lars and I started by viewing the contemporary art collection, representing both national and international artists.

The contemporary art collection wowed us! The modern art collection however is also worth a visit. It features national and international works of art as well and doesn’t restrict itself to paintings.

The Groninger Museum also has a beautiful gift shop and a cozy cafeteria serving drinks and light meals at affordable prices. The museum is, by the way, easy to find, since it is located opposite the main train-station of Groningen. You can find more information on their website.

 

Gorgeous Groningen – Part 2

In the afternoon of our first day in Groningen, Lars and I made a boat trip, so we could see the town from a completely different angle. And have a nice beer at the same time. Isn’t it nice that there was a small bar on board of the boat?

The company that organises the boat trips is called Kool and is situated right opposite the beautiful building of the train station, at the Stationsweg. About 15 minutes before departure, you can go aboard. Our boat trip started at 2pm.

The trip lasts about an hour and takes you around the inner city of Groningen. A guide tells you everything you want to know about the town in Dutch, English and German.

Some of the boats that we passed during our trip are actually houseboats, others serve as a restaurant.

The boat trip gives you a lot of insight into the history of Groningen and picturesque anecdotes about for example the several city gates and the narrowest house of the town.

We paid 12,- euro per person for this trip and think it is absolutely worth it. For more information about departure times and special arrangements, you better check with the local tourist information office, situated near the Martinitoren.

 

Gorgeous Groningen – Part 1

Sometimes you arrive in a town (or any other place for that matter) and you immediately fall in love with it. That is what Lars and I experienced in Groningen. To be honest, Lars had been there once many many years ago; for me, it was the very first visit.

With its 200.000 inhabitants, Groningen is one of the biggest towns in the north of the Netherlands. Moreover, it has a youthful atmosphere thanks to its university with its 30.000 students. Finally, the inner city with all its main touristic attractions is very compact. Or, in other words, this town is ideal for a weekend getaway.

Lars and I first went to the Grote Markt with its Martinitoren, the highest church steeple of Groningen and also the bell tower of the Martinikerk. (Source: Wikipedia) The Grote Markt is also the place where you can find the tourist information office. Anyway, the Martinitoren is 97 meters high and is built in Gothic style. You can climb the tower, which we did not do, because of our fear of heights.

We continued our stroll to the nearby Vismarkt (Fish Market), home to a lot of pubs, shops and cozy eateries. The stall you can see in one of the pictures does sell fish.

We also passed the gothic Aa Church, but unfortunately it was closed for visitors, like all the other churches in Groningen, by the way. I am not sure if this is a general rule or if this applies only in the low season. By the way, the word Aa is actually the name of the nearby river.

We slowly approached one of the canals, that circle the inner town of Groningen.

This is what we did in the morning. In the afternoon Lars and I decided to see Groningen from another point of view.

 

Photographing the backroads of Europe, exploring beauty and enjoying life at our own pace