On the road again: recap of our Southwest USA road trip

Hard to believe it has already been a year since we returned from our Southwest USA road trip, a trip that took a lot of planning (and saving) ahead and rewarded us with unerasable memories of magnificent landscapes and road adventures.

In the months after our return I managed to sort out the insane amount of photos taken and composed an old-school photo album with the highlights and ‘best of’ moments however somehow a blogpost on the entire trip seemed not feasible: so many stories, so many interesting places we’ve visited, so many angles…where to start?! Well, I guess at the beginning…

After a very long flight including stopover at Chicago airport we landed in                     San Francisco. We chose SF to be at the beginning of our tour for several personal practical reasons: doing a road trip is rather exhausting, positioning a citytrip at the end wouldn’t be wise. Exploring SF needed us still fit in body and mind! Then there is the issue of ‘Karl’, Karl the Fog that is…Summer weather in SF can be tricky and for me, it’s just not that much fun ending the holiday in chilly and cloudy weather after spending two weeks in the sun and heat…

Lombard Street SF
on top of Lombard Street

We spent four nights in SF and still wasn’t enough to explore all the city has to offer though we got an excellent taste of its variety: we did a cable car ride, explored Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, did a hop-on/hop-off tour, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked Lombard street, did some shopping, joined an Alcatraz night tour,… more on that here Off to prison with a smile…only in San Francisco!

Time to say goodbye to SF and pick-up our rental car…adventure awaits with a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway leading us to Bixby Bridge, the wonderful scenic 17 mile drive and the historic coastal towns Carmel and Monterey where we spent the night.

Bixby Bridge, Pacific Coast Highway
Bixby Bridge

Strongly recommend, if you can, to spend more than one night here, wish we had too, however our next destination was already in mind and required quite a distance to cover, next stop…Yosemite NP!

Our hotel was located just outside the park, only a short drive to the Park’s entrance immediately rewarding us with jaw-dropping Tunnel View…

Tunnel View Yosemite NP

Lovely walks in Yosemite Valley, exploring the Falls, a ranger sunset talk at epic Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome…

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Shuttle

Half Dome, Glacier Point, Yosemite NP
overlooking Half Dome at Glacier Point

Leaving Yosemite for our next destination came with a bonus as we had to cross Tioga Pass, with its lovely viewpoints and magical Tenaya lake.

Tenaya Lake, Tioga road, Yosemite NP
Capturing the beauty of Tenaya Lake

and bonus number two with enchanting Mono Lake being on our route!

Mono Lake
is it a dog?

Next stop…Death Valley NP!

Furnace Creek Ranch Death Valley

Death Valley

Devil's Golf Course Death Valley

Dante's View, Death Valley
Hunting high and low: perfect viewpoint at Dante’s Peak

We have only spent one afternoon, night and early morning here, (taking in mind the high temperatures it is best to plan your sightseeing late afternoons and early mornings) however did give us time to explore some of the highlights the park has to offer: the dunes upon entering, lovely Artists Drive, sunset at Zabriskie point, Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course and the wonderful overview you get from Dante’s View…

…off to thé city of lights…(and noise, every minute, night and day)…viva Las Vegas…though must admit, for us, looking back on the trip now, not really our thing: the contrast when coming from nature’s overwhelming power and beauty is huge and my senses went on overdrive with the combination of heat, noise, lights, hustle and bustle,…we stayed two nights, however one would have been better! Still would leave ample of time to visit some of the casinos of choice, shop and eat!

We did enjoy the tour with the High Roller ferris wheel and the Bellagio fountain show!

High Roller Las Vegas

As you can guess, we were glad to escape LV madness and submerge ourselves again into nature’s grandeur and boy, we were rewarded big time! Our route to Zion NP allowed us a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park…do not miss this one if you get the chance, you will not regret!

Valley of Fire State Park

Elephant Rock Valley of Fire State Park

Zion NP to me had it all: the easy walks for those taking it slow (that’s me) the challenging ones for daredevils, water, rocks, green, it is thé perfect combination, everywhere you look, nature plays its dominant and bewitching role…oh, and I got to celebrate my 45th birthday there!

Zion NP

Zion NP

We got some more of the same magic visiting our next destination Bryce NP…hoodoos in all shapes add to the enchanting vibe hiking here, trails for all fitness levels, luckily!

Bryce NP

Bryce NP

Thor's Hammer Bryce NP
Thor’s Hammer Bryce Canyon

Upon entering state Arizona we had a bit of weather change, lots of clouds, not the best of timing or condition with Antelope Canyon being on the programme, however we were lucky to catch a little glimpse just upon leaving the canyon!

Upper Antelope Canyon

Rain and thunder clouds packing above Horseshoe Bend as if life on the edge isn’t drama enough!

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Unstable weather accompanied us the rest of our trip with blue sky one minute and dark thunder clouds and strong sudden winds approaching the next, having only one night to spend in Grand Canyon NP, we weren’t able to check off all the highlights marked on our list, however exploring the West Rim is already a treat for the eyes.
West Rim Grand Canyon

Last stop before flying home…Phoenix…no worries flight home was with a normal airplane!

Hot Air Expeditions
Phoenix Hot Air Expeditions

Hot Air Expeditions captain

Hot Air Expeditions

Well…it’s a wrap…time flies when you’re having fun!

First time we did an overseas road trip of this length in time and distance and overall feeling was more than ok. We did the planning ourselves and took our complete plan and budget to Eric of Inforeizen, who specialises in overseas travels to the US and Africa and tried to match our desires and route as much as possible. Made it easy for us as he handled all the bookings and we had therefore only one contact person in case of questions or problems.

Curious where we stayed? Will list up all the hotels at the end of this post.

Anything we would do differently looking back? Would spend an extra night in Monterey area, extra night in Yosemite, skip Las Vegas as a destination, though it might be interesting as an airport arrival or departure point, if more time and budget include Monument Valley, pack less bagage!

Hope you enjoyed this little tour…going through these photos again, am already planning and dreaming of future adventures, great and small!

 

Ingrid

xxx

‘ I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me’

 

Hotels:

San Francisco: Union Square Hotel

Monterey: Pacific Hotel

Yosemite: Yosemite View Lodge

Death Valley: Furnace Creek Ranch

Las Vegas: MGM Grand

Zion: Majestic View Lodge

Bryce: BW Plus Ruby’s Inn

Page: Courtyard by Mariott

Grand Canyon: BW Premium Squire Inn

Scottsdale: the Phoenician

travel agent Inforeizen

More:

Stay on these roads

Off to prison with a smile…only in San Francisco!

 

 

 

Swan Market x Antwerp

The so called Swan Markets, regularly held in the Netherlands and Belgium offer starting entrepreneurs a platform and chance to showcase their craftsmanship and creative skills on a larger scale as it usually attracts a very large crowd. As was also the case last Sunday in Antwerp where the ‘Grote Markt’ and sunny weather formed an excellent décor for this lively market.

colourful and exotic, Antwerp Swan Market
Couleur locale Swan Market Antwerp

Handmade jewels, fashion accessories, home deco and lifestyle items, modern or vintage…whatever your preference or style, there’s something to be found for every person and budget. Letting my eyes wander over the colourful, detailed pieces and products created with passion made my heart jump! And then I didn’t even mention the extremely tempting smells coming from the different food trucks, taking you on a world journey with oriental flavours, U.K. Fudge,  American style BBQ, oysters, pancakes,…

Enough written, some impressions…

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Spicy Scarves Amsterdam

I must admit I have a terrible weakness for scarves…luckily Spicy Scarves Amsterdam has just the cure! Double or three layered and all handmade! Depending on your mood or the season you can go for the colourful ones or more toned down, sportive or sophisticated, believe me, very hard to choose! I met Waheeda, the lovely lady in the photo and creative brain behind the brand, during our trip to The Hague last week  where she has a shop at the pier in Scheveningen,…if a trip to Holland is not scheduled in your near future travel plans, do re-consider, or just visit their webshop of course!

vintage

 

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handcrafted paper bags and holders, all washable

Buying a This is Liger t-shirt will guarantee you a very unique piece of garment. Each year six visual artists are asked to team up with the brand, each artist designs a limited edition of only 360 pieces. You can find the unique number on the shirt, the designs are all very cool, couldn’t resist so bought one for our son.

Liger shirts
This is Liger shirts
Cork wallet

Plants and flowers run through Stefanie’s veins, not only hers but also her family’s and this for already four generations and going. With her plant caravan she brings all that is lively and green to you or to markets like this one.

plantencaravan
Plantencaravan

oh, and never ever throw away again your old toilet 😉

With the colourful scarves of ‘Sjaal met Verhaal’ you do not only end up with a quality scarf, as the name suggests, there is a bigger and warm story behind it: buying here means supporting women entrepreneurs and projects in Nepal and Thailand, securing a job and an income for several locals. Do check out their website, support their project and get yourself a lovely handmade scarf!

Sjaal met verhaal
Sjaal met Verhaal

Who doesn’t like candy?! However, over the years the word has gotten such a bad connotation…Tante Toos to the rescue, all sweets are pure fruit, pure flavour, all paleo and often vegan and raw too…no obscure additives, these fruit ‘mats’ only contain pure fruit and some herbs and are then rolled like a yoga mat…they come in different flavours: raspberry, strawberry, applepie, mango and forest fruit. Store them in a closed container up to six months,…though I doubt you’ll have them that long! I tasted the raspberry and applepie and oh my, though as thin as a slice of paper it is truly a full explosion of freshly baken homemade applepie! Fun and original way too to finish off or decorate a homemade dessert…

Matties apple pie

 

Tante Toos Matties
Oyster bar
She works hard for her money…making potatoes on a stick!

 

Greetings from Antwerp!

Ingrid

xxx

Spicy Scarves Amsterdam

This is Liger

De Plantencaravan

Sjaal met Verhaal

Tante Toos Matties – snoep zonder troep

Swan Market

Visit Antwerp

 

It’s just paper…

Amazing what you can do with a little water, glue and paper scraps…feels a bit like when you were a child in school or at home, letting your imagination run wild, though must admit I still had to reconnect with my inner child…seems she was playing hide and seek, so my first project were some practical, though fun bowls!

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bowls and plates on display at the workshop atelier

I had followed some crafts and diy workshops before, however as the location was hard to reach by public transport I stopped going, though I never stopped seeing things through creative eyes: whether in cooking or when busy in the garden, taking photos, little deco projects… I stumbled upon diy workshop classes in my own hometown, just a few minutes from where I live and easily reachable by bike. Founder and the woman behind Artlekeno is Frieda, who makes you feel most welcome and has many inspiring ideas. A former education and job in graphic design combined with a strong passion for nature, environment and using recycled materials…she just breathes crafts and diy!

Besides the returning weekly workshops with papier-mâché, other creative projects and workshops are available, depending on demand, season, etc and the atelier workspace can also be rented out for parties.

Creativity is contagious, pass it on!

We made two bowls, two different techniques, one with paper layering around a balloon in this case but you can use just any shape…layer after layer after layer…at least five, for these bowls. As for the other bowl we used paper pulp, like a kind of paste to put around any shape or bowl of choice. It might get a bit messy, so be prepared to get your hands dirty! After this first stage, the paper had to dry out, so the finishing touch and decorating happened this week in the second part of the workshop class.

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first bowl got a layer of paint and touch of Spring
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Finished decorated bowl with some of my own designed jewels using Zahia Beads

My first experience was great…definitely want to try more and something more difficult or challenging…maybe I would even go for one of those funky colourful chickens that were on display!

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Ingrid

Xxx

Artlekeno Aartselaar

 

City-strolling, coincidences and chocolate

After some weeks of (un-willing) staying indoors due to the chronic pain struggle thing, and my trips outside the house mostly limited to the local shops in our town, my inner self was desperately seeking an escape and a broader horizon! Thursday the universe didn’t seem to conspire against me and I was looking forward to a few hours of city exploring and strolling, yep, it promised to be a great day!

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I took the bus to nearby Antwerp, sun was out when I arrived, temperatures rather high for this time of year, some cafes and bistros setting their outside terraces…Spring was definitely in the air…and in my head! What better way to fill that head with new ideas and inspiration than a stroll through town, some deco-hunting, fashion-inspiration and people watching?!

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Vlaeykensgang
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Vlaeykensgang
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view on Carrolus Borromeus church

I actually decided to get off the bus a few stops earlier than my usual stop and firstly explored the Nationalestraat, a street that always keeps re-inventing itself with new shops popping up. I had just left the bus and bumped into author Tom Lanoye. Well,  nothing special there, he lives in the city I guess and Nationalestraat is hip and trendy, so sooner or later you are bound to bump into a familiar or famous face! However, a few hours later I found myself in ‘The Chocolate Line’ shop of Dominique Persoone, I know, I know, just follow the chocolate smell when near the Palace on the ‘Meir’ and you’ll be drawn in too! You can admire the interior, taste yummy chocolate, buy some chocolate pills or a seductive chocolate lipstick and get a glimpse of ongoing creations in the open atelier/kitchen…a signature on the writing wall in that kitchen caught my eye…a yummy chocolate quote by…Tom Lanoye! 

I had a quick lunch at Lloyd Loom, more out of necessity to have my feet up and take some pain medication than I was hungry at that time…I know they have comfy chairs and it was the perfect place for me to reboot and have a croque madame with some OxyContin, that last one not on their menu! Luckily the meds did their thing and allowed me another two hours filling my heart and head with deco ideas and getting Spring fashion inspiration before a second pain attack rolled in and I wisely decided to head home.

In the evening I got treated to a third attack, however, it is so much easier to counter such an attack when having beautiful memories or inspiring things in mind to cling onto: the warmth of the sun that made me long for Spring, the contours of the city hall against the blue sky and the group of German tourists I helped out by showing them the direction to the cathedral, the funny jellyfish deco I spotted in Jüttu and the beautiful printed blouse of designer Natalie Vleeschouwer, the Valentine decoration and Spring/Summer fashion that is filling the shop windows, the overwhelming abundance of colours in flower shops and in the Zahia store where I buy beads for necklaces, oooh and let’s not forget the smell of chocolate! Yes, some days are just great…though it took me almost two days to recover before being able to go through the pics and write this post!

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KBC’s ‘den Boerentoren’
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Cathedral
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Dries Van Noten Modepaleis

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Coffeebar Glow
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Nello & Patrasche

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upcoming yummy events

Hope you enjoyed your own little stroll reading through, enjoy your day!

Ingrid

Xxx