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!

 

 

 

Swiss rivièra…

Though our recent Swiss break was mainly used to recharge those inner batteries and we mostly stayed close to our base of operations and relaxation for the week, Lenk, we did squeeze in a trip to nearby Spiez to get some rivièra vibes!

Spiez Switzerland

Spiez is ideally located at the magnificent lake Thun in Bernese Oberland and offers a wide variety of activities and highlights. It is dominated by its medieval castle and the romanesque church that must have been built somewhere in 8th century.

Spiez Switzerland

After exploring the castle, the gardens and admiring the outstanding view a walking trail leads to the surrounding vineyards…

Spiez Switzerland

Morning walks and breathtaking views makes hungry, so heading down again for a lakeside lunch, which really means ‘lakeside’ and guarantees you a marvellous view at Hotel-Restaurant Riviera by Elio…

The ferry services and cruises on Lake Thun are a fun means of transport to discover neighbouring lake villages or the larger cities like Thun and Interlaken where you can connect onto lake Brienz for even more water cruising fun. We hopped off at the next village and used the walking path to make our way back to Spiez.

Next time more on our little hike to Wallbachschlucht in Lenk and the Simme Waterfall, hope this post gave you a lovely view on versatile Switzerland, land of mountains and glaciers, yes of course…but do not forget to catch some rivièra vibes!

Ingrid

xxx

 

Lake Thun Switzerland

Thuner See info

Lenk Simmental

myswitzerland.com Lake Thun region

What if travelling to is coming home?

As much as I like to travel, in mind and in actual distance, I always like returning home, bringing back a heart and mind full of memories…but what if the place you travel to feels like coming home? No destressing or acclimatisation needed…I just need to open, in this case, the car door, breathe in the fresh mountain air and rest my eyes on ‘our’ mountain to know we’re home again…Leaving this place again, and the people we know there, until our next visit always leaves me in a bit of melancholic state of mind and heavy hearted. For us, that ‘second home’ is Lenk in Simmental region, part of Swiss Bernese Oberland.

Simme Waterfall Oberried/Lenk

My husband used to visit this picturesque little village every year in his childhood years, this tradition must have started somewhere early seventies. His siblings and him, having their own families, kept tradition going and still visit with their own children, though not every year. We ourselves went about eight times, usually end of May and this was the first time just the two of us, son Nick guarding the house, feeding our cat and a probably very limited amount of studying.

In the posts still coming up in the following weeks I’ll take you along on some of the excursions we made, today’s post however is all about getting that fresh Swiss mountain air vibe, filling your head with Spring alpine flower meadows, cow bells replacing the alarm clock and the welcome sound and refreshing touch of the Simme stream, always close companion on our walks to town or up to the Waterfall.

So just sit back, relax and welcome to Lenk!

home sweet home

Our home during our Swiss breaks lies in one of Lenk’s quieter hamlets called ‘Oberried’ giving clear mountain view and direct access to walking trail path up to the waterfall and town. Weather gods have always been kind to us when choosing end of May as holiday period and this time was no exception, by far thé best weather we ever had!

Lenk is a popular health and spa facility destination and known in Winter as top ski destination, making a link with the Adelboden region and facilities, however not being a fan of snow and cold we ourselves prefer the Spring up to Autumn season. The village lies 1068 metres above sea level at the foot of the Wildstrubel massif.

mountain view

Curious where ‘Lenk’ got its name? It’s composed of two German words meaning ‘long nook’, and that’s exactly the shape and function the town has at the top of the long, Simme River valley. Nestled up against the might of the Wilstrubel’s steep face, the locals simply state that they are ‘in the nook’ (an der Lenk)!

Meadows means cows, means milk, means cheese, means yummy!
you won’t starve with these local delicacies!

 

Golden Pass Train

chop chop 😉

Swiss knives

Don’t these colours let you board a train with a big smile?!

More next time on our strolls through Lenk and surroundings!

Liebe Grüsse,

Ingrid

xxx

 

 

Weekend Namur…and beyond…

The second day of our Namur weekend break was reserved to breathe in nature and fresh air and discover some of the surrounding tiny villages, part of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonië’

First stop on our route was Thon-Samson, the drive up there coming from Namur is great, following the banks of the meandering river Meuse, you can admire the lovely bordering mansions and the crown on it all: view on Marche-les-Dames, marvelous rock formation where Belgian army troups have their training facilities. To us, Belgians, Marche-les-Dames will forever hold a place in history books as it is the place where king Albert the first, though an experienced climber, found his tragic death.

Back to our destination, Thon-Samson, with Samson referring to the little river running through the picturesque town. A perfect spot to stretch the legs, breathe in that fresh morning air and admire the limestone buildings and view on the valley and surrounding green hills.

 

Next stop, Mozet, again most houses in limestone and rooftops often in slate. Up on the hill, the church serves as an excellent viewpoint on the area. The Royer farm with its protected Romanesque tower can not be missed and walking further down the same path leads you to the originally 11th century castle now property of the local scouting organisation and serving as holiday and meeting centre.

Heading back north we slowly were making our way back home, however decided to take some smaller backroads as we noticed some road works and a traffic jam earlier and didn’t want to be caught in them. Now that was a smart move, as it lead us to the tiny village of Balâtre, tiny indeed, as no larger than the town square and a few streets, but we discovered a great restaurant/hotel there called ‘La Fourchette à droite’…only had to take one look at the menu to decide we were really hungry all of a sudden and yes, they do things with a little twist here, the fork is on the right-hand side!

What a perfect way to end this weekend! We have had it all, great weather and food for body and soul with Namur and its lovely surroundings as great hosts and companions, we’ll be back!

Ingrid

xxx

Plus beaux villages de Wallonie

Restaurant La Fourchette à droite

Namur & region tourist info

Ready, steady, go…where?

We had already decided last year that this year, holidaywise, would mean an ‘ in-between’ year. Meaning somewhere between home and away, only not too far or too long: tightening those strapping belts around the suitcases, after last year’s expensive, but worth-wile, USA road trip.

Like the cliché says, it’s not where or how far you go, it’s the journey, the experience and Lady Luck clearly decided to grant us some more experiences as both husband and me won  a weekend break, how much fun is that?!

Some careful planning and scheduling and must admit the calendar looks quite inviting the next couple of months, and after that, well, we’ll see, first mission is surviving Winter and am extremely looking forward to these up-coming Spring breaks!

End of March we are heading for a b&b near Namur, capital of Wallonia, Belgium. Only heard great stories of those who already visited Namur, so am anxious to explore the city and region ourselves, which might also involve a visit to close-by abbey of Maredsous, well-known for it’s beers and cheeses.

In May, somewhere around Ascension, our wandering feet and hearts will bring us to Lenk in beautiful Swiss Bernese Oberland. Childhood nostalagia for my husband who has visited the region as a child with his family many, many times and since the first time I,myself, laid my eyes on the lush green pastures and lovely mountains covered under their snow blanket, it is also my place to exhale and relax! We were always fortunate with the weather when going in May, so do hope the good luck continues, can’t wait to be there again!

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Somewhere in April of early May, still to decide, we’ll be heading for the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague) and seaside with a stay on the pier of Scheveningen. You can take that litterally as the hotel with it’s Pier suites is located on the far end of the pier and all suites offer private terraces with perfect view on the North Sea which is just at and below your feet, which should be a unique experience.

Think for the next months, in my book and with a little help of Lady Fortune, this is a perfect match of countryside, mountains and sea. A perfect balance between city and nature, time for new experiences and time to exhale! I am ready…

Ingrid

X

To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
(Hans Christian Andersen)

 

Escape to enchanted woods, a medieval tale of fairies and monsters…

Belgium’s little gem Durbuy, situated in the province of Luxembourg and nicknamed smallest town in the world, could not leave you more enchanted than on the last day of October when the medieval town centre becomes the magnificent open-air stage for the annual Halloween celebration. Think Captain Jack Sparrow parading in the winding cobbled 17th century streets, fairies and witches, jugglers and other costumed street artists performing, lots of food and drinks of course, musical acts and a show with light and sound effects and fireworks to end the festivities with a sparkle.

Château des Comtes d’Ursel, Durbuy



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Some window shopping in Durbuy
Halloween not your thing? No worries, Durbuy and this region have so much more to offer: nature lovers can stretch their legs and catch some oxygen in the surrounding woods or tiny hidden villages. Those searching for some more adrenaline can go kayaking or head for the outdoor adventure parks and if you are searching to excite your taste buds, look no further, this region has a large number of gastronomy level restaurants and chefs using excellent local produce.

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Chapel St-Hubert, Vervoz, tiny village breathing history and architecture being an ancient Roman colony

Lovely autumn colours

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Lunch is served!

Typical house in Ny

Hot air balloon experience in Durbuy

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‘tiny’estate in Vervoz
Being blessed on this little getaway of ours with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 18 degrees Celsius have our batteries recharged. Nothing beats a wonderful yummy breakfast, some nature exploring and lunch and dining al fresco when end of October/early November, right?!

Just like four years ago again we stayed at b&b La Lisière, just outside Durbuy city centre. They have three lovely cosy and spacious rooms, one gîte and one cabin in the garden, all offering nature views. Bénédicte and Stéphane, your hosts, are keen on reducing their ecological footprint, this also translates into fresh local produce at breakfast and promoting local beers which you can enjoy relaxing in the cosy bar.

Panoramic views outside the b&b

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Panoramic views outside the b&b
Well, Halloween has left us for this year, peace and quiet have returned, but plenty of good excuses remain if you want to plan a trip to Durbuy: November hosts a lot of hunting season concerts and December says Christmas market of course! Just check out the city’s tourist info page for more detailed info on upcoming activities or nature inspiration.

Remember, never stop exploring!

Ingrid

Xxx

Durbuy tourist info

b&b La Lisière

Durbuy region tourist info

town of Vervoz

Resto La Table de Manon

Tapas bistro Resto Sept by Juliette

for a little snack or sweet tooth with great outside terrace, la Vieille Demeure

Fall of the leaves…Autumn’s here!

Fall…of all seasons surely the one with the most vibrant colours, the purest emotions, the strongest contrasts…we said goodbye to those long warm Summer evenings carrying  the sounds of crickets and playing childern. We start cocooning again and it’s the sound of wood cracking in the fire place that brings comfort…that and the aroma of a beef or lamb stew!

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the hydrangea blues turning to purple

‘Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autum tree’ (Emily Brontë)

Though I am a big fan of the changing seasons, it’s a double feeling as for me it usually announces a period of more back pain. The combination cold and wet weather just doesn’t match my bones and joints and consequently my mood. So far we have been extremely lucky as we are blessed with a dry and sunny fall, keeping that blues and those aching joints under control and leaving more time to enjoy and observe the changes in surrounding nature!

Of course you can schedule a walk in the woods or countryside somewhere remote and sometimes it’s truly worth it covering the distance by car to get there but very often, well, just stepping outside is sufficient. These photos are all taken in our own garden and local communal park so whenever that ‘fall of the leaves’ blues get you in its grasp, just start walking, let your eyes wander and let them lead you through the wonders of this season…enjoy!

 

Ingrid

xxx