Sunday, 31 May 2009

Rotel


You have several options while travelling. You can stay in hotels, motels, b&b's, youth hostels, guesthouses, inns, tents, caravans, your car or even sleep out in the open. Or you can stay in a Rotel! A rolling hotel.

This coach has space for twenty passengers and one driver. During the day you go and visit the sights of a certain area, during the night you could park almost anywhere and out comes the hotel part. Apart from the beds in the rear part of this coach, there's also a kitchen where meals can be prepared for all passengers. There's probably a toilet area as well, although I couldn't really find out where that would be supposed to go.


I have seen them out in Italy with the trailer which held many more people than this, but in my mind, it just looks like a lot of coffins one on top of each other and very uncomfortable. I know the Irish aren't too fond of them either. They don't add anything to the Irish economy, because they bring everything themselves, right up to their dinner. This one I saw in Saintes Maries de la Mer in Southern France.

I wonder where they stay during the night though...

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Camera Critters 1


This horse statue can be found in the seaside town of Saintes Maries de la Mer in the Camargue region of France. Those horses roam wild and free throughout the Camargue and you can see them almost submerged before they jump out on to drier land.

For more critters from all over the world, please check out Camera Critters and join in the fun.

Search and Rescue


Dutch Coastguard, mostly used for high seas and oil platform work

I hope never to get into a situation where I need to be rescued by helicopter. But if I ever find myself on a boat in the middle of the high seas or on a mountain top and have no other way of getting out, than a helicopter isn't such a bad thing. And I now know that I can trust them. Those people on board know what they are doing.


Aerial photographs were taken from this helicopter

How do I know? Well, the Search and Rescue service of the Royal Netherlands AirForce exists 50 years this year and had an agility course set up, so helicopters of different countries could show their stuff! I only missed one: the Canadians. They were supposed to go up in the air at two, but for some reason the whole thing got changed around and in the end they were up by 1.30 and had finished by 1.45! I did see the rest though and was thorougly impressed.


I'm not sure which team this was: Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia? They had a distinct disadvantage though: their line was hanging in the middle of the helicopter and couldn't be manipulated, hence the two men watching everything and shouting orders to the pilot. They came last!

The first thing they had to do was pick up a bucket of water with a grappling hook hanging on the helicopter. They had to put the bucket down again behind a type of wall, pick it up again and fly on to the next obstacle: weaving between some sticks. Then an obstacle where they had to pass the bucket through the cut-out shape. They then had to deposit the bucket again and try and pull a small ring from the earth. As soon as that was over, the time stopped (it was also a competition). The team who had completed the course fastest ànd had the most water left in the bucket was pronounced the winner.


The grappling hook and the ring. When the ring was pulled out, orange smoke would come out, signalling the finish

In the morning the anoraks came out (plane/helicopter spotters) and in the afternoon it was the press' turn. They drew the short straw though: most of the press only got to see the Dutch who were last to compete. But it was good fun and I made plenty of photographs, albeit not with a nice camera like the spotters and/or the press.


The Canadian helicopter, the only one I missed...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Feline Friday 14

I always love murals and when there's a monster included in it, how can I resist? This was a small mural I found in Arles while I was walking around.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Gypsies


Every year around the end of May, there's a huge gathering of gypsies from all over Europe in the small town of Saintes Maries de la Mer on the Mediterranean coast in France. We were 'lucky' to be there at the same time as they were. The first gypsy I encountered wanted to give me something, but I never take anything people just give me in the street, it's usually leaflets for some restaurant or other.

The second time I actually accepted and they pinned this little 'brooch' on my shirt. I talked to them for a while and wanted to leave, but I would have to pay first for that little tin brooch. I thought what the hey and gave her some money. The old lady then proceeded in taking my hand, pulling me to the side and reading my hand! I learned that I was still in the process of studying, was going to have a long life, would find love (I think) and that the numbers 3, 4 and 12 were important for me. Oh, and within 41 days I would have something important happening in my life. Then I was supposed to hand over more money!

I'm not really into all that wishy-washy, vague stuff. I read my horoscope, but I know and realise that those in the newspapers are written to fit for thousands of people. I don't really believe any of it. On the other hand (even while being grossly extorted), it was quite good fun to hear my future told and even some of the past. Mind you, most of what she told, she could learn from the way I present myself: I talk French, but you can hear I'm not French and have learned the language as a second (or fourth in my case) language; I'm single, but that's quite easy to see, since I don't wear any rings and there's probably more tell-tale signs.

Ah well, I have written in my diary when the 41st day is and if something happens: you will be the first to know!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

S is for...

Streetsign

When you wanted to visit your friends or relatives in ancient Rome, you had a bit of a problem: sat nav hadn't been invented yet and there weren't any roadmaps. Your main tool in finding your way around a large town was your mouth: just ask for directions! And if you wanted to get your directions and were counting on the streetsigns to help you out, you would be sadly mistaken! Because streetsigns were few and very far between.

I found this streetsign in Ercolano (an underground village in Naples) which was covered in lava in 79 aD. Quite a bit of the village was preserved and this streetsign was one of them.

Fortunately nowadays, streetsigns are widely used (as are sat nav and road maps), so loosing your way isn't really necessary anymore. They are fluorescent out in the country side, they're at funny angles so you can never ever read them when you enter a street and they come with great names and colours.

From humble beginnings...

For more S words, please visit: ABC Wednesday

400


I don't believe it! Some days I've got nothing to share with the world and today I'm already on my fourth post! It's an important one though, at least for me. In February I posted on this as well (but then the post was called 500) as I was explaining about my plans to move to Canada (Alberta) and in what timeframe I was hoping to do so. And just now I realised there's only 400 days left on my home-made calendar!

Those last 100 days certainly went quicker than the first month and a half and I've hardly had time to think on occasion. The main reason of course is my job: it's been very busy lately and all the extra hours mean I've been earning quite a bit of money as well. Money that's very welcome, since I still have to pay my parents off.

400 days to go!

Not quite rose-tinted


But they are my new glasses! What do you think?

Shocking!


Have you ever been in the middle of a massive thunderstorm? Thunder, lightning and rain? Well, imagine about six of those. All around you. With lots and lots of rain, great gusts of wind and lightning from all sides. I can tell you, driving through that in what seemed to be the middle of the night, but was actually after day-break (so it should have been light), was not the most pleasant of experiences in recent times.

I already woke up at 1.30am from a lot of thunder very close by. Even my monsters scampered over me to get away from all that noise. By the time I had to go to work (at 3.15am), it had eased off and I could only hear thunder in the distance. The lightning was a bit more persistant though and while driving to my starting point I was occasionally startled by sudden lightning. After I left the army-base, it started to rain. Then the wind picked up, the lightning came from all sides and at around 5.30am, the rain came horizontally, tree branches were coming off the trees, blocking the roads and basically making my driving horrendously difficult. I even stopped for a minute, but then the rain had passed as well and we were able to continue.

I was glad I was in my coach though: the idea of Faraday's Cage was a great comfort!

PS: I didn't take the photo, I just nicked it of the www!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Diesel

Minimum delivery 5 liters!

Well, what do you expect after driving for over 2000 kilometers? The coach gets thirsty and needs a drink! 509 liters of drink! A good thing I don't have to pay for it myself...

Provence continued...

Apart from nature, we also saw plenty of other stuff. First of all we stayed in Avignon, so missing the 'Pont d'Avignon' (or Pont Bénézet, as it's officially known) was really hard. Furthermore, because all pupils took Latin and/or Greek in school, you couldn't escape Roman theaters, buildings and other assorted thingymebobs. So, here are some photos of some of what we saw!


Emperor Hadrian (if I recall correctly)

On our morning in Vaison-la-Romaine we first of all visited the theater there. The old Roman theater that is. After that we got the chance to visit the rest of this small museum. This photo shows Emperor Hadrian (I guess the one from the wall) in all his glory! Vaison is quite remarkable, because not only did it show two emperors, it also showed an empress (Sabine)!


Little street in Arles

Since I took photos of more than one theater, I didn't think it necessary to put them all here. It would be very boring! And when in Arles I saw this lovely little picturesque street. I wasn't the only one loving the view and finally managed to get a shot without anyone in it. Until I got home that is and saw the 'big picture'. Someone sneaked in! Not very nice, but at least I got the bike in!


Pont de Langlois

Do you recognize this bridge? Chances are you don't when it's like this, but imagine it while the ramps are down, there's a cart on it and some washerwomen on the water's edge doing their laundry. Can you picture it? If you still can't, check out this link. The bridge in the photo is actually a replica, since the old bridge wasn't safe anymore I guess. And this bridge isn't used anymore either and another bridge (very rickety) has been erected about 30 meters away.


Arena in Nîmes

A Roman theatre is basically a half-circle. It could seat between 2 and 7 thousand people and was used mainly for plays. A Roman arena is made by putting two theatres together, creating a full circle. Sometimes the arena was elongated, to create an oval. A small oval could be used for gladiator fights, a large oval could be used for chariot racing. The arena in Nîmes is a smaller oval. It's still being used today, mainly for bullfights (apparently not the killing variety).


Maison Carrée in Nîmes

You might look at this and think: well, that's not Roman, that's Greek! I certainly did, but according to the pupils it was Roman. The Greek version would be completely open and you could approach it from all sides. The Roman version is only open on one side and could therefore only be approached by one side. This was probably part of the Forum, one of the more important spaces in any Roman town.


Pont Bénézet or Pont d'Avignon as it's commonly known

This bridge was built to span across the River Rhône and the Isle of Barthelasse in the middle of that river. It used to have over 20 arcs, but at some point the bridge was damaged and this is the only remaining part of it. Fortunately there are several other bridges now to cross the river, since this bridge doesn't span the whole river!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Gorge(ous)


Gorges de Régalon

Of course last week wasn't only spent getting up Mont Ventoux. It would have gotten pretty boring pretty soon for both me and my passengers. Even though it was a lovely mountain! We also spent some time hiking through a gorge where we weren't allowed to hike (nobody saw/read the sign) and we went canooing. And when I say we, I mean we, because I went along!


Olive grove

The gorge was situated in the 'Lubéron', a small mountain range in the Provence (east of Avignon). After parking and having lunch (mine consisted of a can of Fanta, since I hadn't been able to get a proper foody lunch), we started out on the trail. There were fallen trees on the trail, causing us all to duck and almost crawl along, but after a while the path got a bit better and we even passed a small olive grove. We saw a fence, but since we were only warned for falling rocks, we moved on anyway.


Narrow passageway

Pretty soon there were only five of us left. Two boys who could have been mistaken for mountain goats, two girls and me. It was weird to be left like that, because you couldn't hear anyone anymore. We might have taken the wrong route for all we knew, getting lost in the French wilderness! But then again, it was a gorge and one way in, means one way out! But then the path got more narrow by the minute and we encountered our first obstacle: we had to clamber over some rocks that were blocking our path. One of the boys went up first and was up in about ten seconds. Then it was my turn, but I had a very cumbersome bag with me. So, I had to throw that towards the boy first. Then (on my flip-flops) I had to climb up. With quite a few difficulties I managed to get up, but it did take me over three minutes. The girls who were trying to get up after me, also had trouble, mostly because there were hardly any places to place your feet. We all managed it though and felt very good about our climb.


Teamwork

We continued on our way and met some more obstacles, but helping each other we managed to get across them all. We finally met up with the rest of the group, but they were already on their way back! We waited until the majority had passed before going back ourselves (the others made so much noise!) and even gathered some more people. We were now a group of about eight. We had a great time walking back. But the obstacles up are sometimes easier than the same obstacles down. And holding the walls of the gorge wasn't always an option either, since they were covered by millipedes! So gross... I made it though, with a little help on occasion, and we got back to the parking lot.


The River Gardon

The day after that we went canooing. This time I wasn't going to get caught out with lunch again and I had some chocolate-pip-rolls with me (very yummy). Because of the odd numbers (and because I'm a very nice person presumably), they wanted me to come as well. We had to canoo down the river Gardon for about 8 km (5 miles), which I thought was quite far. Especially since the girl I was sharing my canoo with was only half my size and therefor had a completely different strength as well. So, it took us quite a while to be able to go straight down the river instead of going in circles or hitting the bank.


Pont du Gard taken from the middle of the river

After a while (does it have something to do with me?) we were all by ourselves. In the far distance I could occasionally see some yellow paddles, but other than that we were alone. It was quite good fun though, the girl I was sharing my canoo with, was a nice girl who didn't mind chatting. Halfway through the trip we caught up with quite a number of them because they had stopped to rest. We saw one boy run/swim after his canoo, because the other boy hadn't realised he wasn't there. A few km later we caught up with the teachers as well and got out. There was to be a presentation about where we were. It was a lovely spot, just in sight of the Pont du Gard (which you can see on the €5-note). After that it was only a few km more to our destination.


The canoos

We had had a lovely day and I managed to get quite a tan as well. I was happy the next day was a day off though, first my legs and then my arms: I was quite tired!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mont Ventoux


Driving up the Mont Ventoux

Last Saturday saw me drive up the Mont Ventoux, the highest mountain in the Provence. This photo was taken by one of the teachers and if you look carefully you can actually see me in the mirror, trying to negotiate all those tight bends. Shortly after this photo was taken, the group got off to walk the rest of their way up (about 5,5 km or 3 and a bit miles). I drove up to the top, which was good, since night would have fallen before I would have reached the top!

Looking down into the valley

Looking down into the valley you can see two things: snow (that's the white stuff) and very winding roads. I've been on worse roads in the past, but this was not an easy road to negotiate. The main problem with those roads is always the poor visibility, you can never see who will be tearing round the corner!

The summit

The summit of the Mont Ventoux changes on every sign. This one says 1910 meters, others claim 1909 or even 1912 meters.

The naked mountain

The Mont Ventoux does not mean windy mountain, but naked mountain. Apparently it's an old gallic word. The reason why it's called the naked mountain is quite simple: the top is above the treeline, meaning there are no trees growing on the top. This tree tried, but didn't make it.

Weatherstation?

I'm not quite sure what the function of this building is, but it's one of three or four on the summit. One is a proper weatherstation, one is a restaurant and one used to be a hotel. This tower-like structure is part of that former hotel, but it didn't really seem to have a function anymore. At least not as far as I could see.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Feline Friday 13

Normally when Wuppie gets to go outside, he checks in about every half hour or so. But a few years ago, he didn't. And after about an hour and a half I got quite worried. My neighbourhood houses some animal haters who wouldn't hesitate in using cats as footballs or lassoos, so I was quite anxious to find him asap. But when I stepped outside it became quite clear to me, no thug or villain had gotten hold of him; he had gotten himself in trouble!
This tree stands across from my home and is a fairly large tree. That wouldn't be a problem if the first branch were quite low, but it isn't. It's really high. And on the first branch was Wuppie, trying to catch a bird! Every time he got close, the bird would fly up and sit on another branch, really taunting Wuppie. When Wuppie wasn't trying to catch the bird, he was trying to get down, but it was too high up for him! He was miaowing a lot, but he didn't dare jump out. (A cat has to see where it's going, so getting out backwards isn't an option)
After another half hour of that, I had started looking for a ladder, but to no avail: all ladders were to short to even come half way! Now, my mother has always said, that come dinnertime, most cats will make their way home again, so I was hoping for that. I wasn't at ease though and after another fifteen minutes I decided to try and find a larger ladder. Wuppie had other plans though: he was already hungry and had decided to jump out of that huge tree anyway!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

R is for...


Roman

When I was in Rome a few years ago, I visited all the sights. I tried to anyway, but while looking for Trevi Fountain I ended up at the Spanish Steps. However, one thing I couldn't miss, of course, was the Roman. There's plenty of those in Rome. For some reason...

My colleague and I ate at a Roman restaurant. It was situated along the river Tiber in a more or less residential area (near the St Paolo Basilica). There wasn't an English menu and the food was proper Roman. No fancy pizzas. No Pizza Margarita or Napolitano. Just proper Roman pizzas. If you wanted a pizza prosciuto, you got a pizza base with prosciutto. Simple. And tasty.

Something else Roman is the amount of graffitti. Whether it's an ugly new building or a beautiful old antique, there seemed to be graffitti on everything. Such a shame. And the city didn't seem to think it a good idea to clean it up. At least not as far as I could see.

I've been to Rome three times now. The first time was the time I was able to see most. The second time all I saw was the Vatican and the third time, all I saw was the parking lot. But it is definitely a city I would love to visit properly. Spend a week in that beautiful city. Eat, drink and meet some Romans...

For more R words, please check out: ABC Wednesday

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The view from up there


I encountered these two young women while they were out shopping on Camden Market. They make the clothes themselves, since most stores don't really tailor for people that tall(!). Their feet aren't just the ordinary stilt feet, but jointed movable feet which should make walking on stilts that much easier I would guess!
I asked to take their photo and they very graciously posed for me. I had to step quite a bit back to get them completely in the frame!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Bathroom fixtures and fittings



When my friend C and I walked through the streets of London, we came upon this sign in the window of a bathroom shop. It's one way of getting more customers through the door I guess...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Feline Friday 12

I'm not here!

This photo reminds me of those children playing hide and seek. The hold their hands in front of their eyes and because they can't see anybody, nobody else can see them!

Provence

Yep, I am off to the Provence. I will be leaving today for Luxemburg and then tomorrow I will continue to Avignon in the Provence. My suitcase is packed, the maps are packed, only my sandwiches for today left to make.

Fortunately I've finally gotten the hang of posting in advance, so there will be posts during this week. You don't have to go completely without me. But I won't see you until next Saturday! I will be enjoying the sun however....

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Hand


I like my hands. They are very useful. I can hold things in them, I can pick things up and I can write on them. All of which I do quite frequently. Writing on my hand is easier than writing on a piece of paper while driving: it won't flutter out of my hands onto the floor and I can't tear it.

I always write on my hand in Dutch. I am after all Dutch. I've lived in the Netherlands for most of my life. I speak, read, write, dream in Dutch.

So, I don't know what happened today. I needed some shopping and instead of writing a grocery list beforehand, I wrote the list on my hand while cycling! And the funniest thing: I couldn't remember the words. In Dutch anyway, the English was right there! So, in the end I wrote it down in English. Bug, because I needed insectenspray (bug spray) and blister because I needed blarenpleisters (blister aids).

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Q is for...

Quad

I've been organising the staff outings for a few years now and a couple of years ago I asked my colleagues what they would like to do instead of me thinking of something. One of my colleagues would like to do some driving (as if we don't do enough of it during our day-jobs!). Anyway, I looked for and found a venue where we could drive a jeep across some awful terrain, had a ultra-short anti-skid training and where we could go quad-biking. We split up into three groups and each group would do one of the three things for about 20 minutes.

The skidding was fantastic: I was in a car with two other women and we had the best time! The jeep was great as well: going up a near vertical slope (or so it seemed), going down another very muddy slope and again having the best time. And then the quad-biking.

I felt that using the brakes on that quad was for sissies, weaklings and idiots. However, after not being able to take a turn properly because I had too much speed, I realised not using the brakes on the quad was for the most stupid of idiots, ie me! The turn I hadn't been able to take properly because of high speed had proven to me that brakes are there to be used. If not, you loose control of the vehicle, drive into the tyres and fall off. Which I did!

That evening as we were having dinner at the local Chinese restaurant, I could hardly use my arm, my right thigh had a bruise the size of a dinnerplate and my back was killing me! It taught me a valuable lesson: don't be pigheaded, just listen to the teachers!

For more Q words, please check out: ABC Wednesday

Relax!


I couldn't get to sleep last night. I tossed and turned, pondered, thought, worried and lay awake for over an hour before finally drifting off. And the reason? Work. Of course!

Last week I had a bad night due to my trip to London, last night was bad due to my upcoming trip to Avignon (South of France). Because of the distance (over 1100 km) mostly. In Europe we have so-called driving laws. You almost need a degree in mathematics to completely understand, but basically I'm not allowed to do more than 10 hours driving a day. And at a maximum speed of 100 km per hour... You can do the math! The maximum you can do on your own in one day without any massive delays is around 800 km. But everything has to run as smooth as a baby's behind!!

So my night was spent wondering how I was going to cover over 1100 km. I needn't have worried: today the arrangements were made. On Thursday I drive down to Luxemburg and on Friday I take over from my colleague and drive all the way to the South of France.

Tonight I will sleep soundly, knowing that the trip cannot be properly researched anyway (no information whatsoever). I will take my maps, I will take my navigation system and I will enjoy myself in the French sun.

Monday, 11 May 2009

London again


Behind the steering wheel
I have to admit, I didn't start off in the best-rested mode. Two reasons for that: 1. I spent the night at my parents and the bed was awful. I think I managed to grab a few hours sleep, but I was awake for most of the night. 2. I was nervous! I know London quite well, but the main reason for being nervous was that I had organised the trip myself. If anything went wrong, it would be my fault. However, it all went smoothly. We only had a slight delay near Antwerp and missed our reserved train (we caught the next one). And when entering England, we were told the motorway was closed due to an accident, but we took another route and made it to the hotel in good time, and my sister was already waiting for us.


Dalì on the South Bank
After everybody had their roomkeys, I was waiting in the lobby to answer any questions about where to go, what to do and how to get there. That took about an hour and then I finally made it up to the room I shared with my friend C. A quick change out of my uniform and in proper civilian clothes and we were ready to go. First things first though: money, you can't go to London without it! Then we found the underground station and took a train to the 'center' of town. First stop: Covent Garden with its market, street artists, shops and restaurants.


The Underground
We were by then quite hungry. So, we decided some food would be a good choice. We found a TGI Friday and had a fantastic dinner there. Spare ribs are always good and desert was a sin! Chocolate mousse, mint and chocolate mousse, raspberry mousse, strawberry mousse and lemon and lime mousse. Mmmmmm, absolutely scrumptious! After dinner we had a little look at Covent Garden, but by then most of the market stalls were being dismantled, so we had to look elsewhere.


A pod of the London Eye
Since the weather was still good, we chose to go on the London Eye. The queues weren't too bad and within half an hour we were up in pod 31 enjoying the sights of London from above! Our ride finished and slowly the sun was setting over Big Ben. It wasn't very late yet, but we had both been up for most of the day (I woke up at around 2am, C around the same time) and were starting to look more like zombies. At one point I actually felt I had to push my legs forward to move! Back to the hotel it was! At the hotel we spent another hour chatting to the other passengers, before finally going up to our rooms. And even with a huge amount of road noise we both fell asleep within minutes. Day one had passed okay!


Miaow!
Saturday morning the weather looked to be a bit dreary, but it was dry. I was giving everyone a tour of the town, showing all the sights before letting them loose again in time for the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. C and I didn't get the chance to see it, by the time the coach was parked we only had half an hour left. It would take us 45 minutes to walk and about half an hour by underground, so we decided to go to Camden Market immediately. What a brilliant place: market stalls filled with rock, punk, alternative, goth and vintage clothing. Sunglasses, bags, shoes, boots and plenty of food stalls as well. It took us about an hour before we had seen everything! We had some Thai food (great) and walked a little bit further, where we hit upon another market! It seemed every time we thought that was it, we would turn a corner and another part of the market was opened up. We sat for a while near Camden Lock (with a narrowboat going through!) and after that little rest we continued sightseeing. In the end it didn't take us only an hour, but nearly six hours and I don't think we saw everything then!


The Navigator leaving one of the locks
We took the underground back to town, because my friend wanted to see Hamley's (Harrods amongst toystores) and I wanted to find a bookstore. And we needed some dinner as well. After dinner we went back to the coach to pick up the group again. Or who-ever was there (in the end only 11 out of 35). I did a short 'light-tour' and at a quarter past eleven we were back at the hotel. Day two was good!


Harrods at night
Day three started with beautiful sunshine. We left at 10 in the morning and everything went smoothly. We managed to catch a train 90 minutes before our reserved one and that meant traffic in Belgium was still fairly quiet. By a quarter past ten the last passengers got off and I was ready to go home. Everybody had been happy and had enjoyed themselves. My parents (and several others) will go back there in the future to see even more, so I have done a good job. Having family and friends on board did make a difference. On the one hand it caused more stress, because you want, you need it to go without a hitch, on the other hand, if something doesn't go quite according to plan, they forgive a lot more. For now though, I let other people do the organising and I will stick to the driving part.