Outdoor time in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #163

Last Saturday I went with two dear friends for a walk in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug national park as a belated experience-gift for my birthday.  As we walked away from the station with its noisy traffic, and entered deeper into the woods, time seemed to slow down. It felt so good to breathe in the smells of the humid forest.  I felt my legs getting more energised with each step on the path.

The landscape kept surprising us, changing from oak forest to pine trees, to sandy open spaces, to paths winding through mossy forest floors…  Also we were graced with a wide range of different weather in just a few hours: sunshine, clouds, rain, rain and sunshine at the same time, and even hail, as we continued to put one foot in front of the other, without haste.

As always it felt really good to be away from the bustling city, not to mention the snacks and thermos full of boozy tea that we had along the way, which took the experience to another level;)  But mostly it was our chats and laughs that made my day.  I’m so grateful for sharing this calm afternoon, talking about what’s on our minds and catching up in such a relaxing setting.

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Beautiful forest details

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Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks.  There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.

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Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.

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On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures.  I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.

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Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)

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Exploring the Japanese garden

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Travelling to Japan is high on my wishlist of destinations, but I haven’t quite organised it yet. For now I live vicariously through books, my sister’s travel stories and photos.  However lately I got a lovely taste of Japan. For my birthday, two dear friends gifted me an outing to go to the Japanese garden in the The Hague, which is open only a few weeks a year in Spring and Autumn.  We planned the date several months in advance so as not to miss the window of opportunity, so I also got to enjoy looking forward to it!

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The garden draws quite a lot of visitors, so it was quite busy on the morning we went, but that didn’t stop us from taking the time to soak up all the beautiful details, colourful bridges and plants.

It was lovely to explore, walking along the paths so as not to disturb the fragile mosses that cover the ground in a comfy-looking carpet. Gorgeous lanterns, harbouring delicate mosses and lichens, were brought over last century from Japan along with native Japanese plants.

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The autumn colours were spectacular with orange and green intermingled, highlighting the changing of the season, and all sorts of mushrooms were popping up all over the place.

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Even though it’s just an hour from Amsterdam, I had the feeling like I’d been to another continent for a short while (feeling extra good without all those CO2 emissions from flying!). Thanks so much ladies and here’s to experience gifts and travel opportunities close to home! 🙂

On the way to Guadagnolo

Here are a few more pictures of our hike towards Guadagnolo in the lovely hills of Lazio.

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The great thing about hiking uphill is the panoramic view as you get higher (something I really miss when hiking in the flat Netherlands).

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As usual I was mesmerized by the moss, lichens and tiny plants growing on the rocks.

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The wintery trees looked quite eerie with the grey sky and the mist.

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The neighing sounds this horse was making echoed loudly around the valley  before it appeared over the crest of the hill. What happened next is described here🙂

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As we drove home towards Rome, the sunlight piercing through the clouds over the valley was a spectacular sight.

Magnificent mosses

It’s kind of ironic that after enjoying Madeira’s wide open spaces, high peaks and beautiful coastline viewed from the many ‘miradouros’, one of the first things I feel like sharing here is something as small and seemingly insignificant as moss.

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As we went on hikes in the volcanic mountains of Madeira, we came accross the most spectacular walls of mosses along the levadas and beneath waterfalls.

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The shapes, textures, colours and combination of the mosses were so varied and different from anything I’d seen before.  The mosses seemed to grow relentlessly, sometimes in thick layers, basking in the humidity. 

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It was really fascinating to observe them and I loved the patterns they formed, and how they interacted with each other.  Paolo was very patient while I struggled to somehow capture them on camera.  

It reached a peak one day while we were sitting on a log and eating our picnic, and I started to ‘see’ things… The mosses in the picture below look to me like minuscule sci-fi villages with mushroom houses and diminutive trees. Aren’t they amazing?!

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