The joy of train travel

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Last week I took the train from Amsterdam to Cologne, I settled in with a book and lots of good intentions but ended up simply soaking up the warm sun streaming through the window as I looked out at the thousands of yellow flowers on the side of the railroad and people cycling along happily in summer clothes along the green fields bordered by small canals. A couple of hours of quiet, the pure luxury of just being, lost in thought and unwinding from the week…

While chatting with my sister over the weekend about climate change, she told me that now in Swedish a word exists for feeling guilty about taking a flight because you know it’s very bad for the environment. I looked it up, the word is flygskam, literally ‘air shame’ and it’s definitely something I feel more and more often, and from conversations around me I realise I am not the only one.¬† Having a word for it makes it easier to discuss and I don’t thing shame or guilt is really the point here, but rather awareness. I love to travel far away and I take the plane way more than I wish I did meaning I feel flygskam regularly and am keen to look for alternatives to reduce my flights…

Good news is that next to flygskam, I feel something else which is the joy of going somewhere by train. You could call it trainthusiam or exhilarailtion ūüėȬ† I enjoy looking for destinations accessible by train and discussing them with friends. There is the pleasure of travelling without needing to be two hours early at the airport with the stress of the security checks with the un-packing of liquids and taking off my shoes, and especially without carrying the inevitable CO2 on my conscience. And also the satisfaction of easy-going adventures, where I can settle for several hours with my journal, a book and snacks from my tupperware, feel the kilometers go by and watch the landscape evolve as I approach my destination…¬† I’m still deciding where I might go this summer and I’ll take travel mode into careful consideration;) Any tips are welcome!

Off to Cologne for a few days

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #126

By the time this is posted, I will be in Cologne spending a few days visiting my sister for the long Easter weekend. I cannot wait to explore the city together, organising our adventures around nice places for drinks and food:) We’ll be catching up over amazing veggie meals, open to discovery and chilling in the park while chatting about everything and nothing!

Mini road-trip to Chavenay

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #111

During the holidays my Mum suggested a mini road-trip to a pretty village called Chavenay, that she had driven through by coincidence, not far from our home town.¬† It’s funny how it always seems more exciting to go further afield, than to explore places closer to home.¬† In this case, we enjoyed some fresh air and had a lovely time exploring, simply by jumping into the car after breakfast on a beautifully sunny morning and we were home in time for lunch:)

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It was a cold and wintery, with frost on the grass and a misty haze spreading over the plain.  The light was soft, gently casting long shadows already around noon.

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I was captivated by the small clumps of moss along the frozen walls, which was half green where the sun was slowly melting the ice away.

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We took a short stroll through the streets of Chavenay and headed to the outskirts to see the horses, grazing peacefully on the side of the hill overlooking houses and old barns. We had a lovely chat as we walked along the road, taking in the view and the beautiful surroundings.

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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! ūüôā

As day breaks

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During the holidays or on a day off, I sometimes like waking up at dawn to go on a mini-adventure.¬† I won’t pretend it is easy, but once the ten first minutes after waking¬†have passed (where I curse my body for needing so much sleep), I am usually excited to go explore.¬† Those are the mornings I tend to remember best when I look back, since they break the routine.

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So one morning, during our recent trip to France, Paolo and I woke up when it was still dark, swallowed a quick breakfast and drove to the beach.  It was such a gift to get to witness the world waking up. We spotted a family of deers on the road which promptly skittered off as we slowly drove by, not wanting to scare them.  There were barely any other cars and the silence was broken only as we approached the beach, by the relentless crashing of the waves on the shore.

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I loved being in the moment with nowhere to rush off to.While Paolo was fishing, I had time to wander and observe the plants on the dunes with their pastel colours blending with that of the soft sand.  The vast expanse of dunes overlooking the long empty beach, surrounded by the sky changing colours, were breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful.

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Seven minute road trips and other pleasures

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Just returned from our trip to the Altantic coast of France.¬† It was wonderful to have a bunch of uninterrupted time with Paolo and my family for the things that really matter: long, tasty meals with lots of laughs, discovering gorgeous beaches and swimming in the waves, playing guessing games where we mime French expressions (never realised how absurd some of them are!), a fishing trip where Paolo showed his all talent, sharing books and magazines, trying out zumba with my sister on the sand, going for seven minute road trips, walking along the shore with our feet in the shallow water whilst having real chats…

Ideas on intentional tourism

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While we were in Lisbon I realised that in certain areas there were so many tourists that it took all the charm away from the view and I felt an urgent need to get away.¬† Street art showing annoying hipsters taking selfies being put in their place by a granny with spraypaint, and posters around the city explaining ‘How not to be a horrible tourist’ are telling of a situation that is spiralling out of hand.

Unfortunately I can’t close my eyes and pretend I am not part of the problem. I am torn because on the one hand I love to travel to new places and enjoy how easy it is to get from Amsterdam to most cities around Europe for short trips. On the other hand I see the effect that mass tourism is having on Amsterdam and the places I travel to, making me feel both guilty and frustrated.

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There is no straightforward answer, so I’ve been wondering what small steps I could take to be more intentional in the way I travel in order to make my explorations more sustainable. I realise that these points won’t solve the issue, however I’m hoping that keeping these points in mind are a step in the right direction:

  • Slow down: I can get a superficial idea of a place in a couple of days, but spending more time there allows me to see more than the main sights. Planning a longer trip means I can really¬†soak in the atmosphere, return to the places I enjoyed and get to know them better
  • Stay slightly out of the center:¬† those neighbourhoods have more local life in them,¬† I’ll explore streets that I would otherwise never come across, it also allows me to experience the public transport
  • Explore without a plan: life is not about ticking things off a must-see list. When traveling my favorite moments are always when I wander the streets, without direction following an alleyway to see where it will lead, stopping for a coffee and people-watching…
  • Ask locals for tips: Paolo is my master in this. He easily asks shopkeepers and passers-by for directions and recommendations, they usually guide us to places we most probably wouldn’t have discovered by ourselves
  • Buy souvenirs from local crafts markets: as much as I can I want to avoid buying from the mass-produced tourist shops. Craft markets and independent shops are a nice way to both get unique gifts and support artists that are putting their independent and original work out into the world

This list is far from exhaustive and I plan to keep adding to it. Any other tips to add to the list?

More holidays

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #88

This summer I’ve decided to split my holidays into snippets and take a week off here and there, rather than several weeks all at once like I usually do.¬† So today Paolo and I are off again, this time heading west to join my family on the Atlantic coast near La Rochelle.

I’m really glad to be able to travel there by train as it’s one of my favorite modes of transport and I don’t feel guilty like when I take the plane. Can’t wait for seaside vacation feeling, family meals and warm hours spent reading in the shade and enjoying ocean swims!

I’m off to Lisbon!

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #85

Time for a holiday:) Last time we were in Lisbon was in 2014 for a few days only, so this time I’m glad we have 9 full days to get to know the city better and explore the surrounding area.¬† I’m looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere during long walks in the narrow streets that bring you to breathtaking views and I can’t wait for the delicious portuguese breakfasts and amazing pasteis de nata!

Life along Regent’s Canal

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Despite the fact that I am a rather slow traveller, sometimes on a city trip it’s tempting to try and squeeze as much as possible into those few days of freedom and end up overdoing it.¬† So I’m very glad that last weekend in London we decided to spend our last day simply strolling along Regent’s Canal, instead of catching public transport across the city to visit another museum and rushing back to take the train.

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I love walking along Regent’s canal because it takes you outside the city madness and into a quiet world of it’s own, close to the water where another slower rhythm seems to reign.¬† Passing close to Camden Town reminded me of that stint in the spring of my first year at university when I would go running¬†along the canal in the mornings with some friends from my hall of residence. I remember enjoying the morning light and watching the ducks, even though I was very much out of breath.

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This particular walk last weekend was beautiful, despite a few clouds covering the sky.¬† I loved looking at the small houseboats, imagining what it would be like to live in them or to plan a slow trip along England’s canals, living a life paced by passing the locks and¬†taking the time to moor in unassuming places along the way…