Travel plans for 2022

A new year means new travel plans, and this year our plans are quite ambitious. Our motto this year is “Let’s Make Europe our PLAYGROUND Again”! Let’s have a closer look.

We will still be exploring Spain as well ; in some weeks we will be visiting Seville, to be more precisely, the ;ocations in the town where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Later this year, we willreturn to Murcia to visit Cartagena.

Photo by Ambi Gram on Pexels.com

And Lars would like to celebrate his birthday in Cadiz!

Photo by Agustin Piu00f1ero on Pexels.com

Around May, we will embark on a Spring Odyssey, during which we will follow Spring to the North of Europe! We will start in the east of Spain, go to the east of Europe and then crisscross to the North, to the Baltic Sea, from Danzig to the West of Germany and then Denmark and take the ferryto Bornholm And then we will see!!

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Upon our return, we will go to the Camargue and return home via the east of Spain.

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Laer this year we will probably go to Oporto!

Photo by Frederico Erthal on Pexels.com

We are ready for the adventure! Where are you heading this year?

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Top 10 travel experiences of 2021

Let’s start with the bad news; our travel plans of last year mentioned a number of destinations, outside Spain. Although we got vaccinated pretty quickly, it was the growing list of extra safety measures that demotivated us. In other words: we stuck to Spain.

10. Booking an accommodation and upon arrival discovering that not only the pension, but basically the whole village is one movie location! Have a look here. 2021 has been a year of astonishing movie locations. Just look at this one!

9. Diving around in the Pyrenees. If you love majestic mountains, put this on your bucket list!

8. The most romantic location of 2021. It didn’t take us long to decide which one made our hearts beat faster; la Isleta del Moro.

7. TheMost Beautiful Monastery. The first trip of the year took us to the north of Spain, the land of El Cid This monastery was the highlight of this trip.

6. A plce of history: the Birthplace of El CID .

5.A Warm Welcome in Murcia. We spent midweek in Murcia, during which San Pedro del Pinatar was our home, not the most picturesque of Spanish towns, but with its beaches, bars and restaurant, it has a relaxing vibe

a yearly event we always look out for: the first snow in the Sierra Nevada

3.And even in our Sierra Arana, there are still places to discover

2. In the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia; I still have to write this post, but since i have so many pictures to edit,Ihope you will be patient with me

Our meal in the pyrenees was the best travelmoment of the year!it’s another reminder that the Spanih can with humble ingredients create magic!

Skiing at the Brussels Christmas Market

This is from some years ago. If you want to know more about this year’s edition, you better check this website. The authorities have come up with a lot of security measures, so you can visit the event in all safety, pandemic or not.

Anyway, some years ago, you could indeed ski at the Christmas market, at the Kunstberg/Mont des Arts:

One of the reasons to visit the Christmas market is the food and drinks, like the jenever (a popular strong drink)!

The Ferris Wheel is one of the classics of every edition.

Later this week, we will publish pictures of our last big trip, which took us to the Spanish Pyrenees!

And this is what a Spanish Christmas market looks like!

My Birthday 2021: Lobster With A Joke

A little reminder of what my birthday looked like last year. Quite an odd birthday. In the beginning of this year, we had decided that this year things would be different and that my birthday would also be the beginning of our first post-COVID trip.

So, we waited patiently. But in the beginning of May, things didn’t look good. The perimeter around Iznalloz was closed again, but Lars promised me a surprise. The 9th of May came and that was the official end of the state of emergency. Rumors were flying around and the day afterwards – my birthday- we went to the ayuntamiento, where they confirmed that we could indeed travel again. We had been dreaming about this trip for quite some time. We booked the first hotel in a record time. Everything felt so surreal.

That evening, Lars revealed his surprise: a surprise dinner. Some years ago, when he announced that he was going to cook for my birthday, I jokingly said that I was craving lobster for the occasion and that’s exactly what I got. And he had done it again! He had remembered the joke ad had bought 2 huge lobsters!

Best birthday ever!

The day afterward, we were back on the road again! Next week I show you all the adventures we experienced!

What about you? Have you had the opportunity to travel again? If not, what will be the destination?

Discover Cow Hugging!

Looking for a Saturday afternoon activity for the whole family? Then go to the north of Belgium and discover cow hugging: fun and educational!

Aarle 9
2380 Ravels

Every Saturday, between 2pm and 5pm.

Have a look at http://www.koeknuffel.be.

Upon our arrival, Lars and I had a sneak peek; there were some lovely ladies awaiting us! We put on some overalls and boots and were asked not to put anything in our pockets, since some of the cows had the tendency to be a pickpocket…

Farmer Lars asking himself what to do with his mobile phone.

Before embracing our new friends, the farmers gave us a tour.

These cows were kept separately, because they had just given birth.

The time that a lusty and busty maiden milked all the cows is definitely behind us: meet the robot that not only milks the cows (twice a day) but also keeps track of their milk production. Not only does the robot take a lot of work out of the farmers’ hands, but the latter can also quickly intervene when a cow produces less milk than usual.

Then came the cutest part of the tour: the calves!

We also had a quick look in the stable where a handful of bulls are kept. Now if you think that these bulls have access to a lot of hankypanky with the dozens of cows, I have two words for you: artificial insemination.

No wonder they look a bit sad…

Time for some cow hugging! The procedure is very simple. Be relaxed: indeed, that’s some hundreds of kg, but nothing can go wrong. Besides, if you are nervous, the cow will pick it up. Now, sit next to a cow and start caressing her head; when her ears point backward, it means she’s relaxed. Sit next to her with your head on her side and continue with the caressing. If you are lucky, she will turn her head towards you, and give you a nudge. And/or a lick.

Time for some practice!

What I remember vividly, is how soft and warm the cow’s skin was and how soothing it was to feel her breathing.

Time for the Viking’s encounter:

And the fun was over yet! Remember the “pickpocket” cow? I stood face to face with her. Cow number 36. She looked at me and then started swinging her head against my thigh. That’s 600kg against a lot less. It was quite hard to keep my balance. Then she moved to my hair and started chewing and licking it. Finally, she put her head on my shoulder and I embraced her for a long time…

In the 11 years that Lars and I have been traveling together, this is one of the most interesting, unusual and heartwarming experiences we have ever had.

The tour is in Dutch, but the farmer regularly interrupts her explanation for some English.

By the way, this is what the website of the BBC has to say about the benefits of cow hugging:

The cow’s warmer body temperature, slower heartbeat and mammoth size can make hugging them an incredibly soothing experience, and giving the animal a backrub, reclining against them or even getting licked is all part of the therapeutic encounter.

What about you? Have you ever hugged a cow? Or plan to?

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience – Seeing the Black Madonna of Częstochowa

After having traveled together for more than ten years, Lars and I have some favorite destinations, as you can imagine. One of them is certainly Poland, because of its rich cultural heritage, its sometimes turbulent history, and a huge variety of landscapes that will keep every photographer busy.

But the thing that struck us the most during every trip to this country is how devout the Polish people are. Coincidence or not, but every time we wanted to visit a church or cathedral, there was a mass going on, no matter what day of the week or the time of the day. We always had to wait until we could photograph any religious building. But nothing prepares you for a visit to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and the emotion it evokes amongst religious people.

What is the Black Madonna?

In short, it is one of the most important shrines in Poland.

The icon is painted on wood and adorned with jewellery. Its origin can be traced back to the 14th century. It depicts the Holy Virgin holding Jesus on her lap.

Legend has it that St. Luke himself painted the icon. Via Constantinopel, it traveled all the way to Częstochowa where it arrived in the 14th century.

Where?

In order to see the Black Madonna, you will have to travel to Częstochowa, which is roughly in the south of Poland.

The name of the monastery where you can see it is Jasna Góra. Pauline monks founded it in the 14th century. Nowadays, it attracts lots of pilgrims.

The Visit

Lars and I stayed in a hotel not far from the site. We arrived at the monastery around 10 in the morning and although the parking lot is enormous, it was almost full. Anyway, we followed the masses to the basilica. In the beginning, we were surrounded by lots and lots of excited voices, but as soon as we entered the monastery, it became a lot quieter.

In the basilica, there was a mass going on. Since it was in Polish, we decided to observe the people around us and have a look at the building itself. One word to describe it: wow!

When the mass was over, we finally had the opportunity to have a closer look at the shrine.

Although I am not really a religious person, the veneration of the people was very touching. You could almost feel it.

One last look…

I am going to take it easy the next few weeks, so expect 1-2 posts per week. In order to avoid serious health problems, I need some rest. But we will be back soon!

Lockdown Diary – Part 7

Since last Monday, we – in the provinces of Granada and Malaga – find ourselves in Phase 1 of the deconfinement. I am not going to lie, but it was a transition we had been waiting impatiently. We studied the new rules last weekend and soon we realized that some of the regulations were either too complicated or too vague. The most important one: what about excursions? Where we allowed to make them or not? That was the question.

We didn’t want to run the risk of being fined, so last Monday we went to our local police station. Unfortunately, Lars and I couldn’t agree on what they answered to our question… Luckily, Lars has a sister who is fluent in Spanish and she was willing to call them. And she assured us that we were not allowed to make any excursions at all. On the other hand, the police had also told her that they were not very sure since the rules kept changing on a daily basis.

To be honest, I feel sympathy for the police… Because the regulations do change all the time. An example. Two days before, the Ayuntamiento of Iznalloz declared on their Facebook page that during Phase 1, we still had to respect the timeslots during our daily walk. One day later, they said the opposite. One rule that everybody in Spain has to follow since last Thursday though is the obligatory wearing of the mouth mask. Not too happy about this, frankly. Especially now with the hot weather, I feel like I am suffocating all the time. But, we are only supposed to wear it when social distancing cannot be guaranteed.

Back to our question about excursions. We called the Ayuntamiento and a nice lady gave us an affirmative answer. An even nicer lady of the Danish consulate in Malaga did the same. And finally, the official tourist information office of the province of Granada gave us the green light. We could go anywhere we wanted, as long as we stayed in the province. And followed the rules of hygiene and social distancing.

WE. WERE. OFF…

During that Monday, I realized two things:

  • It was great to be on the road again!
  • I had missed the simple pleasures of life even more.

A simple pleasure like going to a bar. Having drinks. Eating tapas.

By the way, the tapa that is shaped like ice cream is Russian salad, the other one is a tortilla with ham. And yes, that is a brandy after my meal.

And… you don’t need to wear that mask as long as you are at your table. If you need to use the restroom, you have to. And you need to use a hand sanitizer before entering and leaving. I can totally live with that.

Another day, another excursion, another tapa… Pork with a spicy tomato sauce. Yum!

Our freedom is, of course, limited. But luckily the province of Granada is big enough to keep us busy for some months. And I guess I will have to wait longer before Lars and I can do some grocery shopping together. It is like it is…

At least, we can make excursions again.

Next week, you can look forward to our first post about… Poland! And at least one post about one of the recent excursions we made here in Spain.


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Foodie Adventures during a Lockdown Birthday

The Situation in Spain

Monday 11 May. 51% of Spain moved on to Phase 1 of the exit of the lockdown. Of the 8 provinces of Andalusia, 2 stayed in Phase 0: Malaga (where we used to live) and Granada (where we live now). This decision was met with a lot of criticism. The province of Malaga is home to the Costa del Sol, one of the most popular regions in Spain. And tourism is one of the biggest sources of income (and not only in the province of Malaga).

Here in Iznalloz – a small town to the north of the city of Granada – reactions were very negative as well. Indeed, so negative that the Ayuntamiento (municipality) had to publish an official statement on their Facebook page declaring that it was not them who had taken this decision. The reason for this outrage was simple: in Iznalloz the number of infections was/is very low. And people felt they were punished for no reason at all.

To be honest, Lars and I were disappointed as well. Sunday 10 May was my birthday and we had hoped to go to a bar the day afterward. But no such luck… We knew we had to do something so as not to feel depressed…

The Pre-Festivities

In my opinion, you always feel better when you have something nice to drink and eat. So, we started our pre-festivities on Friday evening with a BBQ. Steak, French fries, salad, and a bottle of red wine. Maybe this sounds like a simple meal for you… But ever since we came to Spain, we have been having trouble finding a nice steak! Was it the quality of meat? Not sure, since pork and chicken tend to be tastier here than in Belgium. Was it the cut of meat? Probably.

Anyway, the butcher in one of our local supermarkets had exactly what we had been yearning for. The feeling to have a good steak again after 2 years was… indescribable. I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take pictures.

And on Saturday, yours truly had an excellent Belgian abbey beer. Also available in our local supermarkets.

See that look on my face? Pure happiness!

The Birthday Itself

Sunday. The day started like this:

Rain. And lots of it! Didn’t do much during the day, just streaming movies. And watching paranormal videos on YouTube.

I had come up with a special menu: healthy, cheap, tasty, and easy to make! For once, I was not the cook.

This is a Viking who cooks. With a glass of cava, of course.

The starter was a simple classic: melon with ham. I am not so much a fan of watermelon, but I do love honey melon!

Only 2 ingredients, but so delicious. Melon could have been a bit riper. By the way, we only ate half of it that evening, the rest ended up in a fruit salad with bananas and oranges.

The main dish featured an Italian specialty: polpettes. Italian meatballs!

Yes, I know, Lars is a messy cook.


Empty bottle of cava in the background…

Meatball, slice of tomato, and mozzarella. A couple of minutes in the oven. Served with rice mixed with grated Parmesan cheese and capers.

Strawberry ice cream for dessert.

Presentation is not The Viking’s strong point…

Lars the barman, about to mix whiskey and cola.

And… last but not least: this Monday, Malaga, and Granada finally move on to Phase 1. I hope the bars in Iznalloz are ready for us…

Bye for now and see you somewhere next week!

Lockdown Diary – Part 6

Changes are coming… Granted, the exit from this lockdown will be a slow one. From today on, we are allowed to go for a walk, 1 hour every day, not further than 1 kilometer from home. There are timeslots we have to respect as well. Lars and I can go for a walk between 6 and 10am or between 8 and 11pm. Since we are not morning people, it will be a sunset walk.

Since I have rarely been outside the apartment for the last 7-8 weeks, I welcome these small changes. Right now, the battery of my camera is charging. On Tuesday, I await the delivery of a new card reader. The old one stopped working very suddenly at the beginning of the lockdown. And since the manufacturer doesn’t provide any new drivers, I was forced to buy a new one. I still have dozens of pictures on my camera and soon, I will be able to share them with you! Look out for a new category called “Snaps” coming before long.

But it’s not because Lars and I can go for a walk from now on, that we can also do some grocery shopping together. And that hits me a lot harder than I had expected. I actually miss it a lot more than our excursions and travels. But I keep on focusing on the positive. The hours on our huge terrace. Being able to go for a walk. My writing. My photography.

I have been doing some thinking this week and I have taken a decision. I am going to stop with The Cosy Traveler. It just didn’t – and doesn’t – feel right. I started to lose my motivation. Anyway, from now on, all my attention will go to this site, What Ingrid Watches (with links to my reviews on MovieBabble) and photography experiments. These 3 projects will keep me more than busy. And that’s exactly what I need!

If you are into movies, do check out www.moviebabblereviews.com! Not just because of my reviews (!), but also because the other writers are really talented. Anyway, I have 2 new projects coming up there. The first one concerns YouTube, home to some fascinating short horror movies. At least once a month, I will recommend 5 of them. For the second project, I will write about some of the gems I find on TubiTv (one or two times a month as well).

We will be back here on Monday with a very special location in the Belgian capital! Later this weekend, you can read my analysis of The Human Centipede, which came out 10 years ago. Check it out here!

Lockdown Diary – Part 5

First of all, thank you for all the lovely reactions to our first Expat Experiences post! This encourages us to share even more of our life here. By the way, soon we will publish other types of Travel Activities as well, but more about that in another post.

By the way, I didn’t publish any Lockdown Diary last weekend, simply because I didn’t feel like I had anything to say. And when I am not inspired, I refuse to write something bad or mediocre. Anyway, let’s start with some news:

  • From what I gather from various Spanish media, the pandemic seems to have reached its peak here.
  • The lockdown will last until 9 May. The 10th is actually my birthday, but I have no idea how I will be able to celebrate it. One thing is for sure: the exit from this lockdown will be a gradual one.
  • From tomorrow on, children up to the age of 14 will have more freedom. They will be able to spend 1 hour daily outside, with a maximum distance of 1 kilometer from their home; 1 adult can accompany 3 children.

The Viking and I are still going strong. Luckily, we are not easily bored and although we miss our excursions, we can keep ourselves busy. April has been a wet and somber month so far, but when there is a bit of sunshine, we open the big window of our living room and out on the terrace we are! Moreover, there is no more hoarding in our local supermarkets, which enables me to try new recipes. And I have my daily writing and photography projects: check out my Instagram feed, link in the sidebar!

This week I discovered Tubi. It’s much like Netflix and Amazon Prime, except that it’s free! The downside is, it’s only available in America. So, I treated myself to ExpressVPN on Thursday and I am able to watch Tubi anyway… If you are a movie freak like yours truly, I strongly suggest you to check it out. I will share some of the gems that I have discovered so far on my movie website later next week. You can find the link to What Ingrid Watches in my sidebar.

As always, we end with one of our favourite tapas…

Stay safe and stay home!

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