Puglia

Qualche giorno in Puglia

Hi There,

Did you celebrate well? I wish you all the best for 2019!

We went to Casa Vita for a few days, together with a couple of friends. The weather was so-so: two beautiful days, one terrible with hail and heavy rain, and one a bit cloudy.

That was ok!

What can you do in Puglia in winter? Well, more or less the same as in summer. Visiting cities can be easier, because hot summer days just make you lazy and make you want to stay at the poolside 😉

What did we do? Enjoy the delights of Puglia. The house was nice and warm (thanks to our caretakers!) when we arrived in the afternoon. We had a late lunch and relaxed a bit. In the early evening we drove to Borgo Egnazia, just a twenty minute drive from Casa Vita and one of the most magical hotels in the South. It was beautifully lit from the outside, and magically decorated in the inside. We tasted a cocktail with live music. Dinner we enjoyed at Il Punto in Torre Canne: fresh fish – era deliciosa! – while we could hear the waves hitting the rocks just outside the restaurant.

Matera is the cultural capital of Europe in 2019 and our friends hadn’t been there yet. I have written two posts on Matera already: An old city with old friends, and Winter in Puglia.
So I am just going to spoil you with some pictures.





Are you intrigued by Matera? Italy unpacked also paid a visit to Matera. Watch the movie if you have the time!

On New Year’s Eve we tried a new restaurant: Mehta! A great choice, it is located in Martina Franca, a beautiful town, half an hour drive from Casa Vita. The menu was a bit too much (certainly the main dish), but the young cook was so enthusiastic and eager to get everything right, we surely want to return.

And the new year started bright. We still had some time to go to Ceglie Messapica, just a ten minute drive. I really adore the main square. All men (old and young) gather around the Clock Tower, women stroll in between, dressed up as if they are going to a party each time. In summer, children play here till midnight.

This day it was a little calmer. We could enjoy the view, while sipping our cappuccinos outside, and have a chat with the very funny (it would have been impolite to have taken his photo) Fruttivendolo (fruit seller). Here you see his Ape (three wheel car).

Alla prossima!

Sophia

 

Stories

Merry X-Mas

Hi Everyone,

There’s always another story behind the one you see.

This is what I put on our X-Mas card this year.  What stories were important in your life this past year?

Above all I am grateful for all the happy moments with my family and friends. And some friends are as close as family. I feel disappointed while looking at the world on a broader scale. No need to explain to you.

But there are plenty of positive stories too.

The past year I have worked on a project to help newcomers find a job. One of them I remember well: Ahmed. He was so persistent. He wanted to learn Dutch as quickly as possible, find a job as quickly as possible and drive his own car as quickly as possible. Ahmed is from Iraq and lives here in our hometown with his wife and two small children. My friend Leen and her husband made it a project to help Ahmed with his driving skills. Many hours they spent together in the car. Ahmed knew how to drive in Iraq. But can you imagine how hard it is to drive here? Other signs, other language, other rules? But he is such a go-getter, doesn’t give up. And last week he finally got his license, after many trials 😉 Ahmed and his family have only been here for two years, but they gave it their all to adapt to our society.

What are your goals in 2019?

I have plenty of ideas and new things in mind. A fresh start is inspiring. New refugees are coming to our town. And we, 945 in Beeld, want to bring their stories again.

For all of you I wish many inspiring stories in 2019!

XXX Sophie

PS: Next post will be on Puglia, can’t wait to get there

Interior happiness

Christmas Flowers

Hi there,

I hope you are all well, and looking forward to Christmas. I am not a huge Christmas fan, too much glitter, food and parties. Last week I went to a workshop, making a Christmas floral arrangement. It was here in my hometown, so I continue in Dutch. But if you look at the photos, you might find some inspiration. Have fun!

Eerlijkheidshalve kan ik meteen zeggen dat ik geen grote fan ben van bloemstukken. Boeketten wel! Ik heb bijna altijd bloemen in huis, op dit moment tulpen. Vorige week had ik een amusante film gezien: Tulip Fever, een historisch romantisch drama. Het speelt zich af in Amsterdam in de 17de eeuw. Het drama was overdreven en slecht geacteerd. Toch was het heerlijk, die kostuums, al de soorten tulpen en het vergezochte maar grappige complot. Meer vertel ik niet. In elk geval, de nacht erop droomde ik dus over tulpen en heb ik ineens een groot boeket gekocht. In Nederland, natuurlijk.

Wie is er handig in bloemstukken maken? Ik niet echt. Ik ben creatief in het bedenken van combinaties maar het ineen frutselen van al die takjes lukte minder goed. Maar geen nood, er was voldoende hulp van Thérèse. Zij organiseert workshops om boeketten of bloemstukken te maken in een bepaald thema. Très Fleur is haar website.

Thérèse maakte eerst zelf een bloemstuk als voorbeeld en nadien mochten wij aan de slag. Gezellig bijbabbelen en intussen concentreren op wat je wil gedaan krijgen. De bolletjes met mos bekleden vond ik het minst makkelijk. Grappig was dat iedereen – we waren met een tiental – een heel ander bloemstuk tevoorschijn toverde. Iets letterlijk namaken is ook niet leuk, vind ik zelf, het fijne is er je eigen inbreng aan geven. Bij mij was dat niet altijd bewust 😉 maar ik ben toch heel blij met het resultaat.

Een stappenplan ga ik je niet geven. De foto’s zullen je zeker een creatieve boost geven, en dan kan je zelf aan de slag of een workshop volgen bij Très Fleur. Thérèse had enorm veel materiaal bij: dennenappels, schors, gekleurde draad, kerstballen op stokjes en keuze te over aan groen, mossen en bloemen.

Ik geef je graag de verschillende planten- en mossoorten mee:

  • Groensoorten: Nobilis, Thuja, Pinus en Vaccinium
  • Mossen: groen mos, Ijslands mos en Zilvermos
  • Bloemen: Rozen, Ilex, Asparagus, en Koraalvaren

Heel veel plezier! Sophia

 

 

 

Interior happiness

Glasgow

How are you today?

No colds? I am still enjoying mine 😉

But let me take you to Glasgow. We took the train from Edinburgh, which was quite easy, a train every 15 minutes. The trip only took forty five minutes and guided us through the undulating countryside of Scotland.

Susan, our dear Scottish friend we met in Puglia, was waiting for us at the station. We drove through the city to get a first impression – all positive! – and then had lunch, tea and carrot cake and mainly caught up with each others’ life stories. In the evening Susan took us to a great Asian restaurant Opium.  We didn’t need to choose–Chef Trevor just made us an elaborate choice of dishes, all delicious! Not only was the food lovely, but Susan had brought her friends and we laughed a lot. They asked how we enjoyed Edinburgh, and we told them the people were so kind up there. We immediately got the response that people from Glasgow are far nicer. We agreed! There is definitely some competition between those two cities.

The next morning, we were very lucky again: a clear blue sky. Susan drove us to a whiskey distillery, Glengoyne, just 14 miles north of Glasgow, on the scenic A81. Entering the buildings I had the impression that the mere fumes were already making me drunk. (This might, however, have been the long term effects from the night before). The guide was very talkative and knew the whiskey making process by heart. I only frowned at her explanation that we couldn’t take photos because our phones might explode. I couldn’t take my camera out either. What I have remembered most from the process: patience is essential.

Our progress is measured not in years or decades – but in centuries.

The part I loved most was the problem of the evaporation, once the whiskey got in the barrels. Depending on the quality and taste you want to obtain at the end, the whiskey stays in the casks for many years. But a big part disappears, because of “The Angels Share”: they blame the angels, who drink it at night. So in Scottish heaven you find the happiest angels ever!

In the photo here you also see the different colors the whiskey gets, and how the level diminishes over the years (that’s to show how much you lose):

There are two ways to give whiskey a rich, appealing color. One is absurdly time-consuming and expensive. The other is easy: add a few drops of caramel at bottling. We choose the harder path.We start by selecting our own oak from the forests of northern Spain. We then insist it is dried naturally by sun and air for three years. When it’s ready, each hand-built cask is filled with sherry in Jerez, and left to absorb its rich color and flavors for up to three years. Only then are the casks ready to be emptied and delivered to our Highland distillery – some six years after they started their journey. These casks are then filled and over the next 10, 15, 18 years, the clear spirit takes on the rich gold, amber and copper tones naturally from the wood.

After a little tasting, we were on the road again. The wrong side of the road ;-), I could not get used to this. If I ever need to drive on UK or South-African roads, beware! We stopped at a loch to have a coffee.
A few stops along the road.
And when it was nearing dark, we were very lucky we could still enter the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. which closed at four pm. So we had a marvelous late lunch or early dinner: mussels from the Loch and a spicy scallop pasta.

Our last day, Monday, we started with an elaborate breakfast – fresh scones, my favorite – at patisserie Françoise. It was a typical grayish day. We walked through the walls of the University, had a quick chat at the reception desk. Maybe Youngest will finish his studies here. But he first needs to learn a wee Scottish though.
There is a students habit of putting traffic cones on the heads of all statues.
Then Susan guided us through the Art Gallery, a magical red brick building. There were different exhibitions, about the history of Glasgow, as well as medieval Dutch paintings and much more.

In the 1800’s Glasgow became a world center for industrial manufacturing and export. With the development of the iron and steel industries the city grew famous for heavy engineering goods as locomotives and ships. Household and luxury goods were also made and exported.

I loved the explanation with this painting. First try to make a guess yourself!
The painting is called “The Doctor’s Visit” by Frans van Mieris the Elder in 1657: “The pale woman in this painting is suffering from lovesickness – a medical condition thought to be cured by reading the Old Testament, which is lying open on her lap. An elaborate-dressed doctor takes her pulse. He points to his head, indicating that her affliction is ill in her mind. Doctors were sources of humor at the time – ‘quack’ doctors (for the Dutch speaking, we know the word ‘kwakzalver’) were thought to fool their patients with false and theatrical  diagnoses.”
We ended our trip with a great lunch at an Indian restaurant. Susan drove us to the airport and it was time to say goodbye. She promised us to visit Belgium soon!

Have a great weekend! Sophia

 

Interior happiness

Edinburgh

Hello everyone!

Have you ever been to Scotland? We hadn’t. Hubbie and I both had a bad cold when we left, but we managed 😉

First on our list was Edinburgh. We had a direct flight from Eindhoven to Edinburgh, which made it quite easy. In the airport we took a tram to the city. Our hotel was on Princes Street, in the center of town. What a lovely surprise when we looked through the window of our hotel room – it was dark by then.

With advice from the hotel manager we went to the Kilted Lobster, just a small, cozy but not glamorous, restaurant. They use only sustainable, organic and local ingredients, and part of the proceeds go to social projects. On top of all this, the food (mainly fish) and wine were delicious!

The next morning we both weren’t feeling too well, but the clear blue sky made us feel better soon. We decided to start the walk on the famous Royal Mile. This mile-long road in the center of the old city earned its nickname when it was used by the king to travel between the castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  In between, on the cobbled stone road, you still find a lot of worthwhile historical places to visit.

The castle is situated on Castle Rock, a reddish rock from a long extinct volcano. It played an important role in Scottish history, as a royal residence, military stronghold and as the British army base in Scotland. What can you see here? It is just wonderful to walk around, enjoy the magnificent view of the city. In the 16th century Great Hall with beautiful carved wooden paneling there is a display of armor and weapons from over the centuries. In the tower (no pictures allowed) the crown jewels are displayed. What I found interesting too were the Castle Vaults, to witness how prisoners over the centuries were treated.

Saint Margaret’s chapel,  the oldest remaining building in Edinburgh from 1130

I hate tourists with selfie-sticks, they always get in my way 😉

Prisoners chambers

We slowly walked down the cobbled stones of the Royal Mile and stopped for lunch at a idyllic tea-house.

We walked further up to Holyrood Palace, residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Really a must-see, you get an audio-guide with all the interesting stories. Unfortunately no photos were allowed. It is beautifully preserved, and since a much of the furniture from over the centuries remained there, you feel as if you are catapulted back to medieval history. But I was happy not to be back there; Queen Mary’s life story was not the most pleasant one.

In 1542, while just six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne upon the death of her father, King James V. Her mother sent her to be raised in the French court, and in 1558 she married the French dauphin, who became King Francis II of France in 1559 but died the following year. After Francis’ death, Mary returned to Scotland to assume her designated role as the country’s monarch.

In 1565, she married her English cousin Lord Darnley in order to reinforce her claim of succession to the English throne after Elizabeth’s death. Her jealous husband restrained the pregnant queen while his henchmen murdered her Italian secretary, and favorite. In 1567, Darnley was mysteriously killed in an explosion at Kirk o’ Field, and Mary’s lover, the Earl of Bothwell, was the key suspect. Although Bothwell was acquitted of the charge, his marriage to Mary in the same year enraged the nobility. Mary brought an army against the nobles, but was defeated and imprisoned at Lochleven, Scotland, and forced to abdicate in favor of her son by Darnley, James.

In 1568, Mary escaped from captivity and raised a substantial army but was defeated and fled to England. Queen Elizabeth initially welcomed Mary but was soon forced to put her friend under house arrest after Mary became the focus of various English Catholic and Spanish plots to overthrow Elizabeth. Nineteen years later, in 1586, a major plot to murder Elizabeth was reported, and Mary was brought to trial. She was convicted for complicity and sentenced to death.

Next to the Holyrood Palace is the Abbey, where you can only see the remains, but still, an impressive view.

We headed back to the city center and walked through Princes Street Gardens, once a river, now a beautiful park in a valley.

By the time we came to the hotel, to pick up our luggage and head to Glasgow, I was too sick to travel anymore. So we stayed one other night – me sleeping. The next day we made it to Glasgow, more on next post!

Have a great day, Sophie