Exploring Meadow Mountain and the Lardeau Valley

June 2023

Although we would have loved to climb to Monica Meadows again (see my other blog post), it is not possible due to the snow covered mountain. We try Meadow Mountain instead. The pickup truck of my son brings us high up, until we reach the first snow. From here, we can go by foot. The trail is wide and not too steep.

It seems we are the first persons to walk up Meadow Mountain after the winter. And it is June!!! No other footprints, and in the refuge higher up are still the unopened beer cans of last year present. In the winter, this is a perfect snowmobiling area. No ski lifts available!

Refuge on Meadow Mountain BC

The dog enjoys these unexpected patches of snow! It feels weird to walk in shorts on the white stuff.

My son makes a lot of noise by shouting and clapping in his hands, on every curve of the trail. This is grizzly bear territory, and you should always stay alert.

In the same area we did see a black bear the other day, just down the road!



Our days in the Lardeau Valley are filled with activity. We show my daughter all the favorite hiking and sightseeing spots from our last visit in 2021. We even swim in the freezing waters of Kootenay Glacier Lake and go on a kayak and canoe trip.

While on the pristine waters, alone in your boat, you reconnect with nature.

Kootenay Lake

During the very warm days, we take the dog for a swim in Duncan Lake. This is a man-made reservoir and around 45 kilometers in length! The temperatures are way higher than Kootenay Lake.

Ten days living the Canadian way with barbecues, camp fires (still possible in June) and enjoying wild life.

Finally, my daughter hops on the bus in Kaslo, which will bring her back to Vancouver. We prepare for a 5-day house sit in Salmon Arm, conveniently situated on the way to the coast.



From Vancouver to Kaslo and beyond

June, 2023

The month of June is perfect for a visit to my son, who lives close to the slopes of the Purcell mountain range in Canada. Temperatures are still moderate and no threats of wildfires yet in this part of British Columbia.

In September 2021, we flew from Amsterdam to Calgary and started there our journey to the Kootenays. This time we booked a ticket to Vancouver, where we reserved our rental car and a one night stay close to the airport. My daughter, who lives in Australia, will join us to visit her brother. It is great to see her again after one year and we are all excited to go on this road trip.

Vancouver early morning

Due to our jetlag we wake up at 4.00 a.m. and our first stop is Tim Hortons on the next corner. Very convenient, as they are open 24 hours of the day. We grab a coffee and their famous bagel with cream cheese! Just before the traffic gets too dense, we leave the city behind us and prepare for a long drive in the car.

The scenery is getting interested in the vicinity of Hope, a community surrounded by two important rivers, a mountain range and a canyon. It is also the centre of many highways and we go from here east, towards the Kootenays. Driving in Canada is never boring, as the impressive landscape changes constantly.

From Merritt we drive to Kelowna, situated in the Okanagan valley. Wineries thrive here, due to the mild climate. Also a perfect stop to get some last groceries in and our wine supply!

We leave this bustling town and follow the quiet highway towards Vernon, where we turn right direction Needles. Lumby, a cute small village, is our last opportunity to have lunch, as after, we are entering “nowhere land”. The road is getting smaller, very peaceful and is surrounded by woodland. It will end at the cable ferry, which will bring us to Fauquier, on the other side of Lower Arrow Lake.

Just before we reach Needles, we notice a young wolf in the field beside the road! We immediately stop the car and open the window. I even get out of the car and the wolf just keeps on wandering around. I can see he is holding a small prey. So beautiful to watch this!

The ferry leaves every half an hour and brings us in less than 10 minutes to the other side of the lake. We try to soak in all the views, as this is a beautiful part of Canada!

Lower Arrow Lake

Our drive continues along the lake to Nakusp. Last time, we arrived from the northern route (see blog Canada September 2021).  The final part of this long drive will take around two hours, as it is still a 135 km distance. Barely any traffic on the winding road, with stunning views over lakes and fast streaming rivers.

Suddenly, we see a cute black bear enjoying the green grasses right at the side of the road!!! It is not impressed with the attention we show. He (or she) just keeps on eating, although we park the car right in front of him.

Around 6.oo p.m. we arrive at my son’s place in the Lardeau Valley, a remote mountainous area of around 6 communities and roughly 400 residents.

His dog is already waiting on the long drive way. It feels like coming home!

Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Château de Biron and more

January, 2023

This house sit is indeed special. Every day we explore the grounds and find more hidden corners and even a small chapel!

Junior the cat, still avoids her mother. Though she sits on our lap, likes to be stroked and feels safe in our presence!

The cleaning lady comes twice a week and we get french lessons from her. She just loves to talk and talks fast! On occasions we totally miss the conversation, but who cares!

We get our bread from the boulangerie (bakery) in Duravel. If the bakery is closing, they bring their ‘leftovers’ to the tobacco store. The last place where we would look for bread!

Even in winter time there is plenty to discover in the Lot and Dordogne region.

I am not really prepared for the cold weather, therefor we decide to go to Villeneuve-sur-Lot to buy some warmer clothes. We finally spend more time exploring this lively medieval city, instead of shopping! I do buy a nice warm coat. (No, no fur!)





Villeneuve-sur-Lot, founded in 1253, was once an important trading town. In former times, a fortified wall, six towers and eight gates surrounded the city. The Porte de Paris and the Porte de Pujols are still there. We admire some important landmarks; Le Pont Vieux (the old bridge), from the 13th century, Place Lafayette (where the open market takes place) and Notre-Dame du Bout du Pont Chapel, dedicated to the mariners. The remarkable red brick Sainte-Catherine Church was built in Romano-Byzantine style and finished in 1937. Somewhere in an old facade, we notice a huge picture of Brigit Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg.

In the Dordogne department we visit the 12th century Château de Biron. Once of important military significance and nowadays a popular tourist attraction. The Gontaut Biron family owned it for 24 generations, until 1978, when it was sold to the State. It consists of a diversity of buildings and normally it is open for the public, but not now in January!

Just outside the gates is a hamlet of a few very old houses and a church.

Chateau de Biron

According to Biron’s legends, Charles de Biron was beheaded in the courtyard of the Bastille in the 17th century. He was suspected of plotting against King Henri IV!

The Komoot app shows us great hiking possibilities. We decide to undertake a diverse three hour walking tour in between two villages. Via a scenic drive over a curvy road, we arrive at Blanquefort-sur-Briolance. The surrounding fields and forests are still covered with a small layer of snow. This makes the trail very slippery and at some point I am stretched out in the mud! Also, nowhere a bench to rest and not one café open in the two small communities! Still, we fully enjoy the different loops through open fields, along small streams and dense forests.

Our winter stay in France is one to remember. Quiet roads, no busy marketplaces, no queues in the supermarket, at times pretty cold, but often with crystal clear skies! Above all, plenty of opportunities to enjoy the peaceful scenery, good food and great local wines!

The monuments of Sarlat la Canéda

January 2023,

It feels good to be back in the Lot department. The busy market in Prayssac is still there and the home made chicken has the same delicious taste. I show my partner some interesting places and we even go back to my former house sit in Frayssinet-le-Gélat. The owner asks if we can look after the cat for a couple of weeks, after the chateau sit? Maybe next time? I can’t resist a quick hike to the desolated chateau, just outside the village. This time covered with a thin layer of snow!

It is nice to explore some new places too. For example, the gorgeous town Sarlat-la-Canéda, just across the Dordogne river. In the summer this place is overwhelmed by tourists, but today we are together with the locals.

We choose a sunny day for this visit and it takes us around one hour by car to get there. It is said that Sarlat has the highest concentration of monuments per square meter in the world!

Saint Marie Church, with the huge steel door, is converted into a covered market and cultural centre. The Gothic structure has plenty of new elements inside the building.

Sainte Marie Church Sarlat

Statues, a chapel, the Carolingian abbey, spooky old mansions and cobbled streets are all part of this interesting town, where history goes back to the 11th century!

Besides the historical highlights, there are plenty of stores with regional products; walnuts, chestnuts, black truffles, foie gras, porcini mushrooms and so much more. Market day in Sarlat is famous and well visited. Today we enjoy our peaceful stroll through the ancients streets, drink coffee outside in the winter sun and have a tasty lunch in one of the many restaurants.

Sarlat la Canéda, the capital of the Périgord Noir, is a treasure!

House and cat sitting in a château in France

January, 2023

Our winter holiday will be extended, as we get an unexpected opportunity to house and cat sit in a château in Southern France. A couple of years ago, I also had a ‘sit’ in the same area and I love to go back. We drive straight from the Costa Brava to a small village in the vicinity of Puys L’Eveque and enter the long driveway towards the old and impressive mansion. The landlord welcomes us with a very tasty supper and he gives us a tour over the grounds and through the different buildings. Later in the evening, we try to find our bedroom, but we get lost immediately!

Early in the morning, our host is leaving and for the next two weeks we have the responsibility to look after two cats and 19 bedrooms! We live mainly in the kitchen, which is heated by a separate unit. Temperatures will not reach over 17 degrees Celsius, but with a few sweaters on and a cat on your lap it is warm enough. My partner finally gets the huge fireplace in the kitchen going, but it doesn’t give us any heat.

The wood stove in the living room works great, so by the time supper is finished, we switch rooms.

The cats are mother and daughter, but it turns out that the little girl is afraid of mum; she is most of the time hiding behind the books in the library. Mum goes wherever we go; she follows us in the garden and sits close to us in the kitchen.

Our huge bedroom has tall windows with amazing views over the river Lot. It feels like living on the water. The weather changes and the river changes too. Instead of calm flowing waters, the river gets wild and noisy!

marble stairway

After the rain, we get snow! This will happen only a few times in the winter, according to some locals. It changes the grounds into a winter wonderland. The rooms are getting colder too. To reach our bedroom, we have to climb enormous marble stairs and pass the music room. Nothing is heated, except our bedroom and bathroom. I try to play the piano, but my fingers get frozen!!!

On one of these mornings, the sun suddenly comes out and the wind is waving the grasses bordering the river Lot. My partner looks out of our bedroom window and sees a kingfisher rapidly flying along the waters. The bright blue wings are glittering in the sunlight. I quickly grab my camera and open the window. Our room is situated high above the water and my presence doesn’t disturb the kingfisher. Maybe not 100% clear, but I am able to get this beautiful creature on camera.

Although it is winter time, we fully enjoy the experience of looking after this huge mansion. It also gives us time to explore more of the Lot area and discover other medieval villages.


Some last impressions of the Costa Brava

January, 2023

One whole month we explored the Costa Brava and fully enjoyed the winter weather, the scenery, the culture, the hikes and the food! During these last days we combine nice hikes with good local food and I will mention a few of our favorite restaurants. In winter time some popular eateries are closing their doors for a long holiday, but there was still enough choice.

Early one morning we hike in the woods behind Masos de Pals. It is still cold and misty and slowly some sunrays are trying to lighten the trees.

We continue our hike to Restaurant Mar Blau at Platja El Racó. This is the only place at the beach open during the winter months and always busy. Today it is time for Paëlla!

From the centre of Pals we discover a trail which brings us via a tunnel all the way to the other side of the main road.

It is circular road through the woods and on the way back we walk over an old rocky riverbed. It is a hike of around 2,5 km, but with an elevation of 230 mts. You will be rewarded with a stunning panoramic 360 degree view over Masos de Pals, Pals and Regencos!

Can Bassalis

Once back in Pals, it is time to go for lunch. Can Bassalis in Masos de Pals is a Hostal-Restaurant run by the family. It is pretty basic, but the food and house wine are great value! They serve a three-course menu for 13 euro, including the wine.

If you like snails, then go to Ca La Teresa in Pals. A very popular restaurant among the locals with a menu to choose from.

La Vila, on the square, at the entrance of the ancient town centre, is our favorite tapas bar. The perfect spot to catch some winter sun and enjoy homemade tapas and wine of the region.

On a Tuesday we visit the huge market in Palamos. If you need clothes and want some bargains, then this is the place to be! Combine shopping with a stroll along the promenade and a tasty lunch. There are plenty of eateries! At the end of the afternoon, the fishing boats are returning to the harbour and the fish auction starts.

Many people travel to the Costa Brava only for the beach, but the coastline and the backcountry are offering so much more.

We will return!

Girona, the historic capital of Catalonia

January, 2023

Girona (Gerona) is just a short drive inland from the coast and a lovely city to explore! It lies on the banks of the Oñar river and has a rich history.
We park the car just outside the centre, close to the famous department store El Corte Inglés. It is the time of the “Rebajas” or Sales and we first go hunting for some bargains. From the parking place it is an easy walk into the old town.

After crossing the Pont de Pedra bridge, we can start our sightseeing tour along the heritage buildings and all the famous landmarks. Girona offers more than 2000 years of history and was ruled by Iberians, Romans, Muslims and many more. Their influences are still visible.

We walk up and down the streets and discover impressive plazas, many bridges, the Basilica of Sant Feliú and the Cathedral of Santa Maria, which has the widest Gothic arch in the world!

La Força Vella or fortress dates back to the Roman foundation. The city walls had been extended during the 14th and 15th centuries. While walking over the wall you get superb views over different parts of the city.çç

There was a thriving Jewish community until 1492. We find the quarter or Call while exploring a labyrinth of old, narrow streets.

Girona is also a popular market town. Many years ago, we used to go on a Tuesday or Saturday to the open-air Ribes del Ter market in the Devesa Park. A variety of produce is always available; fruit, vegetables, clothes, shoes and gifts.

Besides the historical highlights, the markets and the many museums, there are plenty of restaurants to enjoy great local food and tapas! A visit of one day to this gem in Catalonia is way too short!

Teatre-Museu Dalí and Caldes de Malavella

January, 2023

Do not leave Catalonia without a visit to the Teatro-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí! The famous surrealist artist was born in the cultural town of Figueres, situated on the plains of the Alt Empordà. In the centre of this lively market town, you will notice the remarkable museum immediately!

The holiday season is not over yet and the museum is popular. People are lined up in front of the entrance. We buy our tickets and it shows the time you are allowed to enter. It means a short wait of fifteen minutes; not bad! A study of the building itself and the statues around are keeping us busy.

I have always been an admirer of Salvador Dalí. His work represent many different art movements; Realism, Surrealism, Cubism and Abstract Expressionism. Around 40 years ago, I visited this museum for the first time.


Dalí was born in 1904 and died in Figueres in 1989. His tomb lays in the crypt of his Theatre-Museum. The artist spent most of his time together with his wife Gala in their house in Port Lligat. Later, Salvador Dalí bought a castle in Púbol for his muse and he was only allowed to visit with her special permission. After Gala’s death, Dalí moved to the castle, where she was entombed. All these places are situated in Catalonia and worth a visit!


On another occasion we drive to the sleepy Spa town of Caldes de Malavella. It is nestled on the plain of La Selva, away from the coast line.

In the first century AD, the Roman discovered the natural healing springs. They founded a settlement, which they called Aquae Calidae. The remains of the baths are visible in the centre. The municipality has three mineral-medicinal fountains. Here, the water emerges from underground at an average temperature of 56 degrees Celsius.


There are two prestigious Spas; The Balneari Prats (1840) and Balneari Vichy Catalán (1898), built in art nouveau and neoclassical architectural forms.

The Balneari Prats

We visit both, just to see the buildings and relax for a moment on the terrace. In the near future, we might go back and stay for a few overnights. Prices are very reasonable outside the season! The small town also offers plenty of hiking and biking trails, the chapel of Sant Maurici and the ruins of the castle of Malavella.

The name Caldes (hot mineral springs) de Malavella comes from a local legend about an old, malicious aristocratic lady, who lived in the now-ruined castle. Mala means “bad” and vella means “old”. The thermal springs of the old evil one!!!