Traditions during the holiday season in Cataluña

25th of December and 5th of January, 2023

One of my most vivid memories of the Christmas holidays in Cataluña, is the ‘pessebre vivent’ in Pals or the Living Nativity. As darkness falls, the medieval village comes alive for a couple of hours. Hundreds of visitors flock over the old cobblestone road.

On every corner of the street, the church square and the old market place, the inhabitants of Pals are representing Nativity scenes. Torches are illuminating the historic buildings. More than 200 participants are guiding the visitors through different passages of the old and new testament.

Our children were very small, when we took them for the first time to the Christmas celebrations in Pals. I remember their glowing faces in the soft light of the street lanterns. Now, 30 years later, we see the same glow on the face of other people’s children. This time I don’t recognize any of the participants anymore; another generation replaced the older inhabitants of Pals. The event has grown bigger with more Nativity scenes. The only thing I miss are the donkeys!

Another important festivity for the children, is the arrival of The Three Kings or Los Reyes Magos on the 5th of January. Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar enter the town on their horses (or camels), late in the afternoon. In most big cities in Spain it is celebrated with a huge parade. Here, in ancient Begur, the ceremony is intimate. Candies are thrown to the children and in the early hours of the 6th of January, the Three Wise Men are leaving presents under the Christmas tree. The “clip clop” of the horses, the colourful costumes and the sound of the drums are just like a fairy tale. The decor of the 17th century ‘Església Parroquial de Sant Pere’ makes the story complete!

Hiking the Camino de Ronda on the Costa Brava

December, 2022

Tamariú is known for the lovely fish restaurants, but it is also the starting point of a fabulous two-hour hike. We park the car close to the bay and follow the coastal path. From time to time we look back to enjoy the view over the small fishing village.

At some point the trail stops and in front of us are enormous sea rocks. We carefully hop from one rock to the other and sometimes you need hand and feet! After the rocky part, a pine forest starts and from here a narrow winding path goes steep down and all the way up.


The coastal views are impressive and more towards the light house of San Sebastian, the rock formations become higher and higher. Maybe not a hike for very small children, but we, as seniors these days, are doing fine!

Until now, we only met two other hikers. This is why we love going to Spain during winter time!

Lighthouse San Sebastian

From the light house, the road continues to Llafranc, a very pretty fishing village with a gorgeous beach.

After passing the promenade of Llafranc, the coastal trail brings us towards pictoresque Calella de Palafrugell. I fell in love with this gem a long time ago. Even in winter time many restaurants are still open, to welcome visitors from Barcelona, a few tourists and residents from the area.

We have an early supper outside, while the sun is slowly going down. The owner of the restaurant will order a taxi for us, as it will be too late to walk all the way back to Tamariú.

Another part of the Camino (or Cami) de Ronda starts at La Fosca, just North of Palamos. Over the past years many hiking trails are renewed and improved. Nowadays, people can enjoy hours of walking along the Mediterranean coast.

We arrive around 10.00 a.m. on the quiet car parking close to the beach. I don’t think I ever visited this secluded place and we are surprised to see a very pristine bay in front of us. A few people are swimming in the cold water and some others are sipping their morning coffee on a terrace.

After crossing the beach of La Fosca, the footpath starts towards Calella de Palafrugell. First you pass the ruined Castell de Sant Esteve de Mar, with views over the Roca Fosca, and then the loop continues to the fisherman’s village S’Alguer. The weather is perfect and the colorful houses are eye-catching!

Soon the path guides us through a pine and cork oak forest, with some steep climbs all the way up. Not many hikers are leaving the coast and we enjoy the stillness of the environment. Finally, the road joins the coastal trail again and Calella de Palafrugell is visible in the far distance.

The days are short this time of the year and we do hope to witness the sun going down on the beach of La Fosca. So it is time to return, and walk via another forest loop all the way back. Later in the afternoon, we treat ourselves on some tapas and a drink, while soaking up the last sunrays!

Returning to the Costa Brava in winter time

16th of December, 2022

It is time to go back to the Baix Emporda on the Costa Brava, Spain. Many years ago, Christmas was mostly celebrated at my parent’s house, just outside the medieval village of Pals. I always wanted to go back one time in the month of December, when the sky is deep blue and crystal clear. Even the sound of the wind through the pine trees is different in winter time. The sun is strong enough to enjoy the outdoors and the evenings are cold enough to get the fire place going.

Twice I went back alone and with my son for a week in February, but this time my partner and I rented a house for a month. It will give us plenty of time to see the many gems of the Costa Brava. Our rental place is conveniently situated just outside the charming town of Begur.

From here, we have easy access to the back country of the Empordá and to all the coastal treasures. For sure, I will show my partner all the favorite places I visited in the past. My blog covers already a few chapters about the Costa Brava. I am positive, we will also discover some new points of interest!

On the second day after our arrival, we are longing for a good hike. Although the two-day trip by car from The Netherlands to Spain went smooth, it is great to stretch the legs again! The 12 km trail starts from our house, then into Begur and all the way down to the tiny fishing village of Sa Tuna. I never walked this loop and the last time I was in Sa Tuna must have been around 30 years ago. We downloaded the route from Komoot on the phone, which is normally fairly accurate. Though they keep on building new houses and trails suddenly disappear! We manage to go all the 350 mts down and up again and I feel the first blister appearing! Never thought those new blister plasters would work so perfect. I will keep them in my backpack forever!

Sa Tuna

During the following days, we take it easy. We climb to the castle of Begur, visit the great local market of Toroella, hike the coastal road from Sa Riera to Cala de l’lla Roja, visit the old house of my parents and sip wine in ‘La Vila’ in Pals.

The weather is superb with temperatures in between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius! In 1984 we had snow around Christmas and minus 10 degrees!!! We are looking forward to the Christmas celebrations in Pals and the traditions on the 5th of January!

Mullerthal trail and wine town Saarburg

September, 2022

Our next trip brings us to the stunning medieval Beaufort Castle in the Mullerthal. It was built in three different periods, between 1150 and 1650. The neighbouring Renaissance castle, dates from the 17th century and can only be visited on a guided tour. This is also the starting point of various hikes, which are one of the leading quality trails of Europe! To choose which hike is best is not easy, but we don’t regret our choice; B1, which is a 10 km loop and will take us around three hours to complete.

In comparison with all the other hikes we undertook in Luxembourg, this one is pretty easy, as the sloops are gentle with no steep climbs. It is also by far the most impressive loop. Grandiose nature with majestic sandstone rock formations, many species of mosses, wild vegetation and small water courses. We hike through crevices and the last half an hour along a fast moving stream.

As always, our trip lasts longer than expected. Not that we are slow, but we take too many pictures! After arriving back, there is just enough time for a quick tour over the castle grounds. In the small Dutch owned hostel on the other side of the road, we grab a nice cold beer, before heading back to Lenningen.

Luxembourg is great for hiking, but the towns lack some atmosphere and are not as quaint as the German cities and villages. Time to go over the border! We cross the nearest bridge and are in Germany. After a quick and scenic 17 km drive, we arrive in Saarburg, situated along the river Saar. It was founded more than 1050 years ago by Siegfried, Earl of Luxembourg. People also call the town “Little Venice”, as many water ways run through it. There is even a waterfall going almost 20 meters down!

As soon as we enter the old centre, we notice it is the weekend of the famous wine festival! The Saar valley is known for the production of many great Mosel wines. Three days long Saarburg is celebrating the coming harvest. Wine stalls are present in the main street, a parade takes place and of course the coronation of the Saar-Obermosel Wine Queen.

Like everybody else, we first buy two glasses. Those will be filled with a lovely Mosel wine. You keep the glasses, while walking through the wine street. There is music on different corners and many people are flocking together. We just go with the flow and it doesn’t take long, before the big Parade is making it’s way through the main street. Wine is now all over the place! Just hold your glass and it will be topped up!!! Dionysos himself is also present; God of the grape-harvest, wine making, vegetation, fertility and festivity.

Although the wines are very tasty, it is time to grab a bite and do some more exploring of the surroundings of town. A wise decision, as the many eateries will soon be occupied by all the other visitors.

At the end of the day, we walk high up to the ruins of the Castle, towering over the river Saar. Burg Saarburg was built by Siegfried in 964. It is one of the oldest castles of Germany. The last steps to the panoramic platform are to steep for me, but not for my partner!

Luxembourg city and charming Echternach

September, 2022

After a few days of hiking, it is time to soak up some culture in the cities. In Luxembourg, public transport is free and easy. From Lenningen we get to the nearest terminus and hop on the train to the capital. The central station is on walking distance from the centre of town. Today will be very hot and perfect to visit one of the many museums. It will be nice to have some air conditioning! Around the station many renovations are taking place and we didn’t expect to see all these beggars!

The town is divided in high and low. It is not really a place for old people, although there is an elevator to go from down town to high town.

There are a couple of museums with a similar name and it makes things rather complicated! We walk all the way down in the heat to discover, that we arrive at the National Museum of Natural and History. Wrong one! Our goal is Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art, which is in the upper city. It means we have to climb all the way up again (in the heat). Supposingly, there is also a City History Museum, to make it even more complicated!

Our museum has a permanent collection about the town’s development, on the 5 lower levels. The temporary exhibits are on the higher levels. The entrance for the permanent exhibit is free. There is so much to see, that we will go back later in the week for the current exhibition: ‘Iran between times’, ‘Luxembourg’s colonial past’ and ‘The Rape of Europe’ (on Putin’s Russia), from artist Maxim Kantor.

The lower levels are underground and the combination of modern and old flows together in this very interesting museum!


Echternach is the second and oldest city we are visiting during our stay. It is situated in the famous Mullerthal region or ‘Little Switzerland’. In summer the town is probably overloaded with arriving and departing tourist buses, but now in september it is quiet again. We take our time to explore and admire the many medieval buildings. In the Romanesque Basilica, the tomb of Saint Willibrord, the patron saint of Luxembourg, is visible in the crypt.

The Musée de L’Abbaye is situated in the vaulted basement of the former Benedictine monastery. It offers a very interesting facsimiles collection of many impressive manuscripts, created in the scriptorium. Furthermore, there are various artifacts in relation to Saint Willibrord (founder of the Abbey in the 7th century) and the history of Luxembourg. All displayed in a stunning decor!

We stroll through the park and discover the bridge over the river Sauer, which connects Luxembourg with Germany. The old customs (zoll) house reminds of former times, when crossing the borders was more complicated!

Later in the afternoon, we walk to one of the quaint squares, for a glass of wine (or two) and some delicious ‘flammkuchen’.


Three cats and La Moselle in Luxembourg.

23rd of August, 2022

Our next house and cat sit is in Lenningen, a tiny village in southern Luxembourg. The area is surrounded by vineyards and the river La Moselle is on walking distance. It is a perfect place to discover the many hiking trails, visit the capital Luxembourg and drive across the bridge to Germany.

The cats only visit us when they are hungry, or when they find it necessary to offer a gift. That will be a mouse, dead or alive and preferable under the dining table. Sometimes we don’t see them for one or two days. The moment I start worrying, they show up again, finish their bowls of food and disappear to one of the bedrooms. I think they see us as a nuisance….

The river La Moselle takes it’s source at a height of 735 meters, on the slopes of the Vosges and flows into the Rhine at Koblenz. The banks of the river are covered with vineyards.

The most popular hikes are called “Traumschleife” or “Dream Loops”.  We start with the ‘Wine and Nature Path Palmberg’. It begins at the village of Ahn, famous for the 11 wine houses. The 9 km trail goes straight up, through different wineries, along a small river with jungle-like scenery and offers panoramic views. The height difference is around 313 meters. It ends at winery Jeff Konsbrück; the perfect spot to relax with a glass of delicious white wine, some bites, and a view over the village.

Our second “Traumschleife” is the Mantenacher Fiels and we fully enjoy this 9.6 km loop with a height difference of 275 meters. We pass wild streams, old bridges and enormous rock formations.

At times, the path becomes narrow and steep. Once we arrive on a plateau of farmland, the landscape changes from lushy green to golden yellow. The next moment we enter a small vineyard on the lower level and a private weekend cabin in the middle of nowhere. Finally, we arrive back at the Nature Conservation Centre ‘A Wiewesh’ in Manternach. On the terrace some refreshments are waiting and also a sample of the Mantenacher white wine. You don’t get a bill; just pay a fair price and put the coins in a box!

The third Traumschleife is called ‘Schengen Without Borders’. In this small village on the south-eastern site of Luxembourg, the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet. In 1985 the famous Schengen Agreement was signed on a river cruise ship. On the 19th of June 1990, the Convention for the concrete implementation of this agreement was supplemented. It meant border-free travel within European member countries. The local museum gives an insight into this historical event.

Our 8.5 km loop starts at the Tourist Information Centre. We have to climb the Stromberg and the height difference will be around 330 meters. Although it is a pretty steep hike, our effort will be rewarded with a stunning view over the river Moselle!

Honfleur, the pearl of Normandy

7th of August, 2022

It is impossible to leave Normandy without visiting Le Vieux Bassin (The Old Port) and the historic centre of Honfleur. Although our drive back to The Netherlands will be a long one, we decide to take a two-hour break. The streets are packed with tourists on this sunny Sunday morning, but we understand why the town is so popular!

Le Vieux Bassin Honfleur

Many famous poets and painters (Baudelaire, Boudin and Monet) worked and lived in Honfleur and they left an important artistic heritage. The ever-changing light on the estuary seems an inspiration for artists.  Also the great composer Erik Satie,  born in one of the half-timbered ‘maisons Satie’, worked for a while in the pretty town.


There is no shortage of speciality stores, galleries and workshops. We skip the narrow shopping streets and stroll away from the crowd. The best way to find hidden treasures!


The town has a long history and dates from the 11th century. It was occupied by invaders during the Hundred Years War. After the Wars of Religion, the port was a base for several expeditions to the North-American continent. One of the French explorers, Samuel de Champlain, founded Quebec in 1608. During WWII Honfleur was spared from the bombings and survived without any severe damage. It didn’t grow into a major port like Le Havre. One of the reasons was the absence of a railway. Therefor, the small town kept its beauty. Like the 17th century harbour, surrounded with plenty of medieval buildings. Or the historic quarter with half-timbered and old stone houses. Maybe the most unique attraction is the timber church of Sainte-Etienne with the separate wooden belfry.

We leave Honfleur behind and drive the car over the modern bridge, the link between Lower Normandy and the important port and city of Le Havre.

One day we will return to the diversity of this region.

I remember a quote from Claude Lelouch (French film director);

Quand je viens ici, c’est comme si je prenais une douche de mes ennuis

When I come here, it is like all my troubles are washed away

J’adore ce climat

I love this climate

Qui fait fuir les imbéciles,

Which scares away the fools

Ce qui fait que ceux

It means that those who are here

Qui sont la l’apprécient.

Are the ones who appreciate it




At the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula

6th of August, 2022

Cherbourg is another place we would like to visit and the drive is only one hour from Bayeux. This maritime town is situated on the Cotentin peninsula, which borders the English Channel. We change our plans and stay one more night at “Ma Fenetre”. It means that our trip back to The Netherlands will be a long one!

The highway is very quiet on this Saturday morning and we find a perfect parking spot at the yacht club of the city. It is a clear and sunny day and a cruise ship is rolling into the harbour.


We cross the road and walk via the Place Napoleon (with the equestrian statue) into the centre, where a small market is going on.

No shortage of terraces in the old town, where no one seems in a rush! We drink a coffee and just enjoy the views over the market place. Cherbourg is an important ferry port and cruise terminal. In the past a naval defense port and now a charming city with modern and historic elements.

The municipality is surrounded by a splendid coastline and our drive will continue towards the Pointe de la Hague with the Phare de Goury (the lighthouse) on an island. The nuclear plant Flamanville, situated along the main road, is in sharp contrast with the beauty of the country side! Goury is a small harbour with a few colourful fishing boats and some fishermen’s houses. If you prefer to live isolated, this is the right spot!

We grab a local apple cider from the “Goury Fish and Chips” eatery, have a rest in the shade at the picnic table and continue our trip towards ‘ Le Nez de Jobourg’. On top of the hill we quickly park the car to admire the view over the Baie d’Ecalgrain.

‘The Nose of Jobourg’ is starting point of one of the most impressive hikes of Normandy. The cliffs are very high, the beaches pristine and you will find unique flora and fauna. Another reason to go back one time!

It is getting late and we have another stop planned at Grandcamp-Maisy on our way back to Bayeux. Again a place with a WW2 history, as the Maisy Battery formed a part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall fortification. In June 2006, the battery site was opened for the first visitors. The harbour town is laid-back and not as vibrant as the other famous Normandy coastal places. We have a drink at a rustic café, but with nice views over the sea. While leaving the town, we discover the impressive 15 meter high Statue de la Paix from the Chinese sculptor Yao Yuan (We Yuan Yan).

It was a day full of impressions and again a touch of everything Normandy has to offer. Tomorrow, we will drive home, but not without a short visit to Honfleur, where the Seine meets the sea!