Bologna is the beautiful and lively, historic capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy. It is full of rich history, culture, amazing architecture and it might be the most delicious city in all of Italy. And if this is not enough, there is another great reason to visit Bologna. While most cities are overrun with tourists in summer, Bologna is still very much undiscovered by foreign tourists. There were only a few other tourists, which made for a special, authentic, immersive local experience which was so delicious.
Bologna has three nicknames that sum up this wonderful city perfectly:
La Rossa, which means the red, referring to the beautiful terracotta-hued, yellow and red medieval buildings and the UNESCO-protected porticoes, as well as its communist past.
La Grassa which means the fat, referring to the rich and delicious cuisine making Bologna Italy’s gastronomic capital. Handmade Pasta, hearty meat sauces, cured meat, salty cheese and lots of other delicacies can be all found in Bologna.
La Dotta, which means the learned or the studied, referring to its university, founded in 1088. The University of Bologna is one of the most ancient and prestigious in the world.
We loved wandering the endless streets covered in Porticoes, we marveled at the painted walls and ceilings, soaked in the beauty around us and ate our way through Bologna.
One of the first things in Bologna that visitors will notice are the medieval buildings in different warm hues like terracotta, orange and other earthy colors. They influence most of the city center and are embellished with matching porticoes, which are beautiful roofs that are supported by columns. The special thing about the porticoes in Bologna is that they are all interconnected. They are an important cultural and architectural heritage of Bologna and represent a symbol of the city together with the numerous towers.
No other city in the world has as many porticoes as Bologna. In the historic center alone, they are about 40 kilometers long, and more than 60 kilometers long including the porticoes outside the medieval city walls. It is an international record that Bologna has been holding for more than 900 years and that today, together with the towers, the terracotta facades and its delicious food like Tagliatelle al Ragù, Tortellini, Mortadella (to name a few) – are the identity of this city.
The cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region is some of the best in Italy and Bologna is called the gastronomical capital of Italy. With so much delicious food in Bologna, it can be a challenge to order only one dish… We wanted to taste it all and are so happy we did….
Bologna is the birthplace of Pasta Bolognese, or Tagliatelle al Ragù. One of the most popular pasta sauces in the world, Pasta Bolognese is never served on Spaghetti. There is no such thing as spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna. The ragu sauce is topped over Tagliatelle, a thicker flat-ribboned pasta that holds the sauce better. And it is.. Oh so good…
And then there is handmade stuffed pasta like Tortellini and Tortelloni, the different sized versions of pasta dumplings. Either Tortellini in Brodo (served in a broth) or Tortellini in Panna (a cream sauce) are so delicious. We also tried the Lasagna Bolognese which is served with green pasta and the Cotoletta alla Bolognese. One of our favorites was the fried Mortadella. Other traditional dishes and food to try from the Emilia Romagna region are of course Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan, Prosciutto from Parma – ham, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Passatelli, Tigelle, Balanzoni, Aperol Spris and many other delicacies.
Eating is quite simply one of the best things to do in Bologna.
The exact date of the University of Bologna’s founding is uncertain but believed to have been 1088. During the Middle Ages, scholars from all over flocked to Bologna to pursue their intellectual studies. Some of the University’s most famous students throughout history include Dante, Petrarch, Erasmus, and Guglielmo Marconi. Today the University has a diverse range of programs at all levels. It also houses a vast collection of Medieval art and illuminated manuscripts.
A fun Miami neighborhood with giant murals, beautiful Street Art and the center of Art and Culture
Wynwood is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Miami. It is the colorful, bright and vivid center of Art and Culture in South Florida and is an outdoor museum showcasing the work of the world’s best street artists.
North of Downtown and West of Miami Beach, this is a must-see neighborhood when visiting Miami. It is fun, colorful and always evolving. Wynnwood is one of the most “instagrammable” places in Miami.
While there are murals throughout the neighborhood, the centerpiece/ heart of Wynwood is definitely the Wynwood Walls. It was established in 2009 as an outdoor museum of international street art.
A collection of giant wall murals covering six buildings, Wynwood Walls has since become a blank canvas for famed artists from across the globe.
Wynwood Walls General Admission is $12 per adult, $10 per senior or military and $5 per student ticket. Kids under 12 years are free. Admission grants access to the Wynwood Walls Museum which includes over 35 hand-sprayed murals, two street-art galleries, and retail shops.
Tickets need to be purchased in advance.
There are also several tours available. While we haven’t done any tours and had a great time discovering Wynwood Walls by ourselves, the tour offers a behind the scenes understanding of each mural in a group tour setting.
The GGA Galley inside the Wynwood Walls exhibits an everchanging roster of the group and solo shows from past and present artists.
Encompassing more than 50 dazzling, cutting-edge murals created by respected street artists from Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States, the Wynwood Walls attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world each year.
There is a lot more to see and to discover than Wynwood Walls. And best of all, it is free. Wandering around and discovering murals, art galleries, eateries, art installations is what is all about for me. Did you know that Wynwood is home to the highest concentration of street art in the United States? Artists from around the world showcase their talent on walls with larger-than-life masterpieces.
Outside Wynwood Walls, Wynwood is home to more than 70 art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars.
Covered in murals that constantly change, Wynwood has so many fun photo opportunities. The street art is the main attraction for sure, but it goes further than the murals only. There is art everywhere you turn. From the sidewalks to streetlights, everything is covered with beautiful and interesting installations.
NW 2nd Ave is kind of the main street and a great place to start exploring the area, full of creativity and inspiring murals.
Wynwood is the perfect place to spend a full day or an afternoon/ evening with the family, exposing kids to art in the most fun way.
Walking along N Miami Ave a little further…
There are more murals to discover, and it is worthwhile to walk a little further than the blocks around Wynwood Walls. There are lots of murals along N Miami Ave which is parallel to NW 2nd Ave. Wandering through little side streets is also recommended.
I tried to include the locations of all the locations under each picture.
Even further away…
On the corner of NW 36th Street and 5th Avenue is another noteworthy building full of interesting murals. From Tiger King Joe Exotic, healthcare workers during the pandemic to colorful shapes, drawing and messages both on the building and the sidewalk, there is lots to see and many pictures to take. It might be a stretch to walk, but just a quick ride in the car.
Keep in mind that Wynwood is always changing and evolving. The murals are constantly getting redone and updated, and it is possible to find an entirely different mural than expected. There is always new art to discover, and we love to come back all the time. Let me know, if you still need the location of a specific mural and I am happy to send you the location.
There is something special about fall for me. I love the sights, smells, and tastes of the season. One of my absolute favorite fall traditions is going to a pumpkin patch to choose the perfect pumpkin to carve, take lots of fun pictures, participate in all the fun fall activities that go along with it, spent quality time with the family and celebrate this beautiful season.
Pumpkin patches are fun for families with kids, but they also make for a fun outing for couples and anybody looking to get outside and celebrate the season.
I am always on the lookout for extra special pumpkin patches. And I am so happy to say that I found the ultimate pumpkin patch that I consider to be the best one in the United States. Prepare to be amazed at the sheer amount of pumpkins, the variety of shapes and colors, all the gorgeous pumpkin displays and the fun activities at the annual Pumpkin Festival at the Arboretum in Dallas, Texas.
The pumpkin patch at the Dallas Arboretum has been named one of America’s Best Pumpkin Festivals by Fodor’s Travel and I couldn’t agree more. Every year the arboretum builds an unbelievable pumpkin village with more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash throughout the garden.
Autumn at the Arboretum, runs from September 18 to October 31, 2021. Though the festival ends on Halloween, the Pumpkin Village remains open through Thanksgiving weekend. We went two years ago when the theme was “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” There were the signature pumpkin cottages and pumpkin sculptures, a 15-foot-tall Great Pumpkin topiary, a pumpkin doghouse for Snoopy, a Lucy topiary outside of her “Garden Advice Hut,” a Peanuts gang school house, and so much more.
This year marks the 16th annual Autumn at the Arboretum and the space is transformed into Bugtopia! There will be larger-than-life insect topiaries, fascinatingly bugged-out pumpkin houses, a maze for younger visitors. I wish we could visit again and marvel at all the beautiful displays. 90,000 pumpkins, 3,000 ears of corn and 1,500 corn stalks; 900 bales of hay; and hundreds of thousands of fall-blooming flowers and plants make this the most amazing pumpkin patch in the United States.
Do you have a favorite pumpkin patch? Let me know in the comments…
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the most enchanting and picturesque medieval fairytale town located in Bavaria along the Romantic Road (which goes from Wurzburg to the Neuschwanstein Castle.) Colorful, historic buildings with wrought iron hanging signs, half-timbered houses with flowering window boxes, medieval towers and gates, castles, little cobbled streets and a historic wall around the old town make it truly feel magical like entering a fairy tale storybook in real life or stepping back in time. It is a small town and can be discovered in one day, but it is so magical that you want to spend the night and stay longer.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in the Franconia region of Bavaria on the Tauber River, close to Nuernberg or Wuerzburg. There are several “Rothenburgs” in Germany. Make sure to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber (meaning on the Tauber River). Even though this is one of the most popular tourist towns in Germany, people do get it mixed up sometimes.
One of the most iconic shots of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Germany is the Ploenlein. Most people think that the name Ploenlein refers to the yellow half timbered house at the entrance of the Spital quarter. But the charming,tilted and crooked house is only part of it. The term Ploenlein is actually translated as a “small square at a fountain”. The Ploenlein includes the yellow timber house, the fountain in front of it and the two towers of the old city wall that rise to its left and right. Fun Fact: The Siebersturm on the left was build around 1385.
One of the best things to do in Rothenburg is to wander around town and get lost in the charming winding cobblestone streets. The entire old town, enclosed by the city walls, is just picture perfect. There are several options on how to get lost. We got a free map ( I attached it at the bottom of the post) at the Rothenburg Tourist Office, which is located in the center of the town on the Marktplatz, in the old City Councillors’ Tavern. The map comes with two different walking tours – “kleiner Rundgang”/ short walk – which takes about 1.5 hours as well as “grosser Rundgang”/long walk – which takes about 2.5 hours. There are also several guided tours available through the city, but we decided to make our own free tour mixing part of the long walk with the short walk and it was just perfect.
The Marktplatz/market square in the center of the old town is the heart of lovely Rothenburg. There is the giant Rathaus (town hall) which is a wonderful example of a renaissance architecture. The back of the building is the oldest section and dates from 1250 and the impressive façade was added in 1572. It is surrounded by romantic timber framed buildings as well as the Ratstrinkstube (Councillor’s Tavern). At each full hour between 10 am and 10 pm General Tilly and the former mayor Nusch appear from the clock on the building façade.
An artful pillar bearing St. George and the dragon has decorated the Marktplatz fountain/fountain of St. Georg for over 400 years. A replica of the statue can be found in the German Pavilion at the Epcot Center part of World Disney World in Orlando.
Part of the long self guided walk is walking on the old town walls. Even if you do not walk the entire walk, walking inside or on the old town walls is an absolute must. It was the favorite thing to do for my kids. The medieval defensive walls from the 12th century have been surrounding Rothenburg completely and many sections can be still walked around the clock. The wall is open all day every day and is free.
The whole path is 4 kilometers long, offering the most beautiful and picturesque views over Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Six gates and several doors for pedestrians lead through this city wall into the old quarter. There are 42 towers in the town and steps to climb up next to almost all of the towers. There are also several informative boards along the way.
One of the most charming buldings in Rothenburg is an old forge, the Gerlachschmiede close to the Roedergate. It could be right out of a fairytale story. The original house was destroyed at the end of World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.
The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” is German for “Red castle above the Tauber”.
Other than strolling through the winding cobblestone streets and marveling at the beautiful buildings everywhere, there are plenty of other fun things to do in this historic town. There are lots of unique stores in Rothenburg ob der Tauber filled with examples of beautiful German craftsmanship. From cuckoo clocks, wooden music boxes and beer steins to German cookbooks, traditional Dirndl dresses and Christmas decoration, Rothenburg offers just about every German trinket and souvenir you can think of.
There are several fun and interesting museums to visit. The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum can be a little scary, but really interesting. Cages, medieval torturing instruments and executioner swords are some of the gruesome displays at the museum. A totally different experience is the Kaethe Wohlfahrt Christmas museum. It explains how Christmas was once celebrated in Germany and how certain customs developed in various regions of the country. There are also insights into the craftsmen’s traditions like wood carvings and mouth blown glass. Last but not least, there is the Rothenburg museum about the history of Rothenburg ,from the early Middle Ages and the era of an imperial city up to the time of the Nazi dictatorship in Germany and the rebuilding of the destroyed parts of the town after World War II.
The Schneeball/ Snowball is Rothenburg’s most famous culinary contribution. This famous dessert was created more than 300 years ago, it is pastry dough layered and shaped into a ball usually covered in confectioners’ sugar and other toppings like caramel, chocolate, nuts or other toppings. Snowballs are one of the must things to try when in Rothenburg. These delightful looking treats can be found all around town on every corner in all kind of sizes.
We tried the mini versions covered in sugar, caramel, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.
I was a little disappointed by the “Schneeballs”, because they tasted a little like a dry crumbly pie crust … The kids on the other hand loved them and tried Schneeballs with different toppings. I would still buy them again, just because I love to try any regional specialty that makes a place special. But maybe with whipped cream or a strawberry sauce on the side…
With its fascinating history and fairytale look, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a beautiful place to explore. Have you visited Rothenburg? What was your favorite thing about this magical place?
My Top 10 Favorite Things to Do and Visit in Tangier
Located on the Strait of Gibraltar where Africa meets Europe, Tangier is the perfect location for a day trip from Spain. There are different ferry lines that connect Spain and Morocco in less than one hour. We took a ferry from Tarifa, the most Southern point of Spain and stayed several days in Tangier.
Tangier has a rich history and is one of North Africa’s most ancient places that is over 2000 years old. It was ruled by Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs and Portuguese. Even today it is still a melting pot with a blend of different cultures, countries and influences like North Africa, Spain, Portugal and France.
Tangier has the most interesting history and beautiful sights like the medina, Kasbah, bazaars and souks. The sounds from the muezzin and smells from the market made us feel like walking in an old Middle Eastern folk story.
Many parts of old Tangier, the Medina and the surrounding areas are very accessible by walking. We walked directly from the port along the old city walls to our hotel in the middle of the old city. There are several entrances and stairs leading into the Medina.
The two official languages of Morocco are Modern Standard Arabic and Berber, but Moroccan Arabic is what’s most commonly spoken on the street. Most locals and people we met, spoke English perfectly.
There are many great things to do in Tangier and in Morocco. Here are our top 10 favorite things and places to visit in Tangier:
Get Lost in the Medina
Getting lost in the Medina is an absolute must when visiting Tangier and it will happen when you step inside! The Medina, which is the old walled city, feels like stepping back in time. It is labyrinth of small streets and alleyways, miles of tiny, narrow, endless paths. Some streets only have colorful buildings on both sides, some have tunnels and other streets are filled with vendors. People sell ceramics, rugs, trinkets and more. There is everything from spices, metals and tanned leather to textiles, traditional clothing, silks and more.
Walking through these magical winding streets, felt like being in a fairytale and we could have spent hours just walking and looking and experiencing it all. We let the boys lead the way and it was very exciting for them to find new corners and to decide which direction to go. I really like to involve our kids in planning our travels and to decide what they want to see. It makes it much more interesting for them, makes them feel important and connects everybody. (A little tip on the side that works so well everytime. Each member of the family picks something that they like – for example in Puerto Rico my son wanted to go to the children museum while I wanted to do a horse carriage ride. We did both. Rather than complain about the carriage ride, he accepted and respected that it was my pick.) It just makes a much happier travel environment to involve the kids.
Other than lots of little streets, we also found many street cats. Around every other corner were little cats. Many of the cats were injured or dirty and it was rather heartbreaking for me. My kids found them very cute and tried to convince us to take some home with us. (we did not)
Visit a Traditional Souk or Carpet Store in the Medina
While inside the Medina, go and visit one of the souvenir stores. Morocco’s crafts are beautiful and carefully made; experience for yourself the centuries of traditional artisan techniques in the chiseled wood, stained glassware, and each knot on the hand-pulled rugs. The stores are charmingly clustered with lanterns, ceramics, carpets, textiles and so much more. Many of the stores have different rooms and levels specializing in carpets or clothing or something else. It almost feels like a museum and we spent over an hour in one of our favorite stores. The owners were very gracious and let us take pictures, served sweet peppermint tea and showed us carpet over carpet. They were extremely friendly. We ended up buying most of our things right at that store and were able to haggle with the prices. I wanted to buy the souvenirs anyways, so I was happy to buy it from them.
There are so many things to buy. Its possible to fill up an entire suitcase. Souvenirs worth buying are Argan Oil for the hair, saffron and some other spices and mixtures like Ras El Hanout, a tagine cooking pot, the famous blue and white ceramics, lanterns and of course a magical carpet. My son bought himself a traditional dress. He did not wear it very often since then, but was very happy about this treasure and still keeps it in his room. Seeing him being passionate about this clothing is one of many fond memories I have. We also bought a small leather camel for my daughter which looking back is such a great little souvenir standing on a shelf in her room.
Some street vendors have a more aggressive approach and really try to push selling their things. Just make it clear that you are not interested and after a couple more tries the vendor moves on.
Visit the Grand Socco Market
The Grand Socco Market is a pleasure for they eyes and for the nose. Vendors sell all sorts of loose dried spices, nuts, fruits, olives, herbs, breads and much more. The smells are incredible fragrant and Vendors attract customers by offering samples of their wares. Again it is such a special atmosphere and a must see when in Tangier.
Drink the Sweet Mint Tea
The most popular drink in Morocco is a sweet mint tea that is actually green tea with fresh mint inside. It is often called Moroccan mint tea because of how enmeshed it is in the local culture. The hot green tea brewed with spearmint and lots of sugar is served year-round and at all times of the day. We had so many tea ceremonies in Tangier and it quickly became the favorite drink of the family. It also was Luca’s favorite thing about Morocco.
In my opinion, the best way to enjoy the mint tea is on top of a roof terrace together with a cookie and a view, but it tasted just as great and sweet anywhere else. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality, and it is Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to any visitors that might stop by. It is served in beautiful tea pots and we love everything about it.
After tasting the mint tea, it was very interesting for us to sea the vendors selling the fresh mint on the side of the street.
Eat Moroccan Food in a Traditional Restaurant
I was hesitant before eating traditional Moroccan cuisine for the first time, because I don’t like too much spice in my food. I was really surprised how good it was, tasting intriguing flavor combinations with a subtle hint of different spices in just the right way. Everybody probably heard of couscous. I had eaten it before in the United States, but the couscous in Morocco tasted so much better. It’s no wonder, because it is a North African staple that’s been eaten by the indigenous Berbers for thousands of years. Couscous is served topped with slow-cooked beef, lamb, or chicken, spices and vegetables and is called Tagine. It is the unofficial national dish of Morocco and it’s served in the earthen clay pot called a tajine.
We tried several other dishes including a delicious soup (which I forgot the name) and a traditional Moroccan sweet chicken pie and loved it all. I am so happy we tried several dishes and I really recommend to go to a small traditional restaurant and do the same.
Try on Traditional Clothes
I highly recommend to try on traditional Moroccan clothes. Many stores will be happy to help and let the customers try on several outfits. Again, everybody was really friendly to us and I was impressed by the hospitality. We were served mint tea, tried on several beautiful dresses and hats while getting a cultural lesson about the garments.
The traditional dress for men and women is called djellaba and is a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves. It signifies purity, virtue, good fortune, and honorable moral qualities.
Olivia, our youngest daughter did not want to participate to try on clothes and watched us instead. I loved how the clothes looked and felt and immersed us in Moroccan culture.
Visit the Palace/ Kabash Museum
This museum was once known as “Dar el Makhzen,” which translates roughly to “The Sultan’s Palace,” and was the residence of Portuguese governors between 1471 and 1661. The museum contains many exhibits and artifacts showing the history from prehistoric time to the 19th century. The entrance fee is 20 dirhams per adult and 10 dirhams for kids and is open from 10am-6pm every day except Tuesdays.
While the information is only in Arabic and French, the architecture is still very fascinating. I loved the different mosaic tiles on the walls and floors as well as the gorgeous courtyard. There are several small rooms around the courtyard with different exhibitions.
It also has a magnificent Andalusian garden with lots of great picture opportunities.
Visit the Main Square
This large open plaza in Tangier that is also called the Grand Socco is the most central point for anyone visiting. It has a big fountain in the middle and is a great place to take a break. There are several cafes nearby but we just had a seat on one of the benches and watched people go about their daily lives.
It also connects the old part of the town with the new city and has several gates (with a street map and your location) that lead to the Medina and the Nouvelle City.
Listen to the Muezzin
The Muezzin is the official who proclaims the call to the daily prayer five times a day, at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. .The muezzin is the servant of the mosque and is chosen for his good character.
Historically, a muezzin would have recited the call to prayer atop the minaret in order to be heard by those around the mosque. Now, mosques often have speakers on the minaret and the muezzin will use a microphone, or a recording is played, allowing the call to prayer to be heard at great distances without climbing the minaret.
Visit the Hercules Cave, Cape Spartel and the Beaches
Located about 14 kilometers west of the city of Tangier, Morocco, lies the famous Cave of Hercules, which is a fascinating archaeological cave and the most North Western point of mainland Africa. The cave is free to enter and to explore on your own, but there were also guided tours available. The cave system is open daily, year-round. July and August are the peak season and have the most visitors, including at the nearby beaches.
I wrote a blog post about our the Hercules Cave and Cape Spartel. For details, check out the post here:
Cape Spartel is a promontory in Morocco about 1,000 feet above sea level at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, about 15 min drive West of Tangier. It is where the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean! The Spartel lighthouse that was built in the 1860s by an international coalition (including the USA, France, Spain, and Morocco) in order to mark the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar.
The sunken Bell Tower inside the Lago di Resia/Reschensee
The sunken bell tower inside Lago di Resia/Reschensee looks like straight out of a fairytale. The real story is not as magical and has no elves, goblins, wizards or fairies. The church tower of Old Curon, dating back to the 14th century, is the only visible remnant of a small town that vanished in 1950. An electric company built a dam, which unified two natural lakes, Reschensee and Mittersee and flooded many hectares of land as well as more than 150 houses and buildings.. The villagers tried to resist, but in the end were forced to resettle somewhere else. Only the top of the bell tower remained visible above the water.
Lago di Resia/Reschensee is an artificial lake located in the Vinschgau Valley in Italy, only a few miles of the Austrian and Swiss border. When the lake freezes in winter, it is even possible to walk out to the bell tower.
I visited the Reschensee the first time in 1995 with my grandparents and sister on the way to Italy. I remember how impressed I was as a child by the church inside the lake. It is a great memory that I cheerish a lot. Since we were driving from Italy to Germany, we had to stop there one more time to show the kids.
Numerous legends and stories swirl around the flooding and the bell tower. Local legend says that on some nights you can still hear the bells ringing — although the bells were removed on July 18th, 1950, a week before the water flooded the village and the church’s bottom half.
It was as beautiful as I remembered and the kids were as impressed as I was as a child. It was already early evening and only a few other people were there. We watched the sun go down and covered the bell tower in a golden light.
We stayed for a while and I let the kids discover and play while the sun was going down. I always try to stay as long as possible which works perfectly for my family. The kids appreciate the places much more when they can discover on their own rather than only taking a couple pictures. And usually one kid – most of the time Giorgio – finds a favorite new stone or stick that will travel along with us (even if it only for a little).
The sun went down way too fast and we continued to our next adventure.
The beautiful vibrant fields of purple together with the aromatic but calming scent of lavender have captivated people for a long time. Visiting the Provence in France and standing in the middle of a lavender field was on my bucket list for a long time. We had the opportunity to drive through France in the beginning of August in 2019 and I promised myself to make this dream come true.
I didn’t know at the time that August was already very (too) late to see the beautiful Lavender fields . The best time to visit is between mid June to mid July. Most fields have been harvested by the end of July. I still wanted to try to find a blooming lavender field and did not get discouraged.
I had researched before online and found several areas that sounded promising. Once we were in the Provence, we found out that most of the fields were already harvested. We drove to many sites that I had found and there were no more blooming Lavender fields.
We were ready for a break and for something to eat and stopped spontaneously in Sault. I am so happy we found this small charming village. It lays up on a hill at an altitude of 750 meters with gorgeous views of Val de Sault (which in June and July must have been painted in purple with all the blooming fields).
We parked the car and wandered around streets, old stone houses and village squares. It was such a quaint little village with lots of purple accents. We visited several shops and tasted the different nougats, macaroons and delicious lavender honey. We ate lunch and bought some nougat and lavender to take with us. There was a really nice girl in one of the shops that explained to us the difference between Lavandula and Lavandin. She told us that the higher the altitude of the field, the later the flowers will bloom and gave me direction to several possible late blooming fields.
I was so delighted to finally see purple spots of lavender fields in the distance. I am still happy today, that even though the chances were slim, we actually found Lavender fields. There was somebody working on a field harvesting lavender. We got a “hands on” lavender lesson on how it is harvested and dried in the sun. Such a cool learning opportunity and adventure I will never forget.
The Pont Du Gard Bridge in Southern France near Avignon/Nimes
The Pont du Gard is one of the sites that shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the South of France. The Aqueduct is one of the most beautiful Roman constructions in France and a Unesco World heritage sight. With more than a million visitors per year, Pont du Gard is the most visited ancient monument in France.
After visiting the lavender fields in Sault, we spent the day in Avignon before continue to drive to Spain. I love to revisit places I had seen as a child on vacation with my parents and sister. We had visited Pont Du Gard, when I was 8 years old. Since it was kind of one the way, I spontaneous decided to stop and revisit this beautiful bridge with my children. We arrived pretty late and the museum was already closed for the day, but the golden light of the sunset made up for it. It was a beautiful warm August evening and most of the people had already left for the day.
The bridge, which spans the Gardon, is 48 meters high; it extends over a distance over 272 meters but was originally 490 meters long.
We didn’t bring any bathing suites, but that didn’t stop us from heading directly to the Gardon River to cool off in the perfectly clear water. The boys tried to catch little fish with their hands, Olivia was splashing around happily, and I just enjoyed being there and appreciated the moment. Of course, I also took a lot of pictures.
We could have definitely spent the entire day there. A picnic at the banks, kayaking, the museum , a guided tour of the different levels of the bridge, swimming and the surrounding gardens offer so much possibilities. I do love to revisit places, so we might be back again. This time, I will plan it before and visit the entire site.
I am so happy we stayed for the spectacular illumination of the monument. They started at 10pm and were so worth it. The bridge and surrounding area was transformed with lights and pyrotechnics, to tell a beautiful story. It was the perfect ending to enjoy a warm summer night.
Opening hours of the site
From 9 am to 8 pm from January to March
From 9 am to 9 pm in April and May
From 10 am to 10 pm in June
From 9 am to 00 pm in July and August
From 9 am to 10 pm in September
From 9 am to 9 pm from October to December
Entrance fee ticket: – Discovery Pass (Pont du Gard, Museum, Ciné, the Mémoires de Garrigue path, Exhibition) Adult rate: 9.50 € / pers (8€ On line preserved) Reduced price: 7 € / pers Free for children under -18 years
Free entry is granted to :
-People with disabilities, regardless of the degree of disability as well as up to one person accompanying them.
– Guided tour at the top level of the Aqueduct : + 6€ (Free under -6 years)
Tubing on Rainbow River and Rainbow Springs State Park
One of my favorite summer adventures last year was Tubing on the Rainbow River by Dunnellon….. In case you have never heard about this town, it is about 100 miles northwest of Orlando. There’s no better or more relaxing way to experience this magical river than tubing! At least it is for me…. I wasn’t sure if Chris or Olivia would be too excited to float in the rather cool water….The water temperature averages 72 degrees year-round. It is a little fresh going inside, but I promise it will be perfect about 1 mile down the river and the sun will be almost too much by mile 2.
There are different tubing experiences available. We decided to launch from K.P. Hole, a Marion County Park, and floated approximately 3 1/2 hours down the river. There was also the shorter option available from the State park which would have lasted only about 2 hours. I was unsure before if tubing from K.P. Hole park was not too long, but time went by way too fast and I wish, there would have been a 6 hour experience available.
We went tubing together with my sister and her husband, which made it even better. To stay attached, we tied our tubes together with ropes. We also brought waterproof bags, reusable water bottles (the only ones allowed), goggles, snacks, hats and of course sunscreen.
Despite being 30 feet deep in some places, it feels like you could reach out and touch the bottom since the water is crystal clear. We saw turtles, fish, dragonflies and forests of aquatic grass that provide food and habitat for many of the creatures that live here. Although everyone wonders about alligators, we did not see any.
As I mentioned before, Oliva would have not liked to be in a float for that long or even touch the cold water, so we resolved that problem and rented a kayak in addition to the tubes. It was the perfect solution, because we also transported all the drinks, snacks and even towels.
It was the perfect day and it was over way too fast. It was peaceful and beautiful. And it inspired us to visit more springs in the future.
The next day we visited the Rainbow Springs State Park to see the waterfalls. We love to visit waterfalls, but Florida doesn’t have too many…. So I was excited to find out there were some at Rainbow Springs.
Rainbow Springs State Park is magnificent and we strolled through shady gardens laced with azaleas, oaks and magnolias. The walkways are paved and even though some are a little steep, they are still pretty easy to navigate.
The walkways pass by three man-made waterfalls and a native plant garden. When we visited in August 2020 only two waterfalls were working at the time. We continued through the garden and passed many relics (remains of old animal cages) of the glory past, when the park was a private attraction.
At the end of the path, begins a small Butterfly Garden. The sun was casting the perfect shadow on the entrance gazebo, it was warm and other than butterflies, we were the only ones there. It felt so peaceful and perfect.
To our surprise, there was more… A small trail right out of a fairytale lead us to three nature trails through natural oak hammock and sandhill communities.
We did not have a map, so we just followed the colored markers of the trail. There is a blue, yellow and white trail and we decided to follow the blue trail.
It had rained the previous days, so the blue trail (which is the closest to the water) became muddy and inaccessible. We decided to go for the yellow trail instead. The trails offers both river and phosphate pit overlooks…..
This area was the first place where phosphate was commercially mined in Florida. The deep pits and spoil piles left behind were recovered by the forest and are looking unreal in a normally very flat Florida. What a surprise when the first pit suddenly appeared in front of us. (My batterie had died, so I didn’t take any pictures.)
The most fascinating thing were the changes throughout the trail. We started in a forest, followed by sandy terrain punctuated with ravines created by mining and restored by nature. It did not even feel like Florida. At times we felt lost, because we couldn’t see any markers. I would have loved to see more along the paths, but it made it also more adventurous. It was also very overgrown and felt a little longer than the miles on the sign. I still found it magical and we did not meet anybody during our walk. I highly recommend a hike on these trails and hope we will be back one day…