2011 - EUROPE

Big 6 week trip - Zurich, Germany, Belgium, Amsterdam, Paris, Morocco, Spain.

My photos here are before entering the wonderful world of DSLR.

I purchased my trusty Canon 60D after hubby made me jealous with his fantastic photos on this trip with his first DSLR camera.


This was our first big overseas trip. 6 weeks through 7 countries.

Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Morocco & Spain.

I found virtualtourist.com whilst googling for our big trip.  Sadly VT is no more.   I spent 16 years on that site and it was a sad day when tripadvisor bought out VT and then shut them down.  

The furthest we had been before this trip was Tahiti for our 10 year wedding anniversary in 1989.   So now, over 10 years later, we were about to embark on our first big overseas trip. 

Each country that we visited had its own unique flavour and exciting stuff to see and do.   For instance us Aussies love to see big chiming clocks, castles, palaces, cobbled stone streets, canals and windmills.

All of this is different to us as well as driving on the other side of the road, riding in horse & carriage, riding camels in the desert, sleeping under the stars in the desert etc etc.

Yes, this trip has many, many wonderful memories and reliving them here, especially if you read along and give a little comment here and there makes it all so more special.

If you have read my other blogs here you will already know that hubby and I love to visit off the beaten path places.   Some of these we visited along the way were Bad Wimpfen, Ettlingen, Mespelbrunn, Braubach, Tongeren, Lier, Essaouira, Torremolinos, Ronda and Valencia.

We hired a car and drove from Zurich, through Germany, Belgium and into Amsterdam.   Our good friend from Virtual Tourist Birgit (bijo69) flew into Zurich and joined us for the trip.

The beginning of the journey saw us driving out of the airport at Zurich, Tom Tom GPS that hubby and I had purchased back home was unfortunately still packed in a suitcase in the back of the hire car.  First big mistake.

Hubby and I were laughing at the signs and suddenly, didn't know where we were going.    More about that story later.

Bruges was one of the many highlights for me.   I had never heard of Bruges before seeing this place on VT.   I was captivated with the pure romance of the place and consequently it was high on my list of places to see.

The Belgium beers were also fantastic.    Hubby and I love to taste local beers wherever we go.  You need to read my funny story of the beer tastings in Bruges.

Not only was Bruges everything that I had imagined, but I also discovered more fantastic towns in Belgium like Tongeren, Lier and Gent.

The most amazing thing about travel sites besides discovering off the beaten path places is making friends all around the world.    The best memories for hubby and I were of spending time with our friends that we have formed so many friendships with.

One of those highlights for me was meeting PJ and his lovely wife Swanet in Amsterdam.   They arranged the best day out for us and I have a tribute to that later on my Amsterdam blog.

Another awesome memory was staying in a houseboat.  That was totally amazing!   
It cost a lot, but it was so worth while!!

I have been in love with Paris and the Eiffel tower since very young.

When the big Paris meet went up on VT, I couldn't type from excitement!
So our whole trip was planned around the Paris meet.

The big Paris meet was awesome.   The Eiffel Tower was even more awesome.  But the most awesomest thing was when hubby surprised me with an eternity ring at the VT dinner in a quaint restaurant near the Eiffel Tower!!

And then we went to view the light show after.  This was pure heaven!!!    An evening of my lifetime that I will treasure forever!!    If you are reading this Steve (stevemt) thank you my dear friend! 

Paris to me is the city of love!!! xx

Both hubby & I love exotic places.   So it was no surprise that we both picked Morocco.   We flew from Paris to Marrakesh for the start of our first African adventure.

OMG!   It was fantastic!!   Marrakesh was an amazing experience, but our trip with Habib who is a full Berber nomad and owner of sahara-desert-dream.com was indescribable!!   

There are too many memories to list here including sleeping under the stars in the Sahara desert, meeting and having tea with a nomad family in their cave, enjoying authentic lunch with Habib's family in his home town of M'hamid and gunning the 4x4 through the desert, overtaking other 4 wheel drives and riding camels out of the desert.

The last country that we visited was Spain.   This was hubby's choice.   I had heard that the south of Spain was nice and of course the first place that I thought about visiting was Barcelona and seeing the amazing Gaudi architecture - that was another big highlight!

Hubby's highlight was visiting Alhambra.   He studied gardens as part of his Horticulture diploma.

But the place that captured my heart in Spain was Valencia.   I wished that we could have seen more of this place.

We hired a convertible for the first time here in Spain and drove around the hills to visit Ronda - another beautiful place that I discovered whilst reading tips on Virtual Tourist.

There are a couple of regrets.    Not seeing more in Paris and not visiting the south of France.   Never mind, they are on my plan for a future trip incorporating more of Switzerland and Italy including another romantic city, Venice.

But for now, my blog is all about our fantastic adventure through Europe and Morocco.

So grab a snack and drink or 3 and be prepared for a lazy afternoon or evening reading my entertaining stories and nice pictures.



Zurich was the beginning of our big Europe trip.
6 weeks of discovery!   How does one pick places to see?

Hubby wanted to see Germany and Spain.    Hubby loves mountains and gardens.
I wanted to visit Paris and Bruges because I am the ultimate romantic and I had a VT friend in Amsterdam. 

As we both love off the beaten path places with interesting scenery, Morocco and a trip into the Sahara desert was thrown into the mix.   Our trip was coming together.

The plan then became clear -
Fly into Zurich
Drive through Germany
Continue on through Belgium
Drive up into Amsterdam
Stay in a houseboat in Amsterdam
Train to Paris
Fly to Marrakesh
Drive to the Sahara desert with a Berber nomad
Visit a place on the coast called Essaouira
Then to Casablanca to fly to Malaga Spain
Torremolinos, Alhambra, Ronda, Valencia
Train to Barcelona
Fly home to Perth

Yes!   A lot to pack in, but we also stayed a few days in some places so there was some down time too.  When you have to do long haul flights from Australia and pay huge travel expenses, then we have to pack in as much as we can without making the holiday too busy.
Sometimes a difficult juggle act.

Zurich, our first destination was stunning!!
It is a very clean city, not too big but compared to some other places we visited.   We found Zurich to be a little expensive.   However with views like this, who cares about the expense!! 


We both loved Zurich! 

On holiday there is always something new & interesting to experience.    In Zurich it was the clocks.   Wow!  Clock city!!  And I couldn't get enough of them!

I also enjoyed listening to the chimes. I have a grandfather clock at home, my pride and joy. There is something about clock chimes that I really love.   Even from our B&B accommodation we could hear them.   So nice!!   

Hubby bought an authentic Swiss watch here and I loved the watch that I purchased for my daughter so much that I bought one for myself too.




The highlight in Zurich was our trip to Rapperswil.  I discovered this place on Patrick's pages on VT (tripack).   

Sadly no VT'ers were available at the time but we had a fantastic trip on the ferry to Rapperswil and enjoyed a wander around the quaint cobblestone streets with cute gift shops and funky bars and restaurants.

Aussie Barney loves the local Ale.



I wouldn't stay anywhere else when visiting Zurich.   Great location between the airport and Zurich, it has a lovely quiet garden setting, the bed was super comfortable, public transport is close by and it is inexpensive.   The hosts were attentive and helpful.



How exciting!   First time in Europe!!   Finally!!   We were here and this is my first sighting of the famous Swiss Alps!  Hubby was in his element as he loves mountains.  

Woohoo!!   We have arrived!!   

I had not slept for goodness knows how long!    We arrived at 8am after travelling for 12 hours from Singapore and 5 hours before that from Perth.   Singapore airlines are by far my favourite airline!!!

We were right now running on pure adrenalin!

Ok,  first funny sign and here is the story -

We arrived in Zurich and jumped into our hire car full of excitement.  Hubby forget to set our new Tom Tom GPS.  
Big mistake!
So, here we are exiting Zurich airport and past the funny sign.

I was doubled over with laughter!

Here we are about to enter a six lane highway, still laughing our heads off!!

Hubby said, “Where are we going?!!"    My reply, "Oh shiiiit!!   

Just keep driving!!"

Luckily we were headed in the right direction towards Zurich city.    Upon arrival, we found a parking space in which to set up the GPS.  Thank goodness it worked and we proceeded to drive back through the centre of Zurich city and to our bed and breakfast located in between Zurich and the airport.

This Tom Tom GPS was to be our guide for the next week or so and also in Spain and it worked a treat!   I am so glad that we bought it.

After dropping off our luggage, we walked down to catch the tram into town.   On the way there was a local pub.   Ahhhh, time to stop and celebrate our arrival in Europe!  T­aste a local beer and send a few text messages to the family.

We came back to the local a couple of times after a big day sightseeing.

Later the owner of the B&B said that this was the dodgy part of town.

OK, that would explain the strange looks we received by the locals, but who cares?!!   We were on holiday, the beers were cheap and refreshing, and we were having fun!! 
I was blown away with the stunning scenery when we arrived in Zurich!

The river and bridges were awesome!   And the clocks were just lovely.  

We sat at the hotel Zum Storchen for a little while, had a couple of beers and enjoyed the view and ambience. There were quite a few tourists like us doing the same.

Walking around this area with lovely views of the bridges and river just added to our excitement at being here in Zurich Europe!



Next day we were checking out the backstreets and lovely architecture and we saw a cute staircase leading up to a nice verandah where it looked like quite a few people were enjoying lunch so we ventured up.

I am glad we found this restaurant because not only did we have lovely shady surroundings and a nice view but the food was fantastic!!  The prawn cocktail starter was fresh and cool.

And we washed lunch down with a local red wine which I must say was really good.   In fact Zurich wines both red and white were pretty good.



I enjoy street scenes wherever we go.  So here are some that I particularly like including the tram transportation.  

We got a Zurich Card. You can use this for all sorts of transport and also entry into  museums etc. 


Lastly, an old bus after hubby's last name.
also an old Faht!!   lol.

Trusty Tom Tom GPS loaded.  Next stop Uberlingen, Germany.

Below is a map of our road trip through Germany.




We had arrived in Zurich on our first big overseas trip.

After having spent a few days in this beautiful city of clocks, we were now prepared for our big drive on the other side of the road through Germany, Belgium and into Amsterdam.

Today's destination - Ettlingen Germany.   I found Ettlingen through Virtual Tourist.  Unfortunately that site is no more due to its greedy parent company Trip Advisor.

More about the lovely Ettlingen later.



We crossed Lake Constance in the car ferry o the way to Germany.



I hadn't planned on driving through Uberlingen which is located at the northern end of Lake Constance.

We had quite a long trip as it was driving through the Black Forrest via Lake Titisee to Ettlingen.   But our friend Birgit (bijo69) from Virtual Tourist had flown down to Zurich from Berlin to join us for the drive and she suggested that we check out Uberlingen.

Slight detour, but I am glad to say that it was well worth it. 

Uberlingen is right on Lake Constance with nice views.  The town is a pleasure to walk around.   I liked the vines growing on the buildings.


We had a lovely lunch at this nice restaurant.   Unfortunately I do not know the name.   So if you recognise it, please let me know.

This was where I tasted my first German Beer.   It was a white beer called Zoller-Hof.   I must say it was one of the better beers I have tasted on this trip! 

We enjoyed sitting outside under the shade with lots of surrounding greenery and flowers.   Perfect for discussing our trip so far and people watching.

Unfortunately we had to drag ourselves away.   Time to hit the road.  We still had some mileage to cover to arrive in Ettlingen.



What do you think of when you hear that there is a place called "the black forrest?”   Visions of misty black woods where it is unsafe to walk?   That's what I thought haha.

The Black Forrest is basically a thick forest of pines on a mountain range.   It has lots of winding roads and we just happened to enter just on peak afternoon traffic.   

Shouldn't have had that extra Zoller-Hof.



I had planned to spend more time here but our plans had changed during our journey to detour via Uberlingen.    

We had an agenda to get to Ettlingen for a Virtual Tourist meet with a friend I had been really looking forward to meeting, Kathrin (kathrin_e) and Christine (tini58de).

Hubby was going to by-pass lake Titisee.   Noooo!!   Not going to happen!

I am glad that we did drop in to lake Titisee.   It is so pretty!   I had planned to wander around more of the town, have lunch overlooking the lake and maybe buy a Cookoo Clock.   Bet hubby is glad that I didn't.   One Grand Father Clock is enough says hubby lol.

Quick walk over the bridge to the Loo with a View


Sorry, no drunks allowed



We finally arrived in Ettlingen! 

Kathrin had arranged for the paparazzi to greet us!
No, it just so happened that there was a festival going on in town when we arrived.   Not only that but when we walked in the door of the hotel.... there was Katherin and Christine waiting for us!   How nice is that!!

What an absolutely fabulous time we had!   Meeting friends that you have never met before but know so well from years of interaction on our favourite travel site is special!! 

Love you Kathrin!   And nice to meet you too Christine.  Russel Wombat and Aussie Barney VT mascot also joined in on the fun.  
A night to remember!!!



Elb River that runs through Ettlingen

This little off the beaten path town was a delight to stay in.
Next destination - Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber.






Quaint timber houses & a blue tower.

When researching for this trip I discovered this delightful off the beaten path town whilst reading my good friend Lori's (loripori) tips on  Virtual Tourist.

There are a lot of 'bad' towns in Germany that are not really bad at all.   'Bad' means spa.

Bad Wimpfen is a spa town, or a town with a natural spring.  It is a very old medieval town that was occupied by the Romans.   As such, it has a tower, old fortress and chapel that were common at that period of time.

The blue tower that overlooks the town and Neckar Valley below was really unique and lovely.   Tudor houses and cute cobbled stone streets had a wow factor too. 

This was our first encounter with Tudor houses.   
I just loved them!!

I was quite taken back with the lovely colourful and ornate doors here as well.

Bad Wimpfen had a lot of wows for us.
An amazing little village.



Ahhh..... Romantic Rothenburg.

This little medieval walled village was an absolute pleasure to visit. thanks again to Lori.    
We stayed for 1 day/2 nights.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is very touristy because of this very popular photographic street scene.

But at night when the bus loads of tourists have gone, the village is nice and quiet.


We stayed right inside the walled city.   It was interesting to navigate through the tiny arch towers that are the only entrance/exit to the city.



Enjoyed our stay.  Owned by Mike and his wife from Australia.  They made us feel at home. Parking is right across the road.  And they were right there waiting for our arrival.

The hotel is located next to a small arch city entrance and just down the road from the centre square.  Breakfast buffet was nice.

Coloured loo paper got an extra tick from me



It was interesting walking around the walls, reading about the history and checking out some of the placards.  Restoration of the city is an ongoing process, all funded by donations.   Those that donate, have a placard placed on the wall.

I found a koala in the stone work

Time for a beer



I bought a sweet little red apple Swarovski crystal necklace here at Uhrenhaus Jewelry and watch store.  It is still one of my favourite pieces.   Tip - cost of Swarovski is very cheap in Germany.

Don't forget to look up.   I loved these lovely ornate wrought iron signs that were everywhere.  This was another first for us.



Right next door to our accommodation and recommended.  The staff were pleasant and the service was exceptional.  A nice evening to end our stay here in Rothenburg.




When planning our journey from Rothenburg to Mespelbrunn I knew that it was only 2 1/2 hours so, what to see along the way?  I equipped myself with google maps and images and checked out all the places I could find along the way and came up with this cute place called Kitzingen.

Well as we drove into town, Howie and Birgit thought it looked like a waste of time, but I was persistent.   I knew that this place had some of the nicest river scenery I had seen whilst planning the trip.

So we found a parking place and went for a wander, finally coming across that river I had seen.   Well we were all nicely surprised.  The foreshore was lined with these lovely flowers.  Saw a couple of barges and some swans and ducks.


Ok, Aussirose story time!

Oh come on!  😜 You know you love my stories lol.

Truth is, things did not go as smoothly as I stated at the outset. 

We set the trusty Tom Tom GPS to the local cop station.  Turns out that Kitzingen Police Station is not in the heart of town.  Haha.

Consequently, that is why hubby and Birgit were wondering why I had brought us here?  Still, hubby and I found stuff to take photos of.   Meanwhile, Birgit was still scratching her head.  Birgit lives in Berlin so this scenery is every day stuff for her.

Narrow cobblestone streets and cute entry ways are fascinating to us.   We don't have that in Australia.



Beer o'clock.

We found a little mall devoid of tourists.   How quaint!  It was nice to eat with the locals.

Primed with a coldie we re-assessed our situation.

Kitzingen is a nice little off the beaten path village indeed! 
We were all impressed.  A detour through Kitzingen was most certainly worth our time.



A grand palace on top of a hill with stunning city views!

I had heard about this from reading Michael's (globetrott) pages on Virtual Tourist.   Michael's suggestions on places to visit in Germany proved to be very helpful.

Birgit and Howie were looking forward to it.   I looked at all those steps leading up the hill to the Palace and it was the thought of a cool beer at the end of the road that kept me going lol.
Well this Palace was impressive and the views overlooking Wurzburg were stunning.   

It was our first encounter with a Palace.    
There were a lot of first's for us on this trip.

After a wander around the courtyards and a bit of a read of the placards we headed to the nice shady courtyard for a tasty ale.  Hubby and I were enjoying German beer tasting.



A cute castle on a pond story.

When planning the car trip through Germany, I had Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber on the list and the next thing to see was the Rhine River.   So armed with google maps, images And VT pages, I was looking for a place to stay overnight along the way.


I found it!   Mespelbrunn and this cute castle on a pond in the middle of the forest.  
Thanks again Michael!

This was our first castle experience.   
Another first for us.

We stayed overnight at a hotel recommended by Ingrid (trekki).  The place that Michael stayed at was near the castle, but a little too expensive for us.  Michael’s choice below.

The forest was lovely and green and a pleasure to walk through.  First sighting of this cute castle was everything that I had imagined!

Not being a history buff, I found myself imagining the pure ingenious idea of building a castle in the forest, hidden from the enemy with the added advantage of a pond and moat. 

The inhabitants were no doubt a lot smarter than some of the others that built their castles in open view on top of a hill.

I was captivated with the lovely pond and shimmering reflections the still water.





We stayed here at the hotel Zum Engel on the suggestion of local Ingrid (trekki) on VT.   

The owners just love Aussies.
I am glad that we chose this one.   We were certainly made to feel like royalty by the owners and our room overlooked the forest which was a pleasant view after our car trip.

I would totally recommend to stay here.   We really enjoyed it. I would describe this hotel as elegant with personalised service.


Next stop Braubach on the Rhine River via Oestrich-Winkel and the amazing Mouse Castle.



Ahhh..... Mausetrum - the cute mouse castle!   Have you ever seen a castle more cute?!! 

I was planning our big Europe holiday with the idea of driving along the Rhine River for part of the way.   I didn't realise how many castles there were along the river until I started doing
some intensive research using google maps and VT. 
That was when I discovered Mauseturm or the Mouse Castle and just knew instantly that I had to see it!

The most obvious place to view this cute castle is in Bingen on the left hand side of the river looking upstream, but there isn't much else to do in Bingen so I started to look elsewhere. 

Then I found Michael's (globetrott) Oestrich-Winkel page on Virtual Tourist and the rest fell into place.

More about that later.



Our first sighting of the lovely Rhine River.
When we arrived in Oestrich-Winkel I recognised the old crane from pictures I had seen on globetrott's pages. These cranes were used to help in the transport of such goods as wine barrels, sand, gravel, coal and grain.  Here we went for a short walk along the river bank.



Beer time!   Whilst trip planning I had discovered this quaint place to eat and enjoy a coldie.
The Gruner Baum was tucked away in a back street.  I liked the quiet shady dining area that was enclosed by lots of greenery. 



Mouse Castle is located just past Oestrich-Winkle on the opposite side of the river.   You need to keep a look out because it quickly appears and there is not much room to pull off the road for a quick photo shoot.  

Lucky for us, I spied it in time and the traffic wasn't too busy which allowed us to pull off the road quickly.

The Mouse Castle is situated on an island in the middle of the Rhine River near Bingen, I was fascinated to hear the story behind the name.

Apparently this fella called Hatto took over the Archbiship seat in Mainz and reigned Bingen.   He used to stay in this castle thinking he was safe.   One day he became ill and apparently was overcome by thousands of mice and died.

Shivers!!   We once lived in a place called Edithburgh south Australia.   Being in the wheat belt, there were mice everywhere.  Our rental house was infested!   You might like mice, but they give me shivers!!!  Eewwwe!!   Lol.



We were headed towards Braubach and a hotel recommended by my friend globetrott (Michael) on Virtual Tourist.

Driving along the Rhine River was a pleasure and great memory.  Castles everywhere we looked!!   We were gobsmacked! 

Thank goodness there were no flies around. Haha.

This one is called Pfalzgafenstien Castle.  Phew, that's a big word! Lol.   

I later found out that it was used to collect river tolls.   Apparently a chain was placed across the river and forced ships to submit.  Traders that didn't were placed in the dungeon until a ransom was delivered. 

An ingenious way to make money.  Governments today aren’t so smart.

 And some wineries along the way



When planning our car trip through Europe I chose Braubach to stay overnight because of this majestic castle on the hill and cute little tram to take you there.

Thanks again Michael for your suggestions!!



This castle so far was by far the most majestic one we'd seen on our trip! The other castles in their own right had interesting features like the one in Mespelbrunn where we had just come from and the cute little mouse castle near Oestrich-Winkle. 

You could not miss this castle, perched on top of the hillside. We arrived late in the afternoon so could not take the cute train up to check out the castle that was disappointing.

Plus we had a long day of driving in the morning.  So all we could do was admire Marksburg Castle from down town.

And across the road was the lovely Rhine River.


Hey!  Wanna hear a funny Aussirose story?!
Hey!  Stop groaning and listen!!

Guess what?   The hotel was full!!  Even though we booked ahead.   So they shoved us in the barn across the road.  True!!!

The out house across the road, the white building over there, was to be our accommodation for the night.

Poor Birgit's bed was no bigger than a baby cot!  So Howie took the lounge to sleep on and Birgit and I shared the queen sized bed lol.

Oh well, without something like this happening, I would not have a story to tell now would I.

All was not lost however.  We had pretty good views of Marksburg Castle from the outback shed. 




The hotel was quite interesting.  There were 2 buildings, 3 if you include the shed across the road lol.  2nd building was where breakfast was prepared and I must say in the hotel's defence, that breakky was really good!

I had my first authentic German breakfast here complete with all sorts of bread, cheese and meat.  I was in heaven !!!! 

The street was really narrow here.  I reckon that car could almost fit through there.
What do you think? 

We had a good laugh at this sign haha.  Pfft!!   Tanks get to drive at 100'k's in Braubach!! 



We hadn't planned to visit Tongeren on our road trip through Europe.  We were headed to Lier for a special Virtual Tourist meet and we had arranged to pick up Kirsty (kshezz) from her home in Tongeren. 

My first impression of Tongeren was a small town that I immediately felt comfortable in.  The people here are warm and friendly and the countryside is lovely.

First time in a new country, you have to try a local beer. This one Grimberben went down real well.  A nice introduction to Belgium beers!

Ok, now we've had a nice coldie, let's start with an Aussirose story.  Stop groaning!!! 😉

We were on our way to pick up Kirsty from her home in Tongeren and we were driving through some nice countryside and into a small village, through the streets and then heading out of town.

Hey, wait a minute!!!!!!!   We are not supposed to be heading out of town????!
We came to a screeching halt!!   Dust surrounded the car.

Is there something wrong with the Tom Tom?!!  We again punched in Kirsty's address and headed back into the small village to which we had just come from, Tongeren.

Story to be continued.   Later.

The great memory a lot of us had with Virtual Tourist (closed in Feb 2017) was our fabulous VT meets.  I hope that tradition will continue on Travellerspoint.
So here we are at Kirsty's place in Tongeren exchanging hugs.  It's like meeting up with an old friend and sharing new experiences.  Awesome!!

It was a real pleasure meeting you Kirsty!   Never a dull moment!  You are a lively fun loving person and so easy to get along with. 

We all enjoyed a walk around town and learning about the story behind the amazing statue Ambiorix in the centre square.

Kirsty also had some presents for us. My first taste of Belgium chocolates!!  And a key ring for Howie of the famous Ambiorix.



Our first canal experience!  We had a lot of firsts this trip.

We had already experienced, clocks, Tudor houses, cobblestone streets, Castles and a Grand Palace. 

Now the canals!!   How beautiful!!  

When planning our big trip through Europe I had google maps up and google images and of course VT as my trusty source of info.  We were driving from Braubach to Brugge - too long to do in 1 day.  I discovered Lier.

Lier has 3 big things going for it - an interesting clock, some old buildings in a place called the Beguinage and canals!!   Lier is called "little brugges".

The clock was amazing!! I have a thing for clocks. My pride and joy at home is my grandfather clock.  This unique clock in Lier was a masterpiece!!
Called the Zimmer Tower, it was actually part of the old town walls and then made into a clock in 1930 by a very ingenious fella called Louise Zimmer.

VT mascot Aussie Barney just loved Lier!   Bet you can guess why!  Lol.

What the heck have sheep and Lier got in common?   I'll explain later.

First things first.  This was a special VT meet.  It was my 51st birthday.

I was going to spend my birthday in a little village in Europe that I knew nothing about.  Well except for the lovely canals and clock.

Turns out that I could not have picked a better place!!  And that was because of some fantastic VT members who made this a day to remember and the wealth of information they had to share with me!


Thanks to kshezz (Kirsty), irisbe (Dannie) and eddymario (Eddy).  You guys rock!!! 

We exchanged hugs all round and had a couple of drinks as us VT'ers are accustomed to.  Then went for a wander around town.

I had read all about the Beguinage and was excited to see it.  A Beguinage is like a convent. In the old times there was a surplus of women as a result of war which took the lives of many men.  These women formed communities where they became religious and took on the lives of nuns. You could say that a Beguinage is compared to a Monestery except the beguines did not make vows like nuns do.  

This was turning out to be a most enjoyable day!! 

Beer o'clock and party time!! 

Eddy and Dannie chose a fabulous restaurant for our party!!  We had a lovely view over nice greenery and the famous sheep statues.

Thank you for organising guys!!!  You are amazing friends! 

We had an awesome party!!!



Early next morning we took a wander around the streets. It's a nice thing to do when the air is cool and there's no one around.

Opposite the restaurant we had partied the night before was a lovely painting portraying the life of the women in the old Beguinage.

I am by far a history junkie.  But I was actually quite liking what I was learning. Lier has a very interesting history

Ok, now for a sheepish story.

Did you know that the inhabitants of Lier are nicknamed "sheep's heads"?  

This is the story behind the sheep statues that you find around town.

Way back in the olden times they were asked what they wished for - a cattle market or a Uni?

Yep, you guessed it.  And Leuven, a place down the road got the University.

This story didn't matter to Aussie  Barney. He was just happy to meet some of his fellow mates.  He picked the black sheep to sit on for a ride no hidden secret there.  Lol.

So whilst Aussie Barney was being led astray by the black sheep. I got a little distracted myself.

Whoaa??   Hell yeh!!!

The Chippendales were in town!   How could I have missed them??!

Despite missing the Chippendales our visit to Lier will definitely be another great travel memory!! Made all the better by fantastic friends!!  

Thanks guys!!  😃



We stayed at the pure bed and breakfast. This place is the most clinical hotel I have ever stayed in. Everything was new and 'white' with lots of chrome fittings. There was no atmosphere here. It was as clean as a hospital without the smell. 

 Might have had something to do with catering mainly for those that come out of the sleezy disco in front of the hotel lol.

Breakfast was good though. Don't think I'd stay here again.



Well what an amazing surprise!!   We were not sure what to expect.  I had done no research at all on Gent.   

We made a quick stop in Gent on the way to Brugges purely to meet a very old friend of mine on VT, Erwin.

Erwin (Joeplaboam) had kindly offered to show us around his hometown and who wouldn't accept an invitation like that from a friend I had known for 13 years on VT. 

We met Erwin at a car park just off the highway at the Holiday Inn Express.  That's a story in itself.   In a minute.

Well as I said, Gent was a total surprise and has heaps to offer!  My friend Erwin was a fantastic host and made our short stop in Gent a total pleasure and fantastic memory.

The highlight for me in Gent was our first Europe canal experience.  It was also my best canal tour of our whole Europe trip!!  This was not only due to Erwin's company but also because our tour guide was so entertaining and funny. 





Gent is a popular pace for weddings.  We saw 4 in the short space of time that we were here. And no wonder!  The backdrop with gorgeous old buildings and cobblestone streets. Wow! Who wouldn't want to get married here!! 

Out and about wandering around gent with it's amazing buildings, architecture, Cathederal and even a Castle!! - Gravensteen!  Stunning!!

And then, just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Erwin took us to the amazing Werregarenstraat - Graffiti Street!!!!

Ok.  Back to the funny aussirose story.
*** aussirose making stop hand signal *** 
Keep your thoughts to yourself!!!

Was our trusty GPS playing tricks on us?  

Tom Tom had helped us navigate bustling cities, windy roads, small Cobbledstone Streets within old fortress walls and wide open countryside. We could not have done this trip without it.  Well except for a couple of hickups.

We had travelled through the gorgeous Belgium countryside the previous day to pick up Kirsty from Tongeren and take her with us to Lier for my birthday bash. 

Tom Tom took us right past Kirsty's house and out of town. We thought at the time that it was strange.
But didn't think anything more because we were excited to see Kirsty.

So here we are driving from Lier to Brugges via Gent to see Erwin.  
Well guess what? We took the exit off the highway to Gent.  Then did a loop and re-entered the highway towards Brugges.

Huh??? Wtf??!!!

Then it clicked!!! 
Tom Tom didn't know that we actually wanted to stop in gent Stupid GPS!! Lol.

By putting in 'via' - GPS was doing just that. Taking us via.  Haha.



Erwin took us to this pub called Dullo Griet Bar when they serve over 250 beers!! 
Hooleydooley !!!!  

As you can see here.  I am totally happy after a couple of hours spent in gent with our wonderful host Erwin.

Thank you so much for showing us around mate. Gent was amazing!  And you are the best!!
I would love to come back and explore some more.

Next stop the stunning and romantic Brugges.



How romantic!! 

This is still a favourite photo! And it was taken with my point and shoot camera and I colour popped and stitched together in Photoshop.

Brugges was one of the 1st on my list of places to see in Europe.  I fell in love with Brugges whilst visiting Ian's (iandsmith) pages on VT.  I saw his night shots and immediately knew I wanted to visit!  Thanks mate! 

We had already experienced our first Europe canals in Lier and Gent.  But the canals here in Brugges at night were something else!!



I was gobsmacked!!!  
Have you ever seen a beer so big!!
Now this is what I'm talking about!!

But how is Aussirose going to polish this off without spilling it all over her face and embarrassing herself in public?!

Well I delicately lifted the yard glass out of its holder and sipped it. There was no way I was going to spill this thing all over myself!!  Lol.
I did this technique a few times, pretending I knew what I was doing. No lifting the little pinkie.  I am a professional!!

Well there were some strange looks at neighbouring tables and I thought, what's the problem?   I'm doing real good here. I have not got a face full yet! Think my technique is working!!

Well it turns out that I was not doing this in style at all!  I was making a total fool of myself at everyone's expense lol.

But that's alright because Aussirose is used to being a dumb blonde Queenslander lol. 

This is what I should have been doing.  Lifting up the whole wooden frame and yard glass at the same time.  This nice waiter took pitty on me and came over to help lol.

Well after I mastered it, followed by a few laughs all round including me, I polished off my beer to a round of applause!!  And just had to get a photo of my Kwak beer drinking teacher!!

Well by this time I needed a distraction from my failure.
And I got it!!!!  Lol.

What sort of head is that Howie?!!   
Chuckle..... Snigger snigger. 

Where's the beer?!!  Now drink that!! Lol.

Hubby prides himself on pouring a good beer.  But I think these Belgium beers have certainly given both of us a good challenge!

Ok says hubby, enough of the silly stuff, let's check out the menu.  Well that just created more laughter on my side!! Hawhaww!
Now who is the looser!!!  Pfft!! I lost it totally!!! Hahaaaa.

The staff couldn't have been more helpful and we had a nice time enjoying our surroundings and people watching.



Brugges is such a romantic place. I loved the canals and night lights.



Brugges had horse & buggies! 

What a lovely way to see the sights and equally romantic!
We didn't do this as the line up was too long. We did however ride horse and Buggy elsewhere on our trip but that's another story.

We took a few minutes to sit and enjoy the ducks and swans on the canal front. This was a nice quiet part of the city with lots of trees and shade.

Ok, funny aussirose story.

And you thought that my beer drinking technique was funny!!  Pfft.

This is the main square in Brugges.  Hubby and I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast about 20min casual stroll from this centre square. More about the B&B in a minute.

On our first day we decided to hire the B&B bikes to take the fast trip into town.  No problem!  Aussirose was an accomplished bike rider.   
Years ago.

These Danish bikes however were big!  
Mine was a bit too big!!

Of course I had no problem mounting it! 😇 
Riding.  No problem.  Lol.

But getting off.  Just a slight problem.  Haha.

Nothing like a crash landing in the Centre Square of Brugges!  In front of the horse and buggies and crowds lol.

Out comes the violins.
No, just thought I'd throw that in for effect.   Hehee.

Speaking of musical instruments.   This fella was in the next street.  I really enjoyed his violin and trumpet playing.   He was a real talented guy.  Check him out on the steets video below.  

So after my impressive touchdown into the centre square,  Hubby and I took a wander around the streets, taking in the lively atmosphere and tourist attractions. 



Brugges is a very busy touristy place.



Going on a canal tour in Brugges was on my must do list.  We had already experienced a surprise canal cruise in Gent.  So I had something to compare this with.  Although both had similar nice sights, Gent wins.  You will have to check out my Gent blog to find out why.



Lovely Sarah (crazypaws) who organised our meet up.  Thanks a million Sarah for a fantastic job!! We all enjoyed ourselves immensely!

Attendees were Bell (titabell), Dannie (irisbe), Caroline (b_caro) and Ian-Grace (kylian74).  

Oh and Aussie Barney (who stole the show) and those naughty VA's.  The plastic people from around the world  that would have loved to have attended in person.    So the next best thing was ti become a Virtual Attendee.   Or VA as we affectionally call them.

Bell - you had been my friend for a long time on VT and it was a highlight to finally meet you!!  What a warm reception you gave Howie and I.  And your eyes lit up when you saw our VA's Hansi, Lori, Dorrise and Rexy xx.

Dannie - you came to my birthday bash in Lier! What an amazing time we had!! And thank you again for also coming to Brugges!! Xx

Caroline - you had a warm and bubbly personality!  Who wouldn't have been drawn to you! We had a fabulous time.

Ian-Grace - you came along with your hubby and little baby girl who was so cute!!   You came from 3 hours away!  I am so privileged to have met you and your little family! Don't stop smiling and enjoying life to the full!!
Again.  Sarah, looking forward to showing you around Perth when you visit us shortly in July 2017!! Hugs xx


I would recommend to stay here.  Our hosts were attentive but also gave us our space.  Parking was not too far away. We had the use of the bikes to ride into town.   About 7 minutes away.  Great location.  Breakfast was nice!

Brugges excelled everything I had imagined!

Next stop - Amsterdam and a stay on a houseboat, fun at the Heineken experience, windmills,
boats, bikes and booze - plus meeting PJ, Swanet, Dila and Mary.



Not one of the better photos I took in Amsterdam, however this photo brings back happy memories our houseboat.

Yes, we stayed on a houseboat! It was awesome!

aussirose and Houseboat owner Frank

When planning our holiday, Amsterdam was one of the first on my list. Not because of the boats, bikes and booze,  but because of my good Virtual Tourist friend PJ (pieter jan) and his
lovely wife Swanet. 

Meeting up with PJ and Swanet was the highlight of Amsterdam.

We also had the pleasure of meeting another Amsterdam resident, Dianna (dila) who kindly showed us around on a nice walking tour of Amsterdam and also joined in on our daily activities.



Our time in Amsterdam was accompanied by rain which could have put a damper on the whole experience, but it didn't matter much. We had a fun time anyway.

Our whole Europe trip incorporated so many new and different experiences, cultures and sights. I n fact there was a wow factor around every corner!  Amsterdam was no different.

My highlight here was the canals. Yes, we did the red light district, windmills and the fun Heineken experience, but the canals for me was the highlight.




Hubby wore his FBI t-short especially for the occasion - famous beer inspector.

We had been tasting beers all through Germany and Belgium.  Now came the time for the FBI to put Heineken, Amsterdam to the test!!!

So far so good.   The FBI is impressed.
PJ gives his nod of approval.
The FBI is still working on it.

Now for the first test.  The FBI smells the ingredients. You need to have good barley, hops and yeast.  Not bad says the FBI.

Now for the all important taste test.  Check out the bubbles, clarity and taste!
Does it pass?

Final inspection completed! Beer passed the test!!
Meanwhile Birgit and Swanet were doing a bit of their own smelling and tasting.

The Heineken experience may be a bit tacky but the FBI and I agree that it is well worth a visit.
You get to experience the feeling of actually being a beer being made and bottled by means of a simulated activity.  They have other fun stuff to do including Kareoke.

And at the end there is a beer pouring competition.

We were all given 2 buttons for free beers. You could use the 2 buttons to pour your own beer.

The FBI couldn't resist the challenge.  Hubby stepped up and poured his beer like a true FBI pro!  Unlike his feeble attempt in Brugges.  Lol.

And received a Heineken experience beer pulling certificate!
The crowd clapped and cheered!! 

And hubby proceeded to scab a few more buttons from those who cheerfully gave them away to the famous FBI.



A trip to Amsterdam is incomplete without visiting the lovely windmills.  Located in the village of Zaanse Schans which is just a short train ride from central station. The link above
shows how to get here.

We had experienced lots of first's on our Europe trip - chiming clocks, cobbledstone streets, castles, a big palace, canals, horse & buggy,  and now for the windmills.

I loved our day out here.  The little village is just gorgeous!!

I believe that there are 25 historic houses in which around 40 people still live with 2 working windmills still selling their products to nearby factories.

Here in Zaanse Schans I had the best apple pie ever!!  Yuuum!!

De Hoop op D’Swarte Walvis Restaurant.



Anne Frank House


Van Gogh Museum

Brouwerij 't IJ Brewery

XXXX Beer at Brouwerij 't IJ Amsterdam

We caught tram No. 5 and Dianna was Driving !!!



Beware.  Bike riders here have priority.  Well at least that is the experience I had. Do not linger on a bike path!!! 



It's no secret that I love night lights and night photography! I even took a lovely short video of the night lights reflecting on the canal near our houseboat which I will attempt to upload here later.

Amsterdam at night was stunning!!  As you can see below.





And Mary came all the way from Scotland to our vt meet!!  That is awesome!!  Had a wonderful time with you mary! Xx  It is such a pitty that you got sick and couldn't attend any
of our day trips.

Thank you so much PJ and Swanet for hosting us in Amsterdam!!
You will always be good friends!!! Xxx

Next destination Paris for the big vt meet!!
And a special surprise from hubby... Kept secret by my vt friends.



Ahh Paris!! City of Love!!

Paris has been my dream destination since very little.
And finally! Here I am!!!

Paris is known as the City of  Lights, however after having experienced Paris first hand all I can say is wow!  J'adore Paris!  I'm in love with Paris!! 

Lights.   Yeh sure!  The tower looks absolutely amazing at night and everything else for that matter when you are in love.

Of course it also helps when one is presented with a gorgeous eternity ring of diamonds and rubies.
More about that later.

I now not only adore Paris but also my lovely hubby to whom I've been married for over 40 years.

So here I am in love.  It's amazing what one sees when one is in love.

Is this a boring scene to you? Well not to me.  Love the colour! Love the fact that there are just 2 bikes.  Are the bikes out of place? No way!  They look like they belong there. That spot is made just for them.  I think that this picture captures the essence of Paris!

Ok enough of that romantic dribble.



One thing I found when visiting Europe was that around every corner there is something amazing to see!  The architecture here in Paris is phenomenal!
From the awesome Eiffel Tower to the grand Notre Dame to the stunning Louvre.  To the simple design of a row of arches that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

The statues were so lifelike and I was amazed at the intricate detail. In fact at Versailles I found the many lifelike statues were more interesting than the gardens.  Art work was pretty good too.



Hubby is a horticulturist. He studied gardens on his course. So it was a no brainer that hubby wanted to visit the most famous gardens in Paris - Versailles.

Although I found the gardens nice. I preferred Monet gardens.

I did however enjoy the wonderful statues and fountains.



This was my favourite! Cottage gardens with an array of gorgeous colourful flowers are so nice.

I guess that is the difference between Hubby and I.  He likes more formal gardens whereas I like the more natural gardens with a mixture of this and that.

Claude Monet must have really enjoyed painting in the lovely surroundings that he created here.

2 Barney VT Mascots

Unusual House on the way there



Hubby, stevemt and I did a walking photo tour with Sab - Paris set me free.

Even though I did not have a DSLR camera, I learnt a lot.  If you are into photography, I would recommend this when visiting Paris. Sab was a great teacher!



Below are happy memories of our fantastic VT meet ups here.  Each and every one of you who met me here know that you are all special! 

We had an amazing time! 
Love you all!! 

Hubby and Pfsmalo

Dear Birgit from Berlin who travelled with us

Sonja & Steve

Gillybob picnicking with a couple of big boys

Aussirose & Valerie from KL



Paul and Cathy (pfsmalo) kindly arranged to take us all on a  walk around Paris.   Below are some of the cool things that we saw. 

I love VW bugs!

How did they park that? haha

Bike with 2 front wheels??



I couldn't have picked a better hotel!  Right in the Latin Quarter and close to everything.
I totally recommend the Cujas Pantheon Hotel!   We booked through booking.com.  Location is great, staff attentive and the deal for the price was certainly well worth every penny, especially because Paris can be very expensive. 

Breakfast included downstairs was nice.  Our room was bigger than some of those I have seen.  We could look out the window on nice architecture of surrounding buildings.

The pub that we had our VT meet and greet was just a few steps down the road on the corner.  Transport was close by.  And the best thing was that our room had a bath!!



Ok.  Cannot do a blog about our visit to Paris without a few photos of the famous tower.
Although Hubby and I love off the beaten path places more than visiting touristy icons, you simply cannot visit Paris without checking out the amazing Eiffel Tower! 

Of course we didn't bother with lining up.  We were just happy to view it from the ground. 

Better still, a picnic in the gardens with our VT friends.  That was lovely.  

I would encourage you to do the same if you plan to visit. There is nothing better than having a picnic with wine, cheese and breads in the grounds of the Eiffel Tower!!!



Hubby contacted good VT friend stevemt who arranged a meetup for this special occasion. 

  Hubby presented me with a gorgeous eternity ring of diamonds and rubies.

The 3 diamonds represent hubby, son Dylan and son Jesse.  The 2 rubies represent daughter Kelli and daughter Janine.

After 32 years of marriage, hubby is still a romantic at heart.  Love him!!

Hubby along with our good friends Steve and Birgit kept a special secret from me.
Steve arranged the restaurant where we had an amazing dinner.  Birgit along with everyone else knew about it and kept the secret. 

Birgit travelled with us all the way from Zurich, through Germany, Belgium and Amsterdam (check out my other blogs).  

We had dinner at La Varangue - philippe's restaurant not far from the Eiffel Tower. Chef Philippe was wonderful!

Not only that, but my VT friends that came were also in on the secret.  All but me!  Lol.

When hubby was making his speech about the great time that we had so far in Paris with our special friends, I was busy filming.  It wasn't until hubby turned to me and presented me with this gorgeous eternity ring.  That the penny fell!

Omg!!  In front of all of our friends, hubby presented me with the most stunning eternity ring and I was lost for  words.  I cried!!

Thank you Howard!  I love you so much!!  And my friends were here to see this?  Totally the best night ever!! 

aussirose and Chef Philippe

And we all walked down to the EiffelTtower to see it lit up
at night! 

What an amazing end to our Paris adventure!!



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