Thanksgiving in Alabama with a Turkey Brine Dinner

A new day was dawning. Today is a special day in the American calendar. Thanksgiving Day is a holiday comparable to Christmas Day. This American tradition has only transcended elsewhere for its turkey based culinary recipes. Due to our visit, it was going to be celebrated in style. So as soon as we got out of the room to have breakfast, we found the preparations for the dinner.

Since we had not been able to visit USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park on our route between New Orleans and Pensacola, we could visit now. And what luck we were going to have. The drive was just 1 hour, since Mobile is on the border between Alabama and Florida.

Once the place is reached, the parking is paid, we go in the park. From there, we visit the planes, helicopters and military elements that are in the park for free. Access to the USS Alabama, the USS Drum and the hangar with airplanes, need entry fee.

In the park we see beautiful vintage military aircraft like the B-25J Mitchell. The first visit was the USS Alabama itself. It was an American warship of the South Dakota type. This ship served during the World War II until 1947 when it was sent to the reserve, state in which it remained until 1962. In 1964, after a fundraising by a local commission the ship reached its current location in Mobile.

Going up a ramp we reach the main deck, and from there we can see the points of the recommended route. We climbed to the top of the tower, and went down, traveling small stairs. Once the ship was over, the planes touched. The planes that are not exposed in the park surrounding the parking lot are inside a hangar. They are the most delicate planes, with the exception of the B-52 which by size would need its own hangar.

One of the most interesting features of this exhibition, besides the A-12, is that it is the only place in the world where we can see all the models of the F-series of fighters. We went into the hangar. We spent a lot of time seeing airplanes, especially the YF-17 Cobra, one of the two prototypes built as a base for the current F-18. We had to bend down to pass under the wings of the planes. We continue to see planes, helicopters and others.

The next curious moment of the visit occurred while we saw what had been the presidential helicopter of Ronald Reagan. We are in an area not allowed to the public and above we want to take pictures. The visit was turning out great, but it still had to get weirder. We kept talking about airplanes, battles and technical data.

We focused our attention on the jewel in the crown. The A-12. It is a marvel of aviation. I could make a copy and paste from wikipedia of the technical data, but I do not want to bore anyone. The plane, besides being practically invisible to the radar, was immune to the missiles.

This plane was a state secret and was being tested secretly in Area 51. Many people in the area reported seeing UFOs, but that it was about this plane. The lights were unusual colors. Its shape was far from the airplanes of the time and its speed and capabilities made it strange in the heavens.

After this, we were quite out of place. Who would not be? At that time I focused my attention, and my photos, on the F-16. We kept visiting the exhibition on our own. In addition to modern fighters, the exhibition has some classics, such as the Mustang.

We left the hangar and after seeing a MIG that belonged to the Chinese army, it was time to visit the submarine USS Drum. After the submarine USS Drum, we returned to the parking lot to see another monster of military aviation. The B-52 Calamity Jane.

It is really an awesome bomber and when we get under its wings is when we really realize the size of such a bird. Our visit was coming to an end. We had to go back to Pensacola in time for the Thanksgiving dinner. So we decided to eat something light in the museum cafeteria, buy some souvenirs in the store and return to Pensacola by a secondary road.

There were army coins, bullet casings and many military items. Once in the cafeteria we ordered some hamburgers, quite simple, some potatoes and some soft drinks. We should not eat much. It was Thanksgiving and the dinner was going to be strong.

We had plenty of time and we preferred to see a bit of scenery. So after crossing the bridge from Mobile Bay and entering the state of Florida, we took the US-90. It is a more conventional road to travel smaller towns and more rural areas. So we took the opportunity to see the landscape.

Many people in Florida traveled to Alabama to buy pornography and fireworks. In Florida it is not legal to sell it, so the towns of Alabama next to the border are plagued with stores with these items. Another thing that caught our attention was cemeteries stuck to the roads.

Back in Pensacola, the sun was setting. As we got home, the dinner was already waiting for us. With such a sunset, the day of Thanksgiving and a heavy turkey brine dinner I felt like staying forever here.

How To Cook A Turkey In The Oven images wallpaper

The Most Curious Trip to Nigeria

Nigeria is a great country we know. Its greatness does not come only from its population which is the most numerous of Africa. One also has the impression that what is done better or worse elsewhere on the continent is multiplied in this country. For example, Nollywood is the second largest film industry in the world behind Bollywood in India and Hollywood in the USA.

When I started expressing my intention to go to Nigeria, many people in Ghana, Togo and even Benin, a country bordering Nigeria, tried to dissuade me. The main reason was that the country was dangerous especially by road, for a foreigner. I've heard all kinds of sordid stories from travelers who have not come back.

The most surprising story is that of the man who had been stripped of all his money after being spotted and drugged by pure water, the water sold in bags that he could not suspect for a moment. In short, I did not give up my trip so far but I ended up being afraid.

I have traveled everywhere, but I have always been well aware of the significant risks involved in crossing a conflict zone. Or any areas in fact. No place is really neutral. I had already landed in a tribal conflict in Kenya where I was kindly escorted by an armed guard to the door of the only hotel in a small town because two tribal groups were in the middle of a major negotiation.

Or, I was promptly signaled to move away from an intense political demonstration in the center of Dhaka in Bangladesh. I was also particularly struck by the feeling of insecurity I faced in Cape Town, South Africa, where apparently inter-community tensions are still present, even today. Even in Papua New Guinea, it was absolutely impossible to get alcohol because of the ongoing elections, a subject that Papuans are passionate about.

In short, traveling is completely political no matter the place in my opinion. All this to say that I was now riding in a jeep looking for an inexpensive hotel for the night. I had done my research and the idea was to avoid the North of the country where tensions were possibly underway.

But let's start from the beginning. After I got all the vaccinations, all that was missing was the interview at the Nigerian Embassy. To get a visa for Nigeria, the embassy demands that I introduce myself and answer a few questions. So at 11 o'clock, I had the appointment in the embassy.

The next morning I went to the embassy. There I was received by an employee with two more men who led me to the embassy. We went through the metal detector and, as you can imagine, that of course rang, but that did not interest anyone and we were able to go through it that way.

Now the waiting started although we had an official appointment. After about 1.5 hours it was time and I was called and ordered to a room to talk. We were told from the beginning that the interview was in English. In the room a woman greeted me and asked for a seat. After about three minutes, after she had finished reading the news on the internet, the conversation began.

She asked me a question that I did not understand because of my nervousness the first time. The second time I realized what she wanted. She wanted to know the reason why I want to go to Nigeria. My answer is that I am going to travel there. Then the lady wanted to see and copy my ID card and that was the end of the conversation.

After seven minutes everything was over. Well, that's it. If I ever fly back to Nigeria, all I have to do is apply for a visa, which will be approved without a call. The week after that I received my passport (which I sent to the embassy before) with a telegram, which is the permit.

Not an hour later, the company called me to make an appointment with me. After two short phone calls I got the flight confirmation by e-mail and so the flight is now to Abuja.

Day 1

My flight departed at 6:15 am, where I had about 4 hours to catch my connecting flight. The 5-hour flight to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, was a bit strange. During the flight, I was sitting next to a thick, after perfume smelly fellow, who got drunk on the plane. As it turned out in the conversation, in the last 25 years every Mondays he takes a flight to a new country around the world and thus traveled to about 120 countries.

Arrived at the airport, an elderly man, who in turn directed me to another person, who then escorted me to the bus stop where a bus was waiting on the way to the hotel. I can tell right away that I landed here in another world. However, I was not shocked by the situation, because I had either already prepared for the situation mentally or I had no ideas about Nigeria.

In any case, I looked at the first streets. The road was full of garbage and everywhere stood people who wanted to sell something or rum. On the Airport Highway, it became very interesting, because it is pretty wild. Everyone overtakes right and left. There is a lot of honking, trucks with people in the back of the truck over the highway and although footbridges are available, people walk on a busy 4-lane highway.

I followed the road following the indications for a long time, without finding anything yet. On the way, other hotels were too expensive and I had to continue my way each time. After a few minutes, the road started to get a little smaller, then frankly bumpy. I stopped several times to ask my way to people I met, and all told me to continue, which really reassured me.

Day 2

Early morning, I was at the station to take the vehicle to Seme, the city on the border between Benin and Nigeria. Once arrived, young people come to me to offer to cross the border on a motorcycle. Their appearance is not reassuring especially since my mind had been conditioned to the utmost mistrust towards them.

I first changed my currency to Naira and I got together with a motorcycle taxi to take me to take a vehicle from Lagos. I saw that we had passed a border crossing without stopping in front of the customs officers. I thought there was another one in front of us.

I do not know the deal that existed between my driver and the agents but I had just crossed the border between two foreign countries hands down. We pass without control, without a seal on my passport, let alone go through the health service inspection.

We cross baobab forests. Trucks pick up the accumulated cotton between high walls, one would think snow. Jute bags containing peanuts are oddly arranged in true pyramids. Other than that, the road is monotonous.

The bike took me to a place where a Lagos vehicle drove me to Badagry. Less than 2 hours later I was at Badagry Roundabout, the place indicated by my travel guide. While waiting for the car to pick me up, I'm looking for something to nibble on. In a small shop, the saleswoman tells me that the biscuit I want costs 50 nairas.

I have the amount requested in my hand and I see it's a ticket. I'm surprised it's not a piece, as the biscuit is small. I think direct to a scam and I deprive myself to eat until the arrival of my car. I will learn later, that coins do not exist in Nigeria. That's how I arrived in Nigeria. It was almost too easy for me.

We stop to wait for a car that does not arrive. A gravel broke the windshield. We have lunch without enthusiasm. We buy ten grapefruits. Sitting on tree trunks we listen to the soothing reading of the Quran recited in a monotone tone. The man sitting on the floor does not take care of us and inscribes weird signs on a wooden board.

An amiable person offers us water at the post-office and we drink copiously under the amused eye of the employees. We decide to walk back but the city is immensely big and we would be lost if a compassionate soul had brought us back by car kindly. The lambs abound on the trees and I see a beautiful green orange tail that measures at least twenty centimeters.

We head towards Kano and our journey continues for the whole night. By night Nigeria's roads will remain in my eyes as the image of a nightmare. There is heavy traffic and the trucks have dazzling white headlights. We cross villages where emerge at the entrance and exit, frightful smells. The inhabitants uniformly dressed in djellabas and dusty white toques spend their evenings in the street by the light of the oil lamps. The crowd is so dense that it has invaded the road. If we crush one, we will not come out alive.

Day 3

We arrive in Kano around 5 in the evening. We cannot leave Kano without seeing the mosque. It's too hot to walk. In the spiral staircase, we miss crushing little vultures taking their first steps and leaving their nests. From the top, the view is very beautiful on the Hausa roofs of the native districts.

On the way back we cannot avoid the crossing of the native city and indigo dyes that smell so bad. I have the audacity to knock on the door of a parked car to ask the direction of our hotel! In the center of this industrial and ugly town, we chose a pitiful hotel. We were lucky to find Indian food and then go to a corner bar to watch football.

For our part, the dinner will be expeditious and the bedtime is early.

Day 4

We leave relatively early, around 8:30. A puncture in Madaoua allows us to admire ostriches in a pen, that we photograph avoiding grilling. The children sell marshmallow sticks. In Maradi, we water ourselves from head to foot at a tap in the city before having lunch in a restaurant run by a woman who knows our guide for twenty years and who takes care of us. In a shaded dining room, we have refreshing drinks, tomatoes, and zebu liver.

In Jibiya, the border of Nigeria, we deal with narrow-minded types who do not know how to calculate the three months for the validity of a visa and make us wait for the big man who will decide the case! Another half day is lost in an uninteresting place with the only distraction of a faucet at our disposal.

We see a bus van full of blacks with head covers of small white or embroidered caps, where we buy pieces of sugar cane from a young boy and who leave without having to pay!

Day 5

Getting up at 4:50 am is not very nice, but since I could not sleep at night anyway, it did not really matter. At 5:40 am I headed for the clubhouse to get the shuttle to the airport. After half an hour we were already at the airport and check-in. The plane tickets are written by hand. It is also interesting that I check in with my ID card and do not need a passport. So off the plane and we on to Port Harcourt.

We continued towards the parking lot where our driver already waited by car. When I get on board, I'm very much aware that this one is armored, as the doors are incredibly heavy. After a brief demand, my guess was confirmed. This is a Mercedes jeep weighing 5 tons. Straight from the airport parking lot down two more cars were added to provide escorts.

There are three men armed with Kalashnikov in each of these cars, escorting us to Port Harcourt harbor. With a monkey tooth, it went through the metropolis. There were much honking, sharp brakings, and acceleration again, but the car never stopped and when the three cars had to squeeze through the narrowest gaps. It is a strange feeling to know that there are six armed people in Port Harcourt. I was sitting in an armored car.

At the port, the check-in started for the speedboat, which is accompanied by a heavily armed speedboat of the military. Arriving on Bonny Island I was in another world. Here strict rules prevail. These are two different worlds. On Bonny Island, everything is really sealed off, fenced and guarded and clean. This is probably attributable to the oil and gas industry. The heat on Bonny Island is overwhelming. Bonny is also right on the Atlantic.

Then we went back to the clubhouse for lunch and then back to the harbor and all the way back to Abuja.
On the speedboat ride, I started to read a book. Arriving in Port Harcourt we went again with the armed escort to the airport. In the parking lot, I got a strange feeling when a Nigerian approached, secretly, and quietly. That was a grotesque sight. I do not know if that's paranoia or just an anxiety. In the end, it turned out that he probably only wanted to have money.

In the airport, we checked in and I was asked by a female security check for Chop Chop, which means as much as food. Of course, I did not know what that is and asked. She then asked for money. At first, I was perplexed and at the same moment I started to laugh and said no, took my things and left. It's definitely funny that a working person demands money.

At half past six, our flight should go, but this was delayed by a good 1.5 hours, but that is probably normal for evening flights in Nigeria. At some point, we started for Abuja and reach there. After the brief glimpse of the local hip-hop culture, we drove on to a club. African music was played and almost only consisted of prostitutes.

Then we drove to the hotel. At 11 pm I finally lay in bed. Exhausted but still relieved to be back.

Nigeria Travel Guide images

Day 6

It was time for me to return to Ivory Coast after Nigeria. The question was how to get out of the country? Remember that officially, there was no proof of my presence in Nigeria, as the customs did not register my entry. So I had to leave the country in the same way. We head back to Badagry. We made our trip to the Gurara Waterfalls, which are really cool. At the waterfalls, we had to pay nearly double the price. It does not bother me that I paid twice that. After all, they were worth it.

I swam there, grilled and relaxed. I also got the first sunburn there, despite creaming with SPF 50+. Luckily not so strong.

A vehicle drove us from Badagry to the border town with Benin. On the descent, motorcycle taxi drivers have invaded us to offer their service.

Seeing my confusion in front of these dubious looking individuals, one of the passengers with whom I came from Badagry took me under his protection. He himself was not reassuring. He was a big fellow, with muscles everywhere with biceps and calves. I noticed all this because he was wearing shorts and a basketball jersey. If he had to hurt me, he had only to point the tip of his finger on my forehead and I will fell backward.

Well, it was either with him or full strangers in search of customers. Especially since I had already gone a long way with him. So I explained to him that I had to go around customs. He carried my bag and took a different path from the one I had taken earlier. He then negotiated for me with a gentleman who was watching a large portal. After several minutes of discussion, I saw my bodyguard give money to the guy in front of him.

We are finally allowed to cross a parking lot. I am almost stupidly my guide. I told myself that the bill could be heavy if I came out unharmed and alive. The gentleman would certainly ask me a lot of money. So I began to search my pockets to gather my last nairas.

As soon as we passed the other door of the car park, I was in Benin. I was expecting to take another vehicle or motorcycle taxi. So grateful to my companion, I did not wait for him to ask me. I handed him the rest of nairas in my possession. And there, he refuses to take the money. I have difficulty believing it.

Not only does he help me, he carries my bag, he negotiates my exit, he pays out of his pocket. We walk back to Benin and he refuses any financial compensation. He said goodbye and we left. Indeed there are still some good people in this world. They do good just for good. Beyond appearances, I was wrong on his account!

Indeed, I did not really walk in Lagos. I was not in the north of the country. I did not get close to the extremist bastions of Boko Haram. In Badagry where I lived, I also did not see the beautiful beaches, the slave house, the door of no return. Because in this city are all the marks of a slave coast like that of Goree in Senegal, Cape Coast in Ghana, Agbodrafo in Togo or Ouidah in Benin.

On the trip, I collected my first impressions of Nigeria and thus my first visit to the African continent.

Travel Through Antwerp - The Pleasant Surprise of Belgium

I continue with the stories of the trip to Flanders. Antwerp is a beautiful city located in the north of Belgium. It is a city that I discovered almost by chance. It is presumed to have been the home of the painter Rubens during the development of most of his career. The Scheldt river has also been the second most important port in Europe.

After the huge mess at the Brussels airport to buy train tickets because luck made me choose a machine without the option to change the language, I got on the train loaded with suitcases. When I got off the train and left the station I saw that I have arrived in Antwerp. I could not yet imagine that I had made a mistake in the city and, indeed, I was not in Brussels.

Nothing was close to the thousand images in my head of the Belgian capital. But thanks to a wonderful mistake due to total ignorance of the Flemish language, I ended up wandering and discovering Antwerp. I quickly learned that visiting this city would not disappoint me. If you are thinking about what to see in Antwerp in a day, this post will solve your doubts.

Upon arrival, the magnificent Central Station of Antwerp welcomed me. But while it is true that the Antwerpen Centraal was not the center of Brussels, it allowed me to see the amazing Antwerp Central Station. The Central Station of Antwerp opened in 1905. It is a stone building, with a metal and glass structure by the Belgian architect Louis Delacenserie. When I get off the train I was surprised by the glass roof. Once inside the lobby, the large dome of the waiting room made me speechless.

I headed towards the center of the city taking a walk along the De Keyserlei avenue. It is a wide boulevard with terraces and shops, and those that attracted the most attention were those of diamonds. Antwerp is famous worldwide for diamond cutting. Near the central station, I see dozens of shops with beautiful bright ones in their windows.

The historic center of Antwerp is only a fifteen-minute walk away. But instead of going to the cathedral or the Grote Markt, I start by visiting the beautiful square of Conscienceplein. It is the city's first pedestrian square, named after the writer Hendrik Conscience. The square is full of lime trees and some small restaurants with terraces where you can sit and have a quiet drink. A building in the square stands out above all. It is the church of San Carlos Borromeo, an imposing baroque church that has 43 paintings and numerous sculptures created by the famous painter Rubens.

In fact, Antwerp and Rubens almost go hand in hand. In addition to the church of San Carlos Borromeo, I also find masterpieces of the painter in the Cathedral of Our Lady. This is the most outstanding building in the center of Antwerp. It has no less than seven naves and the bell tower measures 123 meters in height. They say that from the top you can see the Brussels Atomium.

For me, the Cathedral of Antwerp brought back memories of childhood, as I saw the series of drawings The Dog of Flanders, which went from a very poor child named Nello who had a dog named Patrasche. He liked painting very much and his greatest hope in life was to see the painting 'The Descent' from the Rubens Cross. The poor man goes through many hardships, but he finally gets to see the painting in the cathedral. Although the story ends up having one of those outcomes makes me traumatized. However, upon entering the cathedral and contemplating the works of Rubens I understood why Nello insisted on crossing half the country to see them.

A few meters from the cathedral is another of the nerve centers of Antwerp. It is the Grote Mark or Plaza Mayor. This square exudes charm on all sides. On one side stands the City Hall, which is a beautiful Renaissance-style building. In other two sides are the typical flamenco guild houses, in this case, built in the XVI and XVII century. In the center, the statue of Brabo in the central fountain reminds me of the legend of the hand of Antwerp.

Legend has it that a giant once lived on the Scheldt. And each time a ship passed, the giant demanded an excessive toll. If they did not pay, the giant would cut off the captain's hand and throw it into the river. Silvio Brabo, a brave Roman centurion, mustered the courage to fight the giant, killed him and then threw the monster's huge hand at the Scheldt. That is why it is said that the place name "Antwerp" comes from the expression "throw the hand" and thus, the hand has become the symbol of the city.

Precisely one of the sweets that you simply have to try if you visit Antwerp are the hands of Antwerp, which are made of chocolate or biscuit. Then, I leave the Grote Markt behind Oude Koornmarkt. I enter the number 16 to cross a kind of time tunnel and appear in a typical sixteenth-century alley.

The Vlaeykensgang alley seems to have been frozen in time. Although I no longer find the shoemakers who worked there, nor the most powerful inhabitants of the city. Currently, it is a charming alley, a haven of peace (when groups of visitors do not prevent it) a few meters from the bustling center of the city. It is a corner so beautiful that it is hard to imagine that in the past it was a dark and smelly alley.

If before I told you that the typical sweet of the city were the hands of Antwerp, at lunchtime I did not hesitate twice and decided to eat the most typical dish of the city. It is the steak with pepper sauce and chips. Near the Grote Markt, there are many restaurants where you can taste this and other typical dishes of Flanders. It was the middle of August and the heat accompanied me during the whole trip to Flanders. So I wanted to eat al fresco in one of the terraces that flooded the city.

After lunch, I decided to move to the Scheldt River, passing by the Meat Museum, which in ancient times was the guild house of the butchers of the city. I went along the river promenade until I reach the Het Steen, a stone fortress built in the thirteenth century. It reminded me of the Gravensteen of Ghent. It was the perfect way to end our day in Antwerp.

I walked the streets of the center back to the station, lamenting the error while thanking it because the visit to this beautiful Belgian city was not in our itinerary. After walking for a while, I finally see in the distance the Central Station of Antwerp, next to a big Ferris wheel and the zoo of the city, one of the oldest and most cared for in the world. After my detour ended, I returned to the planned route on the way to Brussels.

Trip to Roatan and Honduras - The Great Unknown of Central America

I have always been attracted to Central and South America, above all because I really like the theme of the jungle, with its nature and wild fauna. In this case I had been looking at brochures and visiting travel agencies without knowing what my next destination would be. When I read about Guatemala, in a catalog they offered as an extension to Honduras to visit some Mayan ruins.

But, one thing was clear! Whatever it was, Honduras had caught my attention and I got down to work to find out more about this unknown country. We only had to get the flights and we got down to work, and since we saw them well in advance we got very good prices. Now, the crazy journey through Honduras begins.

Day 1

Our trip begins as almost everyone. In this case, we left home at 7:30 am to the airport to take the international flight, which would take us to El Salvador, with a stopover in Guatemala. Once in El Salvador we had to take a flight that would be the definitive one, the one that would take us to Honduras. The flight landed at the international airport of one of the most dangerous cities in the world, San Pedro Sula at 22:00 local time.

Once we collected our bags, we felt a great relief, given past experiences. Now we head to the arrival terminal, where we expected someone to meet us. And yes, there wait a 26-year-old girl, of Portuguese origin and Canadian nationality. We went to the vehicle and on the way and in the middle of the darkness we see an individual with some exotic pints. The Rastafarian head towards us.

Once in the somewhat ramshackle van and with the air conditioning on top (almost polar cold), we headed to our hotel. It was located right in the center of San Pedro Sula. We enter a ghost town, dreary and with hardly any people on the street. It would hardly be 10:30 pm, and the few people that were seen, certainly did not generate much confidence.

After several laps we saw it, we stopped the van and that's how we arrived safely and willing to spend our first night in Honduras. The hotel was somewhat decadent and the room was dirty, with bare electrical wires and an air conditioner of several decades ago that emitted a deafening noise and a sink at the foot of the bed. And the bathroom is not that much better, with a toilet and a shower with a piece of hanging pipe that served as an artichoke for water.

We had bought a sandwich at the airport in El Salvador for dinner, since we imagined that we would not go out at night. We decided to go to bed and try to make the night happen as soon as possible and without any kind of mishap.

Honduras Travel wallpapers

Day 2

We wake up around 8 in the morning, but we had been awake for a while. I decided to leave to go to the reception, and that is when I discover that the hotel has some charm. In the light of day I can see a central courtyard, which is decorated with many plants that give the sensation of freshness. Already in reception, they give me a password and I can use wifi!

We leave the hotel with our bags, load them in the van and we are ready to start the route. We stop for breakfast near the hotel and already by the street we discover that there is life in the city. We stopped at an authentic place where Hondurans had breakfast. It was like a kind of jail all surrounded by bars.

In our case, it was like that and we tasted a typical breakfast, with fresh baleada. The baleada is a corn cake that is spread as if they were pizzas, and then stuffed to taste with scrambled eggs, avocado, mashed beans, cheese. They are all accompanied by some natural juices of tamarind and another fruit called nance or something like that, both very good.

After breakfast, we left for Copan Ruinas, our first destination. After about four hours or we arrived at Copan Ruinas. We preferred to go and see the famous Mayan ruins as soon as possible. This was a great success, since we were almost alone with the expert guide who accompanied us, so that we could enjoy these ruins in a very special way.

After the visit, our driver took us to the center of the town. The guide also came with us and took us to a very nice place where we ate very well. After lunch we said goodbye and we left for the port of La Ceiba, which is where we would have to take the ferry to get to the Roatan island. After about four hours we were in the port. The first thing that caught my attention, is that when approaching the premises of the port, an operator immediately took the bags, put some labels and gave a receipt to collect them on arrival.

The trip was quite an adventure. It was clear that Honduras did not want me to have a minute of relaxation. What at first seemed a grace and people took it with much humor, ended up being a somewhat grotesque situation. After an interminable hour and a half, we arrive to the mainland and again surprises.

When picking up the bags, the picture was this. There was like a central island, surrounded by a counter, where they had put all the suitcases of the hundreds of people who were on the ship. There were two workers, who received shouts from all over claiming their suitcases.

When I saw the picture the first thing was to try to locate the suitcases. I managed to get as I could between two people and thanks to one of the suitcases had a bright purple color, it was easy to locate. Now I had to go to that area, try to regain space and get the operator to pay attention to me.

After unsuccessful attempts I got and after indicating that this was my suitcase, I could have the first suitcase. Now there was the second one, but this seemed a bit more difficult since this one was very common and of navy blue color.

We left the port and a taxi driver approached us to offer us his services. We negotiated a price and finally we went to our hotel. Along the way, the taxi driver explained to us the places where we were going. After an hour, we arrived at our destination in the area of ​​the island called West End.

The hotel consisted of very well equipped wooden cabins, all scattered among trees and tropical vegetation. Some of them, as it was in our case, was right next to the sea. We left our things in the room and set out to take a walk to see West End. The truth is that it was very hot and there were very few people on the street.

Hence this area concentrated all tourism in the evening. Within the West End, our hotel was in Crescent Bay, or in their language in Half Moon Bay. Without a doubt the name was very accurate, since it was a very closed bay that was like the moon shape. After a short walk, we stopped at a terrace next to the sea and had a few cold beers, returning later to the hotel.

Later I decided to dive into the Caribbean Sea of ​​Roatan. I must say that in our hotel there was no beach. We were right on the coral reef, by the way, the second largest in the world. I could not resist to take glasses, fins and tube and throw myself into the water. I did not lose a single second and there I launched. The spectacle that was under the water was impressive.

I had never seen such a variety of fish of all kinds and colors and the corals were also amazing. I stayed a little while and left as this was only the beginning and there were still more days.

As we had eaten something soft, that day we decided to go out to dinner early. We started to discover the authentic West End. The street was much more lively and as it was Friday, we could see a lot of Honduran people on the streets. At the beginning we were delighted with the first sunset of the island, something magical without a doubt. Then we continued walking among the multitude of restaurants and music venues that there were.

We decided on a pizzeria. I imagine a classic if we take into account that during all the preceding days, all we had eaten was typical Honduran food. Also after many days we made our first bottle of wine for the entire trip, because in the places we had moved, the wine was absent. The truth is that our first day in Roatan was being perfect and the culmination was also perfect, but this did not end here.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed by the best-known resort in the area. There was a spectacular atmosphere. Animated by the effluvia of the wine, we decided to make the last one there. We ordered the most famous cocktail there, called Monkey La-La, that we really do not know exactly what it was.

Trip to Perth in Western Australia

Most of us who make a trip to spend a few days in Australia is to fulfill a dream. The rest does to accompany someone who is fulfilling a dream. Of course there will be other reasons but they are the exceptions. The moment to realize my dream had arrived. The only question I have is whether it is worth taking an extension to Western Australia to Perth, Shark Bay, Shell Beach, Pinnacles, and Broome.

For months we deliberate on appetizing but expensive options, such as the desire to travel Australia in caravan or car. We had to discard, Adelaide with Kangaroo Island, Darwin with the Kakadu National Park and a few days in Bali to prepare the hard return to everyday reality.

Another doubt, finally resolved, was whether to choose to do everything for free or to put us in the hands of an agency. The first option was cheaper, but our possible travel companions were falling down the road and in the end we were going alone. I was a bit afraid to face such a faraway destination in a country whose language I did not know and which basically had to be traveled by flight.

So we looked for an organized trip, hoping to have companions with whom to share the moments that the new continent was going to bring us. Finally, the itinerary was prepared with the arrival in Perth, a guided tour of the city reaching Fremantle. We would return to Perth navigating the Swan River, and go for excursion to the Pinnacles desert.

Second stage was the Ayers Rock, enjoying the day of arrival in Uluru at sunrise. The next day was the possibility of climbing to its summit or walking through its base. We would continue with visit and walk through the Olgas Mountains. Then Cairns was on the list with a visit to the rainforest and the great barrier reef.

We would move to Melbourne, with guided tour of the city and tour of the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles. Finally we would go to Sydney with city tour and cruise on the Bay and one day at the Blue Mountains.

The preparation of the luggage had been laborious. We did not want to go around airports with heavy suitcases, but we had to take into account that we were going to find cool temperatures in Perth. We managed to find the balance between volume and necessity and equipped with two backpacks. I was worried about the transits in Singapore.

The documentation provided by the agency consisted of the entry visas to Australia, the clauses of the insurance, the boarding conditions for the flights and a summary of the route to be carried out with a list of flights, hotels and visits. In Perth someone would be waiting for us at the airport and from that moment on we would receive the precise instructions to face the day to day.

A little before 3 o'clock the plane took off with which we started the tour. They served us the snack and after 4 hours of flight, we are in Singapore. The Singapore airport surprised us by how beautiful it is. It looks like a botanical garden, all full of real plants, with orchids of all colors and luxurious corridors and rooms. We miss a little time to see the botanical garden offered to passengers in transit.

The connection was so tight that we could only buy the obligatory magnet for the fridge. At 8 our last flight of the day departed, the one that was finally going to take us to Australia five hours later and without the need to touch our clocks, since the time in Perth is the same as in Singapore. We do not sleep during that flight since the arrival was scheduled at 1:30 and at that time the only thing that could be done was to go to the hotel and get into bed.

We dined, watched a movie and played with the same games that we had in the previous flight, but we managed to stay awake. We also fill out the immigration form.

5 Places You Must See in Western Australia wallpapers

Day 2

The dream began to take shape. We were stepping on Australian soil, certainly at an untimely hour but in Australia after all. We were very happy to see that the bags arrived safely. We passed the immigration, and handed in the immigration form. We queued near the luggage belt and without any mishap we arrived at the small waiting room at the Perth International Airport.

Around 20 people waited with sign in hand. I went through them several times looking for my name on the sheets they showed, without success. There is neither my name, nor the hotel, nor the agency. It was still too early to get nervous, but the restlessness was beginning to overwhelm me. After waiting for an hour, I decided that something had to be done. I had the phone number of the Australian company that managed our stay, but at 2 am it was absurd to call.

I called the agency where I had contracted the trip to ask for help. The advice was to take a taxi to the hotel and contact the agency the next morning. So we did it and with a feeling of frustration because things did not start as we expected. We walked the road from the airport to the hotel crossing the deserted streets of Perth, eagerly absorbing the first live images of the new country.

The check-in at the hotel was quick and we soon settled into a spacious room with a huge bed in which we slept immediately. At about 8 o'clock we woke up. We showered and prepared to have breakfast. The girl at the entrance asked the number of the room. She prepared to fill out a small sheet, asking if we wanted Continental breakfast or Full breakfast. I started the negotiation to convince her that the breakfast was included.

The girl, told me not to worry, to have breakfast and there would be time to clarify whether breakfast was included or not. But at reception they had taken my credit card and I did not want any further problems. They indicated that there was no problem and we prepared to have breakfast. I told the restaurant girl that the matter was already clear. She made a call to reception and invited us to settle into one of the free tables.

The buffet was varied and plentiful, a little lacking in pastries, but very good in the rest. We did not know when or how we would have lunch, so we made the most of the breakfast. We have potatoes, beans, mushrooms, omelet, bacon, a little bit of everything to try, with orange juice to accompany. We also have a milk coffee and some bun to complete.

Luckily, according to the schedule of the trip, the first day was free. My original idea was that on that day we would travel by train to Cottesloe to enjoy a morning on the beach, eat and walk around the area and return to Perth for a first contact with the city's shopping area. The day was sunny but the temperature did not invite us to go to the beach. So we started the day with an urban walk and with the intention of locating the agency office that we had seen from the taxi very close to the hotel.

Perth is a very large city. We were in the financial center, where the skyscrapers, hotels and the commercial area are located. We were during the spring season and the parks and gardens shone with a splendid green, dotted with the colors of the rainbow, produced by the flowers that flowed from all the plants. The camera began to work to immortalize those moments.

We found a sculpture of a group of kangaroo, among which we took the first photographs. We discovered the little aesthetic sense that Australians have when building huge skyscrapers. Wandering aimlessly we discover that the city is very clean. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find papers thrown down the street. There were no dogs or cats, neither loose nor tied, therefore there was no need to watch to avoid stepping on their excrement.

Of course, the traffic lights were stressful. The acoustic signal warned with beeps very often when pedestrians turned green, with just enough time to cross the street at a rapid pace and beginning to blink red more or less halfway through.

Soon we got used to almost running when it turned green, but they never stopped being stressful for me. Almost unwittingly we found ourselves in front of the agency office. I barely managed to make them understand our problem. When I had all the documentation I understood what happened at the airport. No one was going to be waiting for us. Just on our arrival we had to go to the bus stop that took the passengers to their hotels.

My basic concern at that time was that I was going to go through the visit to the city scheduled for the next day, where should I be? What time?. The answer was that they went to pick up the tourists from their hotels. Our pick-up was at 7:20 in the morning. We felt a sense of relief. we already had everything we needed and we could start enjoying our stay in Australian lands.

A few minutes passed at noon. At that time people were preparing to have their food, but we felt no hunger, so we decided to go for a walk. We went to the Swan River and walked through the gardens of its riverbank. We visited the Bell Tower, icon of Perth. It is one of the largest musical instruments in the world and was built to house the historic bells, dating from the 14th century, of the St Martin-in-the-Fields, located in the famous Trafalgar Square in London.

The sunny day was warming the atmosphere, although in a timid way. In the shade the jacket was appreciated, but the sun was too much and so, I put it on and take it off periodically. We went along streets and avenues until we arrived at Queens Garden, a beautiful garden, very well looked after like all of Perth. There is a small lake populated by ducks and aquatic plants, which together with the greenery of their lawn and the immense profusion of flowers provoked a sensation of unspeakable placidity.

We shared the place with a girl who lying on the grass watched the evolution of the ducks, taking abundant notes. There is a bride and groom couple dressed in their bridal costumes and accompanied by luxuriously decorated couples. There were posing for the wedding shoot in front of what looked like professional photographers.

We leave the park to continue touring the streets of the city. We passed through The Perth Mint, a luxurious building from the 19th century, where gold was converted into coins and is currently used as a museum of gold. It was closed so we could only admire it from outside. St. Mary's Cathedral was our next point of interest. It is about the palpable demonstration of the good architectural taste of the Australians, as they have managed to combine the Gothic style of the original construction, with the more than modern of the new part.

Finally we end up in the pedestrian area of ​​Murray Street and Hay Street, where the shops and restaurants are concentrated. We looked for the commercial galleries. We acquired our first memories (fridge magnet included). We enjoyed seeing a way of life different from ours and we verified that in Australia it is complicated to smoke and drink alcohol. Tobacco is expensive and smoking is forbidden almost everywhere. Alcohol is not cheap and is sold in specialized stores and it is forbidden to drink on the street.

Thinking about our menu before going to bed we bought a bag of potatoes and some cans of rum and cola mixes (cheaper than if we took them from the hotel's mini bar). There was no lack of pizzas, hamburgers, kebabs and all kinds of oriental cuisines from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian. We also found that a bottle of wine in a conventional restaurant cost more than the food itself. We eat a piece of pizza in an area shared by several establishments that offered all kinds of food.

The streets were left deserted, as the shops closed. Only liquor stores remained open, some restaurants and bars and 24 hour shops that never closed. Tired of walking, we returned to the hotel to play our card games, ending our first day in Western Australia.

Australia summer

Day 2

It started what was going to be usual tonic to wake up early to make the scheduled visits. At 6 o'clock the alarm of the mobile phone rang and half an hour later we entered the restaurant facing the girl who controlled the breakfasts. She invited us to make room for breakfast.

At 7:15 we were at the door of the hotel waiting to be picked up to visit the city, arriving to the Fremantle port with return by boat on the Swan River. At 7:30 we were still waiting together with an Anglo-Saxon couple. A few minutes later a white mini bus stopped. The driver got off and, after confirming that he was coming for the other couple, he took them away. I was already getting nervous till a bus arrived with our names on the driver's list.

After picking up more travelers at a couple of other hotels, the bus parked on an avenue next to other buses. Following the indications, which I understood quite well, we went to the bus of our excursion. I assumed that they had been distributing the passenger pick-up areas to finally organize us into groups based on the chosen excursion. At 8 o'clock, ours began.

We see the city and take pictures through the bus window. We went through streets that were crossed the previous day on foot. We toured the Queens Garden, and passed the Perth Mint, the cathedral, the railway station. After we traveled through unknown areas, we saw buildings, beautiful churches, green parks in which we were surprised by a way that Australians spend the holidays.

In many, if not all, of the parks there are picnic areas, benches and stone tables in which people eat what was previously cooked in the barbecues that, for free, provide the necessary heat. As I tried to pay attention to the driver's words from time to time, I understood when he said we were going to make a stop at Kings Park.

When the bus stopped I confirmed with the driver the time that I had seemed to understand that he had said to resume the march and we prepared to walk through the park. We did not have much time. It is what organized trips have with minutes to drink, take pictures, buy souvenirs. We could not get too far from the meeting point, even so we enjoyed the small portion of the park that we visited.

We pass through the green lawn, the flowers, the views of the river and the skyscrapers of Perth. We enter the War Memorial, a monument to the Australian soldiers, the statue to Lord Forrest, explorer and first president of the park. A few minutes before the agreed time we sit in our bus seats waiting for the start of the next stage.

We headed towards the coast through what looked like a luxurious urban space. We see beautiful houses, very large but separated by very little space, with well-kept gardens. We pass through streets with houses, schools, shopping areas, a hospital. The urban area of ​​Perth seemed to have no end.

The next stop was on the Cottesloe beach. In fact the beach was almost deserted and apart from a group of surfers, there were no more than 3 or 4 people in the water. We loved the unique building where the cafeteria, the rescue center and the surf school were located. We have a coffee and a couple of photos.

The next stop was in Fremantle, the port of Perth. The driver stopped at the port and got off the bus for a few minutes. I did not know the reason but as nobody else came down, we stayed in our seats. Soon we resumed the march to park next to a market in the center of Fremantle. The indications of the driver were that the return to Perth could be of three forms in the same bus to the one of the noon, in boat by the river and in train. We all went down and started handing out tickets for those returning by boat.

It was just over an hour before one, so with this new setback we set out to make the most of the time we had. However, I was not convinced to return to Perth by the same path we had followed to reach Fremantle. At a rapid pace we reached the port in less than 10 minutes. We returned to the market where the bus had left us.

We found it immense, with lots of stops of all kinds, including, of course, those of souvenirs. We go indoors in an adjoining market for fruits, vegetables and other edible products. In the middle of both, a zone of prepared meals served to appease our appetite.

At the exit we found an group that entertained children and adults. We went quietly through the streets of the small town and learned everything there was to know about the opals. We take advantage of the opportunity to acquire a pair of pendants that we would give away on our return. At 3:45 we reached the port ready to embark on our cruise on the Swan River.

The tour of the river was nice. We admire the mansions that occasionally appeared on the banks. The arrival in Perth with the frame of its skyscrapers, the Ferris wheel and Tower Bell, was spectacular. We go to the hotel to clean, change and go to the pedestrian area to walk and discover the shops and shopping arcades. We were curious about what little was left open.

We had dinner and we continued to walk around a bit. The people, like the previous night, was in pubs, in the few restaurants that closed late and in the clubs. We did not want to have a drink in a place where we were going to turn out to be strangers. Aware that our drinks waited in the fridge in our room's minibar, we returned to repeat the ritual of the card game and the drink before going to bed.

Trip to Tulum in the Riviera Maya in Mayan Paradise

After eighteen hours of bus, finally, we arrived at Tulum in the famous Riviera Maya in Mexico. After almost a week enjoying Playa del Carmen, I arrived in Tulum attracted by those same postcards. I made my trip in the month of July and the Sun did not accompany me every day, but the temperature of the Caribbean is ideal. We went in search of sun and paradisiacal beaches and the only thing we found was a storm of rain and wind.

So we have given ourselves a dash for nothing. Next to the bus station is a restaurant that our guide had recommended to us. There we had breakfast quietly while we watched the rainfall. The center of Tulum has nothing. It's a long street with shops and restaurants, nothing more. The beach area is quite far from the center, so it is best to go by taxi. The prices of the taxis are regulated and by taking us to the "new" beach area they charge 50 pesos.

It did not take me long to know that a full day excursion would not be enough, and I set out to find a cabin. For someone who arrives without much information, the task of finding where to stay for a few days can be somewhat misleading. The town of Tulum is on both sides of the road and does not resemble that perfect idea of ​​beaches, palm trees, and ruins. Although it is true that it is in the center where the most economical accommodation options are found, there is also a hotel zone that unfolds all along the coast, very close to the National Park, and surrounded by a unique natural environment.

The beach area is divided into two: the old area and the eco-chic zone. Before traveling to Mexico, many people had recommended me to stay there because it was quiet and cheaper than Cancun or Playa del Carmen. But the reality is that it was once. The beach area of ​​Tulum has become one of the most expensive areas of the Riviera Maya. We had been sleeping in lodgings of no more than 20 dollars and eating in cheap places. That's where I found a Cabana with a direct terrace to the infinite. Since we arrived we realized that we were in paradise. But the cottage complex was too rustic.

The Cabana was small. It had about eight rooms and we had one on the first floor with a balcony overlooking the sea. But the sea could not be seen because of the vegetation covering it. It was nice, but I expected more. I do not know, for the price we paid I expected better finishes and at least one bar of soap to wash my hands. Ok, it was ecological, but sometimes green is used to charge you more and give you less. The bathroom was outdoors and there was no hot water.

I guess the rain and the tiredness affected my mood, but suddenly we found ourselves at 12 noon without knowing what to do. Beach? Visit ruins? Discarded by the time I was having. So we sat on the porch couch and let the hours go by until the weather abated a bit and we went to see if there was somewhere nearby to eat. It should be noted that in Tulum in the area of ​​the beach there are only complexes to stay and practically nothing else.

If you want to buy something to eat at night you have to go to the town. So we went to the complex next door. It turns out that there was no one. When we wanted to have a meal there was no food, but they served us a pina colada. I did not like it, as it seemed strong to me.

Along the beach, small fashionable hotels were alienating that prevented direct access to the beach. After a ten minutes walk, we arrived at the old hotel zone of Tulum beach and we entered the restaurant, which we had also been recommended. But here is our surprise when we opened the letter to face reality. We were not in Mexico, but in a republic dependent on the United States or Europe, because at least the prices indicated it.

For a meal of one plate and one water per person, we pay a total of 500 pesos. Of course, the fish was fresh. So, all of a sudden, we saw that in two days we were going to spend the budget we had for five days. And as we looked at the restaurant bill, it started to rain again. We waited a while and, when it seemed that the rain gave a truce, we returned to the hotel.

Anyway, that was an untenable situation and we had to find a solution but now. We asked the Cabana owner if he could look at the weather forecast for the next day and he told us that there was a 50% probability that it would rain. We looked through the guide and saw that our interest was in our longed-for state of Yucatan, which is about an hour and a half. So we decided to ask how to get there in the morning.

We asked the Cabana owner if he could look at the bus schedules, and he looked at us very kindly. But going on the bus line should not be glamorous enough for him, and he tried to convince us to hire a bus service or a taxi for the whole day. We asked him how much it was worth and he told us that 1,500 pesos to visit Ek-Balam and bring us back at noon.

On the one hand, as the price seemed a bit expensive, we doubted that in Yucatan we would spend so much money in a single day. On the other hand, we really wanted to do more things in that area, such as renting a bicycle, going to the cenotes. So having a taxi driver waiting for us did not quite convince us. So, in the end, we decided to go on our own.

That night we decided to have dinner at the Cabana. Basically, because I had been told that the pasta was very good. Although it was expensive in the face, there were not many more options, or at least cheaper options nearby. For a plate of pasta with vegetables we pay 285 pesos. And it was one of the cheapest dishes on the menu. If you ordered the pasta dish with lobster the price would shoot up.

Of course, I have to admit that it is the best pasta I have eaten. In Italy itself, I have not eaten such good pasta. In addition, they brought us starters like focaccias (this was not charged) that were also delicious. We went to bed early because the next day we have to return to authentic Mexico.

The next morning I left for the ruins. Tulum, in the native language, means wall, but the ancient inhabitants used to call this place Zama, which means dawn. It is not strange that from the cliff where part of the citadel is located, the lights of the dawn that color the horizon of dramatic tones is capable of hypnotizing anyone. In addition to the unique photos, visiting the ruins early in the morning is a good option to explore with tranquility the archaeological site of Tulum, avoiding the large groups of tourists.

From the ancient Mayan city, built between 1200 and 1450 AD, it is only possible to visit what was its ceremonial and political core, that is, what is inside the walls. Although the state of conservation of all the buildings is excellent, none is as striking as El Castillo, recognizable on all postcards. I was surprised to learn that this construction was used by the Maya as a beacon, and not as a ceremonial center.

Since the second largest coral reef in the world is very close to the coasts of Tulum, the Maya used a torch system on their tower to guide their boats to the coast. We continued our trip collecting postcards, crossing from time to time with the iguanas, which were really the princesses of the place. Among the constructions that most caught my attention, I remember the Temple of the Descending God, on whose door we can see a figure of the deity coming down from the sky, and the Temple of the frescoes, with a large number of wall paintings.

A few steps further away was the Temple of Paintings, the one that preserves more decorative elements in the city. Its interior was painted and also decorated with high stucco reliefs, mostly snakes, representations of the Descending God and Human figures. Its plaque explains that it has two levels, the lower one consisting of two Temples, one inside the other, and the upper one only of one decorated with hands painted red. It also tells the story that this Temple was also used to follow the movement of the sun, one of the greatest Mayan obsessions.

I finished the visit, like almost all those days, contemplating the ruins from the adjoining beach. The perspective of the pre-Hispanic city from the sea, with crystal clear water up to the neck, is an image of those that one does not forget, no matter how much time passes. As it was so hot and there was a small beach connected by a wooden staircase we decided to stop and bathe in this turquoise and warm sea.

After a precious relaxation, I returned to the viewpoint in front of the Temple of the Winds and the small cove located under it. It is today closed to tourism to protect the turtles that lay there in season. I enjoy the wonderful scene that gives me the time to notice the change in the color of the water, as the clouds appeared and disappeared. I walked along the main road where I found the House of Columns, also called the Great Palace. I continued my tour to the House of the Halach Uinic or Great Lord, the maximum ruler of each city-state of the Maya.

We toured once more the exterior of the Castle and our favorite Temple of the Winds with its fabulous environment. We went to the bookstore to buy a small guide to not forget the details and decide what to do next.

As we were on our own we walked a couple of steps to the taxis to take us to one of the nearby beaches and have some marine specialty in a cove or something similar. The taxi driver in charge made us a better suggestion, which fortunately we accepted, literally leading us to paradise. Enchanted with the stories of the Mayan Empire, I visited the ruins of Coba and spent long lunches enjoying the richest of Mexican food, on my terrace facing the sea. I did not have time to visit the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve or the Angelita Cenote. Those, without a doubt, I leave for my next trip!

As it was so hot we put our things in the nearest palm tree and we immediately went to the water. We forgot everything else. We were only interested in recording that place and that moment in the mind to find it every time we had a bad day during the year.

The afternoon passed between the water and a few minutes of sand. As the sun was very strong, we have some drinks and enjoy the wonderful surroundings and its colors. When some half-threatening clouds appeared we decided to return to look for our taxi driver, who half convinced us to take us back to Playacar.

When we arrived at the hotel it was raining torrentially. We started our farewell evening in the Japanese restaurant of the hotel which we had booked the previous day. The food that was exquisite. It consisted basically of grilled vegetables, rice, and chicken, accompanied by drinks.

During our beach days, one convinces us to visit Coco Bongo, also offering us transportation. We accept it to put a finishing touch on our remarkable vacation. At 22:30 we were picked up by an air-conditioned bus with people of all nationalities. They left us very close to the entrance, where after a wait of about 20 minutes we entered. As everyone left so arranged from the hotel, we decided to go only with a small wallet and the obvious SLR camera was left in the hotel.

The good thing about the place and what it's worth to go is that we find an unprecedented show of music, good vibes, and joy. The show ended around 3 o'clock in the morning, at which time all the people began to retire. We waited a few minutes and with luck, we found an unoccupied taxi that took us back to Playacar. I was happy having spent such a beautiful, happy and paradisiacal day like this.

A Weekend Walk Around Luxembourg

Luxembourg is that country that everyone has heard about once but very few visit. And we thought it was a very good possibility. Luxembourg is not a well-publicized destination. In fact it is so small that there are hardly any specific travel guides for this country. Most of the time they put it as a complement to the Belgium travel guides frankly with very little information.

Through its tourism website and various travel blogs, I was able to get information that came in handy for the preparation of this trip. Once everything is in order, we prepare our itinerary for the weekend in Luxembourg City, Hamm, Vianden and Echternach. And that's how our trip began.

Day 1 in Luxembourg

We crossed the Moselle for a few kilometers after entering Luxembourg. After arriving in the city, we parked the car in a public car park near the center, in the Boulevard de la Foire. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From there we went down through a beautiful park, with a life-size pirate ship.

We walk towards the Avenue Monterey to connect with the Royal Boulevard that left us facing the Pont Adolphe in the historic center. We see a tall bridge that rises through its double arch 153 meters above the valley. We approach the viewpoint of the Petrusse, located a short distance away.

From here we can see a spectacular view of the clock tower belonging to the Spuerkees building (on the other side of the Pont Adolphe), the valley that forms at its feet, the Viaduct and the gardens adjoining the viewpoint with the flags of the country waving overhead. Under our feet were the famous casemates, underground passages and defensive posts dug out of the rock.

Unfortunately the Petrusse only open their doors at specific times of the year, which we could not enter to see them. We continue our route through the Place de la Constitution, with its monolith crowned by a golden lady. It was destroyed in 1940 during the German invasion, and again restored in 1984.

We descended through Roosevelt Boulevard before reaching the Viaduct. We cross perpendicular to the so-called Chemin de la Corniche, known by the nickname of Europe's most beautiful balcony. I do not know if indeed it is. I can say that the views are spectacular, with that alternation of high and low areas.

The place is surrounded by water (in this case the other river that bathes the city, the Alzette) and vegetation. It merges with the quasi- underground Grund district and Neumunster Abbey, standing up from the street like a beacon. Without getting carried away by the initial anger, we return a few meters back to ascend the Rue Sigefroi to the entrance to the Ville.

Here after wandering a little we see the Ducal Palace. Built in 1572, it underwent several modifications in the 18th and 19th centuries, until it reached its present appearance. Its towers finished in volutes and its mixture of Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical styles. As the residence of the Grand Dukes it does not seem excessively opulent, although this does not debar it from being a beautiful construction.

It is only accessible between July and August with prior reservation at the Tourist Office. Attached to the palace, is its tiny parliament, where we get confused to realize that it is there. Surprisingly, a few meters from the palace, are several brasseries (breweries) with their customers taking their drinks. People are all dressed in suits.

As we had been quite busy, we decided to make a new stop, this time at Place D'Armes. The place is full of terraces and with a great atmosphere, where we had some snacks and Bofferding (local beer). While we were there, we were able to enjoy a live concert of classical music at the kiosk in the square, which seems to be very common.

From there we went to the Place Guillaume II. In it we find the tourist office, the Hotel de la Ville (City Hall), which seemed a bit anodyne compared to the rest of the historic center. We also see the statue of William II, Grand Duke between 1840 and 1849, who granted the country its first constitution.

After going down some side stairs we went to Rue Notre-Dame, where we found the Cathedral. For some reason the exterior was adorned with flags of the country (normal) accompanied by those of the Vatican State. It is the most important temple in Luxembourg, built in the seventeenth century. It was not consecrated as a cathedral until the nineteenth century, and is a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance elements.

It was in restoration works on the outside, which made it look a little shabby. And it was time to retire to the hotel. Although just opposite the small Luxembourg airport, we slept peacefully since the soundproofing was perfect. The reason for taking this hotel was its proximity to Hamm, which suited us perfectly for the first visit in the next morning.

Luxembourg wallpapers

Day 2 in Luxembourg

We got up early. After leaving the hotel, we headed to Hamm, a few kilometers from the airport, for the next stop of our journey. We see the American Cemetery, where lie the remains of 5000 American soldiers killed in combat during the Ardennes Offensive. Next to them rests George S. Patton, the best general of the US Army during the Battle of the Bulge.

We parked outside the cemetery, finding an unusual activity for the time and day of the week that was (Saturday). We entered and saw many people of very old age in uniform with floral decorations. Without realizing, we had gone to visit that place on the anniversary of the end of the World War II in Europe. There were Luxemburg army soldiers and war veterans (most of them were over 80 years old).

A wreath in homage to all the fallen was placed in front of the simple tomb of Patton. It's the same as all the ones there, with the only difference being that it is something separate. After watching the very emotional act, we walked through the interior of the enclosure, with a central memorial.

The walk around this place is one of those that surrounds the body with a strange sensation. We leave this place still with the anguish in the body and with the clear idea that it is good that there are places like this. It remind us all that there are things that should never happen again, under any circumstances, nor protected by ideologies, creeds, religions or any other excuse.

A short distance from this cemetery is the German cemetery, where 10,000 German soldiers sleep. No one visits them, as they are seen as losers. In the end, they were all victims, for one reason or another. We took the car and headed towards the one that for me is the best kept secret in Luxembourg to Vianden. It is a small town located in the area of ​​the Ardennes, about 45 kms from Luxembourg capital.

Nestled in a beautiful valley bathed by the river Our, the small city spreads on the slopes of a cliff where its castle stands. This imposing authentic jewel of medieval times belonged for several centuries to the Counts of Vianden, specifically to the Orange-Nassau family, dynasty from which the royal family of Holland originates.

After the departure to take over the Dutch throne, the castle is in disuse and abandoned, suffering serious damage. Its interiors house rooms with period armor, old kitchens, rooms, exhibition halls, a Byzantine room (very colorful). The views from their viewpoints make it worthwhile to pay the entry alone.

To ascend to the castle we go up to the highest car park of the Grand Rue, the main street of the town. We leave the car and after a walk of about 300 meters walk under its battlements. After enjoying the castle we decided to eat in one of the brasseries that are next to the river.

We see a lot of affluence in its terraces, especially groups of bikers, which we can see in the area, since the road with a rather winding path invites bikers. We ate some great savory stuffed crepes and a salad, accompanied by two Diekirch, great beer of the area, by far the one I liked most about the trip.

After lunch we took a walk along the river, delighting in the tranquility of the town and the reflection of the houses in the waters of the Our. One of the most distinguished inhabitants that Vianden had, was the great Victor Hugo, who resided for a time here. There is a bust of him in a corner of the bridge where the Grand Rue ends, just in front of the House-Museum where he lived during his stay there.

We climb this street back to the car (the descent is definitely much better). We see on the left the Trinitarian Church, the Town Hall and the old houses that flank its sides, which give it an absolutely medieval air. After taking one last look at the impressive castle, we headed for our last destination of the day to Echternach.

After about 30 kms we arrived at Echternach and parked in a parking lot next to the Sure River. It is the oldest town in Luxembourg, born around the Abbey. It was founded in the year 698 by St. Willibrord, a monk of English origin who Christianized this area and ended up being the first bishop of Utrecht. The town is located in the so-called little Switzerland.

It does not lack in beauty, but frankly I did not find many reasons for the nickname. This small city could be called the quiet city, as no noise is heard. We can barely see a car, until the police station looked like a museum more than it was. Its historic center is small and very easily visited.

The pity was not being able to access the Basilica and the Abbey. We had spent time on it and in this country everything closes very soon (it was 6 in the afternoon). We walked in front of the Rue du Pont admiring the Saint Peter and Paul church of Merovingian origin. We arrived at the Market Square, a small but charming place.

Here we find its City Hall (Hotel de la Ville) built in 1444, in Gothic style and is one of the jewels of this city. It is highlighted by the arches of its facade and the statues of the Virgin Mary, King Solomon, the Fortress, Temperance, Prudence and Justice. In the center of the square is the Cross of Justice that since medieval times served to demonstrate the power of the lords over the serfs.

We took the Rue de la Gare to go to the riverwalk that surrounds the city, and buy some ice cream (it was a temptation not avoidable). After that we went down the street, full of terraces and restaurants, to get to the banks of the Sure, natural border with Germany. We followed the path marked by the river towards the car park where we had left the car, with a nice walk.

We pass next to the Rococo Pavilion, built in 1761, and that currently houses a cultural classroom on the history of Echternach. Of course it was already closed. So we continued walking to the car, then left for Frankfurt-Hahn airport, where we would spend the night, at the B&B hotel. We had dinner on the way at a brewery in a nearby town. We delivered the car with a full tank and go to sleep.

An Unforgettable End of the Year in Luosto in Finland

Who has not dreamed of spending winter holidays in a cottage surrounded by nature surrounded by a thick layer of snow? This year, we decided to go from dream to reality. Today I wanted to tell you the few days I spent this winter in Luosto in Finland in the heart of the world famous (or not) Pyha-Luosto National Park. The avowed objective of the escapade is to observe aurora borealis, frozen landscapes and stay in a small chalet with sauna.

I already imagined myself crying while looking at the Northern Lights dancing in the sky and the camera standing on the tripod to help to capture them. I wanted to have a great trip to one of the southernmost Arctic plains in Scandinavia. I've been thinking about it for years, but it's very expensive to go and it must be said that we still enjoyed a lot between the Cinque Terre, Florence, London, Morocco, Peru, the Alsace and everything we did in the mountains.

Finally it was decided. Too bad for Seychelles or Mauritius, we go for adventure beyond the Arctic Circle! Lapland is a region that has always made me dream, snow, huskies, reindeer and even Santa Claus! Yes, he lives in Rovaniemi with his elves and Mother Christmas!

Lapland is not a country in its true sense. It is rather a territory straddling Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, originally populated by the Sami. I still do not know if the Lappish beavers are hermaphrodites. I don't even know if there are actually beavers in Lapland. We will stop the geography course now, since this is not the purpose of this article.

After choosing to travel to Finland, we did some research to prepare the trip. Once the logistical aspects (dates, flights, accommodation) were settled, the first thing to do was to equip ourselves. To withstand the temperatures beyond the Arctic Circle, we buy merino wool underwear and the waterproof jacket!

Day 1 - Helsinki

We make a stop in Helsinki, then take a flight of about an hour to land in Rovaniemi! We arrive at 16:00 in the land of Santa Claus in the dark. The first thing about arriving at the airport is that we do not regret being well equipped. And then when we see the condition of the tracks, we silently thank the pilot for managing a landing so quietly.

After taking the suitcases, upon leaving the airport we are immersed in a magical atmosphere with the snow on the trees. We arrive in our hotel without worries. The place is very pretty, and quiet. The streets are all illuminated and we already find the magical atmosphere that we are looking for!

We sit quietly and then go to eat in one of the only open restaurants. To be well in the country, we eat local reindeer! As night falls, the wind rises more and more. And on the road that leads us to the restaurant, we see forming on the road of mini snow tornado. We quickly hasten to get warm in this restaurant while observing the snow squalls outside.

This restaurant is obviously quite famous. And we must admit that what we eat is just delicious. For me this serves a loin of reindeer accompanied by a cranberry sauce and a risotto with morels and grilled salmon with carrot and sea buckthorn sauce served with muffins of potatoes and citrus fruits.

As for dessert, I opt for my part in the Lappish cheese accompanied with a caramel sauce and cranberries and Goldenberry, local blackberries. It is a delight and we feast.The time of a cigarette on the doorstep of the restaurant allows me to see the storm that does not calm down and I try to take a picture of the gusts of wind that we see passing under the street lights.

We go back and after a little beer (a Christmas Kulta Rabbit), we go out to see the state of the sky. Unfortunately this one is too covered to see aurora borealis. We go back to sleep, happy to find a bed after our long day!

Day 2 - Luosto

We wake up at 5:00! Here we are reconciled with Finland. The day before the hotel has prepared a breakfast box that we find this morning on the counter at the reception. The advantage of getting up early is that we can enjoy the first light of the day and this morning is very pretty and very cold too. We stay warm while drinking excellent Viennese chocolate.

Before leaving Rovaniemi we went to visit the Lutheran church. Bistre paintings decorate the walls of the church, evoking biblical episodes. Then we went to the museum of the forest, evoking the work and the dwelling of the woodcutters until the war. We see the first steamboat used in Lapland at the beginning of the 20th century. This boat towed the wooden trains on the river.

We drive up our way to Luosto, a 2 hours drive north. Later, we cross the Arctic Circle (Napapiiri in Finnish). The polar circle is the parallel beyond which there is at least one day when the sun does not rise in winter, and is located at latitude 66° 33' 44".

Here we make a short shopping break at Santa Claus Village. We buy a reindeer owl and homemade blueberry pies. All along the way we come across lakes with a beautiful blue color as we saw in Sweden. The vegetation is different from the center of Finland. I think it's more beautiful. This is an opportunity to discover the landscapes of the Far North.

We see long frozen plains, interspersed with pine forests with occasionally a farm on the side of the road. It is 2 pm, but the sun is setting. It seems a little unreal, and the change of scenery is total! What seems a little unreal also is the state of the roads that are perfect, and yet we do not cross many people between Rovaniemi and Luosto.

As I told you, the day is splendid to take pictures of landscapes! For the first time of our stay, the clouds have invaded a magnificent blue sky and make the landscapes look like naive paintings with colorful little houses in the background. The air is pure and it is only silence all around us. It's just beautiful and we appreciate all the more these moments that the beautiful days have been rare during our trip.

We are slowly approaching Luosto. The road is beautiful, straight and the landscape oscillates between birch forests and frozen lakes. There is very little traffic in this part of the country which allows frequent photo stops. We arrive in Luosto after the closure of the mine.

Leaving the mine to mount a bivouac on a ski resort on the foot of the Tunturi, the treeless hills that form the National Park. The term tunturi (Finnish term of Sami origin) is quite difficult to translate, but in Finland it means a rounded mountain of low height (around 400-500 m). The mountains present in this natural park are among the oldest in the world.

The view we discover is beautiful. The sun is grazing, the gradient of the sky, from blue to pink among this slightly hilly landscape of tundra. It's just sublime. We meet a herd of reindeer. They are eating and do not care about us. We are alone, facing the ski slopes. I think we will have a quiet night unless we have reindeer visit.

In Luosto, we settle in a village of log cabins. Once inside, we get the keys to our cottage. The interiors are sober but very comfortable with a sauna and a private fireplace. In addition to its material comfort, the manager provide us with a mobile phone on which we would receive a text message in case of aurora borealis. We decided to walk a little.

The night falls quickly. So we go back quickly, light the fireplace and test the sauna. Life is hard in the far north. This is another log cabin on the edge of a lake that hosts our evening. We start with a traditional sauna at the lake. Champagne helps the less courageous to try the experience of soaking in the waters of the lake by -30 degrees! During the meal, we enjoy a live orchestra to close this day strong in emotions.

Day 3 - Pyha-Luosto National Park

It's the day that wakes us up this morning and pushing the curtains it is a treat to see so much snow. On the other hand the thermometer behind the window displays -20 degrees. So, instinctively we go back under the quilt. It's the desire for a big breakfast that will push us out. The weather is nice, and the day looks great!

What's great about holidays is that the days go by and are not alike and that I love! There is always something new to discover and we are each time like kids, all happy in front of a Christmas present! And this morning, we are particularly happy because we will test a ride with the sled dogs! After a hearty breakfast we drive up our way from the chalet to the road.

We drive to the other end of the Pyha-Luosto National Park. We go muffled in our jackets, eager to go try this new activity! Luckily, we are alone with a nice Swiss-German couple. We stop at a small car park at the end of the 962 road as it crosses the famous E75 road (European-style road that crosses Finland from north to south, but also all of Europe from Athens to Greece, to Vardo in Norway).

The entrance to the park is symbolized by two gigantic wooden birds. The sun is rising and the view is magnificent. On the other hand, the temperature is always fresh. We make the decision to visit the surroundings, and in particular Sodankyla, the nearest town to the park.

This city has little interest from an architectural point of view, since, like most towns and villages of Lapland, it suffered great damage during the war (sometimes by the Russian, sometimes by the Germans). The only attraction of this city in winter is its wooden church.

In Pyha we pick up some cooking fuel and off we go! The route takes us around the Pyha ski resort mountains and down into one of the deepest canyons in Finland, the Isokuru Pyhatunturi Gorge. A boardwalk leads over the bottom of the rocky gorge.

We decide for a safari with huskies. Our snowmobiles take us to a Nordic dog farm. More than hundred just-born puppies to experienced veteran dogs bark impatiently when we arrive. They know they'll soon be hitched for a forest walk. We are trained a few minutes to learn how to manage the sleigh!

It's a bit sporty because the dogs are excited and they shoot hard sometimes, but it's really fun. The sky was pastel blue and all those white trees looked like burnt candles. It is indescribable. It feels peaceful, as the air is fresh and pure. After that we are invigorated!

We end up after returning to the kennel and we take the opportunity to cuddle a little in front of puppies. Then we drink a Lappish soup and a local pastry in a cottage to warm up. We found a reindeer farm a little more authentic and less touristy than others and we decided to eat in a kota in the middle of the forest. We are alone, with a lady who installs us each in a sledge, muffled in blankets!

But it's really wonderful, we are all alone lost in the forest, quiet, sometimes with the moon that comes to us enlighten! We have two hours of walk to the kota, a little wooden cottage lost in the forest, open to everyone. We are cold, and we need to warm up. That's pretty good considering it's lunch time. Sitting indoors, we take the time to warm ourselves while watching the life that goes on outside.

We do not let ourselves go! We have Paneroitu Ahven, a fillet of perche breaded with a carrot sauce accompanied by small potatoes and Poronpihvi, or pieces of reindeer braised with a cranberry sauce and vegetables. W also have the local beer, the Rabbit Kulta. Feet discreetly wedged under the radiator to warm them we taste our succulent dishes. Unfortunately once our meal is over, we have to face the cold again.

Before climbing up the steep slope on the other side of the Isokuru Gorge, we change from ski to snowshoes. On our snowshoes we climb Noitatunturi, one of the highest summits in the park. The setting sun makes this a spectacular ascent.

The strange statue on the summit appears to be a heavily iced summit sign. We have a beautiful view over the flat tundras from here. After the ascent of Noitatunturi we go down to the track and set up camp. We did not bring tents this time, so we pull out the bivy bags, tightening them with our ski. We decide to make a fire and spend the night inside this unmanned but very comfortable shelter.

While we build a campfire and cook some food the evening sets in. We were prepared toast with some sort of dried reindeer meat. Our campfire creates a magical orange glow between the Nordic Spruces. We even spot a very faint Aurora towards the North, interfering with the glow from the town of Luosto in the distance.

We are short of wood, and try a small expedition in the dark night, to find where is the reserve of wood of our cottage. After searching everywhere, having fallen over and over again in the depths of several meters of powder that surrounds the cottages, we find a shed. This is an opportunity for a good moment of frankness that gives us a little balm to the heart.

I take this opportunity to take a picture of our cottage lit by this clear moonlit night. We are in the middle of nowhere. The ski resort, at about 15 kilometers from here, is well lit and creates a reddish glow over the treetops. The real world is never too far away in this park. Outside as it begins to snow, we prepare our meal while enjoying one of the many local beers. Tonight it will be a glass of Koff.

Luosto Finland wallpapers

Day 4 - Lampivaara Amethyst Mine

In the morning we have breakfast and irish coffee and then continue along the skitrack in the heart of the park. We depart at 9:30 am for the parking lot of the Amethyst mine. The path was really beautiful. Although it was not sunny, the trees were full of snow and there was total silence. That's really what struck me. Aside from the sound of our snowshoes, there was total silence. When we stopped, there was absolutely no noise!

Arriving at the car park on foot to Lampivaara and its cafe where we buy the tickets for the mine. We are left with a group of Italian and a German couple we met yesterday. The atmosphere is very cheerful. We leave then towards the mine while continuing to admire all that surrounds us. The track goes up a bit and we soon arrive on a hill where the view should be beautiful in good weather!

A gentleman invites us to enter a small hut made of wood. We sit there and drink a delicious tea waiting for other people who arrive by snowmobile. A big group arrives and the gentleman begins to explain the story of the mine. It's very interesting, but we start to wonder what we are going to see! After half an hour, we leave to discover the famous mine.

Our guide explains the process of formation of amethyst. He explains everything in English. Then he leads us on the field of research. The guide distributes a small hammer to each, and here we are, digging, looking for small purple stones. I find a few small ones and also lots of other stones including quartz and am very proud of me. We are true researchers. We go down to our super happy roulette house. After some hesitation on the choice of the exit, we leave for a snowmobile trip and choose it over the sleigh and Huskies.

We are well dressed and the guy from the agency gives us suits, gloves and boots, and we look like cosmonauts! After the explanations of use and the safety instructions, we leave carefully for our trip. After a good hour in the plain and in the middle of snowy trees, we come back happy and determined to leave again next time for much longer!

Coming out of there, we observe a totally unforgettable horizon! The view is breathtaking. Once at the edge of a large lake, we leave the snowmobiles and everyone digs their hole for fishing. Then it's time to snack with tea or kahvi and cakes. I start taking photos with my iPhone.

And it's really beautiful! The landscapes around are grandiose especially with a blue sky! Thanks to the snow, the interior of the forests is very clear and the often frozen trees are impressive! On the roads, as soon as we get away from the tracks left by the snowmobiles, we plunge into a meter of snow.

Near the summit we cross a fairytale-like world of frozen and thickly iced trees. From the edge of the trees we enter the barren flat Arctic summit area of Luostotunturi. The summit is home to a lonely weather radar station, which makes for a dramatic objective of our ascent. The weather radar station is completely covered in thick ice. We descend on the shadow side of the mountain. This is steeper than it looks!

When we come out, it is around 15:00 and the night begins to fall. We are starting to get used to these schedules! We spend a little more time in the snow and resume our track to get home! Upon arrival in Luosto we have a few nice beers below the ski slopes, before we get back into one of the warm and comfortable log cabins.

We decided to take a local guide just for us to cross the woods with snowshoes and to spend a night waiting for aurora borealis. During our trip, the young guide transmits us all his passion for his work, the love for his country and the respect for nature and old sayings and traditions.

The sami, are an ancient population of breeders, that have been leaving here for ages and protect their beliefs. They believe the bear is a holy animal, that there is a life after death. As they see a fallen tree oriented to the North, they turn around it three times hoping to become a bear in their next life. There is a kind of border after the Artic Polar Circle after which there is no need to be in rush.

Should I reconsider my life? Is this real life or is it mine with deadlines, hurry and stress? I keep thinking about my daily routine as we go out with our guide looking for aurora borealis. We drive for kilometers before our guide decides what direction to take, taking his decision after looking at the clouds.

After trying to escape from the threatening clouds, we rest in a wooden hut that with a big fireplace in its center. Our guide brings some wood and lights the fire with an astonishing simplicity which makes me think about the skills of a common boy of the same age. We talk as we prepare some tea and roast some sausages. Everything is done with a great calm while waiting that the clouds move from the sky above us.

As the sky above Luosto lights up that night it is in the heart of the forest that I chose to put my tripod to take the photos. With great surprise I find out I wish that that moment never ends. According to Sami beliefs, there are three relaxing things like looking at an asleep kid, listening and watching at the river flow and enjoying the fireplace. And it is in this cosy and secret refuge that I feel like I am in a dream. I would really want it never ends.

There is a small shelter where we can build a fire. It is too small to spend the night, so we sleep in the open lean-to shelter close to Ukko-Luosto cabin. The Ukkoluosto lean-to shelter is open, but the wooden flooring provides some comfort. Temperatures drop to -15 degrees during the night. We do an expedition to fetch wood and make a big bonfire, a nice dinner, with a small bottle of Karhu (that means the beer).

Day 5 - Tankavaara

We get up around 8:30 because we want to enjoy the good weather arrived to climb to the top of the ski slopes to see the view! After a good breakfast, we equip ourselves to go out and face the cold. I loved this half hour when the light and the colors changed in this sumptuous decor. There was a slight wind that made the temperature drop and that could infiltrate everywhere.

It's a very beautiful day ahead and we intend to enjoy it at maximum. I put the logs in the fireplace one after the other because it snows outside and it's as if the colors were all gone elsewhere. I feel like in B&W. We make a stop a few kilometers further to take a real breakfast in a very small ski resort.

At the end of this road we come across a small car park with a wooden barn and an explanatory panel. Welcome to Suvanto, which in Finnish means lost corner. Before going to see what the village looks like we stop in front of this barn which seems to shelter a barge. The village is located beyond the Kitinen River.

Around us there is a silence. The river is one with the snowy banks and the bridge that leads to Suvanto is difficult to imagine in the snowy haze. The atmosphere is almost surreal but beautiful. Suvanto was voted the most beautiful village of Lapland in 1987. But under this thick blanket of snow, the roads are not clear and I wonder even if it is inhabited.

We turn around in front of a magnificent yellow house with only one Samoyed dog barking at us. Back on the road 962, we continue our road towards Pelkosenniemi where, hunger being felt, we hope to find something to eat. Arriving at Pelkosenniemi we have the impression of having landed in the middle of a lost village in the far north of Canada or deep in Siberia. The atmosphere that emerges with the falling snow and the cold, is more than exotic.

We would almost expect to see polar bears! I even find it difficult to transcribe what I feel, as the atmosphere is supernatural. We decide to go get some ingredients to make homemade sandwiches with black bread, cheese and salami, with a dessert packet of cakes. We drive near the church and will be our point of improvised picnic. The sandwiches are done on the dashboard as the snow begins to cover the car.

We go down the street, to go get a little kahvi at the cafeteria of the gas station. I really regret not having taken my camera at this time because the moment was really special. Sitting inside the cafeteria part of this tiny petrol station, we see the snow falling, the cold pinching and two cars waiting.

After the meal we take the road towards Tankavaara, a former village of gold diggers. Along the way we stop in a shop run by a Sami artist. We buy reindeer bone keychains on which are painted Sames symbols. We buy symbols of peace, trust and health. On the road, we see reindeer as we had never seen before. We do not even stop to photograph them, as there are too many.

The E75 road takes us through Vuosto, which is symbolically considered as the gateway to the Sami territory. An arch spanning the road and a red house covered with the Sami flag mark this crossing. When I say that it is symbolic it is simply that the Sami territory extended, at a certain time, much further south to Rovaniemi. On this road almost in a straight line we see a fox crossing. Dressed in winter coat of an orange, it is beautiful and especially too fast to take a picture.

The road takes us along the Urho Kekkonen National Park. This park is one of the wildest in Europe and it houses all that Finland can count of animals with Elan, fox, wolverine, bear, ptarmigan, owl, snow owl. It is very wild and subject to many restrictions imposed by the Metsahallitus to preserve it. Some areas, such as the part backed by the Russian border, are even prohibited.

We have been driving for a long time and a little break is needed to enjoy this wild nature. We get back on the E75, where this part of the road is nicknamed the Arctic Road. Just before arriving at Ivalo, the road takes us through a kind of mountain, where the landscape is breathtaking. It must be in the open air, because the tundra landscape is devoid of the least tree or shrub. The panels and poles at the top of this little mountain are like petrified by ice and wind.

We go through Ivalo, where we see an astonishing modern Lutheran church. Passing Ivalo and the river Alajarvi means, to go to the most beautiful part of the road, the one that goes along the lake Inari (Inarijarvi in Finnish, and Aanaarjavri in Sami).

The Inari lake is the third largest lake in Finland and 9th in Europe. The presence of the many lakes in Finland is explained by the fact that when the warm seasons arrive, the snow melts, but the earth does not have time to absorb all this mass of water.

Lake Inari has numerous islands and on one of them is Ukonsaari, a sacred place of the Sami, an ancient sanctuary where the Lapps came to sacrifice reindeer and dogs for the spirits. Even today the Sami are very careful to go there only on certain dates. For our part we try to take a path that sinks into the forest overlooking a small cove of the lake. It is past 12 o'clock and yet the grazing light of the sun, is reminiscent of a summer sun around 8, very low but very bright.

We finish the remaining few kilometers to Siida, the museum of Sami people. The term Siida is a little complicated to explain but it means a sacred area that can range from some stones, but also pastures of reindeer, or a breeding area, in short, the nerve center, economic and sacred of Sami people (who were pejoratively called Lapons not so long ago).

We have lunch there before starting the visit, and take a Luna, a kind of menu that includes a hot dish, often at will, and a dessert. It is almost a ritual, an alternative to fast food. It is often served in cafes, cafeterias or public places. The museum's mezzanine restaurant leaves the shades of the sun through the shutters and a good reindeer stew is very welcome to visit before the museum visit.

In two rooms, are very well summarized bases to understand these peoples. Their traditions, their discoveries, their cultures, their way of life, to dress but especially the differences between the ethnic groups of Norway, Finland or Russia. Around the central island, where the history of Sami people is gathered, we see our first stuffed wolverine.

In this park, we even see a Snow Theater, a temporary theater all in ice. The large blocks of ice are covered with reindeer skins, and the screen is also a huge block of ice. So here we are back on the E75 to make the road in the opposite direction which inevitably, with the fatigue, seems to us longer.

At the turn of a bend we see a large column of smoke escaping from the lake. The difference in temperature between air and water, and the presence of a thermal power plant on the other side of the road, explains the phenomenon. Nevertheless, we were no longer used to seeing water. The night falls, and a glance allows us to distinguish a magnificent and gigantic red moon.

We have a small stop on a parking lot, from which escapes furtively two reindeer, and I try to take a picture of this impressive star. We take our kahvi accompanied by a cinnamon rolls (small roll with cinnamon and cardamom called Korvapuusti) in this cafe where time seems to have stopped in the 60s.

We go to a ski resort in Kaunispaa, which dominate the whole valley, and where we are alone in the world. Unfortunately the sky is covered. So we will not see the midnight sun and as it is very cold we go down to sleep in the valley.

We go back a little tired, and prepare a small dinner accompanied, tonight, with a glass of Kulta Rabbit. But for tonight, the evening does not stop there! As we go out to smoke a cigarette, we roll our eyes and we see the Northern Lights. The show literally taps us on the spot. There is no time to get the camera, as we want to enjoy fully. Suddenly they calm down a little. We return to take the camera, the tripod, and wait in the cold that the phenomenon begins again.

Unfortunately those we will see will not have the same strength, and we will see only stealthy traces that do not seem to decide to embark on the dance. We go to bed with these beautiful pictures in the head. I am a little disappointed that the show did not last longer, but we had to resign ourselves.

Day 6 - Rovaniemi

We get up early enough to clean the cottage, and pack the suitcases. Our week is coming to an end and it's time for us to find space for everything we've bought and make room for all we have left to buy! We have to leave the chalet for our evening train at 9pm which leaves us all day to quietly go to Rovaniemi. To avoid the direct road, we will make a big loop that goes to the east by Savukoski, Salla, Kemijarvi and Rovaniemi.

Since we arrived in Finland, we have been traveling along the Russian border. We wanted to get close when we were in Inari, but we had to give up for lack of time. So, there, by the loop that we do, we miss the border post of Salla, lost in the middle of the woods in one of the coldest corners of Finland.

Some shops or signs in the surrounding towns are written in both Finnish and Cyrillic characters and as the border approaches the control panels are becoming more and more present. Just before arriving at the border post, there is a huge parking lot that informs the curiosities of the region, which explain the basic rules in the Finnish parks. This is where we park. I want to get closer to the border crossing to immortalize it.

We follow the road under the watchful eye of cameras that monitor the vehicles. We dare not approach any more, so I take a quick photo and we go back to the car. I looked on Google Earth if people had uploaded photos of this border post, but all more or less been taken in the same place as mine. Nobody seems to have ventured further than this panel.

We then take the road 82 towards Salla where, before making a small tour in the city we take fuel. We make a quick tour to Salla. In the autumn of 1939, during the Winter War, Soviet troops attacked Finland and invaded the Salla region. Stalin had indeed planned to cut Finland in two at its narrowest point, to join the Gulf of Bothnia (which is the natural border with Sweden).

The Soviets were then stopped by the Finnish army during the Battle of Salla. At the end of this conflict, part of the municipality of Salla was ceded to the Soviet Union. We come across a beautiful church in a modern and refined style, which makes me think of the churches that can be seen in Iceland or in other Nordic countries.

I really like this very rough architecture, pruned, with a sloping roof that does not hold the snow, as well as its belfry in the architectural continuity. We continue our route towards Kemijarvi. We stop, all the same, to go to see more closely this church with its belfry. Again, it is closed, but nevertheless I cannot help but admire the work done on the massive door handles.

In the park, a few dozen meters up the belfry under the watchful eye of this sculpture covered with a thin cover of frost. We swallow a little something quickly and take the road under the light that declines. So we go back to the Arctic Circle for the last time of our stay, and leave behind us the 66° parallel with a little touch of nostalgia.

We do some last souvenir shopping in the big shopping center of Rovaniemi. We are a Friday night, and this abrupt return to civilization is quite violent. After shopping we go to the Artikum, where we now know that parking is free. I take the opportunity to take some pictures of the night canopy that ends in the Kemijoki River. We parked here to see a boutique museum, an ancient brand of traditional knives that still makes Lapland knives in the purest Sami tradition.

The knives are beautiful with a birch handle. After taking a tour of the museum and fleeing a horde of noisy tourists, we head for the car. Before going to redeposit the car, we park to see the Lappia-Talo or Lappia House, designed by the architect and Finnish designer Alvar Aalto.

The Lappia Hall , is a kind of cultural complex including a theater and concert hall, but also the Rovaniemi Town Hall as well as the library built in 1965. The lighting at night, on the roof of the house Lappia is reminiscent of the aurora borealis, visible in the region. We walk around among the creations of the master.

We continue to the library (Kirjasto) which adjoins Lappia Hall, and which brings a strong dynamic with this row of columns. The pillars are also frozen and some have fun to leave the trace of their hand. We leave our car in the parking lot of the station, and reconnect the car on the terminal. We clean the car by removing the ice blocks in the grille, on the trunk or on the windshield. The temperature helps us but some are not far from ten centimeters thick.

I like the atmosphere of the station. I take this opportunity to take some pictures of the small station of Rovaniemi. Our train, the Santa Claus Express arrives in station. I love the design of their night trains with this half-asleep owl that takes the full height of this two-story train.

The corridors are not very attractive and it does not have the charm of the old night trains, but I must admit, the compartment is rather cozy. We try to fit the suitcases under the beds, but that does not fit. The suitcases take up all the space, but when the controller comes to punch our tickets, we try in vain to make room to open the door.

I take my quarters on the small seat near the window, and we taste our sandwiches watching the night scenery scroll. I really like the atmosphere and the night landscapes with the little houses still decorated with Christmas lights.

After a few stops, the train takes its cruising speed. I read a little before falling into the arms of Morpheus. Tomorrow, morning the train arrives at 8:30 in Helsinki, and we want to get up early to pack the bags, and enjoy the sunrise over the Finnish countryside.