kathereal

kathereal

Katharine is a travel addict who hallucinates herself in a different corner of the world everyday. When she's not traveling, she writes about it. When she's not blogging, she is a fashion designer.

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We were driving out of the Loire Valley and heading towards the Normandy coast. However before we got to the seafood heaven, we had one more chateau stop to make : The Chateau de Villandry. The first time I heard of this place was on a TV show (Around the World in 80 Gardens), and they called it “The Garden of France”.

Still owned by the Carvallo family who purchased the property in 1906, Villandry is known for it massive garden instead of the chateau itself. Walked up to the boulevard on the side of the garden, you got this sweeping view of the entire property. Even I knew this place was huge, I was still surprised when I saw it with my own eyes. This was by far the largest family garden I've visited. Seriously, the Carvallos must be a gardening addict.

 

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There were patches and patches of box hedges filled with colors inside, it was kind of like a colouring book. Everything was laid out in a formal pattern, and they are trimmed meticulously. Beside gardens after gardens of ornamental flowers, they also have a medieval garden that grows edible vegetables. I just love an edible garden which I heard was a popular thing back in the renaissance.

Although the chateau isn’t the focus, it is still a very pleasant visit. Walking through different rooms, you get a different view of the garden from every window. Besides the view, it was also nice to see a place which has an interior that was less royally decorated. It felt a little more homey, with a touch of coziness that you don’t get at Chenonceau or Chambord.

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If you love gardening, this is the place to visit. If you are in the Loire Valley in the blooming season, there's no reason to pass this one out.

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I'm always fascinated by the thought of visiting a place up north where not a lot of tourist would really go (For instance, Faroes Island is still on m list). Somewhere quiet, somewhere pretty but still has a reason for me to visit. As I found myself in Groningen (Holland) one year, I decided to make a day trip to a town up north called Pieterburen for the Zeehondencreche Lenie’t Hart. In short, it’s a town with a seal rehab. It all started when a lady began to rescue injured seals as a personal thing. Now it turned into a full-on Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre (SRRC).

I’m sure there must be a smarter way to get there, but here is what I did: I decided to take the train to Baflo, a tiny village, and catch bus to the seal rehab. Once I got off the train, I only saw residential buildings with no signs of buses……and no one was around. This couldn’t be good. My experience told me to walk into the town center and find a place with some people. That wasn’t easy when most stores was closed. I actually thought of knocking on someone’s home.

At the end, a cashier lady at a supermarket told me that I “might” be able to find a bus down the road by the edge of the town. Followed her direction, I found a bus stop sign. I had no idea how that bus schedule works with everything written in Dutch only. All I understood was the next bus should arrive in either 30 mins or 45. That’s fine, as long as those lines in Dutch didn’t mean no service on Dec 22. So I ended up having a very windy and cold quiet moment in Baflo. Under the clear blue sky, I was looking at the green grasses on the massive flatland, while thinking of my life and future.

When I first walked inside the seal rehab, I read some information about the seals, and the ocean in the region. There was a film about the rescue work of the organization, in dutch. I still sat through the film, together with a bunch of Dutch kids. The content was pretty simple to guess actually. After that, I went to see the seals of course, they were really cute. Basically, after they were admitted, they went through several stage. The sicker ones were indoors, and the healthier one would get to spend some time outdoor while waiting to be released back to the ocean. I’m so glad that these adorable seals get to recover under the best care. 

At first, Cancale in France's Brittany wasn’t on my list of places to visit. I was planning to visit Dinan and St Malo. However, while I was doing my research on where to eat and what food shouldn’t be missed, Cancale came up and it wasn’t that far from St Malo. Then I realized it’s the town known for oysters. I’m not a big fan of oysters, however those who traveled with me are. Honestly it’s not easy to find good and clean oysters at a decent price in where I live, so I figured we shouldn’t miss this place out.

I read that the place to be for eating oysters would be at the port. I made a mistake of not finding out where eactly is THE PORT. I thought if we go into the town of Cancale, we should find the oyster bed and restaurants by the water, especially if we head to the “Rue du Port”. I was so wrong. The town of Cancale is like a residential area, there aren’t much around besides happy french people preparing for a day at the beach or a barbecue. We got so lost around town, and I couldn’t get myself to ask people “where are the oysters?”


Thank god, and GPS, we finally arrived the THE port. It’s located at the south of the town center by the water (should not even head inside the town center). There are tons of seafood restaurants at the Place du Calvaire. They pretty much all serve the same thing, it’s a matter of which restaurant offer the best deal. Although Cancale is a seafood haven, our mission wasn’t to pay a lot of money for a plate of mixed seafood. We were there for the fresh and delicious oyster, CHEAP.
Walked to the end of the road by the corner of the port, you’d see these 7 or 8 little stands in blue and white stripe. Selling a dozen of oysters for around 5euro (don’t even bother with the scallops). You pay for the oysters + opening fee (if you’re eating it right away) + price of a lemon (optional). Then you get your oysters on a plastic place. The lady would tell you “When you’re done, return the plate, the plastic knife and lemon to me; The shell of the osyters, to the ocean.”

so we took our plates, and walk to the ramp behind the stands. We sat down and started to enjoy plates after plates of oysters. God they are so good and cheap, and as I’ve said, I wasn’t even a fan of oysters. and it was so much fun to keep throwing the shells into the sea.


I can’t remember where I read about this little cafe in Prague, but it only took a few second, and I was determined that I *must* pay a visit. Choco Cafe, I doubt there’s any other names that can be more fitting. Located on a street called Liliova (which sounds pretty cute by the way), I arrived on a sunny Sunday morning after strolling around a market nearby. My hands were freezing and I couldn’t wait to get in and have a taste of their finest creation: Hot Chocolate.

Once I walked in, I loved this place right away for its coziness with the charm of a dainty antique store. I immediately noticed a few old kitchen utensils displayed on some shelves. There were comfy couches around the place upholstered in different patterns and chairs in different styles. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but the mix of unmatched style gave off a “personal” vibe: as if they were all collected by someone piece by piece from different points in his life.

The theme of “collection” and “memory” continued throughout the wall, with lots of framed old postcards. Being a postcard lover myself, I’m in love with such decoration! None of them were photographs taken from a tourist spot, they were all in those old hand painted style. I wonder if they were actually postcards that the cafe owner’s family received decades ago.

They have lots of options on the menu. I ordered a chocolate with pieces of fresh strawberry and bananas at the bottom. It was deviliciously thick with intense flavor of chocolate. With the whipped cream of top, I could die right there! This place was perfect to read a book, catch up with friends, people watching, or brag about it to your friends by twitting it live surf around the internet mindlessly with their free wi-fi.

If you’re not satisfied with just a single shot of those evil hot chocolate. You can order some cake and other light snack they offer. Of course, you can also purchase some chocolate and take it home with you! Although, I must point out that I only found chocolate bars imported from foreign countries such as Italy and Colombia. I wish they only offer more chocolate that were produced within the Czech Republic.