I could smell spring in the air. It’s 10 degrees, sunny, blue skies and feels like 10-degrees. (In the Netherlands we have this gevoelstemperatuur, which literally translates to “feel temperature”. Depending on the wind, gevoelstemperatuur can be twice of thrice as cold as real temperature). Last week when the ‘beast from the east” passed by, it suddenly felt like -20 degrees in many parts of the country, particularly in Rotterdam where the hard, icy North Sea winds blows like a hurricane on stormy days.
But I am not complaining. Not really, because there was a lot of snow this year. You see, in this part of Europe, winter usually means rain and heavy storms, so when Netherlands become Narnia-land, we frolic in the snow like people from the tropics.
Every year the Dutch from the North of the country, in Friesland particularly, are wishing for a real winter so that they can hold their ice skating competition (Elfstedentocht). And every year, their hearts get broken because it hardly gets freezing cold here.
But this year was an exception. In early December the first snow storm came and blanketed the whole country in immaculate white powder. It lasted for only two days but nobody minded. There still wasn’t any Elfstedentoch but many canals froze, and people went crazy skating on natural ice especially in Amsterdam.
One afternoon, we decided to leave the infant and the elderly in the rented house. After two days of long drives and sauntering, they needed to recover. And we needed our private time as a couple. In the mid-day summer heat, we hopped on the car to find Mille de Etangs or The Thousand Ponds, lured by the aerial shots I saw online. From Rupt Sur Moselle, we followed the route to Faucogney-et-la-Mer, thinking it will be easy to find such a popular spot.
How wrong we were! This is France’s countryside, not the Netherlands. Not everything is 30 minutes away and even if they are, you must have a really good sense of direction or a professional GPS to find the neatly-hidden spots in this “wilderness”. Because we didn’t want to spend all our afternoon with our faces stuck on a tiny screen, we ditched the mobile phone and followed our instincts.
We turned right somewhere, on a tiny village road, unpaved, easy to miss, almost concealed by overgrowth – the kind you see in horror films, which one way or the other, leads to the savage demise of the main character.
As a personal tradition, I’ve spent my birthdays travelling since I’ve moved to Europe, from Italy to Spain, from the Philippines to Tanzania. Many had been almost perfect, whether I spend them sleeping on an airport floor or watching an African sunset.
My 33rd is no different. For the most part, I was riding shotgun or driving in the highway. However this time, the presence of my mother and my daughter made it extra special.
We rented a house deep in the French Vosges Mountain, in Rupt sur Moselle where I switched off from social media to be fully present in this trip.
Is that possible? Could you be living all 23 years of your life without exactly knowing who you are, what you want in your life, where you are heading? In my case, the proverbial question popped out while I was at the end of a press junket in La Union.
On the last day of a surfing coverage, I decided to take the bus further north, all the way to Pagudpud – alone, running out of money (and clean clothes) and with a very heavy heart.