July is almost over, and while we didn't exactly travel anywhere "exciting" and stuck to Western Europe, there were some surprises! We finished up our second housesit in Chester at the end of June, which was high time for leaving the UK, where we definitely felt less than welcome since the EU referendum (although gf has a British passport, but that doesn't seem too helpful now if you are not white).
It was time to head somewhere that seems more worry free and pleasant, a country that openly welcomes several cultures and languages by its very foundation. Time to head to...
I have been meaning to spend more time in the Romandie (French speaking Switzerland) for a while, but it never really happened. I have been twice before and while Geneva is a bit meh, Lausanne, the capital of the canton Vaud, is an absolute star. It does feel very French, is a lively and multicultural student city but has the friendliness and overall gorgeousness of Switzerland, if not more... it's hands down the prettiest place I have ever been in Western Europe, especially around the lake.
We only had 2 1/2 days in Lausanne, but managed to climb all over the very hilly old town (nothing can prepare you for that, bring good shoes!), walk by Lake Geneva and do a little hike in the neighbouring villages around the Lavaux wine terraces. Next time I'll definitely bring more time so we can actually stop over and enjoy the villages we just raced through this time.
After a short trip to Italy, we spent a week in Basel, which is not really a popular place for tourism in Switzerland (the landscape around it pretty flat and boring), but we found it a very pleasant city. You can walk to both Germany and France from there, if you like. The weather was fantastic and we got a healthy tan, even though we didn't join the many people swimming in the Rhine (I couldn't believe my eyes - it's also much much cleaner there than on the other end of the river, where I grew up).
A weekend in Lombardia
Our trip to Lausanne was so short because we went to a small village near Bergamo for friends' wedding, which was picture perfect in an old villa, but also relaxed. Our friends who got married are from Taiwan and Italy and both have lived and travelled all over, so the wedding was a lovely cultural mix of guests and traditions, albeit with a hefty Italian dinner, which we had to cut short due to being super tired after an early morning trip from Switzerland.
The day after the wedding, we explore Bergamo, which is a super cute and overlooked city in this part of Italy. It was nice to enjoy some Italian foods before we were back to Switzerland, country of "can't afford to eat out here".
Strasbourg, by surprise
Due to a miscommunication of housesitting dates, we had a week to fill all of a sudden. I really really wanted to go back to the West of Switzerland, but everything was booked solid because of the Montreux Jazz Festival. Completely by chance, we managed to find a small studio in the heart of Strasbourg's historic centre for a week.
Due to the great weather, I couldn't bring myself to visit any museums. And I LOVE museums, but the city managed to captivate us so much that just walking around didn't get boring all week. Strasbourg's many canals also make the city great for running. Next time, I'll be back for indoor stuff and a wine tour :)
I also havent' visited anywhere else in France where people were that friendly and helpful. None of the places we went to eat our buy stuff at had rude staff, ha!
Stuttgart & Düsseldorf
Let's not talk about Stutgart, except this: It's overpriced, unfriendly and not pretty - if you're in the area, head straight for the Black Forest, Switzerland or France.
After a day in Stuttgart, we stopped over in Düsseldorf to catch up with some friends as well as Japanese food and supplies (intermediate kanji, here I come). Then it was time to go...
Back to the Netherlands!
For the last week of July (and for the next 4 weeks), we are back to a small town just south of Haarlem (which is just south of Amsterdam), looking after the most fantastic Ridgeback and ginger cat, in an amazing house from the future. This is time for long walks in the forest and catching up on work, studying, reading and watching stuff on the Netflix subscription that comes with the house. Not to forget enjoying the fancy organic shops and "yummy mummy" amenities this place comes with (the neighbourhood is a bit... the Real Housewives of Amsterdam, I guess).
This was our first housesit back in May, and I think the sheer perfection of the house, location and pets just ruined all other housesits for us...