Chateau de Hautefort and its gardens

Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

The day before my parents-in-law were due to fly back to Holland, we went to visit yet another castle — the Chateau de Hautefort.

This castle was about an hour’s drive from our base so we brought our picnic basket. One thing that we loved in this holiday was having a picnic lunch which was just so ideal when visiting places like this castle so we avoid long queues and waiting in the restaurant. Our French picnic basket consisted of French bread, pate, cheese and a very succulent melon which we ate under the walnut trees at the foot of the castle’s ground.

The castle was an amazing revelation although it has seen some untoward development in its history like fire but has since then, been rebuilt and restored to its former glory. Not all parts of the castle was open to the public but there was enough to see. The gardens — left me at a loss to describe beauty in its purest sense.

This chateau has also graced the silver screen when it was used as one of the locations for the movie Ever After directed by Andy Tenant and starred by Drew Barrymore.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch at the foothills of this chateau -- under the shade of walnut trees.

We enjoyed our picnic lunch at the foothills of this chateau — under the shade of walnut trees.

Impressive gardens of the chateau -- geometric shapes, topiaries...

Impressive gardens of the chateau — geometric shapes, topiaries…

Parterre garden of Chateau de Hautefort

Parterre garden of Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

Our family

Our family

Francesca's idea of family picture

Francesca’s idea of family picture

Another angle of the chateau

Another angle of the chateau

Topiaries

Topiaries

Topiaries

Topiaries

Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

One facet of the garden and the village of Hautefort below

One facet of the garden and the village of Hautefort below

At the chateau's entrance

At the chateau’s entrance

Our family

Our family

Another angle of the garden

Another angle of the garden

The garden

The garden

Mam Sil smelling the flowers

Mam Sil smelling the flowers

Beautiful dahlias were in bloom during our visit

Beautiful dahlias were in bloom during our visit

Opa and Francesca

Opa and Francesca

Oma and Francesca

Oma and Francesca

The chateau

The chateau

Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

One of the bedrooms open for public viewing

One of the bedrooms open for public viewing

Another accessible room at the chateau

Another accessible room at the chateau

A peek into the bygone era

A peek into the bygone era

A tunnel inside the chateau

A tunnel inside the chateau

The chateau's door

The chateau’s door

Chateau de Hautefort

Chateau de Hautefort

Opa and Francesca at the chateau's gift shop

Opa and Francesca at the chateau’s gift shop

Opa's present from the chateau's shop

Opa’s present from the chateau’s shop

Opa and oma

Opa and oma

Roses

Roses

Pink bloom

Pink bloom

Butterfly

Butterfly

Red roses

Red roses

Yellow blooms

Yellow blooms

Pink blooms

Pink blooms

Blue flowers

Blue flowers

French summer basket

French summer basket

Wishing well???

Wishing well???

My little girl

My little girl

The little girl’s second foray into the flower fields (Spring 2009)

Among red tulips

It used to be that the years went by without us noticing. Spring year after year would seem the same. We hardly noticed the passing of time and the difference in each passing year. All that changed with Francesca as since her birth, she became the benchmark and timescale for everything in our lives.

Certainly all parents will agree with me that children become the focal point of our lives, the beacon of hope on those dreary days, the source of strength when the hurdle seems too much and the source of laughter that cheers us up especially on those times that we can hardly summon a smile.

On this post you will see how much a year means in the life of a child. From the 6-month old baby in the previous post, she was 1.5 years in these pictures. This time, she was running through the flower fields and plucking the odd flowers out.

We spent the Easter weekend with my parents-in-law in Dronten where some of the big tracks of flower fields can be found. There were tulip and hyacinth fields and all were very exciting for our little girl.

Fields of blooms

I got the odd one out!

Among pink hyancinths

Francesca with opa and oma

Francesca and oma

our family

Francesca and opa

Francesca and me

Red tulips

Last year’s Easter eggs hunt

The little ones and their Easter eggs find

Time flies, it’s almost Easter time again! Where did the year go? Memories of last year’s Easter egg hunt are still fresh in my thoughts but it is time for the next egg hunt again. To my daughter, life is moving forward and wanting the years to roll by so quickly while I am hanging on to every bit of her childhood — carefree days under the sun hunting for Easter eggs, blowing dandelion seeds away, climbing trees, going back and forth at the slide, running around with the other kids and many more.

One of my little girl’s favorite time of the year is Easter and the delightful event of Easter egg hunt. It is something that has become a tradition with us having started this on the first Easter when she could walk. At that time, the eggs were hidden in the confines of our small back garden.

Last year, we organized the Easter egg hunt with the involvement of children in our neighborhood. We were blessed with the perfect Easter weather — warm and sunny and the kids really had so much fun searching for the eggs hidden in the grass and other not so obvious places. I baked cupcakes while the other moms brought in the refreshments.

One more week to go and it will be the same frenzied activity again. My daughter can hardly wait…

On to the egg hunt

Searching the grass and weeds for the hidden eggs

Feeling fulfilled with every find

Happy with every sighting of an egg hidden in the grass

Weather couldn't be any better than this for the egg hunt

Maybe there are more eggs here...

Counting the egg finds

"Could we eat first?"

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes

Eating time after the hard work

More egg search

The parents minus me the photographer

Posing for mom

Childhood friendship

Flowers everywhere

Flowers everywhere

Looking at ordinary things in extraordinary ways – Nature shots from late summer 2010

Ladybug

For not knowing any better then, there were moments in my childhood which I look back now with sadness. Those moments when I did not give Mother Nature the reverence and respect she truly deserves. As a child growing up in the countryside in Philippines, I was one of the kids who went around with slingshots aiming for birds and insects. We would collect the sap from the jackfruit tree to turn it into a sort of glue when we hunt for crickets in the trees. We would play with those crickets and they would end up on sticks pretending they were barbeques when we play pretend store or restaurant. I’m glad that I would be separated from those kids in the neighborhood when I went to a different school in another town when I was nine. I learned that there was more to childhood fun than being mean to creatures especially the small and helpless ones from human cruelty.

As a grown up and having learned more about nature, I just wish that I could undo the damage I caused way back then by educating the little ones now about reverence for anything that the good Lord has given us. The environmental degradation that we see nowadays is caused by ignorance, greed and in many instances, also by sheer indifference. The education about appreciation for nature should start from childhood because that is the time when values are being formed. The kids who hunted those birds if not led to the right path, will go into big-time poaching in later life. The ignorant ones will be easy prey to the greedy ones who will take possession on the bounties of nature that they are endowed with. And the indifferent ones, if they are not affected, will simply let the whole environmental abuse go on.

Teaching a child the appreciation of nature is shown by example. With my daughter, we would go out looking for insects to observe them in their natural world. These days, we would bring old bread to feed the birds rather than the slingshots of my childhood. As parents, it is our primordial task to instill in our kids that being stewards of nature for the generations to come is their responsibility.

Armed with my camera, I now look at these seemingly ordinary things…insects, flies, butterflies, spiders, flowers, weeds in extraordinary ways. These pictures were taken one late morning in our neighborhood late in the summer of 2010.

Red poppies among yellow blooms

Butterfly

Dandelion

Butterfly

Fly

Poppies after flowering

Spider in its web

Clover flowers

Little lake beside our home

Lotus flowers in the lake

Ladybug

Early spring

The 1st of March is already considered here as the start of spring in meteorological terms although the real start of the season as we know will only be 3 more weeks farther. My daughter can hardly wait for the new season to begin as she looks forward to picking flowers and assemble them into lovely bouquets.

I share my little girl’s fascination with this season as I simply love how Holland blossoms after a long hibernation in winter. I love the sight of early morning just when the sun is breaking though the mist as backdrop to the trees and shrubs which explode in blooms just as soon as the temperature warms up sustainably for a couple of days.

With the exception of when there is snow or ice, my camera also goes into winter hibernation mode so when the first signs of spring become visible, I am out of the door in an instant to go around and start clicking to capture the beauty of the season.

These are pictures I took last year and I am looking forward to a repeat of this lovely phase in the season this year.

Lady bug

Dandelion

Snail

Lady bug

My city (Amersfoort) in early spring

Crocuses everywhere


Crocuses in various colors


Enjoying the sun


The city gate


There is nothing more exciting than the coming of spring that I look forward to every year. The long drag of winter especially after the snow or ice is gone simply gets too much that everyone here can hardly wait for the herald of the new season. Spring to me starts when the crocuses wake up from their slumber, sprouting through the ground and blanketing open spaces in yellows, whites, purples and lilacs. The Dutch with their passion for flowers and organization, ensures that spring follows a synchronized order with the daffodils following the crocuses in the blooming game. Tulips cap the spring beauty pageant.

My little girl wasn't able to resist the flowers


My advice to would be visitors to Holland is to come in spring. This country is simply awesome and experiencing this season here is the dream of a lifetime come true. Everywhere is abloom and going out is just a pleasure. If you are a photography enthusiast, you’ll never run out of subjects.

Running around enjoying spring


One early springtime almost 2 years ago, we went to the city center for a little stroll. Although temperature-wise it was still very chilly, the sun was shining and the sky was blue…just the perfect spring day for a little stroll. We had a great time just sitting on the bench enjoying the sun rays and admiring the beauty around us. And like any typical Dutch, we brought our lunch with us which we ate at the city square.

Centuries-old buildings


Centuries-old buildings in the city centre


Lunch at the city square


One of the city canals

We live in Amersfoort, a municipality and the second largest city in the province of Utrecht. It is a city with a long history having celebrated its 750th birthday in 2009. This city is known too by a few names such as the “City with a heart” and “Boulder City”. The former is attributed to the heart-shape formation of the city centre which is visible from the air.

Old map of Amersfoort (taken from Wikipedia)

Amersfoort is not part of the usual tourist route but below is a list of places to see when in the city:

1. The Tower of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwentoren) – one of the tallest medieval church towers in the Netherlands at 98 meters. The construction of the tower was started in 1444. The church was destroyed by an explosion in 1787, but the tower survived.

The Tower of Our Lady (summer picture)

2. The inner city of Amersfoort has been preserved well since the Middle Ages. Apart from the Onze Lieve Vrouwentoren, the Koppelpoort and the Muurhuizen (Wall Houses), there is also the Sint Joris Church, the canal system with its bridges as well as medieval and other old buildings, many designed as national monuments.

A canal close to the home of Piet Mondriaan

If you want to see more of the Netherlands and want to get away from touristy Amsterdam, hop into an intercity train to Amersfoort. The train ride takes just a good half an hour and you are already in this lovely city. It is also very much possible to make a side trip to Spakenburg to see those women in traditional costume (see my earlier blog about them). That is just a bus ride away from the train station.

More pictures of Amersfoort:

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