Thursday, April 6, 2023

Antwerp, Belgium's Precious Museum


About 85 percent of the world’s uncut diamonds pass through Antwerp’s Diamond District, a compact commercial enclave jammed with diamond dealers, cutters, polishers, and showrooms since the 15th century.  I immersed myself in the story behind them all and headed to DIVA – a brilliant museum about all that glitters.

For the design and display features, several well-known Belgians, including Gert Voorjans, an interior designer who is known in fashion circles for creating boutiques.  He designed the first of the museum’s six galleries: an intimate wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. 

It's a fascinating place to see Belgium’s centuries-old diamond trade.  Diva has an enviable location, around the corner from the town hall and Great Market Square.  I was amazed at the uncountable varieties of diamonds in all shapes, sizes, and colors present in the museum. 

Alongside its stunning permanent collection, DIVA also hosts multiple temporary expositions per year. The new presentation of the collections, entitled “Diva, a Brilliant Story” is available in seven rooms. 

Visitors will discover the latest techniques in jewelry production such as urban mining (recovery of precious materials from used appliances), up-cycling, and diamond labs.  The ecology and ethics surrounding, in particular, the extraction of diamonds will be discussed (think "blood diamonds").  Explanations from experts, traders, and designers are also an integral part of the new exhibition.  An audio guide inside the museum will take you through the museum at your own pace.

The DIVA museum is almost overwhelming with its countless displays, so I was thankful to sit on a bench at their third-floor rooftop patio and soak in the sun.  Don't rush through the museum, take your time and enjoy the beauty of the precious works of art.

From August 26, 2023, to October 8, 2023, enthusiasts will also be able to discover the results of the Triennale de l’Argenterie, the most important international goldsmith’s competition. The artists Triin Kuuk, originally from Estonia, and Andrea Raluca Cojocaru, from Romania, will be in residence from the beginning of April. They will present their creations to visitors.

Daily from 10.00-18.00

Closed on Wednesdays.

Big Girls Need Big Diamonds




Monday, February 27, 2023

Mexico: Pitaya Sorbet from Cacti Fruits


I often drove by a small makeshift market stall with signs: "Pitaya Nieve" and was wondering what they are selling and what pitaya is.  Then I learned that it is an extremely healthy fruit of a cactus. Nieve means snow, but in many parts of Mexico, it's used to mean ice cream and sorbet.

Pitaya, also known as Dragon Fruit, is a superfruit indigenous to Central and South America that is now grown all over the world. Dragon fruit also called "pitaya" or "pitahaya," is the vibrant-colored and sweet-tasting fruit of cactus plants: Pitayo cactus (Stenocereus queretaroensis), a bushy tree-like cactus.  It is relatively easy to grow, particularly for those in tropical or subtropical locations where maintenance is minimal.

This “ice cream” or dragon fruit sorbet recipe is made with frozen fruit and fruit juices.  Dragon fruit, or pitaya, is frozen after being cut into cubes, along with frozen bananas.  Once your fruit is frozen, it’s easy to put this vegan sorbet recipe together.  Simply add your frozen fruit, along with some raspberry puree, and fresh squeezed orange juice, to a high-speed blender.  Add some scraped vanilla bean or vanilla extract, if desired, and your healthy dessert is complete.

You can enjoy this vegan ice cream right out of the blender and it will have a soft-serve consistency.  If you’d prefer it to be thicker and “scoopable” to put on a cone, you can put it in a shallow dish and cover it, and then freeze it for 2-3 hours. 

According to Wikipedia: "Pitaya has been an important food source for indigenous peoples of the Americas.  The Seri people of northwestern Mexico still harvest the fruit, and call the plant ziix is ccapxl "thing whose fruit is sour".

The fruit of the organ pipe cactus (S. thurberi, called ool by the Seris) is the pitaya dulce "sweet pitaya".  It has a more tart taste than Selenicereus fruit, described as somewhat reminiscent of watermelon.  Sweet pitayas come in three types".

100 grams of dried pitaya provides 264 kilocalories of food energy, 82% carbohydrates, 4% protein, and 11% of the daily value each for vitamin C and calcium.  Who would have thought that sorbet or ice cream can be so healthy?


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, and Whale-Watching in Baja California Sur



As the ultimate sports destination, La Ventana Mexico lures adventure seekers to its sandy shores with the promise of consistent offshore winds and waves. While it’s only an hour away from the bustling, tequila-fueled resort strips in Cabo San Lucas, La Ventana feels authentic–a place with dusty, bumpy roads, framed by cacti and quiet beaches in lieu of mega-resorts and buffet lines.

In La Ventana, sun seekers, mountain bikers, surfers, SUP’ers, kayakers, kiteboarders, snorkelers, divers, and anglers load up their gear and head down to play in the surf, with a stunning backdrop of the Sea of Cortez and Jacques Cousteau Island.  

While I am writing this article, I can see whales playing in the bay of La Ventana - just from my large window room front at the Tango Azul vacation apartment.  From late December to the end of March lots of Blue, Fin, Humpback, Gray, Sperm, Brydes, Sei, and Mink Whales are coming to La Ventana Bay and the Sea of Cortez on the Eastern side of Baja California Sur.

Baja Underwater Expeditions / Cerralvo Divers

La Ventana - Isle Cerralvo Diving

From fall to early spring it is a kite surfing town with a small population of local fishermen and home to a gateway to Jacques Cousteau Island. The famous ocean explorer led many expeditions in this area and so the Mexican Government changed the name from Cerralvo Island in 2009 in honor of his conservation work. La Ventana: a kite surfing town with a small population of local fishermen and home to a gateway to Jacques Cousteau Island. The famous ocean explorer led many expeditions in this area and so the Mexican Government changed the name from Cerralvo Island in 2009 in honor of his conservation work. Many of the locals prefer to use its real name ‘Cerralvo’.

A huge dolphin population lives in the area too, and in the last few years, orcas encounters are becoming very popular! In one word, La Ventana is a truly magical place. Under the surface, a true multicolor paradise is waiting for all the divers that want something new to explore. Besides La Reina, very famous for the giant mantas, we can explore several unknown dive sites, all rich in marine life and beautiful coral formations.

Duration: 6 hours

Capacity: Min. 2 pax Max. 8 pax

Price: USD $180 for two tanks – USD $210 for three tanks  (100 USD = 95 Euros)

Includes:  Roundtrip transportation by boat, certified dive guide, 2 or 3 tanks

Complete diving equipment (fins, visor, regulator, vest, weights)

Lunch, fruits, and drinks

Phone +52 987 1171354 / +52 612 2127511
La Ventana - Calle Manzanillo y Corredor Isla, 8am - 5 pm


Baja Wild Encounters 

They offer not only snorkel and scuba diving tours but also whale-watching tours.  Dive around the Southern Island in the Sea of Cortez, Isla Cerralvo also known as Jacques Cousteau Island.  Here we can see large Pelagic Fish, Sea Lions, Giant Oceanic Manta Rays from July to October, Mobula Rays, and adventure through small caves and swim-throughs.  Dive sites are available for all levels of divers.

3500 pesos (around USD$175) per Diver*, departure is around 8 am

Included are the boat, captain, guide, 2 tanks, weights, snacks, and water.

Whale Watching Day Trips and even Multi-Day trips are available at a request

Activity Days: 1 Day trip - 6 hours

Trip Cost: 3,000 Pesos (around USD$150) per person - Minimum of 4 people on tour, or cover cost of 4 people.


Cabo Pulmo National Park

It is the national marine park on the east coast of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, spanning the distance between Pulmo Point and Los Frailes Cape, approximately 3 hours south of La Paz. Cabo Pulmo is home to the oldest of only three coral reefs on the west coast of North America. Estimated to be 20,000 years old, it is the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The reef has a number of fingers of hard coral atop rock outcroppings that run parallel to the coast, occurring in progressively deeper water offshore. The area was designated a national park in 1995, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Cabo Pulmo National Park is home to over 6,000 marine species. Principle among these is the famous sea lions of the area. In terms of other large species, the park is also home to humpback whales, sharks, and whale sharks. Huge groupers, turtles, and large schools of jacks are readily available. Tropical fish are abundant, and the occasional reef and bull shark can also be found close to prey. Underwater photographers will be amazed at the diversity of macro life found on this rare coral reef. 

Pulmo Ntl Park Scuba-Diving

Several coral reefs at Cabo Pulmo attract schools of rays, turtles, enormous groupers, large schools of jacks, porkfish, tropical fish, and even sharks every once in a while. 

Most of the dive sites are shallow (30-40 feet) and located only a 10-15 minute boat ride from shore. The shallow depth of the dives and easy contours of the bottom, allow long and very easy drift dives.

Duration: Approx. 3:30 hours

Includes: National park fee, 2 tanks, and lunch

Without Transportation - Price: USD$125 

With Round Trip Transportation - Price: $275 USD (100 USD = 95 Euros)

Rental Equipment: USD$ 35

Diving in La Paz

Espiritu Santo Island – 2 tanks day trip

1 day USD$180 

Includes: Guide, taxes 16%, snacks, lunch, and drinks

Rental gear is free

They are a group of French-Mexican friends, who share their love for diving, the Sea of Cortez, and the protection of marine ecosystems. The owner Alexia is a French marine biologist. All the members of her team have many years of experience in diving and the sea of Cortez and around La Paz.

Cabo San Lucas Marine Park Diving

Watch the unique Sand falls phenomenon, an underwater avalanche of sand

Dive with the playful sea lions next to the famous arch

Enjoy a tour around the Land’s End area: see Lover’s Beach, the Sea Lion’s Colony, the famous arch, and the Pacific

Experience a ride on our well-shaded, fully equipped, and custom-made dive boats

Dive in small groups with a PADI-certified Divemaster or instructor.  Daily 8 am and 1 pm, approx. 3:30 hrs

Includes: 2 tanks, a guide, weights, and drinking water

Price USD$125

Dive gear rental full set – $38

Nitrox tank up to 32% – $10

Phone +52-624-9800640

Blvd. Marina #7D Local 37 Int. Plaza Gali

Diving in Baja California Sur is excellent year-round but each season brings its own gems.  July to November has excellent visibility (25m). This season is also prime time for whale sharks (best chances in October/November) and offers the warmest water (73-85°F/23-30°C).

Cooler waters between December and March (64-68°F/18-20°C) bring different creatures.  Now is the best time to come face-to-face with humpback whales and mobula rays.  Whatever time of year you visit, your logbook will be pleasantly full after diving in Baja California Sur.


Enjoy your time underwater, watching the marine animals flow by.



Monday, February 6, 2023

Maritime Murals of La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico


La Paz, the port city of Baja California Sur: In its waters, beaches, and mountains artists find the inspiration that leads them to create works of art to tell stories, myths and legends where the interconnection of local inhabitants and nature is the main protagonist.

Colorful murals in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, display the cultural origins of the town, as well as the rich relationship with the sea: whale sharks, dolphins, sea lions, even coyotes, and fishermen. For many years, Jacques Cousteau researched and documented the Sea of Cortez around La Paz and called it the "aquarium of the world".

The creators of these often huge murals are artists from all over Mexico. Initiated in 2009, "Ciudad Mural" has now illustrated colorful local stories in more than 16 Mexican cities.

In recent years there has been a boom in murals throughout La Paz. One can discover about 50 murals in the city center alone.  In some of the murals, there are even small signs with the name of the artist, the painting, and a short description.  

With murals over 30 meters long, the city is full of color, which has been expanding to include the roads leading to the most emblematic beaches of La Paz.

There is even a virtual city walk offered to discover the murals downtown. 

Follow: #streetartlpz and @PureLaPaz


Murals are popular all over Mexico

The Muralist Movement lasted approximately half a century, from the early 1920s to the 1970s - and still continues.  Through it, both the art and culture of Mexico were put at the service of society and the ideals of the Mexican Revolution. 

Muralist painters, many of whom were no strangers to political activism, used the walls of public buildings, palaces, universities, and libraries to tell both the story of the revolution and of the daily life of the people. 

The mural paintings defined the nation’s identity and recognized Mexico’s indigenous ancestry.  They documented the suffering of the indigenous at the hands of the Spanish conquistadores, while also recognizing Mexico’s shared history and culture. 


The Mexican muralists influenced artists throughout the Americas, and some murals were painted in the United States, including the Epic of American Civilization by José Clemente Orozco at the Dartmouth College.





However, there is more art to find in La Paz, the Malecon, a five-kilometer-long boardwalk with bicycle and roller skate lanes are more than a dozen impressive sculptures. Find them in the next blog.




Sunday, January 15, 2023

Enjoy Winter in Munich From Roof Tops


Climbing onto the roof of winter - seems to suit the people of Munich.  Actually, there are already enough Christmas markets, mulled wine stalls, and bratwurst stands on the ground level. Nevertheless, roof terraces are now increasingly being used for pre-Christmas activities.  Some large hotels have been doing this for years, and other restaurateurs are following suit. 

Even from Promenadenplatz, you can make out the colorful lighting of the Polar Bar on the Blue Spa terrace of the Bayerischer Hof

To warm up, there's mulled wine, "Hot Mai Tai" and hot baked apple, plus creations like "A Kiss From Kitz" made from pear and ginger ale or "Polar Island," a sour variation made from whiskey and Averna. Small appetites can be satisfied by mini-burgers, mini-naan bread or mango-coconut soup; non-alcoholic and meatless alternatives are For the panoramic view from the Frauenkirche to the Ferris wheel in the Werksviertel, one gladly accepts the drafty outdoor area, with burning wood stoves amid sheltered upholstered benches and a fur-lined igloo providing enough refuge.  During the week, the Polar Bar is open from 4 to 10 p.m., and on weekends it was even open from lunchtime for a breather between Christmas shopping.

The other large rooftop terrace of a luxury hotel in the old town can be found at the Mandarin Oriental on Neuturmstrasse near the Hofbräuhaus.  Two igloos - made of transparent plastic by a start-up from Garmisch - now stand on the hotel roof.  Among other things, the people of Kitzbühel have contributed a two-seater chairlift gondola, lots of fir trees, and all sorts of rustic decorations.  The one igloo dome offers space for twelve persons at a round table, the other for eight persons. 1800 euros or 1500 euros costs the evening there altogether, with all beverages and an extensive menu.  The two igloos will remain on the roof until February 28.

Closer to the city center, you will find another winter scene attraction.  "Frau im Mond" bar and restaurant opened in the Deutsches Museum.  The location is also ready for the cold season: fairy lights are reflected in the window front, white fabric tablecloths adorn the cafeteria tables, and blue light creates a polar ice flair.  But the real winter fun begins on the outdoor terrace with a view of the Isar, which is equally decorated for Christmas.  Two huts cater to the physical well-being here, one with freshly shaved cheese spaetzle from the mountain cheese loaf (Fri-Sun from 5 p.m.), the other with berry, homemade mulled wine based on rosé wine and small snacks such as chestnuts, almonds, and pumpkin soup from the bread loaf.

Those who find the hustle and bustle around Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt too much can take refuge on the roof terrace of the Louis Hotel. From 4 to 8 p.m., the "Louis Winterzauber" opens here every Friday and Saturday. Via the hotel entrance or directly via the elevator at the Viktualienmarkt, you can reach the sixth floor of the five-star hotel. More between than above the roofs of the city, the terrace is nestled here with a view of the Alter Peter next door.  The menu includes classic white and red mulled wine, but also non-alcoholic punch varieties made from fruit or homemade jasmine syrup, along with dishes on hand such as tarte flambée or bratwurst from the ox. A sun awning protects from light rain or snowfall.

Enjoy Winter in the City From Roof Tops!

Friday, January 6, 2023

Insider Tips: When to Book and Fly


Airfare prices have skyrocketed over the last few months and expensive air tickets are here to stay. Luckily, knowing the right time to purchase them can help you save tons. 

In order to get cheap flights, you could set up price alerts and trackers on airline or ticket aggregator sites.  My best advice is to sign up for airline newsletters, so you are informed of seasonal sales - not only during the year but also on Black Friday or Boxing Day.

Are you wondering when to book your next air trip?  First of all, avoid peak season travel and be aware of blackout dates, such as Christmas Eve or Thanksgiving travel, when many discounted fares don’t apply.  Try to schedule your flights earlier in the day as afternoon and evening flights are more prone to cancellations.

Book on Sundays
Expedia, the online travel shopping company suggests: Sundays are the best days to score cheaper tickets. Fridays are the worst – costing you 5% more on domestic flights and 15% more on international routes, compared to Sundays. Keep this in mind when booking flights.

Depart on a Wednesday
According to Expedia, Wednesday is the cheapest day of the week for flight departures. Departing at the start of the week could cost you 15% more on domestic flights and around 10% more on international flights. Travelers tend to prefer flying on Sundays and Mondays for business, and as most vacation hotels change guest beds on the weekend, the demand for flights on these days is higher.

Booking in Advance
The best time to book domestic or short-haul routes is 4-6 weeks before departure. International or long-haul flights should be booked at least 6 months ahead. 

Plan well ahead, remain flexible, and avoid flights late in the day.  Booking directly at the airline's website (after you checked prices on Google) will be helpful if something goes wrong.  So what are you waiting for?  Start planning your flight right now!



Thursday, December 29, 2022

Road Trip to Baja California

Once in a lifetime road trip through Baja California and Baja California Sur in Mexico: 45 Million visitors are coming every year to this beautiful country.  Most of them are flying to Mexico, and just staying in a resort - unfortunately not seeing much of the exciting nature and stunning landscapes that the country offers.  A year ago I took the plunge and drove through central Mexico, and via boat ferry over to the extended pacific peninsula of Baja California.  Two months later I traversed the almost 1,500-kilometer-long Mexican state - one of the most wonderful road trips I ever made!

Along this road trip, you will find amazing beaches, canyons, and cactus forests.  Don't miss visiting surf spots on the Mexican Mainland and on the Baja California peninsulae, such as Playa Cerritos, Acalpulquito, La Ventana, Scorpion Bay, La Fonda, Playa San Miguel as well as beaches with calm blue water like Mulege, Santispac, Requeson, Playa Balandra, Lovers Beach, Divorce Beach, Medano Beach, and Chileno Bay.

Find great snorkel spots as well as free beachfront camping and low-cost camping for van life as well as tent camping.  I discovered lovely, inexpensive hotels (all with enclosed parking garages) on my route through Baja California.  And I always felt very safe when traveling alone.


 Cabo San Lucas

There are oases and missions located in Loreto, San Ignacio, and Mulege.  Amazing also the flora and fauna of Baja California with a variety of more than 4,000 plants. Or enjoy wine travel in the Northern part of the Baja.  Read about Mexico's wine country, and Valle de Guadalupe.

Living the Ex-pat Life in Mexico

Mexico has affordable health care, affordable housing, and a very low cost of living in most parts. If you have ever thought about living the ex-pat life in Mexico: These are some of the best places in Mexico for digital nomads to make that dream a reality:

  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Merida
  • Tulum
  • Ensenada
  • Mazatlan
  • Alamos
  • Durango
  • Sayulita
  • Campeche
  • La Paz

These videos show the best places in the World to Life as a Digital Nomad:

See you in Mexico this year!

Read more about road trips in Baja California: