Looks like we’re going to have to get international driving permits after all

We rent cars frequently when in Europe and elsewhere and have never needed an international driving permit. Just prior to our most recent roadtrip from Belgium, I came across information that really changes things. We’re in Antwerp house- and cat-sitting for a couple of months again and had some days away to do something with while the owners were home between their travels. I booked a rent car awhile back, but hadn’t settled on where we should go. We’d been thinking northern France and the Channel Islands, but were starting to lean more towards Switzerland since David had never been. A “why not” run to Lichtenstein had also piqued my interest so I began plotting out a drive south through France to Switzerland, factoring in a stop in Dinant, Belgium, that had been on my want-to-see list for some years. read more

From Ubud to Lovina: a driver, luwak coffee and rice terraces

The drive from Ubud was about 3.5 hours and we paid 600,000 rupiah for a driver who took us by a luwak coffee plantation and the Jatiluwih rice terraces. The driver was arranged through our Ubud hotel, Sri Ratih Cottages. Luwak coffee is touted as “the most expensive coffee in the world. “Luwak” is the local name for the palm civet, a raccoon-like animal that likes to eat coffee beans. Beans processed through the digestive system of a luwak are the basis of luwak coffee. That’s right, they collect civet poop to get the “specially treated” beans that are then roasted to make luwak coffee. You’ve got to wonder who first thought they’d give that a try!

The big bowl in the front holds dried luwak poop.

A “luwak” or palm civet. A nocturnal animal, but maybe all that caffeine was keeping him awake.

Trying my hand at roasting luwak coffee.

As improbable as it seems, the coffee is actually delicious and has become a delicacy in coffee-loving circles. Apparently, it’s possible to pay $30 for a cup of Luwak coffee in California. Not worth it to me, but we were definitely willing to give it a try at Balinese prices. (50,000 idr or about $3.60/cup) And yes, it is delicious, mild and unusual with an almost sweet taste.

Coffee beans on the plant

Many teas and coffees were offered to us at the plantation free, along with banana chips, in the hopes of selling us more to go. In addition to full-sized cups of luwak coffee, we sampled mangosteen, ginger, lemon, herbal, rosella and lemongrass teas and Bali, coconut, vanilla, ginger, ginseng, Bali cocoa, Bali mochacino and durian coffees. The locale is lovely and our traditionally-dressed guide (a friend of our driver) was friendly and in no way pushing any of it on us. The stop was definitely on the touristy side, but fun and interesting nonetheless. And, yes, we did buy some luwak coffee to take with us.

Tea and coffee tasting beside a rice paddy. So many flavors! (

Our other bonus stop along the way to Lovina was Jatiluwih rice terrace. We really just gave it a quick look and stopped for lunch with a view since we wanted to get on to Lovina. It’s possible to spend lots more time there hiking among the paddies. There is a 40,000 idr entrance fee (less than $3pp).

Jatiluwih rice terrace