Category Archives: Food

Summer Camper Trip – The Pyrenees, France.

Woo – hoo we have been adventuring up high! Parked up and camping in a village at 1,700m altitude. We’ve had the luxury of mountain views, hikes, hundreds no thousands of bikes, great company (new friends) and a full moon to remind us just how amazing this life is. I may have also begun to nail how being organised and spontaneity can hold hands without hurting each other.

Last time I left you we were driving through fields of sunflowers towards The Pyrenees. We made our way to Saint Gaudens, not a town to explore but a great overnighter with green space and mountain views. A cool €8 for the night and each site has electricity and its own water supply! Most motor home sites have electricity (the cheaper paid ones) but individual water taps are a bonus. Private caravan parks tend to have a water tap per site. We’re trying to avoid these and keep our accommodation simple and budget. More money for cheese and basically we don’t need it – the luxury is in the camp life. Oh and unlike most things French that are sexy the road tolls definitely aren’t! They are sexy without the ‘s’.

Our plans were to head into the mountains and move between stage 17 and 18 of Le Tour de France. We had such a brilliant time last year watching a stage in the Jura mountains. Camping on a mountain means no electricity and minimal shops so first we needed to get organised! Hello to the beauty of the one stop shop in France. A place to shop, wash, empty facilities, top up water if needed and to refuel.

After sorting ourselves and organising the above with a stop at an Intermarche (one stop shop) we were off again. The rivers and villages in the mountain valleys are some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. I always feel that all is right in the world when I drive through these beauties. The rivers sparkle with a fresh kind of beauty as they flow away from the mountains and through the towns.

We anticipated parking up to watch the cyclists at the peak of the last climb but as we started driving up the mountain we soon realised we weren’t alone. Every available piece of mountain that could be parked on … was being parked on! We drove up, and then we drove down then the other side. There were a few square metres of available mountain space. But, in the end we decided it wouldn’t be fun parking on them for 24 hours if it meant that we needed to confine our four kids for safety!

Onward. We’d go to the next stage and be a day ahead! Guess where we ended up … back at the Intermarche. Yes, we had to drive back up and over the mountain and into the village with the one stop shop. I’m not usually a fan of dryers (environmentally and for care of clothes) but given that we still had an afternoon of driving ahead it was a smart move. We stopped made our lunch, baguettes of course (France) and popped the freshly washed clothes (from the morning stop) in to dry.

After a long day we made it! Up into the ski village of Saint-Lacy. Parked up between two campers with GB plates (English but living in France) we put the fridge on gas (it charges on the car battery as we drive) and popped a few beers in the freezer. The gas can also heat the water so we have access to warm showers. Sorry digressing … after the beers went in the freezer, the awning went up and camp set up we set off into the village to stretch our legs and explore.

Ski villages are hives of good energy in summer, full of adventuring types. Add that a stage of the Tour de France is about to pass through and it’s a village buzzing with the excitement vibe. The village was packed with campers and tents – literally wherever they could fit! All respectfully parked up without any charges. Seriously €0 for three nights accommodation with those mountain views . While wandering we happened on the last of the Monday market and bought a local cake. A Pyrenean specialty, Gateau à La Broche, or a cake cooked on a spit. You can read more about this type of deliciousness here.

Yes the hills are alive here in The Pyrenees. There are many hikes in and around the ski resort and we decided we’d hike up to the Col de Portet where the tour will pass through just before the finish line the next day. I also need to get some training under my belt for my upcoming #hikeforonegirl challenge in September.

By now our kids know we are going to hike them when we travel and even when we don’t ;). The little one fought it a bit at the beginning, perhaps it was the uphill as far as the eye could see. With a set of hiking poles and some gentle herding from his papa he was mightily pleased to have made it up to the 2100m Col (saddle) for our lunch break (ps we have that sign on board as a souvenir). Notice the family setting up camp there! Their kids are smaller than ours. Lunch was a brief stop as the clouds were turning. As we headed down the mountain we were graced with the fun of a brief hail storm. Mountains really are the boss and can change weather on a whim. Lucky we had rain jackets in our day packs. (Husband is always prepared).

Nights are super cosy in the camper! We tend to stay in nature where it’s generally quiet and the air is fresh. It’s quite conducive to dreaming … each night I’m having the longest most bizarre dreams. It’s a good thing to be dreaming at night I think. The food is fresh and home made. It’s so nice when the days are long and food becomes a treat not a chore … and it’s super nice when the French living Brits from the surrounding campers join you for an after dinner wine and life, travel chat.

Aah and then what we came to this mountain for! Stage 18 of Le Tour De France. What an amazing day. Cyclist husband was peaking with excitement and answering all of our questions (including those from the new friends from the GB camper who spent the day with us) … the guy (husband) has been watching Le Tour for as long as I can remember. Expert.

There was fanfare and freebies! And characters that made us laugh. But nothing quite beat standing alongside the tour as the riders made their way up the mountain a whisker away from us. That was something special. Afterwards we made our way down and wandered past the tour busses. The kids were excited to see Chris Froome on his bike cooling down and even more pleased to be gifted the riders water bottles from the team Sky bus. It was a little nerve wracking having my kids in the media scrum but they thought it was fun! The FULL experience.

If the Tour de France is something you want to experience, a mountain stage is unreal! Up close and personal plus they don’t race past at 60kms an hour just a leisurely 25kms! I’m not joking – these guys are unreal. Husband managed to cheer each Aussie on by name as they past him – sounded like they were old mates. :)

This morning it was time to leave our mountain park up and drive towards new adventures. We’ve arrived in the town of St Jean Pied de Port, sound familiar? It should! It’s where I started the camino back on April. I’m excited to share this town with its great historical and personal significance with my family … and perhaps take them on a little wander up the first section of the camino. Although first they’re origami’ing as the washing dries on the bonus washing line while Greg heads out to find some decent phone coverage for a work call. A bit like a home day!

Now we’re up to date friends and just in time to roll into some new stories. And briefly about routine and organisation – I’ve been resisting them the past couple of years thinking they prevented me from being spontaneous and free. But really the two can hold hands can’t they. I found that day in day out on the camino. We stopped to be organised to camp on the mountain and that didn’t stop us from changing plans and rolling with them when the first mountain was full, we spontaneously adapted … and because we were organised it was easy. No, routine and spontaneity aren’t mutually exclusive – perhaps it is in the combination of both that gives us freedom. One is not more important than the other … that’s my lesson.

Buen camino dear ones. I’ve got to keep moving and hit some tennis balls with the littlest one!

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Clothes!

Don’t pack too many. Obviously it depends on the season but for instance one jumper and a good wind, rain jacket is often enough. How many times do we pack something just in case … and then never wear it. Put them straight away once they come off the line or out of the dryer. Have a dedicated washing bag again I brought ours from home. Bring pegs and rope for a line. Last time we stopped in caravan parks for our wash stops. Now we put a load on when we do the shopping and hang in the camper park. It’s €8 for an 18kg wash the same as a caravan park yet staying in a camper park is €8 compared to a minimum €30 in a caravan park for the night. It’s like anything – we get better the more we practice!

All our kids have a cube for socks and jocks. When choosing a camper do look at storage … it makes such a difference. If you can hang everyone’s t shirts up in one spot it makes choosing and rotating simple. I also hang the t’s on hangers on the lines so they go straight to the cupboard. I do that at home to.

The World Cup!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 16/28

Today’s recipe: Jamie Oliver’s Orange and Polenta Cake.

Today was a family cycle to share picnic with my littlest’s class where we enjoyed lunch with the world! In amongst the blooming Hyacinth plants we shared tastes and tales with friends from Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, India, Kenya, South Korea, Israel and Scotland. It was one of those moments where I thought … wow how did I land here! I also wonder how in years to come this experience will impact the life choices my kids make. Quite possibly I will wake one day and all four will be living somewhere around the globe? Where will I be living when that happens?! All great unknowns.

What I do know is that the long night’s of the Northern Hemisphere summer are perfect for golden photography and spotting lone bikes and relaxed Sunday evening riders on the trail. I was back in my trail runners again tonight and I’m enjoying the extra cardio! Hiking in holland doesn’t quite cut it it you want/need to sweat it out a little. Here’s a little photo essay of a Sunday night spend alone amongst the happenings on the trail.

Jamie Oliver’s Orange and Polenta Cake.

Z had a friend to stay who is gluten free and they love to cook together. They gave this recipe a whirl … and didn’t follow it to a tee so it was a bit tough. Greg remade it with success!

The recipe comes from one of my cookbooks Jamie Oliver 5 ingredients and is also on his website here:

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fruit-recipes/orange-polenta-cake/

Buen camino,

Fran x

I think I live here now!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 13/28

Today’s recipe: Fruit Icy poles.

Adventuring husband is back from climbing mountains and suitably refreshed after hanging out in places with views like this. He has officially hiked Le Tour du Mont Blanc and unlike my camino he even carried his accommodation on his back!

Today cycling (see how awesome the bikes lanes are) took me to the dentist. Normal stuff! The stuff of daily life. The basics of settling in. I now have a hairdresser, a dentist and a Dr. on top of a local market, favourite Japanese restaurant and the beginnings of a Wednesday morning multinational mums coffee/market group. I guess you could say I’m planting roots, building a life! In this month dedicated to finding motion I think I may be finding home.

Dutch/Aussie difference: you can’t just choose a Dr. it’s postcode and vacancy driven. We have a clinic at the end of our street who’s catchment zone we fall in and thankfully I really like the Dr. You also have to register with a pharmacy, health insurance is compulsory and there is a central database that links all pharmacy and medical details. Oh and just one system everyone accesses not a public/private system like we have in Australia. Excellent bit – kids dental is government funded.

So adventuring (romantic) husband bought me a present from Chamonix … cheese! And it’s already smelling the fridge out Can.Not.Wait to start tasting. Or should I wait until my sister arrives next week? Hmmm, yes, maybe I will. Naturally, it would be with a bottle of Cava (Spanish champagne) and a camino tale or 500.

Real fruit icy-poles.

Long hot nights equal after school icy-poles. I could buy them or like the kids morning tea I could make or outsource the making (to a kid) of them.

The Icy-pole mounds are from Ikea and it makes six. Tonight’s ingredients were blueberries, strawberries and coconut water. Z used the stick blender to whiz the ingredients together and then into the moulds to freeze overnight.

The combo’s are unlimited with the abundance of summer fruits around and we’re looking forward to trying a few! I imagine if we use watermelon we wouldn’t even need coconut water.

Buen Camino!

Fran x

Water!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 12/28

Today’s recipe: Go with the flow.

The thing I miss the most about Aussie is water. I love water. The feel of it – salty and even the chlorine’ey, the wild and the lap swimming. It’s the only reason I want to get my (car) license sorted here … to get my kids to water!

So today I did something totally out of character. I bought an outdoor plastic paddling pool. Oh the squeals! And more squeals. I even *cough* bought them water guns. Shite! I know – me. Guns and plastic. In 14 years of having kids these are the first gun type toys I’ve ever bought. But then all four of them played, played for hours, together. Behind bins, hiding and soaking, in the pool, laughing … squealing with delight. And then I thought – feck it, good old fashioned fun – across the ages and not a screen. And p.s. that hose is hosing the aphids out of the Apple tree, of course I layer everything ;).

I did an audit of my little boys room today … this is it. I played with the books, popped the exploring, travel and atlas books up with their binoculars and walkie talkies (we’re adventuring soon). Other than a big box of Lego this is it. The A to Z Animal Alphabet it the divine work of a friend (and it’s Jimmy’s learn the alphabet art). I love #knowthefarmer just as much #knowtheartist.

The only excess I moved out of the boys room was a pile of party treat excesses. So friends after selling up to live a life free of stuff with consideration for ‘excess consumption’ and it’s environmental effects I think we’re traveling ok. Buying a plastic pool … I’m taking a big breath and saying it’s ok. I say no to all the excess. plastic crap throughout the entire year until saying ‘yes’ matters. And since becoming settled without much outdoor space I’m conscious of creating play spaces. And if I’m missing water, those kids of mine must be needing it …

No recipe today because sausages in bread (you’ve already got that one right)!? I try to do grass fed, local style. Plus a Caprese salad and you already know I how I make a caprese – I dress with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I nearly, nearly didn’t write today but I know that 28 days is significant. Any beautiful plant need water, sun and time. A bit like waking a camino … you can’t get to the end without doing the walk. So yes I’m still walking and I’m still writing.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Some days it’s all about the bike.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 11/28

Today’s recipe: Every day seasonal fruit muffins.

After a perfect morning in Amsterdam with my ‘dutchified’ Aussie friend I returned to the ‘bike’ car park at the station and I couldn’t spot my bike! Eeek. It’s your worst Dutch life nightmare … almost as bad as the frite van running out of fritsauce (egg mayo). No it’s worse. Definitely worse. Dutch life revolves around a bike!

As you see bikes are parked in all sorts of multi level ways. It’s Chadstone shopping centre without level and parking spot numbers! Even with my big green flower basket it took me an extra minute to spot it. So my sinking stomach turned into a big long satisfying breath. Oh how I need my bike for this bike life that I love so much! I’m quite attached to it ;)

Summer has definitely arrived in The Netherlands and it’s the happiest country in the world in the summer. The Dutch love the sun! The outdoor cafes are full, the kids are running around on the streets playing hide and seek until 8pm, there’s even more singing on bikes than usual and the day is light until 11pm. It’s nearly holiday season here which feels strange … summer, end of school year and yet it’s not Christmas or the New Year. There’s no feeling of rush in the lead up to this ending just joy because the summer season is beginning.

We’re cruising towards the end of the school year. Aside from the indoor art gallery the backyard has turned into a slime factory … every.single.night! I used to cringe at slime (no for months), aaah the mess. But you know if you’ve got a kid who needs to make things and feel textures within their fingers you have to choose. Allow creativity to flow in your house or don’t. She now has a slime shelf in the garden shed. What’s the alternative? Encourage passive activities? I’ve watched this Ken Robinson TED talk a few times, maybe the first time when this kid was toddling. I feel on the cusp of a sliding doors moment right now. In giving in here I chose to value creativity over control. That, combined with a few other decisions to ensure that protecting ‘childhood’ comes first. Gosh parenting can be challenging. Just as some ‘no’s’ are some ‘yes’s’ are worth so much …. actual pivotal moments. (We are going to start playing with making natural colours perhaps beetroot to start?! One step at a time, nothing starts perfect.)

Today I felt a bit low on the bike adventure part of this 28 day challenge on account of the lurking head cold. And then on my 15th km of bike travel today I remembered my daily life is the adventure and I just needed to let the day play out. It helps that my husband is away – there’s no one else to do the school or tennis runs on the bike.

I’m still on the ‘what’s in the fridge’ Buddha bowl (just add chili oil ;)) gosh I love the bowl full of different tales and tastes. I truly get better at making these each day … and how good are kraut and pesto as dressings. It was an in and out on the bike kind of evening so dinner needed to be simple. Gnocchi (not home made) with pesto. Pesto (basil, parmasen, pine nuts and olive oil). Actually the child who doesn’t love bread asked if they could have this meal cold for school lunch tomorrow … such a shame it’s all finished (and it’s a half school day – Wednesday)! I do want to make my own gnocchi one of these days. Perhaps a project for next week when my sister is here … hmm universe I need an Italian friend.

The easy gnocchi dinner (less than 10 minutes prep) was also a bonus because at the same time I could get the school morning tea (play lunch) in the oven. I make muffins every 2-3 days. I have it down to a 10 minute prep time. Recently one of my junior chefs has learnt to bake these muffins. She’s made them twice in the last week. The kids never complain and every day the empty paper comes home in the lunch box! Perhaps because the flavor changes, in the winter apples, dried fruits, last week bananas, blueberries and today raspberries.

Fruit flavoured muffins!

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (the recipe is 1/2 but 1/4 and the kids don’t notice it)
  • 1 whisked egg
  • 1 cap of vanilla essence (optional)
  • 1.5 cups of S.R.Flour
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • Desired fruit flavour

How I do it:

Beat the butter, sugar and essence. Add the whisked egg (if using banana add here).

Sift in the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon start stirring in the flour and slowly add the milk.

Once mixed add the fruit (play with amounts – no rules) and stir.

Bake in a moderate 170 degree oven for 15-20 mins depending on your oven. I need 4 a day and this mix makes 12! You can even freeze them. In the past I’ve made batches and taken 4 out the night before but in Holland freezers are sooooo tiny, like hotel fridge size. Enough space for frozen peas edible and a bag for falls (4 kids), de-caf coffee (for when my mums here) and ice cream (husband).

My summer cold is finally beginning to loosen its grip and the sun’s rays are promising sandy feet, ocean air and salty beeezes. But first tomorrow, as you may recall it’s market day on Wednesday. A new Spanish friend is joining Lexie and I on our coffee and market adventure tomorrow … hmm I wonder what will be in season?