Summer Camper Trip – Bessines-sur-Gartempe

Some days are driving days! Yesterday was one of those … not unlike a big day in transit I guess. Except I’m the trolley dolly and Greg’s the pilot. It’s a different reality to most of the cars on the road … at lunch time I found myself sitting at the cabin table filling the baguettes with jamon and such tasty things while Greg was driving (flying) the bus.

Of course there’s the added bonus of being able to stop off when needed! I lucked upon this gorgeous French deli where all the producers are on the wall map. I lingered a little longer in this shop perusing the produce … dreaming. I picked up a couple of pieces of smoked trout for Greg and I for dinner and some salad and veggies. We still have to shop at the Carrefour (French supermarket) – there’s no way we could feed our brood in a deli with deli prices. But at least I’m France and the supermarkets also have excellent options for regional produce.

France is a country of vanlifer’s and as such finding a place to camp and ‘park up’ is easy. We’re on our way towards the Pyrenees for a couple of stages of Le Tour De France so we’re moving towards the south. Again we are using the camper contact app to find our accommodation. We always have a destination in mind but nothing is pre booked. Unlike the dorm situation on the camino … I know my roomies each night they don’t snore so I don’t need private a private room ;).

The long nights of summer allow us to bask in the golden hours well into the late evening. The is a risk of course in arriving late … there may not be spots but luck was with us and we didn’t need to drive on to the next town. We camped in a free Aire de Camping-Car (with power and water) between Belgians and Spaniards. The kids played and we sorted dinner. Last trip (the 5 mth one) we didn’t quite have our organisation down pat. Maybe it was because we needed that break to ‘not think’ for a while after moving away from Sydney. This time around it feels more organised or maybe were just building on our last experience and improving … becoming ‘van lifers’! Whatever it is a little next level from last time.

The cool thing about arriving late is discovering just how French story book the village is in the morning. Fancy our surprise at finding a small market open on a Sunday! We’ve learnt the hard way not to expect to shop on a Sunday. Imagine trying to feed your family from a service station – we’ve done that a few times. After all the morning jobs; breakfasting, showering, the bread, afternoon cheese and sausage purchased from the market, as well as the camper bits sorted i.e. dirty water out, clean water in and the facilities emptied (it’s not all pretty) … we drove on. Onwards towards new adventures on the road.

We stopped in the small town of Solignac a medieval village and what was once a major stop on the way to Santiago! Always on the camino I am :). The kids played under a Roman Bridge in the muddy river which naturally led to squeals of delight as they sunk in to their knees … any lingering car grumpiness was stomped out!

We also made a stop at Uzerche, one of Limousin’s hilltop villages. Again I was breathing in the beauty of post card France. There are 1,000’s of these quintessentially French storybook villages in France, all with their own preserved history and feel.

Oh the French and their art de vivre (art of living)… I’m hooked. Or perhaps it’s the traveling life. I did say to Greg I feel more like a European family on tour this trip. Last time I felt more like an Aussie family. In all honesty I think perhaps this European style of living has filtered in to how we are choosing to live our life. Even despite the challenges and questioning that comes with uprooting your life and moving across the world (and there have been some monster ones) – this was the right choice for us.

Kids are so awesomely in the pleasure of the moment of each season of life … ‘are we going home now – the camper home’ Louie asked me today after town exploring.

And now for camper tips:

Be organised with food! Here I was feeding the brood (in a car park ;)) while Greg was at the Carrefour shopping for the next three days. Aside from the baguettes, we buy them daily. Long rides with kids and being able to park up and relax into the next feed and adventure is so much more pleasurable when the food has already been thought through! I make a list with Greg as we drive. We’ll start a new one today to cover the next shop. A stop where I’ll also be washing clothes – supermarkets have launderettes attached to them. Now that’s multi-stacking!

So yes in order to relax into each moment being organised makes it all that much more pleasurable and travel flow’ey. It reminds me of the sparkly eyed Roman who taught me to seek the pleasure … remember him?

Thanks for coming along, I hope if you’re an aspiring #vanlife ‘er it inspires you. Feel free to ask me questions.

Buen camino friends there are fields of sunflowers out my window calling me to notice them. Or is it the kids in the back asking ‘how long till we’re there?’ ‘Soon’ I say, yet again. ;)

Fran xx

Summer Camper Trip – Ypres, Belgium.

Almost a year since our big five month camper trip and here we are staring at a five week summer adventure of ‘home is where you park it’. Like ducks to water it feels like we’ve picked up right where we left off … a little more prepared and definitely more seasoned this time.

Speaking of ducks …

We weren’t the only ones out enjoying the lake we’ve ‘parked up’ at tonight. One of the great joys of campervanning is parking in such beautiful places, close to trees and amongst nature where the kids can roam. Life feels like it’s just us and I can already see my kids reveling in the freedom and time together. It’s night one and we both lamented how wonderful it is that there is no unwinding needed … that’s how it should be! What a change from last year when we took off to let go of a crazy life.

The view from my bed is quite spectacular at €8 per night don’t you think? We’ve hired our van from camper fun. The same company we bought our camper from last year using their ‘buyback’ option. As a family of six car hire and nightly accommodation is not an option for us – especially when we’re away for five weeks.

Last time around we tended to ‘wing it’ a lot, we had the time. This time around we’ve decided to be a little more planned. Ok! At least two days ahead ;) we still kinda wing it. Who knows what adventures may just find us if we leave space for them. Travel flow requires a certain ability to be open to the wind.

Today we parked in the Belgian town Ieper not far from the border with France. We chose this town because of its significance in WW1. There are many historical sites (free and empty) including old trenches and cemeteries to visit. The kids got a real feel of the trenches as they walked through one. Zoë described it as eery. Tom our WW history expert was able to answer many of the questions we all had, like why they are zig zag shaped! Of course life in the trenches was hard and learning about that part of the story (the humanity) is as important as having a truckload of fun playing.

What’s that famous quote?

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Since subbing in a social studies class this past year I’ve become quite interested in developing a broader understanding of who was involved and the stories of the world wars that were lived in these lands. This trench we visited today was from just 100 years ago and the cemetery had many Australian graves.

A one pot meal of gnocchi with passata, basil topped with freshly grated parmesan was a perfect simple first night dinner. We all shared our favourite part of the day as we do at home and the smiles were BIG.

Do you know about the Christmas Day truce? I’m completely fascinated by this story. There’s a brilliant documentary on the BBC based on the war diaries of soldiers if you’re interested.

Camper tips:

We hired the camper without any inventory this time and it was so easy to pack what we needed using our own stuff. Obviously we could given that we live in Europe. Sometimes campers have a whole lot of extras and that kind of defeats the purpose of keeping it simple. Packed cupboards are never helpful! It’s only night one but a bit like the camino simple routines make life easier. We only have six of everything. Dinner was served in the bowls and now they (and the six spoons) are washed and ready for breakfast … the bananas need using so they’re out and ready to add to the cereal. That coffee pot is set and ready for action. Which kid will rise to the challenge of making us coffee in bed?

Yes this kind of life is fairly delicious and somewhat addictive friends.

Buen Camino!

Fran xx

That’s a wrap – I’m officially moving forward!

Adventures On My Bike – Day 28/28

Recipe: Be exhilarated by the challenge

I didn’t quite write every day, oops I lost it at day 16 (my sister arrived to visit and she took precedence) … but never mind the challenge was a success. While writing always gives me time and space to reflect, one also needs time and space for action and living. After my post adventure camino lull I managed to pull up my socks, lace up my shoes and get back on my way. It took 28 days of adventures on my bike with food and connection at the centre but yes I’m moving again – with purpose. My time on the camino certainly still lives on in my days.

Simple Camino’isms:

Move.

Walk each day with purpose.

Keep it simple, we have enough.

Don’t be afraid to walk your own way.

Keep simple routines with flexibility.

Notice with all your senses.

Value people.

Value yourself.

Pull back and push forward as you need.

Allow the big questions time to unfold – they will.

Life is motion – it will move even if we’re not ready. There will always be highs and lows, joys and sorrows, boring and exciting times, beginnings and endings. But what a gift – that we get to live it. And how wonderfully exhilarating to be connected to every part; the people, the food, the environment, our curiosities, feelings and dreams – the stuff of life.

See you from the road friends … we’re currently winding our way along the motorway. Yes, we’re back in the camper for the summer.

Buen camino,

Fran

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

Choose an action and run with it.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 15/28

Today’s recipe: A salad’ey vegetabl’ey cous cous!

From the outside it may look like my life has changed dramatically over the years but my life has always looked like change. I hiked mountains at thirteen in Indonesia as a girl guide, lived in the Whitsunday Islands, Melbourne and Perth in my 20s, moved to Europe in my 30s, Sydney in my 40s and now Europe again. I’ve been an Island hostess, a high school teacher and a midwife. I’m born from wandering stock you see. A migrant grandad who jumped on a ship in 1956 with his wife and nine kids to find a life in Australia where he could farm. And a mother (one of 13) who boarded a ship, alone, bound for Australia at the age of 23 to learn English.

I move but I don’t move to find greener grass I’m just wired to explore. The green grass can only be found in our everyday and wherever I am that’s what I’m cultivating. I don’t see moving as being particularly brave either. Let’s face it moving countries, going on adventures, starting fresh that is my modus operandi. I also married a fellow seeker of world adventures and along the way we’ve paved careers and lives that have enabled us to do it (and the privilege of dual citizenship, education…middle class). Nope brave to me is to find yourself in the present day. Standing for what matters to you. And most of my friends that I hold so dearly are actually not world movers but people who do just that … stand bravely wherever they are!

One thing that’s guaranteed with every move (and each life transition) is the period of feeling unsettled. The time where I reach in and out of new things to finds what fits, to find the every day spark feeling. The present day. It’s not always easy starting fresh, always my identity comes into question. Over the years I’ve gotten better at it. After the honeymoon period I know I have to do some work and find what I need to create a life with meaning.

While my life has me moving into different settings even if yours doesn’t I’m sure we share those similar feelings of needing to readjust sometimes. One thing I loved on the camino was this feeling of don’t leave for tomorrow what you can get done today. We walked the extra 3kms if we had the energy. As we arrived we showered, washed our clothes, ate and debriefed the day. The basics. I’ve been applying this idea to my days during this 28 days of motion project. Want to know what I am finding? Connection and balance.

The more I stop putting things off … preparing dinner earlier, putting my shoes on and moving, admin tasks, hard conversations, setting stronger boundaries in parenting (even when that makes me different) and accepting what I need to be honest about – the stronger I get, the more I see and the closer I get to the people in my life.

I think balance is one of those basic maths problems. Yes, we can argue that none of us can have it … but at what point does remaining unbalanced and not taking uncomfortable action cause a tipping point? I’d prefer to seek a balanced, honest life even if it isn’t a ‘trendy’ one. It doesn’t mean that on any given day everything is in order – no, that’s perfection and also unbalanced. It means not putting off the basics because if I do it will come back and bite later. It’s about making choices about what matters most and being guided by that.

‘As unique as we all are, an awful lot of us want the same things. We want to shake up our current less-than-fulfilling lives. We want to be happier, more loving, forgiving and connected with the people around us.’ ~Brene Brown

So when things aren’t feeling calm and connected or if they’re just too heavy I run with an action. In the current moment in time what is the most basic need? What do I need to add to balance the scales? Then usually what needs subtracting becomes obvious. In fact a reordering of priorities and actions almost certainly begins to unfold. A load of people on the camino drop weight from their packs along the way … they are carrying too much. Subtracting is my maths skill. Adding has become my challenge. And because I play with action hopefully you won’t see me talking or writing about the same thing next year or the year after. It is only by taking action that we can truly move forward … just like the camino, as we walked forward and into Santiago. I just can’t help myself with the camino references ;).

Recipe: A salad’ey vegetable’ey cous cous

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Cous cous
  • Rocket
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • A Red & Yellow Capsicum (pepper)
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Red Onion
  • Basil

How we cooked it:

Cook cous cous according to packet instructions then set aside in a large bowl to cool.

In a large pan fry some chopped carrot and red onion in a little olive oil on med to high heat, after a few minutes add some crushed garlic and chopped red and yellow capsicum (peppers). Fry for another 4 mins then put on a lid, lower heat to medium and cook for 5 mins.

Meanwhile halve some cherry tomatoes and tear up some basil and add to the cous cous. Make a vinaigrette with equal parts olive oil and white wine vinegar and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. It’s important that the vinaigrette is more tangy than what you’d usually put on a salad.

Remove the vegetables from the heat and add too the cous cous but don’t stir through. Allow everything to cool to room temperature. Before serving, add a few handfuls of rocket and the vinaigrette and mix it all together. Works best if you use your hands.

You can substitute vegetables such as broccoli, snow peas, sugar snaps, corn kernels, or aubergine, but it works best if you always have some capsicum, and always include the red onion. Cheeses such as Persian feta, haloumi or Parmesan can be added. Avoid mushrooms.

You could also use quinoa in place of cous cous. Just cook it a bit further ahead of time and spread it out on a large platter to cool and most importantly dry out. If it’s holding too much water the salad will taste bland.

We served ours with salmon but you can choose any accompaniment. In winter we often do it with home made meat balls in a tomato passata sauce.

Today I put my trail runners on for the first time in ages … and slowly as I stopped to photograph the feathers I realised that this motion project will lead to the next. That’s the principal of motion in action.

Buen Camino,

Fran X

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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