Tag Archives: Family Travel

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen via Hamburg.

Living in Europe still confuses me. Sometimes I walk to the right hand side of the car only to find myself trying to drive from the passenger seat! I’m already calling the next school year next year, even though it starts in August and it’s still in this year. This morning as I rinsed the cherries and placed them on the table to be nibbled it felt Christmassy. The time when traditionally our feet should be in flip flops and we should be sitting around having bbq’s while we all drop out of life and chill between one calendar year to the next. But Christmas time for us is Europe means snow, scarves, hot glühwein and Christmas markets in fairytale city ‘scapes.

Yes, now we drive on the other side of the road and we season on the other-side of the hemisphere and it’s all topsy turvy. Christmas is a short break with no great end of year fanfare and it’s cold, very cold. Not quite the depths of winter cold, that doesn’t arrive until February, but winter rug up, hot drink, woollen socks weather for sure.

After two years without a car we bought one last year. It was a tough decision. In a way if felt as though we were selling out. I felt as though I’d let the team down. The environmental warrior team. But we want to travel widely while we live here and rather than continue to fly in and out of places, we decided a car would be better in the long run. Cheaper and importantly, more environmental. Also we could find our way into the less populated, nature places we adore.

The mobile is older than our eldest son. We decided if we were buying a car it didn’t require a large investment. If we had one we wanted to own it. And we certainly don’t need to be keeping up with the Jones’s. We can’t afford too if we want to stay free, you know mindful about what you give up to have something and all that. In our downsized life its purpose is simple – transport not aesthetics. We’ve lost more than enough hard earnt dosh on buying and selling new cars before.

When Christmas arrived last year in topsy turvy land we decided to pack our wrong side of the road car and head towards where the days are even shorter! Copenhagen. We loaded the family mobile, packed the puffer jackets, winter woolies, comfy walking shoes, a Christmas day leftovers lunch, poured the coffee, and with pockets overflowing with that adventure excitement, North East we drove.

It may only be a 620km drive to Copenhagen from our home but Europeans aren’t like Aussies. There’s no Sydney to Melbourne in a day! I can’t count the times I’ve done that trip, I was Aussie then. Lol. Europeans take a more leisurely approach to arriving somewhere. So, because we are European now we planned a stopover in the German port city of Hamburg.

We pre-booked a self contained apartment (breakfast pack included) stay at Eric Vökel Hamburg Suites. A perfect road stop. Clean, modern, friendly, funky and a good supply of bathroom samples – much to the delight of the daughter. True Story. My son went on camp last year and brought her home the hostel shampoo and soap as a gift, she was thrilled. Thrilled I tell you.

We made the rookie mistake of thinking we’d grab some supplies and make a quick dinner before heading out to explore the town. Rookie because we’ve been caught out with closed supermarkets in Europe before! So.Many.Times. Dinners made from what we could buy in a service station shop. Toto, we are not in Australia anymore. There is no 24/7 culture in Europe, even in the big cities! After three attempts to find an open convenience store we gave up and decided to try our luck out on the street.

It’s Germany and it’s Christmas market time and that means there’s no shortage of bratwurst and glühwein! It is quite a feast for the senses wandering around a Christmas market. There are stalls of traditional Christmas decorations! The decorations that finally fit Christmas because it is cold. Snowmen, people and animals clad in scarves. It was always odd to me as a kid in Aussie, the images on many Christmas cards and tree decorations, lyrics to carols and fairy tales that don’t fit the season. It was like Christmas was imported from a far away land. The most Aussie Christmas we’ve ever had was on Bondi Beach when Santa arrived on a surf boat. We should be hanging surfboards, flip flops, esky’s, bbq’s and of course cherries from our trees!

If you’re not a meat eater as one of our isn’t we can recommend the cooked corn on the cob! Just ask for it sans salt. The Hamburgians are far too liberal with the salt. Inedible liberal as we learnt the hard way. If you’re not into the glühwein, mulled red wine with spices served warm from big vats you can find alternatives. I opted for the aperol fruit punch. Still warm but more to my palette. And if a big fat bratwurst isn’t to your taste we found an alternative. Hamburg Central Station was pumping with different food options. I found some Japanese seaweed to add to some tinned chick peas, avocado and tuna.

Crossing borders never gets old for me. And yes, every-time the dad joke. Kids, we left you in Germany! We left you in The Netherlands. Ha ha. Although post Corona I imagine none of us will take borders for granted again. This border between Germany and Denmark was one of the first to close in Europe earlier this year, we drove through it just months before. Denmark opted for strict New Zealand like border closing at the beginning of the pandemic.

Did you see the story of Inga (85) and Karsten (89)? The Danish and German couple who had to meet at a border each day to continue their love affair. I wonder how many families and couples have been separated during this crisis. I have friends who are now able to travel home to Spain. As I write this they are on the way to say goodbye to a parent. Parents who were cremated, alone, in cities that weren’t their own. I can’t begin to imagine how they are coping. And still the pandemic rages.

Driving across Germany and into Denmark is a lot like The Netherlands. The landscape doesn’t change too much and it’s still flat. Only the sunsets are earlier, like 3.30pm early. Denmark is home to some of the happiest people in the world. Interested to know why?  Helen Russell spent a year living Danishly to find out.  And she wrote the book. Denmark is around the same size as The Netherlands but home to about 11.5 million less people (5.6 to 17.1 mill) quite a difference hey. While Denmark shares a land border with Germany it is also consists of many Islands. Driving to Copenhagen takes you across the seas via some incredible bridges. This one pictured is 18km long. And it was a spectacularly ‘blue’ hue experience. I love this about road tripping. Fly in and how easily you could miss this.

We arrived into Copenhagen and made ourselves at home directly! We checked in to the Urban House Hotel. It is one of the Meininger hotels. We also stayed in a similar one in Salzburg the year before. It suits us as a big family on a budget. Cosy is a word you could use to describe our shared room for six. The location was awesome as we could walk everywhere, it was busy though and it’s basic. It’s central location and budget price makes it appealing. We were always able to cook in the kitchen and find a place to chill while the kids played. Breakfast was busy, often ran out of food and wasn’t super tasty.

Copenhagen is a beautiful city. Wide streets, stunning architecture, a bike culture, tasty food and plenty to do and see. Apparently it’s also home to a famous little mermaid statue, we didn’t make it there. Can’t do it all! As we do when we travel we walked and wondered and ate and fell a bit more in love with life, determined not to waste or take this opportunity we had created for ourselves for granted.

Did I say walked around the city? Oh I meant parkoured. Seriously, my kids will climb statues as though they’re trees, jump from rock to rock no matter if we’re in the middle of nowhere or the middle of a big city! We wandered without plans and found our way into The National Museum. It wasn’t too big and as a forever culturally curious type I found Viking and Norse history fascinating. The history of Völva women particularly.  I know a few of the wild ones that read here would like her too.

We passed by palaces and canals, cool doors and windows, we even stumbled upon a piece of the Berlin wall. This was cool for the kids as we visited Berlin a few years back and it helps to keep the story alive for them. Of course Danish(s) were inhaled. Inhaled I tell you. So, so good. And I surprised my kids by saying yes to the Tivoli Gardens. Surprised them because they know I’d rather poke my eyeballs out with a fork than go to a theme park! It was fun. It didn’t feel over the top. It did feel Willy Wonka Fantacy’ish.

Having been someone who has travelled and moved a lot in my life it has meant we have friends in many corners of the world! Copenhagen is home to three of them. Three wonderful Viking women I met while walking the Camino Santiago. Food was shared, lives were caught up on and naturally, future catch ups were planned! I’m waiting for them to knock on my door. Friends who will be friends no matter how many years pass.

All trips come to an end! So we finish here, on the way home a stop in the town of Odense. The birthplace and home of Hans Christian Anderson.

‘Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.’ – Hans Christian Anderson.

In this topsy turvy time, where as my friend Annette of I Give You The Verbs recently said ‘time has come off its tracks’. I’m glad for this bowl of cherries that brought this story of our time in Copenhagen to life for you and for me. There was magic for me today in the sweet taste of cherries as they deliciously took me back through time .


(If you found your way here via buying a used car in The Netherlands, we used Mijn Autocoach, we didn’t want to risk buying an older motor without help. They were very helpful). Not sponsored just the sort of stuff I google and can’t always find here.











Summer Camper Trip – The White Cliffs of Dover, France.

The home run!

We left the potato farm we camped on last night to begin the last drive home through Belgium. On the way out we were excited to be able to see The White Cliffs of Dover. I realise I haven’t described these towns and the people that live in them in these blog posts but I’ve been profoundly shifted by them – it’s been a reflective writing period. Typical of a long holiday in that it started full of excitement, then weaved it’s way into the deeper life stuff and towards the end into the promise and resolution towards life at home beyond the experience. Travel drives, shapes and guides me. It always has – blame the novaturient in my DNA. But I’m also a nester and this 15 kgs of potatoes we just picked up (out of a vending machine, not kidding) will be potato rosti, roast potatoes, potato soup, mash for days! And the feels of France will live on.

Here are some snaps from the passenger seat this morning. I hope my photos along this journey have given you what my words haven’t – how absolutely beautiful the life, cultures, traditions, languages and landscapes along these French and Spanish coastlines are. The first shot is England from France and those white cliffs.

Along the way we also stopped for an overnight at Lac Marin which become two nights because let’s face it – why not! Campering in a motor home park at €10 pn and 100m from the lake. See Louie with the SUP on his back (packs down small eh) … it’s a family affair this sipping business.

I got chatting to a Spanish family at the Lac and what started as a brief chat turned into a long one. They even gave us the address of where they were staying in case we needed anything. It reminded me of a favourite passage from driving over lemons where the author talked about changing it up in your midlife – moving, learning a language, learning a new skill, trying something new … whatever! Just living you know, being interested and interesting not existing. No matter how hard this year has been (the re-settling) one thing I feel is alive in my life – not bored.

I’m not a shopper (hate it) and the only jewelry I wear is my wedding rings and a necklace Greg bought me when I was pregnant with Lucas with three rings … when we though three was it ;). Where would we be without Jimmy – no, four was definitely our number (and I love babies, naturally, I’m midwife). Anyways back to my splurging (on myself) some delicate hand made bracelets a style I’ve been loving for a long, long time and some red symbolic beads. Remember that thought I had back at the Picos. The one about being busy with our hands? That’s what the beads are for. To remind me. Our hands are the key … want to write a book, write. Want to give up wine or coffee, don’t hold a glass, cup. Want to read, hold a book, want to run do your laces up, want to paint push a brush in your hand, want less of the marketing … press unfollow, unsubscribe, worried about your health pick up the phone make the appointment …. yes what we do with our hands matters. There will always be another excuse about ‘why not now’ another tired day, another party, someone, something to blame, another story we tell ourselves about why not, but really there only is right now.

So as the little and big Vegemite’s unplugged the power for the last time this trip I bid you farewell from the Summer Camper Trip. I hope if you’ve followed along you’ve perhaps found something of value in my musings. I sure have in writing them. And in the spirit of sharing one more book and a story about putting stuff vulnerably out there and the answer finding you here’s one.

The Barefoot Investor

It’s Aussie centric but wow did it answer some questions for me. I come from a frugal background and obviously we’ve had to save and plan for this sabbatical (living in a 2br with all kids in one bedroom, selling stuff, adjusting wants etc). We bought ourselves some time out by forgoing other things. Recently the reality of getting older and the question of ‘is our super ok’ hit me. When I wrote about that after the camino I felt nervous sharing it, was it to personal? But it put the question firmly on my radar. And, my super is ok … I found the answers and the guide I needed in this book. Well not mine we’ve only had one real long term income so ours. I know it breaks all the rules and I am that women who without a career and by chosing home as hers and has ended up relatively ‘superless’, but I trust my marriage. And it’s not to late to start adding some and forward planning. I read this book in full yesterday that came recommended to me after wondering about super. It’s not about spreadsheeting – man I can’t live like that but it’s a practical plan and a way to think about your finances. We’ve been harvesting for a while but now it’s time to get back to the growing … Scott has really made it simple to understand. So if you’re like me overwhelmed with the information out there but committed to living within your means and wanting financial security with the good life life along side that, this book is awesome. Wise and wild right.

Buen Camino dear hearts! The next time you hear from me I’ll be on the camino (next week, next month) indulging my wayfarer soul. Maybe?! I haven’t decided if I’ll blog it yet. But can I share that as we drove through Calais this morning where for many years refugees have lived in camps it hit me how important my One Girl volunteer work is. The educations we provide these girls gives them the chance of creating a life for themselves and their families where they are and it gives them dignity and hope. Life giving stuff.

Fran xxx

Camper tips:

Total accommodation spend: €403 – 38 nights (€185 was the four nts in a caravan park I wouldn’t do that again). We don’t own a car (we use bikes and train and a green car on the odd occasion we need it) so we consider the cost of hiring the van covered by what we save in petrol, registration and insurance.

If you want to do it! Do it! If you can’t yet – plan. Practice – go camping. Get outside as often as you can, walk amongst trees, along the sand and in the mountains. Connect with yourself, your life, your family and nature – and watch the magic unfold.

Oh and an egg in bread is an excellent 11pm dinner when you’ve driven into the night.

If you have any camper questions please ask in comments.

Summer Camper Trip – Hossegor, France.

‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.’ ~ Albert Einstein

This is the choice. It’s what kids do when left to their own devices. And if it’s one thing this trip has reminded me of it’s this. Living with optimism and honest appreciation is a luxury most of us can enjoy if we choose to. When I get home … this is what I’ll be protecting with new boundaries and by setting limits. My right to live in a world of everyday miracles. I’ll be following acts and conversations of kindness not competition. Bird song not pity song. Creativity not greed. Compassion not self interest. Today not last year or next year. Taking action to grow by planting. Out with some old ways to make room for some new … ya da ya da. Life’s just too short to waste on the bullshit things.

A lot of the confusion I felt after walking the camino has found its place. On many levels I know where I’m going, I don’t know where I’ll end up but I’m completely ok with that. I’m comfortable. Walking the walk each day with purpose towards the destination (some goals I’ve set myself). Goals that came from throwing some fears, honesty and vulnerability out to the wind. By shedding some layers, looking in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions. It’s true what they say, the camino starts when you finish … but like any major life event/tradition/change it takes time to process, time to feel. I’ve had a few this past year! Finishing long term travel, my littlest starting school, the culture shock of moving a family abroad, !walking the 800km camino Frances. Phew! What a year. Yes a quiet year in my nest sounds like a plan.

There is a time when it feels like our whole life is a head of us and one day you realise there’s a lot behind too. This trip has left some wonderful behinds, no regrets. Hand holding, food sharing, laughs, adventuring, playing, reading, marveling, singing, closeness, bonding – memories and connection. It’s also been slow and long – a holiday that filled with white space. Space that has given all of us the precious and luxurious gift of time. Time where thoughts have had space to be hung out soaking wet with enough air and wind to dry. Time to be in our relationships and on our own – just us, just them, just me. Presence.

The last of our long stops has been in Hossegor on the SW coast of France. We are returning after spending Z’s birthday here last year. Within walking distance of the surf vibe town we’ve spent three nights and four full days here (€12 per night, no power). I could see us spending an entire summer here one year, perhaps the next one. It reminds me a lot of the summers we spent camping in Barwon Heads before leaving Australia for this European sabbatical.

We could live our camp style life (especially for kids) and enjoy the ease of having a town close by. These days I even need to share the mussels … it appears all the kids are getting gamer. We learnt a good food lesson … where you eat in France matters. We had some shocking meals last year contrary to the romantic notion of French food. It’s not all good – do read google reviews. This year we were not disappointed. So in amongst this trip we found some tradition amongst our traditional ‘off the grid’ kind of summer. A return to a place we all love. This time we played on the river with our SUP. We’re all getting quite hooked on the SUP’ing which is a good thing. At home we’re surrounded by water and it can become a home hobby too. In fact I’m quite looking forward to seeing my village from the water and the idea of my teenager hopping on his bike to go SUP.

And in case you were wondering … YES I DID (we all did). Chop chop! I shed the heaviness of the lochs and it feels quite symbolic. I’ve also managed to drop a fair bit of heaviness and confusion that I’ve been carrying of late – out here in the wilderness, on this camino of ours. Indeed start with the head Paula ;). Next the cheese weight ;)

Buen camino friends, I truly hope you’re well. Are you ok?

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Greg noticed some teenagers emptying the facilities ‘shitter’ for their family’s camper and commented that they were his little heroes. To which our nearly fourteen year old replied … ‘I’m going to empty the shitter, I’m your little hero’. And he did as the nearly nine year old filled the water. He’s been emptying it ever since. Helping, contributing, learning to be self sufficient – all important. And no we don’t give him pocket money to do it helping out is a normal behavior to cultivate in family life, yes? One which gives an intrinsic reward.

Summer Camper Trip – Fragas do Euma.

After heading out of Cabo Ortegal we decided to head for A Coruña. With two weeks left we were considering how far to push west … or should we turn and return home slowly? Or should we do something crazy and high tail down to the Cíes Islands, heard of them? We hit the park up in A Coruña and after some lunch and a climb in this incredible stone sculpture we decided it was time to turn around! Another time for the islands … we’d rather save something than try and check it all. Plus it’s August, peak … you know I’m allergic to too many people. And slow travel is more our jam.

The car park was empty which isn’t a problem for us nor was the crazy hair kind of wind. But I did feel a little nervous after looking up what I thought may be a restaurant at the end of the carpark was actually an addiction center. So we had lunch, played on the sculptures and made the decision to turn back towards home! It seemed like time. And the idea of going home slowly rather than HAVING to drive long distances over a shorter amount of days was appealing.

My friend Lisa described it as a symbolic passage way, the photo we took there … up the steps and towards home. Truth. And to think at first I thought it was a book! But she nailed it, my friend. It is a symbolic turning point. Big trips like these give you a lot of freedom and space to allow your mind to wander in different directions. In that wandering it’s easier to get to the heart of things. The heart is where it’s all at … all the sweet (and sour) truth. As gypsy as I am I also feel the pull to nest (extremes remember). There’s a time for everything and the seasons are changin’. This turn is symbolic we’re going home to foundations.

For the first time in a couple of years we’re going home to the same house – without a plan to move. Permanent for now. There are also work changes coming our way and newish (even thought they feel old) expat friends to catch up with. It’s been a while – us living out this wandering part of our European adventure, floating. Its been a gift and now it’s rather exciting to have foundations to built on. As well as the chance to grow within a community and some kitchen herbs!

Torre de Hércules at A Coruña a 1st century AD Roman light house. Blew my mind – the Roman’s always do.

Our accommodation spend is looking rather healthy at the four week mark just €331, remembering that the caravan park (car park) in Loredo accounts for over half of that (4 nights €185)! Our aim was to free camp tonight. But after arriving at yet another coastal car park and again not digging the vibe, we opted for a motor home park in the national park. And at €10 per night with electricity, hot showers and a free washing machine, we are winning.

Obviously we made ourselves at home. Vanlife is all about home is where you park it right! Washing, eating, free ranging, reading, being and enjoying the obstacle course we found hidden in the scrub. Boom – that was an extra bloody bonus.

Buen Camino dear hearts as you begin your new week. May there be excitement in ideas and freedom in the beauty of life for you too.

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Eeek. Gosh I’m so not a tips person as you know, I’m trying to be better at sharing is caring! Here’s one – use your dust pan brush to wipe the sandy feet. It’s genius. I saw another camper do it. Oh and have an old towel behind the passenger seat, it’s been used numerous times (kids). And being barefoot and salty will cure a grumpy mood.

Summer Camper Trip – Cabo Ortegal, Spain.

One holiday. So much variation.

What would a wild adventure be without feeling exposed and humbled? When you travel in what is effectively a tin shed, you can be sure you’re going to feel the extremes. And naturally a dip in the extremes suits me – given that I like to feel my way through things. Except the heat. I struggle in extreme heat and I especially struggle in heat, in a tin shed. Hence the Nth Coast of Spain, far better climate that the Sth for summer.

I knew we were going to be in for a treat along this coastline. It’s not remote but it is the path less travelled. It’s certainly not luxury and the beauty of that means it’s often ours alone … even during the European summer. The deeper we travel into Galicia the wilder it becomes.

The Cabo (point) Ortegal took me back to the time we parked in the camper on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Back then I remember wondering if the camper would blow over on account of the wind and was I being irresponsible as a parent. I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep that night in Ireland. How times have changed! Obviously I wouldn’t Camper in a storm or wind warning but to feel the ferocity of wind is to know you’re alive! Especially when you can cosy up with a hot chocolate afterwards.

The wind holds a lot of spiritual meaning to me. It scares me less to stand in the wind and be exposed than to slowly wither under the pretext of safety. This camper stop was a rugged one – a stopover in turbulence. A time to feel humbled by just how big the world is. And to harness a little of that wind spirit into my bones. I’ll need it for my re-entry back into life off the road to help with the culture shock!

A midnight walk to the light house with my oldest was spooky … seriously spooky. I haven’t felt spooked in years. This rugged coast where ships have been wrecked must surely have its stories. Add the howling wind with absolute pitch black darkness and sure I’m imagining ghosts (I don’t actually believe in ghosts)!!

It was a stop where we taught the kids how to play charades. A game that lasted into the early hours of the morning and will go down in my memory bank as one of the best nights of the trip. Dinner was a frittata. The classic use what’s left over in the fridge dish. Abuela’s flowers are still traveling with us, love on the table. And not only was I graced by my friend the wind … but I woke to mountain goats outside my window.

My friend Paula sent me this:

I FOUND THIS – mountain goat symbolism is letting you know that this is a time to begin new climbs and new endeavors. You must also plan your course and take your time. In other words, look closely at what is ahead so that you can be surefooted along your course. Similar to the rat Mountain Goat meaning is also be letting you know that it is time to stretch yourself. Therefore, reach for new, and higher goals.’

Thanks Paula – I loved it! I love for this kind of kind, meaningful stuff. Yes this is the stuff I want to collect. xx

Actually did I tell you the story about Sydney … the first day I moved there and we moved into a house that had a rat? A massive rat. I didn’t feel the same way about that rat as these goats, I actually never went downstairs at night – truly! But … I did begin the journey there that brought us here. Perhaps the rat was there as a catalyst. I am a hippie at heart.

So onward after a night of turbulent winds … towards something calmer. Where, logistically? We’re not sure so we’ll simply start the drive. Where, personally? Out of the wind for a while … to secure my footing, but I am looking closely and getting ready. Just as if I were to climb a rock face behind the scenes I’m securing the anchor points to steady the climb.

Onward. Upward. Forward.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Enjoy the beauty of simplicity … using a wine bottle as a vase. A corner that makes you smile because it’s homey! Reminding your oldest son to give you a kiss on the cheek without being shy! And getting the littlest to remind him to put some effort into it. The extra ‘I love you’s’ that are met with ‘I love you too’s’ because as the trip goes on you will have more and more of these moments as you become tighter. And as the trip goes on you get closer to going home so sink in as deep as you possibly can. You will be changed and connected by this trip.