Tag Archives: Hiking

Summer Camper Trip – Posada de Valdeón, Spain

‘And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.’ – Pico Lyer

My love affair with travel extends far beyond the beauty of new places and people. I have no bucket list. I have a lust for the affair. And it’s no wonder I’ve created a life that has revolved around this affair. Without it my soul is starved – without adventure there’s no oxygen. However, the great climax of this affair is the never ending path it opens up. The next adventure. The return to life with new perspectives and motivations. And let’s face it most of us still need to return to a routined, stable life. We do! With four kids, two of high school age, a mortgage and retirement to think about.

It has always felt indulgent and privileged to write about and experience travel in the way I do. I’ve decided to not allow that to hold me back from exploring it in writing. In the past I have. And I believe I must because I’m all about living life (everyday life) as an ongoing adventure filled with exploration and growth. To ignore the influence travel plays in my life is not the whole story, not my story. I never want to contribute to a landscape of encouraging people to lust after something, but rather to find their own way. Yet, so much of who I am comes from my need to wander and why. My desire to wander daily with love and lust for the beauty of life. All of life.

These past few years have been quite an expedition. Mostly, I’ve embraced the notion of finding freedom, of removing the shackles of expectations. And of releasing myself from what I thought life would or should look like. In these mountains – the Picos de Europa I leapt froward. I hiked on my own (which I do) and as I was enraptured by the wild beauty, scared (of the wild boars) when I started walking through a bracken covered dense trail, hurt when I fell on my back descending the mountain and strengthened when I navigated the map – I was also completely at peace. At peace with the joy, unknown, fear and pain.

I was as close to myself as I could get out there in those mountains. And I didn’t sleep that night … rather, I lay awake. Not awake over analyzing thoughts but excited by new thoughts and ideas. Excited about what comes next for me. This next transition as I choose to leave doubts behind and become a stronger woman. A warrior woman who hugs fear. On that mountain fear become my mirror and for me, staring at fear is as honest as it gets.

What a delightfully endearing town this is. A place where the children could play in our €10 per night camper spot surrounded by mountains. The children were invited to play soccer with locals. A place where we met a camper family from NZ who had been on the road for 17 months! We were so enthralled by their stories, particularly their love of Sardinia and their generosity in sharing their experiences. I finished reading a manuscript written by a friend, what a sacred privilege, it had me inspired and dreaming of possibilities in my own kitchen and garden. I was taken with the locals working and playing with their hands. And that strikes me as something we need to consider – what we doing with our hands. One thought I’ll be taking forward with me.

Buen Camino lovelies,

F xx

Camper tips:

Cosy! Don’t forget COSY. You can have movie nights, snuggle and make TUE popcorn. Sometimes if you’re lucky and there’s a restaurant in view you can leave your kids to watch the movie and dine out on scrumptious, local fare. Of course the first setting isn’t until 9pm – because Spain!

Summer Camper Trip – St-Jean Pied de Port, France.

In the foot hills of The Pyrenees, the last town in France where pilgrims traditionally stopped before heading towards Santiago de Compostela is where we’ve been. A heart filling stop in St-Jean Pied de Port. It is also the town where the 800km Camino Frances begins. It was good to be back.

There are some places I visit that I just know I will come back to. SJPdP was one of them. Back in April when I was here to begin my epic 800km hike for One Girl it was all new and unfamiliar and at the same time so charming and welcoming. There was a warmth here I wanted to feel again when I didn’t have walking a camino to consider.

This time around I saw a new side to it as I shared the experience with my family. We lucked upon Basque dancing and the tradition of a Palote match. I adore this about village life – traditions that are upheld. No matter what age there is a place for people.

We ate at the same restaurant I dined with my sister the night before and we wandered through ancient archway onto the Napoleon route across the Pyrenees. These arch ways which hundreds of thousands of people have walked through as set off or continue walking along ‘the way’ towards Santiago.

The motor home park while rundown was perfect for us! Lots of green space for kids to run and play ‘stick’ cricket. We’ve adjusted our travel over the years as our family has grown and accordingly with the children’s ages. I know what my kids can and can’t handle and we adapt. To be honest if travel with kids had no pleasure why do it? Space to run and time to play to be wild and free – so important. It also give us adults time to take in the wonder of finding ourselves in new experiences and be where we are. And after an excited day on le tour a down day was definitely in order.

Although not necessarily a sit down day for Z and I. We decided to hike up to Orisson. Orisson was the first stop on my camino. I wrote from there. It wasn’t a planned hike, nor was STJPdP a planned stop, our loose itinerary gives us room to steer itself. The hike was an 8km up the mountain in the hot sun kind of challenge. It was particularly special to do it with my daughter. A real moment in time we will both have forever. This wasn’t just any hike, this was the first stage of the camino … and we did it together.

Along the way we chatted about many things and at one time a wise eagle circled above us. Does this have some kind of symbolism? I’m not sure but it felt like it did. We shared a meal at Orisson, sitting at the same table I spent the afternoon with my sister at and Zoë signed the guest book.

The way down had less strain and I became her secret keeper as she opened up even more than usual. What a great privilege. We finished the hike closer than when we started. I know her a little better. And I know I’ve passed on something special to her. If the day comes that she needs to take a long walk – she knows where and how to begin.

As we leave today after Z’s egg on baguette cook up I say goodbye to a village that has given me so much. I don’t need to come back to SJPdP again. If I ever walk another camino I think it will be along another route. As my camino, this long walk of life continues, always, there are times of letting go, of leaving the past behind.

And so we move on towards an afternoon with friends … friends with a ‘french’ cave – I can hardly wait.

Buen camino dear ones,

Fran xx

Camper tips:

Perhaps you want to know what we travel with for the kids? They don’t always have to use sticks to entertain themselves :).

We have card games: uno, a plain old deck and top trump – anytime we go for a drink I pack these! They are never allowed on phones or tablets in cafes or over food and drinks. They have already begun epic tournaments. It warms my soul.

Tennis racquets and balls, a soccer ball, a dart board with balls that stick, twister, dominoes, pencils and paper and a game of Halli Galli. For the beach we have surfboards and a SUP. When we arrive they tend to take out what they want to play with and get themselves set up. We also have a pop up tent that they use to play in if it’s hot or raining.

Our oldest has a phone he can play games on, sans WIFI. We haven’t really camped anywhere with free access. His data is very limited so he has learnt to be careful with it (it must last the month). I like the idea that they go away without the need to communicate with home – they can catch up with friends when they return. It’s my greatest challenge teaching my kids to develop that freedom.

We also have a tablet with movies downloaded, mostly for long drives.

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.

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

Village life means there’s not much I can’t do on my bike or by foot.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 4/28

Today’s recipe: It’s a feed one or feed 10 (like we did tonight) meal. Chicken, chorizo, herby and cheesey quesadillas.

As much as I love the mountains and you know I do I couldn’t live on one. While walking the camino I realised how much I love not having a car and living where I can easily do everything from my front door. There’s not much I can’t do on a bike or by foot in our village. We don’t want to own a car and that is one (big) reason why we chose to live in this way for a while.

There’s a birthday in our house tomorrow, so this morning after my deliciously satisfying ‘what’s in the fridge’ bowl I got ‘on my bike’ and ducked out to pick up few present’y type things. The shops only open Sunday here once a month on a Sunday and never before 12pm. The shops also only open on a Monday from 12pm yes even banks! Of course I always forget because I’m from a 24 hour culture. So that gave me a lazy half an hour to enjoy a coffee on my own today and reply to you all.

While I was enjoying my coffee there was a food story happening in the kitchen at home. The birthday girl was doing some of her own creating. After baking three basic cakes from the trusty Woman’s Weekly Cookbook yesterday she put them together and iced them. She did a brilliant job and I’m hoping the learning to ‘clean up as she goes’ will be something she masters soon! The piping bag was a gift I bought her and it’s nice that she has her thing going on in the family kitchen. There’s also a little one who is interested in getting his hands dirty in the dough … must begin to indulge that.

The afternoon was spent rock climbing for the fierce one’s party with a few friends and her brothers. I do call her the fierce one … she tells me the eye rolls have started at school. She has taken on the role of ensuring that every single gender stereotype or sexist behaviour is called out and she also has a lot to say about world politics (one world leader in particular). I call her fierce but her heart is soft, it possible to be both. Her fire comes from love, she wants to right wrongs.

I belayed her today on that wall. Giving her the rope she needed, keeping her steady, giving her a bit more slack on the way down. She jumped off the wall a little faster than perhaps she had anticipated. It is possible to have fear and step into (calculated) risk and be safe at the the same time. I think she played with that today. I had her anchored. It struck me as the kind of thing a mum does as she starts to send her kids out a little further into the world. Begin to prepare them rather than only try to protect them. I’ll think of myself as a belayer from now.

The reason we chose to live here has a lot to do with our children and the teenage life we can give them. A life with freedom to ride their bikes, to play unsupervised, to use the efficient public transport and to live in a culture that encourages kids to become independent and spirited. UNESCO reported in 2013 that Dutch kids are the happiest in the world. This freedom and independence is part of that. If, or when we move home I will be living as European as I possibly can. Interested in some of the differences? Here’s a list.

I’ve always been a home, small kind of party giver. My kids are not particularly extroverted so it suits them. Suits me! This year was the first year Zoë has had a party outside of the house. I’m not against leaving the house but it’s one of those on purpose with purpose things.

This year I did one of those play centre parties for my youngest and I felt sick. I did it under the guise of ‘convenience’. Plastic throw away cups, paper napkins and the kids running like crazy. There’s no way he had a moment that he’ll remember. It will blend into the rest of the exact same parties he has been to this year. Don’t get me wrong he loves going to those parties, they all do, but for me felt like too much of a compromise to actually host one.

Today I didn’t feel compromised even with some store bought new paper decorations. I want to be better at making the house special, more festival like … we’ve been on the road and living temporary for so long! They will of course be reused and come out for every celebration and birthday as we settle in deeper and continue building our nest. Traditions are part of creating memories, they form the warmth that’s woven into our sense of home and belonging.

Living without compromising our values is hard sometimes but for me it’s harder to live a compromised life. Theses days I will never say yes to balloons, they’re an easy plastic to stop using. Also no single use cups, plates or napkins. I choose not to use ‘but they’re recyclable’ as an excuse … we all have enough crockery and so do our neighbors if we need to borrow.

Tonight was glowing as I looked at my daughter sharing her chosen meal with her friends, cooked by her dad (the same as last year in the camper) eating off real plates, drinking from real glasses chatting and laughing. On purpose with purpose … oops there it is again! Sometimes it feels like there is a tendency to confuse glowing with smug. It’s not what others do that I’m concerned with I can’t be that would be exhausting. I am sharing simply because someone once taught me to consider my own plastic consumption choices.

Chicken, chorizo, herby and cheese quesadillas. (It’s a feed one or feed 10 meal.)

Ingredients:

  • Wraps
  • Chicken mince
  • Chorizo
  • Cheese (something chedder’y)
  • Red onion
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Limes
  • Black pepper

Guacamole: we just blitz avocados and squeeze lime juice in.

Salsa: we blitz tomatoes, onion and coriander.

How Greg makes them:

In the fry pan in Olive Oil add the Chorizo, red onion and chicken mince. (He used one chorizo to 600g of mince).

When it cools add chopped coriander, parsley and rocket and quite a lot of grated cheese. Squeeze in a few limes and add black pepper.

Place a few spoons of mix between two wraps then fry them on each side without oil in a non stick pan on medium heat so the cheese melts before they get too burnt.

Cut into quarters.

Pile up on a platter or plate and serve.

No cutlery needed – bonus!

And because I’m completely committed to this ‘creative living project’ I went for a walk after dinner! I even asked a friend to join me. I nearly didn’t but I’m pushing myself a little to do things I don’t alway do. This project is a lot of things but deep down I know I need it to ground myself, to get back to living without some of the compromises I have been and to dig in deeply. Perhaps you may enjoy a few snaps of my village. I walked around town rather than in the woods tonight.

On the footpaths in front of some of the houses you will see copper plaques. These are houses where Jewish families once lived. It tells you a little of their story. This man did not come home. The history of war is very real living in Europe. No longer does it feel like something from a far away time and land. It’s humbling and it gives me a sense of perspective.

There’s a canal at the end of our street. It leads to large waterways and I’m dreaming a lot about exploring by water. I do find the landscape here far less wild and rugged than Australia and Ireland. Perhaps from the water on a SUP it will open a whole new sensory experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve asked for a birthday present … perhaps next month.

A whole project created around getting on my bike and it’s also getting me back on my feet too! Lucky I’m never short of a bike muse or two. Looking through a lens has always helped me see more. So of course when I spotted that trash when snapping these friends cycling and socializing I put my take 3 for the sea, just grab bits hat on. Of course I’m in The Netherlands so the plastic bags are small ones (coffee shop waste 😆).

So friends it’s been a full, delicious and uncompromising day. I hope yours is a good one. I’ll catch ya on the flip!

Buen Camino,

Fran xxx

Ps if you have any questions about my bike or dutch life please ask.