Tag Archives: intentional living

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

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