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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

Why compete or compare? Let’s not. Say ‘no’, start there.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 9/28

Today’s recipe: Roasted eggplant.

I’m often saddened when I read posts about FOMO or feeling bad about what others post or the need for posters who have audiences to say ‘this is my highlight reel’. Seriously … WHY? Why be scared of missing out? Or why compare ourselves we others lives. Why do we need to be told that we shouldn’t feel bad because of what you post? What has happened to us? Why can’t we separate what we see with what our own reality is? Honestly … it perplexes me. And you know why? Because why would anyone have it better? We ALL have feelings and stuff right? Or are we special? Are we the only ones who in a day can live through every emotion that exists?

I took this photo from my bike (because this is a bike adventure series). I was balancing the fruit and veg in my basket and my panniers. My youngest … my baby, with his hands on my hips as I dunk him on the back of the bike was singing his heart out … we’d been at the market (real food) … shopped with bags I’d re-used (zero waste) … to the left a violinist was playing (romantic and European) … the season is summer (smiles in The Netherlands) … summer also means festivals and food vans (reminds me of Berlin Lix) … I was on my bike (my carbon omission free transport)… shopping done (food till next market day) … my daughter was smiling (tough week) … my husband is hiking in the ALPS (he loves that stuff, he even posted a story, he never does that, so happy for him) … dinner was covered (same recipe as last Saturday) … I’m writing (you’re reading) … that’s a whole lot of good stuff there! And sure, neither of us, husband and I are on our career trajectory (adjusting that)… we’ve had some shit to deal with since arriving here (that’s life) … our family isn’t close by (I miss my mum) … our identities are being challenged (starting fresh) …. we are having to make a choice, here or home (where’s home?) … but THIS, in this bike moment … it’s all ok, more than ok … this is as good as life gets.

Let me paint you some pictures of my day.

I could tell you about each photo or we could just talk about our days. There’s no perfection, there’s just life. Every day life. I bet both of us experienced some similar feelings. If you’ve read this far I presume we’re already connected in some way so let’s make a deal … let’s be working on our own nests. Moving forward, moving our furniture, learning to say no, learning to let go, learning to care more, to care less, be honest about what we need, slow down, speed up, walk, ride, dance, run, swim, talk, paint, write, cook, sew, love … whatever we need to move forward with … let’s work on that, let’s move and not worry about what others are doing. Let’s just agree to not compete or compare. Sounds easy right? But dig deeper. Every time we speak or act … let’s ask ourselves the question am I competing or comparing? Because if we are we’ll always be a step behind ourselves. And don’t we want to be present and contented with ourselves? In our own life.

Today I had a conversation with a fellow writer. One of my favorites actually and I shared some of my story ideas. And I didn’t care. I used to be protective of my ideas and today I shared them, gave her my quotes, analogy’s, everything. If she runs with and writes something because she read them … boom that’s a win. Neither of us own ideas. Especially those of us who write about and live life. We learn by experience and our human experience is actually not that different. We’re bound to cover the same ground. But when we share and talk without being held by the constraints of competition or comparison or even fear we choose a deeper path. I prefer those kinds of conversations, the ones we walk away from feeling good.

All competing and comparing does (with ourselves or others) is to stunt us and hold us hostage from living freely in our own lives. And for those of us who are parents … it can stunt us from hearing our own kids.

Recipe time – Roasted eggplant.

The head cold is still lingering. It’s why you’re not seeing hiking photos! But motion is in my mind, determination is in my day and because I write this blog – honesty matters, so I’m cooking.

My Buddha bowls haven’t been in play this week so I’m prepping. The week’s bowls (well 4 of them) will have eggplant at the centre.

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant or aubergines (I had two to use)
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Rosemary

How I prep’d them:

Slice the eggplants in half. Slice into the flesh diagonally creating diamonds … three diagonal lines left to right and swap.

Top with salt, let sit … at least an hour.

Squeeze and wipe the salted juice off.

Coat flesh with olive oil and place upside down on a twig of rosemary on a tray. (I use and re-use baking paper.)

Bake for an hour.

Serve as a side with a lemon or some balsamic & oil or I’ll show you how I use them through the week in Buddha bowls.

Buen camino,

Fran xxx

What happens to writers as they expose themselves is purposeful, they are growing themselves by writing.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 7/28

Today’s recipe: A Dutch Sweet Sandwich.

Wednesday’s are a half (school) day here in The Netherlands. The kids finish at 12.30 and are home in time for lunch. I often still send them with lunch on their bags on a Wednesday – even after almost a year of living here. Old habits! It is one of my favourite days and one of my favourite ways to lunch is as the Dutch do. The table is laid out with the toppings, a boiled egg, bread and everyone makes their own (even the little hands). As a treat the milk is chocolate flavoured and mine love when it is served warm. As a special treat after the first sandwich there is a sweet treat! A sweet Dutch sandwich. It’s even sweeter for me because it reminds me of my childhood, growing up in Australia in a migrant Dutch family with a table full of kids.

Wednesdays are also the mid week market day in my village. After using all the left over veggies in the cous cous last night I needed to top up the shelves. For something different I asked my Greek friend Lexie to join me. We started with coffee and a chat (naturally) and then proceeded to shop for our fruit and veg. It was a super cool way to hang out. She was surprised by my reusing of paper bags and I was surprised that she smells the produce before she buys it! Of course she had me smelling the produce and I had her promising that next week she would re-use her bags.

We bought donut peaches it’s summer here peep’s! She also bought beans, loads of them. We talked about how she will cook them and I bought rhubarb and talked to her about how I will cook that. I didn’t buy any beans and she didn’t buy rhubarb :) Creatures of food habits that we are! Maybe next week. I think I will stew her a sample of rhubarb to try on her Greek yoghurt. We both agreed we would shop together at the market next Wednesday. And oh how we laughed during the morning!

My favourite Dutch Sweet Treat Toastie!

Toast with peanut butter, sliced strawberries and mint! I don’t always add mint but there’s mint in my window sill and this morning Lexie had me smelling the mint at the market. It does have delicious smell don’t you think? It’s really beautiful as it hits your nose when you take a bite.

Eating peanut butter today was a bit like chilling with my slippers on. I love it! I can’t have it in the house because my husband is allergic …. but while he’s away I can relax ;).

Food it truly is one of the is one most wonderful ways to create memories and build relationships. I bet we can all share a food memory that makes us smile. My strawberry sweetie reminds me of my dad. He is the man of the Dutch strawberry sandwich, he even adds an extra sweetener … he tops his with sugar! The guy is 74, he’s never quitting sugar. But it was nice thinking of him and his strawberry sandwiches. I must call him. I don’t do that enough.

This little adventure of mine, the one where I’m letting my bike and food connect me to my day and community led to one of my proudest moments of the week! The one where I gave the kitchen to the junior master chef and guided her through my muffin recipe (including how to clean as I go). I then left her to cook dinner (she didn’t clean as she went). With great pride she plated up individual bowls of spag bol and each bowl was licked clean. Feeling pride is important don’t you think? She’d a tiring morning so I’m glad she got to feel that this afternoon. Also glad she had the space to feel and paint (below) how she felt. We all feel, happy and sad, energetic and tired, stressed and calm. We have a saying for clean bowls at our house ‘Opa clean‘. Opa, my dad, literally licks his plate clean. Oh wow there’s another dad story, I really must call him.

Can I go back to the first week of the project bit? Yes, it absolutely had been a week. Can you believe it? Somedays, I do wonder if I’m a nutter? Exposing a little of myself each day, perhaps sometimes even more between the lines than you read. What happens to writers as they expose themselves is purposeful, they are growing themselves by writing. Because you see the writing opens them up just a little more every time. Well that happens to me anyhow. Maybe some of you writerly types relate?

I decided this would be a 28 day project because it took me 28 days to walk the camino. And boy did that camino give to me. It taught me that in 28 days if you stick with something you can move a long way forward. 800kms across a country in fact, 28 girls with the freedom to go to school and a manual; a new way for me to get things done. So for memories and the one week anniversary’s sake I read the words I wrote on day 7/28 on my camino. Here are some of them …

‘We are always looking for way markers on the camino. Scallop shells, yellow painted arrows, sometimes concreted paths have bronze scallops or tiles and there’s the odd cairn. Some days arrows are lovingly created with rocks and adorned with flowers. We need these markers to help us find our way along the this path. The sweet path that’s winding it’s way through this romantic countryside. Way makers, hmm a nice take home from the camino to everyday life I think.

It’s easy here on the Camino to find my path. I’m looking for the scallop shells and yellow arrows and now I’m also looking for welcoming chairs and tables, inn keepers who smile and I’ll also be looking at rooms if it doesn’t feel right. Maybe the lesson here is that life can be simpler with the right way markers.’ ~ Fran Camino reflections.

And you know what I know? And what I remind myself if doubt creeps in? I simply remind myself that I’m not a nutter for dreaming because I’m a dreamer and I’m finding the right way markers. I know that because the people, the food, the connections they are all yellow and they pointing this way. I am giving to the people that matter the most, including myself. I feel a new sense of freedom because I’m unafraid of doubt. It’s one of the new strengths the camino gave me.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran x

Doing it on purpose with purpose.

Adventures On My Bike – Day 3/28

Today’s recipe: Salmon, tomato with zucchini noodles.

To start a creative project or to choose to live creatively is to continually plant seeds. Often there’s no telling what kind of flower or fruit we’ll grow. But slowly, by tending to and nurturing our ideas, dreams and sparks we will begin to see and feel the growth and changes. First the seeds will sprout, small and noticeable but not yet able to hold their own (they still need attention and time). They help us of course, those sprouts. If we notice and feel them we’ll know if we’re growing the right plants. Bugger nurturing the wrong seeds.

I’ve been taking photos for many years and as a result my photography is a strong plant now. I can depend on it for the right feels, that’s enough for me. And even though I’d neglected it since arriving in The Netherlands it’s sturdy like a sunflower. My blogging, I’ve been at that for a while too, longer perhaps. But never with any real commitment. I treated it like mint … watering it infrequently and letting it grow wild. Mint is a strong plant, hanging in there patiently waiting for when it’s needed. I get the feeling that most people presume that the physicality of walking the camino was the challenge for me. It really wasn’t (the shins yes but deep down I still knew I’d make it through that). I’ve been watering my grit seed since I was 5 years old, like an Apple tree in an Orchard my grit is a well rooted plant. No I had other seeds to water out there on the trail.

And because I did. I’m here. Here with my healthy sunflower and some good looking mint growing (a.k.a. photography and writing habits) they are blooming. There’s also a healthy dose of self-confidence and grounding that comes from walking for charity and actually finally putting myself out there to stand up. That’s a whole other plant story but for this one let’s call it basil on account of it needing ongoing rejuvenation and work. So, my plants (sunflower, mint and basil) are helping me grow more plants. Different plants, but again plants from seed. And now for the good news! Today a few sprouted and what I notice and feel tells me they’re the good seeds – the heirlooms.

Another day into my 28 day challenge of getting on my bike to create a story about food and I’m feeling it. I’m feeling the beautiful breeze of momentum blowing in. The fridge is loaded with freshness and color giving rise to so much promise. What will I create. Does it surprise you that I don’t meal plan? Most simplicity blogs do recommend it but you know me – rebel ;). Ha ha no I just need spontaneity and a week long plan is a bit too much for this free spirit. I buy with the idea of Buddha bowls … I can load it all up together if need be.

I never tire of the view of my kids on bikes or shopping for food at the market. It’s also a good place for them (and me) to practice Dutch. Names of fruit and veg, colours, please and thank you’s. Look at that – watering more seeds. It’s also spectacularly refreshing to see the seasonal produce. Summer is in da house.

Coming home from the market was when I really felt it. The breeze. You know the one, momentum. I could also see it. It was in my kitchen window sill, in my lunch bowl and definitely in my mood as I started getting thorough and moving around my home with purpose. And then I went for a hike!

And on that hike I noticed other people moving and something about this guy in particular. Can you see it?

His arm?

He cycles with his arm swinging in the wild too.

And then I thought about my new (sort of) mantra. Is what I’m doing on purpose? And secondly am I doing it with purpose? That matters to me you see. We don’t have forever to get to purposeful. We can’t keep putting shit off. We have to the plant seeds to grow stuff – stuff that matters. The stuff we want to make, do, change, be. It is up to us individually. We are the only ones that can make our own choices – on purpose with purpose.

So yes friends, momentum is here to play and it’s welcome. Let this breeze become a gust. I’m ready!

Best I take it to dinner with this little salmon and zucchini noodle number. Delicious!

Salmon and Zucchini noodles.

We feed a family of 6 so I won’t give you amounts just how it’s cooked! You can play with amounts.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Tiny tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Salmon (or tuna or whatever)
  • Basil
  • Salt and Pepper

How:

In a pan heat olive oil, add your finely chopped garlic and tomatoes (10 mins or so). The Tommy’s will pop wait for the juices to dribble out. Remove and leave in a bowl (they’ll continue to cook).

Pop your Salmon in the Pan (5 – 7 mins we only had two small thin fillets) set aside once cooked.

Add the zucchini noodles. Yep that’s right your zucchini are the noodles. You can finely slice them with a knife, use a spiraliser or like us use a vegetable peeler (there’s a serrated edge on ours that allows a larger slice). Cook for (7-8 mins) I don’t love it too raw, season with salt and pepper.

Now simply stir through your tomatoes and salmon and throw some basil in if you’ve got it.

And there’s day three and still so much to chat about. As usual I feel like I’ve written you the longest letter so if you made it this far I must say thank you and farewell … for now.

Buen camino friends,

Fran xx

Writing from Los Arcos – Day 6

I’ve been watching how people use their arms as they walk. Some have their hands in their pockets, some hold tightly to the straps on their packs and some swing their arms freely. I’m trying to swing my arms … when I let go of holding my pack and let my arms go there’s a nice rhythm. A rhythm that’s in tune with my legs, the landscape, the moment. I wonder if what we’re doing with our arms when we walk relates to how we do life? Gripping tightly, hiding or swinging freely and confidently – with purpose.

Days on the Camino – 6

Kms – 30 kms. Total is around 145.2kms!! I’m still blister free thankfully. The heat rash thing on feet is back … hot, long day.

Starting point today – Lorca, Spain.

End of the day – Los Arcos, Spain .

Number of girls in Africa educated – 19

Total funds raised so far $5,980.00. If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to

Kimmy, a pilgrim and friend. Someone I met on Instagram, a fellow hiker. The first person to ensure that one girl received an education and the one who showed me I could actually do this! Sometimes it takes one person to inspire us, to propel us forward beyond our doubts. Your support very early on did that Kimmy! And look where we are … on a camino with nearly 20 girls in school next year. Buen Camino friend – you’ll find your way to Santiago. xx

Accommodation – This albergue Casa Alberti in the town of Los Arcos I’m unsure of. I’ll put the name in tomorrow when we leave. It’s a bed for the night (€10) and there are only 6 of us here in a 12 person room so bonus. It doesn’t look like there are snorers, we’ve been super lucky with that. For the first time I’ve pulled the bug sheet out. Purposely bought from Travel Safe (with a discount) on account of my allergies to bites and because of its light weight. I haven’t felt the need to get it out before tonight. This place doesn’t feel loved and I just read a review from two weeks ago that mentioned bites. I wish I’d checked that earlier.

Food highlight – Ordering a local speciality and not knowing what would come out! It was an omelette with chorizo on a baguette, delish … but massive. The owner wrapped half for us to take on the road. I love that no one has taken advantage of us. It would be easy to provide crappy service because pilgrims are not returning customers … we stay one night, eat one meal, buy one coffee and we walk.

In a word(s) – Wondering how life after 30kms a day will feel.

There’s a lot of time to notice what’s happening when you walk the camino. A lot of rhythmic walking where thoughts roll in and out as opposed to round and round. People of all ages, nationalities and all with their own purpose.

The paths were quieter today. The flow of pilgrims seems to have spread out. My sister and I walked together and alone for parts. Up until lunch time we only passed four or so.

There are a few pilgrims we’ve been crossing paths with and today many appeared through the day either along the path or in the town we landed in. It’s the organic flow that happens on the camino dictated by timing, there’s probably something spiritual in that. Maybe the camino is starting to weave it’s magic on me.

Those cracker American brothers from day 3 are in town tonight making us laugh! As are our German friends the yin and yang – the pace setter and the gentle one who smells the flowers.

Earlier in the camino I chatted with a man, I’ll call him Will. Will had 20kgs on his back. His sleeping bag weighed seven of those kilos. He was puffing up the hill and he was wondering what he could do without in his pack. I remember thinking we will all learn to be lighter on this camino. We will all lose something that weighs us down and holds us back.

It’s part of the challenge. A camino is spectacularly beautiful as I’m sure you can see by the photos :) and the people are collectively the BEST people. But it’s challenging.

Physically we all have different capacities but we all push harder each day, comfort zones are pushed … I’m writing in a bottom bunk, next to a snorer zipped in a net because I’m in a dodgy hostel tonight! Because that’s how I’m doing my camino, light in my backpack and without plans and bookings but needing to be disciplined with writing. Will, he came to be less disciplined with work! Yes the camino will challenge you but it will also reward you. One doesn’t come without the other does it?

Today brought mountains to climb, fields of green and yellow, castles on hilltops, butterflies and birdsong, a wine fountain (yes, an actual wine fountain) ancient towns, deliciously simple food and people; kind, funny and gentle people. It’s not hard to swing your arms as you walk.

Buen Camino,

Fran x