life, travel

A French love affair…


Walking along paths framed by wheat fields, climbing across majestic mountains and traversing through forests whilst being stalked by horses was an experience I’ll never forget.

And already, I deeply miss walking the Camino.

I miss the feeling of knowing the morning heralded another day of simply being in the present. Another day of simply placing one foot in front of another, hour after hour. It was so humbling and and so rewarding.

I truly wish I’d had more time to finish the entire Camino: unfortunately I did not.

But like others before me, I will return.

Instead, I’m continuing my love affair with France, a country I adore. The language, the landscape and the friendliness of the people.

Some may ‘tut tut’ at that last sentence, but I’ve always found French people to be warm and friendly.

This visit is no different.

My chance encounter with a French couple who’d just completed the entire Camino [Le Puy en Valay to Finisterre, approx 1600kms]. They happily shared very useful advice on walking Le Puy.

Bruno, my Airbnb host who warmly accepted my very last minute booking ( 1 hour), and who then praised my poor French language skills.

The wonderful people who invited me into the masses to enjoy and support Gay Pride.

And today: the wait staff at a restaurant where I stopped for lunch. They chatted animatedly with me before inviting me to join them later for drinks and dinner. I declined as I needed to get back to my Airbnb, however I was humbled by their kindness.

Tomorrow I head further north for a few days of walking through old villages, before heading to Lyon to spend time with an old, dear friend who I’ve not seen in quite a few years.

And just as my love affair with France continues, so does my love of travelling solo.

I’m never lonely, never frightened and despite missing my precious sons, special friends and of course my beloved sausages, life is sweet.

To those who fear solo travel, fear not, for it truly is an amazing experience that heightens the senses and soothes the soul…

❤️❤️🐾🐾❤️❤️

travel

To sleep or not to sleep…


That is the question.

After 3 nights of listening to a cacophony of snoring, the answer is easy.

Sleep wins!

So I booked a quaint hotel in the old town of Pamplona, and after only a short 2 hour walk from the snoring shed, I’ve arrived.

And whilst it’s not the Sheraton or Hilton, the room is mine, all mine. Honestly, I could do one serious Happy Dance.

I’ve been paying $AU20a night to sleep with snorers, I figure $A65 is worth every cent.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the warmly lit hotel restaurant, enjoying a buffet breakfast. Classical Spanish music plays softly and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air, creating an inviting atmosphere.

Walking the Camino expends serious energy and when coupled with sleep deprivation, the impact that has on physicality is immense.

And besides, I’ve never been one to conform to the norm and just because one’s ‘supposed’ to stay in hostels when walking the Camino, does not mean one has to!

If the truth be known, I rather wish I’d brought a small tent and sleeping mat, as I feel camping would be more conducive to a good nights sleep.

I’ve seen some pilgrims with pop up tents and sleeping mats; they’re definite smart ones.

Anyway, it is what it is.

With the sleeping decision made, I soon have another decision to make: when to leave the Camino.

Due to my return flight departing Paris on June 17, my plan was never to finish the Camino Francis this time.

Depending on when I choose to leave CF, I may have the option to walk part of the Camino Le Puy, which would allow me to walk through a beautiful part of France. That has its advantages because 1. I love France and 2. it’s closer to Paris and my return flight.

But for now, its a rest day in Pamplona and hopefully a much needed good nights sleep.

travel

Penghu: a garbage truck and a giggle …


A few years ago I was living and working as a teacher in the Penghu islands, a small archipelago off the coast of Taiwan. As part of my teaching contract, I had an apartment on the first floor of the school, it was small, yet it offered a great view of the surrounding area from my bedroom window.

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From this spot I was able to voyeuristically take in the daily rituals of many. Yet it was the nightly garbage collection that had me perched at the window every night.

I shall explain.

Firstly, garbage collection is a weekly ritual in Australia and somewhat straightforward and boring. In the early hours of a council appointed day, a garbage truck noisily makes its way along the street, emptying the contents of each wheelie bin into its large bowels.  There is nothing interesting about the process it is simply what it is – a garbage collection.

In Penghu, it’s different, entertaining and occurs every night around 9pm.

With a similar sound to that of an ice-cream truck, the garbage trucks of Penghu fill the night air with upbeat, happy music to herald their impending arrival.

On hearing the familiar tune, residents rush out of their homes laden with bags, boxes and a variety of other vessels containing their daily waste.

At certain points it stops, and as residents know these points, they uniformly wait in line for the trucks impending arrival, then in a very orderly fashion they deposit their rubbish into the back where it is then churned, crushed or devoured.

From my  vantage point, it appears to be a beautifully choreographed show with all players performing their roles with the utmost precision and patience.

And as the music fades and the truck’s lights disappear from view, I watch as some residents return to their homes, whilst others linger: perhaps taking this moment to re-connect and socialise.

This seemingly simple, nightly garbage collection encapsulates what I love about travelling: experiencing a city’s unique and quirky rituals and how they shape the way of life for those who live there.

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Penghu travel information: https://guidetotaipei.com/visit/penghu

travel

Alongside the laughter: reposting travel tales from Blogger….


I love Europe, but I am also Australian, which is somewhat problematic when wanting to indulge that European passion.

On the bright side though, I was also an international flight attendant.  For many years I served the masses from overloaded trolleys whilst hurtling across oceans in a sleek, silver tube bound for new adventures.

Needless to say this employment allowed me to partake in a number of my own, off-duty adventures. Not all were in my beloved Europe, nonetheless, they all offered adventure of various description of which I documented in a blog I no longer use.

A  few posts in particular captured the adventures of a few wintery weeks driving through regions of France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. Rather than let those moments that were filled with mayhem and hilarity, yet also quiet contemplation melt into cyberspace, I have re-posted here.

Feel free to read on – maybe grab a wine or coffee as it could take awhile…

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india

A bittersweet arrival…


As the aircraft descended through a haze of pollution, my first glimpses of Udaipur came into view.  White stucco – like buildings dotted the landscape, and the lakes synonymous with the city, sparkled in the early morning light.

Purchasing a pre-paid taxi ticket inside the clean, modern airport, I exited to find drivers waiting to be called to take the fare: a site contrary to what I’d expected. In a very orderly manner, one fellow (who may have been the supervisor) took my ticket then gestured to one of the many drivers.  My designated driver nodded respectfully, took my case and motioned for me to follow.

On the 40 minute drive to Animal Aid, the India I had expected presented itself. Horns blared, cows mooched and people jostled with cars, bikes and truck for the same piece of space on roads and paths. It was manic, yet not frightening or confronting. It was India.

After passing through the small city, winding roads that carved through small hills deposited us at the gates of Animal Aid, where a cacophony of animal voices alerted me to the fact we had indeed arrived.

Dogs, donkeys, goats and cows all milled about, some oblivious to my arrival, whilst others inquisitive: sniffing, smooching and seemingly quite interested in finding out just who I was.

A little later in the day, after being warmly welcomed by the family, I wandered around the shelter meeting the many animals whose lives have been transformed by Animal Aid.

Helping to feed a group of calves, I felt a gentle but firm nudge on my left thigh.  Expecting to see one of the numerous donkeys who were milling about, I was surprised to find at my side Buff, a baby water buffalo.  Roughly the same size as a small cow, Buff was determined to have my attention and let it be known by continually nudging my arm whenever I stopped scratching behind his ear.

Who would have thought after leaving Australia feeling excited and also a little sad at the thought of leaving my beloved family that 48 hours later I would be making friends with a water buffalo?

Afterward as we sat in the garden drinking chilled Pinot Grigio and dining on a delicious lentil curry at twilight serenaded by the sounds of animals, I felt content.

Similar to my departure, my arrival was bittersweet.  I do feel content and happy, yet also wish I could share this contentment with my best friends: Stanley, Oscar, Simon & Eddie.

Yes, a bittersweet arrival indeed….

 

 

 

india, life, travel

Where for art thou Indian Visa…?


I’m starting to get a little concerned.  Why I hear you ask?  Well it’s like this.

I’m not sure if fate is preparing me for dealing with Indian bureaucracy, which according to a BBC report, is the worst in Asia, or my application for an Employment Visa is simply lying in a slush pile at the Indian Embassy silently screaming, ‘pick me, pick me.’

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Whatever the answer, with December 27 approaching at speeds likened to a B777 at 37,000ft, I’m a little worried. For without visa in hand, or more importantly my passport, which is of course lying in wait with my visa application, I’m not going anywhere.

Adding to the mix, I fear the delay is also due to the fact the big, fat man in the red suit is on his way.  Let’s be honest, the festive season invariably causes life outside of gift shopping to cease and only begins again when the contrails from his speeding sleigh have long since dissolved.

So where does that leave me?

Well that’s easy to answer, unlike my beautiful Oscar in the above image, I’m sending out positive vibes whilst patiently waiting, waiting, waiting.

Stay  tuned…

 

featured, india, travel

‘You can stand on the cliff of life and play it safe. Or you can jump…”


Since making the decision to move to India, the comments and opinions I’ve heard have been polarised.  From the negative: “India, are you mad…”,  to the positive: “you are an inspiration, I admire your courage…’.

So with the date of my departure now clearly visible on the horizon and the fundamentals of my move sorted (except for my visa but that’s another post), I’ve had time to reflect on this so-called courageous leap off my life’s cliff.

 


And how do I feel?

I know I’m not scared for I thrive on adventure, and I’m definitely ready to dip my toes into unclear waters, despite not knowing what lurks beneath the surface.

However from an emotional perspective, I know I’m in for a wild ride. My emotions will make me feel like I’m riding the X2 rollercoaster at Magic Mountain:  propelling to great heights one day, before plunging to the lowest of lows the next.  But I’m expecting that as it’s one of the side effects of travelling and choosing to live outside your comfort zone. I remember clearly experiencing the lows when I lived in Penghu, Taiwan a few years ago.  You can read about my little Penghu breakdown here

Of course it would be ‘safer’ for me to remain where I am doing the same job, seeing the same people on a daily basis, yet lately I have been feeling like an extra in the movie, Groundhog Day.  And for me, that’s not living, that’s simply existing.

So despite knowing I’m about to ride an emotional rollercoaster, I’m going to jump, jump off my cliff.  I don’t know if I shall soar or crash, but I do know that jumping will allow growth, knowledge and most importantly, living life without regret.

 

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travel

An Indian adventure…


I’ve always been one to splash my life with colour. It’s been said at times the colours I splash across my world are somewhat extreme, but hey, as the cliche goes, that’s life.

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Once again, I’ve changed the colour of my world and I’m heading to Udaipur, India. Not to visit, but to live.

I head there knowing, or should I say, suspecting it will be a proverbial attack on the senses. For whilst I’ve travelled to many countries in my life, India is not one of them and I’ve no doubt that I’m about to be plunged into a life whereby my emotions and patience will be tested.

So this is the first of many posts where I shall share the laughter, the chaos and the colourful characters that will awash my new life .

 

Photo credit @stefan_haworth

photography

Family…


It has been sometime since I have picked up my camera and captured images of wonderful people and places.

Not because I haven’t wanted to, but quite simply because life is what life is. And sometimes it takes you down a different road, if just for a little while.

The other day a message asked me back, back to a place where laughter and love was in abundance and where I captured it for prosperity.