life, travel

Realisations & friendly strangers…


For quite some time I’d entertained the idea of buying a house in or around the Dordogne region of France.

I’d spent countless hours scouring the pages of Rightmove, bookmarking properties.

Here’s the thing, when I finally arrived, I simply didn’t ‘feel’ it.

Interestingly, the apartment I had in Brive la Gailliarde was beautiful.

A circular staircase snaked upward through the centre of the building, it’s steps worn from the imprint of many footsteps that have tread upon them over many years, and quite possibly, centuries.

A Juliet balcony overhung the cobblestone street that carved its way through buildings dating back to the 17th century.

It was historically mesmerizing: but again, I didn’t feel it. Unlike my wanderings through Toulouse where the energy was intoxicating.

However rather than wallow in the disappointment, I embraced the fact that I was meant to come here and make the realization: this is simply not my place.

And that’s okay.

Yet still my love affair with France continues: it’s language, it’s people and it’s culture pull me into its melodic web.

And that sentiment shone brightly yesterday when I stopped at a street cafe for a beer after a long walk to the hostel.

Still wearing Kevin, (Daphne didn’t suit ‘him’) my faithful pack, we had to squeeze ourselves in between small, round tables and bright red chairs. I guess I could’ve just off loaded Kevin, in hindsight it may have been easier, but I didn’t think I’d be there long.

Just as I took my first sip, a group of people approached me and asked me something in French. Now having perfected my spiel, ‘l happily blurted out (and no doubt butchered, their beautiful language).

‘… ah je suis australien, et je ne parle en petit peu Français, parlez plus lentiment, s’il vous plait.

Basically I’m sorry I only speak a little French, could you please speak slowly.

There were no raised eyebrows or sly sniggers, quite the contrary. They responded by speaking perfect English with oh so sexy accents.

Funnily enough, after exchanging stories bestowing them with more of my childlike French, they said when I spoke French, for them, I soundly sexy!!! Too many Pernods perhaps?

There you go, learn a little French and cut yourself loose in France: you never know your luck 😳😳🤣.

What I found most humbling during my time with these lovely people was their kindness and willingness to help me with my French. I was also extremely touched by their praise for my apparent bravery at travelling solo.

I was touched by their praise, however I never feel my solo travels are brave.

It’s interesting to see yourself through someone else’s eyes: I would never have thought myself brave – ah c’est la vie…

So as dusk begins to ascend upon my travels and my time in Europe draws to a close, I can look back upon where I’ve left footprints.

I’m grateful for where I’ve been, who I’ve met and what I’ve achieved.

Brave? Personally I don’t think so: challenging, inspiring & humbling are words that come to mind.

So for now, I’ll spend my last few days in France enjoying the company of an old friend.

And the next chapter?

That remains unwritten…

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

Two days and counting…


Daphne has been dressed and undressed multiple times over the last few days. She’s been pulled, prodded, squeezed and squashed, but all for a good cause. For Daphne is and will be my main companion over the coming weeks and her bits being just right is paramount for our upcoming journey.

If you don’t know me personally, then I imagine you could be somewhat confused with the first paragraph. But if you do know me, then you’ll know I’ve always had a penchant for naming inanimate objects, particularly luggage. I spent over 20 years travelling the world as an international flight attendant, and giving my luggage names simply became the norm.

With that explained, Daphne, if you hadn’t already figured is my backpack. And a rather lovely one at that. She’s a ruby red, rather slim 28 litre Deuter: which means I need to be ruthless with my packing choices. Couple that with the fact Daphne and I will literally be joined at the hip, reducing her weight is a necessity.

Stanley, my beloved wire-haired dachshund is not too happy about Daphne’s presence…

So I’m pleased to say she weighs a doable 6.5 kgs. A little over the suggested 10 % of the carriers body weight ( I’m 59kgs) but all in all I think we’ve done well. There are items that have no emotional attachment, so if I need to offload on the way, it’ll be easy.

However I’ve also packed an item that DOES have emotional attachment. My Dad’s rain jacket.

He passed away 2 years ago, and I felt it was really important to carry something that belonged to him. Whenever I travelled he would often tell me to make sure I was warm or dry, so taking his rain jacket is for me poignantly significant. It is also something that he and Mum bought together, so in some ways they are both coming along for the ride. Which, as Mum told me yesterday, makes her really happy.

So with Daphne sorted and Stanley somewhat miffed and definitely suspicious of what lies ahead, we are pretty much ready.

Yep, two days and counting… 🙂

travel

A walk across Spain…


A few years ago I watched a beautiful movie titled The Way. A touching story about a man whose life changed after walking the Camino de Santiago.

Call me ignorant, but I’d not heard of the Camino before watching this film, but in the aftermath of its ending, I was left feeling the need to discover more.

And on researching, I realised I wanted to walk the Camino. Not because I needed to mirror the impact it had on Martin Sheen’s character, but because I simply wanted to experience the emotional and physical challenges the Camino appeared to present.

As a self-proclaimed empath, it’s the emotional challenges that will undoubtedly be the most confronting. Why? Because the thought of having to share ‘personal space’ with strangers is terrifying as my need for solitude is a profound part of my being. Without it, I tend to become anxious and withdrawn. Couple that with my fear of socialisation and you have to wonder why I’m subjecting myself to such obvious personal adversity. But isn’t that what life is about? Finding ways to challenge adversity, albeit personal or otherwise?

Yes, I could opt out of dormitory accommodation and choose to stay in private rooms, but what is the point of that? In doing so, I’d be taking the easy way out and not honouring my reason for walking, which is, to experience the challenges.

And that brings me to the physical challenge of walking up to 30 kilometres a day across diverse terrain. Funnily enough I’m exhilarated at the thought of placing one foot in front of the other, hour after hour. These long treks will be my emotional charging station. My time for refection, my time for solitude. My time to allow the weight of past hurt to slowly slip away with every forward step. Of course fear is there, I’m human after all, but the need to discover things about myself is far greater than that fear.

My walk across Spain will undoubtedly present a myriad of emotional, physical and social challenges. And as I write these words in the comfort of my home , surrounded by my beloved dogs, I’m ready, ready to embrace whatever the Camino places in my path.

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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It's a dog's life

Dogs do speak, just listen to their ears…


Dogs can speak. Just as humans use sign language, I believe so do our 4-legged friends, but instead of using their paws, they use their ears.

If you take the time to listen to their ears, you’ll see they actually speak volumes.

I decided to gather a few images of doggy speak, and who better to demonstrate that speak than my beloved Stanley, Eddie and two other 4-legged friends I met on recent travels?

As I went about my business, so did they: sniffing, sleeping, catching a few winter rays, or simply going about the important business of being a dog.

But I did manage to capture a little of how their dogships communicate – with a little caption ‘translation’…

 

featured, travel

The kindness of strangers…


Travel affords wonderful experiences and at times, unfortunate ones.  And it is the latter that often allows the true spirit of human kindness to shine.

In the last few days I have bathed in that kindness and I’m so very thankful.

Last week I started to feel those tell tale signs of a cold and sure enough within a day, I was reaching for the tissues and beginning to look like Rudolph’s long lost sister.

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Cambodian workers opposite my hotel who wave and smile as I walk by

Even though I felt a little more lethargic than usual, I simply put it down to environment and whilst I did feel lousy, I pushed through. But as the days progressed, my lethargy and fatigue levels increased to the point where I could barely stand.

Alone in a hotel in Siem Reap with a raging fever, I realised I was very ill and needed to see someone.  I went to the reception desk and instantly Paulo the manager was at my side.  Without hesitation he called his tuk tuk driver and took me to hospital.

My simple cold has manifested into pneumonia, which although debilitating at least it’s now clear as to why I am feeling so ill.

So even though I am still alone in my hotel, I’m actually not for the wonderful Cambodian staff are continually checking on my welfare.

It is not in their job description to do so and I’m overwhelmed by their kindness.  It is so comforting to know that people, albeit strangers, have taken the time to care.

Yes, the kindness of strangers is truly humbling…

cambodia (1 of 1)-32
Suspended umbrella’s on Pub Street…