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A Canadian expatriate living and exploring first France now Germany, then BACK to FRANCE (!!!) with her family; former fashion designer, turned unexpected UNLIKELY NOMAD, raising two children, writing, photographing, painting, playing piano (who knew!!) and blogging - and now... full time student at ART SCHOOL!! (I MUST be crazy!!)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ode to the Sling

I have carried both our children for endless hours in a sling fabricated with a plaid fishermans skirt. The sling was becoming ratty the same way a favourite doll might have had its eyes loved off.

It was purchased years ago on crowded ferry dock while leaving Ko Tao on the other side of the world. The long journey taking me there had been one to mark my life in ways almost to profound to record. The sling had been a skirt, a table cloth, a blanket on chilly journeys, a headcover and now it like my life had morphed into a baby carrier. It had been soaked and cleansed of soil to varied to record, imbueing it with a karma befitting a humble peice of cloth which had done so much. Now we carried it everywhere with us, tucked neatly into our backpack in case a tired child might be in need of a lift.

Fast Forward to Spain.
We spied the immense 7th century church on the way by, high and distant on terraced hills, hunkered back to us in silent vigil. The view was spectacular with rolling hills as far as the eye could see, the church in the foreground and an ancient and tumbled down villaged tucked in the middle.

We returned to circle the hill trying to find in vain a road which would lead directly to the place. We finally gave up our search and decided to park the car and hike through the already cut bleached wheatfields. From the top of a domed hill directly beside the church, we gazed in all directions over the barren landscape imagining oursleves ancient warriors awaiting pagan enemies. About halfway down we found an intriguing series of body sized depressions with slightly heaped earth around the edges and lots of scattered stones but no more. The natural vantage point dictated the site of ancient stronghold, yet the ground was barren of clues save the odd bone. The church sat in mute observation seemimgly bemused at our scratchings as we scoured for evidence of a surely magical past.

Having exhausted our curiosity (and water supply) we waited for Bruce to hike back to retreive the car. Lily had peed her pants so was sitting bottom airing in the shade. I had put our backpack containing the sling under her tender little self to protect her from the pavement. When he arrived we loaded the car up with kids, hot and tired and ready for the air conditioning. Lily's rinsed pants hung tucked into the top of the closed window to air dry in the wind, flapping like a lost crow.

We did not discover that we had forgotten the back pack until the next day when we went to retireve something or other for our next adventure.

It was, we decided, worth it to make the trip back to try to retrieve the sling but when we arrived we discovered that the backpack was gone. Where did it go? Taken we assumed by some traveller like ourselves intrigued by the old church in the middle of nowhere and feeling the need for an unclaimed backpack. Feeling wistful and foolishly sentimental we headed back hoping the sling would continue to find a place of value in someones life, but also knowing that like the church's secrets the answer would never be yielded to us.

Fish Upstream

Onward East towards Rioja and further south. We began the climb up and over the Pico's D'Europa, passing 4 km under the mountains by tunnel ( about waiting for the light...). After crossing the green peaks we discovered a completely arid and wind worn mountain desert on the other side which gradually made way to miles upon miles of undulating just shorn wheat fields, sun bleached and dry.
Now we understood why the Spanish have siesta from 12-5, and dine at 10 P.M in the cooling evening.

We spent a day in Burgos and visited its most famous and impressive cathedral there (all the godliness should be soaking in soon no?) as well as had a walk around the old centre. We chilled our hot feet in (what we assumed were) the Pilgrim foot baths along the "Rambla", a long shaded pedestrian collonade while we keeping a wary eye out for the Fountain Police.

A pilgrimage trail (Camino Santiago de Compostella) winds from the East to West culminating in the historic religious centre of Santiago. Its route slices off the northern most third of the countrywith its many paths. As we wound our way eastward, fish upstream, we saw many pilgrims walking silently, each determined in the heat to make the passage. Hats,backpacks and walking sticks, most with shiny brown foreheads, some with brows knit in concentration and all with eyes focused far in the distance along the trail.

Costa Verde

Verdant and cool, high atop a cliff and deeply cut with gorges, Costa Verde, the green belt of cool on the northern coast of Spain and is supposed to be the least like Spain.
We visited little fishing villages to eat tapas and Calamari with cider and a few of the beaches to do the sand thing, wound in and out of the deep lush green cuts and tried to decipher the signage. We combed the beaches and gasped as we traversed wiggly cliffed mountain roads. The children were everywhere and a little curious about our mute kids who felt too shy to say anything more in Spanish then Ola.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Rolling stones...

Bruce has decided it is time for Rioja, hmmm kinda like this new wine hobby of his.
Will try to go south to Castile to visit some castles on the way over, hopefully while staying out of the heat. I guess we are sort of used to castles at home (in France) as think the kids area bit puzzled about the fact that we have not seen any. I mean any.

The French do seem to have a love affair with anything old whilst the Spanish seem to rebuild it or ignore it if what we have seen is any indication. We have seen lots of wistful, elegant and grand old dames of abandoned villas in little towns overlooking the sea....Riel shouts "fixer upper!!!" and Bruce and I both wish.

I am sitting outside the camping reception on an old slab of stone skimming wifi from the closed office, (too cool) on my computer without a plug in and mostly in the dark and to the sound of a neighbourhood barking dog. Isn't technology amazing? I was able to pick up email and also check the news the same way. I have read about the heat waves in France and am glad we are still here as it has been overcast and cool and green.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Monster Beetles and Creature from the Black Lagoon

It was a hot day in Northern Spain and we decided to go look for some prehistoric cave paintings close to where we are stating. Both locations were closed off with bg gates and had scheduled visiting times for anyone over the age of 7. Needless to say Lily found something more interesting to look usual. A GIANT BEETLE!! About 10cm long!! In the beetle world size must matter as he did not look like someone you would want to mess with.

Searching for a secret entrance to the prehistoric caves, Bruce had little luck. I thought they would have installed a back door into a cave like that but all I found was a big pile of rocks and a nice cove filled with seagulls.

We had lunch at the `Lourdes of Spain`, a place where a highly outnumbered Petoya defeated the Moors a long time ago. In this area of Spain, Asturia, the people are very proud because they are the only region in the country that has never fallen into the control of another power.

Tomorrow, we are off further west in search of less tourists and more beaches.....we will keep you posted!

Monday, July 17, 2006

We made it!!!

Ola... it is nice to be here...but what an oddysey of a voyage, seems close (especially to Canadians who measure distance by time not kms) but it's not.

We travelled across France due West since we decided (unwisely) to leave on the beginning of the European vacation period but by all regional roads, seems like a quaint I think we saw every old stone barn and sunflower from Dijon to The Spanish border.

We travelled through Beujolais, sort of neat, beautiful chateaus and vineyards, bathed in sun ( but call me a snob I like Burgundy better) it was very hot with our car thermo reading 37 in places...phew!!

Finally we made it to the west coast- visions of deserted beaches simply waiting for us and only us in our Caravan danced in our heads...hmmm.
We managed to have a great morning at the ocean bodysurfing and kite flying beside the immmense sand dunes that line the coast and then continued on..

Onward and southward, across the Spanish border and west along the sea.
Past crumbling seaside villages colouful with immense banks of sky blue and rose hydrangeas, now we are in the Picos D'Europa a mountain range just south of the northern most coast of Spain. It is gorgeous, cool and green.
The kids had a great afternoon swimming in the pool, and are now sleeping as we pour over our guide books and maps to figure out what to do tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Almost ready to go to Spain.


Just spent the last 4 hours repacking risotto and granola into little baggies and grouping those baggies into bigger baggies...

Ok... so am I the only person who does this?

We have the "beverage bag", the "breakfast bag", and the all too important "Goody Bag" (in a strategic location (and seemingly deserving of capitals)).

We have a Pandora's box of medication's for every possible ill - real or imagined and a plethora of bandages, swabs and ointments...

We have clothing to suit every possible temperature or climate, alone or worn in several disparate combinations (fashion to the wind)...grouped by kid, colour and size...

Every possible sanitary, disinfecting, rehydrating or bug repelling solution available in wash, wipe or spray format (travel size...),

Bathing suits, wet suits and a brand new leopard skin regulation conforming teeny tiny set of swimming trunks for the "Big Guy"

Almost everything checked off the "before we go" list-

sunscreen CHECK...

hats CHECK...

maps CHECK

funbag CHECK


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zidane Mundane??

Has world cup soccer fever pitched and peaked over yonder or is it only here? We have soccer ball flower pots (I was amazed to see at out local grocery), flags of every shape and size, children are shouting "Allez les Bleus" the nick name of the French team (though Bruce calls then "les Vieux...") .

Last week when the French won there were celebrations (very loud ones I might add til wee hours) and an impending feeling of sporting invincibility(contrary to the normal ethos of general grumpiness) partout. Even Riel was caught up in it, sitting prominantly on top of his play house bellowing "Allez les Bleus" and "Vive le France" to our empty courtyard like the best of them (and undoubtedly all the other little boys at his school). Which nationality is this little red headed kid of mine again anyway...??

A photo of Place Michelle about a block from our house, eve of the big match, the sounds of the cheers were heard in every corner of the town, indeed I suspect of France.

Big brother come to mind?

And then the game if any one was lucky enought to catch it....can't anyone else on the French team play soccer (or Foot pronounced "fooot"- little do they know this is an English the french call it) except for Zidane?? Oh my goodness give the ball to someone else!!!

Ooh la la, didon!!

Saturday, July 8, 2006

NEWS FLASH - THE BIG READER - July 7th, 2006 ...........the day that Riel read his first book from start to finish all alone!! 'The Big Bug Dug'.....not 'War and Peace' but a huge accomplishment quand meme! He looks forward to the next book and is proud that he may now be able to read to others instead of being read to by others.

Thursday, July 6, 2006

Wow the kids had a great time at the caravan. We did sleep over night, which was wonderful as it was 40 plus degrees in Dijon (chaud!!) and only 31 in the Haute de Beaune where the caravan is situated. Everyone had a nice dip, Riel is swimming perfectly and completely independantly (cannonballs and all) and Lily is happily mermaiding around in her bright orange water wings... We had pizza on the terrace by the pool cooked by the wonderful Italian "French" couple who run the site (with her 3 small children in tow...) A few challenges though as I realized that wherever I go the kids need to come with me...well almost...when I did need to nip out to the loo before bed I locked them (sleeping) in the caravan and went to come back the find the door lock malfunctioning and not opening.....sweat sweat tug tug and after some more frantic pulling and maybe a little swearing managed to yank it open again. Happily no one even batted an eye. I then proceeded to forget about it until the next day when we all rushed back to shelter from a looming electrical storm...fortunately we soon managed to get it open...and then promptly dismantled and repaired it so all is now well. Everyone was thoroughly happy and pooped out by the end of the day.

Last day of school tomorrow, Riel had an amazing report card... we are so proud of him!! Lily is too small to get one but judging from how she BOLTS into her classroom and forgets to say goodbye- I presume things are going well...we will have a little fete in each class for each kid at the end of the day so Lily and I made pound-cakes tonight...she got sort of lost into the tap water and the sink and the measuring spoons and all- so sweet...oh well took the pressure off me!

Bruce comes home tomorrow and we have decided due to some recent developments on the human resources front to stay in town next week and leave for Spain next Friday as planned.

Just listening to the "Indigo Girls" purchased in Canada, music I have not listened to for at least ten years...sort of like a good smell , makes you remember and feel exactly where you were the last time it was Later.

Monday, July 3, 2006


Bruce goofing arond with the new camera before heading to Thailand for 5 days. (we always think they are stupid and don't work until we read the instructions...) I think we will go the the Caravan tomorrow after school, (Tuesday) so the kids can swim, it has been hot and gluey (as Riel says) here. So we will sleep over night and then spend Wednesday at the pool and playing. The kids have so much fun as there is a big deep green forest next door and an abundance of sticks and good things for kids to fool around with- (plus I can have a nice read in the afternoon while Lily snoozes and Riel builds Lego).

Trying to figure out if we can go ahead to Spain a few days earlier and then I will spend the week there alone with the kids. Bruce can fly home on Sunday night and then meet us back there on Friday. (somehow I feel less brave with 2 kids and no Bruce than the other way around). I have found a campsite 12 Kms from Barcelona on the beach and would love to take the kids to Museums, etc visit Gaudi's church and eat gazpacho, (it is a theme..) as our current itinerary won't allow for this as we are hoping only to do the north coast of Spain )(and Rioja of course). Experience has told us that it is better to park the caravan and use it as a base and tool around in the car, and then move on a few days later. So...we'll see. Later.

It is all about the Gazpacho.
One of my favourite things to do when it gets hot is to get organized to make gazpacho.
Summer in a bowl.

Heather's favourite 20 minute gazpacho

Place in large bowl and puree until fine
  • 8-10 very red tomatoes cored
  • 1 small tin of tomato paste
  • 1 med sized can of stewed tomatoes
Slice into chunks and add to tomoto mixture. Puree until slightly chunky but smooth.
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 large English cuke
  • 1 small mild red onion
  • 1 clove of Garlic

Add herbs and puree lightly to preserve colour

  • handful of fresh basil
  • 5-8 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • Stir well. While stirring gently with a wisk to blend flavours add the following. Taste as you go to balance salty, sour, sweet.

    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (depends on the sweetness of the tomatoes)
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 1 oxo veg stock cube
    • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
    • fresh pepper to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon of hot chile paste
    • 1/2 cup of good olive oil

    Chill for at leat 4 hours and then serve with a dolop of yoghurt or fromage blanc, or decorate a drizzle of olive oil, fresh pepper and sprig of basil. This will keep nicely in the fridge for several days and will improve in flavour, especailly the next day.


    Sunday, July 2, 2006

    What we have been up to...