(Can you see the hedges zigzagging up to the château? That’s the road)

On Thursday morning after breakfast I left our spot beside the river to climb to the château. It was cold, about 8 degrees but the sun was shining. We were going to do French lunch again as the cupboards were still bare so I needed to be back by 12.30pm. the walk according to google would take 37 minutes, it was now 9.24am. I thought the 37 minutes might be a little optimistic so I was allowing myself an hour to walk up, another to walk down, leaving me with a visit of an hour. In the end google was very close and in spite of my puffing and panting and my stops to take pictures the climb up took exactly 40 minutes!


It was such a beautiful walk too, I still feel it now. The slight chill in the air. The colours of the trees. The ducks floating in the canal. The cows eating the grass. After eleven minutes I reached the end of my journey along the canal and had to start on the road that I could see zigzagging towards the château. As I climbed higher the sun felt hot on my back. The gentle walk along the towpath behind me I was pulling myself up the slope. There was the sound of the birds and a distant hum of traffic and something else – my heavy breathing. Fortunately there was no one around I needed to impress.

(Isn’t this seedpod beautiful? The road in the background leads to the canal)

The first manmade structure I came to was the château wall with a wooden door, into the garden, I guessed. The door was locked and there was no indication whether I should go left or right around the wall. By now, 10.04am, the sun was beating down and there was no shade and even an extra few meters in the wrong direction seemed painful. I went right and I was climbing again. But it was a good choice as I was heading into the village of Châteauneuf. From below it’s not clear that there’s a village up here but there is and it’s incredibly pretty. I passed one of the Logis chain of hotels, a pizza restaurant, guest houses and a man charging electric bicycles for hire. I wondered if I should try to negotiate a one way trip back to the canal later.

(Oh look someone seems to have ordered coffee and cake… with cream)

There was also a cafe with tables and chairs outside, you know the ones that look French? Made of metal and circular and painted green. It was open. Having made such good timing and having used up possibly a cake full of calories I went along in and had a coffee and cake…. yes it was only just gone 10am (9am in Ireland…)

(Looking out the gate of the château into the village)

Fortified, I went along into the château and paid €5 for my ticket, well worth it especially for the story of the wife and the sugar dusted flans… So it was the Friday before St. Andrew’s Day in 1450 (or thereabouts) and Catherine of Châteauneuf put some sugar dusted flans on the window seat. (The sugar dusting seems to be important.) Her husband sits down to eat and disaster… he dies shortly after. Also dead is a young servant, Mariote. Everyone thinks Catherine put arsenic into the tarts to poison her husband, no one seems too upset about Mariote. Catherine ends up in jail and someone else gets the château. I don’t think she did it but if I’d known the story earlier I might have skipped the cake.

(I forgot to include the map last time… the red marker is where we were parked by the Canal de Bourgogne. Thanks google maps )

I spent an hour going around the rooms and buildings and then started back down, noting how much easier it is to walk down a hill than up.

I’m still wondering about Catherine and the flans, Mairead.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Like walking into a postcard…

(The camping car aire is to the right of the boats. Can you see the château?)

You know when you’re flipping through a magazine or a brochure and you see these pictures of some beautiful place and you think, wow, that’s just gorgeous, I’d really love to go there, then you turn the page and go on to something else. Well, for years I have a picture in my head that I saw in some brochure for the Canal de Bourgogne. It was absolutely magnificent. There wasn’t a particular location given for the picture, probably suggesting that all along the canal might be as magnificent… and it probably is. Anyway, I didn’t bother doing anything about it, either looking up the canal or asking anyone.

(The locals are very friendly)

Then on Wednesday there we were… in the picture in my head. It’s magnificent. Now I have some more pictures to keep in my head and you can have some of them too… At every turn there was something pretty, something reflecting light, something drifting along. In case you ever want to visit, here’s the location details: the village is called Vandenesse-en-Auxois, the château is called Châteauneuf-en-Auxois and the red marker on the map below (thanks to Google maps) marks the spot.

(The colours…)

It was too hot to walk up to the Château on Wednesday when we arrived and since there were no grocery shops in town and our cupboards were bare we went for a French lunch. Fortunately, there was a restaurant.) Might have mentioned before that the French are very precise when it comes to mealtimes. Lunch happens between 12.30pm and 2pm, not before and not after. It’s a four course all-included affair for anywhere from €10 to €15 or more. We arrived at 12.01pm as we were hungry and with all the cars parked outside we were concerned about getting a seat. The place was hopping when we arrived. There was a big group around the bar and a good number dotted around the tables. Monsieur took a moment as they do to welcome us and point to a table. We sat down.

(No cars… )

The table was set and there was a bottle of water. We drank the water and waited. We were wondering when the menu might come but the starter arrived at precisely 12.30 so we didn’t need to wonder anymore – there was no choice. That was actually a relief because every meal we eat in France has been delicious so whatever arrives will be ok with us.

(Can you make out the château in the mist?)

At this point the tables were full, mainly men, possibly coming from work. They looked right at home like maybe they came here everyday. And why wouldn’t they, the meal was lovely. I tried the sweet cheese – even when the Mademoiselle explained you pour sugar into it! I thought we misunderstood but no, one of the locals was doing just that. It tasted like a plain yogurt… with sugar.

Next time I’ll tell you about visiting the château, Mairead.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , ,

How I wrote a book not entirely on my own

(There was a Time Machine in Besançon… or it might have been a Time Museum)

Settle down, grab a cuppa and let me tell you the story of how I wrote a book with the help of six generous, creative and encouraging people …

It was the 4th of February 2016. There I was travelling around the beautiful old country of Portugal when I sort of fell in love with Andy Weir… Andy is a computer/space geek who loves to write. One day he decided he was going to give up the computers and become a writer. So he started and he sent off his first book to the publishers. He got loads of rejection letters for the first book but he was persistent so he started on a second book. He sent his second book off to the publishers and got even more rejection letters. He repeated this, I don’t know how many times, and then he stopped. He didn’t stop writing, he decided sure didn’t he earn grand money writing software, wouldn’t he be just as happy keeping the writing as a hobby.

(One of the clocks…)

So… he started his next book as a serial on his blog. It was in 2011. His friends loved it, they gave him feedback, they passed the blog on to their friends, he had some really high up people in the space industry correcting some of his science (By the way this is Andy Weir and I’m talking about The Martian – great book and great movie starring Matt Damon) he was having a ball!  Eventually he finished his book, while working away at his computer day job.

(Lip seem to be famous clock makers)

Some of his friends started to ask, “Hey Andy, any chance I could get that little book of yours to give to my girlfriend/mother/Dad they don’t know how to get at the blog posts?” So, Andy, lovely man that he is, gathered all the posts into an easy to read file (quite a time-consuming job for lovely Andy) and sent the file to his friend. He also put a link on the blog for anyone else who wanted everything all together. Then someone wanted to read it on their kindle and try as he might the lovely Andy couldn’t get it onto the kindle without charging a minimum price (an Amazon requirement.) So he charged the minimum and people started buying and money started accumulating in his account. (By the way… the full book was still on the blog – for free.) Then slowly but surely the kindle book started going up the Amazon charts and… surprise, surprise, the publishers started contacting him…. and then the movie producer rang… and that’s what happened to Andy.

(Time flying…)

The magic of Andy’s story is that he loved to write and he wrote even when it seemed like there was no good reason. And I love that he found a way to share his writing. Every time I wonder if it’s worth doing any of the things I do so that I can share my writing, I think of Andy and I ask myself: What would Andy do? He never lets me down, his advice is always great and he is never in a bad mood. One morning I was talking to Andy and he was saying maybe I could think about sharing the book I wanted to write on my blog? Andy thought that was a great idea. I thought that was a terrible idea and I had to go lie down to stop feeling nauseous. So Andy waited until I was feeling better (he’s considerate like that) and he suggested gathering a small team of readers and send chapter-sized chunks to them each week. Isn’t he really smart?  (Just so you know, she has never spoken to Andy or emailed him, this is all in her mind – Denis.) So that’s what I did.

(The email I penned to Pam and Allan, Sheena and Moira and Denis asking them to be readers….)

They all said yes and each Friday I sent the chunk of book I had written that week and they sent me back their encouragement. They also did the exercises and either sent pictures of their creations or news of their creative progress. On the 1st of April 2016  (yes, it was April Fools Day) I sent them the last chunk. It was done. It had taken eight weeks. It did take another two months to publish the ebook and a further two months to produce the paperback.

(There’s a cow in the fog and some more in the distance)

Then life happened and I tidied my box of paperback books onto a shelf and got on with dealing with life. Since that time the box has been sitting on a shelf in my studio (fancy name for my front room.) I’ve shared it with a few people but last week it started calling out for completion… So, I thought the least I could do was read it.

(Looks a lot like autumn here)

Back in 2016 my idea was to write a guide for people who didn’t realise they were creative (note:everyone is creative) and were hesitant about starting a creative project, thinking they weren’t good enough. I wanted them to be able to (at least temporarily) turn off the critical voice in their head so that they could get on with the work they needed to do to bring their project into the world. Reading my book again I discovered it works for any project…. Like for instance, something that I need at the moment – promoting and selling a book. You wouldn’t believe the mean things my inner critic was saying to me about selling and promoting (well maybe you would) but  because of the book I’m not listening. Now, I have a lovely encouraging voice in my head and it’s telling me to keep going. Keep going!

So here I am reading my book to help me sell my book and I will keep going. If you want to read the blurb or look at my Amazon Author page (imagine that!), click on Creative Monday – The Book. And if you have a voice in your head that’s stopping you from doing something (creative or otherwise) that you’d love to do then buy my book, follow the exercises and do your thing! It’s time for me to push my project out into the world so I can make room (on my shelves) in my head for the next one.

We wrote a book, Pam, Allan, Sheena, Moira, Denis, Andy and Me. Ps I’m keeping the royalties…

Posted in The eBook | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Boating around Besançon

(Can you see the assistant? She sitting waiting for us to enter the lock)

I nearly forgot to tell you about the boat ride. So let’s go back to last Thursday. A glorious day in Besançon I found the tourist office in the morning, got my hair cut, had lunch and headed back to the tourist office to pick up the boat. The walk took a bit longer than I imagined but thankfully the captain didn’t keep a strict departure time. As I was not French-speaking he gave me his notes in English to read as we went along. I nearly fell of the boat when I read that we would be going through locks! And the first one was right around the corner. His assistant was waiting to close and open the gates when we arrived.

(Not too sure what all that means but Ecluse means lock. On the wall of the mill beside the lock)

Lock successfully navigated we set off around the loop that is the river Doups and it was so relaxing. There was a warm light breeze and on every side nature. Imagine you’re sitting on the boat beside me (in one of the bright pink chairs) and let the pictures guide you on your own imaginary boat trip….

(Shade your eyes from the sun as you look up at our first glimpse of the citadel… did I mention I walked up there?)

(Can you see that gap? Under the house? Mind your head we’re going in!)

(Wave to the man walking along the tow-path. Look the captain has put on a light show overhead for us)

(And we’re out the other side of the tunnel… I know that bridge is very low but I promise we will make it underneath…)

(We’re at the automatic lock and there’s the automatic lock keeper… having the chats. Go on give him a wave, he seems very friendly…)

(See I told you – we made it under the bridge!)

(And now we out from under the citadel…. oh did I mention… I think I did)

(Take a deep breath of that beautiful greenery)

(Over there. look. look, you can just make out our aire )

(…and there’s Denis taking a picture of us taking a picture of him… give him a big wave! I rang him when I realised you’d be on the boat with me!)

Do hope you enjoyed our boat trip around Besançon, please take all your belongings as you alight and mind the gap when stepping off the boat.

Just floating along, Mairead.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I’d rather not tell you…

(I’ll be making cards this time. I’ve been practising)

I’ve checked the calendar and there are just three weeks left until we board the ferry at Cherbourg to come home…and the weekend after that, 17th November,  I’m going to be running a Mindful Crafting Workshop with my friend Linda. (Details at So I need to start telling you about it. There’s just one small problem, I’d rather not tell you…


I realised something about myself earlier this year – I have a habit of giving up on things that I really want to finish. Mainly it’s due to fear. I have a natural pattern even when I’m not afraid to wander onto a new thing before the one I’m on has finished. I get distracted easily and there’s so much beautiful stuff in the world I want to experience it all. But, I also want to experience that delicious feeling of finishing. For example, I love ironing – not enough to do it regularly – but, when I do iron I leave the ironed bundles of clothes and sheets sitting around for days. I do this because I feel great when I finish and want to remind myself that I did it!

(Even more…)

Writing the blog is perfect for me because it gives me the two things I love most –  a place to wander off to and a place to finish up. When I get up in the morning I have a blank slate, yesterday’s blog post is gone, I have to start again, start something new. I’m positively encouraged to wander off. When I finish writing today’s post I’ll send it off and I’m finished. Pressing send used to hold loads of fear for me. For years Denis had to read every blog post before I sent it. To be sure, to be sure of… of what I don’t know but fear can be like that, unspecific. Now, Denis reads the posts the same as everyone else when they get into his email and I have no fear of sending a finished blog post… mostly. There are some blog posts, I am afraid of sending…

(Ok sorry about bringing Christmas up before Halloween…)

I’m afraid of sending the ones that I think might make people reject me. I’m afraid of rejection. Hilarious really… (not actual hilarity, more demented hilarity) as those blog posts are the ones with my most precious message. The positively mind scrambling part of all this is that my most precious message, the one I keep hidden in a safe part of my heart, in case of rejection, is mainly about letting go of rejection! My message to me and to you is that if we pay attention to our thoughts and fears about rejection they will hurt us more than any outside force. Paying attention to my thoughts and fears about rejection, immobilises me. I’ll say that again, it’s the thoughts and fears that immobilise me, not the rejection. Funny thing (again not actual funny): I never get rejected. Do you know why? It’s because I rarely do anything that might get me rejected – I’m too afraid! I will only be able to share my message about rejection when I stop believing in my thoughts and fears about being rejected. I can still have those thoughts and fears I just can’t be paying attention to them. That’s where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness teaches us how to notice our scary thoughts but not believe them.

Are you still there? Do you have any scary thoughts and fears you might want to stop believing?

(Peace and joy all year long… not just for Christmas…)

This has turned into a blog post Denis will have to read a few times. And he hates these ones. He much prefers the funny ones. Or the stories about the people I meet. Or the pictures, he laughed out loud looking at me in the hairdressers. I love when he laughs. I love when you laugh… if I make you laugh you won’t notice my fears.  …and Linda is going to kill me (again, not literally) this blog post is probably going to frighten off anyone who was thinking it was just a bit of fun… sorry, Linda. The MindCraft Workshop is a place where we can share our message through the medium of crafting. One of the places we learned to think about rejection as a child was at the art table, when our creativity wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, attractive enough, up to standard, as good as your sister’s art/ brother’s work/cousin’s grade…. With the help of mindfulness it’s also one of the places we can learn to stop believing those scary thoughts and fears…

Image may contain: text

Ok. So, if I didn’t believe my scary thoughts and fears, this is what I’d say:

I would love you to join us on the 17th of November at the Old Stable Studio, Killruddery House, Bray, Co. Wicklow where we will have fun (it’s definitely fun!) be mindful and stop believing our scary thoughts and fears. All the details are at

What would you do if you didn’t believe your scary thoughts and fears? Mairead.

PS Really, tell me, what would you do?

Posted in Mindfulness Workshop | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Loop Le Doubs


(Can you see me on the boat, on the river Doubs, that loops around Besançon)

Yesterday after finding the tourist office and using their very good wifi, I went for a boat trip. But first… I got my hair cut, in French! This is the first time I’ve had my hair cut in France and through French. You might remember I have been working up to doing this. Part of my preparation was looking in hairdressers’ windows. I was checking for two things, opening times and pictures of hairstyles I liked. I felt that they wouldn’t put a picture in the window unless it was a style they could cut. So if I liked it and they could cut it we were a match made in heaven. A couple of times I liked the pictures but the opening times didn’t line up with when we were parked nearby, until yesterday… when a third thing lined up.

(That’s my hairdresser – the light blue shopfront)

I has passed the salon a number of times before yesterday morning. We were on our way to coffee and although the opening times suggested it should be open, it was closed. We have come across this more than a few times, when a shop or restaurant will have an Ouvert (Open) sign outside but the doors are firmly Fermee (Closed.) Oh well, no hair cutting here. Anyway, I thought no more about it, have my coffee with Denis and went off in search of the tourist office.

(Markers on the ground for one of the walking tours of Besançon)

On my way back I just happen to look into the salon and the door is definitely Ouvert! I walk straight in before I forget this is a good idea. The hairdresser and I say Bonjour and my with very next sentence I check if she can speak English. From her reply I ascertain she has about as much English as my French. Ok… well that’s probably enough. So I take out my halting French, remembering that hair in French is very like horse and I don’t want her to cut my horse and I slowly tell her I would like my hair, em… but I cannot for the life of me remember what the French for cut is. No problem, she is fluent in hand signals and as I am cutting the air with my pretend scissors-fingers she says, coupe (cut). Yes! We are doing this. Then I point to the picture in the window and say, like that…

(The beautiful river Doubs from the bank)

In case you don’t know it and this is of course a generalisation again but here goes: the French are very straight talking, they don’t tell a lie to spare your feelings and although my hairdresser was not talking, her look was very truthful. I could almost hear her thinking I hope she doenn’t think she will look like the twenty-something year-old in the window display. No problem, I understood her concern and used the international hand signal for give it your best shot. And we were off. We tried a little chit chat in our mix of French/English and all in all the experience was most enjoyable.

(Can you see the flag? Did I tell you I walked up there?)

But the time I was paying we both had become very confident in finding ways to understand and be understood, but it took me three goes to understand what she said next. Eventually, she made me understand that we had met earlier. No, I don’t think so. But yes, we had.

(Hair is very important here, even the statues have good hair)

One of the things I love about walking into shops and restaurants in France is that the owner/waitress/server will always, always greet you with a Bonjour! or a Bonsoir! and maybe a little wave. I feel like they are glad to have me as a customer. Sometimes the other customers will also say hello. Just lovely. It usually takes me a few days to stop saying hello as I walk through the door of Costa in Greystones. Anyway, do you remember before I went to find the tourist office I went for a coffee with Denis? We walked in and the owner said Bonjour and the customer enjoying her coffee also said hello…and both of us said hello to each of them. Well, the customer was my hairdresser!

(Here we are enjoying a selfie moment!)

It made me realise something – I don’t really look at the people I meet in cafes or shops…  I would have recognised her if I did. I meet a lot of people when we travel so I have a bit of an excuse, but maybe I could do better. After all I like being greeted so much maybe I would enjoy taking a little more time to pay attention to the greeter.

Boat trip story tomorrow, Mairead.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


(This way to the tourist office..)

This is a really interesting town! So this morning after coffee at a place just 2 minutes from our aire I went off in search of the tourist office. I couldn’t find it on my phone (in google maps) so I had to go back to the old way – following signs.

(And here are the opening hours of the tourist office)

The sign pointed along by the river so I walked that way. Then it pointed over the bridge so I walked that way, then there were no other signs. None. I was now in what seemed to be a business area. The next sign I saw pointed to the citadel, oh no…. what if the only tourist office was the one at the citadel… at the top of the hill? Why didn’t I ask when I was there yesterday?

(There’s a fountain on the river called Minotaur)

Well, I don’t know about you but this kind of talk is very familiar to me and not at all helpful… it starts with a doubt and then a bit of blame and criticism of something that happened yesterday! Too late, internal voice!

(Lovely reflections from the river)

So I stopped walking. Turned around and walked back to the last sign, the one before the citadel one. On the way I saw another sign, I’d missed before. This one was pointing back over to the other side of the river. But how can that be right? I was on that side when I followed the sign to this side.

(Oh… on the way back from the tourist office I noticed the sign I had mis-read earlier… the top part says there are no pedestrian crossings on the road ahead. The second sign says to take this little path under the bridge to the tourist office. I thought it meant turn right over the bridge. Mystery solved!)

Ok this is also familiar… questioning why I got it wrong…. Later I did find out that I am only learning to read French signs and sometimes I mis-read them… But in the moment I don’t need to question why I got it wrong, the best thing I can do is, follow the sign and carry on. Oh and Be Quiet internal critic voice!

(Very nice view from inside the tourist office)

And that’s how I found the tourist office. And they were great, free WiFi, loads of information, brochures and a recommendation to go on a boat trip!

(Cute chess set in the tourist office based on the citadel)

So I went on another boat trip! And there were locks! Two of them. One manual and one automatic! And a tunnel! …under the citadel! Yes, I went under the citadel in a boat. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow!

From the sunny, not stormy, east of France, Mairead.

Posted in Uncategorized