Foz by the Sea

(See the house out on the edge of the cliff?)

We’re still in the place near the sea with the funny name – Foz. We’ve had our walk, I’m considering starting the couch to 5km running program again but I think it’s only because Denis is catching up on my walking steps. I might be more competitive than I realise. I’m no longer winning at the steps app and I seem to be putting a bit too much effort into thinking up a new strategy. Running might just be it. He doesn’t like running. I could win at running. I might well be losing my mind here in the Spanish rain.

(Close-up of some Lovely Lichen)

I can see a teeny tiny bit of blue sky so all will be well. In fact it was lovely and sunny this morning, only 7 degrees and a wind from the north or whichever direction the cold one comes from but still, the sun was nice.

(View of the mountains on our way here)

It’s something I don’t do enough of, look at the sky I mean. I was talking to my friend who doesn’t love reading. I, on the other hand, do love reading. I read all the time, even during meals if I can get away with it.

(Lots of cloud happenings)

She does something different in the times when I would be reading. So she was describing sitting in a deck chair with a cup of tea and a blanket around her shoulders looking at the clouds in the sky. And not just the clouds, she notices the birds, the trees waving in the breeze, the sounds, the smells and even the plants growing as she watches. Ok so she can’t see the plants growing but they do grow ever so slowly regardless.

(Big sky over the village with the narrow lanes)

Sometimes when she’s at work she finds herself thinking about nature carrying on with its work and it makes her feel good and at the same time long to be back outside just being in it. I was mesmerised.

(A few lovely clouds over Mont Saint Michel)

While we are away I spend far more time outside than I do while at home. It’s just the way it works out. I walk because I don’t have a car. I sit outside because our inside space is so small. And yet I don’t really see what’s right in front of my eyes. It’s like I’m so immersed in it I can’t see it. The practice of noticing nature seems so simple and so meditative and a perfect antidote to the competitive behaviour I seem to be practicing instead at the moment! When the rain stops I’m going outside (with my blanket) to just notice. Until then I can notice through the window.

Communing with nature, Mairead.

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Change of Plans

(See the snow on the mountains outside town?)

There I was getting a quick look (literally, I’m not joking, 30 seconds of a look) at the pretty pictures on Instagram and I spot my best friend/bridesmaid from the 80’s who lives in Australia has posted a pretty picture. Aww, lovely cows… but wait it says, Rural Spain in the description. Is it a typo? Is there a place called Spain in Australia?

(Another lovely view, ten minutes away)

Quick as a flash I turn off the power to Instagram and head over to Viber. Are you in Spain? That was yesterday and today I got the reply, Yes! She is 90 minutes away from us! We will meet! In a few days we will be chatting like we’ve never been apart!

(And another… bit chilly on that beach today though)

Now… cast your mind back a few days to when I told you we had to change plans and go along the northern coast because of snow and low temperatures inland here in Spain. Because of that snow forecast we are in exactly the right place to avail of this opportunity to meet. I can’t wait! That’s pretty magical snow!

(The horses wear bells too)

Isn’t life amazing, it organises perfectly well on its own? Mairead.

PS. My sister (yes, the lovely one) will be singing on the Late Late Show tonight. She’s part of a choir at work, they got an amazing opportunity… the whole story will be on the show. I’ll have to wait until it gets to the RTÉ player on Saturday morning. You won’t want to miss it… well I don’t want to miss it, can you watch it for me?

(There we are on the coast in a town called Foz, €13 includes electricity, toilets and WiFi)

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Creative Pathfinding

(More pictures from the place by the sea, Cóbreces)

We had a bit of a hiccup this morning… it started to rain. Ok so I’m not saying we can’t cope with rain, of course I’m not. It’s just you build up a picture of going south  to the sun and no matter how many times you do it there’s a mistaken story that it will be warm and sunny all the time. It’s not. It rains in other countries besides Ireland. It’s just we’re the only ones who talk about it. We probably have more words for rain in Irish than there are in English. I heard that the Inuit have many, many more ways to describe snow than sticky or wet.

(Here’s the gate to the graveyard)

So we’re still in the mode of travelling every day but at the same time it’s raining and we’re in a town. So? So, when it rains there are far more options in a town than in the middle of the mountains in a small village. For one thing there’s the restaurants. We love going out to eat and we love having the option to stay in and cook (well Denis does… I just like eating.) In this town there are numerous restaurants, we went to one last night and had tapas, way too much tapas but we’ll know better about ordering next time. The price is not an indicator of the size of the dish. A €4 dish, it turns out, is plenty for dinner.

(And a cute signpost. I don’t think the arrow is for the Camino de Santiago, it’s the wrong colour)

In spite of the availability and quantity of food, there is a slight problem. With the rain comes rain clouds and the solar panels cannot see the sun. Also, there’s no electricity in our car park so very soon we will run out of power! Only this morning we realised we need a teeny tiny bit of power to use our gas heater. It’s barely 10 degrees here so we will need the heater but if we don’t have even a teeny bit of power… we will freeze!

(Can you see the camper vans? That was Cóbreces)

Ok, we won’t freeze, we could just drive and the heater in the van runs when we drive, it also charges the leisure battery. So, no, we won’t freeze but we do need to consider what to do next? We will find a tourist office. We love tourist offices, they always say yes to the question, do you speak English? We found the tourist office. The nice lady pointed us to a free center with computers, power and WiFi just around the corner. There may even be heat! It doesn’t open until 11 so we are having a quick coffee before we go check it out.

(There were people getting ready to climb this rock as we passed. It’s near the village with the narrow lanes from two days ago)

People often ask me how do we just go away without a plan, what if something goes wrong? I’ve never had a good answer for them. We just go isn’t really explaining it. Anyway, Denis is much better at just going than me. I would probably never do this if it wasn’t for him. I would imagine all sorts of things happening (bad things, I wouldn’t be imagining good things!) Plus in general I’m very good at imagining myself stuck and helpless without a solution.

(Love, love, love the lines (wrinkles) on this tree as it decomposes back into the earth)

I was reading somewhere recently that we never need to be stuck and helpless without a solution because humans are naturally creative. It’s what has kept the human race from going extinct, this ability to think ourselves out of stuck scenarios. This isn’t about making beautiful things, it’s about finding creative ways out of any stuck situation. The only thing that stops us being creative with solutions is a story we have in our minds that we are not capable of finding a way out. We are helpless. But if we look at that story and realise it’s not true our innate creativity will pop up and find a way through. Turns out we are well capable of just going and working things out on the way.

(There we are between Santander and Gijón. By the way, the locals get a great kick out of the way we pronounce Gijón. We pronounce it like Chicken goujons but we should be pronouncing it HeeHon… which is even funnier to us!)

From a warm and friendly free computer center beside the post office in Cangas De Onís, Mairead.

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Nice cow

(Isn’t she adorable? All the cows have horns here. She seemed very friendly. The sound of her bell kept us company all day)

We are continuing our journey along northern Spain… slowly. We’ve reduced the driving time to an hour so Denis can work as normal. And we are zig zagging across the motorway (not as dangerous as it sounds) to spend a night near the sea followed by a night in the hills.

(There was an old graveyard near our stop with these pretty flowers just growing wild)

So last night was near the sea. 1.5km from the sea to be exact. We took down the bikes at 5pm and it was a lovely, mainly downhill, ride to the cliffs. Of course when it’s downhill on the way out it’s always uphill on the way back but we managed. We kept ourselves going by remembering the fitness goal might be getting closer.

(Beautiful view at the end of a short bicycle ride)

One of the new routines I started at New Year was drinking celery juice on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. I was very attracted to its benefits. It’s a bit of a palaver washing the stalks, chopping them, mashing them in the blender and then straining the mush through a sieve bag but any habit gets easier if you keep going. I checked with Denis before we left that the solar power battery would be up to the job of running the blender and he answered in the affirmative. We’ve been married long enough for me to realise that yes definitely doesn’t always mean yes definitely to the question you just asked. In this case it meant yes definitely that might work…

(Doesn’t that look like a face on the cliff?)

Now we’re here and I have a blender taking up space in the cupboard and three bunches of celery (from Spain via Tesco Greystones…) taking up space in the fridge with no way of bringing the two together to make juice. I’m lying, whenever we are hooked up to external electricity I can run the blender. This morning we were hooked up and I washed, chopped and began to blend. That’s when I realised how loud a blender is and how thin our walls are and how many people were sleeping around us in their thin walled vans. Maybe it was just about bringing the celery home.

To Spain, I mean. Mairead.

(There we are just west of Santander in a town called Cóbreces. €12 got us parking, electricity, WiFi, toilet and shower)

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Ruby fits in just fine

(Plenty of room)

We’re in Spain! We had hoped to move diagonally across Spain to Portugal but the elevation means they’ll be getting snow on Thursday… and we don’t need any more snow experiences, thank you. So we are (sort of) hugging the northern coast with its lower elevation.

(There we are beside the toilet and shower)

Last night we stayed in the mountains, in a tiny village with tiny lanes leading to a lovely little parking spot. There was shower, dish washing sinks and a spotlessly clean toilet. It was free if you didn’t need electricity and we didn’t.

(Mine’s an iced tea)

We went for a drink at the bar in the village and it was full of locals with more people outside (with their coats on.) There was a pharmacy also but no shops as far as I could see, maybe the second bar had a grocery.

(Isn’t that lovely?)

I did get up early this morning and so there was time to go for a walk before we left. We both have a steps app on our phones that compares my steps with Denis’s. One’s competitive nature could mean we’ll both be fitter when we get back! Unfortunately the walks all lead uphill so we didn’t cover much in the way of distance but the views were lovely and the air was entirely healthy for us.

 

(That’s us, the yellow dot west of Bilbao)

From northern Spain, Mairead.

 

 

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Kerrygold, Ballymaloe and fried brain

(Cute natural arch in front of the church)

We are making great progress considering how we dawdled at the Le Mont. But between the clock change and the new routine my brain is fried. So it is great to have a little bit of normality in the fridge. I know it sounds crazy considering we’re travelling to get an experience of different. Different places, different people, different languages, and different foods. That will start when the butter runs out so for now it’s ham and coleslaw rolls with lashings of butter and a dollop of Ballymaloe.

(We brought some Ireland with us…)

We left Mont St Michel around 11am yesterday and travelled all day down the west coast to a small town between Niort and Bordeaux. The town was called Saint-Genis-De-Saintonge. Our car park for the night was beside the cinema and our payment included parking, 4 hours of electricity, 10 minutes of water and one free entry to the movie! The movie was called Le Chat du Loup and there was a picture of a submarine on the poster. It was probably in French but if there had been a picture of a garden and a picnic I might have been tempted. I didn’t mention the submarine to Denis, I just said it was about a cat and didn’t sound very interesting. He likes submarine movies. Best he not know.

(French is a tricky language…)

I have a great plan to set my alarm for 6am while we’re travelling. Actually, setting the alarm is the easy part, getting up when the alarm goes off is a bit more difficult… Not helped by the time difference in France. I’ve been trying to explain it to Denis that 6am turned into 5am. (He’s happy with his 8am alarm.) To top it all the daylight savings means this morning my 5am became 4am. Hang on what am I saying, maybe this is why my brain is fried. New plan: no alarm, wake naturally.

I’ll let you know, Mairead.

(Yellow dot at the bottom of this map is where we stayed)

Camping Car Park: Saint-Genis-De-Saintonge.

GPS: 45.483055 -0.566322

Cost: €7 includes electricity, water, cinema

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Le Mont

(Le Mont St Michel. Sun was just gone down)

We arrived at Beauvoir (means beautiful view) last night about ten minutes before sunset. Beauvoir is a motor home site within walking distance of Mont St Michel. We plugged in the electricity and took a brisk walk to get a view of Le Mont before it got too dark.

(The front door!)

I love this place. From a distance. Up close. Or walking on the ramparts. There’s something aesthetically pleasing everywhere you look. And the place just feels good too. You do have to pay way more for your coffee and croissant but you’re eating in a cathedral.

(Main street)

After the quick walk we went back to the van and Denis cooked dinner while I finished yesterday’s blog. I was asleep before 10pm.

(Breakfast)

Then this morning we walked all the way to the free bus (2.5km) and were walking through the gate by 9am. We had our breakfast – takeaway Nespresso machine americano and croissant. And it’s yum because we’re here and sometimes when you think a place is great it doesn’t matter how the coffee’s made!

See you tomorrow, Mairead.

(The van water is free when you stay the night. That box in front is for emptying the toilet casette…)

Motor Home Parking Details: Aire de Camping Car de Mont St.Michel, Beauvoir.

GPS coordinates: 48.593295 -1.512965

Overnight: €13.50 includes water and electricity

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