On Sunday we arrived at our next beautiful village, Romieu. The name is a combination of pilgrim and Rome. The story goes that two monks returning from a pilgrimage to Rome in 1062 (they went via Santiago de Compostela) decided to start a monastery here in southern France. The town grew and the walls went up and the gates were built in the wall and the results was a very beautiful village. With monastery and church.
There’s a legend that during a very severe famine the people of the town had to do the unthinkable. They had to eat their pets… specifically their cats. But one young girl who was willing to starve rather than do that, hid her two cats and kept them safe. When the famine had passed and there was a successful harvest the girl and her cats and their kittens and grand-kittens saved the day. By protecting the town from the rats who were eating the harvest.
On Sunday there was a market on the streets of the village. Mainly flowering plants but also baskets, hats, jewellery and food. The place was hopping so much so the camping car parking was full of cars. It’s a surprising thing, coming from Ireland, that the French reserve parking places for camping cars just like they keep parking spots for disabled drivers. We can’t really blame them if they park in our spot on a busy market day.
We were just driving away when we saw a space outside a business on the edge of town. Well this is perfect because in France most businesses take Sunday off so we would not be in the way. And we headed back to this beautiful village, once more feeling very grateful to the French for the choices they make that end up taking care of us. Merci, France.
On Monday night we stayed out in the countryside at a small campsite near the town of Evoramonte. We stayed there again on Tuesday night as the heatwave had arrived and zapped our adventuring spirit. A rest was needed. Showers were also badly needed!
The campsite is owned by a Dutch couple who were very laid back. When we arrived it was the day before Freedom Day a public holiday in Portugal and the husband told us they were very busy so he wasn’t sure if there was anything left and wherever we could find a spot would be grand.
This way of doing things can lead to uncomfortable results… sometimes people leave their pitch for the day and expect it will be there when they return because they have mentioned it to the owner. We have been there and have become very sensitive to the signs of a pitch already taken. But there were no signs at one very pretty pitch.
In the evening we watched a couple pack up their camp when the original camper arrived back irate and questioned whether they had checked with the owner. Well… we knew it wouldn’t have helped if they had.
We might have been in their shoes if the spot had been a little bigger and the trees hadn’t been overhanging. It was a particularly nice spot with shade (from the overhanging trees) a pretty view of the castle in the distance and a cooling breeze coming across the valley.
If I was making up the story of an irate man and wanted to give him a happier life, I’d have him suddenly come to his senses. He might say… I don’t worry if I have a pretty space, I enjoy it and if it’s gone when I get back I enjoy where I find myself.
We had our own shade – not overhanging. It was from a row of Leylandii trees. Yes, the ones no one likes in their gardens anymore but when the sun passed it’s highest point they provided the deepest shade. The irate man might have said, trees are very generous with their shade.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the next day that I realised that besides shade the Leylandii tree also provided mosquitos… The irate man would have said, ah mosquitoes, another reason to love Ireland.
Before we left I had decided to write to you every day and then I though of your inbox filling up so that another email would feel overwhelming… and so I decided to stop writing to you for the weekend but I’ve changed my mind!
It’s been like stopping a big truck (or a motorhome) and then trying to push it forward again – not very pleasant. I’m not going to stop writing every day after all. Also, it’s so difficult to know if someone feels overwhelmed or excited to receive another email I would have to be able to see into their mind. Not possible. All I’m doing is reading my own mind and maybe I’m just overwhelming myself..? I really have to let that go.
This is my year of surrender so I better get surrendering. I read a book called The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer (maybe I already told you?) and it was life changing. Now, I say yes to opportunities. It’s how I was able to say yes to finishing the fiction book I started in 2020. And how I’ve decided to design a Permission Cards App. (These are not short term goals by the way, they are quests, a term I learned in Christy Lynch’s book, Explore your Life. I’m giving myself time to get these done.)
Saying yes does mean I get more projects in my To Do List but it also means I have to be comfortable with giving up a project. If it’s time to stop a project or change direction on a project I owe it to myself to trust my gut and support my inner knowing.
Back to today, I’ll keep writing the blogs every day and I’m going to trust you to read them or ignore them or even delete them as you support your inner knowing.
So here we are – our last week of the journey and I’ve been thinking.
We spent three days in Bayeux just relaxing, taking photos, having coffee in the mornings and dinner in the evenings and generally enjoying the last of France.
The weather has been very kind to us this last week, overcast with rain and the odd blue sky. And that has inspired an idea for a tourist campaign for Ireland with its perfect weather… The grey clouds you used to think were depressing are actually a huge fluffy blanket of protection from harsh sun. The rain that you used to think was annoying is actually cooling and nourishing. And the cold breeze…. we’ll yes that’s still a problem but two out of three, etc. Would you be attracted by my campaign?
Maybe you need to be escaping the red hot sun zone to have any interest in cool breezes, rain or grey clouds. But will we all, soon enough, be in this position?
I have been infected by the, but what can one person do? bug in relation to global warming. And this trip has been a kind of education. I feel so grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to make this journey. For two years we decided we couldn’t or shouldn’t and this year we decided we would. The week before we left I wondered again if it was the right time. While we have been away we have seen the return to pre-pandemic normal in the countries we visited to the point that we see very few people wearing masks. It’s more unusual that usual to see a person in a supermarket wearing a mask.
Before 2020 I thought pandemic was just a movie. Just before we left we watched a different movie called Finch. It was about a world where the consequences of global warming were very real and any amount of sunlight was toxic.
On our journey I realised I cannot get overwhelmed by the scale of the problem because that frightens me into looking the other way. What can I do? I can stay awake and take intentional steps. What does this mean for future trips in a motorhome? I don’t know… yet.
We were still in the town of Remoullins when we realised we needed water. There is water available at this parking but it’s a bit too close to the toilet cassette empty station… if you know what I mean? I mean the tap may have been contaminated… But we had a plan, we know a place nearby with a grand tap. The place where it rained!
So we packed up and drove the 4 minute route to water. While I emptied the grey water (dirty water from washing dishes and showers) into the drain, Denis got the hose to fill up with clean water. But… there was no hose, the hose was missing. We looked everywhere, there’s not a lot of places and we always put it in the same place… but you know what it’s like when you can’t stop checking just one more place. It wasn’t anywhere.
Questions:Where did we get water last? Did we leave it there? Did it fall out when I was taking out the table and chairs? Answers: Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know.
Not very useful answers. We have no idea where the hose and the many connection attachments (needed for different countries/areas) have gone. We felt the disappointment of loss… small enough loss for me but a little more upsetting for Denis. He had spent years of happy searching for those connections. He had his favourites – the metal ones. His least favourite but good in a pinch – the plastic ones. In a situation like this there is an opportunity to search for blame. As in, finding the specific person (out of two…) who might have forgotten to put the hose back after using it. It must have been our lucky day – we did not take the blame opportunity. We took the ask for help opportunity.
There was a French man standing outside his motorhome at the parking and Denis went over and with his best French asked for a loan of a water hose, which was given freely. Five minutes later we had water and I had assembled a Merci pour le tuyau d’eau card. I just hope it says thank you for the water hose and I just hope it means the same thing… We will need to buy a new water hose and start rebuilding our supply of connections.
Loss can create opportunity and you can choose the opportunity you want.
We arrived in a town called Bullas. We were following the sat nav and didn’t notice it was bringing us the direct route but not the best route. How would it know? It’s not real, it’s just a bit of software. Plus we humans didn’t know. Actually we don’t feel very human at the moment. We might have made a big mistake turning right instead of left leaving Portugal. East instead of West.
We were learning from the locals to drive in the morning and stop for lunch in the shade or better still in air conditioning and at to only park at a place with a tree or many trees and get out into the shade while the van sizzled in the heat. We had arrived from Antequera to the town of Vélez-Rubio (32℃) and made our way to the free parking on the edge of town under a tree. Perfect. I sat under that tree all afternoon. In the evening we walked to the town like everyone else and when the sun went down it started to get cooler. At 8am next morning it was already 17℃ and we set off down the road to Bullas and a campsite with trees, showers and a washing machine. The sat nav said it would take an hour. Easy.
Two hours later we arrived in Bullas. The sat nav took us the direct route through the mountains instead of the easy longer (but faster) route on the motorway. It was beautiful and frightening. Sorry, but there was no way we could stop to take photos, Ruby took up most of the windy narrow road. I will include a map to help you understand. This has happened before. with Our sat nav thinks we want to take short cuts – we don’t want to take short cuts! We know to check this before we set off. We didn’t check. We are off balance.
Right now my mind is doing somersaults with projections for how long more we will be in this heat. I wish I had a balanced mind available to do something useful about it. Should we go back to Portugal? Will it be any cooler there? How will I get the bookkeeping done? I cannot see a solution. It feels like this will continue for days and maybe even into France until we can get home at the end of June to cooler weather.
Oh that was good. Good to get those scary thoughts on the outside where they can float off. Right so… here’s the situation. It’s hot at the moment. The forecast says it will continue to be hot. So that’s given – a situation that’s true. But just because the forecast says there will be hot weather doesn’t mean there will be. But there might be. So deal with it when it comes. Already we have learned some things: 1. It’s cooler in the morning – go out in the morning. It’s cooler in the shade – find shade and sit in it. Dehydration pushes me off balance – drink liquids. My mid drives me crazy – practice meditation.
It’s 6.45pm and I’m staring out the window a the flags in the breeze. It’s funny how the heat changes your day. Normally I am starving for my dinner by this time but here I can’t think of eating or cooking. (Full disclaimer I had an ice cream at 4.30) It does leave a big gap in the day where I can get things done, like writing or waiting for the goats. That was my job today to wait for the goats to turn up and get photos for the blog. They never turned up. And you can’t really miss them, their bells announce their arrival. I’ve been doing bookkeeping while I wait. The breeze is amazing by the way, exactly what we need as there’s only a sliver of shade.
I saw a graph recently of the times the different nations of Europe eat dinner and I could not understand why the Spanish and Portuguese eat so late (the graph said 9.30 to 10pm.) I understand now. We had been eating at 6 or 7pm but now we are embracing the late dinner. We are also embracing the little siesta. We have not yet embraced the rising with the sun but I am still hopeful.
Soon we turn for home. I mean we start the journey back to Ireland. But which route? West along the Atlantic coast of Portugal? Or east to the Mediterranean coast of Spain? Both have their advantages and disadvantages. One is known and the other is unknown… to us. One is probably cooler (in degrees) than the other but who knows? One has plenty of motorhome stops and the other… might have also.
We are taking the unknown route. Of course we are. We want to see something new, we want to stay open to the possibilities. We are taking a chance and hoping it’ll be alright.
Like the day we drove in to meet our friends in Albufeira and we couldn’t find a parking spot and the stress was high. But of course we did find a parking spot and the stress went away when we sat drinking coffee and reminiscing.
And that lady on the zebra crossing probably didn’t even notice the noise of every dish in the cupboards sliding towards their end when we braked suddenly. Of course she thought it was me because I was sitting on the driver’s side. Maybe one of us should be looking at the road while the other is looking for parking?
And then we went off to the beach called Paria de Falésia. Dangerous hight orange red cliffs, sand and sea. The hotels around here are expensive but the motorhome park isn’t. The Portuguese owner tells me the longer we stay the cheaper it gets and we’ll want to stay. We’re staying three days but we met a guy from northern Ireland who’s been here for two years!
We were here in 2019 and I used to get up at dawn to walk down to the beach. It was so quiet and peaceful and cool. I might be allergic to the heat. We had rain yesterday and I was so excited I got ready to go for a walk but it had stopped…
One thing we’ve both noticed is how much closer everything is than we remembered. Last time it seemed a very long distance to the beach or the shop or the restaurant or the ice cream place. We feel like it’s shorter but nothing has moved… except us. We walk every day at home since 2020 and that small habit makes a huge difference.
My friend, Aileen, when she was encouraging me to walk back then used to tell me it was free energy. She said, if you feel tired during the day just go for a walk and you’ll get free energy. (She knew Denis loves a bargain.) Of course I didn’t believe her but she was right.
Now it seems like regular walking also fills up an energy tank that you can dip into when you have to walk farther than usual to get your ice cream. Might have accidentally started another habit.
It’s funny what you need on the road and what you (of course, I mean we) will put up with to get it. We stayed the last two nights parked in a noisy industrial estate just outside the city of Mérida. The location is in a yard surrounded by fencing and there’s a big locked gate. No one would say this was a pretty spot. Or a quiet and peaceful spot. But it has quite a few other things going for it.
We left the old part of Mérida early in the morning and between the parking app and google we were directed to the industrial estate. If you live near Dublin, think Ballymount industrial estate. One of the interesting things about this one in Mérida was most of the roads were one-way which adds an extra level of confusion when you’re lost… and we were lost. Google maps was saying, you have reached your destination but there was nothing but warehouses and weeds. We had driven around the same petrol station three times when we finally decided to drop in for diesel and find a different parking spot.
You’ll remember the whole issue with the gas shortage – that wasn’t? Well, I had also read about the very high diesel prices and we were checking prices every time we passed a petrol station (which is funny as my Dad used to do the same thing during my whole childhood) and this one had good prices. Anyway, Denis was outside about to take off the petrol cap when a young guy jumps out of his car and runs over to him and says something in Spanish followed by the word parking. Unlike me Denis isn’t learning Spanish but somehow he is surprisingly good at communicating regardless of language. Humph. He holds up the van keys and says, I’m just getting diesel. And the guy says, in English, parking and Denis replies, no I’m not parking here I’m just getting diesel. A couple more attempts and the young guy realises that in spite of his confidence Denis hasn’t a word of Spanish and he takes out his phone, speaks to it in Spanish and then holds it up. And the phone speaks… I’m from the parking place that you keep driving past, I can show you how to get there. Wasn’t that lovely? He saw we were confused and lost and he hopped in his car and caught up with us! We were smiling and laughing when the phone spoke again, You can’t get diesel at these pumps they are just for trucks, go around the corner.
We did go around the corner, got the diesel, got an extra discount off the pump price (my Dad would have loved that!) and then followed the young guy to the parking spot where he gave us a tour of all the services a motorhome needs, like water and water disposal and toilet disposal. There was also a toilet and shower and washing machine and just next door was their motorhome shop where you can get things fixed or changed or purchase stuff motorhomes need. The whole place is like a toy shop for motorhome owners. (By the way, we didn’t know any of this before we got here.)
It got me thinking – what do I really want and what am I prepared to put up with to get it?