The Weather Show

Here comes the Weather Show!

And then the rains came. Storms all over central France. Bringing a weather show like we haven’t seen in Ireland.

Raindrops and green leaves

The stage opens with the temperature rising, humid damp heat follows your every move. Don’t move! Except to open every window and door. The skies slowly fill in with white clouds turning to grey clouds. Then something shifts.

The navy blue sky

The sky grows darker, darker again, almost navy blue. And here comes the music – booming thunder. And the light show – streaks of lightening. And the finale – beating rhythm of torrential rain while we race to secure the roof windows. And all for free.

Raindrops and River

And then it’s all calm again with a cooling breeze, sunshine and fluffy white clouds.

Fluffy clouds return

The heatwave in Spain has made us very grateful for weather, any weather. (Well, any weather except weather with temperatures that start with a 3 and are two digits long.)

Another show tomorrow

By the time we return home at the end of this month we will have forgotten the heatwave and be wishing for a few extra degrees, in the meantime we are enjoying the rain.

Remember Now

Tavira in the sun

This is the first time we’ve ever entered Portugal via the Algarve, the most popular sun holiday area in the country. It’s busy and it’s full of billboards promoting holiday experiences. There are huge shopping centres and factory outlets and it’s a bit more expensive than the north. (Which incidentally seems to be the opposite in Spain.) Now, having said that we spent our first night in Castro Marim in the free motorhome parking with a visit to the Castelo for €1.20 and an inspiring nata and coffee for two, just €4 – the opposite of expensive.

Tavira on the Gilão River

Early Tuesday morning we set off for Tavira, a very pretty town on the coast that benefits greatly from sea breezes – the temperatures have risen to 28℃ and I’m wilting a little. We are staying here for a few nights, it’s got everything we need including a supermarket nearby and the town just a 30 minute walk. The main difference between Spain and Portugal is practically everyone here speaks English which is great – except for my Spanish practice. But I have found a workaround. The Portuguese speak Spanish (and French too!) So I have been continuing to practice, although I usually take pity on them trying to understand me and go back to English.

Tavira on the map

When we got here the temperatures had just started to rise and the entrance was packed with motorhomes arriving and leaving and I was craving space and quiet. I picked the farthest parking spot from everyone else I could find. Within the hour I realised why we were alone. The train line is so close that the glasses rattle whenever it passes. I’m making it sound worse than it is, it’s a short train and very quiet and it runs only during the day and not very often but it speeds by and the glasses do rattle. We got used to it. The only disturbing thing is seeing the locals who use the tracks to take a shortcut home from the shops. Another disaster movie to add to the list – my mind loves to frighten me. I have been trying to take a picture of the train passing but it kinda sneaks up on me and then it’s gone faster than I can pick up my phone and click the camera. (I did get one)

That’s the train speeding past us

A bit like this journey, already Spain has speeded past. We are having so many new experiences and seeing new places we think we will never forget but even newness becomes familiar. If I wasn’t writing it down I would forget so much. Before we went away I bought some books – physical books, I mean. I always have a way to read digital books but I wanted something to hold in my hand this time. It’s not easy to get books in English while on the road. Anyways, two different friends had recommended The Magic by Rhonda Byrne (she wrote the secret.) It’s a book to help you start a gratitude practice. Every morning you write down ten things you are grateful for and every evening you remember one thing you are most grateful for during that day. Each day you read a chapter where she goes into a bit more detail about things you might not have thought about being grateful for.

Tavira cobblestones

I used to think of gratitude as a command, something you should do or else you’re a bad person! But gratitude is more a recommendation than a command. As in… it is recommended if you want to feel better every day notice the things you’re grateful for. Directing our attention towards all we have instead of what we’re missing.

I love old buildings

And today the thing I am most grateful for is you ❤️ You reading is very much connected to me writing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Didn’t want you to miss out on a discount!

This feels a bit like confession – it’s been three months since my last blog. And since then I’ve been learning how to make videos in the fridge for my Instagram. Applying to be on the Late Late for Small Business (wasn’t picked😏) Figuring out how to get started on Twitter. Getting (almost) comfortable on Facebook. Risking extreme embarrassment asking local shops if they would stock the cards – without success 😳 while an adorable shop (called Sunfleck) in Dungarvan found me and asked to stock them! So, they’re in a shop! And today I sent my first newsletter.

These past five months since I launched Permission Cards have been a blast and in case you don’t know, you have played a huge part in that. I didn’t know it when I started but a big part of selling online involves writing. Writing posts to different social media platforms, different accounts, groups, writing copy for the website, writing and answering comments, writing thank you notes to customers, writing emails, writing a newsletter. So all the times I was writing to you from our travels in the camper van or on the motorbike I’ve been in training for this season of my life. If you hadn’t been reading I wouldn’t have been writing to you. Go raibh maith agat! Look at what you did – you have been supporting my small business! Thank you! May we continue to walk each other home for years to come.

And finally, just in case you don’t follow me on social media I wanted to tell you about the discount I’m sharing at the moment. It’s 15% discount off Permission Cards until Sunday 28th November. Go to and use the code THANKYOU at the checkout.

No pressure, I just wanted you to know too.

Big Hugs, Mairéad

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The heartbroken Princess

(Setting sun)

Once upon a time there was as a little princess who was magic. She was able to get anything she wanted with her magic.

(Cozy quilt by the sea)

You might think a princess like this was happy or contented. She wasn’t. The first thing she said as soon as she got something was “but I want…” or ” but I need…” followed by what she wanted next. And because she was magic she got the next thing. So again you might think she was happy or contented because she got the next thing. She wasn’t.

(Wide door)

The sad thing was she was heartbroken. Of course she was. You see all she could think about was what she didn’t have. Her mind was full of loss and not enough and not as good as and less than and they have more than… You would be heartbroken too.

(Narrow passageway)

The most sad thing about this little Princess was she had the power to be happy. She could have been happy every single day of her life. She just didn’t know it. And no matter how many times the people around her told her she could not listen because her mind was so full of what she didn’t have.

(Funny statue in Setúbal)

You might ask why didn’t she get happy with her magic? Her magic could only bring her things, bring her places, bring her people. It was her power that could bring her happy. She never used it. There was a way she could have been happy for one day, just one day (or maybe half a day, just half a day) with her magic. By placing one of the things she got by magic in her mind for a full day (or just half a day if a full day was too long.) If she had been able to think of nothing but the joy of receiving the most recent thing she got and think only of that for a full day (or half a day) she would have been happy for that day.

(Lovely view in Alćacer do Sal)

She was never taught this by her parents so she didn’t know. She didn’t know about her power either and that was sad because it was even more powerful (that’s not a surprise is it?) than her magic. Her power was the story she told herself and her story was lack. Her story could so easily have been, plenty. Mine definitely could.

Could yours? Mairead.

Wash Day

IMG 6391

(Another lovely sunset)

Yesterday was wash day. Washing your clothes while travelling in a camper van requires a little extra organisation. [But before we start a health warning… Kate, close the email… there’s a picture of a snake in this post!] When we arrived last week we were at the limit of our clean clothes and we picked this site because it had a washing machine. It turned out to have so much more but that’s another story. So as soon as all our passport details were handed over I asked about tokens for the washing machines. (Would you like to know the cost? €3.73 and the sun dries them for free.)

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(Our washing…)

So we parked and I went straight to the washing machine room. But it was full. The washing machine, I mean. With someone else’s clothes. On other trips I would have happily taken out someone else’s washed and wet clothes and placed them on top of the machine to put mine inside but we’d had bit of an incident back in Vila Chã. There was a great washing machine there too and a dryer. Anyway, the incident… it had been raining for a few days but on the morning of the incident the sun was blazing so I took off to reception to buy a token. When I arrived at the machine with my bag of washing and my token there were three bags of washing beside the machine. There was also a man pulling clothes out of the dryer. I smiled and put my bag down in the queue.

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(Perfect drying weather)

I came back thirty minutes later to the incident…. the cleaning lady gesticulating and talking loudly in Portuguese to the maintenance man. I was considering backing out of the washing machine room when the maintenance man turned to me asking, is that your washing? pointing to the dryer. Sensing, clarity was of the utmost importance I shook my head violently while saying, No, No, No. Communication is great when it works and it worked this time because when I had stopped shaking he was smiling at me and telling me to go ahead and put my washing into the now empty machine… No idea what happened but it makes me think twice before taking someone else’s clothes out of a machine. On this occasion our need to have clean clothes made me brave.

IMG 6378

(This little snake stood between me and my washing…)

And now I’m feeling a ton of gratitude for my washing machine at home. When I’m at home I never notice how easy it is to throw some washing in the washing machine. I just don’t notice. I don’t notice and I take it for granted. But the way to a joy filled life and a happy filled heart is to notice all the simple things around me that bring me joy and allow every simple thing in my life to flow. Gratitude isn’t about being nice to someone, gratitude is about noticing the things and people who make your life lovely….filled with love. Noticing them and thanking them with love.

Step 14. Say thank you to your washing machine, Mairead.

Being Grateful


(St. John’s Gate – Parthenay)

I’m sitting on the swing as I write, in a little bit of shade, it’s way too hot out there under the bright light for my pale complexion. The really surprising thing about a hot day here is how cool it is inside in the cottage. It’s almost like there’s air conditioning in there. I think it must be the thickness of the walls. Caves are like that too, so it makes them a constant temperature year round, cooler than the summer heat and warmer than the cold winter.


(Half-timber house – Parthenay)

I realised a moment ago that we will be starting our journey home in just over a week. It was starting to feel like we could stay here forever! So it makes me think about some of the things I am grateful for here… The warmth – it’s been very hot this week and I love how sparkly everything is in the sun, including the spider’s webs (some photos of those would be nice). The garden – it’s lovely to be among green growing things. The peace – it’s so quiet, not silent, there’s buzzing and I can hear some neighbours chatting. I think I hear a farm machine in the distance and every now and then a bird singing. The trestle table – it has been (and will continue to be for the next week, I hope) fantastic to be able to work outside at this big wooden table made by human hands and planks of wood.


(Very cute house – Parthenay)

The distance from a retail hub – well, this was a big surprise to me, that I could be grateful not to be near a village, town or city. How would I spend my days? How would I fill the time? Where would I get some chocolate or croissants? Where would we eat? For as long as I can remember I have lived in a town (or a city) and always very close to (either next door to or a few hundred yards/meters away from) a shop. In Cashel where I grew up as a child besides the shops there were so many amazing places to visit (really, they did seem amazing!) There was the Rock of Cashel where stone staircases led to turrets that let up to the battlements, hundreds of feet up in the air and unprotected… Any parent’s nightmare – fortunately our parents never knew we were up there! And Hoare Abbey, an old ruined monastery, protected by huge cows (I was/am afraid of cows, so I only ventured in when they were eating the grass round the back). The town of Parthenay reminded me a lot of Cashel.


(Steep, unprotected steps, at the castle – Parthenay)

So I have come to understand that having no shops and castles and monasteries next door to wander around has actually been an advantage to me. Instead, I can wander around glue and paint, paper and canvas, scissors and fabric.


(See the seashell? Symbol of Camino – Parthenay)

I am also grateful that the only cows around here are firmly behind fences, Mairead.

The rain in Germany falls mainly on my helmet.

That was a very tiring day yesterday. I think it was nine hours on the road….04 07a

(Leaving our little town of Gries Im Sellrain)

It started out slow… Nice roads in Austria. Then it began to rain and get cold. You may remember the cold weather layers we were so eager to get rid of on the first journey through Germany just two weeks ago? Well we were equally eager to get it back on yesterday. But the rain was nice, it makes a lovely pitter, patter on my helmet and when you’re all cosy and warm inside layers of fabric it’s magical. Drank more tea yesterday also, for one thing the coffee is not the same once you leave Italy… and for another holding a mug of hot tea is the nicest thing in the world when you’re cold.

04 07b

(This seems to be the way they stack hay in Austria)

We stayed near Frankfurt last night and we were lucky they had a restaurant and the food was good. The view of Frankfurt was also very good. We could see planes leaving the airport but not hear them – perfect for  a good night’s sleep!

04 07c

(On our way to the motorway)

We have been incredibly lucky with our phone service. Three cheers for Three. We have been using it in on our mobiles in Ireland for more than a year now and for a monthly fee we get free data access. That was all grand and handy but what was a lovely surprise was there’s a Three in the Uk, in Austria and in Italy, so we got free data in those places too! No problem with data roaming and the stories of bills for thousands of euros for downloading an email (unless there’s a bill waiting for us when we get home……) So, yesterday as soon as we left Austria our phones turned back into phones. We couldn’t even check the weather (well, of course we could just look up…) and we had no idea what was happening to Mr. Snowdon. Then when we arrived at our hotel the nice man had to apportion out little bits of paper to us for access to the wifi… “there’s one for your phone and one for your laptop and one for….. and I’ll have to write those in the book….”

04 07d

(Austria, so pretty)

We’ll continue through Germany today and into the Netherlands, so no internet until we hit McDonald’s! Well, to be precise McDonald’s the Netherlands because in my experience McDonald’s Germany don’t do free wi-fi (one participant in my survey…)

04 07f

(Last check of wi-fi before we leave the 3-Austrian borders)

Gratitude List today: Austria – the beauty. Cold weather bike gear – the cosiness. Rain – as it splashes on my helmet. My helmet – as it stops the rain from splashing on my head! Hot tea – just holding it. Frankfurt – the food here in our hotel, the view, the sound proof windows. Three – the free data on holidays.

Until the Netherlands, Mairead

We arrived here in Austria.

We’re staying in a little town in the Austrian mountains called Gries Im Sellrain. And true to its name there was rain. With my new-found appreciation for rain, you can imagine I was very happy.

03 07d

(Near Florence, notice how flat the land is)

So… we left Florence yesterday morning at 8.45am and we arrived here at about 5pm and it’ wasn’t such a bad day. We did have a high of 30 degrees but we had a low of 17 degrees also. It was a bit of a shock to the system when I realised I might be cold. Hadn’t felt that for a while. The reality was that it wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold and it wasn’t too tiring. And… it seems my body has got used to travelling for long periods in one position and it wasn’t complaining.

03 07e

(Now you can see some hills in the distance)

I saved myself a lot of worrying and imagining scary things for nothing. Instead I spent my time noticing what was exactly in front of me and appreciating the stuff I liked. Scenery and nature were in front of me. Although Florence is very beautiful, we didn’t see a lot of nature. Not that there weren’t gardens, there were, but we didn’t go to them. We spent time in the streets and the museums and art galleries. So even though we were on a six lane highway now, there was plenty of nature all around us. And it was changing all the time.

03 07f

(The hills and mountains are getting closer)

We stopped every hour (ish) at motorway services and we have it down to a fine art by now. First one, breakfast. Second one fruit and water. Third one, lunch. Fourth one, ice cream or coffee and pastry.Last one shower! That makes five hours of driving and three hours of stops.

03 07g

(And closer)

Yesterday I promised to write a gratitude list and that has made me realise that I appreciate being able to go on this journey. To be able to take the time to do something so different. To have the health, the means and the will. To be able to visit places I have only read about or seen in documentaries. We live in privileged times and we don’t know it.

03 07a

(And finally we arrive in Austria)

While on this road I have been remembering my Dad tell us stories as children about his trip with friends to Rome. The story goes that they drove all the way from Baltinglass in Co. Wicklow, Ireland to Roma, Italy, more than fifty years ago. Before air conditioning, before motorways, before wi-fi! I would love to ask him about it now, but it’s too late, I didn’t know when it was possible to ask that I would want to know. And I would love to see photos of his journey but I don’t know if any exist.

03 07b

(In a little town with a funny church steeple)

So here’s my gratitude list….. Nature, the landscape of northern Italy and Austria from flat lands to huge craggy mountains. Motorway services – really! The journey. Rain… And finally I am grateful that I have the opportunity to write, to take photos and to make you all listen!!!

03 07c

(This is just one of that many signs to tell us… we are welcome :))

 Until Germany, Mairead.


(Thank you note)

I got a beautiful Thank you note from my niece this morning. It was pink and had hearts and flowers on it, all things I love. She said she loved the gift we had given her.

But…. what gift had we given her?

(I love hearts. Thank you Sally.)

Sometimes we can be completely unaware of the impact we are having on others. Our family, our friends, our neighbours, the people who serve us in the supermarket, the people we pass on the road in our car, on our bike or our feet. Are any of these people grateful for meeting us? Would any of these people send us a Thank you card? And what would it say if they did?

(…. Thanks!)

Thank you for listening to me…. Thank you for being there…… Thank you for smiling when you passed my door……Thank you for understanding when I made a mistake with your groceries……. Thank you for letting me pass at the narrow  part of the road…… Thank you for saying “Hi” when we met on the path…

Or what about the Thank you card you would send to them? Thank you for your support… Thank you for reading my emails…..Thank you for your understanding when our drains were mis-behaving (maybe not many people would have that one?)….. Thank you for admiring my skirt today, I wasn’t sure it worked…. Thank you for waving when I let you pass at the narrow part of the road….. Thank you for responding when I said “Hi”….

(Thank you, Thank you, Thank you)

These are not big things. But the impact – that’s BIG. Today my niece’s card has reminded me of gratitude. Thank you, Caoimhe, for reminding me and for being you.

What are you grateful for? Mairead.