Back in Ireland

(Passing gates, grass, hedges and ploughed fields on our way home…)

We did indeed have calm seas with just a bit of waving motion which I don’t like so I went back to bed until it passed.

When we finally arrived at home trick or treat was in full swing. It was pitch dark, children and adults were wandering on and off the paths. Fireworks were exploding and it took a bit of effort to negotiate the reversing of Ruby into her spot. The freezer had defrosted itself while we were away so that needed attention. Everything else was fine.

Now it’s the next morning and time to write a to do list, hug the washing machine and get the groceries. Oh and empty Ruby, we couldn’t face that in the dark last night.

I do have another project in mind and as you know, from past experience, I have to tell you about it in order to do it but I’m not ready yet… instead I’ll write to you in a week and bring you up to date.

For now: Thank you for reading. To those who emailed or texted or commented or bought my book I really, really appreciate the time and effort and expense you expended.

Thank you for joining us as we wandered this autumn around France in Ruby. Mairead and Denis.

(There we are in Greystones)

I might be hallucinating…

(We found another amazing Beautiful Village of France)

It’s a wee bit dreary today. I’d love to sit by the fire eating some scones just out of the oven. I suppose it had to happen, I’m suffering from scone-sickness. Croissants, even the ones with almonds can only do so much but when it’s cold and wet and the skies are grey there’s nothing like a hot scone.

(This is a classy village)

There’s nothing like a scone in France either. They have no idea what a scone is. That’s probably the reason the French have such amazing pastries, they are searching for the perfection of… the scone. It’s the one recipe I remember all the ingredients for. In fact I could tell you now, sitting here in the bed in my two winter fleeces and my hat, how to make scones.

(Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s called Saint Céneri Le Gérei)

First you’ll need a pound of self raising flour. That is not a metric measurement and I’m sorry about that but it’s how I learned to make scones and it’s part of the mystic place the scone has in my heart. Also, self raising flour might be just in Ireland… sorry about that. Then you’ll need some butter, 2 ounces is perfect. Also, 2 ounces of sugar. Then one or two eggs and enough milk (doesn’t have to be cows milk, almond’s milk or rice’s milk will work too) to bring the eggs up to a mug full. No I don’t know the size of the mug. It’s my favourite mug, if that helps?

(Full of pretty houses)

Now, before you start, feel your feet on the ground and muster up a good strong grateful feeling in your belly because this opportunity to be as one with some scones has arrived in your life. Then… begin. Weigh out the ingredients and break the eggs into your mug and add the milk or milk variant to them. Chop the butter up into little lumps. It would be great if you had one of those old fawn coloured ceramic mixing bowls from the 1960’s but if not any big bowl will do. You’ll also need an oven tray.

I nearly forgot, turn on the oven to very hot, 200 degrees C or whatever that is in your oven.

(And streets…)

Sieve the flour into the big bowl, pour in the sugar, then add the butter. Rub the butter in with your fingers. Now, take your time, this bit is not to be rushed, this is the best bit. You have to take up flour and a bit of butter reverently in each hand, hold your hands over the bowl and rub your thumb against your fingers so the flour and butter can get mixed. Repeat until the mixture in the bowl looks a bit like breadcrumbs.

(Pretty church)

You might need to wash your hands now, although you should have washed your hands in the beginning, to be honest the rubbing gets your nails lovely and clean… Now it’s time to add the egg/milk mixture. Pour half of the egg/milk mixture into the flour/sugar/butter mixture and using a blunt knife mix the liquid into the dry. Add more liquid until the moment when everything seems to gel. There’s no separation, no bits of flour or butter on the edge, instead there’s one big lump of dough.

(Pretty doors…)

Now, hold your horses, just because this is dough doesn’t mean you have to be rough with it. That’s only for bread and pizza. Scone dough is precious, you continue as you started by treating it with reverence. Take a handful of flour from the bag and shake it over the table (or counter) then place the scone dough, gently onto the bed of flour.

(Here’s the end of the 30km speed limit just in time for the narrow bridge…)

The plan here is to gently shape the dough into a ball and then gently flatten the ball so it’s about two inches high. Then you need to cut the dough into squares with a sharp knife or if you have a scone cutter, into circles. When that’s done, get your oven tray and shake a little flour from the bag onto it and then place the dough scones on the tray. Leave some room between each scone because if you’re lucky your scones will get bigger as they cook.

(Where two roads meet in the village)

Now put them into the hot oven, close the door and set a timer for 16 minutes. When the timer goes off, open the door, turn the tray so that the scones near the front are now near the back and the ones near the back are near the front. Close the door again and leave for 5 minutes, they might be done or you might have to leave them for another 10 minutes. No one knows… that’s part of the mystery of the scone. When they look absolutely gorgeous, they’re done. Take them out.

(There’s even some lovely lichen)

Put them on a cooling tray and take a picture, send me the picture. (No, wait… don’t send me the picture, it would be too upsetting.) Now, slice the scone in half, spread butter and jam on each half and eat it… slowly.

I can almost taste them, Mairead.

(There it is, Saint Céneri Le Gérei)

The Lovely Gentleman of La Flèche

(That’s the gate of the military school on the right and the spire of the church with the ashes to the left)

We spent three nights in La Flèche, the longest we’ve stayed anywhere this trip. On Saturday I went to the tourist office and got a booklet with a walking tour of the town. Then I took a seat outside a cafe, had a cup of green tea and started reading.

(This old shop used to be a haberdashery, selling buttons, sewing supplies and material, sigh)

I hadn’t got very far in my reading when a gentleman who had been sitting outside also, approached me nodding at the booklet and saying something in French. I think he was saying are you enjoying your holidays? but he suddenly stopped when he saw the cover and said, oh you are English! I said, oh yes I’m Irish.

(This is France)

He knew loads about his town and was very interesting. He told me how I could get into the military school if I had a ID card with me. Just be brave and knock on the door and say you want to see the church! He proceeded to tell me that the hearts of the King Henry IV and his wife are in there. Well, not their entire hearts… there’s a story.

(Another little laneway)

The King had always said he wanted his heart buried in the church but that may have just been his way of saying he loved the place. Anyway whoever was in charge of such things took him at his word and when he died they put his heart (or the ashes from his heart, maybe) into an urn in the church. Then when his wife died her heart went into the urn too. Then something they hadn’t anticipated happened – the French Revolution.

(Vintage travel)

In the heel of the hunt the poor king and queen’s urn was taken out into the streets and burned. All was not lost though, some kind gentleman swept up as much of the ashes as he could and kept them safe. These ashes, of the ashes, are in the military church. My new friend was in a hurry to go off and meet his wife so we parted company and I went down to knock on the door of the military school with my Irish driver’s license.

(Another one of the old signs)

I could still be there knocking, for all the good it did me. French schools are on mid-term just like Irish schools. There was no one around. But at least I was brave enough to knock. One other interesting thing he told me was about the river. I’ll tell you tomorrow but in the meantime see if you can guess, there’s a hint in the following photo…

The kindness of strangers. Mairead.

(La Flèche on the Loir)

And here’s La Flèche on the map…

A sign of the times…

(This barn wall looks like a piece of mosaic art)

Sometimes when I can’t think of what to tell you at the end of a day I look at the pictures I’ve taken. I’m often surprised at what I see. In the moment when I take a picture it’s because something feels right. Plus, I always take more than one. To have six pictures on a blog I have to take at least three times that amount. Then I have a choice. Maybe not a choice of subject but a choice of angle or light or detail.

(The river)

I’m just using my phone so it’s not complicated, the most important part of the process is – take a picture. I know if I don’t have a picture on a particular day I can always use one of the spares from a previous day but it feels like a mistake. I imagine you will understand better what I’m saying if there’s a picture of the thing I’m talking about. I wonder if the blog is about pictures more than anything else.

(Can you see the two Christmas trees?)

Anyway, just now I was looking at a picture of an old signpost attached to a building in the town of Chaunay, where we stayed on Monday night. It turns out the picture tells a short story of our journey this season. Here’s the signpost:

(Signpost in Chaunay)

I took the picture because I love… old signs, the colour blue and the feeling I got when I saw it. There was a scaffolding around the building and the sign was up on the second floor but I didn’t climb the scaffolding… I stretched a bit instead. Then I walked on. Now as I’m looking at the picture I notice what it says…

(Still autumn, barely)

At the top it says, Vienne, the department. Next line says it’s the R10 road from Paris to Bayonne. Next line is the name of the town, Chaunay. Then there’s an arrow showing the direction and distance to the town of Chez-Fouché, 5.2 kilometers and the town of Couhé, 10.6 kilometers.

(Night sky in Chaunay)

As a signpost for modern travel it’s not much use, it’s too small, the font is minuscule, there’s too much information on it, it only gives the closest towns not the biggest towns, its flat on a wall so you’d have to stop to read it.

As a signpost for going slow and stopping to look at the little things, it’s perfect, Mairead.

(There’s Chaunay on the N10)

We are lost…

(Cute touches everywhere, like flowers in the stone fonts)

Aubeterre is one of the Beautiful Villages of France. It’s on the official list but even if you didn’t know about the list you’d think it was beautiful. It’s old stone houses are perched on a couple of hills and there’s even a church built into one of them.

(The house of the potter)

We found it by accident yesterday, a wet and dreary Sunday. Everything was dripping rain, the shops and cafes were closed, there was nowhere to buy even a bottle of water but this place warmed our hearts.

(Pretty tiles)

There is seriously no end to the beautiful places you can find in rural France. Sunday’s and Monday’s are still quiet days though, where the baker gets a break from the 4am start. Sometimes even the supermarket has no baguettes on a Monday morning. This can cause serious anxiety.

(Pretty windows)

The days are getting shorter now and the temperatures are decreasing it’s nearly time to go home – only nine more days and it’s probably just as well. They say it takes less than a month to build a habit and I can confirm that because I have built a solid baguette habit in that time. I’m on one half one a day but I feel the pull to go deeper.

(Look, someone lives there and sits outside at a little table)

You may not have read the reports but baguettes are just a gateway confectionary. They lead directly to pastries and this country has more varieties of pastries than we have potatoes. There’s the croissants, innocuous enough on their own but some days there are no croissants left… so, what do you do? Leave empty handed? No. You choose a pain au chocolate (kinda croissant with chocolate chips). That there is the slippery slope.

(Pretty cafe and restaurant and Jesus)

You may not have heard of the Viennese Almonde yet but you soon will. It is quietly taking over the lives of those who take one bite. No one is immune to its power. Just say No! That’s all you have to do, but saying no is what’s difficult.

(Lovely shades of green just don’t drink the water…)

You naively go into the boulangerie thinking, you’ll just get a baguette, a skinny little trifle of baked goodness. What harm could that be? While you wait – because you must wait, there is always a queue. The boulangerie ties with the mobile phone provider for popularity in France. Every boulangerie has an entrance door and an exit door – have you ever wondered why? I have. It’s because they are very busy…

(More pretty flowers)

Anyway, while you wait your eyes stray towards the adorable cylinder-shaped-just-for-one-4-strawberries-suspended-in-jelly-on-a-baked-meringue-base. Just looking at it and your mouth gets to work preparing to bite into it while your head screams, Noooo! That’s when the Viennese Almonde seems like a good idea. It’s almond, so basically healthy, right? It’s bigger. Yes. But. You won’t eat it all, will you?

Save yourselves, we are lost, Mairead.

(That’s where Aubeterre is located)

Thunderstorms Always Include Lightening

(One Mississippi)

My shoes are still soaking, so are my second best pair of jeans, socks, raincoat. We walked back from the town last night after dinner. All day it was hot and overcast. Funny weather. The kind you know means something is coming. What could it be? What’s coming?

(A different happy day)

Rain. It could be rain is coming. It was rain. Rain came. Buckets of it. We weren’t very far from town, just far enough to get totally soaked and totally frightened to death. Well I was totally frightened to death. Denis thought it was a “new experience”.

(I’ll never complain about fog again)

You’re probably thinking rain isn’t that frightening. Who would be frightened of a little rain? Not me… I’m not afraid of rain. Lightening, I’m afraid of lightening… it was lightening. We were having a lovely meal when it started. I nearly choked on my canard trying to count one-Mississippi; two-Mississippi… to figure out how far away it was. But what does that number mean anyway? How big does the number have to be to be safe? Please god let 4 be a big enough number!

(Lovely clouds)

It’d be ok we’d ask the waitress to call a taxi. I went back to chewing. Excuse-moi could you call a taxi for us please? Confused looks, French words, not sure what that means but no, it’s ok she is calling. Hang on, she’s saying je suis desole…

(Nice flower)

She’s sorry, why is she sorry, Denis? No taxi. The weather is too bad, he’s taking the night off…. What?! My eyes are on stalks. She asks, Do you have an umbrella? I make a smile appear on my face, Yes, thank you we’ll be fine. She is distraught, No! Don’t use the umbrella, it will be dangerous! I make a laugh come out of my mouth, Oh, thank you. We’re dead.

(Happier days)

We’ve finished eating ages ago. Everyone else has left the restaurant. The waitress is closing the door. It’s time to go outside. This is a new experience. Don’t you love new experiences? Don’t I love new experiences? No! No, I don’t love new experiences. I actually bloody hate new experiences! I have rain proof shoes, I’ll be fine.

(Reflecting on nice things)

They’re not rain proof. I can feel the water squelching around my toes. I instantly forget that with the first flash of lightening. I call the son of god, his mother and Joseph, I can’t help myself, I am way beyond dainty cursing.

(Formerly, my biggest fear…)

Denis’s arm is black and blue from the tight hold I have of him. I’m back to counting Mississippis and now I really need to know what number is safe? Is it three?!? The thunder comes at eight and I start to remember the other things that keep you safe… Don’t stand under a tree… ok. Don’t stand in a doorway… ok. Don’t stand out in the middle of a field..ok. But where should I stand? Can I stand in the middle of the road? Do I have to stand? Can I keep walking? Should I run? Not run?

If it wasn’t so frightening it would be beautiful. Unfortunately, the part of my brain that recognises beauty is short on oxygen at the moment. All oxygen supplies are needed for fear production. We’re home. Get into dry clothes. Take a breath. Oh no hang on, what do that say about sitting near windows? Denis, get away from the windscreen!

(Scary bridge on the way to CERN)

Hang on I’ll ask Siri, HEY SIRI! WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM IN A MOTORHOME IN A THUNDERSTORM? It took her a moment to process and then she said ok, Married (she can’t pronounce Mairead) I found this on the web, Thunderstorms always include lightening. Don’t use anything electrical… I slowly back away from my phone.

Not a true story, Mairead.

Ps. Is.

Living Rich in Ancient France


(The single-lane stone bridge into Vieille-Brioude)

Stopping for a coffee or for the night in ancient villages and towns is making me feel a little bit overwhelmed. They are so beautiful, they are so weathered, they are so peaceful… and there’s so many of them. They are telling me something. But what are they telling me? No idea… yet. We keep moving on, as we have a plan to be in a big city by next weekend, but I want to take a moment here to listen to a few of these ancient places.

(On the stone bridge)

We stopped in Vieille-Brioude on our way to Massiac (the Village Étape). Something made me tell Denis to follow the signs. We were on a dual carriageway but I spotted the village in the valley below. A single-lane stone bridge led across a river valley. It was about that time I started doubting the detour. All is well, it was sturdy, we survived.


(Worn down by the years…)

After a peaceful coffee (yes even the coffee has a touch of peace about it) we went for a wander. I took photos of almost every door in the village. They all looked so good, I suppose it helps that the sun was shining but it wasn’t just the sun. Every door seems to tell a story.


(Briode is 4.1km away from Vieille-Briode)

On Saturday after leaving our spot by the river and visiting Puy de Dôme we travelled to Meymac. Here we were lucky enough to wake up to a market on Sunday morning and a story.

(Jean Gaye-Bordas built this house in Meymac during the good times)

Jean Gaye-Bordas was born in a nearby village in 1826. He had a poor start but that didn’t prevent him from leading a very interesting life. He put Meymac on the map with his slogan, Meymac, prés de Bordeaux, (Meymac, near Bordeaux.) Not exactly a catchy slogan, not accurate either as Meymac is nearly 300km (3 hours by car today) from Bordeaux but the people in the north of France didn’t know that nor did the Belgians. They didn’t care, they were delighted with Jean. On with the story…

(The church in Meymac)

You see, Jean had this great idea, the results of which can be seen in the very impressive houses in the town. He had travelled as a young man to Bordeaux doing anything he could to earn a living. He was illiterate but very smart and noticed everything around him. He spotted opportunities, like when he saw a guy sending wine to a relation in Lille (a city in northern France near the border with Belgium).

(The hotel, notice the telephone notice over the door…)

Jean realised, what no one else did, that wine from the south would be most appreciated up north because even back then Bordeaux wine had a great reputation. His idea – travel to Lille and Belgium and go door to door selling wine from “his vineyard in Meymac near Bordeaux“.

(Center of the old town)

You already know Meymac isn’t near Bordeaux and you can probably guess he didn’t have a vineyard either but he didn’t need one. He sold the promise of wine, before it was produced and then used the advance money the Belgians gave him, to buy from real vineyards in Bordeaux and deliver back up north. He was an entrepreneur. You could even say he invented crowdfunding.

(Even the sheds are cute)

Many others in the village followed his example. A lot even made enough money to buy vineyards in Bordeaux, as did Jean. By the time he died on the 30/12/1900 he was penniless. He had won and lost many fortunes. As you walk around it’s possible to see the results a thriving wine business can have on a community.

(Fortunately, we didn’t try to drive down here)

I really like Jean. I was a bit sorry he didn’t die rich but then I realised he lived rich and that’s probably more fun.

Live rich, Mairead.

General Area…
Meymac on left; Vieille-Brioude on right

The Sleeping Volcanos

(View from the top)

There’s a lot I didn’t know about volcanos. Like, they are called dormant if they’ve erupted in the recent past and they are extinct if they’ve erupted in the distant past. We visited Le Puy de Dôme volcano and it’s dormant… sleeping. So not extinct then? Fortunately, I didn’t know this before we stood on top. As I also didn’t know that recent past, can mean 15,000 years ago, no harm done. Unless we are very unlucky today isn’t the day it blows.


(Oh look a train…)

We were driving for about an hour when we saw signs for Puy de Dôme. We’d been here years ago on the motorbike and Denis said, Pourquoi pas? (his favourite French phrase) meaning, why not? The sun was shining and it seemed like a nice opportunity for a walk. It was… after a train ride up the steep bit.

P1080407(That’s a visitor center on the right)

This whole area, Chaîne Des Puys, is full of volcanos and I learned that there are three different types. (1) The Dome, lava seeps our through a gap near the top of the mountain, leaving a dome shape when it cools. (2) The Cone, where the lava blows the top off the mountain leaving a saucer shape. (3) The Maar, lava and water mix and there’s a huge explosion creating a crater with a lake. There are examples of all of these around here.


(That’s one of the cone volcanos)

The Romans recognised Puy de Dôme as the perfect place to build a temple, so they built one. The ruins are still here. The Romans were way ahead of their time and invented creative ideas for lifting huge blocks. There was a video (in French) explaining how they did it. It involved a notch in the huge stone block and a block of wood, a similar size to the notch and some clips. I wish I had pictures to help me explain but trust me it was ingenious. Oh, now I’m wondering if the notch shaped block of wood might have actually been a notch shaped block of metal… apologies to any Romans reading.


(There was a beautiful view out this window…)

The French recognise the beauty here and have been visiting the Dôme for a long time. There was even had a steam train at one time. It used to be you could drive up to the top too but now you can only walk… or take a little tourist train. We took the train.


(Our fellow travellers)

The train leaves every half hour at this time of year and travels slowly up to the summit, passing walkers and even cyclists. We didn’t wave out at them but they made us feel absolutely thrilled to be sitting inside. One needs to know one’s limits after all… or does one? Possibly one is just choosing an nice easy day in France.


(And Denis on the edge…)

Pourquoi pas? Mairead.

Ps Puy means ancient mountain, isn’t that lovely?

(There’s the Puy de Dôme)

Brives Charensac

(Cheerful flowers)

We were passing through a lovely little town, with a long name, this morning and we stopped to have a look around. No big deal, you think… but it kinda is. You see, we’re normally too big to fit in the car parks in the lovely little towns unless they have assigned camping car parking or big supermarket parking – with no height barrier.

(Can you see the old bridge?)

In France there’s so much assigned camper car parking that we don’t mind when we can’t stop everywhere. But I saw a knitting shop and two seconds later a car park with a wide entrance – it was a sign. Stop here.

(Reflecting on the Loire… see what I did there?)

We got a grand spot too, it might have been for a bus so we fitted in just fine. Then we went off for a wander. This town is also on the Loire, so we’re definitely getting better acquainted with the longest river in France, and it was looking beautiful today.

(There’s the old bridge from the new bridge)

We stopped for a quick cafe long (might be spelled allonge) it’s the French version of an americano and then a little look at the wool shop. I’ve been thinking of knitting a cushion with huge needles in very chunky wool. Every time I think of it I get a warm feeling in my stomach or could be my gut, somewhere in the middle anyway. I know exactly what I want. I didn’t find it… yet.

I’ll keep looking, Mairead.

(There’s Brives Charensac!)

Here’s the link: where you can go to get yourself, or a friend, a copy of Everyday Fearless… I’m off to my next project but before I go I have two favours to ask. 1. If you have a friend who likes reading please let them know about the book, I have such a small community and I’d love to share my work with more people. 2. Please leave a rating or review on Amazon, it really helps people find the book. Thank you so much! xxx