Time to Return Home from the Vineyard

Time to head back to the UK for a brief stop before flying back down to Austria to do a spot of dog sitting.

So why we hear you ask, as you’re already in the South of France, are you not just simply continuing through to Austria rather than a trip back to the UK 1st. Just two simple reasons.

1. We don’t have winter tyres, a legal requirement for Germany and Austria from 1st November.

2. Life intended us to enjoy a few other treats on our homeward journey.

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We head off Monday morning from the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer after a quick rearrange of the car to ensure we could squeeze our rather large oak wine barrel souvenir in the boot and just a few boxes of wine to share with our friends back home.

First stop is a small village Le Peage de Roussillon, just 10 miles from Lyon in the Rhone Valley. This was a great little find, the village was nothing special but the place we stayed was.

La Port du Sud was run by a lovely lady, Aude, who greeted us with a warm log fire and an amuse bouche. (A small selection of appetisers) The rooms were lovely and there was a large kitchen, dining room and lounge for guests. We were offered dinner but declined as we had eaten but after seeing what the other guests got we wish we had said yes 🙄. There was even complementary wine and beer! Aude makes us a great breakfast in the morning. Everything from local baked apples and local cheeses to a homemade caramel yogurt that Steve really enjoyed and he even had seconds….

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Day two’s stop was in Beaune, we stayed in an average place outside of town, if we did it again we would stay in the centre as the town was lovely. Whilst here, we thought it would be rude not to eat Beef Bourguignon, drink a glass of burgundy and have a wander around loads of lovely wine shops and perhaps buy just a couple more bottles for the wine rack.

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Day three saw us back in Champagne in a different area to last time. We turn up at Domaine Ployez – Jacquemart to be met by Charles, he explained we are the only ones staying in the champagne house that night and he was leaving about 19:00 and would not be back until the morning. He locked up and gave us the codes and said the place is all yours so if you want to turn the music up and have a party feel free! We have a nose around and open all the doors to peek inside. The place was amazing and the table set up ready for the morning with just two place settings, the honesty bar was a fridge full of champagne. It was so cool to have the place to ourselves. In the morning Charles took us down into the cellar under the house. Unknown to us we were sleeping on about 500,000 bottles of bubbles, right under the house, going down three levels. In the war it became a hiding place for the British service men.

Day four, we stopped near the port of Dunkirk for our crossing the next day. We spent the day ticking another place off the list. The war trenches of Bayernwald, a really thought provoking place, before heading to Au Coeur des Hotes in Steenvoorde. Gem of a place, anything you think you need at a B &B this place has it. The rooms are so well appointed and the beds so, so comfortable you don’t want to get up.

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But it’s time to go home and start sorting out the next part of the adventure,  travel vaccinations here we come!

bye

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

 

Life in a Vineyard

What’s it like to live and work on a vineyard during harvest?

We have been so fortunate to have such great hosts, Nicki and Colin at Le Baou d’Enfer.

We can honestly say that we have never met a man so dedicated and passionate about his trade. There doesn’t appear to be any question about wine and vines that he doesn’t know the answer to. By the time we leave we will have learnt a lot, not just about the process but about the effects of the environment on your bottle of wine, never will we look at wine in the same way again.

Nicki has an amazing talent for cooking, what takes others ages to prepare, she can simply throw something together without a thought and it looks and tastes so good. Deb has learnt some new recipes and has had to practice whipping up a little something when impromptu guests arrive and Nicki is not around.

Mornings are early and lucky for us, being in the south of France also warm. Colin and Nicki really made us feel at home and extended their welcome to meeting their friends and customers. The people that we have met have been lovely and friendly and we have had invitations to some of their homes. We really have to say that the experience has changed our perspective on french people as we are sad to say that until this point previously french hosts from Northern France really didn’t make you feel anywhere near as welcome as those in the South of France. We are sure that we just had a couple of unfortunate meetings but it is something that sticks with you.

Picking and Portering has been great fun, you use muscles you didn’t use sitting at a desk in an office. Deb worked out that 3hrs of picking is like doing an exercise class of super squats! Your back will ache a bit to start but then you get used to it.

Steve has got used to the bugs in the vineyard, spiders, grasshoppers that bite and praying mantis. He has also found a friend or two.. Little green tree frogs and geckos .. You have to watch them, they love to hide in the washing on the line. Frogs in your knickers are not a good thing. Then there are the “Sanglia” the Wild Boar. If you leave the gate open they will sneak in and nibble at the grapes all over the place, they can munch their way through so many given the chance.

Deb, being photo mad, could be seen spending many an hour laying on the ground in the vineyard practicing new angles and manual focus, either in the vineyard we were working in or the neighboring one.

Soil now means so much more and as soon as the Autumn arrives and the leaves change colour you then really start to see the difference in each variety of grape vine. You get to taste the grapes at different stages and begin to understand why you wait and pick at the right time.

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We have been very wet, very warm, appear to have drunk our own body weight in wine and been part of a team that has picked around 20 tons of grapes.
When you consider that we have all been living in a static mobile home together for 4 weeks, things have gone so well and there has been much laughter, more smiles than you could ever imagine and a few tears when it became time to leave..

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Steve is still mastering the art of making a lemon meringue pie and Debs will continue to take way too many pictures.

After seeing ourselves in the local St Tropez paper, fame at last! Time for a little exercise, detox and diet before we are brave enough to stand on the scales and see extra pounds.

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Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Le Baou d’Enfer – Artisan Wine

We have reached our second week in the vineyard and have now mastered the art of the morning picking.

Steve is a porter and Deb is a picker, team Porter and Picker at your service!

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The 5 hectare boutique vineyard we are working on is situated in the Mole Valley in the Var region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in South Eastern France, close to St Tropez and Le Lavendou. Le Baou d’Enfer is a small family business owned and run by Colin Clement who has nearly 2 decades of experience as a grower and producer, although his vineyard is not an AOC he is passionate about delivering a great quality wine to all his customers. He works a very traditional process where the harvest is done manually and all steps are personally overseen by him to ensure the wines are of very high quality.

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You will not see his wines outside of France unless you happen to buy them and take them home and you will often see him selling his wine at markets throughout the region.

So what wine does the vineyard create?

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Le Baou d’Enfer makes 5 different wines.

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  • Le Baou d’Enfer – La Cachette – Red

La Cachette is the heart of the vintage, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in oak barrels. It has a dry, medium smoked oak taste with an undertone of vanilla, blackcurrant and cherry and compliments red meat, game dishes and strong cheeses.

  •  Le Baou d’Enfer – La Cachette – Rose

Grenache and Cinsault produce a lovely summer wine. With aromas of red berries, strawberry, raspberry and hints of red cherry with a fresh dry mineral taste. Perfect for Summer BBQ’s, grilled foods, fish and white meats.

  • Le Baou d’Enfer – Red 

Lighter than La Cachette, it is a distinctive blend of Syrah and Grenache. Aromas of black cherry and hints of pepper and spices. The taste is dry and rich bodied with silky tannin’s that easily compliments any pork, chicken, lamb or lightly spiced dish.

  • Le Baou d’Enfer – Rose

A light, dry, fresh wine for lunch or aperitif. This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache with fruit aromas of peach, apricot and nectarine, ideal for a light meal or evening drinks.

  •  Le Baou d’Enfer – White

Ugni blanc grapes handpicked from 30 year old vines help produce a fine, dry, balanced wine. Aromas of citrus fruits, grapefruit and hints of pineapple. Excellent compliment for asparagus, seafood, fish and fresh goats cheese.

The vineyard sells to local restaurants too, this is where we 1st saw the lovely town of Cavalaire-sur-Mer whist helping drop off a delivery. It’s a lovely village with a bit of everything, beach, marina, some lovely looking restaurants and the usual shops and all at reasonable prices for the South of France.

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We just happened to be lucky enough of arrive on the day of the jet ski competition. We had never seen so many jet skis race off together from the beach and race around the bay. 1st were the adults and then on to the children’s races, then time for some amazing free style tricks and stunts before we headed back off to the vineyard.

We also need to mention a great evening we had this week, we were invited for aperitifs at the home of a french couple who helped during the picking.

We arrived at a beautiful open-plan house with a gorgeous garden and pool and were met by our hosts with an array of fabulous finger foods and got to sample a typical french drink called Floc de Gascogne, a fortified sweet wine made of 1/3 of armagnac and 2/3 of fresh grape juice both from the wine area Armagnac / Cote de Gascogne, with hints of almond, jasmine, honey, black fruit and rather nice. Then we go on to taste some very special Kirsh that was hand made by our hosts Grandfather that was around 50 years old. Super strong stuff, shame Steve was driving, so just a little taster for him!

The evening was lovely and went so fast and before we know it it’s 22:00 and we really have to go. We felt like teenagers creeping back into our room and trying not to wake anyone from our newly adopted vineyard family.

Only a few more days picking and then we are off to Monaco for a couple of days, super yachts and super cars here we come!

Live Happy

Debs And Steve

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So Here we are, Our Very 1st Workaway.

We’ve arrived!

So here we are, our 1st workaway.

This is where you work in exchange for board, lodging, learning new things and experiencing the local way of life.

Yes, we may be older than the usual gap year kids but midlife gap year people do have a lot to give. We have a lot more wealth of skills and experiences and we seem to have a lot more stamina than the young ones.

We turn up earlier than our estimated time and are greeted by a couple who appear really happy to see us.. Colin and Nicki. Another workaway had also just arrived, he was called Alan from Hamburg, he was staying a couple of weeks to help too. We quickly get settled into our room in a static mobile house situated on the 3 hectare vineyard and before you know it we are drinking wine to celebrate our arrival with another couple of friends of Colin and Nicki’s.

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It’s so quiet and peaceful, apart from all of us chatting and laughing, then off to bed as it’s a 07:00 start to start the picking.

Suddenly the alarm goes off and it’s time to start our 1st day. Think you call that a good nights sleep!

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Off we go down to meet the team, we find ourselves meeting another workaway called Kelcie, a sommelier from Canada, she is with the owner from a different vineyard up in the mountains who comes to help us. Grape picking is a community affair, everyone mucks in, the guests from last night arrive to help too.

Next day, once we have finished down in our vineyard, it’s off up in the hills in a 4×4 to go and help the vineyard who helped us. The 2nd day turned out to be a long hot one but we were rewarded with beer, wine and a huge lunch.

Deb just had to do it again, she loses her designer prescription glasses somewhere in the vineyard. Luckily she remembers when she could see and when she couldn’t. After a quick look we couldn’t find them. The locals are really kind and mark the line of vines with a stone and we continue the picking as you don’t want the grapes to get too hot. Once we are all finished and before lunch, everyone walks up the vineyard in search of my lunettes, (Deb learns a new French word for glasses) Deb is super lucky and Kelcie gets the biggest hug for finding them.

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Lesson learnt. When you are picking grapes, don’t wear your best glasses and take your jewellery off! You can’t all be as lucky as Debs was. AND always remember your hat in case you are out in the sun longer than you plan to be…
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At the end of the day Debs and Steve are flagging. Deb ends up in bed fighting off a migraine, too much sun and no hat! Meanwhile, Steve tucks into and over fills his belly with Nicki’s homemade meatballs and pasta to the point that he is going to burst and some of Colins wine from the vineyard.

Debs is much better the next day and up early for the usual coffee and croissant before the pick starts. Sometimes we have some of the customers from the vineyard come to help, amazing that their ages varied so much. Oldest was a lady of 83, men in their 70’s and a lovely couple who were 69¾. So inspirational, they are so fit and healthy and do so much, must be all that good living in the South of France.

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Each day after the morning pick was complete and the equipment washed down we would all join on the terrace for nibbles and wine. It’s traditional you know! We even got to taste someones homemade Pastis.

Some days a man comes and tests the juice in the back of his car so the vineyard knows the alcohol content and other levels required to make good quality wine.

We could write away forever on what we are learning but time to have a shower and clean up so we can go off and start exploring this area.

In our next installment we will tell you all about the wines produced at the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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It’s Been a While… We are Still Alive

It’s been a while since we updated our blog due to the wonders of modern technology.

We have been struggling with the internet and WiFi connections in France and have been unable to upload our blog and photos on a secure connection, so we will send out a few updates in close succession so we catch back up with ourselves.

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Although it feels so long ago we were in Troyes it is in fact only 5 weeks ago. We stopped here for lunch and a walk around before our onward journey to Beaujolais.It’s a very nice medieval town with some lovely houses, with narrow, cobbled streets and colourful half-timbered houses, dating from the 16th century.

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We turn up at our next stop and have the most amazing view. Our bed and breakfast is in a vineyard owned by a single lady who does an amazing job of running the vineyard, museum and the Auberge Les Hauts de Chénas, whilst also looking after her young daughter, Séléné, who is a very lucky girl who even has a wine named after her!

She produces 5 different wines in total.

  • Chénas – Cuvée Tradition
  • Chénas – Cuvée Prestige
  • Chénas – Cuvée Coccinelle
  • Chénas – Cuvée Séléné
  • Macon Villages Vieilles Vignes

The vineyard had been passed down from her Grandfather and has an amazing museum next to the Cave with many of the items coming from the families past generations, more tastevins than Deb had ever seen and they even had an old Hail Cannon. We had never heard of one of these but now we have and so have you now 😉 It creates a shock wave that is used to disrupt the formation of hailstones in their growing phase and protects the flowers and grapes from damage.

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After our one night stop, cheese and bread bedroom picnic and of course not forgetting our wine tasting, off we head to our additional stops due to the harvest being delayed. This means we get to stop off in 2 extra areas to have a look around, Pont-en-Royans and Gordes.

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Pont-en-Royans is a medieval village from around the sixteenth century and is famous for its colorful houses that sit on the edge of the rocks and is situated in a gorge near to the Parc Naturel Regional du Vercors. There is a water museum and a water bar containing over 900 bottles of water. This was our base for a couple of nights. The hotel we stayed in was in a great location for exploring although we can’t say much more than it was “ok” , as for the water bar, the staff really need to have lessons in customer service. Deb did try her best French but as soon as the staff realised Deb was English, (which was quite soon after she said her 1st words!) The women said “I’m French END OF!” waved her hands and walked off. So this was the end of our water bar experience… Knew there was a reason why we like wine more 🙂 Next day we went on a paddle boat up the Isère river. The scenery is beautiful in this area.

So where were we today?

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No, we are still in France! A crazy postman from 19th century , Dinand Cheval, he spent thirty-three years of his life building Le Palais ideal in Hauterives, he collected stones whilst on his post round and built an amazing building based on all the postcards he had seen. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Next day and a few hours later we were at our final stop before the grape picking work away.

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This time we found ourselves in Gordes which is listed as one of  “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (The Most Beautiful Villages in France) we didn’t realise this when we booked as Deb just did a “Google it” of the area we were going through to find a nice place to stay and indeed she did! The B&B was called Au Alenti du Lierre and was lovely, just opposite was a super little local restaurant too called La Fleur De Sel. The hosts were really nice and rarely got people from the UK, we found the same in Pont en Royan. Seems people from the UK really aren’t great explorers. Just happened that in talking to our hosts they once owned a vineyard in Sancerre.

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Now it’s time to head off to the vineyard to meet our hosts and start our workaway as Vendangeurs ( Grape Pickers)

Speak to you again soon to tell you what it’s like to be a grape picker in the South of France.

Live Happy!

Debs and Steve

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And so we’re off with our One Way Ticket to France….

And we’re off.

So this is when the real journey starts.

Luckily we are going across the channel from Dover to Dunkirk as the Calais lorry drivers at the port are doing a blockade, (Again!) Luckily our ferry was still on time, which was a bonus as the bed and breakfast in Champagne was already paid for in advance to get the best price and had a no refund cancellation policy.

The journey is so easy as it’s just a series of toll roads. Worth a check though to see if you lose much time by not using them as the cost to get to the South of France is currently about €88.00. Some sections mean it only adds about an extra 10mins to your journey, whilst others are 2.5 hour detours!

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We arrive in Epernay just after 16:00 and drive around and around the one way system with our Nissan satellite navigation. So pleased we had a friend who told us about downloading Google maps offline for the area you will be travelling in, which proved so much more accurate as it’s always updated and will talk you through the journey. Why didn’t Deb know about this already? 🤔

Here’s how to do it. 🌏

  • Load Google Maps App on your phone, if you don’t already have it.
  • Click the Google Maps App
  • Click on the Menu on the top, left hand side
  • Click on the Offline areas
  • Click Custom Area
  • This takes you to a screen that will let you choose an area of the map to download. It will need to take some of your phone memory but your map will expire in a month unless you choose to extend it. The screen will tell you if you have enough memory and how much memory you will use.
  • Click Download

We are staying at Domaine Sacret in Ay which is a lovely champagne house with a courtyard to park the car.

We have a great room and a lovely bathroom, what you imagine French style to be and our travel treat, complete with complimentary Clarins toiletries. (Mini Spa evening for Debs)

  • Travel Treat – When you know you are on a budget but sometimes you need to treat yourselves for a day

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So in the evening we head to our 1st tasting of the week, set in a lovely bar area. It was a VERY generous tasting and we met a group of lovely people, including a Belgium couple on their honeymoon, Lynne & Rob and Catherine & Neil who had just come back from watching their daughter Maddie Hinch win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio. We all got on so well that we were invited to join for dinner at this lovely traditional restaurant in town called Rôtisserie Henri IV and had some great food, wine and company.

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Next morning after a lovely breakfast we were off to our next stop over, this time in Chablis.

We were not going to do a crazy long drive down to work on the vineyard, instead we thought we would take it easy and enjoy the journey whilst learning a bit about wine on route. The harvest had been delayed at our final destination so our kind hosts gave us a few extra days to go and explore a bit more of France than we had planned.

We are in Chablis early and have a wander around the town. This town is lovely and has a few restaurants and bars plus loads of wine shops and Domaines. We felt one evening was not going to be enough here and we were right!

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We stayed on a vineyard, Domaine Gueguen, in a beautiful room, much better than we expected and our hosts Celine and Frederic greeted us in what they say was poor English? If it was poor then Steve and Debs English is pretty poor too! Must learn more French whilst away, we need to be able to say more than “Je voudrais un verre de vin” and “Je voudrais un jambon et fromage baguette” Chablis has had a pretty tough year, 80% of vines have no grapes due to a huge storm that destroyed the flowers on the vines.

So if you’re a Chablis fan you need to stock up now as next year supplies are going to be limited and very pricey.   So off we go again, driving down to Beaujolais and staying in another vineyard with a museum attached.

Live Happy

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So Much to do, so Little Time!

It’s been a super busy time here.

More fixing of the broken tooth! Catching up with friends and family, sneaking in a few days of work in the South of France.

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Meanwhile, a friend of our sister in law, Andrew Rees, has just become the 1st deaf man to swim the channel. Raising money that will go towards helping deaf athletes to compete in the Deaflympics in 2017. Steve had heard of this event but Debs had to admit she was embarrassed to say had never heard of this until now. This guy really is inspirational and puts most of us to shame. Words cannot describe just how amazing this guy must be!

Deb spent the bank holiday doing her bit for the Bursledon regatta, making a costume out of a sheet and some feathers, volunteering and selling raffle tickets for the gallon of wine and whisky draw to ensure that the 150 year old regatta can continue. This is part of her family history, having a dad who was an apprentice in the boat yard over 60 years ago make her a true local to the area. She has spent many an hour covered in mud as a kid looking for hidden treasure from a bygone age of old sailing ships.

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This week saw Steve and Debs rushing around, Regatta one day, Isle of Wight the next day for Steve’s family gathering, then driving up for a stay over night at Gatwick to catch an early flight out to Marseille the next day. (We stayed in the bloc hotel, gets a thumbs up from us 👍)

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Fly back 4 days later for Steve’s Mum and Dads 50th wedding anniversary and the Milley famous garden marble run, with a drop of lovely English rain,Vodka and Gin jelly shots, garage bars and stuffing ourselves with cheese and pineapple sticks and sausage rolls made by our nieces and nephew.

Sunday was lunch with our friends Frankie and Jon the next day and of course not forgeting Clover the dog too..🐕

Then only 2hrs to pack for France and back on the road to Dover and on to the M25 car park!
Off to bed in a great little B&B minutes from the port with the loveliest of hosts and the best breakfast. (Ever need a quintessentially English B&B to stay whilst in Dover check these guys out. 299 London Rd Dover. Great price and so close to coming or going from the port! 🛏🛋🛀)

So here we are sitting on the ferry, prescription sunglasses for Deb, no… Debs Ralph Lauren glasses are still sat in the door pocket of the hire car in Marseille!!! And yes, there are words for this but not ones we shall type here!

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So off to call the car hire firm, hope someone realises that the designer glasses they pocketed from the valet of the hire car are prescription and that they can’t see through them, returns them, is Deb that lucky??? We shall see, no pun intended!
So off we go to get an email of Debs prescription from opticians and try to get a pair sent to the vineyard in France? Here’s hoping!

1st off the ferry and on route to our next stop in Champagne. 🍾🍾🍾🍾

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Nearly There……

So, Steve is just hitting his last week at work and it’s going to be a lonely one as his team all head off to their next event in Belgium.

Meanwhile Deb has been doing a bit here and there to earn a few extra pennies to help towards Sweden as we are starting expensive 1st… We have been looking at couch surfing although hit the problem that everyone is on holiday so spaces are limited especially when you go to places like the Arctic Circle, so it’s off to a hotel in Lulea we go!

Steve’s last day is the same day we head off to the airport so perhaps we shall have a treat on route rather than come home? Maybe an English afternoon cream tea is calling!

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Straight after this is time for the family hobbit festival down in Cornwall. Let us explain. Our daughters are both traveller types too.. One is just back from 18 months travelling Bali, Australia, New Zealand, back to Bali and then back home to sunny Newquay UK, working freelance as a surf instructor. The other is just about to fly out to Myanmar in Asia for 2 years to teach so very rare we meet up all together, so July is the time!  We have found us a glamping camp, with fire pit, barbecue and bar and as we are all short, it is being named hobbit festival for a few days! Really looking forward to it 🙂

Surf photo courtesy of Surf Sistas

Planning has started for our French and Austrian trip in Sept.. So let’s make it all about wine.
Currently looking to head through the wine regions on the way to working in a vineyard in the south of France.
The list is growing,
Champagne
Chablis
Burgundy
Beaujolais
Rhone Valley
and then down to the final destination in Saint Tropez..

Thoughts are already moving towards what we do in Nov? We have had a few offers that sound interesting so who knows? No more English breakfast or roast dinners!

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It’s amazing how many things change when you do something like this? We have started to re-engage with our neighbours, meeting people who we have only ever seen drive in and out of drivewways and Deb has been given the opportunity to help at the local regatta down on the Hamble river. Theme for this year is Rio Carnival, so sure at some time Deb will have a feathery head piece on 😉

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The scariness of no income is starting to also kick in now. Spreadsheets are in progress and super analysing all we spend underway. Steve is already getting bored with Deb saying, do we need it or just want it! Negotiations have already started with Steve on the cancellation of the full sky TV package. It’s also amazing what you can make out of a 5kg bag of onions that only cost £2. It’s so difficult not to worry about getting a job when we complete our travels. You can’t help but peek at job adverts and talk to people about future roles.

YES!  
It takes courage and self belief to do this and not something everyone can do but looking forward to all the learning, challenges and problem solving ahead! Our current favourite quote from a friend is “you will be fine, cream always settles at the top”

So what have we have learnt so far.
WORK
It’s hard to give up a job and go to nothing and hard to talk to each other about it as you don’t want to cause your other half to go into a wobble as you both feel you have to support each other.
FLIGHTS
Think about the cheap early morning flights. They may not be as cheap as you think. As we live 1-2 hours away from the London airports the trains don’t run that early, you miss the bargain off peak train tickets, you can’t put people out by asking for a lift, so your choices become, go up on the train the night before and sleep at an airport hotel or on the floor, if you pick a hotel suddenly it’s the same cost as hotel and parking. Taxi’s are just too expensive. Must get better at this as airport parking kills the budget!
IMAGINATION
Imagine yourself during and after your travels, what does it look like. Set yourself goals to ensure you are always going in the right direction and never be afraid to re-evaluate them from time to time as your life evolves.

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BE REAL
It’s not always going to be a dream life and things will not go to plan and the plan will always be changing. Challenge yourself to be more resilient.

Time to go pack again. What do you take to the Arctic Circle for the midnight sun?

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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