November in Austria

Imagine this, 5am and Merlin the dog is asking to go out..

Up we get as we know it must be unsettling for him and he must be missing his owners, we put his lead on and off he rushes tugging us. Noooo…. Upset tummy time.

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We settle him back down and pop back to bed for a further little nap as it’s dark. Unbeknown, until we get up that poor Merlin had already had a mishap or three… So off Steve goes for a walkies and Deb has the lovely task of cleaning up… Wasn’t a good moment in our travel.

Lucky for us he soon settles in and spends most of his time either trying to sit on Steve’s lap whilst he’s working at the table or putting his paw on Steve’s foot to stop him going anywhere!

The Christmas markets start opening in November so off we go to explore. 1st Strobl, complete with real deers and open fires. Another day it’s St Gilgen, full of Asian tourists taking more photos than Deb! Last was St Wolfgang, the prettiest village, very traditionally Austrian and a big floating candle in the lake.

The Salzkammergut area of Austria is lovely and we know it well as we used to own a small flat in the area. If you ever fancy a look around we know of various places you can stay and will receive some lovely hospitality. Check out the links below.

Haus Bergheim – Steeg

House on the Lake – Steeg

Landhaus Kesmi – Gosau

Haus Anastasia – Bad Ischl

Weather changes so much in this area, one place it can be lovely and warm and the next cold, Icey and snowy, the lake and glacier below were only about 20mins over the mountain pass from the lake we were at and what a difference.

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We spent plenty of time walking with Merlin and discovering new paths, everyone in the village seems to know Merlin and waves hello or stops for a chat. We also get to catch up with a couple of friends who have sold up in the UK and made the brave move of living full time in the country. When people think we are brave and have made a ballsy move. We can tell you about loads of people we have met on our travels who have done many braver things.

THEN THERE WAS KRAMPUS 😲😨😲

It’s a local tradition that goes a long way back in time. So Santa looks after the good children, but what happens to the naughty ones.. So this is where Krampus comes in. Local villagers dress up in very scary costumes, handed down from generations and we are talking years old. Think of an old costume made of goat skin, kept in an musty attic and never dry cleaned, that’s the best way Deb can describe the smell.

There is a big gathering, like a carnival and plenty of gluhwine to keep you warm. The local people all come out to watch. So what happens to the naughty kids? They get beaten with birch sticks by some devil looking creature and we mean really do get a bit of a whipping! If you stand near to the show boundary tape you are classed as fair game. We had never been to one before. Scared the life out of Deb, although it was maybe because she was very close to the edge of the show.. or was she just a naughty one?

The creatures seem to like her, perhaps it was the squealing when they came near! The guys in costumes do get a bit over excited and some get a bit caught up in the moment, most have been drinking all day and are a bit hyped up. Where was Steve, he wasn’t as stupid as Deb and stood back chuckling away..

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3 weeks went so quickly, now time to go home to prepare for Asia, 1st stop The Philippines 🌴🌴😎🌴🌴
Live Happy
Debs and Steve

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Dog Sitting in Austria

Experienced dog sitters we aren’t or should we say we now are!

As we come to land at the airport we see the big traffic jam and say about how our lift to Steeg is probably in it and we were right, they were. We grab a coffee and take a seat in Salzburg airport. It’s only a small airport but very nice and relaxed and if you’re off to Salzburg town the buses are so easy to find to get you there.

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Once our lift arrives we hop in and are on route to meet our new friend for the next three weeks, Merlin the 3 year old black Labrador. Within the hour we arrive after non stop chatting all the way. Merlins owners are off to South Africa on holiday, we have heard so many good things about it that we have it on the ever growing wish list. Trying to satisfy our wanderlust is proving so difficult when you hear about places from everyone. We are already talking about when do we need to go back to work so we can refill the pot of money to continue having our yearly holidays!

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The door is opened and out bounces an excited dog. We have a few days before the owners set off to allow time to settle in and run through the routine of Merlin and the house. We have a lovely apartment to stay in and use of the owners house too. We are situated about 50 meters from Hallstätter lake. The views from each room are beautiful, high in the mountains sits loads of white snow contrasting with the blue sky and the air is so crisp and clean. It is like you have stepped into a holiday brochure. The weather was so lovely we all went for a walk up in the mountains near by. Merlin ran around to his hearts content and then at about 16:00 hr the sun starts to disappear and the cold air arrived very quickly, back to the warmth of the house we go.

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On the 1st night we visit a traditional Austrian restaurant with Merlins owners and eat a special local dish that is not on the menu but available to the regulars. Venison fillet in red wine sauce, potatoes and red cabbage, so tasty and of course how could Deb resist a glass of Austrian wine. Once we are settled in we will be off to find some local garlic soup, sounds bad but tastes so good! 😋

Never tried Austrian wine? If you have the chance, give it a go. They produce red, white and rose and in the UK it is starting to appear on a lot more wine lists. Deb and Steves favorite vineyard is Schloss Gobelsburg, one of the oldest in Austria situated in the Kamptal wine growing region in Lower Austria, about 50 miles to the north west of Vienna.

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Following morning we go with the owners to take Merlin for his normal morning walk before dropping Sue and Les off at the train station to start their holiday and we start our life as house and dog sitters exploring the local area around Hallstätt.

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1st stop is an invite from the neighbours, Liz and Geoff for coffee and cake and we learn all about HyperZoom photography, then it’s off to start exploring.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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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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One to Many Man Hugs!

So we have finally detached from work, like a tooth that the dentist can’t seem to pull out but got there in the end.

Steve has been finding it so hard to leave and Deb will finally stop popping up all around work. If you worked with Deb you will know exactly what this means. 🙄

How did people act?

  • So many cuddles and man hugs, many more than we ever expected!
  • Most are really pleased for us and came up with 101 ways to climb in the rucksack and suitcase or become our sherpas along the journey.
  • Then there were a few stragglers who just cut you off…

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McLaren Automotive has been an amazing journey for the both of us and may not be the end as you never know where life may take you. In the words of Bruce McLaren, “Life is Measured in Achievement Not in Years Alone”

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By the end of the last day we were settling just nicely to the new life, sat in a old english country manor house over looking beautiful landscaped gardens, sipping champagne and munching our way through an afternoon tea. Could get used to this!

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Time to reflect on our journey through life so far and realise that we are two very lucky people to be able to have this adventure. We may have been through some very tough times in the past, but as the saying goes “What Doesn’t Kill you Makes you Stronger”

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Day one of our new adventure, we are sat in the airport waiting to fly to Sweden, then an interconnecting flight up to the Arctic circle for the midnight sun. Only a 4 hour wait plus 2 hrs delay between flights. So glad I packed some snacks, even though we knew it was going to be expensive, we didn’t expect it to be that expensive…. Nearly £10 for one sandwich and £5.00 for one coffee. So the action plan, fill empty water bottles from the taps and after much wandering around we found the cheapest items, 2 burgers and a slice of cheese, £4.00, strangely the queue here was rather long?

Swedish people are so calm, the 1st one I spoke to, just in a shop said, “Welcome to Sweden Have a Great Time” Think we are going to like it here 😊

Mean while, back in the UK our nephew Jake was busy winning medals and cups for cricket. 1st Junior Hampshire County Champions then going on to become Southern Counties Winners. Well done Jake!!

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One of our daughters is also now on countdown to the final days as a teacher in the UK as she soon jets off to teach in Myanmar for the next 2 years and settle into a new way of life.

Time for us to sit back and watch the never ending sunset of the midnight sun completely lost as to what time it is, very strange feeling.

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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Flat sold! Beach Ahoy.

So things have just got real.

What’s it like to give up work to go travelling?

From Debs perspective it’s still rather surreal. Still feels like your on holiday but with a sense of new found freedom!

From Steves perspective,  things have changed. He has now decided to just do one more month at work. Having spent 12 years in his job giving up is harder than you think,  takes a huge leap of faith and courage to give that up as it’s like leaving your family behind and moving to somewhere far far away…

Just think, if you got made redundant tomorrow, you would just have to get on with it, so lifes path is pretty much going to be what’s going to be!
Just take a leaf from all those people who decide to up sticks and move country,  they all survive it one way or another and really are inspirational. We have all met people along the journey of life,  some who you will never know have silently faced many obstacles but jumped the hurdles and succeeded in their own personal challenges without all but a few knowing.

So, where are we? We have taken a couple of weeks away in Greece to have a holiday and reflect on what the new world will hold for us.

Stepping outside the comfort zone of an income bring new richness.

Once you clear your mind of the need for money and a job, you can see things in a different light.
Do you have
Water ✔
Food ✔
Warmth. ✔

Opportunity knocks on your door in many ways when you can stand back, look and think.

When was the last time you focused on your own wellbeing?

What values do you hold and how do you live up to them?

What would make you happiest?

If this was your last day on earth would you be satisfied?

What do you imagine for your future?

So time to ponder, pick a theme tune for the week and adventure ahead and live life to the full.

We know, bit of a profound post!

Next one will all be food, wine, sunshine 😉

Live Happy
Debs and Steve

The Adventure Begins!

So what are we doing?

Giving up our corporate jobs and going travelling!

Budget – As small as we can.

Places – Where ever life takes us.

How – Creatively as possible.

We are happy to consider any interesting opportunities that come our way, paid or not that help us continue the journey. These can range from bespoke house/pet sits, working/volunteering for board and lodging etc. Whilst travelling we also plan to study wines and spirits too, so Deb can complete her final wine exams.

Feel free to contact us if you have any ideas/opportunities or cool places you think we really should look to visit 🙂

Thank you for visiting our blog, should you wish to follow us it would be great and we promise not to post more than once or twice a week.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve