Bobbing About in Boracay, Philippines.

1st day in Boracay and it rains all day! Things flood alot!

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This gives us the chance to catch up with ourselves after flying from the UK, Dubai, Manila, Caticlan, bus to the port, boat to Boracay and finally a minibus to Ralph’s Place where we are staying on Bulabog Beach.

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Boracay is a small island in mid Philippines just 7km long, it has a very famous beach called White Beach. We are staying on the quiet more local side but this is still only a 15min walk from White Beach.

It really is an island of two sides.

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White Beach.

Beautiful beach with more restaurants than you could ever need, everything is catered for from Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Fish Restaurants, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, BBQ, you name it you will find it.

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There is even a place called the Hobbit Bar, Steve and Deb being rather short finally found a place that they were taller than the staff as it’s run by a group of Philippine midgets! There is D’Mall, where all the clothes shops, massage shops and loads more restaurants are. If you come down at sunset the beach is packed full of people, sellers of tourist tat, street entertainment, beach massages and men wanting to sell you boat rides etc..The beach is divided into stations.

Station 1 – There are some very nice restaurants and hotels in this area. It is also where all the watersports boats leave from. Nicest softest sand.
Station 2 – More mid range hotels and vendors selling tourist “stuff”. Crazy that it costs £17.00 for 2 sunbeds for the day when you can sit on super soft sand that doesn’t get too hot unlike the sand in Canary Islands.
Station 3 – Much more low key, you get much more for your money here and alot more local influence. The sand is not so soft here either but it’s much quieter.

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Best time to hit the beach is the morning. We went about 10:00am as the party people are still asleep and the Japanese and Chinese don’t come out until later 😉

Bulabog Beach.

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The beach is not pure and white and there is an amount of seaweed and, pending the weather, some debris could be washed up but don’t let this put you off, the sand is still soft and as we said you can walk to White Beach in 15 minutes or a 5 minute tricycle. You also have to remember that this is the local side, this is where real life happens, fishing boats are built, kids  play and dogs roam. It’s Deb’s photographing paradise 😉

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The hotels are cheaper this side, it is windyer this side. Good thing when it’s plus 30° most of the time. There are windsurfing schools, kitesurfing and a good selection of chilled bars and restaurants full of the easy going traveller types. The local’s petrol station is here, pull up with your motorbike at the little shed and buy your liter of petrol out of a 1lt coke bottle.

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Example of the price difference.
Local beer
Station 2  – 110 Pesos
Bulabog – 45 Pesos
Tricycle from Bulabog to White Beach – 60 to 70 Pesos for up to five people.
We will leave you to do the maths?

The Island has something for everyone’s budget.
Prices per day start from
Hostels – £5
3 Star Hotels – £30
Or you can go Super Luxury – £500

So where do you think Deb and Steve went, of course Bulabog, but if you’re a rich beach bunny glamorous type, stick to station one or somewhere like Shangri-La Hotel.

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Where did we stay? Ralph’s Place, from the outside you can’t see much as you have to walk up a dirt track but inside it’s lovely, clean, has A/C, super shower and a bar and restaurant. The staff are great and very friendly and attentive. We paid £200.00 including breakfast for 5 nights. You can also get a selection of breakfasts here from Philippine specialities like, Debs favourite Tapsilog (beef, egg and rice) and Steve enjoyed his bacon and eggs. Bowls of fruit were huge and full of fresh mangos, pineapple, papaya and banana.

A short walk away is a tower that you can see the whole island from, it’s only a short walk but a mighty warm one! On route you will walk through the real Philippines, local houses made of just about anything you can find for free. The kids are running around happy and the people shy.

Did we feel safe here? Yes, the Phillipine people here are happy and kind. Even the street vendors only ask you once if you want to buy something and if you say no thank you, they just wander off. Next stop Carabao Island.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Counting the Days Until Asia🌴🌴😎🌴🌴

Planning Christmas in the Philippines and most probably the most boring blog post although it covers the answers to lots of peoples questions to us.

Flights booked, suppose we better figure out where we are going to stay and plan some stuff. Then there’s a knock at the door and the postman delivers a parcel for us. What could it be? It’s flowers and chocolates from Merlin the dog to say thank you for looking after him, what a lovely surprise!

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Where do you start, well we started a while ago.

Health.
Don’t under estimate travel vaccinations. Yes these are expensive but if there is one thing to spend your hard earned money on this has to be the one. If you’re in the UK don’t rely on getting the NHS injections done in time. Deb has had her appointments cancelled on various occasions to the point that it became too late to be fully covered as the appointment was 4 weeks too late. For peace of mind she ended up paying to go private.

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Off we went to the local doctors recommended clinic in Southampton for a consultation. Well if there were nominations for the rudest, most intimidating travel nurse, Southampton Travel Clinic would surely win. Considering we have to pay a private charge just to see this women you would have expected at least some customer service. “What do you mean, you don’t know where you are travelling in Asia and you don’t know for how long, how can I do risk assessments based on this information.” Sorry, have you never met a backpacker, Lady? (Well that’s what we were thinking in our heads, goodness knows what would have happened if we would have said it out loud) Scary lady 😨

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Deb sets to Googling and ends up finding Go Global who has a private clinic not far away from home. So refreshing, turns out to be a good call. You couldn’t wish for a better person. Andrea is really nice and welcoming. If your local to Chandler’s Ford, Southampton, UK area, she’s your travel lady.

Deb looks at all the countries on the wish list and Google searches the vaccinations then works out which country needs the most and if any are different to other areas.

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Sorted! Prepare for Myanmar and confirm with Go Global.
Hepatitis A – Already covered
Hepatitis B – Some say it’s not needed but we wouldn’t go without it.
Japanese Encephalitis – Got to get
Typhiod – Already covered

Rabies – Another that some say not required but on our list to have. Some of these animals may look cute but you just never know if they have rabies. Steve foaming at the mouth wouldn’t be a good look.
Polio – Already covered
Tetnus – Already covered
Diptheria – Already covered
Malaria – Complicated but Andrea helped us sort it out and Asda supplied cheaper than anywhere else without the need of a prescription!

Total cost £1167
Yes it’s very expensive and some are only recommended but not essential but if you’re wise it’s better to have them rather than pay for it later. You can’t put a price on life, it’s priceless so why risk it? This is the cost without Dr Debs 1st Aid Kit, more about this later.

Next  – Check out the country, is it safe?

Get it in perspective..
Safe?
Check its not in a war zone or in a state of lawlessness.
Check you’re covered under your travel insurance.
Look at the latest government advice from the country you’re visiting.
Do you need any special cover, natural disaster recovery?
Look at the risk and measure against how safe your country is for a visitor from another country?

Example.
Lets look at the Phillipines.

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In the UK media the president is shooting all drug dealers, it’s carnage. They have employed local people from the slums to assassinate their fellow neighbours if they are involved. People are saying to us is it safe for you to go there, won’t you get kidnapped?

A – Are you telling me that you are going to wander around the the dodgy parts of town? 🔫                                                               Check out the no go areas where you are going and don’t go there! 🚫
B – Are you going to be involved in drugs? 😲 If you have prescription medication to take or want to take your 1st aid supply of pills, take the instructions and get a letter from your doctor for prescription drugs. Remember that a drug may be legal in your country but not in the country you are going to. Example: Codeine is classed as an illegal narcotic. That means no migraine tablets for Deb.. Well only until landing in Philippines. They can come on the plane 🙄  Just not off it and it’s the long flight that gives her a migraine!
C – Are you really going to just book the 1st cheap hotel you see without checking out why it’s so cheap? 🛏

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Check out on google the best area for tourists to stay, this may not always be the area you thought. In Manila it’s the financial district of Makati, right next to the red light district.. It wasn’t Debs 1st choice but after research and recommendations this is where we have booked.. Will let you know in January how it went.
D – Are you just going to jump in any old taxi you see? 🚕  You have the Internet, yes? Use it. Google how much is a taxi, best taxis to use. We land at 23:00hr and have pre booked a taxi, after a long journey we are happy to pay the extra to have a person standing there with our name ready to take us straight to the overnight hotel. This adds to the comfort of travel. Before you ask, yes of course we checked out the taxi company reviews  😉
E – Are you going to open your wallet full of cash in front of everyone, remember some of these countries are poor, what is only £10 to you is 4 days wages to someone else?

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After a morning of rushing around, the time has suddenly come. Off to the train station we go. 6 minutes before the train arrives its cancelled! 2 trains, 4 taxi’s, 1 boat, 3 flights, various minibuses, overnight hotel in Manila and a coach later, we are in Boracay!

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Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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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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!

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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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Lets Try Again..Pressed Publish Blog Before I Had Finshed!! All Good Now :)

Off we go to explore our surrounding towns and villages of the vineyard Le Baou d’Enfer in Le Mole Valley.

You won’t find every place below that we visited just the highlights.

Nice –Although a good location to fly into and get around and about, we really wouldn’t say it’s the place to go. Sadly due to the terror attack on the promenade, you will currently find the army patrolling the seafront. The beach is a pebble beach and very busy even on a September day, goodness knows what it’s like on a summers day. If you are short of time, give it a miss and go elsewhere.

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Bormes les Mimosas – Beautiful little village on a hill over looking the coastline. There’s not a lot there but a great village to wander around the small local arty shops and stop for lunch and admire the views.

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Le Lavendou – Super seafront village with a huge market every week, you will find Colin from Le Baou d’Enfer selling his wine here and the market prices are good. If you have been to St Tropez market you will see the same sellers but prices will be marked up! Le Lavendou has a bit of everything you need for a lovely holiday.. Sand, sea front restaurants, shops, a marina, ice-cream shops all at reasonable prices.

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St Tropez – The vineyard was only a few miles from here so the 1st place we explored. We turned up here with Alan, on our 1st week of our workaway. Not sure what we were expecting but it didn’t seem to measure up to our expectations. St Tropez is a lot smaller than we were expecting, where was the beach and the beautiful people? Turns out that the St Tropez beach isn’t actually in the village, it’s about 5 km away and called Pampelonne Beach.. Perhaps it was because the sun wasn’t shining, we weren’t feeling it? We wander off into the backstreets with 2 hungry men wanting to be fed breakfast. It’s pricey here, we find a little cafe and still end up paying €12.50 each.. More than in Monaco!

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The good thing about St Tropez is there is a lot going on event wise and these are generally free to attend. (Maybe because to park in the village, you are looking around €14.00 for 5 hours) Try to get the bus in if you are looking to save your cash. We happened to be there for the 23rd Porsche meet, only about 500 cars to look at 🚘🚘🚘 and for the Les Voiles de St. Tropez, the local sailing regatta. Gorgeous 19th century sailing boats all wooden and brass and also new sailing yachts. Can’t help but laugh at the Wally Class sailing boats, a whole bunch of crew with Wally written on all their polo shirts.

Pampelonne Beach – 5 miles of white sand and a whole load of bars and restaurants. These include the famous Club 55 and Nikki Beach, where the rich people pretending to be rich pose around, stupidly over paying for the privilege of being seen. E. G. Fancy a piece of melon? €28.00 please! 😲 Come on who really pays this if you have half a sense of intelligence. 🤔 €1000.00 just to spray a bottle of champagne over your friends.. Should this sound a bargain to you, please just forward the money to Debs bank account and she will spend it wisely on some travel adventure and spend the money benefiting the local communities.
Don’t get me wrong, It’s not all bad, the beach is great, the sea is clean and blue and the views great. €4.50 for a days parking, toilets and changing room. You can get yourself settled in, bring your own lunch and people/super yacht watch to your hearts content. If you’re into celebrities, who knows you may even spot some of these too…

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Ramatuelle – Built up in the hills, it faces out on a fabulous view of the Bay of Pampelonne. If you’re a foodie type there are many restaurants and it has a bit of a glamorous feel about it and has drawn many famous people to buy there holiday homes here. Rumour has it that one Brigitte Bardot once owned a home there.

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Port Grimaud – Well Deb and Steve found this the very best place. It’s like a little mini Venice, there are loads of small canals and bridges and some stunning houses all with moorings. The houses are all painted in bright colours, there are boat trips to take you around and have a look or you can be super lucky and meet some guests at the vineyard who are having a tasting who invite you to go out on their boat for a look around the port and then zip off over the bay to St Tropez harbour 😍 and then off for a cheeky glass of wine.

Must start spending a bit more time looking at where we should go in the Philippines.

Live Happy

Debs and Steve

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Marvelling Monaco

Feeling very privileged, we set off from the vineyard to go and stay in Vence near Nice for an overnight stop before our two days in Monaco.

We have been so lucky to have had so much generosity from so many people. We had the offer of a stay in an apartment in Vence with free parking and another was tickets to the Monaco boat show, so how could we refuse experiencing things we would not of dreamt of doing before we started our journey.We do a search on places to stay on Saturday night in Monaco, we find a few airbnb’s but as soon as you start to add up the cost of an end of stay clean and the booking costs it ends up the same cost as a hotel! Finally we find ourselves a late room special offer in Le Meridien just for one night, Debs is so glad she joined the SPG loyalty club.

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Let’s start in Vence, it’s a lovely old artist styled town perched on a hill over looking the coastline. From the amazing balcony of the apartment we could see the sunset over the town and it was only 15 mins walk right into the centre and to the bus station for our journey into Monaco the next day.  We head off into the village square for a meal, armed with the knowledge to ask for a pecher of wine, which is a small local bottle of wine that doesn’t seem to appear on the menu but saves you getting charged per glass. The square is a busy place with a typical local market and petanque area.

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1st thing in the morning we head off to catch the bus and then pay extra to hop on the train from Cagnes sur Mer to get there quicker so we get the whole day to explore the boat show.

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The train station is only a few minutes from the port and was so easy. We go and get the tickets, then off to view the unimaginable.. Boats in all shapes and sizes, Steve quite fancied Ulysses it was only for sale for 195,000,000. Yes a mear 195 million 😲. It came complete with a helicopter garage! Deb decided she would be just as happy with any of the boats with a pool and jacuzzi, they were priced around the 40,000,000. So much more affordable 🙄
If you ever get the chance to go, there are so many things to see, boats, helicopters, submarines, super cars, rich peoples toys.

18:00 came and the boat show finished.. All the boats blast their horns and play tunes. Never ever have we heard anything like it and it continues for 10 minutes. So many mega and super yachts with every one wanting to be the last one to sound their horns.

We arrive back at the hotel and the loyalty club paid dividends again. Happy hour for members with 50 percent off drinks until 20:00 and 20% off food. So obviously we order cocktails and 5 minutes before it finishes ask the waitress for another to allow us to sit and people watch in the beautiful surroundings. Steve has Candy Mojitos and Debs goes for the Negroni, both were much stronger than anticipated and we munch our way through a cheese and ham board.
The view is straight over the private beach and onto a horizon of unbelievable boats.. and the pool area wasn’t bad either 🙂

We wander back to our room with intention of going back out later, Debs makes the mistake of lying on the bed and promptly falls asleep but Steve is happy just sitting on the balcony watching super cars and girls tottering in high heels supporting botox faces pulling up for dinner in the local restaurant. Amazing the room you can get if you just tell them that it’s a special occasion. Well it is, as it’s not every day you give up a job for a super car company to go travelling!

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Next morning, we go off to find breakfast, you didn’t think we were going to spend €70 just to have breakfast in the hotel did you? We find a little cafe that still had a view of the bay and spent only €12.90.

Rest of the day is spent wandering, the harbour is already void of boats, they all leave so quickly. Off we go to watch the cars buzz around casino square and Cafe du Paris. Deb must say it’s nice to see so many women drivers.. #girlsrule

Time to head off and collect the car and drive back to the vineyard ready for another early morning of picking those lovely grapes.
Sun is still shining and the next blog we shall tell you about our trip to the local villages.

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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