Last meal: homemade lasagne with salad and balsamic dressing.

Drink of choice: gin & tonics.

Song in my head:


I stayed with Chris and the boys in Vallauris until the beginning of July. It had been such a lovely repose and I was a little sad to leave. I had arranged to meet up with two friends from my old work in Sydney, in Nice! So that is where I was heading off to!

Met up with Ariella at our apartment. The landlord was a bizarre fellow – he took Ariella’s passport as collateral for my security deposit, and was weirdly protective of the towels. Anyway, we managed to get that sorted out, then had a very healthy salmon and vegetables dinner! Aren’t we respectable adults? Of course, we then headed out to Wayne’s, a terrible anglophone bar that everyone had told us about. It was pretty dodgy fun.

The next morning, Ariella and I went on a run (separately – she’s way fast and I’m a lardy heffalump) and took things fairly slow in the morning. At around midday, we headed up to the “Château” (inverted commas because it was destroyed quite a while ago) which affords an incredible view over the city of Nice. Ariella said there were almost 300 steps to get up there (am I embellishing this number? I don’t quite remember, but there were a lot so shut up) but the view made it absolutely worth it. Obviously we had to reward ourselves for that hefty hike with a café lunch visit and, afterwards, a large serving of ice cream each. The hardest part of our day was the dilemma between continuing to slurp our ice creams, or to reach into our bags to get out some sunglasses. Tough life.

Another work friend, Harriet, was due to fly in today, so we excitedly met her at the beach bus stop at around 6.30pm, after spending a couple of hours at the beach (fear not – I was well sunscreened! Also, WHY DO PEBBLE BEACHES EXIST? They are a terrible invention; completely unnecessary). After a spot of dinner, we were again (at Ariella’s request, I might add) directing ourselves back to Wayne’s, more for a catchup over drinks rather than a dancing-on-tables kind of evening like before. State of Origin was on the televisions there, so we shared a table with an Australian fellow who turned out to be a chef on a yacht owned by an unidentified Australian million gazillionaire. Needless to say, he was plagued with questions about food and the mysterious magnate.

Wayne’s closed at two, so we lined up with our new friend outside pretty much the only place in Nice that was still open (Why, you ask? Since it’s high season, at a large and famous beachside city and the sun only set at 10.30? Let us not forget – these people are French. They play by their own rules). The club was packed, but they had a live band who weren’t particularly good but played old favourites and we were too sloshed at this point to care. We left after the band finished and unintentionally went to the beach, where we steadily sobered up as we threw pebbles into the sea. Friend James fell asleep. As it got lighter, towards about 5.30am, we decided to wake him up and head back to our respective accommodations.

Summary of the following day: hangover. Gin & tonics, various spirit-and-sodas, beer, and cider are not such a pleasant combination by the next morning. Ariella dutifully took a run while Harriet and I felt sorry for ourselves, and afterwards we slowly made our way back to the “Château” and associated café and gelato shop, to show Harriet the sights we had explored the previous day. Much of the late afternoon was spent lazing in the sun on the beach again, where Harriet experienced the joys that a pebble beach inevitably offers. The sun was good for our souls.

I’m not really sure what happened the next day: perhaps I was in a post-hangover state of blindness.  Ariella visited a museum, that I do remember, but what Harriet and I did is anyone’s guess. Probably sleep and/or beach. As it was our final night all together in Nice, we went out for dinner, and ended up close to starving as it took so long to be served. My gnocchi and gorgonzola made it all worthwhile.

The next morning was spent packing, and hurriedly hiding Harriet from the landlord, as we hadn’t admitted to her staying with us (don’t even feel guilty – the place was overpriced anyway, and the landlord was a cranky bugger). Coffee and deliciousness at a nearby café, then it was goodbye to Ariella as she was flying back to Hamburg. Harriet and I made the slow walk to a hostel near the station, where we would spend the night before Harriet took a train to Florence the next day. Such jetsetters!

Dumped our stuff and cooled down a bit (Nice was the first place of my entire trip that I remembered the agonies of Australian summer heat), then decided to go on a day trip somewhere. Harriet suggested a small town recommended on TripAdvisor, named Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

An hour of bus trip later (most of which I was asleep – I can’t even control it anymore! Sorry Harriet), the lovely old fortified city was in sight. We spent a few good hours exploring this quaint little village, with steeply sloping cobbled streets and clear views of the surrounding countryside to the sea. Such a little gem, but quite touristy. We spent a few dollars that day on chocolates, postcards, and of course ice cream, and managed to catch the last bus home.

I’ve forgotten now where we went for dinner (that will teach me to wait nearly a month to write blog entries!) but the next morning we had coffee and croissants at a ghetto café before saying our goodbyes. I headed into the Old Town to my hostel of the next two nights, which was perfectly situated: just down the path from the café that Ariella, Harriet and I had frequented! I spent the remainder of the day just wandering the pedestrian streets and people-watching. On Sunday (we’re up to July 8th now), after a leisurely breakfast and stroll, I headed over to Monaco. You know, just another country.

My, they are rich there. Everything is so clean and structured and yacht-ey and designer-shop-ey and fancy. It wasn’t an overly interesting place for someone with a less than seven-digit salary, but of course I had to visit the Monte Carlo casino, which is definitely one of the most extravagant buildings I have ever laid foot in (is that a phrase? It should be).

Absolutely mindblowing. It perfectly the captured the essence of the Art Deco era (also demonstrated in other buildings in the area) and I can just imagine Gatsby-esque gazillionaires, spoilt heirs to impossible fortunes, dwindling their lives away here on cards and drink, all the while in fancy clothes completely unsuitable for the climate. It is so great.

I creepily watched some card games, mainly Perfect Pairs and Blackjack. Didn’t bet unfortunately: the minimum betting chip available was 10€, and there was a table with a minimum bet of 25€ to which, as I was standing there, a man approached and placed a cool 400€ on the table. He kept ordering scotch too. He wasn’t a very good player, not like the young Italian heir (I’m assuming), or the middle-aged Asian businessman. Seriously, it felt like a Bond set in there. I am now determined to become an expert card player (i.e. Bond girl, Sean Connery era).

That evening I went for a stroll along Nice beach after dinner. Bad idea. Obviously, as a young female by herself, I have nothing better to do with my time than stave off sleazy frenchmen. One was a real jerk when he realised that nothing was actually going to happen. I’ll blame the balmy Niçoise air, rather than frenchmen in general. Ended up sulking my way through a bizarre film screened in a small square, then headed back to the hostel.

Went for a run the next morning *smug*, before taking the bus to the airport. Stupidly got off at the wrong terminal, freaked out and ran back to the bus (which was, miraculously, still at the stop) and managed to check in at the correct terminal on time. They took my remaining sunscreen at the security checkpoint: my fault, I know, but it made me feel like I was losing a friend all the same. Got an emergency exit seat between two men (one of which turned to me and made a jolly remark in another language, to which I replied with a well-wishing but evidently helplessly ignorant chuckle), then promptly fell asleep for the duration of my flight to Amsterdam.

Tortues & Écureuils

Turtles & Squirrels

Last meal: vegetable stirfry with rice and kebab.

Drink of choice: Cap Corse apéritif.

Song in my head:

Just over two weeks ago, I arrived in Nice. It was rudely hot, especially for one such as myself: traipsing around with an oversized bag in the heart of the Côte d’Azur during peak season. When I arrived, the port was chock-a-block (where does that phrase come from?!) with enormous luxury yachts and old tanned men with their high-heeled female counterparts. The bus ride was refreshing and long; the train ride was jam-packed and long. One of those oh-golly-how-am-I-going-to-extricate-myself-from-this-throng-of-people-sardined-onto-this-train moments later, my new host Chris picked me up from the station of Golfe-Juan-Vallauris (between Antibes and Cannes).

CHARACTER 1: Chris. My HelpX hostess. 60-odd, living alone in a Provençal-style house with pool and extensive garden, bilingual and very supportive and encouraging with my french. She’s a bit set in her ways in some respects, but she’s very social, generous, and has travelled to all corners of the globe – she always has a story of Australia, Turkey, China, the US, India, Brazil…

CHARACTER 2: Yliane. Chris’ daughter. Only here for a few days, stopping off to see her mum before heading off to Aix-en-Provence, to see her thesis co-supervisor, and then to New York. She’s actually doing a PhD in Environmental Science at a university in Sydney (I told her to look out for Jus!) and lives really close to where I used to live! She was really friendly, her English is absolutely flawless (even with a slight Aussie accent, especially on certain vowels: I’m impressed), and she’s looking for a new place to live with her boyfriend in Sydney (I subtley let her know that I will also be looking for a house in November *hint hint*). A very cool girl, but I’m a little intimidated by all her achievements.

CHARACTER 3: Chandler. Looks about 26 but is in fact 18. Jailbait. Actually there have been many jokes about this as a 32-year-old lady friend that we’ve met was majorly hitting on him until she realised that six months ago she could have been arrested for that. He’s a pretty cool guy: he has that young American charm that can sometimes be mistaken for arrogance but I think is endearing; he has a story for every situation; and he is enthusiastic about everything, from Game of Thrones (yes, we all watched Season 1 together, and he’s now well into Season 2 [traitor]) to French literature (he can’t speak or read it, but he likes the aesthetics of the words) to Chopin (yes, we are currently rocking out with our red wine and technologies) to discussing issues (consumerism: damn society!) to good ol’ American hamburgers (no comment). With his dark hair and height, he looks nothing like his cousin:

CHARACTER 4: Spencer. 22 but looks 19, slightly shorter and with blond hair. He has this wonderful American drawl, which isn’t quite like the Louisiana mumble (which we like to laugh about) but it belongs on a TV show about teenagers. He’s an easy-going guy, which can have its drawbacks (he never really wants to go on daytrips) but we have a similar sense of humour: we spent 20 minutes of a car trip the other day silently laughing about a lost-in-translation moment. The cousins live in a little studio connected to the house with an external entrance, but I totally feel like one of the gang when we hang out. It’s real nice. Except when they talk about how much they miss America because it’s so great. It makes me eyes roll uncontrollably.

CHARACTER 5: Lulu. Technically a cat. Also my least favourite cat in France. She is just so dumb. She scares at any movement when you approach to pat her, but then lies all over my clean clothes and won’t move even when I get cranky at her. And she gets in the way. And she attacks the multi-coloured geckos that congregate to watch us eat dinner. She has no redeeming qualities that cats should have. Stupid Lulu. Chris also owns three small turtles, which are way better, and they eat out of your hand!

The boys arrived a day after me, so I’ve been here with them almost the entire time. However, sometimes Chris and I have unintentionally secret conversations in french. Muahahahaha!

The day after they arrived, Sunday, Chris took me with her to Grasse where she was having lunch with a friend. It was so cool: it’s a fairly small city, essentially built on the side of a hill, and famous for its perfumeries (it’s the perfume centre of France, and 10% of the world’s perfume production is within city limits). It was lovely to have a wander through the museums and pedestrian streets, buying a few bits and pieces here and there.

Later in the week, we met one of Chris’ friends Micha, who is German and trilingual (german, english, french), lives in Antibes, and invited us over to watch the Germany vs. Greece football match (I’ve been forbidden to call it soccer. It was also subtley forbidden to go for Greece). It was so much fun – I’d forgotten how much I enjoy watching sport; Micha’s assertive German housemate was hitting on the boys (aforementioned 32-year-old); much laughter was had about the German player who looked like Jesus; and we all got a bit tipsy from all the Kronenborg we happily consumed!

The Saturday a week ago, Chris went away for the weekend with some friends, so we essentially had the time off, with a few small exceptions in the garden. We had invested in Chartreuse and Absinthe the day before at the supermarket. Needless to say, it was a fairly slow day. We didn’t even get that drunk or anything: it was so hot that we couldn’t drink that much of either alcohol because of their warmth. I slept darn well though.

For the Sunday, Chandler had arranged to meet his French lady love in Nice, so he and I set off at just after 9am. Because it was a Sunday, the buses were non-existant, so we ended up walking several kilometres in the stenching heat, to the direct bus to Nice. On our walk, we came across a squirrel that was paralysed in fear in the middle of the road. I won some sweet karma points by picking it up and placing it in the scrub. Chandler was impressed; I attributed my animal acumen to my Australian-ness; squirrel wasn’t dead. Everyone wins. Nice was nice (after three hours in transit), but it was freaking hot and a Sunday, so there wasn’t much to do. I ended up buying two light shirts which I’m finding I’m needing more and more with this weather. On the bus home, I watched some triathletes running and cycling along the main beachside promenade: champions. It made me think of NutriGrain.

On Wednesday, Chris took me into Cannes to explore, as she was volunteering there I think. Again, it was stinking hot, but I had some good plans for the day. I bought some sandals that I was wanting needing; I wanted to go to the cinema but the first film was due to finish after 3, which is when Chris had said she would call to see where I was; and I’d brought some crap along to send home, which didn’t happen in the end (after 45 minutes in the post office) because it had perfume and no one told me I’m not allowed to send that. Anyway, they at least let me leave with my now-ripped-open €40 postage carton, so I think I’ll just send all the same stuff at a later date in my sticky-taped box and not declare it. What else am I supposed to do?

That night, we had arranged a seaside picnic with Micha and his housemate and some friends in Antibes. It was quite lovely, but I was in a weird pensive mood which kept me to myself and people kept commenting on it. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Michael Sandel and Philosophy Bites podcasts lately, and they’re making me re-evaluate lots of my own values and ethics. And they also just keep me entertained. So that was my excuse.

Thursday night was the semi-final match between Germany and Italy, and we were again invited to Micha’s place to watch it. This time we supplied the alcohol, and the housemate was sick. Thus, Germany lost. They played so badly though, they deserved to lose. Throughout the game, I was channelling my I-hate-Italy-after-the-2006-FIFA-match-and-I-will-never-forgive-them bitterness. I actually remember it being the talk of the schoolyard the next day. Bloody Italians. I HOPE THEY LOSE TO SPAIN!

Other than that, there has been much weeding of the gardens, frivoling in the pool, and generally hanging out with everyone. It has been so hot that one really can’t do that much during the day. Yesterday I actually woke up in the middle of the night for no other reason than it was hot. So annoying.

Time has rushed past. Being in the second/downhill half of my “alone time” is making me anxious/appreciative of the temporamentality of this trip.

Still homesick. Oh! The Places You’ll Go! is keeping me spiritually alive at the moment.


Pins & needles (lit: ants)

Last meal: couscous and vegetables.

Drink of choice: homemade lemonade!

Song in my head:

Today marks the day exactly halfway through travelling by myself!

A week ago today, I left the worst place I have experienced my entire trip. Here is my story: (*cue Law & Order’s signature ominous double note*)

The town of Évisa and its surrounds are absolutely beautiful, and so when the bus dropped me off in the town, I was feeling pretty lucky/smug. The farm itself, mostly for self-sustainability rather than selling produce, was about 6km out of town. And it had been my favourite WWOOFing advertisement for the whole of Corsica.

CHARACTER 1: Marie. AKA Ice queen/bitch. This was the coldest woman I have ever met. She was unfriendly and unwelcoming from the get-go: she picked me up from town by driving up nearby, calling out to me from her car, and saying little to nothing on the drive to the farm.

I was then told that I would be sleeping in an enormous empty house (which had approximately 1000 external doors that were never closed), by myself, with no wifi, phone reception, electricity, nor running water. I had a small lamp in my room (attached to their house by approximately 1 million extension cords) and a tap (attached by approximately 1 billion hose extensions) in the bathroom. I had a dry toilet (flush = sawdust) and a camp shower (worst design ever – I had to crouch to get water above my knees, and on two successive days there wasn’t much sun, so the water was really cold). These I became accustomed to, and I can see their benefit as sustainable practises, but I was peed off that there had been nothing about it in the ad. I sneakily used everyone else’s bathroom for the first 24 hours (all the perks – hot water, flushing toilet), to which Marie told me that I wasn’t allowed anymore.

So aside from the living conditions (like I said, not so bad but I really should’ve been given a heads up), Marie was just a really cold unfriendly person. I didn’t feel at all welcome, and sometimes felt uncomfortable just being in her presence. She didn’t say much to me, she’s one of those people who would speak over other people if she had an opinion, and she never spoke slower when I asked her to repeat something. When I told her I would be leaving the next day, her immediate unemotional response was “Well you’ll have to empty and clean the toilet, and change the sheets on your bed – all WWOOFers have to do that.” Obviously she totes misses me.

CHARACTER 2: Christophe. The husband and breadwinner. SUCH a nice guy, really welcoming and friendly, he spoke slowly and explained things clearly, and made a big effort to teach me new things (he helped me make bread for the first time!) He works as the equivalent of a National Parks person (?) in Corsica (Fôret d’Aïtone). The other WWOOFer who arrived later thought his name was Christian, and he was French, and so probably (unfortunately) right. Awkward.

CHARACTER 3: Maréva. Eldest, girl, 5. Desperate to steal the attention laid upon her younger brother, and thus would act his age. I’m talking urinating in public view, nightly post-dinner tantrums, constant crying/screaming/mischief throughout the day. She has absolute power in that house. It’s depressing to watch. She was a bit enamoured with me, because I was new and a girl, so I had little time to myself and on more than one occasion she came into my room just after I’d finished showering. Secretly, in my head, I would call her MALréva, because mal means ‘bad’ and rêve means ‘dream’. Sometimes I think I’m pretty witty.

CHARACTER 4: Atlan. The boy, 2. Not toilet-trained in the remotest, which would be fine if his parents made him wear a nappy. He poops four times daily. DOES THIS POSE A PROBLEM FOR ANYONE ELSE? But seriously, he peed everywhere and once I saw him pooping while standing, sans any kind of pants. Human rights issues sprang to mind. Also Marie said he was named after the deity who held up the world, but I’m fairly sure that his name is AtlaS? Awkward. And they can’t even pretend he’s named after the Narnia lion either.

CHARACTERS 5&6: Pascal & Laetitia. These were two friends of Chris, who stayed for 6 days after I arrived. They were so lovely, helpful, spoke slowly, and would even exchange exasperated looks with me during the nightly bedtime tantrum. I was really sad to see them go.

CHARACTER 7: Rashid. The other WWOOFer, from Toulouse. He arrived the day after Pascal and Laetitia left. He was really cool, and this was his first WWOOFing experience so I felt bad for him – I kept reassuring him that this was not the norm. He spoke with a bizarre accent, a bit like Québecois: he said pain (‘bread’) like paing, really nasally. On my final night, he taught me a gazillion rude words, and some French tongue twisters.

The work itself wasn’t so bad – mainly weeding and a little bit of mulching (that was in the greenhouse and the mulch was animal wool and it was the hottest day ever = ew.) I now have a weird brown tan above my hips at the back, where there was a gap when I would crouch for several hours in the sun. It looks like someone has just smeared a stripe of tanning lotion there. It’s really weird.
Got into the habit of running daily: horrifically slow up an 11% ascent, but the scenery made the muscle burn worth it. I also finished the Count of Monte Cristo, which was kind of a turning point for me. I’ve now started a tatty second-hand book bought in Abbey’s in Paris. Authentic.

I ended up staying here for 10 days, reasons for which varied: waiting for a postal item to arrive; trying to give it a chance; hanging out with/protecting Rashid; and attempting to HTFU. In the end though, I wasn’t at all happy so I left. I walked into Évisa at 7am, the bus driver recognised me from last time, and my previous host from Ajaccio was happy to take me in again, this time in her own home.

The next three days passed in a blur. I sent a package home to mum (I figure I don’t so much need an 800g book or a big fluffy beanie at the moment) which was overpriced and not-quite-full, so I bought some shoes I’d had my eye on and sent them straight away. I miss them. There’s still the “new shoes!” excitement, but no actual shoes. I did a little bit of exploring Ajaccio, but mostly I just hung out with Tamara, recuperating and getting my mentality back in check.

Organised to catch the ferry back to the mainland. Almost missed it, so there was an embarrassing ok-now-I’m-awake dash with my enormous pack within the building and across the port to get to the boat just before the doors closed. I looked like such an idiot. It was great – I felt like me again! Forgot that I’d pre-bought breakfast with my ticket, so I had second breakfast which obviously made me ecstatic. First pastry in weeks. Then I pretty much slept on the floor (surprisingly clean!) for about four hours, before the arrival in Nice!


Beach bar made of straw

Last meal: pizza from a beachside restaurant.

Drink of choice: Monaco (beer with grenadine and lemonade).

Song in my head:

Alas I have not written for over a month! Endless problems accessing internet, together with constant moving and a full calendar are my excuses. This post has been written for over a week, but I refused to publish until I could upload photos – for the skimmers.

I continued my time at the farm in the Dordogne, and had some really nice days: french-wise and with the animals. There was one day where a sheep came up to me out of the blue and nibbled my hand, and the little goat Appolline jumped up my back when I was sitting, and sucked on my finger like it was a bottle. I feel like the livestock-whisperer or something.

I had a little day trip by myself to Perigueux, where I was dropped off at about 9am and told to entertain myself until 5.30. I somehow managed to while away the hours in this small town with less-than-fond memories (standing around with Justin in the rain, realising that four hours of travel still couldn’t get us to Lascaux II [which I did get to in the end – underwhelming]) despite all the museums being closed because it was a Monday. I saw a french film BY MYSELF (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film alone before) called Le Prénom, and I understood most of it! And it was funny! And not just slapstick funny, word funny! Yay.
They also took me to this weird arts and theatre festival thing in a nearby village, which was breathtakingly beautiful and … entertaining? Not sure if that’s the right word.

I almost missed my train to leave Saint-Chamassy, because both cars decided that they didn’t like second gear that morning. After five hours of train and sleep and silently mouthing the sweet lyrics of Cloud Control and the XX, I arrived in the relative quiet/clean/peace of Montrichard to stay with Yvonne again.

That week passed in a blur. I don’t know what happened: I ate too much a lot; I went places; I painted outdoor furniture; I B&Bed; and I even started running again! Half an hour every day = smug. And totally justifies my sugar and bread intake.

Next stop was Paris. Accommodation was hard to find, so I stayed at in my first multi-bedded hostel dorm. It was an experience, to be sure, but I would definitely do it again. Cheap + young people = pas trop mal. Dinnered with Dad and Maria and her fam that night (it was the end of their trip around western Europe and this was the first opportunity for me to see them), and arranged for me to play tour guide for the next two days (coz I’m like so knowledgable about Paris now. I’m prets much a native. Totes. I mean, ouais. [that’s French for ‘yep’]).

Met up at Notre Dame the next morning (après my run around Père Lachaise cemetery) and headed for the Louvre. A few of the rooms were closed, so after seeing La Joconde and some other über famous ones, we had lunch on the Rue de Rivoli and then headed to the Champs Élysees. Which, as Dad explained, is a reference to the Elysean (?) fields in Ancient Greek (?) mythology, which is a paradise/heaven-esque scenario for soldiers who died in battle. Man, Napoléon was cool. Dad and I weren’t interested in shopping, so we instead walked up to l’Arc de Triomphe (and to the top – the weather was far warmer than when Mum and I did it) and then across to the Eiffel Tower where we sat in the Champ de Mars. There we saw two Aboriginal buskers in traditional dance attire who were attracting a lot of photographic attention. Dad said that they’d gone on Walkabout and hadn’t stopped. I laughed. Is that racist?

Returned to the Latin quarter for dinner, at a little bistro with COLD red wine. Bizarre but great on a hot day and with duck.

On Friday, I got up a little earlier than usual to buy pastries from the bakery in the 10th. I am proud to say that I didn’t even sample any in transit! Picked up the others and we pastrified outselves on the banks of the Seine. Perfection. Oh, the Seine was nice too, but I just can’t get enough of those chausson pommes…

Continued along for a quick visit to the gardens of Rodin, the sculptor of The Thinker. I know I should have oohed and ahhed at the artworks, and they WERE impressive, but the multicoloured roses in that garden are absolutely to die for. Incroyable. Headed quick to the Orsay museum, where I again experienced extreme mindblowage/hunger on the top level. This is what Impressionism reduces me to.

After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we continued our earlier walk along the Seine until the Tour Eiffel. Best exclamation goes to Maria’s Texan brother Tatchi: “Son of a gun!” I love that he actually said that. He had previously contained his squeals of delight when he could see the top from another part of the city. We took a boat ride along the Seine for an hour, then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Dinner was at another Latin quarter restaurant, but this time it was cheese-themed, specialising in raclette and fondue. Much to my delight. I don’t care that it was freaking hot and that is alpine food. Cheese is good, regardless of climate. After a few drinks (my first Limoncello!) we headed back to the Tour Eiffel to see it lit up like a Christmas tree just after the sun set ~10pm. Said our goodbyes (it was their last night) and we headed back to our respective accommodations.

The next day I kind of bummed around, buying odds and ends that I needed clothes-wise, doing a load of washing, finally getting me some internet.

For Sunday, I had planned to meet up with some old neighbours from the mountains in the afternoon! In the morning, however, I got my fill of old-school weaponry and Napoléon’s giganto tomb at Les Invalides. It’s pretty cool there. If I was French, I might’ve got a bit emotional.

Met up with Judith and Bill mid-afternoon at the top-storey flat they were renting – everyone seems to stay in the Latin quarter! Went out for a café early evening, and bought tickets to a Chopin and Liszt piano recital/concert at allegedly the oldest church in Paris! She played well, but I’m an old fuddy-duddy and I think that with all these classical musician types, sometimes speed takes preference over quality. Just sayin’, there were some notes missing. Just sayin’.

90 minutes of pianist excellence later (and excuse me, but when did it become normal to have multiple encores in a classical music setting?), we had dinner at an Italian restaurant with lovely fluffy bread (some of which Judith stole!) They also gave me some Vegemite which I’m yet to open, but I’m pretty excited for when I do.

Monday morning, it was action stations: run, clean out bag a bit, pack bag, check out of hostel, and get myself to CDG Terminal 3 for a flight to CORSICA!! Weighed my bag 20 minutes before flight check-in began and realised that, despite my lame efforts, it was still 2.5kg over. I got it down to 20.1kg just before I got in the line. Win. But seriously, I need to send some crap home.

Justin messaged me when I was at the gate, checking I had the number of my next accommodation. Nyaw. Managed to scab an emergency exit window seat. YESSS!! Also managed to sleep for the ENTIRE one hour 45 minutes of flight. What a waste.

My new hostess picked me up from the airport with her son (SO nice!) and drove me to my beachside apartment, where I was to spend the next four nights. She then took me to the beach, where I think I embarrassed her a little when I thoroughly sunscreened all the rang skin that light was going to touch. She briefly took me to meet her parents, who lived close by, and I am thrilled to say that I beat them hands down in pétanque. I was introduced to a French flight attendant who I was going to share the apartment with on my final night. She drives a white droptop VW-Beetle-styled old Citoën from the 70s, with blue racing stripes. I wasn’t sad to have her share the apartment. We arranged to go to the beach together the next day.

The following days passed in a rather lovely manner. I could sleep in, I ran each morning, bought and ate nice food, lived on my own timetable, could walk around next to naked in the apartment, and drink some of a goon sac of Corsican rosé that had been left in the fridge. The biggest news? I didn’t get burnt AND I have a tan! Well, for me it’s a tan. Really, it’s just regular skin now, but I’m now REGULAR-coloured! Well, on my arms. My legs are still neon lightbulbs.

And yesterday, I took a ferry from Porticcio across the bay to Ajaccio, to get to my next WWOOFing property. It’s near Évisa, in the mountains so a little colder, and the bus drive here was ABSOLUTELY incredible. It’s the kind of road that I would be happy to fork out a hundred euros to hire a fancy convertible and go crazy on.

And that is where I shall leave this post.
Another will arrive shortly!

Quel bordel!

What a mess! (crass)

Last meal: Petit dejeuner of toast and butter.

Drink of choice: Bergerac red wine.

Song in my head:

Our internet was down since an electrical storm a week ago, so it’s not just that I can’t get into a habit of writing!

After Mum left, I stayed in Poitiers for two nights by myself. I caught a Eurolines bus there, en route to Portugal, which was filled with Portuguese pensioners listening and singing along to the popular Portuguese music blasting from the speakers – a fun five hours. Poitiers was pretty nice, with a large fortified section where I had some nice strolls through, but I was glad to be arriving in Saint Chamassy at my first WWOOFing property.

At the moment, I’m in the Dordogne, east of Bordeaux, on a “sheep” farm (inverted commas because they farm lots of things: apples; peaches; raspberries; a few lil goats [they are the absolute best things ever]; some bees, which I’m unfortunately not allowed near; and some grapes!) My almost-two weeks here has gone remarkably quickly, I think mostly due to how fast the individual days go by, and the people I’m sharing my time with:

CHARACTER 1: Benoît. I have never encountered someone who can talk so quickly and yet keep his mouth so closed. He reminds me of a farmer version of John Smith from Pocahontas, except more restrained and less inclined to help natives. He smokes like a chimney, seeming to have a cigarette in his mouth as much as he doesn’t, he can chuck back a hunk of cheese for dessert, and he ties his hair back like a rocker from the 70s. Has a great habit of giving me a four-second warning before leaving. He’s surprisingly sweet around Estelle sometimes – he even looks for her in the rearview mirror as we drive away. Makes me sick.

CHARACTER 2: Estelle. Swears like a sailor. Also smokes like a chimney, though where Benoît would be industrial, she would be a mere household fireplace in a cold winter. She was actually a WWOOFer too, from Belgium (the way she says ‘voiture’ is great), and I guess she fell in love and Benoît asked her to stay and she never left. All this romance, so sickening. She loves the animals and gives them all awesome names, and she is SO skinny, and strong! She’s 24 and she has gaunt cheeks but pretty eyes. She also has lots of freckles and wears different coloured socks.

CHARACTER 3: Jeremy. He is an Australian WWOOFer too, with whom I shared a room until he left a week ago. He spoke incredible French (he could understand them, for a start) and it was just nice to have someone of comparable age and accent to hang out with.

CHARACTERS 4-6: parents. Benoît’s parents live just down the road so I met his mum on the second day (she always seems cranky, and in our first conversation she said ‘you don’t understand much, do you?’ which, I admit, was the first thing that I did actually understand in the conversation, but it hurt all the same) and his dad just the other day over lunch. He didn’t say anything at all. Estelle’s dad arrived on Monday (we went into Bordeaux to meet him!) and he is really cool: he has smiley eye wrinkles; he speaks English and French but neither is his first language (must find out what is); and he has Santa’s jolliness, except skinny.

CHARACTERS 7+: pets. There are many of these. Sibelle = Estelle’s German Shepherd from Belgium. Minuit and Prudence = house cats who fight like champs (Prudence always loses). Manix and Durex = farm cats. Eschalotte = ranga pig (i.e. me). Pimpernel = two month old goat who jumps on everything and goes for crazy sprints and changes direction whilst in the air. Appolline = two week old goat who makes the cutest bleats ever. Paulo = black lamb who responds to his name and sprints to the caller, and proceeds to headbutt their legs until he gets fed from a bottle. The list continues…

It’s really quite fun here. The days are long (but go quickly – I feel like my time in France is slipping through my fingers!), the work is exhausting, the food is simple but delish, the weather is wonderful (my first week, it poured, and yesterday it was incredibly humid, but otherwise), the colours are mesmerising, and I feel like my French must be improving, since it’s such a challenge and I feel like an idiot a lot of the time.

And I’m totes becoming a farmie: my fingernails are never completely clean; my skin and clothes aren’t their original colours (due to dirt, paint, sun, animal byproducts, etc.); going out/to the markets requires a change of clothes and a facewash; and my delightful boots are being slowly destroyed.

I’ve also been reading a bit more, especially when the internet was down (it was so pathetic – everyone in the house didn’t really know what to do during that time), so I read Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity (not to be read if you’re feeling particularly pessimistic about love/men/humanity) and now I’m back to the Count.

And with that, I am going to sit in the sun and read some more.


To drive

Last meal: a real coffee and a croissant at a salon du thé.

Drink of choice: Martini Blanco.

Song in my head:

Alas, I have not written for three weeks, ’tis because the mother Hen hath been to visit mineself. Suffice it to say, it has been a whirlwind adventure and an interesting few weeks! Seriously, it was fun.

Our first few days were spent in Paris, where I could happily play pretentious tour guide. On our first day, we spent a lovely afternoon walking Boulevard Richard-Lenoir to the Bastille, then across to Notre Dame, via a chocolatier of course. Here is a summary of the evening’s events (after I cooked dinner for a jetlagged Henny):

– Oribia tries to prioritise Henny’s places-to-see, since the only planning Henny did before she left was assemble a seemingly random list of places in France.
– Henny constantly changes her mind.
– Oribia somehow establishes some basic plan for some car hire locations (since Henny has previously been adamant that a car will be hired).
– Oribia begins booking a car, Henny goes to bed.
– Oribia asks Henny for Mastercard and international licence to book.
– Henny tells Oribia where to find Mastercard, and says that she only has a British licence, not an international one.
– Oribia asks to see British licence, just in case it is an international licence that was only used in Britain.
– Henny says she doesn’t have it with her.
– Oribia is now the principal and evidently ONLY driver, and the card used to reserve the car must be in the principal drivers name, hence
– Oribia uses her own account to reserve a car that her mother insisted on getting, at Oribia’s disapproval, whilst not knowing where to get it, how to get it, how much it will be or with what identification she will use to drive it.
– Oribia wants to commit homocide-suicide.

Not the greatest start, but slowly strolling through Paris over the next few days eased the tension. On Wednesday, we strolled the Champs Élysées, ate macarons from La Durée, and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe! Thursday was used for the adjective-ridden Versailles, on the way to which we were entertained by fantastic buskers with accordion and saxophone. On Good Friday, we saw the Passage of the Cross at Sacré Coeur (Henny was rapt), after which we were conned out of €80 when I virtuously thought that I could win a street bet and in all the excitement, I naturally gambled everything that was in my wallet in one fell swoop. Sigh. Mum was really nice about it though, and we went out to lunch and bitched about the French – it was great!

On the Saturday, we caught a train to Dijon where we picked up our hire car. The drive down to Cluny was delightful, and at dinner I introduced Henny to the joys of apéritifs! We stayed at a little B&B owned by lovely Brits who had us in for a drink and we didn’t leave until midnight. Crazy shenanigans! Easter Sunday morn we left to go to Taizé, which is allegedly famous for a certain type of church service, but it just looked like a tiny town hosting a ginormous camp (there were tents and cars EVERYWHERE!) with little/no people and even less existent church services. After many photos, we continued to drive down towards Provence, stopping overnight in Valence.

Monday’s driving through the Provençal countryside was wonderful: we passed through towns such as Orange and Nîmes on our way to Montpellier to spend the night. Most of the day was spent driving, however, so we didn’t get to see much of actual Montpellier. I do know for sure though that it has hideous traffic and a plethora of one-way streets. Disappointing, for now. The next day we went across the bight? … via Arles to Aix-en-Provence. The drive on the country roads was so nice (Henny has developed a talent of trying to take photographs across/in front of my face whilst I drive), and we found a quaint town called Aigues-Mortes which had a mysterious castle right in the middle of it! Shortly thereafter, we were really excited when we saw a large body of water (Mediterannean??) but it was just a lagoon.

On Wednesday, we only had to drive to Avignon, so we spent the first half of the afternoon aimlessly driving through the countryside surrounding Aix. It was a beautiful sunny day, which just made everything that much sweeter. I found us a sweet-as parking space near to our Avignon accommodation, and we spend the evening walking around the Pope’s gardens then dining al fresco. Oh the whimsy! The next morning we took our baggage to the car to find that I had in fact got a parking ticket for not paying for parking that day, so Hen went on the Pope’s Palace tour while I went to pay it (2 police stations, 5 newsagents and 1.5 hours of my short short life wasted later – IT WAS PAID!) We met up for lunch then took a quick stroll along the main street (soooo many nice clothes shops, and we ended up buying me a bag), then we were off towards Lyon.

Actually getting into Lyon was a nightmare, but after a little backtracking and some road rage (it was ALL THEM – Mum will attest, all I did was give them the Bird and only AFTER they were stupidheads) we finally got there. Late night pizza = win. Unfortunately we had to get the car back to Dijon by 4 the next day, and we were late risers, so Henny didn’t get to see much of Lyon, which was really disappointing but I think she liked the little that she did see. Took the motorway north, where the speed limit is 130km/h. So of course I was driving at that speed. Such an adrenaline rush – slowing to 110 where there was roadwork was quite a bore. Broke down 4km outside of Dijon due to lack of petrol – typical. Highway patrol had a stern word, we had to be towed, so embarrassing. Thank goodness we took out extra insurance with the rental company!

Returned the car in the nick of time, as seems to be our style. The train from Dijon to Tours was very pleasant, and we stayed overnight at a family-run hotel near the train station. The next morning, we were off to hire our second hire car – a fuschia Renault! Spent the day driving along the Loire: Amboise; Blois; Château du Chambord; Orléans; then returning close to Tours to stay with Yvonne. Had dinner at a local restaurant (not La Plage though – place of offered work) where Yvonne met us for a coffee afterwards. Hen really enjoyed staying at her B&B, and first thing next morn we went to have a geez at La Plage with Yvonne and her granddaughters. Upon being inside, I was super-glad I wasn’t going to be there for 60 hours a week, and this was reiterated by Hen in the car afterwards.

The drive to Bayeux was alright (five straight hours is never that fun), but passing through famous towns broke it up a bit: Alençon; Falaise (Will the Conq’s birthplace); etc. Instead of going straight to our hotel, we followed signs to the D-Day beaches and, after 45 minutes, found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of Omaha Beach. An old German bunker had an American memorial, and occasionally there were signs giving statistics and historical accounts. I had my first pee-in-the-bushes moment of the trip: ’twas rather exciting, and respectful (I’m helping with the regeneration)! Had dinner at a local Norman restaurant outside the cathedral.

On the Monday, we hung around Bayeux for a while: went out for breakfast; visited the tapestry (Henny finally got her Halley’s Comet postcard); walked through the ginormous cathedral; and then on the road once more. Mont St Michel was a rest-stop (lolz) which, despite its evident beauty, was disappointing for Hen who had seen it when it still had permanent inhabitants, room on the paths and no crappy souvenir shops. St Malo was our evening adventure – it is absolutely beautiful and, we were told afterwards, completely demolished during the war so all the “old-school fortifications” (my words) were actually lovingly rebuilt by the citizens post-war. Nice one: you guys passed. I had mussels nay, a BUCKET of mussels for dinner. Mum’s dinner wasn’t as impressive/gluttonous. Stayed at a hotel on a street corner where the owner was a cheeky Frenchman who eventually proposed to me because I was Australian (he pretended it was a joke, but I could see the sadness in his eyes as I walked away).

Next on the agenda was Camaret-sur-Mer, where I had HelpXed, as it were. I had left my so-called “toy” Grover there when I had gone to Paris, so obviously it was paramount to collect him. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as guilty as when I got that phone call. Poor Grover, all alone, in a strange house. I’ll never forgive myself.

Henny met my hosts and we invited them to dinner at a restaurant of their suggestion. On the way, Mum and I braved the gale-force winds at the Pointe de Pen-Hir, for the sake of some beautiful photos. Oh, and I guess to show Hen the Celtic landscape. Dinner was a Central American extravaganza, starting with home-made rums (I had one made with passionfruit, which Frédéric delightedly named ‘Whale’s Sperm’). On the way home, Mum and I saw two army men in uniform, walking along the road with massive guns. Machine guns, not large biceps. Well them too, maybe, but we were distracted by the machine guns.

The next morning we left at a reasonable time for our longest leg of the trip yet – Camaret to Angers. Via the local biscuiterie, of course, to purchase some famous buttery Breton biscuits and the long awaited Chouchen (when we eventually drank it though, it wasn’t nearly as good as the other time I’d had it!) Lunch was at a roadside house/restaurant we happened to stumble upon along a country road, which was owned by a friendly English woman and was serving the best fish and chips in … the Northern Hemisphere (I still maintain that no one can beat Doyle’s). We drove on and on, eventually getting onto another (130km/h!) motorway. Diverted into Nantes – disappointing. Drove on to Angers where I had the cranks because my computer died, but in the end my superior navigating brain won the day and we found where we were staying (it reminded me of a school camp deal though – lots of two-bedded rooms [so exciting and ‘adult’ to have a room to your friend!], and teachers would say ‘lights out at 11pm’ but everyone would be up for at least another two hours).

It was a rush the next morning to get to Tours on time to return the car, but we did it, and EVEN caught the train to Paris straight afterwards. Of course, however, this train decided to make itself 20 minutes late en route to Paris so we missed our connection to Amiens. I wangled us some new tickets (for some reason 20 minutes is acceptably late, but 30 minutes isn’t?) but we had to wait for the train. Decided to stop over at Quick across the road (worst decision ever, for many reasons) for a small bite. About to head back over to the station, and Mum’s enormous backpack which had been just at our feet, was gone. Yup. Stolen. And it had been packed for the flight i.e. containing her passport; camera; wallet; jewellery; souvenirs etc. Sucky sucky suck. Found some policemen, they directed us to the cop shop inside the station, we made a statement, called Paris lady to ask for accommodation which wasn’t available, I burst into stress tears, had to go BACK to freaking Quick to ask if anyone had handed it in and to steal some internet to cancel our Amiens reservation, Paris lady called back and said the place was available after all. No more stress.

The following day, a Friday, we found ourselves the Australian Embassy (it’s pretty sweet AND free printing!) and organised a new passport, which was issued within two hours of our application. Tax dollars well spent, DFAT. Hung out at the Eiffel Tower, caught a tourist boat along the Seine and learnt all kinds of interesting things about the bridges (seriously, I was surprised – it’s just like the seaweed tour all over again: sounds crap, was actually good!) I dragged Henny into Shakespeare & co. (I finally located it!) where I was so saddened by the vainglorious, turgid and grandiloquent clientele and staff. We instead headed to the sweet Canadian bookshop around the corner which Jus and I had found previously. Ended up buying three books (none for me).

On Saturday, we tried our luck and took a train to Compiègne, which had been #1 on Henny’s To-Do-In-France list. Got there and realised that she’d actually remembered the name, but forgotten that the castle she associated with it was in fact 40km away (Pierrefonds). Asked at the Tourist Office who said there wasn’t public transport there, so instead we strolled around Compiègne for a few hours. Tried to find some Pernod for Mum (even in a “British” pub) but to no avail. On the way to the train station to go to Amiens, we saw a sign for a bus to Pierrefonds. Nonetheless, we caught a train to Amiens, in the hope of seeing some Somme battlefields just before ANZAC Day. Went to the bus station where no one could tell us if there was a bus going to Villiers-Bretonneux, only a train (maybe it was because of their schtick accents, amirite?), so back to the train station we went to buy return tix and tickets back to Paris. Alas, the man at the counter informed us that there was trackwork on the Paris line, and the last bus OF THE NIGHT was leaving in 10 minutes (it was 5.40pm for goodness sake. What is this country: Iran?!) so not only did we have to run for that bus (back to that darn bus station), but we missed seeing the Somme fields and any of Amiens outside of the respective stations. GAH!

Finally got back to Paris, Louvred it up on the Sunday, Hen flew out on Monday.

There seemed to be no end but fuckups (‘scuse the French) on this trip! Many many travel stories will be sourced from these three weeks of continual misfortune. I don’t think the Universe wants us travelling together again, any time soom.

So I’m really sorry Mum, but I had a good time anyway and I hope you did too.



Last meal: Cold homemade lasagna and salad with lemon dressing (awesome packed lunch for the train trip!)

Drink of choice: Chouchen (mindblowing Breton apéritif made from honey and using the same recipe as THE GAULS. As in, 2000 YEARS OLD!!)

Song in my head:

What has happened in the past two weeks? Not that much, really.

SUN: The weather has been absolutely wonderful – supposedly the spring here is better than summer (because it gets a bit more unpredictable then with rains and strong winds). Stéph and I went down to sunbake on the beach (absolutely forbidden in Australia, for obvious reasons [if it isn’t obvious, your eyes probably can’t physically adjust to the degree of whiteness that my skin exudes]) on a few occasions, and I must admit that I wasn’t wearing sunscreen and got a tad burnt, despite the lack-of-hole-in-the-ozone-layer-in-these-parts-of-the-world. SKIN CELLS IN TRAUMA.

SPRING SAVINGS: Unfortunately I’m not talking about sales although I am running out of money a little quicker than I’d hoped. BUT it turns out that France (well, I’m assuming the rest of Europe too) has daylight savings, which I really hadn’t considered, and we changed times a week before Australia. So NOW the time difference is 8 hours, whereas before it was 10! Sorry Jus for the 6.30am call, my bad…

SAUNA: I’ve been justifying to myself my lack of running (only four runs in three weeks!) by getting into the sauna at every opportunity, because if we’re going to be honest here, surely lying around in a hot room and having a bit of a sweat for 30 minutes is completely comparable to going out into the fresh air and getting the old heart rate up for the same amount of time. Surely. That’s just science. My skin is thanking me though – it’s so clean that I feel like a Neutrogena commercial.

STRESS: It has been a great time just to relax and recoup (coz, you know, my life is pretty hectic. Your full time work/study/life load has nothing on my tramping about on holidays for an extended period of time) and for the first time since I left Australia, I realised that I don’t have any mouth ulcers! I know – it’s a bit too much information, and it ISN’T herpes or anything (oh god, WHY do I feel the need to write about this type of thing where extended family can read it?!) but it’s just proof that I haven’t been stressed in the last few weeks! That’s all I really wanted to say. Oh, and on the same morning that I discovered this, I was also able to tie my hair back – no more uncontrollable windblown locks for Liv!

SEAWEED: Frédéric’s mum left to return to Marseille on the Friday just gone, but the Friday before this, she insisted (in her staunch, Catholic, controlling-mother kind of way) that we all take a road trip to northern Brittany to visit a site where Jesus’ mum Mary allegedly appeared to an elderly woman who was instructed to dig for water while the other plebs laughed at her, and then there was a miraculous fountain and the old woman was smug and not thirsty any more.

Upon being told by Frédéric and Karen that this place was superlatively dull, Stéphanie and I surreptitiously (as is the way with us heathens) decided to go instead to a town called Roscoff (incidentally you can catch a ferry from here to Ireland!) for the day, which had been recommended to us because it was on the way, and for its seaweed tour.

I know, I wasn’t that excited either, but it was actually really interesting! Well, I say interesting – I could understand about 40% of it, and that stuff was great! For example, you can eat any type of seaweed that you find in or around France (not in the US though – that stuff will kill you, for realz); seaweed produces 50-70% of the oxygen that we breathe; and in the 1970s, there was a massive oil spill offshore, and a local university lecturer instructed his students to record all life on the beach in the 48 hours before the oil reached the shore, and the data was used in the prosecution of the company responsible (75% of the marine life in the area was dead).

On Saturday just gone, Stéphanie and I went horse riding. I was kind of wetting myself a little bit, since the last time I rode a horse I fell off, but it was really fun (and no falling! Always a bonus). It was just us two and a tour guide, who took us down into the dunes of the beach. My horse’s name was Lutin (loo-tãh), which was easily forgettable when he ran a bit too fast (I’m ever the alluring goddess on horseback).

SPEECH: It has been really great being around two native french speakers who are fluent in english – I often found myself saying “comment dire … ?” and I’ve been far more willing to practise. I’ve been learning quite a lot of vocabulary (hey Dad hey Dad: il faut que je pète, amiright?), and Frédéric spent a good 20 minutes teaching me the essentials of french insults (i.e., they’re all focused on women, and preceding with ‘old’ or ‘fat’ just adds insult to injury). In my turn, I have also been teaching some english, examples of which are: gunk; singlet; bum cheek; bogan; crinkle; reckon; and nape (of neck). Frédéric also taught me a funny little word play: ma joie t’habite. Which, when you read it, means ‘my joy lives in you,’ but when you say it, it sounds exactly the same as ‘ma joie, ta bite,’ which means ‘my joy, your male genitalia.’ Oh french, you’re so witty!

SAD: In the last 24 hours, I have been told that I have a “lovely, it’s very nice” french accent, at least above average intelligence, and that I’m a good balancer in a group. Feeling pretty sad to leave Brittany – it’s just so good for my ego! Not so good for the waistline though: I’ve put on bread kilos.

Right now, I’m sitting on a balcove (it’s a new word I’ve made up which is a combination of balcony and alcove, so essentially it’s a balcony/partitioned roof which is less than 1m² and surrounded by other roofs [roofs or rooves?!]) of my Parisian apartment, just revelling in my frenchness due to sitting on a balcove. So good. Pity I’m not skinny or smoking. I’ll work on that.



Last meal: Homemade vegetable soup with lots of bread and cheese.

Drink of choice: Breton cider.

Song in my head:

The train from Montrichard to my present location was fairly horrendous – about 50km outside Tours it broke down, so we waited over an hour for buses to take us to another station where we had to wait another hour for the next train, and I missed my original connection to Quimper. After many a frantic phonecall and arriving three hours late, I arrived in Camaret-sur-Mer.

The area is pretty incredible: the Bretagne coastline makes me think of Ireland and the Celts, and Frédéric says it’s “too wild” for the tourists. The département itself is called Finistère (essentially ‘the end of the earth’), and the town is right on the western edge of the middle finger of the Presqu’Île de Crozon – all very exotic sounding! I have been on a few drives along the coast, to nearby shops and markets and whatnot, and by golly it is a beautiful place. On Tuesday, we even went to a secluded beach nearby, surrounded by dramatic cliffs, but it’s still too cold to get in the water when the sun goes behind a cloud.

The place I’m staying in is an alternative B&B: accommodation, with the added extras of organic homecooked vegetarian food, lots of cheese and bread, no shoes in the house, no smoking, enough alcohol, views onto the beach, as well as therapies such as massage, yoga, sauna and acupuncture. Of course I have been eating too much (running has literally not existed since I’ve been here), loving life without the confines of shoes, and deeply breathing in the sea air like the wholesome person that I am.

I’ve also been getting naked quite a lot, which was rather unexpected: learning the basics of massage (i.e. getting free massages); sitting in the sauna (yes, naked. yes, with others [well, one other and she’s a girl and around the same age BUT STILL!]); and as of Monday I had my first acupuncture session with a man who works out of a room here once a week. It was kind of weird that he could predict/know very specific things about me just in his initial assessment, from how well I’d been sleeping (restlessly) to the consistency of my bowel movements (none of your beeswax).

The people here are … interesting. And mixed. And just bizarre.

CHARACTER 1: Stéphanie. Keeping me sane. She is another HelpXer, from Québec (SO freaking cool), and we are cohabiting in the converted attic above the house, so we have the best views of the house – straight over the beach. The more I get to know her, the more I love her. She’s really different to me, very sure of herself and assertive and confident, but also really careful and gentle too. I think it’s good for me to be around her, and I feel that I can learn lots of things from her (not least of all, French). I really enjoy listening to her slightly different accent (avant is said ah-vah instead of the typical French ah-voh), and her interesting stories, e.g. staying in a slum in Greece; being almost-robbed by gyspies in Romania; having a torrid affair with her Québecois masseur; etc.

CHARACTER 2: Frédéric. It’s very difficult to narrow this man down to a few sentences. He’s one of those super sexual people, but almost in a gay way where it doesn’t feel intimidating, and he otherwise just personifies alternative therapies: he’s always smiling; he says ‘ohm’ to everyone before going to bed; and he makes a dark green thickshake every morning for breakfast which tastes like sour berries and pure ginger. Upon picking me up, we sat in the car on the side of the road to call our respective mothers at the same time, and one time at the dinner table, with six paying clients present, he brought up the fact that his ‘full name’ includes the name of his 16000 year old intergalactic ancestor. That was an awkward conversation, even if I couldn’t understand every word of it.

CHARACTER 3: Karen. Frédéric’s wife confuses me. Very welcoming at first, generous, excitable. She absolutely worships her morning kaw-fee, she’s an ex-chef, and a staunch Californian, new age feminist. She can be quite moody and solitary, so I find that I’m having less and less to do with her completely unintentionally.

CHARACTERS 4-10: Clients. This is what the B&B customers are called. They were a bunch of characters. A swanky woman who talked for around 20 minutes about her €450 blender, and her kindly husband who was clearly dressed by her (he wore a beige sweater around his shoulders) and spoke snippets of english to me; a lovely middle aged couple who would hike the surrounding countryside each day (the man was a watercolour artist!); a lesbian who could not stop talking about how good the fish was (I almost couldn’t help myself laughing at the cliché); and a weird older man and his youthful wife who would go outside to smoke and otherwise not have much to do with anyone.

CHARACTER 11: Frédéric’s mum. Her name is Danielle, she is 85 and flew in on Tuesday from Marseille all by herself, she cannot understand french with any trace of accent (leaving only Frédéric to communicate with her), she has only her upper right 2nd incisor and her lower left canine teeth remaining, and today she said Merde! accidentally at the dinner table and only realised when I laughed aloud. Such a champion.

On the weekend just gone, Karen took Stéphanie and myself down to south Brittany to visit Carnac, where there are thousands of standing stones (mégalithes) from Neolithic times, i.e. 4800-4500 BCE. It’s so unearthly – they’re everywhere in this area (there are actually even a few near Camaret) and they’re aligned so perfectly in rows upon rows. On Saturday it was pouring so we had a lunch of mussels in cider, homemade cider apple pie, and Corsican wine. On Sunday we picnicked on the beach of Trinité sur Mer, and the cutest cat took our cheese rinds. Of an evening, Stéph and I would watch films: Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Donnie Darko respectively. Frédéric did not travel with us because his girlfriend was visiting, which was actually why we had to go on the trip – so they could have the place to themselves. It was super awkward when Stéph and I accidentally eavesdropped on a phone conversation of Karen saying ‘Don’t scream too loudly.’

I don’t understand this aspect of their relationship, nor any other – there doesn’t seem to be any affection, they snap at each other openly and they don’t spend much time together. Oh well, I’m learning life lessons I guess.

I’m really missing Jus, that’s for darn sure. Please be sure to hug him on my behalf.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Mum, who I think is arriving in just under two weeks!



Last meal: Awesome sugary “Fitness” cereal.

Drink of choice: Milk. I’ve somehow gone through about 8L in one week.

Song in my head: (best beat for runs)

This week I was housesitting.

I really really like housesitting. I’ve done it for my sister a couple of times, and for my dad (let’s try to forget the semi-broken foot incident), and so I was thoroughly looking forward to housesitting here too.

I think it was a good time for me to be actually alone for a bit. However I’ve come to the realisation that being alone (actually alone, as in: my daily human contact is giving the workmen outside coffees, and two sentences are exchanged [one of which is “Voilà, les cafés.”]) is only good for me in the rather short term. Being completely alone like this, for a whole week, I’ve discovered, lets me fall into bad habits. Not that people hold me to good habits, and I shouldn’t need anyone’s approval to keep those good habits, but evidently I need people around me to do … anything.

That said, I wasn’t completely alone for the whole time, since Yvonne’s son Jason asked me to babysit for a few mornings, but still. For the vast majority of the time, I was by myself in someone else’s wonderful but rather large house. Which creaked sometimes.

Learning about myself like a wanker aside, it was actually a pretty fun week. I watched every available episode of Downton Abbey. I thought about the future. I took luvvo photos. I went for three good runs. I learnt some new recipes. I got sucked in by the Kony 2012 campaign, and experienced the ensuing idealism that has lain dormant in the depths of my colon for some time. I decided to take up an easy travelling hobby. I ate too much yoghurt, cereal, bread and pastry. I wrote many lists. I rode the bike I was borrowing (it was a man’s mountain bike – so different and weird to dear Betty). But of course, I wasted time too.

I started reading again. Here is some Wordsworth:


I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Loneliness and missing Australia and its contents (i.e. YOU) was pretty rampant this week too. I’m not sure if I’ll get over it with time, but I’m not sure whether I want to anyway.

Despite much umming and ahring, I have finally decided to decline the generous offer of the job at the restaurant. 10 hours of washing up per day, 6 days a week, for the 6 months surrounding summer, and living in a caravan outside my place of work just wasn’t quite right for me. Instead I think I’ll just slowly dwindle my savings away in places of my choosing.

Chambres d’hôtes


Last meal: homemade carrot soup and morning-fresh baguette.

Drink of choice: Kir Cassis (sauv blanc with crème de cassis).

Favourite quote ever (which he wouldn’t let me post at the time, but it makes me laugh so much and it’s potentially eight months until I see him next so perhaps he’ll forgive me): “Oh, now I’m just sitting in my own fart bong water.” -Justin.

Song in my head:

I’ve just figured out this incredible phenomenon called hyperlinking!

See if you can spot my overcompensating/practising my new skillzorz!

So my last post ended with my leaving the apartment for the first time that day. After going out to do a load of washing and buy some groceries, I proceeded to eat my way through the double packet of wonderful hazelnut Milka chocolate that was on special, and half a baguette and a bowl of cereal. In about two episodes of Veronica Mars. Luckily/Unfortunately at the time, I wasn’t thinking of the consequences.

Went to my last dinner with friend Sam who was leaving for Lausanne on Sunday morning (he unhelpfully encouraged me to end the day with the same grace and elegance as I had displayed earlier – we ate burgers and Häagen Dazs icecream). The seven flights of stairs to the apartment were my end-of-binge signal so I organised a rendezvous with uncle Ashley for the next morning, then went to bed in disgrace with myself.

I went for a guilt-ridden but otherwise lovely run along the Seine and Île Saint-Louis first thing in the morning. Met up with uncle at around 11 (with some general mind confusion when he looked so much like dad) at some markets nearby that had mysteriously sprung up in the 40 minutes prior.

We strolled to the Jardin des Plantes nearby (my suggestion, but he is a botanist after all) and walked around, awkwardly catching up as one is prone to do when they are an adult meeting up with their successful and mysterious don’t-have-much-to-do-with-because-dad-keeps-him-a-secret uncle whilst in a foreign country. To be honest, when I was explaining my wanky selfish lack of direction reason for being in France to my doctorate-earning lecturer-all-over-the-world essentially-curing-famine-in-Africa-at-the-moment uncle, I felt like this kid. It was worse when he started speaking his allegedly only high school french to me.

No, he’s a really nice guy and not uppity at all, and it was actually really fun to walk through the tropical plants greenhouse, where he explained little facts to me and shared some of his seemingly inexhaustible brain knowledge. He shouted me lunch at a bistro in the Latin Quarter, and then he was off to meet a colleague for an excursion to Musée d’Orsay.

I wandered back to the gardens, reflecting on how well the morning had gone (ALL MEN LEAVE ME!), and straight into the Comparative Anatomy museum that I’d noticed whilst in the glasshouse. Free entry (eff yeah) into perhaps one of my favourite buildings in Paris. It was incredible: the bottom level (the best) had rows of cases along the walls comparing internal organs and bone structures of heaps of species, reconstructed skeletons of even more animals, and even a little area (down the back, on the right) for malformed animals: I’m talking two heads, a fifth limb, shit got crazy! The next level up was focussed on dinosaur reconstructions (also AWESOME – literally!) and the third was fossils and paleontology theory.

I ended my evening with packing to leave gay Paree for Montrichard. Caught the train on Monday morning at 1127 with no hitch and two changes later, I was standing at the train station, waiting for Yvonne, from the millhouse that Jus and I had visited oh-so-long ago, to pick me up. She had arranged to house me on a HelpX kind of basis, except it turns out that we couldn’t clean out her garage like planned, due to work being conducted on the roof, so instead I’ve been gladly keeping her company on her errands for the week, and minding her grandkids every few days (who speak only french, so every second sentence I’m all like what?). Yvonne is the most youthful just-short-of-60 year old I have ever met: she shops at H&M; she’s good friends with a 30-year-old; and we even took an amazing horrific heart-attack-inducing satisfying RPM bike class at the gym together!

She’s also oddly trusting of me, so at the moment I’m housesitting while she and her husband and 2/3 of her grandies are off skiing for the week. Fingers crossed I keep the place alright. I’ve also been helping with her B&B, and I conducted breakfast all by myself this morning! But then a bird flew into the window and died.

Her son is managing a seasonal restaurant near the centre of town for the summer, right on the shore of the Cher. They’ve offered me a job there as a dishwasher/salad-maker: 6 days a week, most likely 8-10 hour days, for 6 months, and living in a caravan just outside the restaurant. I’ve given the impression that I’m totally psyched about it, which I was, but the more I think about it, I don’t know what to do. I did want a job, and it means I’ll meet people around my own age and be immersed in the language. But it majorly interferes with my hopes of living in Grenoble and people coming to visit, and it’s hard work and minimum wage, and a big commitment for the duration of the notoriously beautiful French summer. I feel like no matter what I do, it’s this. Help/Suggestions?

I’ve been a bit slack with exercise: a gym visit and a bike class in five days, so I went on a good run yesterday (Saturday) and it started to rain peacefully as I returned home. I’m getting faster though! It’s pouring rain outside now though. Dayum, that means I can’t go for a run today. I should probably look up pilates on youtube or something instead. *tasted-something-yucky face* … *remembering consequences* … ok ok ok!

Sigh. First world problems.