A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Madeline84

The girls' adventure

Days 1-4

all seasons in one day 22 °C

i left this at the end of my visit to Germany almost 2 months ago - and i have been on the road most of the time since. From there i'd spent 2 weeks in Zurich, Switzerland, nothing exciting to report as i was staying with my mum's cousin just to stop and work out my next plan of action. I did go to the Lindt outlet (no factory tours there anymore) and buy too much, most of which i have managed to give away. A day trip south to Lugano which is in the Italian speaking part. The highlight was going through the Gotthard Tunnel. Well i'm told it's a MAJOR engineering feat - hard to appreciate as when you're in a tunnel you can't see anything, but the views and infrastructure around the landscape leading up to it was quite impressive.

From Switzerland i did a 1 day/1 night stop at the house in Laives to pick up the majority of my belongings since i was going to England and didn't intend on going back to the family's house there. N & F and the kids were away for a few days so MaryVon and Bernard picked me up in Chalon and took me to the house, stayed the night with me and took me back to the station to get my TGV the next day. I was so so happy that was the arrangement. Just preferred to see and spend time with them - my favourite people in France - rather than N & F.
As it turns out i couldn't fit all my stuff in my bags (i really didn't buy that much, i'm sure... ) and i didn't say a proper goodbye when i went on the '1 week holiday' end of July so i do have to return to see them, collect and probably post stuff home.

Arriving in London was then quite a relief. My bro John was there, just finishing a Contiki of Europe and about to begin another small tour of Ireland so he met me at St Pancras station and we had about an hour to catch up before he left. I was up til after midnight at the student residence in South Kensington that night waiting for Mum to arrive on her flight from Perth due to the plane being delayed several hours at Singapore.

Just over 2 weeks followed of sightseeing some more of London with mum. I learned i can be quite an impatient person. One becomes a bit selfish travelling alone for so long and since we were walking everywhere i did get frustrated at mum's slow walking! Mental note not to get impatient especially with one's close family.

My cousin's wedding at Bournemouth was great, mainly because we splashed out on a room at the Marriott overlooking the sea where the wedding was taking place, and family we never see descended on the hotel also so we had a good catch up.
The ceremony itself? Umm, interesting...
It was my cousin Tim getting married to an English girl. She was lovely but i thought it odd that she had 5 bridesmaids and Tim only had a best-man but apparently they dont need to match the numbers on the bride and grooms sides. The brides dress was beautiful. Outside of that i don't have many positive things to say. And as far as the other guest go - For those of you who watch british comedy think a step above Vicky and her mates. I'm sure they weren't all like that but really, post-ceremony, when called to the reception room to greet the happy couple and their parents, its not nice to be passing the bridesmaids leaning against the wall right outside the door having a fag and a can of beer in the other hand.

Mum and John flew out on the 7th Sept for Perth and i was on my own again. I did find a property on the help exchange website to stay at where i lived in a little caravan next to the house on a small farm. It was cosy, 1970's fit out complete with ripped lino, wallpaper and a musty smell, but i don't know caravan's any other way and it was clean and better than some backpacker dorm's i've stayed in !
So this was up in Suffolk area, outside the little village of Bardwell. The family was lovely, 3 funny boys aged between 9-12 and very christian. But not in an 'in-your-face-way' so it was fine. For a week i helped in the vege garden and to milk goats and make goats cheese (yes, again) - this time actually milking the goats, Holly, Snowdrop and Mara by hand. It's take quite a while to get the hang of it since all the goats needed a different technique but by the end of the week i was a lot quicker and they were lovely-natured patient animals. Picking wild blackberries, apples and pears was a bonus too and i am still not sick of fresh berries!!!
on the Saturday i was with them we drove out to a country fair at Sandringham. That was very country but entertaining enough, how i imagine the Perth Royal Show was when it was about the farmers and agriculture not the rides and showbags.

A few nights stay after that stint with a family friend near London then a day on the coach to get from London to Paris on Saturday 17th Sep. That was the most interesting coach journey i've ever had thanks to getting chatting to this Brazilian person with some smart and deep perspectives on life. Did reassure me that i'm not just meandering through life and the last 6 months may just bring around the experience, lessons and eventual contentment I've been looking for.
I then had 2 nights and day to myself in Paris (walking, looking, listening... that's how i like to do Paris) until Monday morning when i practically RAN to the train station to go to the airport to collect my friend Sara from her Perth flight. I did not even sleep the previous night with anticipation of her arrival. Some company again !!! And a carefully not-too-planned 3 week tour of 4 countries with someone to share it with.

So Monday Sara got a decent whole day tour of many main sights in Paris, and boy are we on the road to fitness with the km's walked! Monday night an overnight train to Rome which i loved, a nicer compartment than previous sleeper trains i've done and was just rocked to a deep sleep with the motion.

Posted by Madeline84 22:25 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged paris farm zurich goats sara Comments (0)


and friends!!!

semi-overcast 21 °C

The trip from Nice to Dijon with my friends was fantastic. We had 6 days, a car and no plans and despite being the busiest time of the year in Provence it worked out great. After 2 days Rach got the hang of driving on the right hand side of the road and handling a car lovely on the inside but both too big for France roads and just stupidly designed on the outside, by someone who clearly doesn't drive themselves (lesson: don't buy a holden insignia).

Aix-en-Provence was bustling - nothing had changed since my first visit 2 years ago (almost to the day) and it's still one of my favourite places, a great vibe with happy, friendly people, loads to browse and easy to see everything on foot. Dinner that night was great too, a simple bistro with some creative and FRESH food. Did i mention how deprived i'd been of good vegetables? :)

Our semi-planned journey from Aix-en-Provence to Avignon had to be aborted when we hit a jam on the motorway, thanks to Avignon's annual music festival. But not to worry, we turned off and headed north for the river Sorgue and followed the signs (with Ms Sat-nav for backup) for the Luberon region. Turned out to be a blessing with quiet winding roads lined with vineyards, villages and eventually some pretty lavender and sunflowers!

To spread our travel we had to stay a different night in each place, finding really pleasant roads through Provence villages and some awsome markets. 3 hours was spent browsing L'isle-sur-la Sorgue's massive and crowded Sunday market and we still didn't cover it all, and the fresh food market in Velleron was incredible and totally non-touristy. From the Velleron selection we made our Saturday night dinner from fruit, bread, 2 kinds of goats cheese, hummus, olives, tomatos, beetroot and of course wine - ideal 'French market' faire and all locally grown.
We were lucky to find a couple of beautiful Chambre d'hotes (B&B's) - at Cavaillon we were in a beautiful guesthouse on an old orchard, with a host who was really welcoming and funny. Near Aix we had a mini villa with a bed on a mezzanine for me and a stunning view over the pool. Odine the owner was a wealth of information about the area and happy to help me practice the language!

The few hours up to Lyon was quick and easy, only about 3 hours up the motorway. Only the second time i've been, its much bigger than i thought. We took the physical route to the best lookout, climbing the stairs up the hill to a church with a giant 'golden' Jesus statue. The city literally sprawls as far as the eye can see, but from the ground is pretty with lots of parks and the two rivers that run through, the Rhone and the Saone lined with trees.

The highlight meal was our dinner at Le Nord. The concierge at our hotel suggested this sister bistro to the famous Michelin Starred "Bocuse" restaurant, and everything was sooo delicious. (French) onion soup as entree for me and Rach and Matt went adventurous, trying the Escargot. These were some really plump snails and reportedly enjoyed ! We had been searching for grenouille (frog's legs) for Matt but to no avail so this was the next best thing.
Seafood and steak came for mains, all perfectly cooked and i could not have been happier with the ever-so-lightly sauteed zucchini and poppy seed on my plate.
Of course dessert had to be tested too, i went the moelleux au chocolat (molten chocolate cake), profiteroles for Rach and pistachio creme brulee for Matt.
In a unanimous vote Matt won the entree course, Rach the mains and me the dessert ! See the gallery for pics :)

Dijon the next day was the last stop after a quick visit through Laives for me to give Nadine back some things and make me free to not have to go back there right after my organised visit to Konstanz following Dijon. Chalon was absolutely dead - I'm sure the entire town was in bed with a hangover as the night before was the end of the annual Street Festival so Rach and Matt were subjected to a not-so-exciting tour by me through part of 'my' town.

From Dijon I hopped on a train for 5 days in Konstanz to visit my friend Morgane, who i travelled through India with, and her family. A tearful reunion, with her living in the US i really thought we wouldn't see each other again for years.

Konstanz is just beautiful, with views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps, stunning classic architecture, set right on the Lake Constance on the border with Switzerland, we spent days exploring the little shops around town, taking ferry and boat rides to visit the other towns and villages lining the lake and hired bikes for a days trek to further places. I love the ease of riding in towns in europe, where it's flat it is quick to get around and just so easy, plus we had mostly fine weather but never so hot that we worked up a sweat. The roads are designed for cycling, facilities at end of journey and the cars are used to you also so it's ideal.

The house we stayed in was Morgane's grandmother's who lived in Berlin and bought the house 50 years ago in Konstanz just in case WWIII broke out so they could easily cross into Switzerland. As it's rarely used there is a tenant upstairs and we were basically camping in the ground floor of the house - 1 bedroom, me, Morgane and her sister Sophie squeezed into 2 single beds pushed together in the living room. We had a kitchen so we could make tea and coffee and a toilet but no shower. No problem though we just visited the Thermal Baths! Just a short walk through the forest to the edge of the Lake this place had a pool plus a section with water-massage beds and a hot spa, all overlooking the lake - to me it felt like a luxury wellness centre.

Morgane and i went out for our last night there, heading for the wine festival in town we downed 2 wine bottle-size ciders spiked further with schnapps on the walk there (street drinking in Germany is totally allowed) then joined a bachelor party celebration so had wine freely flowing. A few of these guys spoke english and were pretty funny so when they insisted we come along to the strip club we figured it was part of the traveling experience. A German strip club? Worth a look. Well once there we felt a bit uncomfortable so didn't stay long - but from what we did see it appeared no different to what i assume goes on in the average Aussie one. We had to high-tail it out of there when the guys wanted to buy us more drinks so headed home - I managed to find out way back since M had gone through the liquid quicker than me and was in no state to recognise where we were. It felt totally safe around there and the walk was a good way to prevent a hangover setting in the next morning.
So she's now back in the US, we were so lucky that we happened to be in Europe at the same time this year but i have no idea when we'll have the chance to meet up again.

Posted by Madeline84 08:02 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Between a rock and a hard place


Well I’m in a bit of tricky situation. And just when I could use some (temporary) accommodation not too far away too….

Denis the milkman wanted a proper relationship. I did not see that coming.

Right place, right time, just wrong guy.
We 'dated' for a short while then parted on good terms but he told me 2 days later he found someone else to help in on the farm for the week his helper goes on holidays. I dare say I’m not wanted there anymore so that’s the end of that. There goes a friend and some semblance I had of my own life.

But the Big Issue...
Last night N & F had another chat with me about the new situation. Basically I have finished as their au pair, they say I’m welcome to stay until my already planned intermittent travels finish early October but wanted to know what my plans were in the meantime and after. I was caught completely off-guard, thinking that after my last talk to Nadine we had agreed it was fine to stay until October anyway and help out around the house. It seems now she’s after more detailed plans of whether I would look for work and exactly what I would be prepared to do in return for my board. Her demeanour has changed since the beginning and it is a definite ‘we don’t really want you here but because you have plans you can stay, and we don’t want money from you but what can you do for us in return for our outlandish generosity in allowing you to live here, in the sticks from now on without a car or phone.’

This along with the payment of my wages 2 weeks late, without reimbursement for 1 and half tanks of petrol I have put in their car. (Actually 2, but I had forgotten at the time and figured I would just wear it). Well I was not at all happy about that, and being one who avoids confrontational situations I had to summon all my courage to explain I thought that was very unfair, given I had paid for a tank in the car that I used to run the kids around, plus refilled their other car after using it to pick up and drop off my parents at the airport in May. They seemed to think I was using it during the day for my own purpose more than I was. Even though my belief was that using the car locally for myself was expected and fine, I was very careful not to venture far or often away from the house so that I couldn’t later be accused of taking advantage.

That was one of a few things I feel was offered and promised at the beginning by them and never followed through. Plus it has become evident that Nadine has a tendency to make things sound fine beforehand but then make me feel guilty afterwards. Up until the conversation of last night she makes it sound more than fine and as if I’m wanted at the house beyond being their au pair, but her actions speak very differently, now she wants to know what I will offer in return.

So i can stay at the house (well if i continue to do some things like cleaning for them) but i've decided i don't want to. And would rather leave on relatively good terms while possible.
I feel like I have gone from being treated and feeling like a family member to being treated as a stranger at a hotel. Luckily between now and Sept I’m away for almost 3 weeks all up and will see family in England. But I need to make plans quick smart to find somewhere else to live in between because I don’t really want to be in Laives anymore and I don’t think I’m quite finished with France yet. I had decided to come for at least a year and while I might not make that I’m not quite ready to go back to Perth, not until I have more purpose and direction as to what I’ll do when I get back. (I will look into cheese-making courses – I think that’s a possible career path and France is an ideal place to start).
I do wonder how i might feels after my travels in Sept/Oct travels finish. I might just be done with Europe then.

Right now I’m happy - on the train to Nice to be with some friends for a week. It couldn’t come soon enough!

Posted by Madeline84 00:08 Archived in France Comments (0)

Plan B and C

and searching the escargot...

rain 16 °C

So i went to visit the goat and cow dairy farm. It really is small and Denis runs it by himself with the help of a parttime employee. There's 26 goats plus about 10 'kids' who aren't old enough to be milked yet plus 3 cows and a fourth who is preggo. They all get milked twice a day, around 5.30am and 5.30pm, and after each milking there is always something to do, either make the cheese or yoghurt. Denis does a fresh, semi dry and dry goats cheese, and then the yoghurt, fromage frais and fromage blanc with the cows milk.

I was stoked the first time i went to visit - i was there from late morning til evening so i helped with the milking which is done with the automatic sucker things but i did a little bit with my own hands just for the novelty. Also placed the already made cheese into the molds ('faiselle') and later on with the new lot of milk added the salt, lactic acid and heated to make a new batch of cheese. It was fun but a lot of work, and a lot of time spent cleaning afterward. I can't imagine doing all that everyday and week. Denis is a nice guy, though he's more interested in working with animals than being a cheese-maker. He couldn't answer a lot of questions i had especially about how and why each cheese is different. As it's light until at least 9.30pm still we went horseriding after. The whole day was a nice change of scenery and people from being at the house or in Chalon.

I went back a few days later and helped to shift the entire perimeter of a flexi fence form one paddock to another for goats to have new grass. God knows how many metres but it took hours - partly because he had to stop avery 10 minutes for a cigarette mind you! I got the cheese i 'made' the few before plus some yoghurt, all delicious! Even Nadine liked the cheese.

He mentioned that his helper has to take holidays and asked if i would be interested in working there for a week (and getting paid) which would be brilliant, though as is 60kms each way and Nadine's getting funny about the petrol i would have to stay there for the week.

On another major development - Nadine and I finally had the 'what happens now' convo. They have officially relinquished their business to liquidators and she said they are finding money tight and can pay me for about another 3 weeks. So thats about 1 more week now. This after she had just spent several hundred euro at Sephora, a cosmetic store. hmmm.
I am however welcome to stay here for as long as i want, and just 'help out.' I'm more than a little worried about what her idea of helping out is... the way things have been i'm a little worried i'll get the short straw.

But, this actually suits me fine. I'm getting over cleaning someone elses house, the kids are on 2 months school holidays and I'm not quite the Mary Poppins that finds fulfilment in involving kids with craft etc all day every day. Selfish i know. Frankly i have things to see and do in Burgundy! However, at some point i will need an income again. I have some travels on and off from this week until October so will only be here half the time, but after that i need to decide:
- if i want to stay and just do my own thing - not ideal cos i don't want to chew through my savings and I've done the lone tourist thing and it's not very fun;
- stay and find work somewhere outside the house, if my language skills allow
- look for another family to au pair for (not too sure about that either)
- come up with another plan.

The last couple of days have been ok, but in recent weeks i've been a little unhappy - Mainly I feel Nadine is not at all considerate of me. I know what it is to be fully incorporated and cared for like a family member and i dont always feel that here. Mostly to do with Nadine's moods/stress levels, i don't know. But it gives me the feeling i had when i lived with my last housemate and that was stressing me out big time!
It's the little things you see, like when you're in bed sick for almost 2 days, and nobody bothers to come and see how you're feeling, if you need anything etc. And the fact i never know what is happening either until the last minute or until i ask. Seriously, often people just walk out the door and get in there car without saying where they're going, how long they'll be, nothing. Or Nadine starts leafing through recipe books on a Saturday night for ideas to prepare her mother's birthday lunch the next day and doesn't mention this until i ask what she is looking for. Her mum Maryvon is my favourite person in all of France, i would have liked to buy her a present. This did not occur to Nadine?

Ok, well as i said i had been unhappy, pretty bloody annoyed actually, but now things are a little better i'm prepared to give it more time before i decide leaving is Plan A.

And something super exciting and another thing i never thought i'd cross of the "to do in France" list - the weather has been miserable for the last week, raining a lot and several storms. picture the worst of winter in Perth. But turns out this makes for excellent snail gathering !! Yes, families in France actually do go out in the rain, with coats, sticks and bags, brushing aside prickly bushes to find big, plump snails. I went with Frederic on a 3 hour hunt, just walking from the house along a firebreak, then actually along the side of the major A6 autoroute (we got a lot of toots) searching. We found 188 that time. And with Frederic's other missions we now have 500 yes 500 live escargot in a box out in the carport. They look just like our snails only double the size. You just chuck them altogether, feed them clean green weeds froom your own garden that haven't been sprayed or anything and let them eat and excrete for 3 days, then clean them and i suppose parboil them for eating or freezing. I go away on Thursday so i think i'll miss that but will get full instructions. Just for the record - i dont mind eating them but we just don't have the snails big enough in Australia, and i am entirely over eating things coated in butter.

The next day we finally went on an outing. Few and far between. A 2 hour drive to a place called Guedelon. Here they are building a 13th century chateau using only 13th century methods. It's an experiment and a half and Truly incredible what they have done already, it started in 1998 and they expoect to finish around 2023. There's only around 40 people on site, mostly paid qualified engineers, carpenters, stonemasons etc plus some volunteers. They have even revived old methods of carving stone and such since they had to use onyl technology and methods that were used in the year 1229. I'm going to write to Kevin on BBC's Grand Designs in case they're not aware of this.

For anyone who's interested... http://guedelon.fr/

Posted by Madeline84 22:33 Archived in France Tagged goat escargot guedelon Comments (0)

Je suis fatigue

mentally tired, that is

overcast 18 °C

The days are long but getting shorter after June 21 solstice. Today it rained, was cloudy all day and i don't think made it over 20 degrees. Bye bye heat.
This week so far i have been lucky though. Antonin has been at his Grandparents and dealing with one is much easier. The 'new' situation is still unclear - N & F have been going into the office this week but said Friday will be the last day. The kids are both on holiday after Friday so hopefully that means its not down to me to entertain them.

Anyway i take a break in about three weeks when my friends visit France, I am so looking forward to getting on that train south.

I have had another series of, well unusual days. You when more than one thing happens that makes you wonder about coincidences and such? Friday I decided to go to the market and then swimming (btw at the once 'indoor' pool that suddenly became an 'outdoor' one. Now i must consider how warm it is before i go swimming) in Chalon, arriving just before the market finished and hurrying straight to the laitier stall to get goats milk. The guy there (Denis) must have remembered me from 2 weeks ago because he straight away spoke his not too bad english, then before i got around to asking about where his farm was and if it was possible to visit, he gave me his card and explained i could come and get the milk as soon as it was bottled, and even visit for when the goats are being milked. Fantastic, odd, but exactly what i was going to ask him. Seeing first hand the process for making cheese and yoghurt in a small artisan setting is one thing i was hoping to achieve.

So i go swimming for an extra long time then soak up the heat in the steam room - i'm alone. Then a guy enters. Our eyes meet.
Ok i won't keep up the suspense, we chatted and he's not french but moroccan. Which isn't necessarily a good thing, or bad. But french would have been better. He seemed nice enough but wasn't finding the people as friendly as i was so i assume he's not making friends with the locals.

Then after my swim i wandered back into the square to look for somewhere for lunch and happened across Denis the Laitier again, who was eating alone and insisted i join him. So i had someone to talk to for lunch, practise some french with and find out more about what it is to be an 'Artisan Laitier' in Burgundy. (You see i've become quite interested in dairy, especially yoghurt and fromage since i've been looking into why unpasturised cows milk is simply illegal and unobtainable in Australia but not other countries). And everyone is interested in how and why an Australian is hanging around the area.

Sunday: I had decided at the last minute not to go with the family to the First Communion of Amarine's friend Chloe, narrowly avoiding another church service and all day not-very-exciting lunch). Instead i went into Chalon to do something touristy, like visit the museum charting the town's history.
I don't go until nearly 12 again when stores and everything but restaurants shut. By pure chance I see the Fair Trade store open - i suppose the equivalent of our Oxfam Shop - which has only just begun to open on a Sunday. I get chatting to the guy running it and he ends up giving me loads of info about how to find out about progress in Sustainability practices in the area and a place that needs volunteers (hmm perhaps... later). This will be a good source of info in future and i might finally find where to buy a bleeding stainless steel water bottle that's been manufactured in an environmentally friendly fashion.

After that I again go looking for somewhere to try for lunch. I pass and assess the menus of a few places then settle on 'The Clown Gourmand' with prawns greek style on its menu to tempt me. (Turned out to be an awsome place btw. Really nice and interesting food). I speak a little to a local couple and write postcards to fill the time. Then right before i ask for the bill an English couple behind me turn around and the wife Lillian says "i hope you don't mind but i heard you're English - or at least speaking english." (of course i immediately say i'm not english but australian!).
So we get chatting (and she also rarely finds a vegetable on a menu in France and then not one that isn't overcooked beyond recognition!). Turns out she moved to a village just a stone's throw from Laives 8 years ago to buy and run the bar. She closed it just the other day because she can't manage it on her own. I hadn't overheard, but she and her best-friend/ex-husband and spent the entire lunch discussing options for her like advertising to UK Universities for students to live in her self-contained studio with a small wage to help in the bar and improve the little bit of French language they have. Basically exactly someone like me. Bizarre. So i'm not about to become a bar-wench in another small french village but there you go. She's keeping the bar closed for now anyway so doesn't need anyone til probably next year but we swapped numbers anyway and i have someone to visit and have a good old English afternoon tea with shall i feel the need.
I have to say, as happy and adjusted as i am in Burgundy, i always relish coming across friendly English people (coming across any Anglos is rare), especially if they live here so i can compare experiences and get tips and advice!

These things could mean nothing, or could mean something. I suppose i'll see. At least it's a but reassuring i'm doing the right thing.

My 3 books arrived from the Book Depository online store which i am over the moon about. I hadn't realised how much i missed reading novels, and magazines just don't demand enough thought and attention. Plus a book/cd for teaching yourself french. I am getting loads of benefit from being around it obviously but i know i'm missing basics and needed a guide with things to work through.

Tonight i don't know why i'm tired. We even finished dinner well before 9pm. I think i must stop and reassess and prioritise my goals to achieve here. I've had this 'always tomorrow' attitude for the whole 3 months and before i know it a year will have passed and i'll still have a list of unfulfilled wishes.

Posted by Madeline84 19:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 18) Page [1] 2 3 4 »