Happiness Is….

Sleeping in the middle of nowhere, tucked deep under the lip of a huge dam wall, among the trees, chickens, donkeys and even the odd mountain goat. I’ll admit it was also a little creepy in a strange way, but it was also wonderful.

After a midnight snack of cheese & hams we found in the fridge, we slept like logs, woke late, cooked oats for breakfast, packed Molly up again, and climbed the steep embankment back up to the roaring freeway hundreds of feet above.

Happiness, for us, is also togetherness, the open road, brave life off the grid, olive trees as far as the eye can see, mountains, alpacas, chickens, and absolutely delightful people…

Go on, zoom in, can you see those olive trees?? I love “order” and I love “natural” and those rarely come together … yet here they do, in spades.

We’ve come on search of Memoirist Alan Parks, deep in the hottest part of Spain (which is a hot country) in the middle of nowhere. It’s also known as the “Frying Pan of Spain” and I’d forgotten that bit when we set out on this journey.

I first read his book, “Seriously Mum, what’s an Alpaca?” a couple of years ago around the same time we coincidently fell in love with alpacas ourselves. Alan does such a good job describing their adventures as Brits giving up the rat race, that I really wanted to come here to see it for myself. This was the same time that we were planning our Second Half, and it was really encouraging to know we weren’t the only crazy people around. So I’ve been following him for a while now and while there’s so much more to tell you, for now, we’re so thankful for a few hours this afternoon with Alan and his adorable partner Lorna. They’re even better in real life and their home is everything the books describes and more.

It’s a magnificent home, a stunning B&B, a true oasis, complete with a never ending running spring (you know, the actual water kind), fresh eggs for breakfast, great stories about real people, real lives, challenges, adventure, and yet more fabulous food!!

But most of it will have to wait till tomorrow!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Weekend in Valencia

We spent the weekend in Valencia with “old” work friends, and if you think from the photos that all we did was eat…. you’d almost be right! It’s Spain of course, so we got up late, ate late, and went to bed past midnight which was terrible for #MahEeds but I survived and we’re sure each of us is more than a few pounds heavier.

Valencia is of course all about oranges. But it’s out of season and there were so many other crops on the go. The land is flat and fertile and the farmland protected from development. It’s beautiful in a rocky, raw, salt-of-the-earth kind of way. Olive trees and artichokes, eels and seafood.

We ate paella with seafood and paella with squid ink, fish cooked in salt and eels, pancakes and lemon and raspberry breakfast cake baked at 1am just for us!

We kept our unintended tradition and added three more little girls to our long list of little girl hosts and Molly fans.

Valencia is beautiful, easily Spain’s best kept secret. At one million it’s about the same size as Perth but very old. And not just a tiny old town either, but endless blocks of stunning architecture old and new…

And the bull fights were on!!! 😵

But I do not get their traffic rules. Round-a-bouts or traffic-circles have pedestrian lights as you drive OUT of them blocking the whole flow of the circle. They also have lights within the round. Today there were FIVE sets of lights within one circle, some only about twenty metres apart (and we got stopped for a whole light cycle at three in a row). They also don’t have lane lines within the circle, so at one point, while there were three lanes going in and three going out, there were six cars wide pushing to the front…

Here we are waiting to leave the circle but the pedestrian lights are red. These were the natural lanes… but within a few seconds an extra 5 cars jumped into this space in front of us:

Thanks Valencia, Paola, Manuel, Lucy, Bella and the three girls for a lovely weekend!! We’ll be back very soon!

PS: Solar panel update: the new panel and installing equipment should arrive in Valencia this week so we need to come back for installation later in the week.

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PPS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Still Settling in Spain

We keep having to remind ourselves we’re still settling in and mustn’t be cross when we lose whole days to frustrating things like rearranging Molly, building the Sphinx, sorting out the blown off solar panels or the stupid internet. We’ve set up the absolutely best ever WiFi for Molly so we’re constantly connected which has been amazing… till we crossed the border into Spain. Molly Hot Spot doesn’t like changing countries for some reason so going from the uk to France was fine, France to Belgium slow, Belgium to France again cost £5 and 4 hours in Phone nonsense trying to get hold of idiot help lines to kick her over and eventually he made her work himself (no thanks to them). Going from France to Spain however she just gave up the ghost and won’t work… even after a day of trying grrrrrr…. so while he worked on that (and learned a whole lot of new stuff which was brilliant, so it wasn’t wasted, but we’re now relying on phone hot spots which is far from ideal but will do for now) I pottered on Molly some more.

We didn’t hit the road till 3pm which was a little late in the day to begin.

San Sebastián was AMAZING. It was also very steep and there was nowhere in town to park. Which all means it was pretty much inaccessible for me without much time and planning. So apart from a couple of places, most of our viewing is on the move from inside Molly!

It’s a different view on life. Instead of walking seventeen blocks we get to drive fifty. It’s not the same, and you can’t stop for a coffee or go into shops or hang around a corner or an amazing view. It’s a faster pace but we get to cover way more… and go back a few times if we see something amazing. I wouldn’t choose it, but it’s this or nothing and I refuse the nothing.

But there’s no exercise at all! Travel eating and drinking plus no exercise is not a good combo!! …. we’re going to have address this somehow…

As we drove east we got to see quite a few towns. And stopped for the night at a strange, off the beaten track, mildly hostile very rural village. It was fascinating, tucked long and thin between the base of an endless line of cliffs and the vast plains of various crops. As we got closer I spotted little black squares in the cliffs themselves and we soon realized they were old dwellings!

I loved the contrasts of old and new. The “new” town (probably half a century old itself now) and the old one cut into the hill, and then the solar panels right across the top of the cliffs! Very impressive.

I was determined to see inside those cliff houses. It was hard work and risky (a single slip could have been disastrous … not in the lethal, tumbling down the mountain kind but in the Eeds there-goes-a-limb kind of fall), but I did it. It took forever and the path was only about 100 metres. This is soooo frustrating!!!!

This isn’t really a tourist place. The cliff homes are abandoned and dangerous, but one or two remain open with easy access. The cool inside hit me instantly as I walked in and as always I imagine myself living where ever I go. This was no different and I found myself transported into another world. Obviously, when this was a living home, there wouldn’t have been a town outside, but the view was breathtaking.

My favourite photo of the day was this one:

(Spot the bird!!)

The sun was setting and it was time to set up for the night. We have an app with free and paid places to spend the night. We’ve quickly learned that it’s mostly for motor homes as they aren’t allowed to stop just anywhere. We can, because we’re just normal van sized, but they can’t. So as we pulled up for the night they’re all lined up in the car park.

We don’t enjoy it. It’s not what we came to do. The town was also extremely rural and every few minutes the cliffs rang out with the booming echos of some huge guns out in the plains somewhere. They rattled me somewhat and despite the late hour we decided to push on.

About an hour later we stopped at a picnic point on the side of the highway. A few cars, a couple of trucks … and us. A stunning spot to make dinner in our little kitchen and tuck in for the night.

I slept like a log. He, not so much. The trucks bothered him. But he’s sure he’ll get used to it. We’ve woken to the same highway noise but also to sunrise, trees, birds, and a gorgeous view…

Happy Friday from rural Spain everyone!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Spain!!!

So, this is how the conversation goes:

“I’m concerned we have so much stuff, it stresses me”

“We have so much stuff because your bike bag takes up all the storage and the stuff that came in the air freight we don’t need for Southern Europe anymore”.

“Ok, that makes sense….”

Then two days later we have the exact conversation over again.

This morning we woke up in the south of France…

….to the same conversation. It may have been once too many. I may have told him he needs to either accept my offer to wrap it all in garbage bags and duct tape and put it on the empty side of the bike bag or stop complaining. His stress levels may have risen further…

We stopped at a shop and bought four rolls of packing tape and a bag of garbage bags. I wish we’d taken photos. This is us at the next truck stop. We went through Molly from front to back and if we don’t need it till Malta we put it in the bike bag. Then we squashed it into a sort of sausage shape….

And #TheSphinx was born!!!!

She’s tied in, chained on, and after two hours in the burning heat we hit the road again. She also protects Hitch somewhat. And all that space formerly taken up with bike bag and other stuff is free!! Woohoo!!!

We drove another couple of hours through Southern France ….

Then crossed the border into Spain late afternoon. We’re in shock. The change was almost instant. We’re in love with Spain like you can’t believe!!!

But more on Spain tomorrow….

For now it’s salted potatoes (my POTS friends dream!!) and home grown home cooked local dinner then bed!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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Disaster Strikes!

How much of a disaster is a disaster? Do I wait till the sky falls in to call it that? Some things do come close though!

We woke early this morning as our #SpainPlan has been to zoom across France for two days, then spend Wednesday to Friday taking the scenic route the rest of the way to Valencia. It means we don’t have a lot of photos from yesterday and today, as motorways and toll roads tend to be boring & ugly.

But France is super set up for this and the facilities along the way are amazing and all “free” (they’re on toll roads remember).

As the sun rose this morning we hurtled (under the speed limit) down the highway in cold but perfectly still weather, admiring the hot air balloons and jet trails higher up. Bliss.

But out of nowhere, we felt, as much as heard, a strange, loud, ripping sound. I thought it came from across the roof somehow, but he worries about Hitch on the back so that’s where his concerns lay.

It took a good five minutes to find somewhere safe to pull over, and a rail high enough to climb on to check. He returned to the front immediately; the solar panel that covers most of the roof had been completely ripped off! Like a band aid! It was shocking and devastating! This is our main energy source not to mention the cost and it’s only 3 weeks old.

We thought about turning back to find it, but with a concrete divider down the middle of the huge toll road that’s not really an option and we’d no idea exactly where to look. It’s likely damaged in many ways from hitting the ground, never mind ridden over by the many heavy trucks on the road. The chances of finding it were slim, but reusing it pretty much non-existent.

I shudder to think who it may have hit behind us and what damage it did to someone else of their vehicle! I pray no one was hurt and no cars were damaged!

It should look like this (but bigger):

It now looks like this instead:

All that’s left are squiggles and swirls of white and black silicone. And a hole where the attachment has ripped half way out:

We’re surprised at how rattled we are. I guess if it had happened in a storm or with a huge head wind or if we’d been speeding or dodging or whatever, it might make more sense. But it came out of nowhere.

Again, we feel blessed at another cheap outcome considering. The company who put it on on the first place are sending replacements of both the panels and the fittings, and hopefully we can have it all sorted in Spain over the weekend. We also happen to be traveling a lot right now so the drive recharged the batteries as well. But there’s something lovely about loving on solar and it does such a great job!

It all happened just before Bordeaux. We didn’t stop to check out the wine. Too much to organise and sort out. We’re now tucked in for the night down by the coast and the only wine on board is Australian! Oh well! Cheers!

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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Gent EDS Conference!

They forget (in love) that I can’t walk at all with out my crutches and even then it’s for no more than about 20 minutes at a time. And twenty minutes of agony at that!I’m in bed almost ALL the rest of the time even for many meals.

The last two days we diverted our rough plan and drove to Belgium so that I could attend the EDS conference in Gent/Ghent yesterday. I’m soooo glad I went, I met so many amazing people including some of the world’s leading specialists in #TMJ #Pain and many other things. 12 speakers in all, over nine hours, was beyond exhausting but so so worth it!

Highlights for me were:

  • Meeting another EDSers for the first time EVER (other than my own children).
  • Chatting in real life with so many of them (there were about 50 at the conference I’d say?)
  • Being in a room where splints, wheelchairs, braces, zebra stripes and bandages are the norm.
  • Hearing specialists and doctors talk about EDS from decades of experience…
  • SOOOOO much validation it’s incredible and difficult to put into words.
  • Crying (sobbing) because the collective pain levels in the room must have been through the roof! And it wasn’t just from me!

Best of all:

  • Meeting Dr Helen Cohen, one of the world’s top pain doctors! I spent about half an hour with her and I don’t think I’ve ever been so in awe of another human being !! She was soooo good, told me I’ve nailed my own pain strategies and I can’t tell you how encouraging that was.
  • Learning so many new teeny tiny things (& a couple of big things) to tweak my life for the better!!

It was all a HUGE reminder that:

  • My new book is soooo needed and important!
  • That I need to get better at reminding those who love me how crippled I am! I’ve been getting lots of encouraging messages lately saying people hope I’m enjoying walking around Europe and having a wonderful time. They forget (in love) that I can’t walk at all with out my crutches and even then it’s for no more than about 20 minutes at a time. And twenty minutes of agony at that!I’m in bed almost ALL the rest of the time even for many meals. No, this trip isn’t making it worse, I’d be in bed at home or in Molly’s bed but at least the scenery changes 😊

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PS: Thanks so much to those who’ve offered to support and keep asking where and how! I’ll keep these links at the bottom of my posts for the next month 🙂 They’re the easy, no-spam emails I’ll send out no more than weekly (and believe me, I miss sending half of those) till the book launches and you can get your free copy!

Hare & Tortoise

Main email group:
Team Tortoise:
Team Hare:

Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

YouTube |Blog | The Mighty | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon

@JPeaSmith