The Heel of Italy

So, here we are on leg one of the three month trip to and from a family wedding in Italy. The three-week journey from Malta to Tuscany is pretty straight forward, but the trip home again will feel like halfway around the world as we take ten weeks to do Belgium, Germany, Copenhagen and beyond. Much of it is still up the air; as we follow our noses.

I’ve had my head in editing and writing mode for six weeks solid without a break (including weekends) and it’s lovely to begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll talk about that in the next blog or two… this is a bigger catch up as I’m so behind on news!

In a few week’s time, we’ll be a year into our to two-year sabbatical, and I won’t lie – it’s been hard. But not in ways most people assume. I realised recently that people think we must hate being around each other all the time – but we don’t. Which led to the realisation the other day that short of an hour or so while he cooks or pops next door for ingredients, we are never further than a few feet apart. Yup; you read that right – we spend about twenty-three hours a day less than three feet apart, with no one else we know around (other than the odd visit every three or four months when we’re on the road). No one planned it that way; it’s just how it is. We’ve always been like that. Even when he’s worked long hours, we’re always in contact. It’s just how we roll. We’re good at working alongside each other and I’ve been working twelve hour days. So there’s also a whole lot of healthy silence around here. We’re both quite introverted and we enjoy the quiet.

Which also means, while we work hard on assessing and building and working on ourselves and our lives and our marriage and all that (the hard stuff), the idea of a plot of land in the country has gone out of the window completely. The dream of big open spaces, for us, has turned out to be a bit of a myth; if it’s not dogs barking or a tractor going it’s a chainsaw or a lawnmower or any number of “boy toys” dressed up as farm machinery and “work”. So now we’re thinking more about small apartments and double glazed windows for our future!

Speaking of said future… we miss the babies terribly, and as they start to really settle into adulthood and build careers and families and now houses, (and there’s another new baby on the horizon), we’ve put the first peg in the sand of our second half and bought a block of land in Queensland (Australia). It came out of nowhere a couple of weeks ago, but it slotted exactly into a spot we didn’t know was waiting for us, and we’ll be right next door to some of the grandbabies and we could not feel more spoiled or blessed to be invited to be in their lives like that.

So while I’m writing, he’s in full on land buying/contract/money/advice mode, and I’m ignoring it all except when I’m needed for design purposes; much of which won’t happen for a while. The land isn’t even ready yet, so the house won’t be till next year, and this means we really have something to look forward to.

Anyway, so I’ll talk more about books and building and babies in the next few posts, but for now, back to the current trip.

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We LOVE staying in Molly (our VWT5 campervan) and Daisy (our tandem Pino) means we can access places I otherwise can’t. Now and then I hop off and walk around a bit, but mostly we’re the crazy people weaving through small-towns in the heel of Italy. We don’t enjoy campgrounds or crowds (or tourists haha!) so we usually travel on the shoulder seasons but we’re heading into summer here in Europe so I’ve been saving my HouseSwap points to park in people’s gardens instead. He wasn’t quite sure how this was going to work, but this is week one and we’re staying on an old olive farm in the middle of nowhere. It’s old, the bed is rock hard, the water is from a well. It’s rustic at best and all the things one doesn’t enjoy in a house swap that isn’t ideal, but we have everything we need in Molly so it’s like having our own free, and very private campground. We still sleep in Molly, but we have a porch and a shower, a kitchen and a toilet – and no neighbours parked right next to us. I’ve booked a house swap for a week or so twice a month throughout the trip, so we’ll still wild camp in between.

Matera was the first town and just amazing. Much of the old city is dug into the side of the cliffs. It’s not a wheelchair or a bike-friendly town for obvious reasons so we couldn’t stay long and couldn’t go down into the town at all, but it was worth the stop.

Ostuni is our local town so we ride there for supplies. It’s worth a visit in it’s own right.

Monopoli was lovely too.

Riding between towns through olive groves, hay bales … (and sadly, disgusting seashores you don’t actually want to see)…

Polignano a Mare where the cliff diving happens (we didn’t even try to go that day as we’d never get close enough to see anything and I can’t go down or up)…

Pizza for dinner in small squares was a highlight but nowhere near as good as the gelato which was AMAZING (and didn’t last long enough for a photo).

To save my spoons (energy) we caught trains too.

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It’s about to get hot, so the weekend will be spent on the porch and writing and editing again before we head off north on Sunday.

#TheLongWayHomeFromAnItalianWedding #VanLife #VWT5 #Molly #Daisy #13Weeks #9Countries #91Sleeps #Tandem #Pino

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Seven Ferries

After nearly two months in one place, it’s time to hit the road again, and for the first time with Daisy hitched to the back of Molly. It’s partly a functional trip with some real life paperwork needed in the UK next weekend, but too early for him in the season to be so far north (& the cold). So it’s a fast dash to Sittingbourne, just the other side of the channel, and then we’re off to Spain and Portugal to ride some pieces of the Camino Way. More details to follow, but as we complete the loop, via Sardinia and home again in about a month, we’re catching seven ferries altogether and as neither of us have sea legs and all ferries are booked and paid for, this is going to be an interesting journey so buckle up!

This morning’s ferry from Valletta (Malta – currently home base), required a 5am check in, so we drove out late last night and slept by the wharf, with alarms set for 4:50am. Still way too early for me, but that’s the timing of the only ferry out of Malta, so we’ve both been exhausted all day.

We’re now settling in for a home cooked meal in Molly and an early night. Tomorrow’s ferry doesn’t leave till 11pm, so we have all day to catch up on spoons and rest and sleep… and maybe take Daisy for a spin.

If you’ve never been to Sicily, it’s GORGEOUS!! And the food is out of this world! Check out the local blood oranges:

If you don’t already follow my Facebook PAGE then click on the link below to follow the journey. We’ll be doing some Facebook Lives of interesting bits and there’ll be lots more photos too.

BOOK NEWS: My Africa my Home launches on Friday and it’s an incredible feeling to know that the hundreds of people who’ve preordered their copies will get to read it this weekend! Sale ends on Thursday night if you haven’t grabbed yours yet 👊🏻

The paperback went live this week and about twenty books went out before we noticed some words missing from the back cover!! AAAAHHHH!! Those will be collectors items one day so hang on to them if that’s you!

The two following books are up for preorder now too, but I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, we’re watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea from the snuggly warm comfort of Molly!

Here are the main preorder links, but you can get it on all the Amazon sites: Just click on your region and it’ll take you right there – USAusUK, and Canada.

 

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50 Nights!

Today we arrived in Malta. We never planned it this way, but we’ve travelled over eight thousand kilometers, which is the same as there and back from Johannesburg to the Tanzania border, Melbourne to Perth or Toronto to San Fransisco… We slept exactly fifty consecutive nights in Molly (and tonight was going to be fifty one). We crossed nine country borders, lost our solar panels at speed, had an attempted robbery, a very embarrassing police escort, drove through weather that killed six people in weather related incidents, and I very nearly ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere on my own.

We also missed all the babies terribly and often wished we were with them through some truly tough trials of their own.

But we also met many brave and interesting people, ate weird and wonderful food, saw so many breathtaking views and vistas, slept in Molly on the edges of cliffs, on all kinds of farms including an apple orchard and behind some of Britain’s cutest pubs. I got to attend my first international EDS conference and we found me a very expensive but life-changing bicycle.

We fought, we bonded, we laughed and we cried. We found some new rhythms and routines, and learnt so many new lessons both great and small. But above all, we absolutely, categorically, no-holds-barred, haven’t looked back… this was so the right thing to do on so many levels. Working on becoming a human being instead of a human doing is hard work, and I’ve never been more proud of this man. Watching him learn to cook, clean, help, and collaborate has been hard, but also such a privilege, and so humbling for both of us.

And as the song went at our wedding… here we are again on a new journey on which:

“We’ve only just begun…”

I can’t wait for the next fifty sleeps as we unpack our container again in Malta. To see our belongings again after four months on the road, to build yet another little home together, however temporary, to do another round of culling and simplifying. Fifty more sleeps till we fly to Australia for Christmas with all the babies, and the arrival of the newest one.

In the meantime, there’s videos to edit, books to write, a bicycle to collect from Devon (where Molly was born), and an Israel trip for him… So watch this space as always …

Here’s our arrival into Malta on the ferry at 4:30pm… and the drive to Molly’s new home:

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Tip of Italy Base Camp!

It’s been a tough few days, and we’re ready for the next chapter of our second half. The weather and baby worries of the last few days have taken their toll. The entrance roof to our Agri Camp-ground blew off last night and six people died across the country in separate tree and roof weather incidents.

We’ve not had decent WiFi or phone reception through it all either, so we’re behind in everything!

We didn’t get as much sleep as we needed and while we woke to a sunny day, it was still quite windy and neither Pompeii nor the Amalfi Coast felt like good ideas.

So we tag teamed and drove down the rest of the Italian mainland, and found ourselves the most wonderful place to park Molly, high on the cliffs looking over the tiny seaside town of Scilla to the north and the island of Sicily on the west of us.

We’re the only people here other than the caretaker who doesn’t speak a word of English. But we paid our €20 and we’re all happy.

I think we’ll be sleeping here a lot in the future… an AMAZING base camp for coming through the bottom tip of Italy.

My view from bed as I type:

Pink Gin in writing hand…

Goodnight…

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Pompeii!

Coming to you tonight from a wild and woolly Pompeii!!! I can’t believe I’m saying that! As a young girl, the Pompeii exhibition came to town and it’s the first memory I have of being truly mesmerized. My teacher was an archeology guru of sorts and dragged us all along. This rich experience lies at the deep core of my love and compassion for tribes, humans, tragedies, and rich love stories. The imagine of a young Pompeiian couple cast in plaster, cuddling together forever, is as crisp in my mind’s eye as the day it captured my imagination all those years ago.

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii… two words that I rarely hear or think about, but when they do, my heart skips a beat. It’s on the bucket list, …and not planned for this trip.

We planned to take a “short cut”; the twenty-one hour ferry from Livorno to Sicily this evening and last week booked ourselves, along with Molly, Hitch, and the Sphinx (of course) for tonight’s evening departure.

Right after a fabulous weekend in northern Tuscany with my very special cousin Kathryn, where we all ate waaaay too much food, and talked waaay too much. There was also much to be done around the farm, but the weather turned for the worse in a big way, so a cozy fire, a crazy kitty, and the odd G&T or red wine, and there went the weekend. We were determined not to let the weather dampen our spirits but news from home of desperately ill babies cast its long-distance shadow.

Super important meetings and speaking engagements were cancelled, Miss Four’s birthday party was cancelled, and poor Mama Bear spent the whole weekend in bed in such a big single-bed-ward with her precious and fragile Miss Two. It’s the third time in as many weeks this bubba’s been in hospital, from broken foot to serious gastro, but this time it’s a whole new ball game. I won’t go into details but it’s been terrifying … and while they still aren’t out the woods (or hospital) yet, things look like they are beginning to turn around. It’s things like this that tear at our hearts and remind us we can’t be away from them for too long.

Thanks to the amazing (free) Australian medical system for their incredible care of our babies! I know they aren’t perfect but they’re streaks ahead of any other medical system we’ve experienced over the years and believe me, we’ve tested them.

As the weekend came to a close and the weather changed from bad to worse, the ferry was cancelled and we set out this Monday morning to drive down the length of Italy instead of sail. It was by far my preference, as I’m not keen on the ferry idea at all, but wind which slows the traffic down to a standstill on the freeway is not my idea of fun either. Hours and hours of fallen trees, torrential rain, a few roofs blown off, and many of the cars pulled over to wait out the worst of it. Too many cars, in fact, which meant the slipways were over-full and cars stuck out into the road, hazard lights not really doing much.

By four in the afternoon it became so dark and dangerous we pulled into a service station and prepared ourselves to sleep the night if necessary. Then I noticed the Mercedes parked next to us with a shattered terra-cotta roof tile sprinkled across its bonnet and roof, with the windscreen smashed.

The police arrived, the service station was closed down, the rain subsided somewhat, and we decided we’d best venture back onto the roads again and find a proper camp site for the night.

Twenty minutes later we found a decent Agri Camper site on our app and wound our way through skinny streets (you know how much we love those!!), rain, puddles, wind, and even drove UNDER a fallen tree! It had landed across the road with its top on a very high, now broken wall.

So here we are, right in the middle of Pompeii. The weather forecast for tomorrow is clear and sunny skies, so we think we might just stop a moment and visit the only museum of the whole trip.

But I’m not holding my breath!

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French catch up..

So… I’ve missed a few blogs. I’m not well. I don’t think of myself as a people pleaser but I haven’t yet learnt to explain to people that I need to rest, with my feet up, for most of every day. I shouldn’t try and sit at the dinner table on upright chairs for more than half an hour and I shouldn’t offer to go on shopping trips … even short ones.

So while I’ve loved seeing people the last few weeks, I shouldn’t have offered so much. The reality is I’m not sure how not to…

So I’m sore… very sore, which means I have brain fog, haven’t written my book in a while, and when I’m tired and my brain is foggy I knock and therefore hurt myself. So I’ve had a headache for three days and quite bad concussion. Bertha is doing ok because I’ve been very good with her with all the concussion rest… but I shouldn’t ever let it get this bad.

The weather hasn’t helped. I can’t stand wind and the stormy weather of the last four days mean my joints hurt. And husbands get grumpy in this kind of weather… who knew?!

So we’ve taken the opportunity to hide from the world a bit, pop into the odd IKEA for more storage options, and driven across about half of the southern coast of France.

I sent him out on a ride yesterday, to help him increase his niceness, and it even worked for a few hours.

What I don’t like about France is their tendency to use guns in clearly risky areas. We woke yesterday morning to someone shooting what appeared to be rabbits (hanging from his belt) with both joggers and cyclists on the same road as he was!

Right here:

We’ve since heard an English cyclist was accidentally shot and killed by a French farmer recently. We’re not surprised at all!

I’ve no idea where we are right now exactly, or what day it is. Nor do I care on either score. All I know is we’re trying to work out life together without the pressures which have dominated us for decades. That isn’t always easy. Especially with concussion and Mah Eeds and bad weather and grumpy old men!

But I love this man more than I could ever say!

PS: The book’s never going to happen if I don’t finish it! Or if I don’t have a support team So 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!

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Spain Photos

Some photos just don’t make a daily blog. Either I didn’t do one that day or there were too many things happening, or multiple stories which got lost in bigger or better stories. So now that we’ve left Spain behind, here are some of the “leftovers”…

Watch this space to see some fabulous videos and blogs about some of the fabulous people and food in Spain!!! (When I get the chance… I’m too busy living in the moment but they’ll come!)

#ASeatAtYourTable !

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!

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