Author Archives: EasyDone

About EasyDone

Marijke lives in Brisbane, Australia and she is passionate about exploring change. She writes about changes in life style, health, mindset and buying a house in France. She sees clients, blogs, does all kind of things creative, takes pictures and she writes e-books. Connect with her on FB, Twitter and LinkedIn

Did you know that vegan food could be this colourful?

I am enjoying this vegan food thing and I have amazed myself. Me, the ultimate cheese lover who must have eaten kilos of it during my life time. I have lived in a number of different countries and the majority of those produce excellent cheeses. Just to name a few – Holland, Switzerland and France. I also lived in Australia and England and ….. well their cheese credibility is different.

Cheese, dutch cheese, market stall, Rotterdam

Cheese market stall in the Markthal Rotterdam. Hard to not want to eat it….

My thoughts about non vegan food

I am past week 4 of our trial vegan food period and I know already now that my trial period will be extended. At this stage I am certainly not saying that I never will eat dairy again but somehow these foods are starting to lose their appeal. You may notice that I am not mentioning meat. I think after watching the documentary ‘What the Health’, for me eating meat may be a thing of the past….

Fish is a different matter. First of all, the world is running out of fish. The fish that is available is full of chemicals that are not exactly good for you. So fish, well, rather not either unless it is wild fish but there is not much of that kind left. Even then you can’t be sure what chemicals are in it!

Admittedly I have always been a ‘sauce and dressing with the meat and fish’ person. I never liked meat or fish for its own flavour but for the way it was presented. Salmon is a favourite but with a mango salsa and I love Tandoori chicken but because of the tandoori. Just a piece of grilled chicken does not do it for me. So why continue eating them if it seems they aren’t good for you?

My tasty vegan food

vegan food, vegetarian food, colourful food

A couple of tasty vegan dishes

The point of this post is to show how good vegan food can be!  I must admit that cooking vegan requires organisation and preparation. If your fridge is empty apart from an apple and a carrot, it is hard to create something interesting. If on the other hand your fridge is stocked with prepared roasted vegetables, pestos, rice salad and couscous, you can throw together a tasty meal in no time. As I said it does require some time management.

The other day I cooked a vegan Moroccan feast. We had visitors and I prepared a number of dishes to go with couscous.

vegan food, Moroccan, colourful food

Some of the dishes that made up the Moroccan feast – grilled aubergines, roasted pumpkin and slow roast tomatoes

On the menu were:

  • capsicum couscous
  • grilled marinated eggplant,
  • oven roasted butternut pumpkin,
  • roasted cherry tomatoes
  • green salad,
  • capsicum and caper pesto
  • spicy Harissa.

And all of this Vegan! Not a single non-vegan ingredient.

You know what is the extra-ordinary thing? It is not that much different than I was cooking before. That makes it easier but also exciting.

Some steps in the ‘prep’ process were:

You won’t get a recipe here. It is just an illustration on how to prepare this meal

The day before

vegan food, slow roasted, tomatoes

Slow roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic, Spanish onion and herbs

  • Roast cherry tomatoes with onion, garlic and seasoning
  • Roast red capsicums until the skin is charred (for pesto and Harissa)
  • Roasting cubed pumpkin with Spanish onion, garlic, herbs and spices
  • Grill or pan fry sliced eggplant with some oil, herbs and spices
vegan food, aubergines, grilled food

Grilled slices of Aubergines brushed with olive oil and spices

On the day

vegan food, vegetarian, colourful food, Moroccan

A colourful mixed salad with a Balsamic and pesto dressing

  • Peel the capsicums and make the pesto and the Harissa. It is a matter of blending ingredients
  • Heat up in warm oven the pumpkin
  • Make a salad to taste
  • Make the couscous with panfried onion, garlic and capsicum
  • Plate everything in colourful dishes and enjoy!
vegan food, moroccan, couscous, tasty couscous

A favourite. Moroccan couscous with fried capsicum, onion and garlic

Too much effort?

If you say, I don’t have time for this, then your non vegan eating habits may not be that good either. Maybe you always opt for prepared and processed food in the supermarkets.

I wouldn’t call myself experienced in preparing and eating vegan food but I discovered the following. My way of cooking was already very close to what vegan food preparation requires. I have made my own dips, pasta sauces, curries and soups from scratch already for years. To leave meat, chicken and fish out is not that hard.

How to go about ‘vegan food’?

I read somewhere that the easiest way to ‘ease’ into vegetarian or vegan food is to replace the meat or fish with a plant based protein.  I have made a Pasta Bolognaise and replaced the mince meat with brown lentils. It was delicious and had almost the same consistency as mince. I have used the same lentil mixture as a chilli mix on Nachos. Also very tasty.

vegan food, Italian, Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese with lentils instead of mince meat.

The hardest is to replace cheeses and eggs as they have have apart from being a food also the function to bind ingredients and to melt. I found a vegan type Cheddar. It looked bizarre and it did not really melt but it did add a similar flavour than a tasty cheese would have done.

To sum this up. I am intrigued to say the least. I feel preparing vegan food is more than throwing together some ingredients for a meal. It is a very rewarding way of cooking and it is amazing how tasty you can make food with spices, fresh herbs and vinegars.

It also feels that I am doing a good thing. Not only for my body but also for the world. That gives the process of cooking vegan food also an extra dimension.

As I said I am intrigued for several reasons and I am interested to explore this much further. Also if you are interested in some recipes, feel free contact me 🙂

See you soon!

motivation, Limoux, walking, hiking, hills

 

 

Settling is sometimes not as straightforward as you like!

After a lovely 2 months of settling in our house Casa Rita in Limoux and in French life generally, we left France and headed abroad. Not so much because we have the urge to travel but because we have things to do and functions to attend elsewhere.

There is a wedding and this is exciting as it is the first family wedding that we are able to go to after 25 years in Australia. Coming to Europe for a party or a wedding is rather far when you live Down Under.

Then there is a 40th birthday party. While living in Brisbane a family from Belgium moved in next door and we became good friends. Some years ago they returned to Belgium but we stayed in touch hence the invite for the party. As we are living in Europe now we can actually go and party with them!

Last, but certainly not least, we need to organise our youngest who has set her mind on student life in the Netherlands. As she occasionally did got ‘lost’ in Brisbane we feel we need to give her a bit of Dutch guidance to start off with. I am aware she reads my blog on occasions and surely I will get told off for what I just said!!

Not settling as yet!

To be honest I do feel a bit displaced. I would have preferred to continue settling in Limoux, find some work, make friends and create a home. So what is going to happen in the immediate future? I recently listed our plans in an email to some Aussie girl friends and it seems like a ‘Japanese’ style tour of Europe.

The plans are as follows:

  • After leaving Limoux by plane to go to London, we could immediate welcome our youngest daughter, Zoe. A couple of days later our oldest daughter, Yasmin arrived from Melbourne. She came on the same day that Zoe and I left for Amsterdam to visit an Open Day at one of the universities.
settling, Amsterdam, grachten, canals

Canals or ‘grachten’ of Amsterdam. Before being tourist attractions they were used for transport and sewage!

  • We spent 4 days in The Netherlands and had the opportunity to see a bit of Amsterdam, Haarlem and Rotterdam. We took the bus from London to Rotterdam, something I won’t recommend to anyone 😯 . Not so much because of the bus but because of the delays caused by the Channel train. It turned out to be a tedious trip both ways!

Amsterdam, pigeons

  • Amsterdam is a great city and Haarlem is a bit like ‘little Amsterdam’. We only had about 6 hours in Rotterdam but I was overwhelmed by the presence of this city. Bombed flat in WW2 there is little history left but how the Dutch have rebuild this city and created the biggest harbour in the world is quite amazing. I know for sure I want to return to spend more time to see it all.
Rotterdam, architecture

Kruisplein in Rotterdam. A city full with amazing architecture

  • Back in London we are preparing for the wedding. You probably get the gist, a new outfit, hair, make up and more. Coincidentally a while ago I have set myself the challenge not to buy anything new for a whole year. This started in August 2017.
  • I found a nice outfit months ago in a charity shop in London and planned to wear shoes that I had sent via our removal company. Unfortunately our shipment is late and my shoes are still floating somewhere on a container. I searched everywhere for a pair of shoes in a charity shop. After weeks of missing out by size I found a suitable pair in ‘almost’ my size for 4 pounds. It will do for one day and I did not have to break my challenge 😀

Back home to France

  • A couple of days after the wedding we are heading back to France. We know some people who live temporarily in Bordeaux. They have kindly invited us to stay in their apartment when they are on holiday. We will be there for 4 days and take the train from Bordeaux to our house in Limoux. To be able to do this with the four of us is special because it may be a long time before we will spend time in our house with all of us. Yasmin, our oldest will be settling in Melbourne and start a graduate position with a consultancy firm next year in February.
Canals, Ghent

Along the canals of Ghent.

  • From Limoux we are heading to the party in Belgium. We are staying two days in Ghent and two days in Deinze, a small village near where our friends live. After that Yasmin will leave us to do ‘her own thing’ in East Europe. While we are returning to Amsterdam to meet my sister who is off to sunnier horizons for a while.
settling, Bunne, Groningen, walking, sunrise

The country side around Groningen is flat but absolutely stunning.

Temporarily settling in Groningen

  • We can stay in her house while settling Zoe into the city of Groningen. I have already discovered that also in the Netherlands bureaucracy is a ‘necessary evil’.  Consequently it will be document shuffling, making copies, getting them certified and waiting in queues. All to make her officially a Dutch citizen………..
  • From Groningen the journey continues via Bremen, Germany back to London for a family Christmas. From there it still seems a bit vague, but I am sure more concrete things will evolve.
settling, home, France, Limoux, buying a house

Studying the map and deciding where to go next

A long list and it may seem a bit crazy or too much for some.  Sometimes it just is what it is – one of my favourite mottos in life. And for that reason I will end with saying:

‘to be continued….

Love from anywhere in Europe 😀

A vegan lifestyle! We are trialling what it takes….

Living in France has opened our eyes a fair bit when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables and a possible vegan lifestyle. Not only is the food very fresh, the prices are low and buying organic seems to be more the norm than exception.

vegan, plant based, fruit and vegetables

One of the market stalls in Carcassonne full with seasonal produce

Limoux and many surrounding towns have weekly markets with a good choice of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls. Several of them are certified organic. This is a challenge in France as it guarantees you to get annual checks by the government. Many stalls are ‘organic’ but do not carry the license mainly to avoid this type of bureaucracy.

Buying food of the season

vegan, plant based, fruit and vegetables

The beginning of the citrus fruit season. They are the best at this time of the year.

When you buy fruit and vegetables on the markets in France you get the best and freshest when choosing the seasonal produce. Surely the large supermarkets offer, just like in Australia, everything all year around but the markets tend to go with the seasons.

vegan, plant based, fruits in season, peaches

Peaches are delicious when they are in season.

That means no strawberries in the winter or peaches in spring. It means berry fruit in the summer, melon in August and September and peaches until a bit later. Then during October mushrooms, chest nuts, persimmons and apples steal the show. While in December citrus fruits get the focus.

vegan, plantbased, fruit and vegetables

Mushrooms are in season at the moment

That is on offer and that is what most people tend to eat. And if you do that you eat for very little money! We kept track of our market expenses for a couple of weeks and we discovered that life can be very, very cheap if you eat a lot of plant based or vegan foods.

A bit of an ‘Eye Opener’

Coincidental we watched a documentary called ‘What the Health’ and we were quite stunned. Not only stunned but also appalled by the way this world ‘handles’ food. The documentary is mainly about the food industry in the USA and I sincerely hope they are the worst offenders. I really hope it is different elsewhere although I fear that Australia may be very similar to the States.

It appears that food is not about feeding us – humans. Food seems to be a business where profit is more important than health. It has the role to sustain but not to nurture. It is amazing to see that most of the food that this world produces ends up feeding animals. Huge crops of grains and corn end up in the stomachs of cattle and poultry.

The ironic thing is that the volume of food needed to feed animals is much higher than the volume of food the animals produce to feed humans. Think about that one for a moment…….!

More shocking facts!

I once heard that there is enough food produced in this world to sustain every human being. There probably is but the main proportion seems to go to feed animals who provide for only a fraction of the world’s population.

Furthermore in order to create all this life stock, its production needs help and that is where I was confronted with the biggest shock. The produce that we end up seeing in the supermarkets is so artificially ‘tweaked’ that the word healthy has become obsolete! There is nothing healthy about these animals that end up on our plates.

They are full with antibiotics, hormones and fluid to grow as big as possible. They need to grow faster and bigger than nature would allow and the result is something else than food. However the beef, pork and dairy industries support and promote the standard of such foods. Ironically those companies who supply the hormones and the drugs needed appear to be their sponsors. See the vicious circle?

In the USA some people fight these procedures and end up in prison and it seems virtually impossible to make an impact there. What is possible off course, is stop eating the manipulated products.

Don’t think chicken and dairy are any better! They are just as full of hormones and anti-biotics. We were shocked to realise that our youngest daughter has drunk milk by the litres since she was a small kid. She has stopped or reduced it now but what could be the damage there?

Our decision to trial ‘vegan’

Any way after seeing this documentary, we watched a couple more on the same topic. We concluded that we had already lost the appetite for eating meat. Even dairy had lost its appeal however we knew it would be hard to give up cheese! After all I am Dutch, the country with the amazing assortment of hard cheeses. I used to work in Switzerland and love all of their cheese dishes. And now I am living in France where cheese is also abundant.

vegan, plant based, cheese, Dutch cheeses

Cheeses – can and should I give them up?

What we have decided is the following. We have a trial vegan month and explore what it means. We will asses how we deal without meat and dairy. And we will use all our creativity to produce tasty meals with only plant based food.

We are now in our fourth trial vegan week and I can only say that we have discovered some interesting things.

To be continued…..!

settle, exploring, Rennes-le-chateau

Contemplating  life without cheese…….

 

 

Stress – do we always know why and when we have it?

Let’s talk about stress!

Although I think I do not have it, there is something that wakes me up in the middle of the night. As a matter of fact I have not slept well lately and I don’t really know why….

Heaps of reasons for stress!

stress, relaxation, enjoyment,

Feeling totally relaxed and enjoying the surroundings

After an intensive six months in Brisbane of closing a 25 year chapter in our lives I like to think that I am currently not stressed. These 6 months of packing up were kind of crazy. The other day I was thinking about what we actually did. Clearing our Brisbane house and selling everything. Cleaning it to the crazy standards of Australian property managers. Leaving two kids and many dear friends behind……..

And suddenly I got this sense of ‘super stress’ in me.

I never noticed it at the time but looking back I realise I never want to do something like that again. Apart from leaving people behind, one of the worst aspects was the stuff we owned and sold. Why on earth did we have all these things?

If you imagine our house in Limoux, just think of an average historical holiday house. You’ll find everything that you need but there is no clutter. In fact I have already brought several things to the local recycling shop. Some of those bits that I bought at an earlier stage but I did not really like them for myself. So off they went.

In a couple of months and a lot later than promised we have to open our doors to a shipment from Australia. Although we did sell an incredible amount of stuff we still managed to take a fair bit. If you ask me what exactly, I would not be able to tell you exactly. Some things are books, photo albums, pictures, a mosaic table I made myself, clothes and some favourite kitchen items.

Stress, moving, clutter

Some of the ‘stuff’ that will arrive at our door and need to find a place in my now empty drawers and cupboards….

More stress to come?

I am already afraid that it will fill up my drawers and cupboards. I am sure these are items that I like and want to keep but I certainly do not need them. The shipment is also late and won’t arrive before the winter. Guess what, it has all the winter clothes we own or whatever you can call winter clothes if you are from Brisbane.

On top of that, the containers arrives when we are not there and we have to organise storage until we can have it delivered. The reason we are not going to be in Limoux for some time is the arrival of our youngest offspring in Europe. She has set her heart on studying in The Netherlands and somehow we feel that she might need some assistance. After all she does not speak Dutch and has not spent more than a month or so in Holland in her whole life.

Stress for her and ….us?

Quite a big thing for an 18 year old, I suppose, although she seems to take it all in her stride. Off course as parents you feel that you need to offer support. In fact it turns out to be an art to find the right balance between support and backing off. She has been in Australia, safely living with a family we know and who happens to be the parents of her best friend. She turned 18 there and is now officially an adult.

When she comes to Europe she obviously needs our help and advice but also she will feel that she has to sort it out herself. So where as a parent do you draw the line? We have facilitated a couple of things to get her started but for the rest it may have to be just help with the Dutch language.

It remains a grey area. I know several people who struggle with letting go of their children. Who feel they need to keep the family house going because their kids still might want to live there. Those who suffer empty nest syndrome because their kids are off to university in a different city or even country.

One reason why to stress less…

I get all that and I am not sure what is good or bad. My oldest daughter, 24 now, has created a life for herself. She saved money, moved to Melbourne and relocated her part time job. She found a graduate position to fit her degrees and is now planning a couple of months of travelling before the onslaught of the new job. We as parents look at it and are proud and happy for her despite the fact that she lives in Melbourne and we are on the other side of the world.

Off course we hope that our youngest will fall on her feet like that. She has chosen a slightly more difficult path and I am not sure if she is aware of the enormity of it. Time will tell and in the meantime we as parents have to find the right level of interference. One that she sees as help but not ‘sweeping in’ as she once accused me off.

chalk paint, wax, ornate, sepia frame, make over

Interesting times and many reasons for more stress ! For now though, I am looking forward heaps to see both girls in a matter of only weeks. They will both come to UK and for a short time we have the opportunity to be a family of four again. We will pick them up, re-unite with UK family, make some trips, even be part of a family wedding in UK and an old friends’s 40th birthday party in Ghent.

stress, reasons why, kids, moving

Family life for a short while! And Greg…. sorry for using your using your table another time……

I am so excited!

 

Limoux – first a holiday destination and now our home!

Some years ago we bought a new home in Limoux, France. I spent a fabulous 3 months travelling and researching the South of France and compiled a short list of properties. My husband joined me to inspect them and we ended up buying a house in Limoux.

home, France, Limoux, buying a house

Studying the map of France and deciding where to buy a property

These 3 months back then were easy as they felt just like a working holiday. I always knew I was going back ‘home‘ to Australia. I even came back to Limoux twice for a stint of 5-6 weeks to work on the house. Being in Limoux this time is different because now this house has become our home and it is the only one we have.

Since we bought the house in 2014 it has been the temporary home for a long list of Limoux lovers. Some stayed a week and some stayed up to 6 months. I moved here myself at the end of August – it was only me who left Australia initially. Keith followed me a couple of months later and here we are – living in our new home Casa Rita in Limoux 🙂

Still a holiday home?

Don’t be fooled that fast because the adventure still feels like a holiday and I am sure it will be for a while to come. The fact that we have so many countries nearby and to hear different languages on a daily base creates a true sense of holiday and adventure. That was very different in Australia because all I heard was primarily English for 25 years.

home, Limoux, tourist, sightseeing

Nearby attractions make it so attractive to go sightseeing and feel like a tourist

This is actually quite amazing as Australia has a population consisting of dozens of nationalities. It is not rare to be the only ‘real’ Australian on a party. By the way I am not venturing into the political issue of ‘genuine’ Australians so don’t get me on that one!

Different countries and languages

I speak 5 languages but I have not been able to do much with it during my time in Australia. A pity but so be it. Australians do learn languages in school but for a Dutch it is a laugh inducing low key affair. My daughter Zoe ‘learned’ 4 or 5 years Italian at Primary school.  All she managed to master was ‘May God bless you’ (obviously a Catholic School) and the odd culinary term.

I thoroughly enjoy hearing and speaking other languages. I can be texting with my sister in ‘Dutch’, speaking ‘English’ to my husband and local expats I have met in Limoux and ‘French’ to my neighbours, local cafe owners and handyman. This can all happens in one day on more than one occasion.

The other day I was skyping with a long time friend in Switzerland. You may guess it right that the language was in ‘German’. She is Austrian and, yes, we talk German to each other. We met in Switzerland more than 30 years ago while working in the same hotel. No need to say that we stayed in touch.

The bottom line is that since I am in France I have so many chances to speak other languages and I absolutely love it!

Our home is in a tourist attraction….

home, Limoux, tourist attraction

The river Aude is an eternal subject for the most gorgeous shots

My Austrian friend and I both live in a small town that are considered tourist attractions. She lives in Wengen, a ski resort that has only 1000 inhabitants although the population during the high seasons probably grows ten fold. Limoux has roughly 10.000 people but I am not sure how many people would be here during the busiest months. But I bet it is a fair amount.

home, Limoux, tourist attraction

Limoux offers enough beauty for tourists but is next to that a normal French town – alive all year round!

I like it that Limoux is not only a tourist attraction. It was one of the reasons we chose to look for a house in this town. Limoux is a normal French town where people have more things to do than dealing with tourists. People have non-touristy jobs, there are two high schools, a hospital and even a psychiatric hospital.

The art to create a home

Looking back at my short stints and longer times in different countries I do feel that I seem to be able to make a home where ever I lay my hat – to say it in George Michael’s words. Must be the pragmatic Dutch in me – I get on with what I have and not with what is out of my reach.

home, tourist, France,

How can you not be a tourist and in holiday mode in such a beautiful country anyway?

So yes, although I am still a bit in holiday mode, I am enjoying the ‘settling in process’ and we are slowly finding our place in Limoux – meeting people and sorting out things. I am currently fighting the fight with the French bureaucracy…… to be honest really not that much worse than the Australian equivalent.

It is all about preparation, being friendly and asking for assistance. Somehow that does the job! So since shortly ‘home’ is in Limoux even when it does not feel like it yet. It just takes time  😉

See you soon!

emigration, happy, at ease, train trip

 

 

After we settle in to a new place, we tend to stop exploring? I wonder why…

My last two blog posts were a bit of a whinge about things that are currently happening in my life. And you have to know that quite a lot is going on – after all I have just left my ‘home’ of the last 25 years and I am in the process to settle into a new one.

We spent 25 years in Australia and some years ago we decided to leave Down Under and settle in France. This is not as random as it sounds because we did buy a house there some 3 years ago.

What happens when you settle?

settle, exploring, Rennes-le-chateau

Enjoying new places and taking them in with ‘gusto’

My experience is that when you settle in a new place you’re usually full of enthusiasm to learn everything what there is to learn about the new ‘home’. It almost feels like a holiday and you are checking out the place to a much greater dept than when you would do when you live there permanently.

I am sure that many people who move to another country, city or town can recognise this and have roughly the same experience. With that new start comes an energy to want to learn everything possible about the new place. It is an urgency however that seems to fade away when the novelty has worn off and a routine takes place. The hunger for new things slowly vanishes after we settle because there is enough time to do it later….

I have also found out by experience that once this urgency has gone it is hard to find it again. This ‘new home routine’ establishes itself and you suddenly you seem to have less time for exploring. The result is that you stop doing it and just live in the new place doing the things you need to do.

Maybe that is where the difference lies! When you are on holiday you generally ‘don’t need’ to do anything and you have time for exploring. Daily life is full of stuff you need to do! I wonder if you can do both and avoid this transition….

What makes us ‘blasé?

Rennes le Chateau, settle, moving, exploring

The castle in Rennes-Le-Chateau – a place to enjoy views, history and spirituality

The other day I posted something on Facebook about a visit to Rennes-Le-Chateau. This is a little gem of a place near Limoux and it is perfect to take visitors to and to enjoy the scenery. One of my FB friends admitted that she had never been there despite having lived in the area for over 20 years.

That is exactly what I mean. She obviously knows that Rennes-Le-Chateau is not going to walk away and there is no urgency to go and see the village at this moment in time.

There is no problem with that apart from that it is a pity and it may be a little blasé because who says you are ever going to make the time? You may simply never do it …..

settle, Cap Creuz, Palau Saverdera

The view we were rewarded with after a walk at the Costa Brava we had never done before.

We all love to go to ‘far horizons’ for a holiday and and make the most out of our time when we are there. We take more time for ourselves, for our relationships and relaxation. Only to return home to continue the same old hectic life again.

One of the reasons we wanted a new adventure is to rejuvenate that urgency to take time and explore. To make time to do new things and meet new people. In other words to embrace this other adventure.

Lost opportunities?

Looking back at our time in Australia I feel we have taken many opportunities to see things, but certainly not all. I can remember moving to Brisbane and being excited about the at least 7 National Parks in the immediate environment. We had big plans to go hiking and camping there.

And you know what?  We barely saw 2-3 of these NP’s. We were doing exactly the same as I described above. The parks weren’t going away and after all we had the time. We did not need to go there and the result is that we ended up not going.

It makes you wonder how many opportunities we not have taken in our lives? How many things did we not do and dismiss with an ‘oh, well’, you can’t do everything! No need really..

I have decided to put that ‘blasé’ feeling aside and do the things that come in my mind. To make the most of every day and situation I am offered. Sounds good, hey! Well, we’ll see if I can keep it up. So far we have been doing a fair bit of exploring in our new home.

Am I fooling myself?

And to be honest so far it just feels like a holiday. So I may only fool myself that it is indeed possible to hang onto being the explorer and not fall into the trap of only doing things we need to do.

settle, hiking, Roses, Catalunya, Spain

Going for a hike, exploring new territory and getting new experiences near a new home.

Once we get into a daily routine we may find it an effort to drive somewhere and make a 5-10 k walk. Ah, let’s do it next weekend and just relax today. Recognise the feeling? I do but I am also determent not to fall for it this time.

We have bought maps, are exploring the web and plan activities. And every time when we get back home we feel quite satisfied with the new experience we have had. That should give us enough motivation to keep at it, wouldn’t it?

I will keep you posted!

 

 

Motivation can come from an unexpected angle!

When you move overseas it is pretty normal to expect to lose a bit of motivation and to have moments of doubts, regrets and maybe even anxiety. I am sure I have it all but I have set myself some rules.

Rule number one is that I don’t allow myself to have any expectations and anticipations. This may sound hard to do but so far I am quite good at it. Every time I feel I get a moment of ‘WTF’ did I do that for, I think of that rule. And believe me the moment just goes…

Rule number two is NOT to blame the new surroundings for anything. A simple example is the weather. We all know or can imagine that the climate of Brisbane where we used to live is close to perfection. Mark my words as I say ‘close’ to perfection! It is certainly not perfect as the summer months can be a hard slug.

If someone tells you differently, do not believe them! They may talk about a one-off mild summer, not about the average steamy one. The Brisbane summer is hot, humid, sweaty and long….. I lived through 17 of them so I consider myself to have an informed opinion.

False expectation and motivation

We arrived in Limoux, South of France and ‘expected’ to get a bit of a ‘late summer’, something like an Indian summer. Well so far, I hardly had to wear my summer clothes and am struggling to find suitable warm items to wear.

motivation, weather, South of france

Dark skies, cool temperatures and possible rain in nearby Esperaza

motivation, Limoux, weather, autumn

Breezy weather due to an active Tramontana wind from the mountains

The locals say it is not normal for the time of the year. Looking at the last two summers it is indeed not the same. So the weather is a bit disappointing and off course the following happens immediately. That nasty little monster called doubt sticks up his head and points out what I have left behind – beautiful almost perfect Brisbane weather.

Not allowed, as I said! It is not the mistake of Limoux that the Indian summer has skipped the town this year. It is what it is! I saw with a hint of sarcasm that Brisbane had already temperatures of over 30 during August and forecast is a long hot wet summer. OMG am I happy not to be there!

An ‘painful’ source of motivation

The other day something happened that stirred up quite some emotions within me. My daughter who is still in Brisbane saw that our family doctor of 17 years had passed away. Quite a shock as he was only 52. Apparently he felt unwell and just died – could have been an aneurysm. Who knows….

It made me realise that life is fragile. We have only one shot at it and it can be taken away so easily. Thinking about my GP made me realise that we need to live life when it is there. We have decided to change our lifestyle because we feel we have another adventure in us. We made the choice after years of ‘umming and erring’ and we will take every consequence that comes with it.

Even a less than perfect Limoux after-summer 😎 .

motivation, Limoux, walking, hiking, hills

At the top and feeling on top of things are great for motivation!

I am really sad about my GP. He has been absolutely brilliant on several occasions that I had a bit of a health scare. This doctor rang me at home on a Sunday night to tell me that I was resistant to the antibiotics he had prescribed. He personally changed bandages for 2 weeks after I had a skin craft as a result of a skin cancer. And he was the one who enquired about my pain management when he found I had a huge white blood cell count due to an infection.

Strangely his sudden death has given me new motivation to make the most out of this new adventure in Limoux or wherever we end up. His passing away makes me realise how easy things can turn. I am shocked and sad about it but it also gives me a boost to take this opportunity with both hands and live it to the fullest.

I just needed to get this of my chest!

See you next time to show off some ‘gems’ in the immediate surroundings….

 

 

 

 

My first baby steps as an ‘expat’ living in France

I think the word ‘expat’ is a funny word. It literally means  ‘to voluntarily be absent from home and country’. In that case I am a third degree expat as I have now left 3 countries before I arrived in France.

A bit crazy, don’t you think so? Does that mean I can’t find my way anywhere or am I just very adaptable and make a home wherever I land?

My ‘expat’ history

expat

Growing up in the Netherlands but always with a hunger for foreign adventure.

From The Netherlands, to UK, then Australia – even a short stint in Switzerland, and now France. Officially I belong to this group of expats however I really don’t like the name . I always saw myself as a resident in Australia. While I was living in London I never even thought about what I was. And now in France the likes of us are apparently called ‘expats’.

Why don’t I like it?  Well, what comes straight to mind is Brits who live abroad but only want English things. Just think of the film ‘Shirley Valentine’. Good old Pauline Collins succeeds in making tourists extremely happy by offering them a full English breakfast. Right there in a Greek taverna on a pebbly beach, they want the full works. It made me laugh but also cringe…

There is this  Facebook group ‘Nederlanders (Dutch) in Australia’ who chose to live on the other side of the world. And you know what they do? They spent precious time on dreaming about Dutch fast food and discussing where to get it Down Under.

I am guilty of never thinking about Dutch food. 25 years in Australia and not one ‘patatje, kroket or frikandel went through my mind and mouth. Actually I made one little slip when my visiting second cousin wanted a ‘broodje kroket’ and off course she found a supplier in Brisbane!

expat, life style, Dutch food, broodje kroket

The one and only time I had this Dutch concoction was after 25 years living in Australia

And you know what? I think the food in Australia is nice, fresh and diverse albeit a wee bit expensive. Occasionally I may have had a fleeting thought about Dutch cheese but the imported stuff we get Down Under is just not the real thing. I just made do with what Australia offers. By the way NOT the plastic bricks that Australia dares to call cheddar.

expat, lifestyle, Dutch cheese

Dutch cheese – the variety is overwhelming!

Now back to the expat thing. When I was looking for a house in 2014 I saw villages that were overrun by expats. Some so bad that the French locals avoided certain times and places in their own town. Sad but true. A pity as these towns had appeal, hence all the expats who live there!

What kind of ‘expat’ do I want to be?

I like France for what it offers in many aspects. I like to meet all kinds of people – French, English speaking and other Europeans. ‘They’ say it is hard to integrate in French villages. I can tell you it would be just as hard hard in Dutch villages. You will be tolerated and accepted but you are never going to be one of them. That is the same all over the world, even in true ocker Australia. And to be honest, does that matter?

expat, lifestyle, life in france

One that considers himself true Aussie!

Since we own our house I have met and befriended several French people. According to some they are all from other areas in France than Limoux and surroundings. Well, again does that matter? They are also French after all.

I am sure my authentic Limoux French neighbours in opposite, next door and around the corner of our house have nothing against me living there. They greet me, some help me tremendously and even have keys to our house. I will never be one of them and I am not trying to be either. I am just friendly, make effort to speak and learn better French and live the way they live in Limoux.

expat, life style, Limoux, life in France

Eglise St Martin in Limoux – just a stone throw away from the central Place de la République

My first steps as an expat

During the last week I have joined a couple of expats groups and I have met some lovely people from a variety of countries. I like that but I will make sure that is not going to be my only network in France. And I am sure they don’t do that either. One of the things I have noticed in this area is that most imported people have made the effort to learn and speak French. Many of them had kids that grew up here and are french kids.

You would do yourself short by not being able to speak the local language. Still I have seen people complaining on forums about the life as an expat in France. It is not rare that they barely speak French after years of living in this country. Still they dare to complain that they could not integrate. Don’t make me laugh!

So to sum it up, here in France I am an expat because I have expatriated my home country voluntarily. For the rest I am a new resident of France who has come here to become part of the French lifestyle and enjoy this beautiful country. Anybody who crosses my path, from whatever background, will be part of that experience.

expats, lifestyle, life in France, Limoux, river Aude

The beautiful River Aude – every day and every light make it look different and fantastic for a good picture.

It is an adventure and I am looking forward to it a lot!

expat, emigration, life in France, life style

Feel free to sign up or spill something about your own experiences below!

Love to you all!

How a simple train trip can turn into a total disaster?

I decided to take a train trip for the next leg of my journey. Now there are days that simply suck. Forgive me for the word but there is just no other word for it on this occasion. I am telling you this because I recently had one of those days.

My train trip from Holland to Switzerland

It happened when I was travelling from The Netherlands to Switzerland. Literally everything that could go wrong went wrong during that trip. The combination of bad factors was more than coincidence. It seemed like the devil was involved.

I decided to go by train to Switzerland. The reason I decided to go by train was that I foresaw problems with flying. My luggage was growing in size and weight for some reason and somehow I had acquired more bags than when I started.

train trip, Switzerland, Alps, mountains

The Swiss Alps – powerful and absolute gorgeous. It takes time though to navigate them

Switzerland is a small country but because of the Alps travelling can take a long time. If you fly you still have to get from an airport to your destination and my end goal Wengen is not the easiest place to get to.

So a train it was! I searched on line and found a great train trip starting just where I was in Borne, Holland. And for a good price. My friend dropped me off at the station and off I went.

What went wrong?

The first thing that happened was a delay on the Dutch train. Not clear why but the train waited just before Enschede and arrived 5 minutes late. My connecting train was still waiting a bit further on the same platform. I ran for it but had to skilfully manoeuvre my too many pieces of luggage through a turn style. When I looked up the train had left.

It basically had just vanished. I could not even see it any more in the distance. I was not the only stranded person and in fact there was a whole group of us that. Missing this train meant my initial schedule to get to Wengen was useless. I would miss the next connection and lose my reserved seats.

I had a good old rant and the lady behind the counter gave me a new schedule based on the new times. It looked fine until I checked it out a bit better and I saw that there were 9 train changes. I was thinking of the stuff I had with me and felt my heart sinking in my shoes.

There was nothing I could do and I took the next train on the schedule the lady in Enschede gave me. I went to Dortmund, then to Mannheim and then to Rastatt, a place somewhere in the South of Germany I had never heard off.

A train trip without a train track….

I explored the schedule a bit better and saw that there was no train between Rastatt and Baden Baden. First I thought I simply misunderstood the schedule but it really said there were no train until the 26th August. As it was only the 15th, I was starting to feel really pissed off!

The reason there was no train was that due to very bad weather the train track had been washed away. There would be many buses waiting to bring all these people from Rastatt to Baden Baden.

We arrived in Rastatt and everybody had to leave the train. Dozens of people were fighting their way to the stairs realising there was neither escalator nor lift on this station. So down the stairs we went, through the tunnel and then up the stairs to be able to get to the buses.

In Rastatt I found out that the train that I missed earlier that day had broken down half an hour out of Munster. All these people had to leave that train and find alternative ways to get further as well. That would have been me had I not missed that train in Enschede.

People were pushing and getting panicked that they would miss out on a spot on one of the buses. To be honest I was glad I had done a fair bit of weight lifting in my life. I had to carry a total of 30 kilos in2 suit cases plus my camera bag and computer bag down and up those stairs. I felt really sorry for elderly people with huge suit cases. They looked around to find a helping hand but as every one had to deal with their own luggage, there was little time nor chance for that.

The train trip continues

In Baden Baden there was a train waiting and after all these people were on it the train was full to the brim. There was no place to sit and suitcases were obstructing exits and corridors.

Fortunately I had a seat but my stuff was all over the place. By then I was very thirsty and went on the search for a bar or restaurant. Only to find out it was not open. How stupid is that? They had a packed train with hungry and thirsty people and there was nothing to eat or drink.

We arrived in Basel where I had another change to make with again only 5 minutes. I knew the platform I had to go to and expected it to be next to the one I arrived. Unfortunately my train arrived on a different platform and we had a delay of 4 minutes. I had to run and push to be able to make it in time for the next train.

To my utter surprise the Swiss train was waiting for us despite the usual punctual Swiss time keeping. I enquired with the Swiss conductor and she told me that the train always waits for its connection. What about that, Germany!

train trip, Switzerland, Wengen

Swiss trains, punctual, clean and reliable.

After this trip I had two more train changes to make and I was getting more and more excited to arrive in Wengen where I would stay for a week. Of course there was no one to meet me as my friends had no clue when I arrived. I lugged my stuff through the town, slightly uphill and finally after a rather pain full train trip I had arrived at my next destination.

My week in Wengen was worth all the upheaval. I really love this place 😎 and may decide to share it with you in another blog post.

If your curiosity is winning you over, you can subscribe to my blog and never miss an episode.

And…connect with me on FB, Instagram and Pinterest!

Bye for now!

emigration, happy, at ease, train trip

Reflections on my emigration to Europe so far…..

I am sure that most people would find an emigration stressful. Off course there are different types of emigration and it makes a huge difference if your move is a consequence of free choice or to escape danger. Our move back to Europe is a result of our own decision based on assessing Australian versus European living standards.

emigration, Stradbroke Island

One of the beautiful Australian beaches. I will miss them but their memory is chiseled in my mind.

To be honest there is not much wrong with Australia. Although a couple of nasties are sticking up their head! All over it is a very pleasant country with a stunning scenery. We just have decided that we like a different scene for the near future.

We have had our fair share of Down Under, more than 25 years to be specific. It also helps that both our kids also like the idea of moving to Europe. The youngest is planning to study in The Netherlands and our plan is to attend a couple of open days in November at some Dutch universities.

Funnily as we made the plan to migrate together, so far it has been only me who has made the move. I booked my ticket to leave immediately after we would leave our house as it seemed a logical consequence?? For my husband and youngest offspring there seemed to be some reasons to hang on to Oz a bit longer. As a result they both leave on different dates after they have finished their ‘things’ 😉

Emigration and stress

I just read an article written by a psychologist about moving stress and it seems I am doing naturally what she recommends. As I have some hidden psychology knowledge in me dating from a long time ago some common sense may be guiding me here and there.

It was weird yet good for me to arrive by myself. This way I have only my own feelings to deal with and I can ease into a strange but also vaguely familiar territory. I arrived in London where I lived for 5 years and where my husband is from. There is family there and I had a place to stay. The same goes for The Netherlands where I do the round of friends and family.

emigration, Bunne, Dutch country side

Bunne. Flat as a pancake but oozing with charm. Very pretty surroundings for walking and cycling.

I suppose from that point of view it is very different from other migrants. So far there has been no stress to find a place to live and fortunately I have people to talk to. Furthermore I speak all the languages of the countries I visited so far and they are familiar to me.

Despite this both England and The Netherlands do not feel as my home. I am not a citizen in either country although I am Dutch, I am married to a Brit or own a house in France. I have no immediate rights in these countries and really at this stage I am just a tourist.

Resident status

Officially though I am still a resident of Australia. From their point of view I have just left for a holiday. There could be an issue to get back into the country as I left without having a re-entry permit. I tried to apply online before I left but the immigration website was being a pain so I gave up. The girl at the border mentioned it but we both knew I am able to apply for an Aussie visa when I am abroad.

emigration, moving, stress

Limoux – view of the bridge and the church tower in the centre of town

France is the place where I intend to become a resident but so far I have not really an idea how to go about that. This is also important for my husband because Brexit will throw a spanner in the works for him. However as my husband he has European access and we only have to make it official. This again is strange territory but I am sure there is an answer.

The joy of emigration

It all is exciting and to be honest slightly daunting but that makes it also a challenge. I love challenges…! Every official thing I manage to accomplish feels like a small victory and gives me confidence. I am not a novice at migrating either. Australia was the 4th country I lived in for longer stints and there were several more where I spent shorter periods. Norway and Greece are amongst those.

There is a difference off course to live a short period somewhere and to remain a citizen of your home country. It is not the same as leaving officially and to become a citizen elsewhere. I suppose we fall into the last category with this emigration.

While I am writing all these things and am busy contemplating the above issues, I realise it helps writing about it. Everything becomes quite clear and easier to oversee. I suppose writing is about delving into your inner feelings and thoughts and expressing them somehow in words. It makes you step back and assess not only the situation but also your way of thinking. It definitely helps me putting things in perspective.

My emigration rules

Therefore my rule at the moment is to have no expectations, to live every day as it comes and enjoy consequently the proces! I have just spent a lovely week with my sister and I am in the middle of catching up with three long time friends. I am enjoying these moments and will make the most of it 😀

emigration, Groningen, outdoors, coffee and cake

Enjoying the summer and outdoor living in Groningen.

Most of all I like to thank the people who have opened up their houses for me and made me feel comfortable. I hope I can return the favour in our house in Limoux, France

Feel free to comment, express opinions and share experiences about emigration. I am sure those considering a move may benefit from it.

See you next time!

emigration, happy, at ease