Category Archives: Lifestyle

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

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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.

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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

 

 

Haarlem, the Dutch city with many hidden secrets!

My trip to Haarlem started not exactly problem free! First of all I spent the biggest part of an afternoon hanging around at Stansted airport waiting for my plane to arrive, let alone leave for Amsterdam. Before that I had some issues at security. Due to several beeps they wanted me to take off all my jewellery, shoes, belt and for a moment I thought more items….

Then they asked me if I was carrying a breathing machine or some other type of health gadget in my hand luggage. They had seen a suspicious shape in my suit case that turned out to be my Nespresso coffee machine! It really does look a little bit like a gun, doesn’t??

The airport was extremely busy but this little bar just had the perfect spot for me. Therefore I decided to kill the time with a glass of bubbly.

flight delay, prosecco, airport

When your flight is delayed, you might as well enjoy the extra time!

Finally after almost 3 hours delay – still only with one drink though – I hit the ground in Amsterdam.  And at 9 pm I was greeted by my cousin and family.

Haarlem, my next stop

I was staying in Haarlem, the capitol of the province of North Holland with a history dating back at least until the 12th century. Haarlem was once one of the most important cities in the Netherlands. It has attracted several Flamish artists and a large number of rich people.

It is also a city of pioneers. They claim to have housed the inventor of the art of printing, Laurens Coster. Plane designer Anthonij Fokker did his first spin around the tower of the St Bavo Church. The same church also is the home of the famous ‘Müller’ organ. Apparently Mozart played there when he was only 10 years old.

Müller organ, Haarlem, St Bavo kerk

The famous ‘Müller’ organ that was played by Händel and an only 10 year old Mozart

The first rail line was from Amsterdam to Haarlem and of course they have several breweries. They are also home to the oldest news paper in the world (1656) – Het Haarlems Dagblad. The one where my host is a journalist.

They claim 😉 to have quite a lot of significant history!

What I have seen is that it is a very pretty city with lovely old streets, dozens of little ‘hofjes’ or hidden court yards and a vibrant cafe life. The hofjes are quite unique. You can find them behind closed doors but if you don’t know they are there you would walk straight past them. We did a discovery tour of most hofjes. I believe we have seen more than 20.

hofje, Haarlem, inner city

One of many ‘Hofjes’. Hidden by a normal door on the street, they are a very private quiet inner city area.

Haarlem also has lots of tiny narrow streets. The people who live there like to put pot plants and tables and chairs outside. I constantly mistake them for cafes! It gives a very green inner city life.

Haarlem, inner city, small street

Inner city little street with cottages and an active ‘green’ scene

Haarlem, inner city, outdoor living

Outdoor living in Haarlem. I quite often thought some of the houses were cafes!

There was another attraction that I wanted to see in Haarlem. A friend in Brisbane lent me a book about the Dutch family Ten Boom who helped Jewish people hide during WW2. Their house was and still is a watch shop. It is in the center of Haarlem and is now open for visits and a tour.

Haarlem, Corrie ten Boom

The house of Corrie Ten Boom, the watch maker who helped Jewish people hide during WW2

Haarlem, hiding place

The small cavity in a bedroom that they built specially to hide Jewish people during the war

It was amazing to see how they managed to help and hide many Jewish people for years before they were betrayed and taken to concentration camps. Corrie ten Boom who wrote the book survived the ordeal and travelled the world for 30 years promoting her life philosophy. It was an inspiring and also sobering experience to see how this family lived and managed to help so many people during the war.

A family reunion at Haarlem

The reason I went to Haarlem was a family reunion. A year or so ago we had a spontaneous cousin reunion at my sister’s place. It was great to catch up and we decided to do it again. My cousin in Haarlem offered to host it this time.

I stayed for a couple of days and it was nice to get to know my cousin and his wife a bit better. It must have been 40 years since we saw each other last. His daughter was familiar to us as she came to stay in Australia with us. And it was great to see her again.

My cousin’s wife has a rather unusual tradition. She invited me to join her for a ‘breathing meditation’ on the beach followed by a brisk walk. The adventure was continued by a dip in an ice bath and as icing on the cake a swim in the North sea. It was very ‘tempting’ but fortunately the weather was on my side! She is doing this every Saturday morning all year round in rain or shine. Quite admirable.

As a seasoned Queenslander I am used to water temperatures of over 21. So for me the North Sea might have been the ice bath in itself 😕

All in all Haarlem seems a lovely city – a bit of small Amsterdam. I could live here I think. Well let’s see what the future holds for us…. For now I am off to Groningen in the North of the Netherlands where I will be staying in an authentic old farm house.

See you there!

After months of preparation let the European adventure begin….

I started my European adventure in London after a brief visit to Singapore. It seemed logical to go to London first to catch up with family in law before heading to Europe. I have no concrete plans apart from ideas but they can change with whatever comes my way. Sounds like an adventure to me!

When you return from overseas after years it is easy to fall into the trap of doing the rounds to visit family and friends. Everybody likes to see you but before you know you are the one who is doing all the travelling.

Favourite destinations

We have nipped this in the butt years ago. I think it was 2009 when we introduced our family concept to give friends options where they could catch up with us. If they were not prepared to make the trip, why would we? The result is that the hard core comes to see us and the rest gives it a miss.

I do have some exceptions to the rule and this has to do with the geographical location of where some friends live. There are my long time friends in Wengen, a ski resort where I have worked a winter or two. Wengen is a favourite and I have no problem making the rather arduous trip of many hours to reach the village.

London is also on the list of places to visit. Respect to age is very likely the reason we usually make the trip to London town. We don’t really expect my husband’s mum to hop on the plane to meet us somewhere.

european adventure, casa bonita, outdoor living

Cooking up a feast in the outdoor kitchen in Casa Bonita, at Palau, Spain

Then there is my sister who has an abode called Casa Bonita, in sunny Spain. Also a favourite to visit but I tend to keep the visits to her other address in far North of the Netherlands to a minimum 😉 Although this time this destination is on my list. She lives in an authentic old farm house. I can’t wait to see the latest renovations and other creative things she usually does to houses.

After that, some time in August I will head to our own house Casa Rita in the South of France. That is as far as my plans go….

My time in London

I have been just over a week in London now and the weather was fabulous. Some call it hot but for a seasoned ex-Brisbanite this heat is not much of an issue. I was in London at the same time as Wimbledon, one of my favourite sporting tournaments. It also happened to be that my favourite tennis player played the men’s singles final and won!

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis match

Sitting on Murray Mound to watch a match on Centre court. The best way after the real thing!

Understandably I was in my element to be able to watch it in the UK time zone. Although the family had to throw in a BBQ at the same time. I still managed to sneak to the TV many times to watch what was happening. I got away with it because I was looking after new born Alfie while watching the match 😛

european adventure, wimbledon, tennis final

The latest addition to the family, Alfie at 3 weeks old watching the Wimbledon Men’s final

My jet lag was minimal as usual. I have a well travelled friend in Ghent who once told me that jet lags were overrated. He gave me some tips to deal with it and with the help of Melatonin it indeed is. Within a couple of days I was back into a routine although I still fall asleep around 9.30 pm. To be honest that was also part of my normal daily routine in Brisbane.

European adventure – a new routine

I may have to adjust some of my habits as life in Australia has an early start. Gyms are open early or 24 hours, cafes have a queue and dozens of early morning cyclist park their bikes for a caffeine shot. In London I have gone for a walk every morning and look wishfully at the many cafes I pass. Not one is open. The only signs of life in early London is the commuter traffic.

With that in mind, getting up at 6 seems silly over here. On the other hand I could also make a nice coffee at home. After all I am travelling with my own portable smallest version of a Nespresso coffee machine. Thanks to my oldest daughter who works part time in this coffee boutique in Melbourne and was for years their employee in Brisbane.

My routine in Brisbane to get up before 6 and either go the gym or for a walk seems a nightmare for many Europeans. In Australia however it is much part of the lifestyle due to hot weather and shorter days. I am sure it will adjust by itself.

European adventure – admin chores!

I have spent a fair part of the week in London sorting out all kid of admin palava. First of all I left Australia without a re-entry permit. Some may call it silly and it probably is but I just let it happen that way. Also I left without being sure about the status of my medical insurance abroad. I used to live in the UK and still have an insurance number but it may have expired. I am not automatically insured in The Netherlands either.

european adventure, bike, Amsterdam

Creative shopping in The Netherlands

So as a Dutch citizen I could be insured in my own country either through the NHS in UK or the Medicare system in Australia. Rather bizarre but so be it.

I have booked my next European adventure. Next week I am flying to Amsterdam for a family reunion near by on the 30th July. Many of my cousins will be there and so is my sister. Her farm house in far North Netherlands is my next destination on the list.

Keep healthy! And pop in your name and email in the boxes below to ensure you get the latest updates!

European adventure, Noosa, Australia

 

 

Downsizing in the true sense of the word!

It has been a turbulent couple of weeks if not months lately but our exercise in downsizing has seen light at the end of the tunnel. Our house got emptier by the day and before we knew we had a very basic existence. As a matter of fact we have sold our bed before we moved out of our house and someone picked it up a couple of days later.

downsizing, making a bed

This lounge suite has been used for sleep overs many times so together with a large ottoman in front, it can be our bed for the last week

My immediate solution was to sleep on the lounge suit. Together with an ottoman it just looked like a double bed. My joy did not last long as someone bought this as well and had picked it up before I have the chance to sleep on it.

An unexpected blessing in disguise

Fortunately something cropped up. A friend of ours asked us if we were interested in doing a house sit in her house while she was on holiday. She has two little dogs and they needed looking after.

It couldn’t have been a better timing. So my answer was ‘yes please’! It also gave us our first house sit experience and hopefully a reference. It made everything so much easier. The timing of selling your furniture and having the comfort of using is tricky. It has not been easy to sell some of our things so when you get the asking price it is time to let it go. Even if it means you have to go back to camping conditions!

I am quite astounded by the attitude of the average second hand buyer. It seems that you must bargain and many people are not afraid to ask if you can deliver. People even accused me of wasting their time because I did not fulfil their wishes.

Downsizing and meeting people

There have been some really nice people and fortunately they have made a bigger impression than the obnoxious ones. One girl bought my upgraded book case and was so happy with it that she sent me a picture after she had filled it with her books. She wanted to show me how nice it looked in her apartment.

Another guy showed up with his girl friend. Both from the USA, they have just moved into a unit in West End and need many things. He is coming back for a a garage sale preview. I have been able to sell our homestay students’s desk, chair and light. He is not that impressed but he was moving out a day or so later, so who cares? Sometimes you just make do!

Buyers like this made everything worth it. I even made a bit of a friend amongst one of my regular buyers. She has bought several of my upgrade items and we got along nicely. We have in common our love for upgrading old bits of furniture. And isn’t that one of the facilitators for friendships, I remember from my Psych lectures.

make-over, upgrade, furniture, about me

Giving a old piece of furniture a make-over with chalk paint and wax

So really, after my garage sale that will take place in a week’s time most things should have gone. There seem to be some ‘unspoken’ rules to second hand selling. People who buy expect it to be cheap so high end items do not sell very easily. This may be logical as people who can afford it do not buy second hand, maybe…..?

This could mean that we had to drop the price for our sofa tremendously or take it. As we did not want to take it, – too much hassle and complications on the other end – we will have to let it go cheap I am afraid. And to be honest I did not care. Better some money than none at all.

Downsizing to the ‘max’

I realise I do not care about any of the stuff we have sold. We think we can’t do without but when it comes to the crunch it really does not matter. It feels enlightening to let it all go and to start from scratch or not at all.

We have had thoughts that things might come in handy and we could buy another house in the future….. Could or couldn’t. Who knows…..

So yes, our house echoed, it is empty and still we managed to do exactly what we always did and hardly noticed the lack of items. It is ‘downsizing’ to the max and it feels good! We even had a dinner party one night and funny enough our guests picked up the coffee table we had on loan.

It was handy that the dining set was still there!

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What is your reason to NOT declutter?

Every time when I write about decluttering or clearing it seems to hit a nerve with many people. I wonder why that is. I suppose one reason could be that all of them have an enormous amount of clutter. They know they SHOULD do something about it but find ALWAYS excuses not to do so.

The reason why or why not….

I notice it when I tell people that I have been clearing a lot. I see their eyes go dark, their minds racing while thinking that it is something they really ought to do as well. Maybe people need a big reason to start this clearing process. Something like a move, down sizing after kids leave, selling a house or clearing a house after someone died.

The latter is an experience I went through myself. My mum died when I was just 21 and we had to empty our family home. I can recall at the time that I was not particular motivated. My sister and I just took the things we needed and the rest went either to ‘motivated’ helpers or a skip.

There are some things that disappeared in either the skip or someone else’s house that I regret not to have claimed but I have accepted that. I don’t know the reason for my ignorance, I was after all only 21 and obviously naif.

And at the moment I am going again through this declutter process. Not just decluttering but emptying a house totally. I have about 6 weeks left and although it is looking emptier, there are still many, many things to sell, give away or dump.

Timing it right…..

The trickiest thing will be to hang on to things we need as long as possible but being able to sell them before we need to move out. It feels a bit like a puzzle game. I sell a table and replace it with another one I have. I realise I can sell that one as well as I have another one in my daughter’s room. She just moved to Melbourne and does not want that one.

My husband fears that one day he will come home and there are no chairs anymore to sit on. If the deal is brilliant it might just go like that!

Our outdoor area has gone through a major down size. See below for yourself.

From here

outdoor table, declutter

The original setting of al fresco dining in our house – the table went to a dear friend

To here

outdoor table setting

Back to the IKEA stage – did not last long, sold within 10 minutes

To here

The last stage and this one will come with us to Europe

It shows we possessed a fair few tables and chairs and I haven’t even shown all of them. Australia is an ‘outdoor’ country and there are many spots to enjoy sitting outside. I like to create little scenes everywhere and I did collect table settings accordingly. They have all gone to different homes by now.

Sense of loss and finality

To be honest I expected to experience more emotions when parting with possessions we have owned and used for years. Funnily I hardly care. One thing after the other disappears through our front door and I am totally fine with it. When people I care about or like buy our things I do feel a sense of satisfaction and warmth because I know our stuff goes to a good home.

But I don’t feel a sense of loss when it goes. The only thing that is slowly creeping upon me is a sense of finality. We have officially given notice to our real estate agent. We are really doing this move. It is really happening!

We are selling everything and we will end up with a few cubic meter of possessions that represent a life of 25 years in Australia. Some of the stuff actually came from Europe. We will leave this country with a couple of suitcases each, countless memories and a one way ticket to different horizons.

Even writing this gives me a heavy feeling in my chest. I don’t know the reason for it. I am pretty sure that I have no doubts but the whole thing does start freak me out a bit to say the least.

I will leave it to that and keep you posted….. 🙂

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reason, moving, letting go

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerbside collections can be a fun way to recycle – up to a point!

Once every year the Brisbane council facilitates kerbside collections in every suburb. During this collection you can dump large items you don’t want on your kerb. All the bits and pieces you have in your garage, cellar, under house, in your cupboards etc that are too big for the wheelie bins, can be put on the roadside.

 

kerbside collections, kerbside, council

During council kerbside collections large items can be put on the street for collection.

When it is the turn of your suburb you see an interesting phenomenon happening. One that has even been called an ‘Aussie tradition’!

This is what happens during kerb side collections?

Out come the scavengers and the crawlers who drive around in Utes, station wagons and small pick up trucks to rummage through your unwanted goods. They hope to find treasures they can re-use or sell.

There was a time when I was part of this trend. Only last year I started a new hobby business to upgrade old furniture with chalk paints and milk paints. I found several items on the street side that I have turned into little treasures.

This year however I am the one who throws out the stuff we don’t want anymore. It has been an amazing couple of days watching from our living room on the first floor to see what people take. Literally everything apart from some old planks that I put out before the weekend has disappeared.

They took an old timber sun lounger with broken slats and a rotted side. They cut off a plug from an little electrical heater but left the heater it self…?? It is amazing to see what stuff people pick up. I did not ‘get’ the plug. Is this to stop others from ever using the item again…?

When I researched this kerbside activity I found a news article published in 2015 where a Sydney council wanted to discourage scavengers from rummaging through other people’s rubbish. Apparently as soon as the rubbish is on the kerb, it becomes the property of the council. So from that point of view the council could stop someone from taking stuff and even fine them.

Who is liable for the unwanted goods?

A ridiculous thought as the idea of people picking up stuff promotes recycling of unwanted things. Your trash becomes my treasure – an idea I really like. From the article I got the impression that the council wants to safeguard themselves against liability. If they claim that the stuff on the kerbside is their property, it becomes indeed their responsibility.

So typical Australian, this liability issue. During the last 25 years this country has gone from being relaxed and easy-going to preventing schools from having a good old fashioned play ground. All probably because some kid broke his arm while playing. To my opinion that is part of growing up, but no we have to mollycoddle children to stop them them from getting a scratch!

Bondi beach, first steps, beach, Australia

Bondi Beach where the council apparently is responsible for the of location sand banks

My worst example is an adult swimmer at Bondi Beach, Sydney who sued the council for being dumped on a sandbank and broke his neck consequently. He actually won and the council had to pay him millions in compensation. He swam between the flags and the council was accused of being negligent as there was a sand bank in a flagged area.

Who rummages on the kerbside?

Okay, getting back to the kerbside. I suppose there are two kind of people who rummage and collect. There are the dealers who pick up with the purpose to sell. These are the people who cut of the plug, break the glass of the table to get the frame or take parts of equipment. All really happened by the way.

And they are also the people who couldn’t give a sh….! They make a mess of your carefully stacked pile so that it becomes dangerous for pedestrians who walk past. And the liability issue rears its ugly head again…….!

The other type are the people like me who look for items to upgrade for themselves or as part of a business. They are the students who collect bits of furniture because they don’t have much money. And they are those who support recycling and like to reduce our landfill and stop wasting goods.

work in progress, makeover

In the process of giving this table a make-over. Since then sold successfully!

While I am writing this I am just witnessing two students putting my old work table in their car. They had to take the chairs out of their car to make it fit! My table was a recycle project in itself. I made it from an old door and a pair of table stands that I bought in good old Bunnings. The whole thing makes me smile!

What did not make me smile is what happened to me next. I unloaded my garden equipment on the kerb right next to the garden where I would be working for the morning. While I am clearing out a section unfortunately hidden behind a palm tree, some ‘innocent’ crawler took my crow bar.

The thing I use the most and certainly do not want to have to buy again for my last couple of months in Australia. I suppose he reckoned it was up for grabs….! Tough luck.

Have a good week and see you next time! ➡

By the way, it is possible to subscribe to my rants and raves by popping in your name and email below.

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling

 

 

 

 

 

“Am I leaving Australia for good”, I get asked daily!

Am I leaving Australia for good……? To be honest ‘how  do  I  know?

Almost on a daily base I get not only to hear that question but also that I am silly to leave Australia. When people ask me ‘if it is for good’ they tend to get this facial expression of disbelief and pity. It is bizarre as on the one hand people enjoy telling others that I am planning to move to Europe. And on the other hand the reactions are of utter disbelief.

leaving Australia, moving abroad, for good

Permanent? For good? Why would you want you do that? Really?

Australians really believe that they live in the best country in the world. They like to travel and visit other countries but in general would not want to stay overseas. Off course there are some that moved abroad and are happy to be there. I even know some who have left and wish never to return to the land Down Under.

Having lived in London we have come across many Aussies who lived and worked for a couple of years in London. It seems to be just temporarily as most of them tend to go back to Australia when they are ready to settle and have kids.

Why leaving Australia seems to make no sense

Australia is indeed a great country to raise kids. Not only that but also to have a pleasant life. People are friendly, the weather is good in most places and the quality of the essentials in life is relatively high.

The water is clean, the streets and parks are well kept and there are many outdoor facilities for sport and recreation. It is easy to find a free public toilets and drink water fountains are abundant in contrary to many other countries we have visited. However bottled water is in those countries very affordable while in Australia they cost a premium!

Leaving Australia, Stradbroke Island

Good quality and well maintained picnic tables on Stradbroke Island

The standard of the health care system is high. It is easy to get to see a doctor, get a test or see an alternative practitioner. It is overall not an extremely expensive system but in general you have to pay something for every service. The reason you can get an MRI or some other test within a couple of days is because you pay.

I know that in London, UK you have to wait weeks to get a doctor’s appointment, let alone an X-ray. One of the reasons Brexit came along….

One thing springs to mind though…. What about paying a small sum for the privilege of an appointment. Might speed up things a bit…….

Anyway put all these wonderful Aussie services aside and assess what other things could make me stay. The fact is that I have been here over 25 years and have indeed enjoyed fantastic weather, breathtaking nature, empty sandy beaches and good quality food.  It has been wonderful and satisfying.

Byron Bay, leaving Australia

One of the beaches in Byron Bay, one of our favourite spots to visit.

However if I stay another 20 years, granted that life gives me that amount of years to live, I will enjoy exactly that some more. The point is that I want to experience different things. I am saturated with Australian life and made the most out of it, but I am done!

Why leaving Australia makes sense

Staying in Australia feels a bit like stalling the rest of my life. I want a different experience. For instance I want to speak my languages, five of them to be precise. To keep my brain active I have added a sixth – I am learning Spanish.

Australians don’t get this wish or urge to want more. Many of them like going abroad but some of them have not even been out of their state. Our babysitter, age 18 when the kids were young, had not been over the Queensland border. Most Australians have not seen Tasmania or West Australia. It takes 5 hours to fly to Perth and it takes 5 hours to fly to Bali. So you get the gist.

Australians are rather insular. They think their country is the one and only one. In general they can not see why you could want to live somewhere else.

One of my clients, a 94 year old local with a brain that still works like a train, had a bit of a whinge recently. She said that Australia had been the lucky country for a long time. But she reckoned that it ain’t gonna be that lucky for much longer.

She would like to see Australians travel more so they would expand their horizons. She likes them to realise there is more to life than pool, sun and BBQ’s. Refreshing words……?

A friend of a friend went to live in Portugal to retire. He finds it hard and is occasionally lonely. One of his Aussie mates hoped their would be a Coles or Woolies around the corner – that would soften the pain. Another friend hoped I would be able to find a Bunnings in my French neighbourhood if I wanted to get back into gardening.

People, people, every country has their own Coles and Bunnings, but do Australians who rarely travel, really believe they could be the same shops??? Get real.

For non-Australians, Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings are giant monopolies in Australia dictating what Aussies eat, drink and pay for it and how they renovate their houses and maintain their gardens.

A bit of a comparison

Life in Australia is attractive, but it is also superficial. There is a lack of complexity and culture. Not so hard to understand as it is a young country. Also bizarre as we have a population that is made up of dozens of different cultures. Somehow these cultures do not really make an impact in the Australian experience.

The country remains very much a part of the Commonwealth with the remnants of its laws, rules and systems. Apart from the food culture.

During the eighties you could barely find a good coffee, now we have a coffee culture that is world class. ‘Australian Master Chef’ attracts guest chefs with international fame and is watched far beyond our borders.

Coffee culture, good coffees, leaving Australia

Australia – the land of the great coffees and brownies as well, it seems!

You can find ingredients for every type of food in Australia and in the bigger cities many restaurants selling a huge variety of ethnic dishes. That is one thing I definitely will miss. I will be much harder to enjoy the melting pot of different foods that is available here.

The food on offer is diverse but it comes with a price. It ain’t cheap. That is something I won’t miss. Our markets are nothing more than huge outdoor deli’s where organic strawberries are not sold because it is the season. They are on offer because they are organically grown and because of that they must cost a fortune.

Markets in European markets seem to sell their wares in season and for an affordable market price. You buy stone fruit in late summer and cherries in May. Not like in Oz where most people do not even know what fruit is in season at what time of the year. It seems to be available all year round, but there is hardly ever a cheap time for any fruit.

This may be to protect the local market or due to the monopoly of our supermarkets but I am fed up with paying 4-5 dollars for an avocado. We grow them ourselves, they are an Aussie ‘icon’, so why on earth 4-5 dollars?

Leaving Australia is a ‘sure’ thing

Anyway, enough on the subject. There are many reasons for me to stay in Australia but the pull to explore other things that Australia does not offer has become so much bigger.

So yes, I am going to be leaving Australia for real. I am not sure if I am leaving for good nor am I sure that I will remain in Europe forever. Who know these things? Life throws many things at us and sometimes it forces us to make changes for the worse or the better.

Nobody knows in advance and also nothing is set in stone. In contrary to many Australians we have the option to leave and live in other countries.

We have the passports. Lucky us……..!

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why a weekend to Hobart is worth your time and money!

Many, many years ago I spent 3 weeks backpacking through Tasmania. As I haven’t been since and my husband has never set foot on the island, we chose Hobart as the destination for our 30th anniversary trip this year.

A weekend to Hobart

Harbour of Hobart, historical, water views

Harbour of Hobart with its historical buildings that have been turned into trendy upmarket hotels and restaurants

The opinions about Hobart tend to be diverse. Some pull their nose up and others have fallen in love with it. For those whose geography knowledge is poor.  Hobart is the capital of Tasmania, an island south of mainland Australia and it is one of the states of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Abel Tasman discovered the island in the 17th century and gave it the name ‘Van Diemen’.  The English renamed the colony in 1856 to honour its original finder, Abel Tasman. As a Dutch person I am often curious what Australia would be like if the Dutch would have taking ownership. They discovered Australia but left it for what it was.

Anyway enough history!

So what did we discover in Hobart that is worth writing about?  When I was there many years ago in 1987 I found Hobart had the most charm off all Australian cities and I still do now.

Salamanca Market and Battery Point – historical Hobart

When I mentioned Hobart to people, most of them knew about the well known markets on Saturday morning called Salamanca Markets. They were already there in 1987 when I was in Hobart, have over 300 stall holders and are still going strong. They are definitely worth exploring.

Salamanca markets, Hobart, life music, good food

Salamanca Markets have been around for decades. Over 300 stalls with everything you can dream of…

From the markets you can climb some steep stairs up to Kelly street and this will lead you in to Battery Point, the birthplace of Hollywood actor Errol Flynn. Battery point, ‘The Rocks’ of Hobart, is well preserved and is lovely to wander through.

Make sure you make a stop at a wonderful bakery that is open every day. We googled cafes that were open early on Sunday morning and the result was none according the online info.

Hobart, coffee, cafe, french pastries

Jackman and Ross, baker of French style pastries and yummy breakfasts open at 7 am in the morning!!

Well, we found this little treasure called Jackman and McRoss.  It was open fully stocked with yummy pastries, breads and an appetising breakfast menu from 7 am, even on a Sunday. Its little ‘sister’ in the city of Hobart is open early throughout the week but closed in the weekend.

Mount Wellington, Hobart

We were dying for a hot coffee around 7 am on Sunday as we had just returned from a trip up to Mt. Wellington, 1271 meters high. This excursion was a rather spontaneous once we saw that the weather would be clear on Sunday morning. The views therefore promised to be spectacular.

Mt Wellington, Hobart, sunrise

Sunrise over Hobart from the top of Mount Wellington on a clear but fresh, 9 degrees, day

Be aware of the changing micro climate on the top of the mountain, though. One moment it can be clear and before know you are surrounded by a layer of thick fog. It was rather fresh and it was only autumn so prepare well for the colder winter month.

We concocted that it could be worthwhile to rent a car on Saturday afternoon so we could drive up to Mt Wellington to see the sunrise. It seemed a bit tricky to do without transport and taxis would cost a fortune. So would any organised excursion!

Hiring a car from Saturday afternoon 4 pm for 1 day was around $35. We chose an agency that had a drop off point at the airport so we could avoid a taxi fare of almost $60 back to the airport. In the end we saw Mt Wellington, historical village Richmond and got ourselves to the airport for a total of $65. Worth considering…

Richmond bridge, Hobart, Richmond, heritage

Richmond Bridge – Australia’s oldest known large stone arch bridge completed in 1825 and spanning the Coal river

Mona – Hobart’s pride

Then the MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. Located upstream on the Derwent river it is worth taking a boat trip to this interesting and very different art gallery. Now there are boat trips and luxury boat trips. We enjoyed the trip to the museum while sipping on a glass of sparkling and sampling a variety of tapas. Very classy!

The museum itself is interesting for a variety of reasons. First of all its founder and owner seems to be a character in itself. Do your own research!

 

MgONA, setting, Hobart, Derwent river, review

The setting of MONA is quite special. You have no idea about its hidden secrets.

Secondly the building is amazing, built into rocks and a maze of levels, corridors and rooms all underground it seems.

Thirdly you can finish off the experience by a wine tasting at Moorilla Estate situated right next to the museum. All in all an amazing experience and a must when visiting Hobart.

MONA, museum, collection, Hobart, review

Quite an amazing object. A carpet that seem to go fluid. It is huge and impressive!

The collection is a compilation of old and new as the name suggest. You should keep in mind that the museum is based on a private collection of the owner and founder. So if you are after Rembrandts, Monets and Van Gogh’s you may not find them.

A day trip to Port Arthur

As we were 5 days in Hobart we wanted to include Port Arthur, a huge former convict settlement with over 30 buildings built in the 18th & 19th century. We found an excursion that combined a visit to Port Arthur and a boat trip along the outside coast line of the Tasman Peninsula. Probably a bit pricey for some but oh so worth every dollar.

Tasman peninsula, near Hobart, coast line

Spectacular coastline with scenes suitable for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit

The swells on the ocean are not for the faint hearted and everyone gets a tablet against seasickness. Also you must wear a type of rain/wind coat that covers you from top till toe. The boat trip takes 3 hours and the views of the coast line are ‘in one word’ spectacular.

They certainly can compete with the much more famous ‘Great Ocean Road’ in Victoria. There are many chances to take pictures and admire the dozens of seals sunbathing on the rocks.

seals, Tasman Islands, near Hobart

Dozens of seals sunbathing on the rocks of Tasman Island

Port Arthur is an amazing site. There is a lot to explore and it is easy to while away half a day. You can do tours including ‘ghost’ tours at night.

Port Arthur, Hobart, review

The main building at Port Arthur. The site is much more than a prison for convicts.

What else I liked in Hobart

  • Other things I liked in Hobart are the good quality food, seafood, beers, whiskeys and wine. Sometimes a bit pricey, but…
  • The fact that waiters can be over forty and professional. So European as it happens to be a career over there….
  • The visit to the Cascade Brewery and the 3 km walk back to Hobart centre along the pretty rivulet.
  • I love the fresh air, the ability to enjoy a twilight of over an hour surrounded by beautiful skies, NO mozzies nor humidity. I live in Queensland so such things are a novelty for us.
  • The Friday night food markets, right in the middle of town. If we would have known, we would have made sure to be hungry that day!

All in all, Hobart is a very pleasant place to be. It offers enough for foodies, lovers of wine, beer and whiskey tastings, art, history and stunning natural beauty.

So I challenge the negative opinions and the naysayers.  I believe you either did not look around you or you were blinded by pre-conceived opinions. In either case you missed the boat and the opportunity to have a wonderful experience.

So next time, make sure you read the reviews!