It was with great reluctance that I first stepped into the Roda; a small circle of French people clapping their hands and singing in Portuguese. The prospect of someone aiming a kick at me while I sheepishly ducked in the centre of the group didn’t fill me with joy.
But when you are living in a small village in a foreign country you are more willing to try new things to make friends. So it was that our estate agent Olivier (one of our closest friends in the village) convinced us to join him in his weekly Capoeira class.
I’ve always had a thing for water parks. Ever since I was first introduced to the gargantuan slides at Aqualand Ste Maxime (well, they seemed larger than life to a skinny seven year old girl) I’ve sought out aquatic adrenaline-kicks. True to form, one of the highlights of my recent yoga retreat was jumping off the top of a waterfall and swimming in the fresh water below.
And so this summer, I made it my mission to seek out the best spots in the South of France for fresh water fixes. My most prized discovery was theBain du Sémite, a bathing spot, near Saorge in the Alpes-Maritimes. This natural waterpark had the clearest, freshest water I’ve ever had the pleasure of submersing myself in and a series of magnificent waterfalls (or cascades, in French) to explore.
Noticing the inscription, 1892, I pondered on the bathers who might have enjoyed its qualities over years gone by. On doing some research, I found that some mischievous soldiers had added the inscription “Le Bain du Sémite, 1892” themselves just before the First World War. It is said that they named the spot after a friend of theirs; a Jewish soldier, who apparently had a penchant for riding his horse naked into the waters, even in the icy depths of winter. There were no naked soldiers on my watch but the experience was made extra special by the presence of clusters of yellow butterflies gathering at the ravine that day.
I’ve recently come back from a yoga retreat in Umbria, Northern Italy. I love getting away from everything and giving my attention to my body and spirit. In fact, I think the world would be a much better place if it was obligatory for everyone to do a retreat every year (practicalities and cost aside). So here’s a mini summary of my experience in an attempt to get more people seizing the opportunity to retreat from their daily lives and get their OM on.
A bad poem about my recent road trip to California, where we drove up High Way One from Los Angeles to San Fran, through Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas and then back to LA. The thing that struck me, aside from the amazing landscape, was a kind of emptiness to Los Angeles. It is a place where you can get anything you want (if you have money). An extreme example of consumerism coated in a thick layer of superficial human interaction that is very hard to break through. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I enjoyed my California road trippin’ and found plenty of cool little towns straight out of the Wild West and filmic roadside locations off the beaten track.
On a gusty Sunday in January we took a long and ambling walk along one of the most stunning stretches of the Côte d’Azur – the national park that runs from Cap Lardier to Plage de Gigaro. Here are some pictures to try and capture just how beautiful it is here. Tip: If you visit out of season you’ll get the place almost to yourself!
We’re now starting to understand why the locals in our village look at us with some concern when we tell them we are here for the whole year and are not just sun seekers on a jolly holiday. It gets pretty quiet here in January. The plane trees, which give such an iconic look to the whole village, are raising up their bare branches, as if they’re asking themselves where the sun has gone. Most of the restaurants have closed their doors for the season. And the villagers have retreated behind their shutters seemingly to hibernate for the winter. I’m sort of doing the same, staying in most evenings, watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and soaking up some bleak vibes. So, yes, it appears that even in sunny south of France you can catch the winter blues.
I’ll admit it, I was dubious about spending Christmas in Paris. Although I love the city I’ve become accustomed to Christmas at home with my family, roast turkey and all the trimmings. So the thought of wandering the sleepy streets of Paris looking for a bite to eat on Christmas day was not so appealing. Happily, and to my surprise, I found the city was buzzing and full of festive cheer. Despite the horrific events of November it held its head up high and shined more brightly than I’d ever seen it. Here are a few things to know in case you feel like escaping to the City of Light next Noël:
It started when Jim saw these pictures from the French film Claire’s Knee on Tumblr. The film is set on and around a beautiful lake and he made it his mission to find out where it was and go there. We discovered that the name of the lake is Lac D’Annecy, or Lake Annecy, and it is to the east of France, right next to Switzerland: a perfectly located stop-over on our road trip from the UK to Provence.
So we headed for the town of Annecy and, arriving at sunset, we weren’t disappointed:
My good friend Shenel took it upon herself to escape the high-flying city life, and chose Valencia as her home, where she’s now learning Spanish and indulging in more creative pursuits. Here is her ‘life less ordinary’.